Nothing quite compares to baseball games in person. The sights, sounds, and smells pleasantly play with all the senses. Many people treat games as social outings to eat, drink, and enjoy the company of others. Enjoying a tasty adult beverage and grabbing a bite to eat before a ball game signifies the beginning of summer for many. The build-up to the game is almost as exciting as the game itself. There are numerous options around the stadium to stop by to pregame and post-game, which is half the fun of attending a game. Whether you want to properly build a buzz before the game, sit down for a meal or just grab a quick bite on your way to the stadium there is something to cover all the bases.
The Bullpen (1201 Half St SE, Washington, DC 20003)
Unfortunately The Bullpen will be downsized this season and ultimately phased out. The area continues to grow and become infinitely more lucrative. There was no room in the Navy Yard’s future for The Bullpen. Despite being a fan favorite and packed for nearly every weekend home game the land became too valuable to justify the space. Voted the best outdoor venue by the Washington City Paper, this is the go to pre and post-game spot for many Nationals fans. According to Bo Blair, co-owner of The Bullpen and President of Georgetown Events (parent company of The Bullpen), they have lost about half of their capacity this season. “We are still going to do Truckeroo once a month, but on a smaller scale,” Blair explained. He also went on to detail further plans for the Bullpen in the future, “we will have live music this year. Also, we are planning on opening every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night of the season, even if there is no game, starting April 27th.”
There is a certain camaraderie about going to The Bullpen with fellow fans and enjoying some beverages, corn hole and other lawn games, live music and good company. There is always an electric energy permeating from The Pen. They are open two hours before and after every home game. A little known power move is their happy hour. They offer $5 drinks from the 3rd to the 7th inning. Whether you are running late to the game or just hanging out stop by The Bull Pen in the middle of a home game for a $5 16 ounce beer, Red Bull vodkas, frozen Red Bull vodkas, margaritas, and wine. This place will forever live in infamy for many fans.
Bluejacket Brewery (300 Tingey St SE, Washington, DC 20003)
This is one of my personal favorite stops in the area. Only 0.4 miles from the stadium this is a great option with delicious beers and an eclectic food menu. They have a large outdoor patio in front for those cool summer nights. The indoor dining space is massive and features a minimalistic décor that highlights the large vats where they brew their numerous elixirs. “The Arsenal” is the 200-seat restaurant and barroom that houses hungry and thirsty Nats fans throughout the season. Beer Director & Managing Partner, Greg Engert and Executive Chef Marcelle Afram offered some insight of what to look forward to this coming season. Engert was most excited about their forthcoming “enhanced patio service this year, including the opening of our outdoor bar!” Nothing says summer quite like outdoor drinking does. It puts a smile on my face just thinking about it.
Being so close to the stadium proves for a ton of foot traffic. Many fans are looking for a quick bite to eat before a game and this proves to be the place to be. Afram has me beyond excited to stop by for some food after explaining some of the menu items. “We’re grilling for every home game, featuring a variety of items not on our regular menu,” Afram explained. A few items to keep an eye on include, a Half-Smoke with chili and beer cheese for $10, the Bluejacket Classic (single beef patty, American cheese, lettuce, pickle, mayo) for $10, a delicious vegetarian option in the Falafel Burger with pickled beets, dill yogurt for $10, and “Boozy” Wings (beer brined, old bay, ranch) for $9. You can guarantee my summer will be spent attending games while eating several helpings of the “Boozy” wings and traditional hot wings. You can catch me with a half smoke, wings, and several beers every home game I attend. I was sold at beer brined, old bay, and ranch. As an avid foodie and wing connoisseur, I can confidently say not all ranch is created equal. Some are dumped from a plastic container while the gods handcraft others themselves. Bluejacket’s ranch is a nectar of godly proportions. I wouldn’t frown upon anyone who decided to just eat it with a spoon.
One could get lost in their extensive beer list. There is a brew for literally everyone. Whether you are looking for a Kölsch, Gose, Stout, Lager, Belgian Ale or numerous others, Bluejacket has got you covered. Engert was kind enough to recommend some beers. I was pleasantly surprised that he recommended their Kölsch as a good beer for games. I’ve been on a Kölsch kick as of late and can’t wait to taste it. “Forbidden Planet is our go-to pick as our favorite baseball brew. Crisp and refreshing, and only 4.2% abv, this hopped-up Kölsch is immensely flavorful, and oh so drinkable,” Engert offered. He then went on to enlighten me on a fan favorite, “Lost Weekend is a perennial favorite. Massively hopped with Citra, this balanced IPA is juicy with huge tangerine and tropical fruit aromatics.” This sounds like a deliciously refreshing beer for a hot summer afternoon.
Buffalo Wild Wings (1220 Half St SE, Washington, DC 20003)
Buffalo Wild Wings is the Honda Civic of the wing game. It is a consistent spot for your sports staples. Wings, beer, and plenty of sports viewing are all you really need from a sports bar and Bdubs provides all these fairly successfully. It is nothing to write home about but consistent enough to keep us going back. Similar to your Honda Civic from high school Buffalo Wild Wings is guaranteed to get the job done. Located right across from The Bullpen and steps away from the metro it is a convenient starting point for all your Nats game adventures. They have a surprisingly strong list of drafts and an extensive list of wing flavors. The wings themselves are often times quite average (rarely crispy enough and at times under sauced) but the eclectic range of sauces mask what the wings lack. I am addicted to spicy food therefore I lean to the spicier sauces but they have something for everyone. The salt and vinegar dry rub are quite an interesting and delicious take. Teriyaki and Parmesan garlic are always safe bets but if you want to cook it up a notch I highly recommend the spicy garlic for the best of both worlds. My personal favorites are by far the mango habanero wing. The stinging heat from the habanero is perfectly balanced with a sticky sweet sauce. The service is generally quick which makes for an ideal stop before a game. Grab a beer or two and a basket of wings before heading in to watch your Washington Nationals.
Due South (301 Water St SE, Washington, DC 20003)
Due South is yet another gem from the team at Georgetown Events. They blessed us with The Bullpen and now a 100-seat dining area bringing numerous Southern comfort classics. It may be a little pricey for those on a hot dog at the ballgame budget, but I guarantee you will not be disappointed. The menu is expansive yet feels familiar and not overwhelming in the least.
The mouth-watering menu is perfectly complemented by the extensive list of boozy elixirs. They have their own lager and an IPA. They also feature many local breweries including Richmond’s Hardywood, District favorites Right Proper and Atlas, Northern Virginia’s celebrated Old Ox, and District powerhouse DC Brau. Their cocktails are equally inventive and naturally adhere to the Southern theme of the restaurant. Grab a Florida/Georgia Line (Mint Julep with a Georgia Twist – Old Camp peach pecan whiskey, mint and lemon) or a Bear Bryant Old-Fashioned, which is named after the late great Alabama coach (Roll damn Tide!).
Everyone knows the old adage of the dangers of drinking on an empty stomach. Especially on a warm summer afternoon or evening. Lucky for you the menu has something you will fall in love with. Anything with pimento cheese is a go to for me. The caviar of the South is perfectly acceptable as a dip or allow it to take your burger to the next level. The bacon pimento cheeseburger is calling my name! The $35,000 smoker produces some perfect wings, which are served with Alabama sauce (mayonnaise with vinegar, apple juice, horseradish, lemon juice, and cayenne). A mayonnaise-based sauce with chicken wings is a bit off at first, but the tang of the vinegar and the spice from the horseradish masks much of the mayo flavor. The massive custom smoker also gives us familiar favorites such as ribs, brisket, and pulled pork. One of the more interesting starters that is a must try if the fried Brussels sprouts with feta, spiced pecans and Fresno Chile honey. I’ve had many delicious baked and grilled sprouts as of late but never fried. Yet another must try dish from the culinary geniuses at Due South.
The Big Stick (20 M St SE, Washington, DC 20003)
The Big Stick is yet another extremely convenient watering hole. You could throw a baseball from the patio to the entrance of the stadium. The theme of the nearby establishment is brauts and brews, which seems to be a perfect fit for an evening of baseball. Their happy hour runs three to seven Monday through Friday and offer $4 drafts, rail drinks, and wines. The draft list includes local favorites Right Proper’s Raised By Wolves, Hellbender’s Red Line Ale, DC Brau’s Pils, and Manor Hill’s Hayes Creek Saison. If you are looking for a bite to eat they also offer $2 off appetizers and there are some delicious ones to choose from including: NATchos, pretzels with beer cheese, house made crab dip, wings, and house-cut fries with mozzarella and sausage gravy or chili, cheddar, jalapeños and onions. I was sold at sausage gravy. The highlight of the menu is their “Big Sticks.” A local favorite in the half-smoke anchors the menu. Some other interesting “sticks” available are the Hot Perron, which is a chorizo sausage with chimichurri and cojita cheese, and the Anne Dewey, which is a Cajun-style Andouille sausage with sweet coleslaw and honey mustard. The convenience and diverse menu makes for a solid option for before and after games.
There are also many familiar spots around the stadium to grab a quick bite. Many people are looking for something simple either on their walk to the stadium or on their way home. Potbelly, Nando’s (300 Tingey St SE Suite 150, Washington, DC 20003), Five Guys, Takorean (1212 4th St SE, Washington, DC 20003), Subway, and Bonchon (1015 Half St SE, Washington, DC 20003) are all within walking distance from the stadium and provide fast yet delicious fare. I highly recommend Takorean. Many have likely yet to try the “Korean taco grill” with Mexican accents. It is quick, delicious and something new for my fellow adventurous foodies. It is similar to Chipotle in the fact that you choose a vessel, a protein, and various toppings. The proteins include chicken (marinated with sweet chili, soybean paste, ginger & soy), steak (Bulgogi), pork, tofu, and cauliflower (pan roasted with spiced soy orange glaze). The toppings are even more intriguing and really set this food truck offshoot apart. Finish off your chicken bowl with some kimchi to keep the Korean flavors going or add avocado crema and lime crema for a more familiar taste. I personally think the salsa roja (Korean style) is a must have on every dish. You can’t go wrong with any of the flavors here. Being open until 10pm Monday through Saturday this is a good place to end your night after a game.