Drinks for Every Type of Hill Staffer

Posted May 16, 2007 at 4:44pm

Everything on Capitol Hill comes from compromise. Aside from having to make nice with those pesky partisans all day at work, once you’re off the clock, it’s compromise time again. Where to go on the Hill that doesn’t suck. Where to take your sweetie that doesn’t involve beer-sticky floors and kickball leaguers. Where to evade said partisans. [IMGCAP(1)]

Salary — not to mention those restrictive ethics rules — makes going out tricky, too. But sometimes you don’t have to compromise having fun and staying on the Hill for a couple of drinks after work.

There are plenty of options for each level of staffer, from the intern to the Hillite-turned-$200,000-annual-salary guy. Mug Shots has broken down the choices for the following Hill types:

The entry-level staffer: You’re probably broke, so most of the time finding the best happy hour deals takes priority when you’re deciding where to go out. This doesn’t bother you too much, considering all your fellow entry-level friends are in the same boat.

The upper-level staffer: You’ve successfully exceeded the three-year expiration date for Hill staff, and now you’re stuck in a rut. Chances are, you go to the same bar with the same people night after night. You want to go somewhere new but have been here long enough that you’ve stereotyped every watering hole on the Hill.

The off-the-Hill type: You can afford to wine and dine at chichi restaurants all over town now that you’ve got that fat expense account, but none of your staffer friends want to go, considering they have to pay their own way now.

So pick your pay level and enjoy these offerings:

Entry-Level Staffers
The Capitol Lounge (231 Pennsylvania Ave. SE) A longtime Mug Shots favorite, the Lounge is one of the more versatile bars on the Hill. Various levels of staffers, and even the occasional Member, know the Lounge is the go-to place to grab a beer, socialize and network with peers. The food’s pretty good for a bar, and the drinks are predictable. Most of the bartenders are friendly, and once you start making a habit of going there, it starts to feel like “Cheers.” Some in Mug Shots’ team of social butterflies even swear by the Lounge as a great place to take a date, but to that advice, the jury’s still out.

Tortilla Coast (400 First St. SE) The perfect place for cheap beers and tacos, the younger set usually hang out here, which is not to say that you higher-ups shouldn’t join them. Their margaritas are delicious, and if Mug Shots thought it were acceptable, she’d ask for a straw to go with the salsa. Plus, think of all those young spongy minds you can mold! And you might get some face time with a Member or two.

Upper-Level Staffers
Hamilton’s Bar and Grill (233 Second St. NW)
For the staffers not ready to pick up an off-the-Hill tab, Hamilton’s is a safe bet for great beer specials and casual dining. There’s nothing immature about the atmosphere, though. And you probably won’t run into too many kickball leaguers there either.

Sonoma (233 Pennsylvania Ave. SE) An informal panel of Mug Shots’ social life advisers can’t stop singing the praises of Sonoma. Even the broke staffers can afford to have a couple of glasses of chardonnay and an appetizer here in a setting that features all levels of staff and K Streeters. Mug Shots also suggests bringing your after-work date here, especially if you haven’t finished working for the day or returning all those calls. Share a charcuterie tray and some cheese at the bar with your sweetie while you network and chitchat with everyone coming in and going out. You’d be surprised how many people you know are there. And if your date complains that you’re not paying enough attention to him (or her), say you had no idea this many people would be here. It works like a charm.

Off-the-Hill Types
Charlie Palmer Steak (101 Constitution Ave. NW) Sources close to Mug Shots swear by Charlie Palmer for their post-work multitasking. For the higher-up staffer and K Streeter alike, CPS bartenders pour a good, stiff drink and the service is attentive, knowledgeable (not just about which single malt you’re trying to decide on) and did I say how well they pour a good, stiff drink?

This is a popular choice for the big kids to unwind and talk shop in a tranquil and airy environment. But the price tag definitely is not for the younger crowd.

Bobby Van’s Grill (1201 New York Ave. NW) While technically not on the Hill, we couldn’t overlook Bobby Van’s Steakhouse’s more recent addition. Mug Shots informants of the mid-level staffer and lobbyist persuasion make this restaurant a hot spot most every night of the week. The back bar is great for organizing birthday celebration cocktail hours, and should you get famished, there’s a menu full of snacky treats to indulge in. Entry-level staff might want to stay on the Hill; this one gets a little pricey.