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The best pick-up bars in Washington, DC

Hooking up is hard to do—unless you know where to go. Read on for the city’s best pick-up bars.

Photograph: Ann-Marie VanTassell
Red Derby

Looking to get lucky? We’ve sussed out the city’s best bars for the temporarily unattached. From hidden gems to rooftop decks, these come-hither hangouts have good music, stiff drinks and interesting crowds. If you're successful and date number two is on the cards, check out our list of the best restaurants in DC

Best pick-up bars in Washington, DC

1

Showtime Lounge

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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 an 81-year-old woman. 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 11 or later, so plan on this being your final destination for the night.

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Northwest
2

Jimmy Valentine's Lonely Hearts Club

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 ever hour till 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.

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H Street Corridor
3

All Souls Bar

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. 

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Shaw
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4

American Ice Company

“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. 

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U Street Corridor
5

Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab

If you’re looking for a suit-and-tie, expense-account crowd, this scene-y bar and restaurant near the White House fits the bill. It’s the fourth locale of the legendary restaurant in Miami Beach that got its humble start on a front porch in 1931. Today, the interior is dialed up to match the opulent menu of seafood towers, $75 porterhouse and signature stone crabs.

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Downtown
6

Local 16

This fun house, which has been open for over a decade, is located in the epicenter of DC’s sizzling U Street Corridor. There are multiple rooms to explore—including a lounge, a pub bar, a dining room and a covered, heated roof deck—meaning excitement awaits you at ever turn. Head to the lounge if you’re looking for a dance partner. The cocktail list is on the shorter side, but your bartender has probably heard it all. Feel free to make a special request.

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U Street Corridor
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7

Madam's Organ

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.

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Adams Morgan
8

McClellan's Retreat

Named after a Union commander from the Civil War, this cozy Dupont cocktail lounge serves up history with a side of booze. Drinks fall on the classic side of the spectrum, including a sloe gin fizz and a vieux carre. Lighting is dim, booths are comfy and quarters are cramped, so position yourself near that striking beauty and prepare to make some history of your own.

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Dupont Circle
9

Nellie's Sports Bar

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.

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U Street Corridor
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10

POV

Sip on a fancy cocktail while taking in some of the best views the White House at this swanky rooftop bar. You’ll want to dress to impress in order to fit in, and there’s a good chance you’ll encounter a line outside. That’s okay: Use it to your advantage and scope out potential dates. Spring for bottle service if you’d like the entire place to know you’re a high roller or wander the periphery of the terrace for some free conversation.

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Downtown
11

Red Derby

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. 

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Columbia Heights
12

Rock & Roll Hotel

Don’t let the name fool you. You’re more likely to be greeted by a beefy bouncer than a cheery concierge at this multi-level bar on H Street, one of the neighborhood’s earliest players. There’s a concert stage and bar on the main level and a maze of rooms arranged like a hotel upstairs. Each has its own name and décor (walls in the Presidential Suite are covered with parody portraits, like Alice Cooper at the White House podium) and can be rented for private parties. DJs keep the dance floor swaying and a rooftop lures revelers in need of fresh air. 

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H Street Corridor
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