Washington, D.C., is a drinking town. Those new to the Beltway learn quickly that hours logged after work can be as important as any. For the benefit of all interns spending their first summers here, this Roll Call intern has been conducting research on how some of Capitol Hill's favorite bars cater to the fresh-faced and unpaid at happy hour.
The following list is a short primer for the totally uninitiated from one only recently initiated. It was assembled with immediate proximity to the Capitol principally in mind.
Union Pub (201 Massachusetts Ave. NE)
Modern, friendly, generic, slightly cavernous — Union Pub is fit to meet the needs of pretty much anyone of any rank. Its large, well-shaded patio out front provides a special draw for those seeking uncirculated air.
Interns: Bring a group of friends or co-workers, if not an employer willing to shell out for the slightly pricier offerings. Highlights on the happy hour menu include $12 Bud Light pitchers and $8 Bud Light buckets depending on the day of the week. There are better deals in town, but on the whole, you could do much worse.
Capitol Lounge (229 Pennsylvania Ave. SE)
Capitol Lounge serves a mixed crowd of interns, staffers, operatives, journalists and occasionally members. It lives up to its name if only for the volume of campaign memorabilia and nostalgia on proud display in its two main bar rooms. At happy hour, all drinks are discounted $1, and, in a nod to the desperate, the bartenders pour $3 mystery shots. If you’re looking for a place to think even more about politics and turn your Hill life into your whole life, look no further.
Tortilla Coast (400 First St. SE)
Within striking distance of the House office buildings and stumbling distance of the Capitol South Metro station, Tortilla Coast is one of the most convenient destinations on this list. What’s more, it offers probably the healthiest ratio of suits to kickball T-shirts. The hybrid theme and off-neon color scheme make for a welcome reply to the more D.C.-themed establishments. The happy hour menu features $3.50 draft and bottled beers and $6 frozen margaritas. You’ll likely run into someone you know on your first visit. If not, you’ll make friends, perhaps with the next incarnation of Rep. Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., who used to wait tables here.
Hamilton’s Bar and Grill (233 Second St. NW)
Aside from the diner ambiance and fraternity house charm, Hamilton’s boasts one virtue over all: price. At happy hour during the week, bottles of Bud Light and Miller Lite go for $2 each. All day on Friday, cans of PBR and Miller High Life go for $1 each. The usual crowd includes a few families and some seedier types. Stop by if you’re particularly eager to drink. Don’t bother going upstairs. Definitely don’t go downstairs. In a word, it’s functional.
Kelly’s Irish Times (14 F St. NW)
Finally, for a more optimal balance of character to grit, Kelly’s Irish Times opens its arms. Depending on the day of the week, it serves $3 draft and canned beers, $5 tall boys, and $5 Absolut vodka concoctions at happy hour. An Irish bar complete with a law-enforcement-friendly atmosphere — evident in the scores of cop patches plastered to the walls — Kelly’s makes room for interns. The signature line above the front door reads: “Give me your thirsty, your famished, your befuddled masses.” Intern: That’s you.