It may officially be called the Capitol Riverfront, but I like to call it #DCRiviera. Wander on any summer day along the waterfront area of Southeast D.C. near the Washington Navy Yard and into the adjacent Southwest neighborhood, which is about to explode with dining options once the District Wharf development opens this fall, and you’ll find spectacular water views and a holiday atmosphere. Why sit in Rehoboth Beach traffic when a quick ride on the Green Line can offer up a daiquiri in the sunshine before you’ve even decided which SPF tanning lotion to use? Grab your bikini and dive in.
The Salt Line (79 Potomac Ave., S.E.; thesaltline.com) is the newest hot spot near Nationals Stadium, and with good reason. With a kitchen led by Kyle Bailey, a culinary perfectionist if there ever was one, and a bar program overseen by Donato Alvarez, who made a name for himself through his perfectly nuanced cocktails at Sixth Engine, the restaurant already has the building blocks of a stellar waterfront establishment.
If you yearn for clear New England summer days, the Salt Line is the place where you can try to forget about the sweltering mid-Atlantic humidity. The raw bar features a rotating selection of fresh oysters hailing from Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, as well as varieties farmed a bit closer to home, and the dinner menu is packed with buttery lobster stuffed into split top buns, soft shell crabs given the spicy Nashville treatment, and fried clam bellies straight out of Ipswich. While a frosty Narragansett lager goes down a treat with fried seafood, check out the refreshing Saltier Dog cocktail and be sure to order up the Wicked Good Daiquiri.
Whaley’s (301 Water St., S.E.; whaleysdc.com) is bright, airy and air-conditioned — all things that we like on a steamy July afternoon — but their recently opened Rosé Garden is worth forsaking a few creature comforts. Located just outside the restaurant with a view of the Yards Park manmade waterfall and the Anacostia River beyond, the small patio is cheerily decked out in hot pink and flamingos, and while the host staff can occasionally get a bit shirty with rosé-loving customers eagerly looking for a seat (fair warning: tables can be scarce and we’ve heard of three-hour wait times), the overall effect is charming.
You’ll find just a few snacks on hand — including toast topped with uni butter, Maryland crabmeat and slivered radishes and the ubiquitous oysters on the half shell — and a couple of cocktails and beer, but we’re here for the rosé, summertime’s favorite wine. Your best bet is to order a bottle or two for the table, as there are only a few wines available by the glass, and this is your opportunity to sample rosés that are not from France.
One of the best values is the Rubentis Txakolina, a Spanish offering from the Basque region laced with bright strawberry notes and a touch of saltiness linked to the vineyard’s seaside locale; it’s also slightly effervescent for those who prefer their rosé to sparkle in the sunshine.
Bardo (25 Potomac Ave., S.E.; bardo.beer) has now evolved into its fourth iteration, after moving from Bladensburg Road to a new waterfront spot just steps from Nationals Park. While they’ve recently gotten into a bit of a spat with local bicyclists who had the audacity to suggest that the provided bike racks might need a bit of improvement to accommodate popular types of bike locks, the space is still big and fun and breezy. Located right on the Anacostia, you’ll find plenty of cornhole and picnic tables, along with an eclectic array of freshly brewed offerings.
Canine companions are not only welcome, they are encouraged, with a large dog run built into the center of the beer garden, and while there’s no food menu, patrons are allowed to bring in take-out. The beer menu is ever-changing, with about a dozen offerings, which have been brewed on-site in a glittering array of stainless steel beer tanks, on tap at any one time.
Keep an eye out for the Chinook Pacific Northwest Ale, which offers up plenty of bright hoppiness on a hot day, and the Bunbaberg Ginger Lager, an Australian style summer ale packed with fresh ginger in place of traditional hops.
Cantina Marina (600 Water St., S.W.; cantinamarina.com) has been anchoring the Southwest boat community for more than a decade, a local version of the Margaritaville-style marina bars found dotting Florida’s inland waterway. When not arriving from the Waterfront Metro station, patrons pull up to the doc by kayak and catamaran as well, and live-aboards from the Gangplank Marina, where the bar is located, can be counted as regulars.
There’s plenty of classic rock and quick service, as waitresses in short shorts navigate the crowd with platters of fish tacos and fried calamari; one of the favorite items — plenty big enough for a table to share — is the Super Nachos, an impressively large portion of chips, queso, and pico de gallo topped with shrimp, steak, Andouille sausage, jalapenos and avocado. The housemade spicy Michelada can be made with your choice of beer, or opt for any of the well-priced cocktails, like the Black Eyed Wolf, their version of the official Preakness cocktail, or just kick back with a Dark ’n’ Stormy and watch the sailboats gliding past Hains Point.
Kristen Hartke is a D.C.-based food writer; follow her dining adventures on Instagram, @kristenhartke.