10 cheap, quirky bars in the DC area

WASHINGTON — It’s nice to unwind after a long week with good friends and good drinks, but it’s not so nice getting elbowed by strangers while vying for a busy bartender’s attention, just to order an overpriced beverage.

The D.C. area boasts a lot of trendy spots, but sometimes trendy doesn’t cut it. Sometimes, the thought of hitting a new spot and standing in line for half an hour in the cold, just to pay a $10 cover, is more exhausting than exhilarating. And sometimes, your bank account is begging for more jumbo slice and Netflix rather than Rose’s Luxury and a show at Ford’s Theatre.

But there’s a happy medium and that’s where these quirky, inexpensive spots come in. From the promise of ooey-gooey grilled cheeses to local art and music, these bars demand to be experienced at least once.

Seriously, your wallet and your Instagram will thank you.

The place: The Big Hunt
The location: 1345 Connecticut Ave. Northwest, Washington, D.C.
The hours: Sunday — Thursday from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. • Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. The shtick: This D.C. watering hole has three floors, four bars and a whole lot of beer. But it’s not only a place to sit around and catch up with all your friends over beverages and bites. Big Hunt also hosts comedy shows, open mic nights and an arcade that’ll feed your third-drink-in ego, making it both a bar and an adult playground. Their cheap (or sometimes free) comedy shows are hosted in the basement, making the name Underground Comedy apt. There’s skeeball — yes, skeeball — within the arcade on the second floor. And if you’re not in the mood to laugh big or play hard, there’s a patio (covered during the colder months) for a little escape on the third floor. You may have to hit Big Hunt twice just to make sure you get the full experience. (Photo courtesy The Big Hunt)
The place: Lyman’s Tavern
The location: 3720 14th St. Northwest, Washington, D.C.
The hours: Sunday — Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. • Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. — 3 a.m. The shtick: Beyond cheap drinks, a spot to spend your Saturday must nail one thing: atmosphere. Lyman’s does just that with its odd décor; you’ll notice the taxidermy right away. But you’ll probably get distracted, because Lyman’s also boasts another great bar need: bites. Pub food conquers all fancy, $20-entree meals when you’ve had one too many, and Lyman’s does pub food well. Sliders, hot dogs and tacos are all on the menu, hitting all your late-night craving needs. There’s also free popcorn, if you’re just feeling snack-y. And while you’re munching away and sipping on your $6 beer, you can saddle up to one of the pinball machines to play a 50-75 cent game. Of course, please do all other Lyman’s guests a favor and maybe wait until you’re done eating the greasy dog. Or at least use a napkin. (Photo courtesy Lyman’s Tavern)

Old stomping grounds

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The place: Madams Organ
The location: 2461 18th St. Northwest, Washington, D.C.
The hours: Sunday — Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. • Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. — 3 a.m. The shtick: Chances are, if you live in the District, you’ve heard a tale or two about Madams Organ from a friend, or have one of your own. But no list of places to drink would be complete without a place to dance and on that front, Madams has you covered. The four-level spot has five bars, with cocktails as low as $8, soul food and all the music you could possibly want. The first level is where the live band plays — yes, every night of the week. One floor above, and there are free pool tables and a different act, open mic or karaoke with a two-drink minimum (and let’s be real, two drinks is easy to hit for the liquid courage to do karaoke). The third floor is your standard bar space, if the music becomes too much, or your rendition of “My Heart Will Go On” doesn’t go well on the second floor. And the fourth floor is the rooftop, tiki-style bar, if Madams wasn’t quirky and kitschy enough for you. Be sure to check its calendar to see what bands are on and scroll through its website to see their happy hour deals, redhead perk and information on nonprofit Thursdays! (Photo courtesy Madams Organ)
The place: Spacebar
The location: 709 West Broad St., Falls Church, Virginia
The hours: Sunday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. • Friday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. The shtick: This bar is — you guessed it — space-themed. But the best part? It nails your favorite childhood lunch: an ooey-gooey, crispy grilled cheese sandwich. As a matter of fact, this little spot in Falls Church boasts a pretty spectacular menu which includes a “create your own sandwich” option for all your wildest grilled cheese dreams. The owners are also behind the Virginia-favorite Galaxy Hut, which boasts a long list of locally-crafted beer, so you can expect the same at Spacebar. And they let you take your favorite selection home in a Mason jar, if you so choose. What more could you ask for? (Photo courtesy Lary Hoffman and Byron Adams/Spacebar)
The place: Epicure Cafe
The location: 11104 Lee Highway, Fairfax, Virginia
The hours: Sunday through Saturday, 5 p.m. — 12:30 a.m. The shtick: The “cafe” part of the title is important here, since Epicure Cafe is less focused on booze and more on being a staple in the local art scene of Virginia. The drinks list isn’t lengthy, but the options they do have lean cheap (see: $6 beers on tap). And with the promise of some sort of alcohol and barely a dent in your wallet, Epicure will become your favorite for its heart. The little spot hosts a slew of creative events for locals, be it art shows, comedy shows or live music. Its calendar is stuffed with poetry readings, open mics and trivia nights — basically a little something for every mood. So stop by, grab a pitcher and pat yourself on the back for supporting local artists. Who knows, you may even end up on stage yourself. (Photo courtesy Gopi Raghu/Courtesy Epicure Cafe)
The place: Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant
The location: 555 23rd St. South, Arlington, Virginia
The hours: Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. • Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. The shtick: Freddie’s Beach Bar is an experience. It’s the place to go to when your week is lacking; there’s always something going on from brunch and breakfast buffets, to karaoke, to bingo, to drag shows. Basically, Freddie’s has it all. And as a LGBT-friendly establishment, everyone is welcome, even kids. Be sure to check their monthly schedule on Facebook to see what Freddie’s has in store for your night. Then walk in and get situated in a pink-and-purple wonderland filled with rainbows and kitschy tiki-style décor. Saddle up to the bar (or sit for dinner) and order a Malibu Passion Iced Tea for $7. Freddie’s cocktails are all under $10, but you can add a flashing cube for an extra $3, to add a little more festivity to the night. It’s sure to be a night to remember … or forget, depending on just how many Malibu Passion Iced Teas you get. Don’t worry, we won’t judge. (Photo courtesy Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant)
The place: Denizens Brewing Co.
The location: 1115 East West Highway, Silver Spring, Maryland
The hours: Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. • Friday and Saturday, 12 p.m. to 1 a.m. • Sunday, 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. The shtick: OK, OK, it’s a brewery, not a bar … But Denizen’s is too good not to mention. Its website sums up the appeal pretty well: “Denizens is the only woman and minority owned and operated brewery in Maryland.” That’s pretty powerful. And if it’s not enough to show your support by getting buzzed, how about the dog-friendly beer garden that seats 200 or the two-level taproom? The $3 sample pours, $7 pints, $10 cans or $16 growlers of flagship or seasonal beers? The kitchen that offers a double-patty burger, chili and cornbread, and taquitos? Are you sold yet? Because if reasonably-priced, locally-brewed beer, yummy food and great ambience can’t get you, then nothing can. (Photo courtesy Denizens Brewing Co.)
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