Shake up your happy hour routine with cocktails on a rooftop, mugs of German beer in the sun, or local brews paired with house-smoked brisket. All of these bars opened in the last month, so even your most jaded friends can't be bored with them yet.
400 E St. SW (inside the Hyatt Place Hotel). 202-803-6110.
Happy hour: Weekdays from 5 to 7 p.m.
No one leaves the office and heads to L'Enfant Plaza after work, unless they're trying to catch the 5A Metrobus to Dulles. There are simply no happy hours or bars in the concrete canyons between I-395 and the Mall.
To the relief of those who work in the area, though, the Hyatt Place's rooftop CityBar officially opened on June 23, with a daily happy hour and fantastic views.
From the Penthouse level of the hotel, you can watch cars traveling across the Wilson Bridge, jets taking off from National Airport and traffic inching along 395. Look beyond the neighborhood's drab office buildings, and you can pick out the National Building Museum, the dome of the Museum of Natural History and the National Basilica.
The happy hour cocktail menu includes the Old Cuban, which is basically a mojito with sparkling wine, and the Salty Dog, which was heavy on the gin and light on grapefruit juice, for $10 each. Right Proper and Flying Dog can be found for $6 on draft, while all glasses of wines are $2 off. Outside of happy hour, drinks are a mixed bag: The $11 Breath of Life is a refreshing mix of rum and cucumber water punched up with cilantro, but the $15 Oaked Martinez, a barrel-aged cocktail with gin, vermouth, Luxardo and bitters, is incredibly boring and could use more time in the wood.
1007 Eighth St. SE. 202-675-1000.
Happy hour: Weekdays from 4 to 7 p.m.
After months of delays, the Brig finally opened on June 17. The German-inspired beer garden, located at the bottom of Barracks Row, is a simple but impressive space, with rows of picnic tables and tall, box-like high-top tables shaded by umbrellas and trees, plus a covered bar with plenty of stools. Total capacity is just under 300, meaning there's plenty of room, even on sunny weekend afternoons.
There are 40 taps with around 20 beers, ranging from the German Hofbrau, Erdinger and Eggenberg to locals Fair Winds, Port City and Right Proper. A liter of German lager is $15; pints or half-liters of other beers are around $8. The draft list is displayed on scrolling TV screens behind the bar, so make sure you've seen everything before you order. The food menu is short and sweet: a Bavarian pretzel with beer cheese ($5), salads ($7-$9) and a few sandwiches and wraps ($10). Food trucks will be a regular presence at the bar.
One TV behind the bar was showing Euro 2016 games when I visited; the bar is now projecting matches onto the side of an empty building next door. Expect the Brig to be popular before and after Nationals games, but also on random Saturdays – it's friendly to both families and dogs, which should go over well in the neighborhood.
1610 U St. NW. 202-232-2171.
Happy hour: Daily from 4:30 to 8 p.m.
It's always hard to replace an institution. Exiles, which opened in early June, took the place of Stetson's, a neighborhood bar that had been a fixture on U Street since the early 1980s. You knew exactly what you were getting when you went to Stetson's: cheap beer, cool staff and a laid back attitude. Exiles, on the other hand, hasn't crafted its identity yet. The decor is a mix of blues, browns and exposed brick, though the empty walls suggest the space isn't finished. The upstairs features a long, rustic communal table made from a single piece of wood.
The back patio has been revamped and covered with picnic tables, though it retains the mural of the 1914 Westover Rye Whiskey bottle, "distilled expressly for John Morris, 1610 U St. NW," which a Stetson's employee had found years ago. It's a quiet and somewhat secluded place for enjoying an alfresco drink, which can be hard to find on U Street. The new owners have also added a barbecue smoker, which forms the base of the new menu.
Happy hour is the best time to check out the food, with two brisket sliders or pulled pork siders for $5. The brisket sliders were a little dry, but had decent smoke. A list of $4 drinks includes rail drinks, house wine, and Bud, Miller Lite and Shock Top.
For craft beer lovers, it's worth diving into the rest of the menu, which features rotating selections from Caboose, Port City and DC Brau, Founders Nitro Pale Ale and a really well-poured pint of Guinness. The cocktail list is basic – a Negroni, Whiskey Sour, Manhattan, etc. – but the owners get credit for the name of the house margarita: the Twin Bush. (Stetson's was one of the bars where Jenna and Barbara Bush were observed drinking underage during their father's first term.)