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With spring’s early arrival, it’s finally possible to enjoy a bite or drink outside with your pod or your partner sans parka. But with COVID-19 restrictions still requiring restaurants to seat parties 6 feet apart outdoors, getting a reservation can feel competitive. Try your luck on the patios of the following five D.C. bars and restaurants, which deserve more love either for their generous specials, eye-catching al fresco areas, or quality food and drink.
Tsehay Restaurant and Bar
3630 Georgia Ave. NW; (202) 808-8952; tsehaydc.com
Park View’s standout Ethiopian restaurant offers a generous happy hour from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. A bottle of wine goes for $12, beers cost between $2 and $4, and you can swig a beer and shot combo—Jameson Irish whiskey and Habesha beer—for $10. General manager Ted Birru says there’s much to look forward to in the next two weeks at Tsehay. Expect spring cocktails with floral flavors and dehydrated fruits and new bar snacks with an Ethiopian bent, like wings doused in mumbo sauce with flecks of berebere spice. Because many Ethiopians are currently celebrating Lent, the vegan dishes off the regular menu at Tsehay are made fresh twice a day. Try them or a forthcoming whole fried tilapia special. Reservations can be made on the restaurant’s website. Birru says diners eager to eat on the charming patio out back should note that in the reservation process.
203 Florida Ave. NW; (202) 733-1919; dcitysmokehouse.com
Grab a picnic table for up to six people at DCity Smokehouse, where the barbecue is “at the top of its game” and neon frozen drinks flow thanks to a partnership with District Daiquiri, founded by bartenders Lamine N’dour and Chris Arthur. Smokehouse owner Melvin Hines points patrons to a “secret menu” with treats like smoked oxtail that are only displayed on a board inside the restaurant. Don’t skip the smoked wings, sampler platters, or Big Snoop sandwich that tops a half smoke with pulled pork, coleslaw, and crispy onions. The restaurant has five tables that are fully outside and a handful of others under a tent. While reservations can’t be made specifically for outdoor dining, Hines says the turnover has been quick. Visit from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays. Fridays and Saturdays DCity shuts its patio down at 11 p.m., but stays open for food orders until midnight.
300 Tingey St. SE #170; (202) 488-4800; hatobadc.com
The Daikaya team’s newest ramen shop boasts the best patio of the bunch. From perches under the sun or a shaded umbrella, patrons can slurp six varieties of Sapporo-style ramen from light yuzu shio to more robust red clam miso. If soup and spring weather clash, try some of the Japanese restaurant’s small plates from Chef Katsuya Fukushima, like an okonomiyaki-inspired hot dog, gyoza, crab yakisoba, and a Philly cheesesteak take. Most drinks, including beer, wine, and cocktails, come in cans. The dog-friendly patio is currently open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from noon to 9 p.m. Visit during happy hour from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. for $1 off 16 oz. draft beers, $2 off a combo of a Sapporo beer and shot of Suntory Toki whiskey, and $1 off canned wines. Customers can specify that they want to eat outdoors when making a reservation on OpenTable. There is a 90 minute time limit and 22 seats are available.
Laos in Town
250 K St. NE; (202) 864-6620; laosintown.com
Two-year-old Laos in Town has an expansive corner patio with about 50 seats and no time limits on tables. Owner Nick Ongsangkoon says the Laotian restaurant recently added new dishes and drinks to the menu that are “flying out” to the patio every night starting with Lao street noodles with sautéed ground pork, a cinnamon-laced sauce, and tiny crispy shrimp for texture. He also recommends the jumbo prawn in a tangy tamarind sauce. The newest spring cocktail, Botanical Blush, combines District Made Ivy City Gin, Luxardo Maraschino, and St-Germain. Diners can specify when they’d like an outdoor table in the special requests section of the restaurant’s online reservation system. The current hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Tiki on 18th
2411 18th St NW; (202) 846-1952; tikion18th.com
Lumpia or spicy Buffalo wings? The best part about Tiki on 18th in Adams Morgan, besides transportive tropical drinks like Zombies and Painkillers, is that diners can order from two distinct food menus. The cocktail bar offering Filipino dishes shares an address with The Game DC sports pub serving pub food like juicy burgers and pork belly sliders. Veteran D.C. bartender Jo-Jo Valenzuela owns both spots. He says they’re currently updating the menus for spring, but the sisig, pancit, and lumpia won’t be going anywhere. There are 14 tables spread across a streatery and a back deck. Tiki on 18th currently takes reservations for 90-minute sessions. Diners can specify that they want to eat outside. Once the city lifts restrictions, outside seating will be first come, first served. Visit Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 4 to 10 p.m., Saturdays from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Sundays from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.