Going to Nationals games during the summer is a DC activity as important as doing your best to not look like a tourist while riding Capital Bikeshare, befriending someone solely because their building has a rooftop pool, and very selectively leaving the A/C to face the humidity. Whether you’re a diehard Nats fan, only pay attention during the Presidents Race, or worse - root for the Mets - you’ll want a solid plan for meeting up with friends before or after the game. We’ve got you covered. Here are the best places to eat and drink before or after a game.
This Korean fried chicken chain keeps it simple with just two flavors of wings: spicy and soy garlic. Get them both. What Bonchon lacks in choices is quickly made up for in flavor and double-fried crispiness. If you choose to eat wings at the nearby Buffalo Wild Wings instead, you will be awarded no points, and may god have mercy on your soul.
“No one goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.” That Dad-saying applies to Bluejacket, everyone’s go-to brewery before a Nats game, as evidenced by the constant waits. But if you get a spot, it’s worth it. The industrial space used to be a Navy factory in the early 1900s, and the twenty beers on tap and Big Train Burger make the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd bearable. Just try to get there early, make reservations, or check it out when the Nats are out of town.
If the packed crowd at Bluejacket gives you anxiety, head a few doors down to Willie’s for some extra space and barbeque. The “All-Meat Nachos” are enough food to feed the entire Nats starting lineup and the pulled pork or brisket sandwich makes for a solid pre-game plate of meat. Plus, you’ll be finishing your meal by the time your other friends get seated at the brewery down the street.
This New England-style seafood spot is right next to Nats Park along the Anacostia River. It takes all the good from Massachusetts (clam chowder, lobster rolls, and a raw bar), and leaves the bad (Patriots fans). Stop by for a sit down meal in the upscale-but-not-too fancy dining room - a solid choice for that second or third date - or grab one of their massive seafood towers (appropriately dubbed “The Kraken”) and some northeastern brews at their outdoor bar. Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman is an investor, too, so that’s already some good Nats mojo before the first pitch is even thrown.
Brats, German beer, big picnic tables, live music. That’s a recipe that’s hard to screw up. The Brig is an outdoor beer garden that’s a strong choice for a pre- or post-game stop with a big group.
Sometimes a Bud Light and mediocre cover band is all you need. Fenced in by shipping containers and construction (very romantic), The Bullpen is an old reliable and opens two hours before every Nats game. There are a couple of food trucks, but it’s mostly for drinking, cornhole tournaments, and a convenient walk to the stadium. It’s not what you want for every pre-game, but when you’re with a big group and looking for some cheap beer, it gets the job done. If you never make it to the actual game, happy hour is from the third to seventh innings.
Parents in town and frozen Red Bull vodka at The Bullpen isn’t your mom’s scene? Take them to Osteria Morini on the Navy Yard waterfront. There are views of the Anacostia River, cocktails, and fresh pasta. Check it out for a more low-key start to your night, or to show mom and dad that you’ve graduated from chicken tenders and Busch Light.
We know that “bar at the Hampton Inn” sounds like the place a guy on a business trip to Toledo during his mid-life crisis would hang out, but hear us out. This rooftop has a view as good as Bryce Harper’s hair (i.e., immaculate). You can see directly into Nationals Park, which means you can be near the action and drink an actually decent cocktail at the same time. You could even watch a few innings of the game up there - although you have zero shot at catching a t-shirt.
Waiting in line for Shake Shack at a Nats game we imagine is similar to being in a port-a-potty line on day three of Burning Man. Excruciating, but so satisfying in the end. Luckily, the burger chain also just opened up a location right outside the stadium, so now you don’t have to spend four innings waiting for a Shackburger. Pull the veteran-move and get your fix before heading into the park - without aging years off your life in the process.