Five Star Happy Hour at MEXiCUE

The BEST happy hour on DC’s 14th Street!

Bar area at MEXiCUE. Photo by Hannah Berman.

For months now, I’ve been on the lookout for the perfect spot for happy hour, or “HH,” an abbreviation my corporate DC friends have mocked me for not already knowing. As any good DC transplant knows, happy hour is a sacred ritual that all young office workers engage in with their colleagues at least once a month — it’s a way to get rowdy, get to know the city, and get a little closer with your coworkers, all at once. Yet despite the obvious appeal of the happy hour tradition, too many people I know end up at happy hour events at clubs where the only drinks on offer are G&Ts or canned beer, and that simply isn’t for me. As a result, I’ve been wandering the city looking for a place where the happy hour can actually make a person feel happy.

MEXiCUE (1720 14th St NW) is the long-awaited answer to my search. This Mexican restaurant’s HH goes down from 4–7 every weekday. It’s definitely a little pricier than some others on 14th, but it’s still a good deal: drinks that are usually $16 are just $8 (including their margaritas!), and wine is $5 a glass. You can also order pitchers at a reduced cost for larger groups.

The ambiance is vaguely tropical, with bright green ceilings, shelves filled with house plants, and luminous bulbed chandeliers in red, green, and blue. There’s a bar area, low tables, high tables, outdoor seating, and two more intimate areas in the back — plenty of options, depending on the size of your HH group. It’s bright and airy in this restaurant, a far cry from the Mad Hatters and Missions of DC; and even though it’s a chain, it feels intimate.

On top of the pleasant atmosphere, MEXiCUE’s margs are large and seriously good. I’ve been to many a restaurant with a half-hearted margarita, made from some crusty mix — this margarita is not that. It’s fresh, sour, and generous, and the salted rim of the glass adds the perfect contrast to every sip.

Friends and margaritas at MEXiCUE! Photo by Hannah Berman.

The happy hour deals don’t apply to the food here, but when my friend ordered a burnt ends taco that came so stuffed with meat it was barely even recognizable as a taco, it smelled so good that I caved and ordered some nachos on the spot.

I want to extend huge props to the kitchen, which has solved what I consider to be the biggest problem with fancy nachos. At MEXiCUE, they apply several layers of chips and dressings—as if the nachos were a lasagna—instead of the classic move of drizzling cheese and other toppings onto a pile of untouched, plain chips. Here, the distribution of flavors and colors was great, and not a single chip was undressed. These nachos also worked because they weren’t too cheesy, relying more on salsas and beans to get the job done. They were delicious, and so filling that I didn’t need to cook myself dinner when I got home.

Which is probably a good thing, because I was very drunk off one-and-a half margaritas. Maybe that says more about my tolerance or my lack of HH experience than the strength of the drinks themselves; still, be warned.

Interiors at MEXiCUE. Photos by Hannah Berman.

Like I said, MEXiCUE is the ideal happy hour location—with their special combination of flavorful drinks, a flexible layout, and good snacking options, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better, more lively spot to take your coworkers after work. Even though I was just there last week, I know that it won’t be long before I hit the group chat with a “mexicue hh tn?” text; now that I know where to go (and the shorthand to get me there!), everything is falling into place for a truly happy happy hour.

Read more musings at Do Not Disturb, Hannah is Eating, or subscribe to get the newsletter delivered to your inbox here.

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