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Posted at 8:02 PM ET, 04/23/2009

The Great Outdoors

By Fritz Hahn

With the promise of warm weather this weekend, everyone's thoughts are turning to places where they can enjoy the sun. You can check out a list of our Best Bets for outdoor bars here, but we thought it would also be fun to tell you about some new arrivals on the scene, and some much-anticipated spots that will be opening in coming weeks.

Now Open

The Gibson
Getting into this speakeasy-style lounge has been increasing difficult in recent months, as half of the 48 seats are reservation-only. Last weekend, though, the opening of the back garden nearly doubled the bar's capacity, adding 40 seats that will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. It's a comfortable space, lit by candles and strings of white Christmas lights. A small bar serves up cocktails for the patio, including some frozen blender drinks that aren't served indoors. (The Hurricane, goes down very smoothly, but it's the chili-infused cachaca in the Chili-Mango Batida that steals the show. Both serve two people and arrive in ice-cold metal cups.)

Unlike the tables inside, seats on the patio aren't limited to a two-hour time limit, so they're going to be very popular on weekends. The only caveat: Tables only seat five people, so if you arrive with a large group, it will be split into smaller parties.

The Hotel Monaco's secluded courtyard, filled with all-weather lounge furniture, is one of the top outdoor bar spaces in Washington. This year, though, it has gotten even better: The hotel added more cocktail tables and a full-service outdoor bar, where previously the options were going inside to order mixed drinks or buying beer and wine from a small satellite bar. Mixologist Rico Wisner is preparing special seasonal punches that will only be served outside, including the Punch from Ipanema, made with Brazilian cachaca liqueur, ginger liqueur and passion fruit. Not a cocktail fan? Virginia wines are spotlighted on the new drink list.

Also making their debut in the 19th-century courtyard: a wood-burning grill, which will prepare items from the outdoor-only dining menu, and a chef's table located in the restaurant's expanded herb garden.

Coming Soon

Agraria, the farm-focused restaurant on the Georgetown waterfront, is getting a bit of a makeover in the next month, including a new menu and some alterations to the decor. The big news, though, concerns the bar: Kevin Rogers, late of Urbana, will be at the helm, and he's planning on serving classic tiki drinks: Mai Tais, Suffering Bastards, Zombies, Navy Grog and flaming Scorpion Bowls. As part of the renovations, the patio that faces Washington Harbour's large fountain will be expanded, and there's talk of putting a small bar there to serve outdoor diners and drinkers. Rogers expects it to be tiki time by the end of May.

The Bullpen
The lack of bars and restaurants near Nationals Park is something of a sore subject around here, though you can always hit one of the bars near Eastern Market. Help is on the way in the shape of the Bullpen, an outdoor beer garden opening in a vacant lot across N street from the ballpark's centerfield gates. The Akridge Development Company plans to turn the land into a mix of housing and retail next year, but instead of letting it lie fallow all summer, they've tapped local restaurateur Bo Blair of Surfside, Jetties and Smith Point to turn it into the Bullpen. Expect food from Blair's restaurants, drinks and live music by "Dewey Beach bands" and local artists.

It's not just for adults, though -- Headfirst Sports, which runs baseball camps around the metropolitan area, will run a mix of kid-friendly games and activities.

Blair predicts an April 30 opening for the Bullpen, which coincides with the next Nationals homestand. Check for updates.

If you attended the Going Out Gurus' April happy hour, you were one of the first people to get a look at Current's second-story rear deck, which is still something of a work in progress. Owner Yama Jewayni anticipates an opening in "three or four weeks." In the meantime, he'll add a screen where videos can be projected, furniture and possibly a retractable canopy, so that the space can remain open if it rains. Jewayni says he and his partners are still discussing the outdoor seating arrangements -- "I don't like bottle service," he adds. "I'd rather just have tables or sofas where people can sit."

(Speaking of patios and Going Out Gurus happy hours, our next one is May 14 at Caddies in Bethesda, and we'll be giving away passes to see Tiger Woods in the AT&T National.)

Clarendon's newest dining destination shares a block and a pair of owners with the Clarendon Ballroom, which has one of the largest rooftop patios around. But when Eventide's roof opens on May 1, expect things to be much more cozy and casual. The space is divided into a small bar, with room for around 30 people, and a dining area. Seats for both will be on a first-come, first-served basis, and given that the restaurant's bar already hits capacity on weekends, expect the roof to be operating on a "one in, one out" policy pretty regularly. If you're lucky enough to make it up, look for a summer drink menu of cocktails and beers that aren't available elsewhere in the building.

Last summer, a series of monthly happy hours atop the Rockville's Arts and Innovation Building brought some urban cool to the neighborhood. Live music and DJs made the events so popular that they'll be back for a second year -- and this time, the party happens every Thursday, beginning April 30. Ignore the promoter hyperbole about "the vogue feel of a South Beach club" and settle in on the spacious roofdeck for happy hour drink specials, food catered by local pizzeria Oro Pomodoro, and dancing to DJs. Doors open at 5, and the first 100 people get a free Peroni.

Town Hall
Glover Park's Town Hall restaurant and bar finally received ABC approval for a rooftop deck last month, and owner Paul Holder is confident the space will open this summer. The space is around 600 square feet, Holder says, or roughly the size of the first floor bar and dining room. It will be open until 10:30 Sunday through Wednesday and 11:30 Thursday through Saturday, though I'm especially looking forward to weekend brunch.

-- Fritz

By Fritz Hahn  | April 23, 2009; 8:02 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs  
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