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The intern’s guide to D.C. happy hours: Cheap drinks and affordable food

Every summer, interns flood the District, looking to gain experience in the “Capital of the Free World.” And when the workday ends, they want to eat and drink as cheaply as possible.

For the Thirsty Intern:

Washington is not a cheap town. Just look at all of the new restaurants and lounges, where $14 cocktails and $8 local beers are practically the norm. But there are still happy hours and neighborhood bars where your drinking dollars go further. (Just remember to tip so you don’t give interns a bad name.)


A popular destination for 20-somethings, be they interns, kickball teams or recent graduates, the Madhatter keeps specials flowing. Thursday is the busiest — and also the cheapest — night: From 8 p.m. to close, mugs of Bud Lite are $1. (The classier order: $4 rail drinks or $5 tumblers of Maker’s Mark.) Wednesday is only slightly more expensive, with $2 Coors Light and $4 Stoli Vodka drinks.

The Mighty Pint

Happy hours stretch from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at this south-of-Dupont bar, but it’s the mid-week deals, which run from 8 p.m. to last call, that will save you the most. Tuesday brings $2 Miller Lite and Yuengling pints. Wednesday is $2 16-ounce PBR pounders and $4 cheesesteaks. And on Thursday, the bartender flips a coin after you order. Call it right, and your drink is free.

Duffy’s Irish Pub and Nellie’s Sports Bar

If you can sneak out of the office a little early, it pays to head to the east end of U Street. From 4 to 5 p.m., Duffy’s Irish Pub offers $1 Miller Lite drafts, Tecate cans and 16-ounce pounders, including PBR and Natty Boh. Pints of Sam Adams and Yuengling sell for $2. Prices increase by $1 at 5 p.m., and $1 more at 6 p.m., with the deals ending at 7. At Nellie’s Sports Bar, the deals start an hour later, with $2 vodka drinks and beers from 5 to 6 p.m. Prices go up by $1 at 6 and 7 p.m., with deals ending at 8.

Around Capitol Hill

Though Capitol Hill is packed with interns, it isn’t the happy hour hunting ground it once was. There are still deals to be had: A bucket of Bud or Bud Light bottles will set you back $10 on Wednesdays at Union Pub. Tortilla Coast’s discounts include $3.50 draft and bottled beers and $6 margaritas on weekdays from 3:30 to 7 p.m. And the cheapest way to kick off your weekend? $1 PBR and Miller High Life cans all day on Friday at Hamilton’s.

Outside of happy hour

No matter what time of day you show up, you’ll be able to find cheap cans of beer at the Red Derby, Solly’s and the Pug.

The Hungry Intern

Some intern-friendly bars offer free Old El Paso-quality tacos after work. But if you want to feel satisfied, try one of these inexpensive but tasty bars:

Smoke and Barrel

The Adams Morgan barbecue joint offers a number of specials throughout the week. Monday is a giant plate of smoked wings (chicken or vegan) for $5. Tuesday brings a $5 plate of three tacos (brisket, chicken, pork or tofu) and a side (anything from collard greens to cole slaw). All veggie and vegan appetizers and entrees are half-price on Thursday. It can be easy to blow your savings with the great microbrews, so go during happy hour (5 to 8 p.m.) when local beers are $4 each.

Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza

The popular local chain, which has outposts in Columbia Heights, Friendship Heights and Clarendon (with another coming soon in Silver Spring), offers a slice of cheese pizza and a Peroni for $5 between 4 and 6:30 p.m. every weekday.

El Chucho

Craving tacos? El Chucho offers two for $3 during happy hour, which runs all night on Mondays and from 4 to 6:30 p.m. on other weeknights. You can also get chips and salsa for $1 or roasted ears of corn for $2.50, washed down with $3 Tecates and $4 house margaritas.

Chef Geoff’s

A staple of intern meals for years, the downtown Chef Geoff’s offers happy hour all day Monday and Tuesday and from 3 to 7 p.m. on other weekdays. The $5.95 burgers, from cheddar-bacon to black bean and pepper, are filling. Sixteen-ounce cans of PBR go for $3.50; the liter-sized “supermugs” are $7.95.


The daily “Aperitivo Italiano” means $3 Peroni and $4 house wine from 5 to 8 p.m., while staff pass out free mini-pieces of pizza. You probably won’t fill up, but it’s a nice after-work snack.

Classier happy hour options

Of course, interns aren’t the only ones who want to enjoy discounted food and drink after work. These happy hours are a little classier than your $1 beerfests, but they can be enjoyed by interns and us older folks alike.


This three-star Southern restaurant quietly has one of the better happy hours around, with $3.50 local microbrews, $7.50 mixed drinks and a solid list of small plates in the $3 to $5 range from 5 to 7 p.m. on weekdays.

Pizzeria Paradiso

Want a quick and inexpensive introduction to the city’s burgeoning craft beer scene? Visit Pizzeria Paradiso in Georgetown or Dupont Circle on Tuesday and Wednesday between 5 and 7 p.m., when two of the city’s top beer bars sells all draft beers for half-price. Appetizers are $5 and personal pizzas are $10.


The wine bar’s popular happy hour, which runs from 5 to 7 p.m. daily, means $5 glasses of wine and Peroni. But for a great date, take your sauvignon blanc to the back patio and play a game of bocce on the full-size court. (Just don’t go on Monday or Tuesday, which are league nights.)


For less than $10 on Tuesday, you can get a Scion burger (a rich burger topped with smoked mozzarella, sauteed onions and peach ketchup) and a pint of craft beer, including Fullsteam, Sixpoint or Great Lakes. Burgers are half-price all night; beers are half-price from 4 to 7 p.m.

Happy hours in the sun

It’s summer. You want to be outside. So go to DC Reynolds’ large back patio, where all drinks — even the good stuff — are two-for-one from 5 to 9 p.m. Or hit the rooftop at El Centro D.F. for $4 margaritas (regular or frozen), Mexican beers or house wines from 5 to 7 p.m.