Best pick-up bars in Washington, DC
This cash-only dive modeled after a living room tends to get sweaty. You can blame that on a free jukebox full of long forgotten ’50s soul songs and Showtime’s house band, Granny and the Boys—a quintet led by a woman in her 80s. If you haven’t already guessed it, this place is quirky. A $5 Natty Boh/shot special will give you the courage to ask someone to dance. Things typically don’t kick off until 11pm or later, so plan on this being your final destination for the night.
“Mind if I sit here?” could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship. The spacious patio at this neighborhood bar from the Hilton Brothers (Del Ray, the Gibson, The Brixton) is full of picnic tables, so group-mingling is likely. Beer is usually American-made and always served in Mason jars. It’s a stone’s throw away from the 9:30 Club, so expect a hip, music-loving crowd.
It takes a little work to find this hidden (cash-only) gem on the outskirts of the H Street corridor: The windows are blacked out, and there’s nothing but a dim light outside to signal its existence. Inside, the one-room joint is awash in red light and covered in bizarre Communist-inspired art. There’s a wall of costumes for borrowing if you’re in an Eyes Wide Shut kind of mood, and a cramped stairwell outback that always leads to mingling. (Be sure to grab a free condom from one of the jars on the bar.) On Fridays, PBR tallboys start at $1 and increase by $1 every hour until midnight. Still, there’s probably no better bang for your buck than the Mr. Lethal, an alcohol-laced root beer slushie that’s as strong as this place is awesome.
This bar, founded by world traveler Rose Previte, attracts an eclectic bunch, including many international visitors. Brush up on your Spanish or French by hanging out at the bar trying to pick up people’s different accents. The space is intimate, so you’re bound to bump into someone and start a conversation. There’s also karaoke on the first Sunday of every month, and delicious food inspired by Previte’s travels. Perhaps you can meet again for dinner next week?
Make a beeline for the rooftop of this Columbia Heights dive, where groups of friends can take advantage of the plentiful seating. Just three rules apply: Drinks are cash only, every beer comes in a can and don’t be a dick. Oftentimes, tables can be found playing board games; don’t be afraid to ask to join. There’s a congenial vibe here, and you’re not likely to be turned away. Plus, cans of Natty Boh are just $2, so you may as well buy one for the cutie at the end of the bar.
Step one: Say something clever to the cutie at the bar, perhaps about their excellent choice of booze. Step two: When you see them, offer to buy them another round. Step three: After striking up a conversation, invite them to a game of ping pong upstairs. Once you’ve charmed them (and let them win), ask for the digits. Colony Club offers plenty of drink specials, which will aid your mingling. Also expect jazz on Tuesdays and the occasional spoken word event.
So many people get lucky at Nellie’s it may as well be built on a patch of four-leaf clovers. The beloved gay bar has prime real estate at the corner of 9th and U and is known to attract a fun-loving crowd. Smart Ass trivia on Wednesday nights and a popular drag brunch on Sunday up the excitement levels. There’s a roof deck and 10 HD TVs for your sports-viewing pleasure. Your team may lose, but you’re guaranteed to score.
Anyone savvy enough to frequent this no-fuss neighborhood hangout is worth sidling up next to. Drinks are strong, cheap (usually less than $10) and good—a rare trifecta in DC. All Souls draws a broad clientele, so there’s a good chance your dream lover is there right now, just waiting for you to buy them a Manhattan. A jukebox bumps classic hits, though don’t plan on dancing: The tiny corner bar is perpetually packed, and elbowroom is a luxury.
The mural of a busty redhead spilling out of her dress says it all: You can let loose at Madam’s Organ. This Adams Morgan institution has five bars within four levels (the second floor bar is known as the “Pick-Up Joint”) and features live music every night of the week. Dancing on tables is not out of the ordinary, and half-price beer and wine during happy hour serves as conversation lubrication (a phrase we shall never repeat). If you’re looking to make bad decisions, there’s no better place.
This relatively new bar from the same team behind Penn Social draws huge crowds due to its size and prime location, where 14th Street and Florida Avenue converge. Couches and fireplaces encourage canoodling, while communal seating encourages conversation. Named in honor of Benjamin Franklin—a known beer lover—you can bet that the suds are on point. If you get hungry, there’s also a great bar menu, though you'll want to hold off on the Frito pie if you plan on making out.