Everyone wants to meet for drinks on a rooftop deck in summer, but brutal heat and humidity can cause even the most ardent margarita fans to give up and seek air conditioning. Now that we're into fall, the crisp weather encourages lingering outdoors. Here are two recent additions to the D.C. rooftop bar scene you should enjoy while you can.
The deck atop Shaw's Rito Loco burrito shop has become one of the hottest spots in this stretch of Shaw: a green, plant-filled oasis where old-school reggae and ska play while rum drinks flow. Trees overhead, abundant greenery and flower arrangements make the bar feel more lush. A table for 10 surrounded by gilt-framed mirrors hung on walls of artificial turf just looks cool.
Bar manager Bryan Tate, who previously worked at Tiger Fork and Founding Farmers, has come up with a short cocktail menu full of familiar drinks — two margaritas, a mojito, a caipirinha, all $11 — with slight twists. The Spicy Mezcal Margarita draws its sweet-and-hot flavors from a fiery combination of habanero peppers and pineapple, while the Mojito de Uva adds grapes and demerara sugar to the usual mix of rum and mint for an earthy sweetness.
More interesting is the Garden Caipirinha, in which cucumbers and bell peppers add a vegetal note to the smoky cachaça. Bartenders also pour classic drinks, like Brugal XV rum and soda. (Though the bar's grand opening was Sept. 7, the owners boast they're already one of the top accounts in the city for the Dominican rum.)
There's more than just drinks: Rito Loco's entire menu of burritos and tacos is available on the roof, along with such special dishes as paella, ceviche and fried avocado tacos. Sitting on the roof, potent rum cocktail in hand, listening to tunes by Ini Kamoze and Dawn Penn, you'll be willing summer to go on just a little while longer.
606 Florida Ave. NW. Open Thursday and Friday from 5 to 11 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight, Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Chinatown and Gallery Place are full of basement-level bars, from Rocket Bar and Jackpot to Hill Country's honky-tonk Boot Bar. Crimson View is the opposite: a rare rooftop bar in a neighborhood packed with dining and entertainment options.
Sitting atop the boutique Pod Hotel across from the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro Station and overlooking the landmark Friendship Archway, Crimson View is run by Eric and Ian Hilton, the brothers behind some of D.C.'s most popular bars, including the Brixton and Marvin.
While the actual bar and rows of comfy orange leather couches are technically inside, the majority of seats are through folding glass doors — outside on an L-shaped terrace that wraps around the building and offer views of the Washington Monument, the Old Post Office Tower and the downtown skyline. If you're eating or with a group, head toward the front of the building, where the banquettes and high-top tables are large enough for four or six.
Crimson View's most popular drinks are canned Pampelonne cocktails — a blood orange spritz or rose-lime blend — that cost $8, as do house still and sparkling wines. Cocktails, such as a spritz made with local Capitoline vermouth, and a basic but easy-drinking Negroni, are $10.
There's no happy hour, but the bar is frequently slammed in the 5 to 7 p.m. window — a bartender joked that “everyone in the neighborhood leaves their office and comes here.” Later in the evening, though, I've found abundant seating on couches and at prime outdoor tables.
The bar opens at 5 p.m. daily — show your ID in the lobby — but Ian Hilton says he hopes Crimson View will start opening at noon on Saturdays and Sundays in early October.
627 H St. NW. Open daily at 5 p.m.