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Posted at 2:05 PM ET, 03/28/2008

Play Ball

By Julia Beizer

As the Nationals get ready for their first official home game this weekend, we're getting psyched for some long summer nights of beer swilling, hot dog eating and game watching.

There are many ways to get to the new Nationals Park, but you're looking for pre- or post-game food and drink, we recommend walking from Eastern Market metro. The trip is just over a mile, and even though some parts of the walk are fairly desolate, we think the Eighth Street strip is the best place in the area to enjoy a few drinks before or after a game.

We've pulled together this map of some of our favorite haunts along Barracks Row, but read on for our top picks.


With all the delicious concession stands inside the stadium, we're not sure why anyone would want to eat anywhere before game time. That said, sometimes a night game calls for a quick bite on the way, and if that's your angle, here are our top three picks.

Crack into saucy mussels and crisp frites on Belga Cafe's cozy Eighth Street patio. The restaurant, which usually closes between lunch/brunch and dinner, will stay open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays to accommodate the game-going crowd.

Juicy barbecue, flaky catfish and delicious red-velvet cake -- basically, there isn't a dish on the menu at Levi's Port Cafe that we don't like. Of all the Barracks Row restaurants, this hole-in-the-wall joint is closest to the stadium.

Turkish mezze? That's something you won't find at the stadium. Try to snag a table on the back patio at Cafe 8 for a pre-game meal of hummus, kebabs and Turkish pide.


If you thought beers were lame and overpriced at RFK, wait until you read Dan Steinberg's bog post about beer options at Nationals Park. How about $7.50 for a plastic cup of Bud Light or a bottle of the odious swill that is Miller Chill? Good grief.

The closest place to the stadium isn't a sports bar with dozens of screens or an old-fashioned saloon pouring microbrews -- it's a bland little collection of tables and pastel-colored armchairs just off the lobby of the Courtyard by Marriott hotel. There's a small bar with a couple of stools, a couch or two and a bunch of armchairs. The beer is cold, but it holds maybe 50 people, max.

If you're going for happy hour before the game -- especially if the sun is out -- you can't get much better than Marty's, a homey pub on 8th Street. The rooftop deck is a great place to enjoy a beer and some of the restaurant's plump chicken wings.

After the final out, we'd happily hang out with friends at Finn Mac Cool's, an Irish pub with bars on two levels, fine Guinness, occasional Irish bands and a competition-sized shuffleboard table upstairs. Food specials, like 25-cent wings and half-price shepherd's pie, run until 11 on selected nights.

Sports fans who want to catch West Coast games after watching the Nats should make a beeline for the Ugly Mug, which has plenty of large flatscreen TVs and two dozen beers on tap. Service in the restaurant area can be scatterbrained, but the bartenders do a fine job.

--Fritz and Julia

By Julia Beizer  | March 28, 2008; 2:05 PM ET
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Would someone please compare the quality and prices of this ballpark food with that of Camden Yards?

Posted by: A hungry baseball fan | March 28, 2008 5:23 PM | Report abuse

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