Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Gurus

Jan 03, 2013

Every Thursday, the Going Out Gurus discuss concerts, happy hours, weekend getaways, new exhibits and other ideas for fun in the Washington D.C. area.

We might not be rested, but we're ready to talk about New Year's Going Out resolutions, upcoming inaugural events (you can now apply for tickets to an inaugural ball) and anything else you want to chat about. Ready? Here we go ...

Do you guys know the dates for Restaurant Week this year? I thought it was usually in January.

You're right, Restaurant Week has been held in January,   as recently as last year. If I had to guess, I'd say inauguration may be putting things on hold. In 2009, Restaurant Week was held in February, because it was pushed back because of inaugural festivities.  We'll check in with RAMW soon and see what the time frame readers can expect.

Thanks for the recommendation last week. Food, beer, and service were all great. The downside was about an hour and a half wait. It was Friday at 6:30, so I knew we were taking a chance. But props to the staff for bringing out appetizers to those of us waiting for a table in the smallish waiting area (the bar, though spacious, was pretty much at capacity at this point, too).

Great to hear, thanks for writing back and letting us (and other chatters) know!

Hi almighty gurus - My husband is a grump these days and doesn't want a big birthday celebration, so I'm planning a date night to the DC Improv. We've got tickets for the 8pm show. I know there is a 2 item minimum. Do you suggest we get there early and have dinner or should we just have drinks there and grab a late dinner? If dinner, where close by do you suggest? Thanks!!

The food at the D.C. Improv is basically a glorified California Tortilla menu. (The venue shares an owner with the local taco chain.) I'd eat elsewhere. You have a lot of choices within a few blocks: Everything from fancy Southern at Vidalia to fancy burgers at Shake Shack.

Also, you should know that the Improv seats guests in order of arrival, so the sooner you get the the club, the better your seats will be. (For an 8 p.m. show, doors open at 6:30; I'd aim to be there before 7:30.)

Looking for suggestions of where I can hold my birthday celebration this year - usually plan to hang out with friends at a DC area bar. Something fun (place that loves playing 80s music is a plus) but not overly crowded (as in not somewhere that takes 20+ minutes to get a drink), can accommodate about 25 people, give or take. Previous years I've done Carpool, Front Page Arlington, & Buffalo Billard's. Looking for the Dupont or U Street areas in particular. Thank you in advance for any suggestions you (and other chatters!) may have!!!

If you're planning this on a weekend, you're going to have trouble finding a not-crowded place on U Street. I'd at least consider DJ Dredd's upcoming Prince v. Michael Jackson party at the Howard Theatre (Feb. 23). 

Venue-wise, I think Penn Social could work. DJs on weekends, lots of room, plenty of games (skeeball, shuffleboard, pop-a-shot basketball, giant jenga) and good beer.

I'm eagerly awaiting to get an email notifying me that inaugural ball tickets are on sale. Any idea when they will start selling tickets? I'd imagine that they need to do it soon, especially for folks traveling. Any insight is appreciated.

I spoke with a PIC spokeswoman yesterday, and I can tell you that they didn't offer a date that that e-mail will go out, and said clearly that they have not determined the number of tickets that will be made available to the public. In my blog post from yesterday, I note that what was 10 official balls in 2009 is now one open-to-the-public ball in 2013, and the lowest number of official balls in many many years,  so I would not be surprised if it were  more difficult than ever to get tickets.  I honestly would snap up tickets to some of the state society balls, which   formal and festive. Illinois sounds really fun this time around;  Georgia's should be cool. Check out our running list of inauguration events for more ideas.

Trying to put together a networking event with cash bar and hors d'oeuvres for DC area alumni and a group of students who will be in town the week of the 14th. Would prefer to be in the DuPont Circle area, but anywhere near there and close to the Metro would work just as well. Place should nice, but not-over-the-top or too noisy, and reasonably priced for HD and cash bar (less than $25/pp). Thanks!

I would give Barcode a try. I'm having a similar gathering there soon - it's a block from the Farragut North metro, a 10 min walk to Dupont, and they have a side area they can section off for private gatherings if arranged in advance...

I've checked out the Nightlife Agenda for this weekend and it seems like there isn't much going on. Any other suggestions fun ideas for winter dates in DC now that the holidays are over?

Yeah, it's a really slow time of year for bars and clubs, though it will pick up for inauguration in a couple of weeks. (A link to the Nightlife Agenda is here.) Fun winter dates: Warm drinks around the firepit at Room 11 or A Bar is a classic. One I recently thought of: Combining the new ice rink at Washington Harbour with the free s'mores happy hour in the Georgetown Ritz-Carlton's lobby. You can cook your own s'mores over the roaring wood fireplace every day from 6:30 to 7, and warm up with a cocktail from the nearby Degrees lounge.

I'm out of town for work next week and thought I might catch a new (!) movie in a theater (!). But because this event is very rare, I have no idea what to see. Usually I go for more indie, less romcom and even lesser sci-fi or action. Thanks!

I think there might be a couple new films out that are somewhat indie, not totally romantic and not action/sci-fi. What are your feelings on rock? Our movie critic really liked "Not Fade Away," a '60s music drama directed by David Chase that comes out tomorrow. I might also check out "Promised Land," with Matt Damon, John Krasinski and Frances McDormand. Anyone else see anything they liked recently?

Do you know why we might be getting this "Invalid signup form requested: inaugural-ball-public-tickets-signup" error?

Hi, guys, checking on what this means right now. Sit tight!

My holiday gift to my adult femaie children is to have a nice relaxed lunch in Georgetown and then mosey around in shops. Do you have a suggestion for lunch - something special! Thanks, Judee

We like the European brunch atmosphere at Kafe Leopold and the fancy lunch menu at Bourbon Steak in the Four Seasons Hotel. Former Top Chef Mike Isabella's Bandolero just started doing brunch, too, but none of us have been.

Shameless plug, but The Capitol Steps will be performing Fri, Jan 18 and Sat, Jan 19 at their home at the Ronald Reagan Building. Great thing to do for out of towners seeking a fun way to look at politics...especially after this past election!

Okay, consider it plugged. And then do us a favor: Send us more details about your inauguration event at weekendlistings@washpost.com.

Dearest GOGs, are you collecting a list somewhere of the bars/restaurants that will show the inauguration? If so, could you share the link? Thanks!

Hi, yup, this is in the works. We don't have this yet, but do check back the week before inauguration; we'll have lots more for folks who are going and for folks who are staying in.

Happy New Year to all. I need something fabulous to help celebrate the start of 2013. Can you help to suggest a place that is either new or would be like new (not recommended in a while because of all the new openings) but is still fabulous and makes you feel so because the staff are warm, friendly, knows their stuff. Don't want trendy, shiny or has been, don't want the repetition of semi-local chains, actual chains or chain-like feel. Please help to point me in the direction of just an all around great place to catch up with friends and unwind but not so deathly that even hushes go unheard.

Every now and then, I pop back to Off the Record, the bar in the basement of the Hay-Adams Hotel, for just this reason: Fantastic cocktails, free nuts and bar snacks, great staff. I go less than I should because the place runs like clockwork. I also feel the same way about Stan's, the venerable underground lounge/bar at Vermont and L, where your happy hour gin and tonic is a glass of gin and a side of tonic, so you can vary the recipe depending on how your day has gone.

My sister is coming in town this weekend and wants to get brunch in Chinatown/Penn Quarter. Any suggestions besides Matchbox and Busboys and Poets?

I'm a fan of the brunch at Poste, which features a make-your-own bloody mary bar with cool house-made ingredients. (Bacon vodka is the best base.) The food's good, too, from the croque monsieur to the doughnuts.

I have to put in a bit of love for the Passenger's Sunday-only hangover brunch, which features great breakfast drinks and fried food. It's rocking and raucous, though: if you're trying to catch up, the noise levels might be too high.

We're taking three toddlers (ranging in age from 1 1/2 to 3) to a Eric Carle show at the Kennedy center on Saturday. We want to get lunch afterwards, but the area always seems kind of low on options. Any suggestions would be great.

The dining options have actually gotten a little better in the past year. Around Foggy Bottom Metro (you can catch a shuttle from the Kennedy Center straight there, so you don't have to walk), there's Burger, Tap and Shake,  and for something a little nicer, District Commons  can be an option, particularly for lunch. They actually do a brunch on Saturdays from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.

Hello GOGs! I'm so ready for some fun in 2013!!! I want to start by taking my 3 1/2 year old son ice-skating for the first time. However, I'm originally from Florida and am a terrible skater myself. I need some place that will offer some sort of help for him. I don't mind falling. We also have a 1 1/2 year old. Should she try ice-skating??? Thanks!!

Montgomery County offers tot-only skating sessions at the Wheaton Ice Arena for 3-and-4-year-olds, as well as dedicated kids-and-parents lessons and family-only ice time on Sunday mornings. (Sadly your son's a little young for the free kids lessons and skate sessions at Fort Dupont in D.C., which requires kids to be 5.)

For those unafraid to venture outside of DC proper, Port City Brewery gives a tour of their facility and generous samples. It is in Alexandria and is metro accessible if you don't mind taking a bus. There is ample parking. I went there with a group of friends recently for a birthday party and it was great!

Great idea. All three D.C. breweries are open for growler fills and tours on Saturdays, too. I made a longer list of local breweries open to the public.

that I have to use before the end of next week, so I am taking off Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I'm going to try to hit a few places that I always mean to get to, but a little more out of the way than the Mall. Hillwood (that paper dress exhibit got extended, right?) and Dumbarton Oaks are on the list. Maybe the Textile Museum. Anything else? I have a car. Tastes run geeky in case that isn't already obvious.

What a great idea, and yes, the Pret-a-Papier exhibit at Hillwood was extended through Jan. 20.

I'd recommend the new National Museum of Health and Medicine, which is now in Silver Spring and no longer at Walter Reed.

Historic-homes-wise, if you haven't visited George Mason's Gunston Hall, it's a lovely mansion surrounded by gardens, and would be nice if the temperatures do rise to the 60s.

Ugh - just realized the time! I am coming to town for the Skins HOME PLAYOFF GAME (YEA!) Having relocated to Houston, I am also a bit of a Texans backer. Is there a Texans bar anywhere in DC that we can watch their playoff game. (Please note that a Cowboys bar will not be a Texans bar, Texans fans hate the Cowboys almost as much as Redskins fans do!) Thanks! HTTR!

Panache is D.C.'s Cowboys bar, so steer clear of that one. (The old Mezza Luna Cowboys crowd moved over.)

Houston fans have been going to Penn Quarter Sports Tavern in recent years, though I know some go to Hill Country, which also shows Cowboys games.

The link to the Inaugural Ball tickets is working again! You have such power...

Yeah, now if only we could get in... Thanks for the update, though.

Where would you suggest going for dinner before a concert at the Birchmere?

Head south on Mount Vernon Ave. into the heart of Del Ray. Evening Star Cafe is best for Southern food; Del Ray Pizzeria is on our list of the best pizza spots, but Justin says that the best dishes are actually Southern dishes and pasta.

I enthusiastically second Gunston Hall. I take European visitors there - I've found it a much more satisfying experience than Mount Vernon.

And much more affordable, too!

Okay, we have to run. Thanks for all the questions and comments. See you back here next Thursday, and hope you're enjoying the new year.

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The Going Out Gurus
The Going Out Gurus are the experts behind The Washington Post's Going Out Guide. They write about restaurants, bars, movies, the arts, special events and visitor attractions, and they're out every night to keep you on top of the D.C. entertainment scene.
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