Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Gurus

Mar 28, 2013

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

Hi everyone. There's a busy weekend ahead, with Easter, Opening Day for the Nationals and the return of March Madness to the Verizon Center, and we're here to help you make the most of it. (I just wish it was sunnier, so we could enjoy the debut of  H Street Country Club's rooftop deck

We're a little low on Gurus today, so if you want to chime in with suggestions for fellow readers, it would be much appreciated. Thanks.

As exciting as the Nats may be this season, I'm still hopelessly loyal to the (only) baseball team of my youth, the Baltimore Orioles. Assuming I can't get out of work early enough to get up to Baltimore for the home opener next Friday, do you know of any Orioles bars in DC? It's generally a non-issue at bars to have them put on the O's when there isn't a conflict with a Nats game, but are there any places in the District that draw a pro-Baltimore crowd? Side note: What's disappointing is that I get as many puzzled looks from bartenders when I ask them to turn on the O's as when I request they put on a Wizards game.

Confession: Though I'm the co-author of tomorrow's Nationals-centric Weekend cover story, I still have a soft spot for the Birds. 

Nanny O'Brien's in Cleveland Park was getting pretty good crowds for games last fall, with cheap Natty Boh and deals on Flying Dog and, I think, other MD beers.

I'd also try the Greene Turtle at Verizon Center, since that is such an iconic Maryland chain.

But it is possible for Nationals and O's fans to live in harmony. At Davis' Pub in Annapolis, the schedules of both teams are on the chalkboard behind the bar, though the TVs the games are shown on are at the opposite ends of the room.

I have a reservation at Harold Black next Friday night around 6 - should I keep it? Or are there better options on Barracks Row/Capitol Hill for a couple of drinks where two people can hear each other and definitely get a table/spot at the bar to sit at that time? Drinks more of a priority than food - may turn into dinner/snacking or may not. Thanks!

For drinks and conversation, Harold Black is a good choice. Another option to consider: Beuchert's. It can be a pain with two or four people, since there are only ~40 seats at the bar and in the dining room, but they take reservations for larger parties.

While I love the cocktails at Hank's on the Hill, the place can be deafening when it's crowded (like a Friday night, for instance). 

Hey! I'm looking for a fun, hip sushi spot...What's your favorite in the city? We've done Sticky Rice a million times, so looking for something different. I know that Taro and Kaz are also great, but looking for something with some atmosphere and quality. Thanks!

Kotobuki on upper MacArthur is fantastic for both its quality and prices, though it's small and the atmosphere can be lacking. Also on our Best Sushi list is Sei, which has a sleek atmosphere and inventive rolls. (I also enjoy happy hour at its nearby sister restaurant Oya, but the bar there can get awfully crowded.)

Bachelor party just increased from six to seven people. We had reservations at Harold Black and the Columbia Room for six, but neither can accommodate seven. The Gibson was able to handle seven, but I need one more excellent cocktail destination that takes reservations and can take seven people. Suggestions?

Call Jack Rose and request one of the large circular booths, which I'm pretty sure can take 7 and are more fun that the saloon's regular tables. For a bachelor party, you should definitely ask about setting up a whisk[e]y tasting or some Scotch and Bourbon flights.

I've got a tough question. I have early Barmini reservations on Saturday night. After I drop a ton of money there on drinks, I want to get a (seriously) cheap dinner in the area. Here is the catch: it has to be Passover friendly. No lobster rolls, pizza, pasta, sandwiches, etc. I've been to Matchbox and Hill Country before, so would rather go somewhere new. I'd be willing to go to a different neighborhood if the place was worth it. Gurus, can you help?

Does Barmini have kosher for Passover spirits? The good ones are mostly distilled from corn or grain, so that kind of defeats the whole "keeping kosher for Passover" thing. But I've been (and am) in your shoes, chatter. I know the compromises one makes to get by during these eight days of deprivation. Shots of potato vodka are on me.

 

So I'm going to assume that while you're keeping kosher for Passover (i.e. no leavened products) you're not worried about keeping kosher in terms of the meat, since you've been to Hill Country. 

 

Believe it or not, Rosa Mexicano has a Passover menu, including a thing that would have seriously confused my Jewish grandmothers: gribenes tacos.  

 

You'll find cheaper options nearby, however, though I'm not sure I'd choose any of them over a plate of brisket (go with the cucumber salad as your side) at Hill Country.  You could do the chicken wings at Austin Grill, a chaat or salad bowl at Merzi (chickpeas are iffy, but okay if you're Sephardic), many different salads at Chop't, a fajita bowl, sans rice or beans, at Chipotle...

My sister and five year old niece are visiting 4/4 - 4/9. We plan to revolve most of our activities around her very vibrant, active little girl. We plan to take in the Cherry Blossom Festival on the waterfront Saturday afternoon. Other suggestions?

Checking out the cherry blossoms is a great idea. Also on my short list would be the Gustafer Yellowgold concert at Jammin' Java, Piccadilly Circus at National Harbor (while out there be sure to check out the National Children's Museum) and "Three Little Birds" at Adventure Theatre MTC.

 

Also, the "Real Pirates" exhibit might be just a bit too old for her, but give the KidsPost review a read and see what you think.

Hi! I recently became gluten free and was wondering if you know how any restaurants with gluten free menus around town?

I asked our resident gluten-free Guru Stephanie, and she says:

Rustico's gluten-free pizza is the best I've had. Agora marks things that are gluten free on their menu, as do Scion and Crios. The last time I went to zaytinya, they were great...I think all of Jose Andres' places are good about it. 

Hi! I'm going to Mintwood Place for dinner for the first time this weekend, and am really looking forward to it. Two questions: what on the menu is particularly good (food or drinks!), and is it ok to wear dark jeans, or is it slightly fancier? Appreciate it!

The burrata was listed on our 40 Eats list, so you'll definitely want to start your meal there. Sietsema has some more recommendations. And you should be fine in dark jeans, provided they're well kept. Dress up the top a bit though, and wear good shoes. 

My parents are coming to visit DC for the first time in a few years (arriving late 11th, leaving early on 15th) . Mom has slowed down a bit since the last time, so we are trying to not overschedule. However, they were very interested in the new Kennedy exhibit that will open on April 12th at the Newseum. What is the deal there? I've heard the tickets are good for two days? Do you really need two days to see it? Is the entry timed? If so, when can you enter on the second day? And should I buy the tickets on-line, or do the on-line tickets have to be used within a certain amount of time of purchase?

Tickets are not timed and are good for two days with no restrictions. (I think it's a way to justify the $21.95 adult tickets, which are more expensive than other museums.) If you buy them online, you save 10 percent.

Personally, I've never needed two days to see everything at the Newseum, but if your mom has slowed down, it means that you could always see the Kennedy exhibit, go grab lunch somewhere, and come back late to tour the permanent collection.

 

Hi Gurus, I'm a guy who has struggled with bad haircuts over the years. I'm looking for a place in DC that not only can give me a good haircut, but also give me good hairstyling advice and recommendations. Thanks!

Strangely, we rarely talk about men's haircuts on this chat. But when we do, stylists at Bang, Immortal Beloved, Trim and the Grooming Lounge always come recommended. (The Grooming Lounge has its own line of product, too, if you want a stylist to give you a step-by-step guide.)

Readers?

Love the Peeps contest - Peeps Chili Bowl was my favorite! Any way to see the winners/finalists in person? I seem to recall that in prior years, they were on display in the Post's building. But maybe that's just wishful thinking....

They're on display right now in our front window, which faces 15th Street, and you can drop by 24-7 to take a look.

Personally, I think Pete's New Haven Style Apizza has the best gluten-free pizza crust. Not to be missed, especially for a newbie who might be feeling overwhelmed, is the Happy Tart bakery in Del Ray, Alexandria. A whole bakery, entirely gluten-free, and of course also delicious. Chains like P.F. Changs (Friendship Heights or Ballston) are a good bet. Almost everything at Nando's is naturally gluten-free. I think Teaism also has a list of what is gluten-free in their restaurant.

Thanks for the advice. More coming ...

Other suggestions: Cava and Cava Mezze Grill, Lilit Cafe in Bethesda, Chef Geoff's empire, Quench in Rockville, The Happy Tart in Alexandria for baked goods, Pete's Pizza, Buzz Bakery has some GF items, One Dish Cuisine in Ellicott City, zPizza.

We're a couple of old pals, nearing the crest of the hill age-wise, and plan on meeting somewhere along H Street to catch up. Where's a good place where we might have a little elbow room, decent service and hear-ability?

The bar at Atlas Room is good for this -- great cocktails, low-key atmosphere -- as is Church and State, the cocktail joint above the Atlas Arcade. Depending on when you're meeting, I also enjoy the back patio at Biergarten Haus: Plenty of elbow room and steins of German beer.

My dad is flying in next Saturday morning for the weekend and has requested that we visit Mount Vernon - I'll probably rent a zipcar and pick him up at the airport, but is there anything else we should see while we head out that way? I haven't gotten out of downtown DC much lately so was thinking it'd be great to grab a really fab lunch (my dad and I are foodies) or see some pretty sites or something else that I wouldn't otherwise do in my car-free existence. Thoughts?

You must check out River Farm! Once owned by GW, it has a great history, is absolutely lovely and is very close to Mount Vernon but lacks the crowds. And if you love our first president and am really willing to drive, head to his birthplace in Colonial Beach. It's about 90 minutes from the middle of the District and is really cool.

 

Frtiz promises that he will get to the foodie part of this question, but as you can see, he is busy answering every other question...

If you're looking for a good lunch, try Virtue Feed and Grain in Old Town Alexandria, the Evening Star Cafe in Del Ray, or maybe a flatbread and fantastic craft beers at Rustico.

I wish the Mount Vernon distillery and gristmill was open this weekend, but alas, it opens for the season on Monday.

If dad has any interest in architecture, I highly recommend Frank Lloyd Wright's Pope-Leighy house - at the end of GW parkway, on the same grounds as Woodlawn plantation.

Thanks for the suggestion!

Hi! I'm looking to host a happy hour for DC area young alumni of my college in the next couple of weeks. Any recommendations for a spot that can hold around 30 people? Most important is a bar that can section off an area for us to mingle, but I'm also being optimistic about the weather and would appreciate any suggestion for an outdoor spot that would be accommodating (though this is not a requirement). This event will likely take place on a Wednesday if that's helpful. Thanks!

For an outdoor space, I'd suggest Cantina Marina (who doesn't love being on the water?), the rooftop deck at Arlington Rooftop Bar and Grill or H Street Country Club, the patio at Biergarten Haus, or maybe the roof at Cleveland Park Bar and Grill.

For around 30 people, you've got a good number of options downtown. The Laughing Man Tavern, Penn Social, Iron Horse Tap Room and Capitol Lounge are among the places that have hosted gatherings similar to yours in the past.

Hope I'm not too late to get this one in...my kids are already complaining because we're not going anywhere for spring break. Sorry kids- I have to work. But I could probably swing one day off - where would be a fun place to go that would really feel like a getaway for them in just one night? Any suggestions welcome within a few hours driving distance (closer preferable). Was thinking maybe staying at the Gaylord in National Harbour or possibly Ocean City. thoughts?

Weekend Editor Amy Joyce has offered this suggestion:

Chincoteague – although too cold to swim, great beach walks, hikes, see the ponies, go bike riding on nicely paved trails, there is an interesting nature center with bus tours, and a lighthouse. A lot of fun outdoorsy activities. Check out nearby Wallops Island NASA center (http://sites.wff.nasa.gov/wvc/). It looks like there are a few activities going on there next week.

How about Philadelphia? Not sure of the kids’ ages, but it’s certainly not too far and it has great spots like the “Please Touch” museum. Always something to do there.  

For the Mt Vernon question... definitely hit up Old Town Alexandria for lunch! Some "foodie" places would include Majestic and Society Fair, I personally love Eamonn's and Momo Sushi. Walk down King St towards the water and grab ice cream dessert at Scoops or Pops (scoops is soooo much better!!) and hit up the waterfront. There's always local performers and such, and it's soo pretty! As for other things to do, second River Farm or Collingwood, but if your tired of tour guides, I'd park at Riverside Park along the GW Parkway & stroll along the Potomac, or visit Fort Hunt and see the old fort which was most recently used to house German POWs after WWII.

Wow, lots of great advice here. I went through and added links to all of the Going Out Guide profiles. And thanks for seconding River Farm!

Hi-- I am trying to get a gift certificate for a couple to go out for dinner in the Rockville area. They are mid-thirties and never get a break from the kids (we will be babysitting while they get out). All food types are okay and we are looking for something in the $15-$30 per person (without drinks). Any suggestions?

Addie's and Chef Geoff's are good choices and I'd throw Spice Xing (Indian), A&J (Chinese), Yekta (Persian) and Mosaic in as well for less expensive (but still nice) options.

So, my parents are coming into town in a couple of weeks to visit; this visit is going to be about relaxing, eating and drinking, as they've covered most of the sights in previous trips. I always make reservations at great (I hope) places when they're in town, but I'd like to be more flexible on this visit. What are some of your favorite restaurants in the area (no cuisine restrictions) that do not accept reservations? I know you risk getting turned away or a long wait, but I think we are ok with that. Bonus question: places that you'd need reservations for a fabulous dinner that also do walk-in lunches right. The folks are in town Thursday through Sunday, and we are based on the orange line in Arlington, but willing to travel, if that helps. Thanks!

Some of D.C.'s coolest restaurants, including the spicy Little Serrow, amazing ramen joint Daikaya, the Japanese hotspot Izakaya Seki and the cozy Room 11, don't take any reservations. (Seki only holds tables for groups of 5 to 8.)

Estadio only takes reservations for times before 6 p.m. Cork is another one that only takes early reservations; otherwise, you can call 30 minutes in advance and get your name on the list.

I mentioned Beuchert's in another question; I'd happily wait in line to dig into their market-fresh veggie dishes. 

I have been in DC for 5 years and have never had a problem eating out--Chopt, Sweet Green, and Chipotle are staples., Georgetown Cupcake is my favorite. You can get good pizza at Pete's Apizza and Rustico. Arlington Rooftop has a good gluten free menu. In general, just ask the waitress. Every place I have been to (and I eat out a lot) has worked with me.

Heading to Ethopic for date night. We've never tried Ethiopian before so I'm wondering what to order. I've read Tom Sietsema's review but was wondering what you all would recommend. Also what to drink? I've heard they have some Ethiopian options but don't know if we should go beer or wine. Thanks!

You can't go wrong with the veggie or meat sampler platters, which offer a little bit of everything. Personally, the iconic dishes I wouldn't miss include the spicy lamb tibs, the doro key wat and the fiery Awaze tibs. 


Ethiopic does have a full bar with Ethiopian beer and wine. I like the Harar stout with meat and the Bedele pilsner with less-spicy veg. The Tej wine is tasty, but very sweet.

Ha! I hope so. (If it was, I'd suggest the Wise Owl Club in Adams Morgan for the old-school vibe.)

Thanks for the questions and suggestions, everyone. Much appreciated. See you back here next Thursday.

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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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