All happy hours are not created equal. Some bars are content to take $2 off their $13 cocktails or knock a buck off craft beers. Others let you relive your college days with dollar cans of Natural Light and shooters you could pay for with pocket change, if that still sounds like a good idea.
But if you’re making the effort to travel across town to meet friends or a date after work, you want great value. These D.C. happy hours are all worth the trek, no matter where your office is: They go above and beyond the usual discounts found at many downtown bars — and some even last all night.
1825 18th St. NW. barcharley.com.
When: Monday from 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., Tuesday to Thursday from 5 to 6:30 p.m., Friday from 4 to 6:30 p.m.
Specials : $6 cocktails, $2 off wine, $3.50 beers, discounts on various bar snacks, from fries to a butcher’s-cut steak. Dark, cozy and everything you want in a neighborhood bar, Bar Charley can get a little busy at peak times — especially Mondays, when happy hour runs all night, and office groups and first dates vie for the prime spots in the bay window. The draw: eight classic cocktails for $6, including a well-made daiquiri and Jack Rose, and a pair of Tiki drinks on tap. (The bourbon-heavy Suffering Bastard is a better bet than the sweet, too-pineappley Mai Tai.) To keep happy hour from turning into hungover morning, the kitchen sends out $6 plates of Korean barbecue wings and $8 bowls of coconut curry mussels. Note: There’s a reason everyone in this basement bar is ordering Old Fashioneds and Moscow Mules. Stick to the classics.
1405 T St. NW. coladashop.com.
When: Monday to Friday, 4 to 7 p.m.
Specials: $2 off cocktails, $2 empanadas.
Colada Shop’s Cuban cocktails are already some of the best deals around the bustling 14th Street strip: On the regular menu, most drinks cost $8. But its happy hour is even more wallet-friendly, with $2 off all cocktails and $2 empanadas. (At these prices, it’s basically “Buy a drink and get a free empanada.”) Grab the couch in the vibrantly colored backroom, sip a rum-and-apricot Hotel Nacional or the silky-smooth daiquiri, and snack on the house-baked spinach-and-cheese empanada. Before long, you’ll be grooving to bolero and son tunes, closing your eyes and imagining you’re in warmer climes.
3178 Bladensburg Rd. NE. dcbrau.com.
When: Friday from 3 to 11 p.m.
Specials: Half-price beers.
There is no better place to drink beer than a brewery, because you’ll never find a fresher pint anywhere else. Although the stripped-down tasting room at D.C. Brau doesn’t quite have the atmosphere of your favorite bar, it does have a deal that’s better than at most centrally located watering holes: Every Friday, all beers are half-price from open to close. That means $2.50 for a pint of Public Pale Ale, Brau Pils or even the vaunted On the Wings of Armageddon double IPA — maybe the cheapest it’s ever been. Some beers are more expensive: The Stone of Arbroath Scotch Ale aged in Willett bourbon barrels costs a whopping $3.50, which is still less than you’d pay for a Bud Light at a typical sports bar. Although there’s no food available, you can BYO or have pizza delivered and purchase growlers or six-packs on your way home.
3628 Georgia Ave. NW. dcreynoldsbar.com.
When: Monday to Saturday, 5 to 9 p.m.
Specials: Buy any drink, get one free.
D.C. Reynolds didn’t invent the idea of BOGO — buy one, get one — but its popularity has made it such a staple on Georgia Avenue that other bars in the neighborhood have started offering the same deal. (I don’t care about the relationship between imitation and flattery as long as we all get cheaper drinks because of it.) The way it works is simple: Settle in at the scruffy bar or on a stool at the long counter on the patio. Order a drink — D.C. Reynolds is better than average with local craft beers and Kentucky whiskeys — and the bartender will give you a ticket that can be redeemed for a second drink when you’re finished with the first. There are rules: You can’t mix-and-match beverages — the free drink has to be the same as the first — and one member of a pair can’t just buy one drink and give the free one to their other half. Still, it’s hard to beat this offer’s value and long window.
415 Eighth St. SE. eat-bar.com.
When: Monday to Thursday, 4 to 7 p.m.; Friday, noon to 7 p.m.
Specials: $4 beers, wine, cocktails and appetizers.
Happy hours on Capitol Hill have a reputation: Lobbyists, congressional staffers and interns flock together for cheap domestic beers and basic bar food. Eatbar, which stocks its free jukebox with the Clash and Trouble Funk, is cut from a different cloth. The rotating beers come from ultrahip brewers, including the Veil, Aslin and Oxbow. Cocktails might feature añejo tequila or house-made habanero syrup. The snacks, under the direction of Red Apron Butcher’s Nate Anda, have included a miniature patty melt with Sriracha mayo, a caramelized Angus meatloaf slider, a BLT fried chicken slider and loaded chili cheese fries. It’s definitely worth a detour to Barracks Row — especially with the extended hours at week’s end.
750 15th St. NW. joes.net/dc.
When: Daily from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Specials: Half-price cocktails, wine, draft beers and oysters; discounted raw bar, sandwiches and snacks.
If you’re looking to impress a date at happy hour, Joe’s fits the bill: The landmark Union Trust Bank, one block from the White House, has been transformed into a classy restaurant with soaring marble columns, a black granite bar and a mezzanine with views of it all. The place attracts a suited expense-account crowd, except at happy hour, when the half-price deals are the draw. Regional craft beers are $3.50, fancy wines by the glass range from $4.50 to $12, and signature cocktails, including a stellar Old Fashioned and full-bodied Moscow Mule, are $6. Complement the drinks with half-price oysters or another snack, such as an Alaskan king crab roll or deviled eggs topped with lobster (each $4.95). The early start time makes this attractive for sneaking out of the office.
401 Seventh St. NW. oyamel.com.
When: Monday through Friday, 4 to 6 p.m.
Specials: $2 tacos, $4 appetizers, $5 beer, $6 wine, $7 margaritas.
There are plenty of Taco Tuesday happy hours around town. But when you’re craving something more original and authentic than ground beef and shredded cheese melted onto a giant flour tortilla, head to José Andrés’s Mexican outpost in Penn Quarter. The weeknight “Hora Feliz” features a selection of $2 tacos — such as shredded beef in a spicy red chile sauce; barbecued pork with sour orange and pickled red onion; and vegetarian refried beans with a chile-tomato salsa — on house-made corn tortillas. Paired with $4 appetizers, including ceviche, free chips and addictive salsa, and you’ve got an affordable dinner to go with the well-made margaritas and mojitos. The only downer is that it ends so early.
3282 M St. NW (entrance in back, off Potomac Street NW). eatyourpizza.com.
When: Monday to Thursday, 5 to 7 p.m.
Specials: $3 off draft beers, $3 off wine by the glass, $7 appetizers, $12-$18 pizzas.
The basement beer bar at Pizzeria Paradiso’s Georgetown location underwent a significant makeover in January, adding skee-ball, pinball and video-game machines to become the Game Room. It’s a comfortable place to hang out over a few rounds of shuffleboard or Big Buck Hunter, especially given the specials: All eight of the rotating craft taps are $3 off, which means you’ll pay $3 or $4 for choice brews from Dogfish Head, Ocelot and Union. Pair your brews with a personal pie or appetizers, and you’ll have plenty of fuel for one more round of Mortal Kombat 3.
1503 17th St. NW. sushitaro.com.
When: Monday through Friday, 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Specials: Half-price regular sushi and most alcoholic drinks.
D.C. foodies are used to lining up outside Bad Saint, Rose’s Luxury or Little Serow before opening time to guarantee a seat. But lining up early for happy hour sounds unusual — until, that is, you’ve experienced Sushi Taro. The gem of a Japanese restaurant near Dupont Circle is a cut above other sushi happy hours around town, with two gleaming pieces of Japanese wild snapper nigiri for $6, or rolls starting at $3.50. (There are restrictions about which beverages are half-price, so make sure you ask before you order.) The catch about this happy hour: It’s valid only at the 11-seat bar. Your best bet is to show up early — some people get in line before 5 p.m. — or around 6:30 p.m. to try your luck for the second seating. It’ll be worth the wait.
1940 11th St. NW. vinotecadc.com.
When: Daily from 5 to 7 p.m.
Specials: $5 glasses of wine, $5 beers, discounted cocktails and small plates.
Wine lovers know the trepidation of going to happy hour and finding a menu that offers house red or a discounted pinot grigio with no details of vineyard or vintage. Talk about a roll of the dice. That’s not the case at the decade-old Vinoteca, where the daily happy hour menu offers a selection of 10 to 15 wines from France, Chile, Italy and Spain and lists the vintages (primarily 2015 and 2016 on a recent visit) and grapes used. Non-oenophiles can partake of a pint of Peroni or the “spirit and mixer” combo of the day. A menu of happy hour bites ($7-$16), including $10 arancini, aren’t as much of a bargain as the wine. When the weather warms up, the deals are available in the private courtyard, next to the bocce court.