“It’s like the Capitol Hill version of Lauriol Plaza.” That is how one customer at Pacifico Cantina explained the new Barracks Row bar and restaurant to his friends on a recent night.
In many ways, he’s right.
At both eateries, you’ll find rooftop seating, a menu of margaritas served salted or frozen, and a mix of single-sex groups and after-work posses getting boisterous over Tex-Mex food and drinks. In short, it’s worth a visit with friends for alfresco drinks or happy hour.
Pacifico is the newest dining venture from Xavier Cervera, the magnate behind a half-dozen similar restaurants in the neighborhood, including Senart’s, Boxcar and Lola’s. The two-level space has sidewalk seating and a first-floor restaurant and bar, but the rooftop is what sets it apart.
It’s one of the most attractive outdoor bars on the Hill; its views of the sunset add a bit of romance. The deck’s centerpiece is a fountain and pool complete with lily pads and glass buoys in the middle of a 14-person table. There also are tables shaded by red umbrellas, comfortable wood-slat chairs, and high tables near the bar that easily accommodate groups.
The draft beers are mostly Mexican — two kinds of Dos Equis, two kinds of Modello, and Pacifico — and there are two kinds of Corona, Tecate and Modelo Especial in cans. Drafts are $6, and cans are $5. If you're with a group, the best deal is to get a bucket of five cans for $20. More than three dozen tequilas are listed on the menu by age. The menu of tequila cocktails includes the Tequila Maria — a mix of tequila, lime and sangria — and the spicy Endless Summer, which pairs grapefruit soda and jalapeno-infused tequila. Happy hour runs Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. and features $1 off all rail drinks and drafts.
To eat well, start with the Surfer’s Choice Nachos, laden with smoky pulled pork, whole grilled shrimp, avocado, layers of pepper jack cheese and a bit of salsa.
Now for the bad news: The menu boasts that the “house tequila” is Sauza, but I’ve watched bartenders concoct the mediocre house margarita with bottles of bottom-shelf Montezuma — the kind of tequila used at college parties. One night, my date and the woman on the barstool next to her traded stories about each having had one good house margarita at Pacifico and multiple bad ones. I don't recommend the $8 margarita, even when it’s discounted to $5 on Mondays. The frozen strawberry version tastes of unnaturally sweet strawberry syrup.
Those barstools are another gripe: They’re bolted to the floor, which makes for trouble when the place gets busy. You can’t scoot closer to your friends, so standing customers have to awkwardly lean in between two people having a conversation to place an order at the bar.
Bartenders and servers are friendly and generally efficient, although sometimes you wish they’d quit chatting with other customers and wait on the people with empty glasses.
Pacifico has its flaws, but if you’re around the Hill and you’re looking for a place to hang out and watch the sunset, or you want to grab drinks and a bite after work, you can’t beat that rooftop.
514 Eighth St. SE. 202-507-8143. www.pacificodc.com.
Hours: Upstairs, Monday-Friday, 4:30 p.m.-2:00 a.m; Saturday-Sunday, 10:30-2:00 a.m.