DCers, it’s been a while since we have all been able to share a meal al fresco. Fear not, though, because the monster that was Winter 2018 is behind us –– it’s finally patio season. I doubt I even have to ask for amens after that long drudgery, but I’ll do it regardless. Can I get an amen?!
This is the first year in forever when I haven’t even been bothered by the fact that the air is so thick with pollen I have to consider how my outfits will match with the dusty yellow backdrop that is Spring in the District. In fact, I’ve considered gathering all of the pollen together in a big pollen pile (the way you do with leaves in the fall) and jumping in it right after I’ve hyped myself up on some Zyrtec. In other words, I’m pretty excited that the cold weather is a distant memory.
With the puffs of pollen has come a whole new world of DC dining experiences, chances to bask in the sunlight with a drink in hand, and enjoy outdoor space in all its splendor. The only problem (and I’m being whiny, here), is that DC has SO many outdoor dining options to choose from. Even the most determined of drinkers and diners have a slim chance of frequenting them all (but I’d still encourage you to try). Here are a couple that should definitely make your list:
Aptly described as an “urban backyard,” Calico offers creative American food, an extensive drink menu, and a cutesy backyard that makes it feel as though you’re over at a good pal’s place for a fire-pit. One Yelp user describes the outdoor space as “Instagram friendly” with ample seating to mingle with friends (plus adorable string lights for good measure). Secondary to the great patio is perhaps the “adult juice boxes” that feature cocktails in Capri-Sun reminiscent pouches. Perhaps the good ‘ol days are still yet to come…
A few samples from their food menu:
Lobster Mac & Cheese
Bratwurst Platter – sautéed onions, potato salad, pretzel roll
Fight Club Veggie Burger – smoked gouda, lettuce, tomato, pickles, potato bun, served with UTZ chips
This new hangout is a cocktail bar offering light snacks to go along with their scrumptious concoctions. With an equestrian theme, it’s no wonder that everything in here seems wonderfully classy. The patio is a new addition to DC’s outdoor boozing scene, with planned activities like summer cookouts and DJ’d parties to look forward to in the coming months. Patrons can enjoy classic cocktails like Old Fashioneds and French 75s, or venture to try specially crafted concoctions such as the Sunstar (Rittenhouse rye, dolin rouge, ginger cordial, lemon), or the Miss Matty (Hendrick’s gin, cucumber water, orgeat, lime). A sampling of snacks includes:
Soft Pretzel & Mustard Aioli
Grass Fed Beef Jerky
The Betsy is a unique and seasonal hidden gem, describing themselves as a “rooftop gin garden on Capitol Hill.” Yelp reviewers describe it as a “patio speakeasy, and a “garden party with a gin and tonic bar.” Needless to say, this place is perfect for a sunny day. The lovely outdoor gem is run by Bart Vandaele, the same culinary mastermind behind Belga Cafe. Sweetly, this summer oasis was named after the chickens Vandaele keeps in his backyard –– Betsy is his favorite. The main draw is, of course, the gin. Betsy has over 25 top-notch varieties available, and that’s not all they have to offer. The rooftop also offers American beer varieties, perfectly crafted gin and tonics, wine, and American-inspired food that includes a brunch menu. A sampling:
Bluecoat Gie + Tonic: Lavender, lemon ice, Fever Tree bitter lemon
Greenhat Navy Strength Gin + Tonic: Apple, juniper berries, Fever Tree mediterranean tonic
Grilled Avocado: Pineapple, mesquite spice, naan
Pork “Tacos Belge:” Beer-braised pork belly, Celery, jalapeño, sour cream, crispy shallots
If you’re searching for a true, al-fresco, “treat yourself” moment, look no further –– Fiola Mare is the cream of the crop. Fair warning, though: This isn’t an every night kind of place. Their dishes and drink run on the expensive side, so it’s best saved for a special occasion or date night (unless money is no object –– then by all means, make FM your local watering hole). Here, get a table overlooking the water, order a bottle of the good stuff, and kick back for some Italian fare as you sip on wine and watch the sunset. Some samplings from their menu:
Adriatic Mixed Grilled Seafood — served with salsa verde, sea salt, lemon, olive oil
Sardinian Ricotta Cavatelli — cherry tomatoes, wild mushrooms, basil
Artisan Italian Cheese Plate — served with raisin bread tuile and farm honey
Lupo Verde is a hipster neighborhood Italian spot with dazzling pasta dishes to accompany a killer patio. Twinkle lights strung from side to side set a romantic mood. While brunch is an option, Yelpers and Italian fanatics in DC agree: the real draw here is fresh pasta at dinner (vino in hand, of course). Some samplings from their menu:
Calamari alla Mama Anna: Stuffed grilled calamari, burnt tomato gazpacho, candied cherry tomatoes, toasted pine nuts
Gnocchi alle Ortiche: Homemade nettle gnocchi, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh ricotta, ragu of morel mushrooms, fava beans.