The 9 Best Bars In DC

Our favorite watering holes.
Warmly lit bar with fabric on ceiling and walls tent-style

photo credit: Jennifer Chase

There are probably more bars in DC than people with DC licenses. And trying to find the right bar for your mood can be as overwhelming as trying to decipher the latest piece of legislation being written over at the Hart Building. But on this list, you’ll find a bar for every occasion. If you live in DC, you should drink at them all. If you’re visiting, check out as many as you can. Some spots are cocktail bars, some are dives, others have live music, and then there are a few that fall somewhere in between. Here are the nine best bars in DC.


photo credit: Nina Palazzolo


Adams Morgan

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Get to this Adams Morgan bar early so you can grab a seat at either the upstairs or downstairs bar before the crowd arrives. Named after an area in Baghdad, this Middle Eastern bar serves a bunch of craft cocktails featuring ingredients from that part of the world, like the Women. Life. Freedom, a vodka-based drink with cardamom and rose. The bar has strong political stances—one of the drinks is called the F*ck Trump punch—so do with that what you will. But the drinks will get you right, the bartenders are fun, and the music is bumping long into the night.

$$$$Perfect For:Drinks & A Light Bite

There’s a solid chance you’ve walked past Denson 100 times and never knew it was there. The Chinatown speakeasy, which is down a semi-shady metal staircase, is best known for its craft cocktails like the Maltese Swift, a rye drink served with blood orange, honey, and egg white. Because it’s across the street from Capital One Arena, it gets packed if the Caps or Wizards are in town, and reservations are required if you want a leather booth. The bar is always first come, first served, though, and it’s the best place to sit if you want to ask for a drink (or mocktail) that’s not on the menu.

photo credit: Reema Desai



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Sometimes, a boozy night out is an affair straight out of a black-and-white movie that’ll have you feeling like you should be twirling (real) pearls while taking a drag from a (metaphorical) skinny cigarette. Donahue, a lounge in Georgetown, is the fancy bar from your Humphrey Bogart dream. The signature cocktails are equal parts delicious and showy, like the Bay of Bengal served in a floral teacup. And the tapas like the tender braised short ribs, which are served all night, are way more elevated than your average bar food, so you can keep the classy illusion going as you soak up your drinks.

DC’s first (and only) nonalcoholic bar feels a bit more like a cross between a lounge, with its velvety rust and mustard-colored chairs, and a spa, thanks to the sounds of tranquil waves crashing in the background. But it’s a relaxing, low-pressure spot to come and get zero proof tequila and alcohol-free wine, all reminiscent of the real thing, with the guarantee of no hangover. The bar hosts a lot of events, so check the website beforehand to make sure it’s open when you want to swing by.

Metrobar, a mostly outdoor spot in Brentwood, is full of picnic tables, covered patio furniture and high top tables, but the real star of the show is the refurbished 5000-series Metro car complete with a full-on bar and tables crammed in next to already-tiny train seats. Grab a drink, play endless giant games like Jenga, and have a laid-back evening with the squad. And if you get hungry, they have a rotation of food trucks that post up outside the venue. The one downside here is the hours can get a little tight, as it is often closed for private events, so make sure to check the schedule before you head over.

It’s rare we visit a bar or restaurant that leaves us speechless, but walking into Medina is an experience that makes us gasp. Entering the indoor bedouin tent feels like you’ve stepped out of Logan Circle and into Casablanca, where you can lounge with your friends on cushy couches (make a reservation) as you split chermoula, kefta hummus full of tiny meatballs, and endless pita bread. The Middle Eastern cocktails, like the Medusa topped with a salty foam, are so pretty you might not want to drink them—so keep coming back to work your way through the entire menu.


To get to Tkyo Speaks, you have to walk through Kaiju Ramen and down a hallway pulsing neon green. When you throw open the door to the underground bar, you’ll find a DJ playing everything from Tyla to Webbie. While the drinks are on the weaker side, the tiny spot is great for keeping the Barracks Row party going without too much of a crowd. Coming here is especially fun after Kaiju has closed and you have to walk through the dark, empty ramen spot after hours.

You’re going to be asked for the secret code (it’s red) when you knock on the door of this Adams Morgan speakeasy. The host will escort you into the dark, deep red room where the bartenders are wearing newsboy hats and sequined shirts. You’ll find a lot of absinthe on the menu, which is broken up into before, during, and after prohibition. Come on Tuesdays for $1 oysters, and relax to the swing music playing in the background as you sip cocktails like the Southside, a gin, lemon, and mint that may or may not have been Al Capone’s favorite drink.

No list of best bars is complete without a good dive bar, and Rocketbar in Chinatown is our favorite for a few reasons. The basement bar is open daily, with a Happy Hour that runs from 4-8pm (longer on game days since it’s right across from Capital One Arena), which makes the already affordable bar even cheaper. Play pool, darts, or skeeball as you toss back rail drinks and draft beers. When it’s busy, which is often, you’ll barely be able to hear your friends standing next to you over the yelling and the music, so expect to spend more time clinking glasses and motioning with your pool stick than having actual conversations.

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