Pre-Game Drinks and Dining Hot Spots for Caps Games, By Stephanie Judge

The Penn Quarter has emerged as a leader in DC’s emerging cuisine scene and Caps’ games provide the perfect opportunity to sample the vast array of amazing restaurants in, and around, the Verizon Center. An avid Yelper, a short-list of reviews from my favorite places is below. You can also follow me on Yelp http://sjudge.yelp.com/ to get all of my reviews for places near the Verizon Center or Twitter (@stpjudge) to receive my reviews as they post.

Family Approved Spots

&Pizza – 1400 K St.,  – NW (Prices under $10 per entree)

eats1I’m not a pizza fan but my youngest son sure is and he gives two thumbs up to &pizza.    We love that every member of your party gets a custom pizza, don’t like olives? Well, that’s no problem at all. It’s a small little place with my standard and custom pizza offerings. Each pizza is an individual oval (very non-traditional shape) and the crust is definitely on the thin side, which I certainly prefer. Once you order, the assembly line engages and you get to custom pick the toppings for your pie. Let’s see, they have 8 different types of sauces e.g., classic, mushroom truffle, various pestos and ricotta; three different cheese selections, numerous vegetable (mushrooms, broccoli, artichokes, jalapenos), protein (pepperoni, bacon, sausage, falafel, eggs, etc.) and finishes (arugula, tomatoes, figs, olives, balsamic) and oils. Once you’ve made your selection, your handcrafted pizza is gently placed into the conveyor style oven and pops out the other side in cooked right perfection.   You can take your pie home or eat at the community table in the restaurant. The staff is friendly, the place is clean – my son, highly endorses &pizza.

Plan B Burger Bar801 Pennsylvania Ave., NW (Prices range $11-30 per entree)

eats2Great burgers and a great bar within walking distance to Verizon. The truffle fries, are to die for. The feature a full menu and a full bar — how much more do you need than that? All beef is organic with no hormones, or antibiotics. The beef is fresh and is ground in-house by on-staff butchers.  Hands down my favorite burger place in the PQ!

Hill Country – 410 7th Street, NW (Prices range $11-30 per entree)

Yes, after my second visit I am definitely a fan of Hill Country. My family came here today and we love the moist brisket and the macaroni and cheese. The brisket is moist and absolutely delicious. I really enjoy the way that they serve it in traditional “Texas Style” on butcher paper. J

The restaurant is large and on your first visit you will probably need a tutorial from your server…it’s OK, we all do. The wait staff is friendly and the service is good in both the lines and tableside. We had the good fortunate to visit on Texas’ Independence Day and were treated to $1 Margarita Jell-O shots.

I do think the prices are a little high but the food is delicious so that won’t be a barrier for me to come back. I did find the desserts to be disappointing but honestly, I was too stuffed from the brisket to eat anything else anyway (words I very seldom say).

Oyamel Cocina Mexicana 401 F Street, NW (average $31 – 60 per person)

eats3Oy! Oyamel is among the best restaurants in the Penn Quarter. The food is superb, the atmosphere is unique and beautiful and the service is spectacular!  EXCELLENT margaritas and sangria!!

This is a very popular Mexican restaurant (Hint: reservations recommended) featuring delicious small plate servings. The tableside guacamole to start is a must have – fresh ingredients made while you watch – it is a taste experience that you absolutely must see, and taste, to believe. The margaritas are among the best and the servers are attentive and knowledgeable.

They offer a variety of small plates and, after several visits, I’ve been fortunate enough to taste most of them. They offer standard Mexican fare such as tacos but with their own special Oyamel flair — meaning, this ain’t no Taco Bell taco.  The pork bellies are succulent and delicious even the grasshopper was good, though admittedly I struggled with the psychological turmoil of eating an insect.

The restaurant is beautifully appointed with Mexican figurines, decorations and beautiful Monarch butterflies. Oyamel specializes in, and succeeds at, providing a true dining experience that will have you coming back again and again!

The 21+ Crowd

Penn Commons  – 700 6th Street, NW ($11-30 per entrée)

Great happy hour specials that fill the post-work to puck drop void before Caps games. Penn Commons has only been open about a year and they are already making a positive mark on the Penn Quarter dining scene. They are right next door to Verizon Center … not sure they could be any closer actually…. and are a less crowded alternative to other popular Caps pre-game spots. The PC is definitely less crowded, at least currently, but I have a feeling that will change once Caps fans realize the great food and service available here.

The restaurant is clean and open, the bartenders are friendly, the beer is good and the happy hour bites are delicious. The mini-pulled pork pies are AMAZING. You can also get fresh oysters, jumbo shrimp and hot pretzels … yum yum. Their beer selection is expansive — over 100 varieties including IPAs, seasonal offerings, local brews, ciders, etc. If you can’t find a beer you like then you probably don’t like beer.

Highly recommend Penn Commons!

Penn Social – 801 E Street, NW (between 8th and 9th) ($11-30 per entrée)

Just three blocks from Verizon Center, Penn Social features three bars, patio seating and eats4more than 30 beers on tap. They have the perfect set-up for a sports bar meaning that their screens are crazy big — no chance of missing any action here.

This place is huge and they in addition to normal bar stuff, they also have games, tons of ’em, corn hole, arcade games, darts, skeeball, ping pong, etc. etc. Lots of fun to pre- or post-game or as an away game hang out.

Penn Social’s happy hour is pretty lucrative too and easy on the pocket. Happy Hour is every afternoon, Monday through Sunday, 4pm-7pm. All draft beers are $2 of the regular price, rail drinks are $5 and wine is $6 — great deal.

The food? Ahem… Well, I’ve never actually eaten here but their menu does feature standard pub fair meaning burgers, dogs, nachos, quesadillas, wings and the like, how can it go wrong?

Iron Horse Tap Room 507 7th Street, NW (Less than $10 per beer)

Casual beer bar with great beer choices and selections that include local, seasonal and ciders. The beer selection is revolving (or evolving?) so you have great, and possibly new choices with every visit. This is a very chill place. They don’t serve food but you are free to bring in your own, heck, you can even have food delivered.

Happy hour is excellent, drafts are $2 off. This is a small place and there is not a lot of seating room. If it’s busy then be prepared to stand.

Upscale Eats

CoCo Sala – 929 F Street ($31-60 per entrée)

eats5This is one of my favorite restaurants in DC. I am a huge fan of the chocolate malted martini and their food is delicious too. I have never been disappointed. Almost every dish is infused or dusted with chocolate in some way. I love the layout of the restaurant and the seating in the bar area. The servers are friendly and professional.

Did I mention that I love the Chocolate Malted Martini? J

Chef Geoff’s – 3201 New Mexico Ave., b/w N. Nebraska Ave. and N. Westover Place ($11-30 per entrée)

I thoroughly enjoyed my dinner at Chef Geoff’s downtown. Our server was professional and attentive and the food was delicious. We started with the Gouda Stuffed Risotto Balls that were served with a delicious pepper cream dipping sauce that perfectly complimented the Gouda. We decided to share the Italian Sausage and Penne, Very Gouda Grits, and Bacon & Blue Cheese Brussels. Oh my, I never knew that brussel sprouts could actually be made to taste good, I guess that’s the power of bacon because these Brussels were amazing.

The Italian sausage penne was good but a bit spicy for me; however, my boyfriend absolutely loved it. The Gouda grits also did not disappoint. So, Chef Geoff’s is always a great dining option but it’s conveniently near the Warner Theater and just blocks from the Verizon Center so it makes a great choice for pre-theater or show dining.

Boss Shepard’s Restaurant & Whiskey Bar 513 13th Street, NW ($31-60 per entrée)

eats6Wow! What a find and a great new addition to DC’s burgeoning restaurant scene. Owned by successful restauranteur’s Paul Cohn (found of J. Paul’s and Sweet Georgia Browns) and Greg Casten (Tony & Joe’s owner) it is no wonder that Boss Shepherd’s is poised for success. They opened in July 2014 and the location is wonderful in downtown DC around the corner from the Warner Theater. Despite its basement location Boss Shepherd’s ambiance is warm, cozy and inviting. The marble stairs and dark wood paneling instill a rich, warm feeling to the room’s overall vibe. The lines are crisp and perfectly marries modern design with a traditional feel.

We had reservations and were quickly seated at a prime table. The waiter was appropriately attentive and knowledgeable about the menu. The wine list is extensive and they also offer a full bar. There was a slight snafu because the waiter brought the lunch rather than the dinner menu but it was certainly minor and an honest mistake and does not impact this review. Once he delivered our drinks, he brought a complimentary starter of pimento cheese and crackers that is a savory and delicious starter. A highlight to our meal was a personal check-in from owner Paul Cohn. I always love it when the owner or chef stops by for a brief chat and Mr. Cohn is an absolute delightful host.

We ordered the potpie fritters as our appetizer and they were delicious. They were savory and a perfect lead off to our meal. The waiter highly recommended the fried chicken and I’m glad that we took his advice. We also ordered the shrimp and grits which were also truly delicious. The 1/2 fried chicken is served with a side of fingerling potatoes and arrives on a wood slab with three separate dipping sauces: honey, hollandaise and a hot sauce. The chicken is brined and fried to perfection. It is among the best-fried chicken I’ve ever had and that’s pretty darn good. The breading is flaky and the chicken is moist and savory. The low country’s traditional shrimp and grits are wonderful but be warned, the shrimp are served “heads on”(not my preference) but they are still delicious.

For dessert, we tried the apple crumb served with a salted caramel ice cream and the amusingly homey milk and cookies. Both were delicious and the perfect ending to our Boss Shepherd’s dining experience. IMO, Boss Shepherd’s is a rising star in DC’s restaurant scene and a must try.

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His passion for the Caps has grown over the decades, which has included time as a season ticket holder, social media and community organizer, and most recently led to the founding of NoVa Caps in 2014. Jon earned a Bachelor's of Science in Engineering at Old Dominion University, and is a Systems Engineer during intermissions, which has been instrumental in supporting his Capitals habit.
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