Whether it’s a byproduct of D.C.’s “work hard, play hard” energy, a strategy to survive the rising costs of rent and tuition with our wills to live intact, or a consequence of some incredibly successful marketing, happy hours are everywhere, every day. Even those of us that abstain can find cheap eats come 5 o’clock as a result of these promotions, so happy hours are for everyone. The only question now is…where should you go?
Disclaimer: My research has been limited in scope to the areas I frequent the most, which are exclusively in the northwestern quadrant.
- All-Time Low (Prices): Bua Thai, Dupont Circle
Happy Hour: 4pm-7pm ET, Monday-Sunday
A low-key restaurant with a loyal following, Bua Thai is the perfect place to go for good food, good drinks, and some peace and quiet. I frequent this laidback restaurant so often, the waiters tell me what my drink order is (a Raspberry Daiquiri, if you’re curious). With $4 beers and wines, $6 cocktails, and $6 appetizers, it’s one of the cheapest happy hours I’ve found in D.C., and just a five-minute walk from Rome at 17th and P St.
Try an order of larb gai or a Bua curry puff from the starter menu with your beverage of choice–I’ve heard great things about the Melon Kamikaze, but my all-time faves are the frozen pina coladas and daiquiris, both of which you can flavor to your liking. And though it doesn’t come with a discount, I’d be remiss not to mention the extensive lunch and dinner menus, complete with staples like drunken noodles and regional dishes like khao soi (my personal favorite).
- Old Number $7: Tokyo Pearl, Dupont Circle
Happy Hour: 4pm-7pm, Tuesday-Sunday
Asian-fusion joint Tokyo Pearl is nestled by undergraduate favorite Mad Hatter, young professional favorite Residents, and coffee-drinker favorite Tatte on 18th St. NW between Massachusetts Ave and N St. Its hybrid nature as a restaurant by day and nightclub by night lends itself to an edgy lounge feel. It can get pretty loud, but the outdoor space is gorgeous if you can snag a seat.
Tokyo Pearl’s happy hour menu is all about consistency: $7 drinks, $7 starters, $7 sushi. The discounts apply to more than your average rail drinks and house reds–they’ve got unique frozen concoctions like a Yuzu Margarita and a Peach Lychee Vodka, as well as a Tokyo Pearl Punch. You can also splurge an additional $2 to unlock a few specialty drinks, like a Lychee Martini, and on Thursdays, sake and wine bottles are half-off. Starters range from chicken and veg dumplings to sweet corn with miso butter, and all your standard sushi rolls are included: California, spicy salmon, negihama, and more. With price, variety, and location like this, Tokyo Pearl gets you a lot of bang for your buck.
- For the Gamerz: Board Room, Dupont Circle.
Happy Hour: 4pm-7pm ET, Monday-Friday; 12pm-7pm ET, Saturday-Sunday
What’s better than $4 beers? $4 beers and board games, obviously. Right up the street from SAIS on Connecticut Ave is Board Room, a bar that boasts 21 draft lines and 30+ games to rent for a flat fee of $2. From Monopoly, Scattergories, and Checkers, to Life, Cards Against Humanity, and Scrabble, the list of games goes on and on, as does Board Room itself, which is open as late as 2am every Sunday-Thursday and 3am every Friday-Saturday.
Happy hour doesn’t run quite as long, but with $4 drink deals, including beers, wines, and rail drinks, it’s nothing to sneeze at. There’s no kitchen, but you’re more than welcome to bring your own snacks to the venue. If you want takeout, that’s no problem either–delivery partners Flippin’ Pizza, Banana Leaves, and City Lights of China have opened their menus to Board Room, so all you need to do is order at the bar. It’s a no-frills, laid-back, best-friend’s-living-room kind of space, where anyone can feel right at home. If you’re looking for somewhere you can publicly end friendships over Uno, you really can’t do better.
- Is “Classy Barcade” an Oxymoron?: The Eleanor, NoMa and Silver Spring
Happy Hour: 4pm-7pm ET, Monday-Sunday
If you drew a Venn Diagram of people who like bowling and people who don’t like bowling alleys, and made a restaurant for the people in the middle (me), you would have made The Eleanor. It’s a great choice for the customer who wants something a little different than your basic barcade, but also wants to keep it classier than Dave & Buster’s. The Eleanor’s neon diner feel offers an ideal date spot if you need some help breaking the ice. Though it’s a bit further from SAIS than the previous listings, it’s still super convenient, right off the NoMa-Gallaudet stop on the red line.
The happy hour menu is truly something to behold–they’ve got their best starters on the cheap, including elote loco hush puppies for $5, wings for $6, and a half-dozen oysters for just $10–unless you go on Wednesdays, when it drops to just $1 per oyster. Rail drinks, house margs and mules, and wines are $6 a glass, while select draft beers are just $5. If you’re in the mood for something a little extra, an Oakside Old Fashioned is just $8. And if that wasn’t enough, it’s a fair-wage restaurant, so you’re supporting a business that pays their staff a flat livable wage. What more do you need?
- B.Q.P.E. (Big Queer Pub Energy): Mr. Henry’s, The Hill
Happy Hour: 4pm-7pm ET, Monday-Tuesday & Thursday-Sunday; 3pm-7pm ET on Wednesdays
I have to confess—the only reason that I went to Mr. Henry’s to begin with is because it’s what I call my cat. But I was convinced it was worth a second trip the moment I stepped through the doors. Queer-coded decor and a classic English pub layout combine to create a laid-back neighborhood bar known for live jazz, community events, and a fantastic ambiance. The venue hosts musical guests almost every day of the week and boasts a history of doing so since the 1960s, even claiming that Roberta Flack herself got her start on Mr. Henry’s stage. But if you’re just there for food, libations, and conversations, you can stay on the main floor and enjoy your meal in peace.
When happy hour rolls around, for just $6.50, you can grab a cheeseburger, wings, BBQ pulled-pork sliders, or a variety of other American pub staples. In addition to happy hour, every day of the week has a different special–Monday is Half-Priced Burger Night, Wednesday is Spaghetti Night, Saturday is Shrimp and Chicken Jambalaya Night, and so on. Happy hour drinks range from $5.50 for a Bud Light to $7 for a Long Island Iced Tea, and if you go on Rita Tuesdays, you can get house margs for just $7 from 4pm until closing. It’s a low-stakes, high-reward venue where you can feel right at home on their uncomfortable church-pew benches. (Don’t chicken out now that I said that. Discomfort builds character).
- If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It: Johnny Pistolas, Adams Morgan
Happy Hour: 4pm-7pm ET, Monday-Friday; 4pm-6pm ET, Saturday-Sunday.
LA taqueria-inspired bar Johnny Pistolas is among the most well-known AdMo locales on 18th. And it’s a staple for a reason—the tacos are cheap and delicious, the drinks are poured with a heavy hand, and the deals are some of the best in the city. Case in point: Taco Tuesday, which means $3 tacos all night. I finish class on Tuesday nights at 8:30 and the second it’s done I head to Johnny P’s for some tacos and a Pacifico. It’s become a coping mechanism.
I can’t sing the praises of Johnny P’s beef barbacoa and pollo asado tacos enough, and the $3 price tag during regular happy hours and Taco Tuesdays makes them taste even better. If you’re feeling something different, though, you can’t go wrong with the $7 Mexican cheese fries or the $5 taquitos. As far as the drinks, you’re in for some serious deals: Tecates are at an all-time-D.C.-low at $3 per bottle, or for $15 you can get a beer bucket to split with friends (or not–we don’t judge). For $7, you’ve also got house margs (on the rocks or frozen), Pistolas palomas, and house wine. Johnny P’s is your all-around best, with cheap eats and treats every day of the week.
- Seaside Staples: Hank’s Oyster Bar, Dupont Circle, The Wharf, and Old Town Alexandria
Happy Hour (Dupont): 4pm-6pm ET, Tuesday-Friday, only at the bar
Just around the corner of 17th and Q, the Dupont location of Hank’s Oyster Bar is tucked away in a snug townhouse-turned-restaurant complete with exposed brick, old wooden floors, and a warm, homey feel. After eighteen years and three locations, Hank’s is officially a DMV staple with numerous awards under its belt, from “Best Bloody Mary” to “Best Raw Bar.” Whether you’re an oyster aficionado or new to seafood (like me), or even if you’re just here for the drinks, Hank’s is the place for you.
The main happy hour attraction is oysters on the half shell, which is a rotating selection of as many delicious east coast oysters as you want for $2 each. Be warned: for how tasty these are, six is not enough. If you’re not here for the seafood, you can grab some tempura shishito peppers for $10, or maybe just stick to the free goldfish they’ll pass your way once you sit down at the bar. Local beers are just $6, and house wines are $7. For cocktails, you’re working with $8 spirit and single mixer drinks that you can customize with any house liquor. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can surprise yourself with the $5 punch of the day. Hank’s happy hour menu may be on the pricier side of this list, but it’s also one of the most extensive, and the quality can’t be beat.
If you’ve got recommendations, we’re more than happy to hear them! Send them our way at email@example.com, and maybe you’ll see your favorite spot featured in upcoming editions.