9 D.C. happy hours where you can eat and drink for $10 or less (2023)

9 D.C. happy hours where you can eat and drink for $10 or less (1)

By Fritz Hahn

May 12, 2023 at 9:00 a.m. EDT

9 D.C. happy hours where you can eat and drink for $10 or less (2)


13 min


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Once upon a time, Washington was a magic place for happy hours. Bars and restaurants so craved after-work business that they offered free — free! — tacos, pizza or popcorn shrimp, in addition to discounted drinks, to lure young and hungry customers. If they weren’t giving food away, well, how broke could you go on 25-cent wings?

These days, you’re lucky if a bar knocks a couple of bucks off its appetizers.

In an attempt to be as thrifty as possible while also realizing that times have changed, we gave ourselves a challenge: Go out for happy hour and see how much food and drinks $10 buys, not including tax and tip. Because we are responsible, a decent amount of food had to be involved — no filling up on free chips and salsa — which sadly ruled out 10 mugs of $1 Miller Lite at the Madhatter’s Thursday night throw-down. It is, we admit, a completely arbitrary number, which means excluding otherwise worthy deals, such as Union Pub’s 40-cent wing night, where the two-drink minimum means you’ll spend $12 for an order of wings and two house beers, or Hill East Burger’s pairing of buttermilk chicken nugs and $1 Old Time beer, which adds up to $11. But you have to draw a line somewhere.

When: Monday through Friday, noon to 6 p.m.

Where: 1201 Half St. SE. atlasbrewworks.com.

The skinny: $10 for a beer and two slices of pizza.

One of the best craft beer happy hours in town got even better this year when its hours doubled: Atlas Brew Works’ Half Street SE location now offers two slices of Andy’s foldable New York-style pizzas with a pint of select Atlas beers for $10 every weekday between noon and 6 p.m. Pair the award-winning cheese with Dance of Days pale ale, or go hard with the pepperoni cup slice and a hoppy Ponzi IPA. The deal is valid at the bar as well as the streatery outside. Sadly for Nationals fans, the deal isn’t offered when the team is playing at home — though there will be plenty of times this season when happy hour promises to be a better reason to go to Half Street than baseball.


The Blaguard

When: Monday through Friday, 5 to 8 p.m. (extended to 10 p.m. Wednesday), plus daily specials.

Where: 2003 18th St. NW. blaguarddc.com.

The skinny: $4 and $5 draft beers, $5 rail drinks, $5 wings, plus $5.50 burgers (Monday) and $6 totchos (Thursday).

The Blaguard’s happy hour is legendary — check out the wall of “Reader’s Choice” awards — because of its affordability. Almost every draft, whether you want a Port City Optimal Wit or a fancy RAR double IPA, costs $5. The exceptions are beers like Bud Light and Old Time Lager, which are $4, as are PBR tallboys. Rail drinks are also $5. Blaguard’s happy hour runs later than most, too: No need to rush after work when the deals run from 5 to 8 p.m., though seats do fill up, so the earlier you get to Adams Morgan, the less chance you’ll be competing with kickball teams for a table. The sign on the wall lists drink specials, but grab a food menu and you’ll find a half-dozen wings for $5, with choices including neon-orange Frank’s, Old Bay dry rub or classic D.C. mumbo sauce. Don’t miss other daily specials, such as a half-price, no-frills Angus cheeseburger on Mondays or totchos tater tot nachos piled under cheese and other toppings on Thursdays. The Blaguard is an old-school neighborhood bar where you’ll probably wind up talking sports with regulars on either side of you — and you’ll understand why they keep coming back.

El Chucho

When: Monday through Friday, 4 to 6 p.m.

Where: 3133 11th St. NW. elchuchodc.com.

The skinny: $3.50-$4 beers, $6 margaritas, $3 tacos, $6 guac and chips.

Your hunger level is going to determine how you approach El Chucho’s happy hour on our $10 budget. Worked straight through lunch? Grab two of the tacos, with a choice of pulled chicken in a peppery adobo sauce, piled with sofrito; marinated steak covered in radishes, pico and queso fresco; spicy pork with cilantro and onions; or a veggie option with shiitake, peppers and onions. A tallboy of DC Brau’s Old Time Lager is $3.50, or splurge on $4 options, including a bottle of Negra Modelo or can of Hellbender IPA. Feeling peckish? Go for the personal-size bowl of guacamole with housemade chips, plus a beer to wash it down. Had a meeting with catered lunch? Treat yourself to the house’s silver margarita with a salted rim, but grab a taco anyway — no point drinking on an empty stomach. No matter how hungry you are, the Columbia Heights restaurant is a fine spot, especially if you can perch in the window seats.


Ivy and Coney

When: Monday through Thursday, 5 to 6 p.m.

Where: 1537 Seventh St. NW. ivyandconey.com.

The skinny: $6 for a hot dog and a beer. Outside of happy hour, you’re still paying only $9 for a hot dog and a beer.

Ivy and Coney revels in its role as a throwback neighborhood bar inspired by the corner taverns of Detroit and Chicago. Its specialties are the traditional tubed meats of its hometowns: a Detroit-style Coney Dog, topped with a rich homemade chili, mustard and onions, and a Chicago Dog, “dragged through the garden,” with tomato, pickles and sport peppers among the toppings on the seeded bun. For the first hour the joint is open Monday through Thursday, grab a dog of your choice and a beer — either DC Brau’s Old Time Lager or a pint of rotating cheap beer that Ivy and Coney markets as “Old Style-ish” in honor of that cheap Chicago lager — for $6. It’s a great deal, but look, if you show up at 6:02 p.m. Tuesday or 9 p.m. Friday, you can get the same hot-dog-and-beer combo for $9 or $10, depending on your choice of beer. Either pairs perfectly with the baseball on TV, whether you’re sitting in the cozy front bar or on the buzzier back deck.

Last Call

When: Monday to Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m., Friday from 3 to 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.

Where: 1301-A Fourth St. NE. lastcallbardc.com.

The skinny: $3 martinis; $3 beer; $5 wine, sangria and draft cocktails; $3 half-smokes.

Even at happy hour, a $3 cocktail seems too good to be true. And if it does exist, it has to be concocted with some bathtub-quality, back-of-the-bottom-shelf industrial spirits, right? Not at Last Call, where the $3 gin martini is made with Beefeater and Dolin Blanc vermouth, and the $3 vodka martini features One, a winter wheat vodka from Moldova. Both are served in coupes with a choice of olives or a twist. “We lose money” on every pour, says Last Call owner Gina Chersevani. “We don’t even make cost, but we do it because it’s awesome. Beers and other stuff balance out” the red ink from cocktails, “but it’s important to give back to your guests.” Other drinks on the menu include a $5 Old-Fashioned, made with Jim Beam and Angostura before it’s carbonated and put on tap; a $5 choice of red, white, rose and sparkling wine; $5 sangria; and $3 pints of Old Time Lager. Then there are the half-smokes, cooked on a roller behind the bar. Made in New Jersey, they come from a deli company that works with Buffalo and Bergen, Chersevani’s bagel counter in nearby Union Market. The sausage, tucked into a split-top bun and served with a choice of toppings including onions, mustard and individual packages of relish, is flavorful and spicy, with a decent snap. Sitting at the bar, rocking out to a soundtrack of Green Day, the White Stripes and De La Soul, it’s hard to want to go to happy hour anywhere else.

The Madhatter

When: Monday to Friday, 4 to 7 p.m.; Tuesdays also include $2 tacos.

Where: 1319 Connecticut Ave. NW. madhatterdc.com.

The skinny: $3 Miller Lite; $4 rail drinks, Blue Moon and Madhatter lager; $4.50 Mangoritas; $5 Orange Crush; food including $5 chicken tenders and Dune Fries and $6 loaded nachos, onion rings and mozzarella sticks. Tuesdays only: $2 tacos from open until close.

The Madhatter has long been a refuge for those seeking discounted food and drinks. Its Thursday Mug Night, with Miller Lite drafts for $1 from 8 p.m. until close, is packed with 20-somethings. Unsurprisingly, the Dupont bar’s happy hour menu leans toward sports bar staples: big-brand domestic drafts and food straight out of a fryer, including chicken tenders, mozzarella sticks and Dune Fries — a Delaware variation on loaded fries, topped with sour cream, cheese, bacon and green onions. For the purposes of this story, any of those food and drink items could be paired for $10 or less. What stands out, though, are options more at home at a beach bar than on Connecticut Avenue: Orange Crushes — a pint glass with orange vodka, triple sec, orange juice and Sprite — and the Mangorita, a portmanteau for a frozen mango Margarita. To make the most of these summery beverages, visit on a Tuesday, when the usual happy hour overlaps with the weekly $2 Taco Tuesday promotion. Choose from chicken, beef or pork, which arrive on a small corn tortilla with pico de gallo, lettuce and cheese, accompanied by a bottle of Cholula. Not the fanciest happy hour tacos, but agreeable with the sweet-and-sunny drinks.



When: Monday to Friday, 4 to 6 p.m.

Where: 401 Seventh St. NW. oyamel.com.

The skinny: $5 Mexican beers, $5 tacos and appetizers.

When we set the parameters for this story, I was adamant that free food didn’t count. No chips and salsa, bread baskets, or little bowls of mixed olives. I began to regret that decision as soon as we sat down at the marble counter at Oyamel and an overflowing cone of crispy, freshly fried chips arrived in front of us, alongside a bowl of smoky, garlicky salsa. It’s a perfect snack and (doing the math) meant I could order the $8 margarita, which is one of the finest “basic” versions in D.C. I’d be perfectly happy doing that, but rules are rules, so I stuck to drinks from the (somewhat disappointing) selection of Tecate and Dos Equis. But the complaints stopped there: José Andrés’s Mexican restaurant is a crowd-pleaser. A pork confit taco splashed with avocado and salsa verde, topped with crunchy pork rinds, or mushrooms and peppers, given a peppy chili kick and covered in crema. A tamale packed with chicken, swimming in savory green tomatillo sauce. A cheesy stuffed pork belly quesadilla with a five-chile sauce. There’s literally no way to go wrong — or not to be tempted to blow your budget. The non-taco dishes are best for sharing, if you’re forced to do so.

Red Derby

When: Wednesdays, 5 p.m. until close.

Where: 3718 14th St. NW. redderby.com.

The skinny: $3 Miller High Life, $3.50 mystery beers, $3 baskets of fries, $3.75 plain onion rings or tots, $4 baskets of topped tots.

Actor Paul Rudd once visited the Red Derby, and that’s why Wednesdays are now known as Paul Rudd Wednesday. (As bartender Stephanie Carter explains, “It’s a bit.”) The back-to-basics rooftop bar works equally well for a date or catching up with friends, especially if you’re sharing red plastic baskets filled with Old Bay-covered fries or lemon pepper tater tots and sipping from Miller High Life cans. (If the Champagne of Beers doesn’t appeal, you can just ask a bartender for a mystery beer, which they’ll pull from one of the coolers behind the bar. Good luck!) The Derby offers other specials throughout the week that fit our $10 rule: Tuesday means half-price ($6) platters of chicken tenders and fries and $3 Tecates, while Thursday’s deal is half-price ($6.75-$7) turkey and veggie burgers with $3 Miller Lite. Wednesday, though, brings the option of participating in one of the area’s most entertaining trivia nights — and you can get two beers for your ten-spot; even the most “Clueless” drinkers know that’s a better deal.


Tono Sushi

When: Daily, 5 to 7:30 p.m.

Where: 2605 Connecticut Ave. NW.

The skinny: $2 sushi (nigiri in pairs); $4 Japanese beer, such as Kirin and Sapporo; $5 wine and cocktails, including cosmos and litchi mojitos.

Tono Sushi is a throwback to the glory days of D.C. happy hours, and not just because it’s been serving sliced fish in Woodley Park since the turn of the century. Tono’s affordable happy hour has long made it a favorite date spot — according to a review by Post critic Phyllis Richman, sushi was as cheap as 50 cents per piece in 1999. A few years later, Tono was among a number of buzzy restaurants offering $1 sushi happy hours, alongside Cafe Asia, Uni and Saki. Of that group, at least, it’s the lone survivor. There are some changes these days: The nigiri is sold in pairs, making it $2 per order. Unfortunately, any maki with fish is over $6.25, which means it doesn’t quite fit our $10-per-person parameters, once you add drinks. If you’re on a date, though, you can be creative: A couple can pick from several maki options, such as the salmon scallion roll ($6.75), order a beer and two nigiri each, and still skirt under $20. The service is cheery and prompt, and while happy hour might not bring the selection you’d find at an omakase counter, it’s hard to argue with the price at a very affordable happy hour.

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