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Best Bars Near the 9:30 Club & The Atlantis: Where to Grab a Bite and Pre-Show Drinks

Are you heading to the 9:30 Club or The Atlantis for a concert or dance party, but looking for a bar to go nearby before the show? I go to a lot of concerts here, and the 9:30 Club is my favorite music venue. This area of DC is also one of my top areas to go out in. The U Street corridor has plenty of bars, but before a show, you want a place that isn’t too crazy but still has good energy, food, and drinks.

These places are bars, not restaurants, but they do serve good food. I always like to have the option to grab a bite, even if not everyone I’m meeting up for the concert is eating. These are all spots where some in your group can get a meal, but not everyone needs to.

They also got the stamp of approval from 9:30 Club staff. When I posted my initial list on TikTok, I got comments that their favorites were on my list:

Screenshot of a TikTok comment section about bars near the 9:30 Club showing a playful conversation among users 'maggie,' 'naomi,' and 'Danny.' Maggie jokes  about listing all the places 9:30 Club employees go after work, Naomi responds with a friendly 'omg hey,' and Danny humorously tells Maggie to keep quiet about the locations. The comments are dated July 2023, and include emoji reactions.

DC9

Close-up of a hand holding a beer can with a detailed illustration commemorating '20 Years of Music.' The can features a red brick building labeled 'DC9,' along with icons indicating a bar, good food, and a music club. The text '20 Years of Music Lager' is prominently displayed around the can's design.
DC9’s 20th anniversary beer brewed by DC Brau, enjoyed on their rooftop

Many people think that Le Diplomate has the best burgers in DC, but they’re wrong, because DC9 has the best burgers in town.

DC9 is a dive bar 2 blocks from the 9:30 Club and The Atlantis that’s 3 levels: a bar, a small music venue, and a rooftop bar. Depending on the day, you might feel the vibrations from a show throughout the bar. Their roof deck, which is enclosed in the winter and open year round, is my favorite. For a dive bar, they have some fun drinks like frozen cocktails in the summer, but the drink menu is pretty standard.

Their food menu is surprisingly top notch. It features lots of handheld items ranging from $9-14 like po boys, fried chicken sandwiches, and (my favorite) specialty burgers. They always have one seasonal burger along with their standard burger menu, and it’s work checking out.

My favorite burgers are the Slawter (coleslaw, applewood smoked bacon, and BBQ sauce) and the South By (pepper jack cheese, avocado, homemade pickled jalapeño, and garlic cilantro mayo). Their garlic fries are also not to be missed, and the fried pickles are super popular.

DC9 Nightclub, 1940 9th Street NW, Washington, DC 20001. Open every Wednesday through Sunday, and open Mondays and Tuesdays when they have a show scheduled.

American Ice Company

If you prefer a more upscale experience, American Ice is the place to be. It’s about half a block away from 9:30 Club and The Atlantis. A bit more trendy and what we would call hipster at one point, it has delicious cocktails and whiskey, a great atmosphere, and yummy food. It features a patio in front and a rather large bar inside that can get crowded, depending on the day.

Originally they opened as a barbeque spot, and you see that influence in their menu still, though I wouldn’t call it a barbeque spot anymore. They are best known for their swachos (nachos made with pulled pork), which are a crowd favorite and served late on Fridays and Saturdays. Live nearby in zip codes 20001 or 20009? They offer neighbors a 10% discount on their bill.

American Ice Company, 917 V Street NW, Washington, DC 20001. Open 7 days a week.

The District Sports Bar

A plate of various seasoned chicken wings accompanied by a small bowl of dipping sauce and a glass of pale beer, served on a dark granite countertop.
Wings! Photo courtesy of The District Sports Bar

If you’re looking for a classic sports bar with wings and beers, The District Sports Bar is right across the street from the 9:30 Club and The Atlantis. You can’t miss it with the Nipsey Hussle mural on the side.

Their happy hour deals on food and drink go pretty late from 6-9pm for food and 6-10 pm for drinks. They have 19 different types of wings, including classic buffalo, lemon pepper, mango habanero, and honey old bay. Their staff are really nice, and though this place often flies under the radar, it’s worth checking out.

Another big draw is they have huge windows and you can see the lines of both The Atlantis and 9:30 Club from inside the bar. If you don’t want to stand in line, you can keep an eye on it from District Sports Bar before heading over.

The District Sports Bar, 900 Florida Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20001. Open 7 days a week.

Shakers

While all of the bars listed here are LGBTQ+ friendly (DC9 famously hosts Peach Pit, a gay dance party, once a month), if you are looking for a gay bar, Shakers is a fun option that’s pretty much across the street from the 9:30 Club.

One caveat I will mention is that they do not serve food. However, I thought it was important to include a gay bar that has good energy for a pre-show drink, and my gay male friends really like this spot. None would recommend Nelly’s, which is nearby and does serve food. It’s a pretty large space and has a cute back patio area to meet up and grab drinks.

Shakers, 2014 9th Street NW, Washington DC, 20001. Open 7 days a week.

Conclusion

Concert scene of Lizzo performing at the 9:30 Club in 2019 featuring a female musician playing the flute on stage, dressed in a sparkling red bodysuit. The stage backdrop prominently displays the name 'LIZZO.' In the background, a DJ dancing in a red outfit adds to the performance energy. The foreground shows the silhouettes of the audience, many of whom are recording the performance with their smartphones.
Lizzo performing at 9:30 Club in 2019

There are a ton of bars near the 9:30 Club and The Atlantis that offer up delicious food and cocktails. With this list, I tried to focus on close by places that don’t get too crowded and aren’t primarily restaurants. Other spots like Service Bar and El Rey are great but can be difficult to get a spot in that time period before doors open. Hopefully with this list, you can find somewhere to go before your next show at The Atlantis or 9:30 Club.

Valerie Moore

Having lived in Washington, DC for the past 16 years, Valerie has a lot of thoughts about the best things to do, eat, and know around the city. She loves doing deep dives into the interesting things she finds, and sharing with the world. You'll often find her dog, Lil Mikey, along for the ride.

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