D.C. is known for its politics, its historical sites, and the countless amazing (and many free!) museums, but it also has a vibrant and fun bar scene! Much like the community of D.C., the bars reflect a variety of personalities, backgrounds, and vibes. From spots where you can sit down and chat, to themed bars, speakeasies, dancing, and sports bars, D.C. has it all! (And the list continues to grow, so let us know your favorites!) So check out this list of 9 D.C. bars you need to visit at least once in your life:
1. Service Bar
Service Bar, located on the lively U Street, ranked No. 33 on the 2023 list of North America’s 50 Best Bars. It’s noted for its delicious cocktails (try the Italian Bubble Coat!), equally appetizing food, and casual atmosphere! “Since 2016, thirsty patrons have made Service Bar their go-to local in The District for three great reasons: the famous fried chicken, the lively, unpretentious ambiance, and outstanding cocktails delivered at reasonable prices.”
Another 2023 North America’s 50 Best Bars inclusion is Downtown D.C.’s Allegory coming in at No. 45. Hidden at one of D.C.’s most avant-garde hotels this speakeasy is accessed through a bookshelf in Eaton’s Radical Library. Tell the bartenders at Allegory what your favorite flavors are and they’ll craft you the cocktail of your dreams. Combine that with its stunning art, including civil rights activist Ruby Bridges depicted as the Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass” character, and you won’t want to leave.
3. Red Derby
If you’re looking for a dive-bar atmosphere with rooftop vibes and affordable drinks, then look no further! Nestled in Columbia Heights, Red Derby is a local favorite for its cheap bar eats (check out Tendie Tuesday!) and infamous $3.50 whiskey and tequila shots, and beer and shot combos. That’s hard to beat!
Wet Dog Tavern is special. It’s fun, it’s social, it’s dog-friendly, and it was created for a good cause! In loving memory of their late Golden Retriever puppy Lilly Sophia, the tavern strives to create a community and bring awareness to life-threatening diseases in dogs like the one that took Lilly. They host fundraisers and events to support the community and fund research for these illnesses. Dogs of all ages are seen on it’s pup-designated front lawn (on occasion, even a leashed kitty!), as people take in beers and cocktails out front, inside, and out back! Add amazing dog decor and it’s the paw-fect bar!
One of the newest additions to the D.C. bar scene, Royal Sands Social Club opened in late 2022! Royal Sands Social Club draws on Florida’s sun, sand, beaches, and pools to bring a Floridian flare to D.C. year-round. With a stunning “swimming pool”-themed bar at the entrance, complete with a DJ booth “lifeguard station,” the space is adorned with faux palm trees and swinging chairs and offers additional entertainment, such as arcade games and a photo booth. But if the aesthetics draw you in, the cocktails will make you stay with tropical favorites like the Frozen Pina Colada alongside new concoctions, such as the Sunny Place For Shady People (Tito’s Vodka, key lime juice, pink coconut foam, Pratt & Standard Pomegranate Grenadine).
If you’re into speakeasies, this right up your alley and possibly one of the most fun to get to! Located inside Capo Deli, the real part is in the back. Enter the walk-in freezer (Don’t worry, you won’t be pushing through slabs of meat!) and into a dark, glamorous speakeasy! With crystal chandeliers, leather booths, and a small, intimate vibe the only thing that’s better? You can grab a late-night sub on your way out!
Old Ebbitt Grill is a D.C. mainstay, filled with history. Founded in 1856 by innkeeper William E. Ebbitt is D.C.’s oldest saloon, having served multiple presidents (including Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland, and Theodore Roosevelt), crafted from heirlooms and antiques from across D.C., and serving a variety of beers, wines, and cocktails (try the Red Manhattan)!
Named after the owner’s two grandmothers, both named Nellie, he wanted to honor their warm hospitality by recreating the positive environment these women made at their homes to this bar. In addition to being a gay-friendly sports bar with a rennowned drag brunch, while you’re here watching the game, you can snack from their extensive menu and fun cocktail selection. Their “Funsies” items include cheaper drinks like $1 Jell-O shots, $6 ice pops, and $10 slushies. Have a delicious sweet beverage, and enjoy the vibrant ambiance of this lively bar!
A beloved walk-in ramen shop in D.C.’s Chinatown, it’s reminiscent of an authentic shop you’d find in Japan—quaint and vibrant. Though it’s a ramen shop first, it’s a unique and beloved place to have a drink—with a friend or alone! Sit at the bar, watching the chefs cook while you sip on imported Japanese beers, whiskeys, and sake. Then treat yourself to some mouth-watering Sapporo-style ramen to close out your night!