The Best Bars in Bethesda, Maryland

In Bethesda, theres a bar for every kind of customer/
In Bethesda, there's a bar for every kind of customer/ | ©Joshua Livingston/Flickr
Summer Whitford

More than just serving drinks, if done properly, a good bar will make you feel welcome, isn’t stuffy or snooty, and is a place where regulars and newcomers can go for good conversation, to try new wines, sip a few brews, or try a few cocktails. There are wine bars, beer bars, cocktail bars, dive bars, and taverns and gastropubs; they are all variations on a theme. Some serve food and booze; others are just there for the liquid diversion. No matter what the genre, they exist in Bethesda in all their glorious varieties. Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips, compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips.

Mussel Bar and Grille

Chef Robert Wiedmaier has made a name for himself with his Belgian-inspired taverns, bars, and restaurants, and this old standby has been on Restaurant Row since 2010. For a while now, Mussel Bar and Grille is where expats and hipsters go to slurp bowls filled with moules et frites, sample Flemish waffles, eat carbonade, and drink from the extensive list of craft beer from Belgium and the United States.

Olazzo

Serious students of the elusive perfect martini can spend a lifetime looking for the drink that will satisfy their insatiable quest. The owners of Olazzo feel your pain and do their best to serve the perfect cure at their martini bar. They are martini agnostics and are willing to consider that there is intelligent life beyond gin and vodka. At Olazzo, Italian cuisine shares center stage with the martini bar, which serves more than a dozen different riffs on martinis like the Italian-style Brooklyn martini made with prosecco and gin.

Gringos & Mariachis

Gringos & Mariachis, Bethesda

If you like Olazzo, the other restaurant owned by the Pietrobono brothers, this is a drastic departure, but the South of the Border menu is tasty. Think Mexican street food meets tequila, whiskey, and delicious cocktails. Exposed brick walls and shaded charcoal Mexican-themed murals reference Mexico City side streets, and at night, this is a taco-burrito-torta-fueled party for millennials. Gringos & Mariachis gets loud, but if you’re game, dive in, order one of the original margaritas, and go with the flow.

Vino Volo

Big screen TVs (lots of them), sports memorabilia on the walls, and a golf theme are what newcomers see, but regulars love Caddies on Cordell for the camaraderie with other sports fanatics and the stadium food that is just like being at the game. Order a burger or sandwich, but check out the drinks menu. The management knows it’s important to stay hydrated during long games, so they’ve stocked a full bar that includes terrific martinis, quenching shandy, beer on tap and in bottles, and a respectable wine list – this is a sports bar, after all.

TapaBar

TapaBar feels like it was plucked from Barcelona and dropped into Bethesda intact. The owners, the Roche brothers, have managed to capture the distinct Catalonian vibe that combines urban industrial chic with raw wood and stainless steel, and things are kept upbeat by the natural light that streams in through the floor-to-ceiling windows. The food and the drinks menu exude the spirited flavors of Spain, with new twists on classic Spanish tapas served with inventive drinks. TapaBar is where you want to eat, see the beautiful people, watch the world go by, and sip on dreamy cocktails like the Ava Gardner, which is smooth and easy to drink thanks to an enticing blend of cava, vodka, framboise, cassis, and raspberries.

American Tap Room

Sit by the fireplace and drink a hearty red wine in winter, enjoy seasonal beers during summertime, and take part in the fall-favorite Oktoberfest by having brews until you snooze. American Tap Room is a rustic, friendly place for homestyle American comfort food complemented by 20 beers on tap, about 25 in bottles, and some in cans, mostly from America. American Tap Room celebrates the patriotic craft of brewing beer in America like they did back in Boston in the 1600s. The styles range from light and crisp lagers by Devils Backbone from Virginia to Bell’s hoppy Two Hearted American IPA from Michigan.

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