All words by Elsie Yang
We’ve learned many a lesson from our time in COVID-19 induced quarantine, including that food and drink somehow tastes better when it’s prepared by someone else. While the pandemic stymied our ability to dine out for several months, Phase II reopenings are welcoming ravenous eaters back into outdoor patios and socially distanced dining rooms. Our favorite bars and restaurants in DC are proving just how resilient the human spirit and the food industry can be, with pitchers pouring and food flowing, and of course, new safety measures in place.
To help you have a great time this weekend and weekends to come, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite happy hours, brunches, and bottomless deals throughout D.C.
If you’re looking to be transported to Switzerland for your early afternoon meal, head over to Stable, where fondue, Swiss wine, and fresh bread aplenty await. Cocktails are unique and strong, and while you may not know much about Swiss food yet, you’ll leave Stable yodeling over favorites like the Berner Rosti, a traditional hash featuring a bed of fried potatoes and topped with bacon, onion, gruyere, and a fried egg.
If you’re even remotely interested in oysters, it would be a serious mistake not to go to Brine, the new oyster bar on H Street that is serving unlimited oysters, shrimp, and cocktails with your brunch meal. The price tag is a bit steeper than most other bottomless joints at $75, but then again, most other joints aren’t offering you all you can eat oysters for 2 hours. Don’t sleep on the shrimp, however — they’re cajun-spiced and oh so good. And yes, the actual entrees are worth eating as well, especially the crab cake benedict.
Ambar is one of the DC areas favorite places for brunch, happy hour, and everything in between, and it’s not hard to see why. With Mediterranean-inspired flavors and bottomless food and drink menu, it’s impossible to leave Ambar hungry. Be strategic about your ordering — skip the charcuterie and focus instead on the flatbreads (the suzuk is great) or the delightful little sliders.
Israeli food isn’t exactly on every street corner in DC, but Sababa makes it feel as though it certainly should be. The restaurant has recently added a brunch offering, and with some of the best Jerusalem bagels around town, it’s a can’t-miss. Add bottomless mimosas for $16 and indulge in kebabs and Benedicts served either on a potato latke or a Jerusalem bagel.
Easily one of the most delicious brunches in DC, Toro Toro offers not only bottomless drinks, but bottomless food for $39. And while bottomless food can taste like it’s coming off a buffet line (or worse), Toro Toro avoids that pitfall with elegantly plated, fresh, and creative takes on a wide range of Latin favorites.
I love that the bottomless plates are actually presented in a set order so that you’re having a thoughtfully curated meal, instead of a random assortment of dishes that are delivered as they’re ready. You’ll start with a palette-cleansing fresh fruit sorbet before moving into appetizers like a shrimp cocktail, and mains like Latin-inspired chicken and waffles.
Photo by Caroline Pestel
For bottomless brunch any day of the week, head over to Dupont Circle favorite Ankara, a phenomenal Turkish restaurant whose food is rivaled only by its pricing. If you dine during the week (or before 11am on the weekend), you’ll get not only bottomless small plates (which are actually quite large), but bottomless drinks as well. And we’re not just talking standard mimosas and bloodys — we’re talking gin, vodka, and whiskey, too.
The menu at Ankara is expansive, with fantastic dips, egg dishes, pide (Turkish pizzas), and desserts. The best strategy is certainly to bring a large group so that you can truly take advantage of the many culinary delights — don’t miss the short ribs benedict or the kaymak, a sweet dip made of pistachio cream and caramel cream.
90 minutes is all you need to stuff yourself full enough to forego meals for the rest of the day at Tico. I can’t get enough of the Slow-Cooked Brisket & Green Chile Hash, topped with a perfectly poached egg and a zesty chipotle hollandaise. For $29, you can enjoy unlimited small plates from the creative mind of Chef Michael Schlow — not only will you get familiar Latin favorites like breakfast tacos and nachos, but you’ll also be able to enjoy a fantastic Mexican shrimp and grits, a fabulous spicy mac and cheese, and some killer churros.
For $10 more, you’ll be able to add on bottomless mimosas, margaritas, spicy bloody marys (or regular bloody marys), champagne, and hot coffee. Or, you could upgrade for an additional $6 for additional cocktails and beers, though to be honest, the $39 deal is more than enough for most.
If you’re not feeling like a bottomless pit but still want your taste buds to dance, Immigrant Food is a surprising pit stop for a delicious brunch (or really, any meal). Chef Enrique Limardo may be known best for his fine dining establishment, Seven Reasons, but the fast casual Immigrant Food should really be what captures your attention. The menu celebrates the diverse cultures and cuisines found across America, and gives a whole new meaning to fusion.
The wings may be the best in DC, and the chef’s take on a banh mi is not to be missed. Wash it all down with $24 pitchers of sangria (a new brunch classic), and start your day off right. There are plenty of tables on the patio with umbrellas to save you from the sun or the rain, and tables in the dining room are kept far apart from one another for a safe dining experience.
The best tacos in DC are probably found at Espita, where you can get a phenomenal three course brunch for just $22. The mesmerizing decor of the restaurant extends throughout the main dining room and the covered patio, which allows for semi-outdoor dining that is perfect for pandemic times.
Do not miss the salsa macha, one of the most interesting salsas I’ve ever tried made of sesame, peanut, almond, oil, and chiles. The barbacoa taco is to die for, and during brunch, you can also get the Tlayuda, a beautiful tortilla covered with layers of toppings like quesillo, refritos, and your choice of protein. While drinks aren’t bottomless during the pandemic, they’re super cheap — mimosas will set you back just $5.
You don’t often come across Georgian cuisine, but once you’ve come across Supra, you may want to book a flight to the Eastern European country (once travel restrictions lift). This female-owned, female-operated restaurant is bringing rarely highlighted flavors to DC, and diners (including myself) just can’t get enough.
Be sure to try the soup dumplings called Khinkali, which come with either vegetarian or beef fillings, and any of the Khachapuri, or Georgian cheese breads. When it comes to entrees, don’t shy away from more filling brunch options, like the Mussels Pomodorit, a must try for any seafood lover. Brunch isn’t bottomless, but at $6 per mimosa, you’ll be more than able to get your buzz on for cheap.
Also worth a shoutout are The Pig in Logan Circle, a barbecue joint offering a long brunch on Saturday and Sundays from noon until 5pm, with menu items like a pulled pork benedict, Pig Slam platter with BBQ and eggs and vegetable omelet with salad. Grillfish is also worth mentioning, as it’s just reopened with a seafood-centric brunch menu featuring a crab and shrimp omelet, a crab cake benedict and brunch cocktails like watermelon sangria.
One of the most uniquely situated happy hours in DC is surely at Dacha Navy Yard. The second outpost of the beloved beer garden, the Navy Yard location is all about situs — its sprawling outdoor space is covered in gravel, which is comfortable for both you and your dog. I’m in love with the decor of the Navy Yard location — there’s a distinctly retro feel to the trailer from which brews are poured, and the strings of lights make this an excellent nighttime haunt as well.
Ordering is fully contactless, which Dacha has actually offered for years before the pandemic. In fact, owner Dmitri Chekaldin tell me, Dacha has always been a technology innovator. Of course, today, the entirely QR code-driven ordering system allows for greater social distancing, and fewer interruptions from servers. The happy hour menu is fabulous, with beer and burger combinations for under $20, as well as $14 liter pours, or $7 pint pours of some of Dacha’s favorite local brews.
Dining at the Wharf can get expensive, but if you make it into The Grill on time, you’ll be able to experience fine dining at a bargain price. One of the newer restaurants to enter the Southwest Waterfront scene, The Grill offers an elevated happy hour that is a bit fancier than your run of the mill offering.
I love the Oysters Rockefeller, though rawbar lovers can also opt for oysters on the half shell for $2 a pop. The Grill Burger is probably the best deal, though — for $15, you can indulge in this seriously epicurean burger whose brioche bun is perfectly toasted, and whose onion jam and dried tomato differentiate it from your pub burger.
In terms of drinks, get a sub-$40 pitcher of Grill Punch, which features pineapple-infused vodka, hayman’s gin, grilled mango, ginger, mint, and sparkling wine. And take it all in as you people (and water) watch on the expansive wraparound balcony or patio.
Finding happy hours on weekends can be hard, with all of DC out on the town and looking for deals. But Asia Nine knows how to please just about any DC-er with its all weekend (yes, you read that correctly) happy hour. With a gargantuan list of cocktails and sushi rolls that go for $5 apiece, you could quite literally spend your entire Saturday here, eating and drinking your way into oblivion.
The restaurant has closed its second floor during the pandemic, but is still keeping tables well distanced and carefully sanitized, and the food is just as good as it was before the onset of COVID-19. Be sure to try one of their many Asian-inspired martinis, and seriously, get every sushi roll on the happy hour menu.
Atlas Brew is easily one of the most compelling success stories in DC. The original Ivy City location opened in 2013 as naught but a production brewery, but in the seven years since, the brewery has taken off with its unique beers and its charming aesthetic. I’m a particular fan of the newer Half Street location, located quite literally en route to the main gate of Nationals Stadium. And even though you can’t watch the Nationals play in person, you can still grab a beer and a slice from the perennially excellent Andy’s Pizza for under $9. And that’s a happy hour I can get behind every day of the week.
If you can get there in time, be sure to check out the Ugly, Stoned, and Funky beer, made of “ugly” stone fruit that would’ve otherwise been discarded and is instead brewed into a delightful Sour gose style beer. And while Andy’s pepperoni pizza is always a fan favorite, you should also pay mind to the mushroom and onion. Grab a slice and a six-pack from the to-go window, or order and sit down in the expansive tap room or one of the outdoor picnic tables.
If you find yourself in Logan Circle, do not miss out on Commissary which offers familiar American staples with a few twists. The pandemic has resulted in some creative offerings, like my personal favorite, the Cauliflower & Scallion Pancake that benefits from the addition of hazelnuts and a distinctly Asian spicy mayo.
The daily happy hour hasn’t left since Commissary reopened at the end of May, and as General Manager Mark Barry told me, the team has been searching for ways to “provide a value conscious offering to guests that is affordable and makes them want to come in.” Commissary’s large streetery (it’s dog friendly!) actually allows the restaurant to near the same capacity as pre-pandemic times, and the prices on food and drinks really can’t be beat. Don’t miss the frozen old fashioned for $6, the kung pao brussels sprouts for $7, the absolutely incredible Mambo wings for $7, and a large serving of truffle fries for $4.
I’ve looked all over DC for the perfect margarita, and while there are plenty of contenders, none is quite as cheap or as consistent as the $6 De La Casa margarita at Mi Vida. The restaurant prides itself on exclusively using top shelf ingredients, and that certainly goes for its liquors as well. This marg is tart without being overly sweet, and strong without being too alcohol-forward. And given the price, you won’t feel badly for having a couple more.
Food-wise, you’ll definitely want to check out the unique green pipian deviled eggs, and nacho lovers will kill for the $11 tatanachos, which take your ordinary nachos to the next level thanks to the addition of melted chihuahua and oaxaca cheeses.
Other happy hours in the area worth mentioning include the Colada Shop, whose brand new happy hour offers cocktails for under $10 and perfectly fried empanadas for just $2, and Barrel, a fabulous whiskey bar with $5 pours of rye and bourbon, as well as great deals on wings, fries, and biscuits.