We all got used to the inside of our homes during the pandemic. If you’re like me, you probably even dedicated a good portion of bandwidth to some home improvements. No matter how posh the upgrade, it was still just a little short of normal. When the weather got nice and the Nationals started playing again, it was even worse. The new home bar was still at home, and the views from the deck didn’t quite hit the same as a waterfront seat on The Salt Line patio.
That was then. This is now. A closer-to-normal D.C. summer is right around the corner. We’ve been inching in the right direction for some time now, and when the Nationals opened their 2021 season on April 6, 4,801 fans were there to see it. Capacity limits have continued to expand as reported Covid cases fall and more D.C. area residents get vaccinated. By the Nationals’ June 11 game against San Francisco, Nats Park will be at max capacity.
Just writing that is a bit surreal; the last time the stadium was filled to the brim and the surrounding streets were raging was during the 2019 World Series run, and that feels like forever ago.
Much has changed down by the water in Capitol Riverfront since then, particularly on Half Street outside the ballpark’s Centerfield Gate. Taking the place of construction and roadblocks — the street is fully operational now — is a mixed-use development on both sides of the street, creating a mini baseball-themed neighborhood. There’s even a ramen bar named Base Bowl. Many MLB ballparks across the country have some version of this idea nowadays, and Half Street — when at its full maturity — can be one of the best.
Atlas Brew Works is one of the biggest additions to the block. Headlined by a walk-up window for beer and pizza by the slice via Andy’s Pizza, Atlas opened its second location on Half Street midway through 2020. Locals supported the brewery and taproom even through the most difficult of pandemic protocols, and now it’s ready for a broader audience.
“They’ve stuck with us as we navigated all the changes thrown at us,” says Justin Cox, Atlas’ founder and CEO. “We’ve built a great community of regulars and I hope that will continue once Nats Park goes to full capacity.”
Atlas’ Bullpen Pilsner is sure to be a favorite among visiting baseball fans, and is one of many original brews offered. Inside the taproom, baseball cards line pillars like wallpaper, and booths are designed like stadium bleachers. The patio is vast, stretching nearly the entire block, and dogs are welcome with open arms. When I brought my dog down, the server was quick to bring out a big bowl and pitcher of ice water. My dog would also gladly co-sign Atlas as a go-to game day spot.
The Bullpen, of course, is the OG of the block, yet the new variety makes it so versatile. Half Street is filling out its batting order, so to speak. You can hit multiple spots pre- or post-game and catch a few different vibes in the process.
Gatsby, which opened in April on the corner in front of the ballpark, is a swerve into 1920s elegance. It’s the type of place you’d bring friends or family to when they’re visiting, and then they’d go tell everyone back home how cool it was.
Each detail of the two-story eatery was perfected by local restaurateurs KNEAD Hospitality + Design, and it made Gatsby the perfect addition to Half Street. It’s sophisticated, but still welcoming with its In-N-Out-inspired smashburger, $4 whiskeys at happy hour and Sunday brunch.
“We have been thrilled with the feedback,” says KNEAD’s founder Jason Berry. “Being able to open at the start of baseball season and receiving great reviews from our guests has been icing on the cake.”
While we’re on the subject of cake, Mah-Ze-Dahr has the area’s coffee and pastry needs locked down. An Urdu word, mazedar translates to “delicious” in English. A brief look at their pastry showcase (or Instagram page) tells you all you need to know. It’s not just a cleverly named bakery. Located next to Gatsby and also under the KNEAD umbrella, Mah-Ze-Dahr is perfect as an everyday latte spot or when you have a surprise Zoom call on gameday.
Already established in the Big Apple thanks to renowned baker Umber Ahmad, this is the first to open in the District. Ahmad, who started the brand out of her apartment in 2013, was profiled by The Michelin Guide last year, right before Mah-Ze-Dahr’s expansion into D.C.
“We have a great community [who we] continue to be grateful [to] for allowing us to become a part of the D.C. community,” she says.
Half Street has its heavy hitters in place to anchor the street when the ballpark reopens and the area is buzzing. More are coming, too. The other side of the street is going to get Tap99, a self-pour pub with 99 active taps, and the first Kilwins ice cream franchise in D.C. Well-traveled locals may know the magic that is Kilwins from Old Town Alexandria, Fells Point or Charlottesville. Both newbies, owned by former racecar driver Jason Cherry, will open this summer.
By then, the Nationals may very well be in first place. They’re not playing like world beaters at the moment, it’s just that there’s no one running away with their division. All five NL East teams are within a handful of games of one another, and the top team is barely above .500.
Now is the perfect time to jump back in. Never forget, they didn’t start their turnaround in 2019 until the end of May. When you make the trip down, make sure to download and link the MLB Ballpark app. Everything at the stadium (tickets, food, etc.) is contactless this year. It’s a little different, but just being at a ballgame is the prize. We would have done anything for that chance last summer.
Atlas Brew Works Half Street Brewery & Tap Room: 1201 Half St. Suite 120, SE, DC; www.atlasbrewworks.com
Gatsby: 1201 Half St. Suite #205, SE, DC; www.gatsbyrestaurant.com
Mah-Ze-Dahr: 1201 Half St. Suite #105, SE, DC; www.mahzedahrbakery.com
Nationals Park: 1500 S Capitol St. SE, DC; www.mlb.com/nationals/ballpark
The Point DC in Buzzard Point
Fear not, soccer fans. We also have you covered for a spot to pre- or post-game when catching D.C. United home games at Audi Field in Buzzard Point. Picture yourself on an open-air patio with a glass of wine in hand, fresh seafood on your plate, and the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers converging right in front of you. Next, make that vision a reality at The Point DC, Capitol Riverfront’s newest and Buzzard Point’s first-ever restaurant, now open with a limited menu by reservation only. The newest Fish & Fire Food Group concept spans 12,000 square feet, featuring a 150-seat riverfront patio complete with five fire pits and four TV screens, in case you want to watch the game from the restaurant. For those on the go, the aptly named takeout window and market Beside the Point will open soon next to the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. 2100 2nd St. SW, DC; www.thepointdc.com; @thepointdc
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