By Fritz Hahn
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 16, 2010; WE08
As the Washington Capitals begin their playoff run with the best record in the NHL and dreams of a Stanley Cup parade along Pennsylvania Avenue, fans will be rocking the red at Verizon Center and packing bars to watch games on TV. At this time of the year, the last place you want to be cheering for Ovechkin, Backstrom and whoever the goalie is this week is on your couch.
If you're lucky enough to have tickets for home games -- and even if you're not -- you'll want to get pumped up at happy hour beforehand. And when the Caps are playing out of town, it's far more fun to be surrounded by people who care as much as you do. (Also, it's better to be in a place where you won't have to beg the bartender to switch from baseball or basketball over to the Caps game.)
Here are our recommendations for pregame gatherings near Verizon Center and bars hosting viewing parties. Want more choices? Check out our interactive map of hockey-friendly bars, which features comments and reviews from Twitter users.Home games
701 Seventh St. NW. 202-638-2460.
Mere steps separate this chain restaurant and the doors to Verizon Center. The pregame happy hour draws many fans, and it's easy to see why. All 20 of Bar Louie's draft beers are $3. All appetizers are half-price, which means $3 quesadillas, $4.50 Kobe hot dogs and $5 giant plates of nachos. The long list of house martinis, margaritas and mojitos is $7. And during the playoffs, there will be additional "beer tub" tables away from the main bar offering $3 specials.Greene Turtle
601 F St. NW. 202-637-8889.
The closest bar to the ice is the Greene Turtle, inside Verizon Center. It's a sea of red shirts before and after home games, and even at many intermissions. (You can leave your seat, get your hand stamped and hit the Turtle's bar instead of an overpriced concession stand.) To speed the ordering process, there's a satellite bar selling $5.50 cans of beer, but I'd rather get a 22-ounce draft of Virginia's Starr Hill IPA from the main counter, which comes in a red souvenir cup, for $8.50. Looking for a bargain? In April and May, Dos Equis drafts are $4 and bottles are $3.Iron Horse Tap Room
507 Seventh St. NW. 202-347-7665.
The Iron Horse's extended happy hour -- $2 off all draft beers and $5 rail drinks from daily from 4 to 8 p.m.-- makes it a good place to head before home games. With room for almost 300 people on two levels, it's a prime destination for groups.Penn Quarter Sports Tavern
639 Indiana Ave. NW. 202-347-6666.
If you're going to Verizon Center, the Penn Quarter Sports Tavern's game-day special is a no-brainer: Show your ticket for that day's game and you get a buy-one, get-one-free deal on the house Rockin' Red Ale. (You can only do this once, as the staff puts a little star on the ticket.) The deal is valid before or after the game. (After your first round, it's $5 a pint or $16 a pitcher.)R.F.D.
810 Seventh St. NW. 202-289-2030.
When crowds descend on Penn Quarter for hockey games, the owners of R.F.D. open their large back room, which is usually saved for private parties and special events. Happy hour, which runs until 7 on weeknights, includes $3 Miller Lite and Sam Adams drafts, plus a rotating special of the day for $3.50.Rocket Bar
714 Seventh St. NW. 202-628-7665.
Full of pool tables, dart lanes, shuttleboard tables, Skeeball machines and video games, subterranean Rocket Bar is a natural destination for Caps fans after a game. Its pregame $4 happy hour isn't bad either, with a selected draft of the month (currently Sam Adams), rail drinks and glasses of wine and champagne for $4 each. When the Caps are playing, the bar shows games on 17 flat-screen TVs -- with sound -- and serves $3 Miller Lites.Away games
111 King St., Alexandria. 703-683-0313.
Owned by former Capitals defenseman (and Edmonton Oilers coach) Bryan "Bugsy" Watson, Bugsy's is an old-school hockey bar with framed Gretzky and Orr jerseys on the wall, Molson beer on tap and a row of seats shaped like a penalty box. This is a popular spot for hockey fans in general, not just Caps fans.Front Page Ballston
4201 Wilson Blvd., Arlington.
Directly across Wilson Boulevard from the Capitals' Kettler practice complex, the Front Page has been the site of more than a few player sightings and a number of official team-sponsored viewing parties, which feature giveaways including T-shirts and autographed items. For all games the bar staff dresses in red, and hockey takes over the TVs (with sound). Bud Light is $2 from an hour before the game starts until the end (or 9 p.m., whichever comes first, thanks to Virginia law banning drink specials after that). In addition, the weeknight happy hour, which runs from 3 to 8, includes $3 draft beer, $3.25 glasses of wine and half-price appetizers. (If you attend one of the Caps' public practice sessions, stop in afterward wearing team apparel for 10 percent off your bill.)The Greene Turtle
14150 Baltimore Ave., Laurel.
Its sister bar at Verizon Center is filled with Caps fans, and the Greene Turtle in Laurel will also get into the hockey spirit during the playoffs. All games will be played with full sound, and the bar will offer rotating drink specials and giveaway Caps paraphernalia.Hard Times Cafe
3028 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. 703-528-2233.
Last year's expansion of this old-school chili-and-beer bar added a 3,500-square-foot upstairs with multiple bars, 50 flat-screen TVs and an enclosed smoking area. Hard Times announces "We are a Caps bar!" on its Web site and backs up that statement by showing every game with full sound and offering daily drink specials. The Caps are sponsoring a pep rally outside the bar before Monday's game; specials include half-price burgers and $2 Pabst Blue Ribbon.Union Jack's
671 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington.
"The Caps here are bigger than the Redskins are," says co-owner Gary Ouelette, "and that's saying something." Despite its British theme, Union Jack's has become a destination for hockey fans, with framed Caps jerseys joining pub paraphernalia on the walls. (Being directly underneath the Capitals' practice rink can't hurt.) Home and away Caps games are shown on all 25 high-definition flat-screens with sound throughout the bar. There are $2 drink specials, which rotate daily, from 4 to 9 p.m.
(A note for Maryland-based hockey fans: The Union Jack's in Bethesda, at 4915 Saint Elmo Ave., will also be showing all playoff games with full sound on its HD TVs. Drink specials rotate every game, but one previous game featured half-price domestic drafts and 25 percent off appetizers.)