For most people, grocery shopping is a chore that doesn’t invite (or require) lingering. Maybe the overwhelming options in the frozen pizza aisle complicate the decision-making process, or your husband takes longer than expected because he’s buying a bag full of items that weren’t on the list he had in his pocket when he left home. But there’s a reason the errand is frequently described as “running to the store.”
Unless, that is, you’re shopping at one of the Washington grocery stores where sit-down restaurants and bars are as essential as cage-free eggs or gluten-free and dairy-free aisles. Long the preserve of suburban chains, sipping from a glass of wine or beer while browsing the produce section or relaxing with a hard-earned glass of Riesling or stout after picking up ingredients for dinner is becoming more common in an urban setting.
While your local supermarket’s bar won’t replace your neighborhood tavern anytime soon, it’s an amenity you might consider for that next grocery run. Here are the five best in D.C.
No. 1: Streets Market and Cafe
Streets Market has a growing presence in Washington: Stores in Cleveland Park, Columbia Heights and downtown will soon be joined by one in Adams Morgan. (The company also has locations in Baltimore and Virginia.) But no Streets Market has a bar like the one in NoMa, which is located on the first floor of the Ava NoMa apartment building. With soaring ceilings and a comfortable, table-filled mezzanine level, the concrete-walled space resembles a Buffalo Wild Wings or upscale beer destination more than a grocery store’s dining area, thanks in part to the row of flat-screen TVs behind a bar that runs the length of the room.
There are 30 draft lines pouring a mixture of craft beer, mead and cider; 15 wines by the glass and bottle; and a small cocktail program. Food, which comes from the Streets Market prepared-food counter, includes ramen and udon noodles, donburi bowls and Korean BBQ tacos, while crispy chicken wings and fries covered with bulgogi and kimchi soak up the booze. Even more impressive: quick table service. 51 M. St. NE.
No. 2: Whole Foods H Street
This is no longer the newest, shiniest Whole Foods in town, but the mezzanine-level bar, which looks out over the rest of the store, remains the most comfortable of any in the city. You’ll find neighborhood moms getting together for a glass of wine; flex workers staring at laptops, taking advantage of the free WiFi; and regular shoppers enjoying one of 16 craft beers on tap (available in 4-, 8- and 16-ounce pours) and watching sports on the 90-inch flat-screen, often with reusable bags of groceries at their feet. Grab pizza from downstairs or order raclette from a special bar-only menu. 600 H St. NE.
No. 3: Glen’s Garden Market
This market, focused on products made within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, stretches our definition of a supermarket — you can pick up charcuterie or a pint of artisanal ice cream, but not a jug of Tide. The front bar, though, has the best deal going: Craft beers start at just $4 for pints of Port City’s Optimal Wit or Hellbender’s Grampus smoked nut brown, and climb all the way to $6 for more rare selections from Burley Oak or Väsen. Coolers are stocked with bottles of beer or wine that can be purchased to take home or drink in-house, perhaps with a snack from the deli. The seating can be a little cramped, especially when it’s too cold to huddle around a table on the patio, but it’s worth it. 2001 S St. NW.
The star attraction at this Navy Yard store’s “SoCap" wine bar is a self-serve dispenser. Customers purchase a smartcard with a reloadable value of $10 to $20 from a bartender, then peruse the 16 bottles on display with tasting notes in the fancy Enomatic machine. Pick a wine and a size, ranging from $2 for a one-ounce splash of a French pinot gris to $26 for six ounces of Stag’s Leap Cellars Artemis, and it’s poured at the touch of a button.
Non-oenophiles, meanwhile, can choose from a dozen local craft beers and ciders, starting at $5 per pint, and watch sports on several flat-screen TVs. Chef Kwame Onwuachi’s gourmet cheesesteaks — one of Tim Carman’s best bargain meals of 2018 — are available, along with mumbo sauce-coated wings and waffle fries tossed in berbere spice. 101 H St. SE.
No. 5: Giant at Cathedral Commons
The Giant supermarket that is the centerpiece of the gleaming Cathedral Commons development boasts wide aisles, a well-stocked wine section and a Starbucks. What it doesn’t have is a full-service bar. Instead, there are eight wines and eight beers on tap at a counter between the cash registers and the front door. It’s not much bigger than a coffee cart, adjoined by a couple of high-top tables with no chairs. But crowds still gather after work to partake of the happy-hour specials — $5 beers, wines, sangria and mimosas from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and $4 beers all day Friday — while snacking on free, fresh-from-the-popper popcorn.
The selection isn’t super-fancy: Beer includes Budweiser Copper Lager and Stella Artois as well as Champion’s Missile IPA and Atlas’s Ponzi IPA. The wine board advertises styles (“chardonnay,” “Pinot Grigio,” “Blends”) rather than brands or vintages, though all bottles are for sale on the other side of the store if you find something worth taking home. The bartender will happily pour you a glass to take and sip while you shop, and the store’s Instagram tag is heavy on photos of beers and wines in shopping carts. 3336 Wisconsin Ave. NW.