A Deluxe Penthouse in the Sky?
I have a dysfunctional relationship with Washington's rooftop bars: They treat me bad, but I still keep going back.
The Hotel Washington's Sky Terrace is the grand dame of Washington's cocktail-and-a-view destinations, and its vistas of the Mall and the White House are extraordinary. On the other hand, the tables are jammed so close together that you can't help but eavesdrop and bump elbows, the frozen drinks are consistently weak and the metal chairs are uncomfortable. Still, it's a good place to take folks who want to see the city at night.
I enjoy hanging out on the roof of the Reef early in the week, but it's so crowded on Fridays and Saturdays that they've had to begin using a Cheesecake Factory-style pager system to control the flow of people. Not cool.
And just when I found one rooftop with a view that I really, really liked -- Afterlight, the poolside party on the roof of the Hilton on Embassy Row -- it jilted me after a year, and won't return in 2006.
Ever hopeful, I just made a trip to the new rooftop penthouse at the Beacon Hotel. The ground-floor Beacon Bar and Grill suffers from such awful service and dicey cocktails that I'd written it off completely as a happy hour spot, even if the deals (half-price beers and house martinis) were occasionally tempting.
Located atop the ninth floor, the Sky Bar has a pretty nice setup. Until recently, this was the hotel's penthouse suite, with a wide deck around two sides of the building. Since it didn't seem to get much use, the hotel reconfigured the space for public use Wednesday through Friday. (Doors open at 5, and it will stay open until 10 or 11, depending on the number of customers.)
There are tables for two or four and there's a tiny bar in one corner of the roof. You can see the National Cathedral off in the distance, the dome of St. Matthew's Cathedral, and the sunset was especially attractive. Oh, and Serena Williams has already visited.
If only that was all you needed. Sadly, the penthouse suite ain't the deeeeluxe apartment in the sky that my friends and I were expecting.
Let's start with the service, which left us sitting for so long that we had to get up and go directly to the bar to order drinks. (We weren't the only ones; I noticed other people with empty glasses trying to flag down a waiter/waitress.) It happened again when we were ready for round two.
Then there's the sticker shock: $7 for a bottle of Harp or Corona. $10 for a glass of average Pinot Grigio. $11 for a "house martini" with Grey Goose.
Is it worth it? Not on a regular basis, no. But if you're dying to sit outside at happy hour with a date or a friend or two, you possess a modicum of patience and you're willing to splurge to enjoy the weather, this isn't a bad place to add to your repertoire.
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