Review for Cantina Marina: Laid-Back, Dog-Friendly Bar with Killer Sunsets
Come to Cantina Marina for the beautiful sunsets. Stay for the micheladas, great service, and a relaxed attitude.
Cantina Marina is a charming dive bar with one of the best vantage points to watch sunsets in DC. When I went to school at GW, I thought the epitome of cool was drinking at the Georgetown waterfront. Perhaps it has something to do with being raised in land-locked Minnesota, but there is just something exhilarating about hanging out at a waterside establishment.
Despite that, I didn't really go to Nick's Riverside Grill or Tony and Joe's on the regular because I felt like the clientele was too MTV's Jersey Shore for my tastes and $12 for a cosmo didn't seem worth it (but $14 for a Coronarita does!). Thankfully Cantina Marina provides the delightfulness of being on the river without being pretentious or over-priced. Everyone loves hanging out on the water but not everyone has a yacht.
A bar with table service is not always easy to find in this city so it's refreshing to have at Cantina Marina. Even during busy happy hours and baseball games, the servers handle the crowds without missing a beat. They are well-staffed to manage customer demand and everyone has always been friendly. Cantina Marina is great for large groups the staff don't mind ringing up a bunch of credit cards and they are used to dealing with tight quarters on busy days. Cantina Marina is a good spot for hosting a birthday party because people can drop by for a drink without having a big headache when it's time to close out.
Did you see Captain Ron? It was a 1992 cult classic (JK, I don't think it qualifies for that status even) featuring Kurt Russell and Martin Short. The premise is that a Midwestern family with patriarch Martin Short inherits a yacht and has a misadventure with Captain Ron (Kurt Russell). Captain Ron knows all the good places to hang out and find other seamen. If Captain Ron was real and he lived in DC, he would be a regular at Cantina Marina. Being right on the Southwest waterfront with boats docked nearby, you will encounter seafarers and the conversation with these folks never disappoints.
The best time to go is when there is not a Nats game, but, if that's your only reason for being in the neighborhood, then you should go and take the Cantina Marina shuttle to and from the game. Just be ready to wade through a crowd and wait longer for drinks.
If it's not super hot in DC, then you should bring a jacket because when the sun sets, it gets cold super fast. I am usually so excited to get there that I forget this part and inevitably end up cold.
Pooch Scoop: Dog-Friendly
Cantina Marina is the dog-friendliest bar in Washington, DC. In addition to regularly hosting happy hours benefiting area animal rescue organizations, this waterfront watering hole is dog-friendly all the time. Each dog is also offered their own personal Corona water bowl for their stay.
Drink: Micheladas and Coronaritas
There are two drinks at Cantina Marina that usually at the top of my must-order list: a michelada (add $1 to any beer, usually the beer on special is a good option, but most people like Tecate or Corona) and a Coronarita ($14, worth one but hard to justify two, though I have!). I am told that El Rey has micheladas and I will have to find out for myself but, at the time of this writing, I've only ever had a michelada in DC at Cantina Marina. A michelada is like a beer with a bloody mary-like mix. Order a beer and then ask for a michelada mix. For $1 plus the cost of the beer, you will get a cup with some of the mix and ice that you add your beer to. This takes longer to drink and feels like two drinks for only $1 more. (I'm all about value!) I will save you the Wikipedia search and provide the definition here:
The Coronarita is a frozen margarita with an upside-down Coronita (little Corona) placed inside a special device that allows the beer to fill the cup as you drink it down. Again, this drink feels like a bargain because you keep getting refills without ordering another! Still, the $14 price tag has given me pause, but on a hot day, it's hard to beat. It's all part of the experience.
Food: Nachos, Nachos, Nachos & Seafood
The food at Cantina Marina is among some of the best I've found at a DC dive bar. (I won't get into what constitutes a dive bar but I think this place would qualify.) Regardless, I'm told that Cantina Marina has a new chef this year so things have gone up a notch.
When you have a big group, the Super Nachos ("a gigantic portion of chips, chili, shrimp, steak, Andouille sausage, queso, pico de gallo, crema, avocado, and jalapeños") are my top choice even though I always balk at the $29 price tag. This will feed a group of 6-8 people without a big mess because they use cream and queso instead of melted shredded cheddar cheese.
My go-to is the buffalo shrimp because I love barbecue sauce and I love shrimp. I almost always get the chips and queso and salsa because I need to have something to munch on with my beverages as a buffer for the alcohol. The queso is definitely reminiscent of the Tostito's queso in the jar that you get at the grocery store. It's not anything special but it gets the job done. When I do decide to eat more of a "meal" at CM, I recommend the fish tacos or any of their baskets. Not to be missed when it's back in season is the crab nachos.
You can't really go wrong at Cantina Marina if you like a good view, good food and good drinks.