Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Gurus

Apr 25, 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. It's a lovely day, though not as warm as yesterday. Did you hear about the Robot Ride? It's got a few of us excited, though not as much as talking about favorite happy hours in Dupont.

(Also, if you didn't read Maura's piece on the skeeviest cocktail in D.C., you should, even if the bar has since put the kabosh on the "intimacy package" part of the deal.)

Anyway, we're ready to take your questions. And if anyone wants a "Liz & Dick" DVD, we've got one to give away. Raise your hand if you'd like it when you submit a question or comment, and we'll pick a "winner" at the end of the chat.

Right. Let's go.

My ex boyfriend and I decided to hear each other out over a beer tonight. He is picking me up from the westend of Alexandria. Any thought where we should go so we can actually hear each other without being over heard? No tears will be shed so it doesn't have to be uber private

First: Did you wear your Bad Idea Jeans to work today?

If you're staying in Alexandria, I'd go to a hotel bar -- say, Jackson 20 or maybe the bar at the Morrison House. They're usually not as hectic as, say, Virtue or Vermilion, but also generally busy enough that you won't be eavesdropped on. 

Are there any spas, hot springs, mineral baths, etc., in the DC area where males and females can soak together? Spa World sounded great for a getaway with my SO, until we realized we'd spend the whole day apart. Ditto for Berkeley Springs. Any ideas?

I think the solo soaking is pretty much standard around here -- readers, correct me if I'm forgetting some place. But Spa World actually isn't entirely separate. In fact, all of the seven poultice rooms where you spend most of your day sweating out toxins are actually co-ed. I think this is true for many guests, but I spend more time in those rooms with my honey, get the red-bean shaved ice together,  then we split up to hang out in the pool area, get scrubs, and then meet up at the end shiny and relaxed. The total time spent apart: About an hour. So I wouldn't rule it out at all; there's actually a Groupon right now for SpaWorld, so try it for cheap, and see if it's a place you'd go back. (PS try to take a day off and go - much more relaxing than on a weekend.)

My wife and I are trying to work our way through the 40 dishes every Washingtonian should try. For this Friday we are planning to get the Deep-fried, bacon-wrapped peanut-butter cups at Passenger. As delicious as those sound, I don't think I can eat enough to make a dinner out of them. What else is especially good at Passenger? Any drinks that we should be sure to get? Can we get a full dinner there or should we plan on getting more food somewhere else later?

Great idea! How many of our 40 Eats have you worked your way through? 

The Passenger is one of my favorite bars in D.C., though it can get really crowded on Fridays. While it boasts some of the best bartenders in D.C., there isn't a drink menu per se -- you tell the bartender what flavors and spirits you like, and they whip something up on the spot. (There are four cocktails on a chalkboard if you need inspiration.) 

The menu is a good size and changes fairly often. The pork cheek nachos are great, as are the kimchi half-smokes. These days, though, I'd eat next door at Hogo. Chef RJ Cooper of Rogue 24 is previewing the menu for his upcoming Gypsy Soul in the popup kitchen. The menu has been different every time I've been, but if his pimento cheese is on it ... I'm still dreaming about that dish.

Do you really need to buy tickets in advance for Taste of 8th? I recall going to the event and buying tickets there, but this year the website claims they "always sell out."

I mean, it can't hurt, right? I went last year, and bought tickets at the gate. If you think you might be showing up on the later side on Saturday, I'd get them in advance -- just to be safe.

A group of us are running the Nike Half this weekend and would love to catch brunch near metro center. We expect to get done around 10, so we would be getting there by 10:30 (which seems to be early). Do you have any suggestions a group of 5 sweaty, hungry runners? Mimosas are a plus, but not required.

The Hamilton will be open and cooking up hearty brunch food, and it's huge, so it shouldn't be too hard to snag a table (maybe call now to see if it's doable). In fact, one of the Gurus is heading there after the run, too, so you won't be the only person in wicking t-shirts.

My friends and I are gluttons when we meet up for brunch and need a new spot to try. We're looking for all you care to eat in the $30 price range for a group of thirty something's. Preferably in dc but not required.

Oh, seriously: Go to El Centro. $35 gets you bottomless brunch, with as much of anything you want on the menu, and not buffet-style. I cried uncle after like 10 minutes, but you kids should save room for Mexican French Toast.

The Dupont piece made me think of favorite past happy hours. Cafe Petito and the antepasta bar! Hotel Dupont with the $5 margaritas and free snacks!

Aw, this is making me miss the Twilight parties on the Embassy Row Hotel's roofdeck.

Hi Gurus! I'm responsible for putting together plans for a dozen 20-somethings next month, specifically the (late) evening of Thursday May 16th. For logistical reasons, I've been instructed to find something in Northern VA. I think something like a comedy club or a pub quiz night might be good --something with a bit more structure than just hanging out at a bar... Any ideas? My knowledge of DC area nightlife is close to 0. (Can you tell they picked the wrong person for this task?!)

A great place to go for comedy is the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse: In the Green Room (really a small side room with its own bar and food service), is Cool Cow Comedy, which is always fun, and brings in local comics who are actually good. Fridays and Saturdays are a good time to come back, but it's pretty rapid-fire comedy with a long list of folks, so if one isn't your style, the next one is on in 5 minutes.  Get there a little early so you can all get a table and get your drink orders and order some food.

I am thinking of seeing the Bowie Baysocks. Any place to eat around there?

Baysox games feature such culinary delights as the Bowie Big Dog. So yeah, you might want to eat elsewhere. There's great Chinese at Grace's Fortune, and solid microbrews from the nearby DuClaw brewpub.

Hi Gurus, submitting early today as I won't be online for the discussion. I'm looking for a place to take my mom for lunch after or before we go to the Botanic Gardens in a few weeks, on a Saturday, for a belated Mother's Day celebration. Near the Gardens would be great, but I'm not so familiar with the neighborhood. We like ethnic food, but am looking for something not too heavy or fussy, but upscale would be nice. No burgers/shakes/bbq, but maybe fish, salads, type stuff? Also no brunch. How's that for specific?? Thanks so much :)

You're really close to Capitol Hill, so I might head over for Eastern Market/Barracks Row. Hanks on the Hill is the best seafood on the Hill, but it's also good for salads, too. Lavagna is great for pastas and lighter dishes. Montmarte is a favorite French spot.

No question this week, but I would totally take the Liz and Dick DVD. I'm sure some of my girlfriends and I could have a great night in watching it! A few of us have been hit hard by sequestration and other life hiccups, so a cheap night in is our favorite type of entertainment these days.

Okay, you're in the running for this "prize."

Any idea where I could find some shrimp with the heads still on?? Strange request, I know, but I've heard they are so much better!

Tried the Maine Ave. fish market? If you don't mind the drive to Edgewater, I'm a fan of the Annapolis Seafood Market.

If you've never had a crab bomb from Jerry's Seafood, just drive a little farther from DuClaw and try it!

You're right. So right. I'm a Bowie native, and always think of Jerry's as being in Lanham -- forgot they opened a Bowie location.

I'll be visiting NoVa this spring/summer and wanted to find some good parks for my four-year old boy. We've been to Frying Pan Park and are looking for some other options. We'll be in Falls Church, so anything around there would be good. Thanks!

Readers with kids, can you help?

Happy Almost-Friday, oh awesome Gurus. I'm in a date-idea rut, so I'm hoping you and the other chatters can help me out with ideas beyond the standard dinner/movie/etc. Jazz in the garden, various outdoor movie nights, Folklife festival, and the Jazz festival will soon help me with this quandary. But any suggestions for dates in between now and then, since those are all for only a week or two? I'd like ideas for stuff that we could do anytime, rather than all things which are based on specific events. It seems particularly hard to bust out of the standad "dinner' idea on weeknights, although I like the idea of interactive stuff along the lines of Top Golf/Penn Social. Anyways, just wanted to hear what the Gurus' and chatters' favorite date activites are, thanks! Late 20s, live in Arlington, willing to go to DC as well as VA.

Once the weather gets nicer, your options will widen considerably.  Top Golf is fun for a competitive date, as is Penn Social. Getting lost in the Aboretum on a sunny afternoon is fun (there are so many nooks and corners to explore, fountains, etc). You could bring cameras or cell phones along and make it a little photo safari  to capture all the things you see and fall in love with.  At the Board Room in Dupont Circle, you can grab board games and sit at the bar and play Connect Four and more.  Now, with Union Market, you can head out and rather than do dinner, do a progressive tasting, picking up a little of this and a little of that. Check the calendar there, too, and sign up for a cooking demonstration or one of Righteous Cheese's tastings of wine and cheese. I am a HUGE fan of renting some bikes or bike shares and riding trails or into neighborhoods you've never been to before. I used to do that on weekends, to get off the Metro. I really like the trail that runs from Georgetown to Bethesda (do this in the day only).  Don't forget about spending a weekend at Eastern Market and then grabbing a breakfast or pupusa. And once it gets warmer, you can hit Jacks Boathouse and rent some paddleboards and try that (I am a little obsessed with upright paddling...) 

And finally, back when the Hirshhorn had the film screening every night on the outside of the building, I realized that it's a cool idea to simply take a blanket, lay out your blanket in the sculpture garden (there or at the National Gallery, or now at the Museum of African Art, which has an outdoor exhibition) and hang out, or Yards Park and hang out.

There are more ideas here in Maura's Metro Dates story - with one idea for tons of stops, though a few of the dates are wintry and probably don't apply to summer.

I am so excited for the Tracks Reunion Weekend!!! It is going to be epic seeing people from all over the country converge into DC for this. It is not to be missed.

I agree. My favorite bit from this week's Nightlife Agenda is the three-day Tracks Reunion. DJ Mohawk Adam and other vets spinning new wave, house, techno, etc. at DC9 on Friday, a cocktail party and late-night dancing at Town on Saturday, and then the Sunday night DJs doing it for the African American gay crowd at Town at Phase 1 of Dupont. 

I'm not old enough to remember the glory days of Tracks, but from the stories I've heard, this weekend is going to be fantastic.

We had been to seven of the places, but only had the specific dish at two: Graffito and DGS. We have just started and have been to Rice Paper and Chinatown Express. To me I found that all of the places have been really good. Although the specific dishes are excellent. We will definitely be going back to Rice Paper and Chinatown Express

Great to hear. Thanks.

I'm intrigued. Please tell us where we ought to go for these (because I am looking)!

Tortilla Cafe is the spot -- a little storefront on Seventh Street across from the market.

Did Tim's column get eaten this week? I see a picture and a single line of text (and it is one of the columns I most look forward to every week!).

Apologies for the slight technical difficulties on the blog. While it's being fixed, try clicking here.

My fiance and I are looking for a courtyard type setting to exchange vows while my brother and brother-in-law are in town. Maybe a fifteen minute ceremony then the 4 of us would go out for a nice dinner. Any thoughts?

A friend got married at the lovely Astor Terrace at the St. Regis -- but I imagine you need to reserve it well in advance, and you don't say what your timeframe is. You could get a special permit to have your wedding in Meridian Hill Park. Brookside Gardens hosts weddings, and you could also look into the Kennedy Center rooftop terrace, to toss out a few suggestions -- readers, any others? Congrats on your engagement!

Hi Gurus, I really need your help! My boyfriend is graduating from law school in May and his parents are flying in from the West Coast. My parents are driving into town to meet them on Saturday for lunch. I have a feeling they won't really hit it off, so I really need to find the right place to make it go smoothly. In the District and nice but not crazy expensive. Someplace kinda fun that lends itself to conversation would be good. It would also be a plus if there is something nearby we can do or see after lunch as well. Thanks so much!

Not surprisingly, May and graduation day in particular are hard days to get reservations, so get cracking.

So, I can't help but think that trying to make the FOOD or the environment the centerpiece of conversation might take some of the stress of everything if they don't really hit it off. (Though I hope for your sake that everyone is on their best behavior during meetings like this.) Tabard Inn, with its pretty garden, would be a great place to do accomplish that. Get a round of doughnuts for the table and all will be okay. Lincoln is another option, since it's American food, with lots to look at. The floor is made of pennies, there's art of President Abraham Lincoln on the walls, and things come in mason jars and quirky dishware that could elicit a few oohs and ahhs. After lunch, you could hitch a cab over to Georgetown and explore the canals and walkways, or, since his parents are from the West Coast, give them a quick tour of my trifecta of monuments: Lincoln, FDR, and King (don't forget to stop at the Lincoln Memorial steps and look for the plaque marking where Martin Luther King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech) . That'll make them feel like all the boxes have been checked.

Nottoway Park in Vienna is great for kids, nice playground, picnic areas, volleyball, basketball, baseball, tennis and soccer fields and lots of open grassy areas for them to run and play.

Thanks! 

Are there consignment shops in the DMV area you would recommend selling my wedding dress to? thanks

I don't have anty personal experience with any of these stores, but Fabulous Frocks of Alexandria consigns wedding gowns, as does Lalibella. In Maryland, I Do I Do is another consignment choice.

Thinking of heading out to Charlottesville this weekend to play tourist. Any vineyard recommendations? I saw a listing on the vititors site, but with some many choices I am hoping to narrow it down to just a few. Thanks!

Definitely stop at Barboursville on your way down - they're famous for their Octagon red blend, which just picked up a few (more) awards. I'd add Veritas in Afton, just outside of Charlottesville, for the estate, but also if you're a fan of whites.  Blenheim is another fun one - it's owned by Dave Matthews. I liked the folks at Keswick, too, and I Be sure to try all kinds of whites - the area around Charlottesville has been immersed in winemaking for longer than the wineries in our area. And grapes such as Viognier are the state's strengths. Have a great time!

Hi all--two weeks ago I asked where to take prom dresses to donate and a bunch of you answered. Gurus suggested St. Anthony's bridal in Rockville and after checking out their website, I liked their missions and went this past weekend. Huge storeroom filled to the top with bridal gowns, accessories and another room filled with prom dresses. I'm not part of the organization, but I liked what I saw and they were so appreciative of my donations! So those of you looking to do some spring cleaning, this is your place. Thanks!

Great! I'm so glad it worked out.

Clemyjontri. Seriously. You can kill hours there.

Of course, thanks!

I'd like to take my two boys to the Pirate exhibit on Sunday. Do I need to buy tickets in advance, or can I just go there. Do you have a fun idea for lunch nearby for two fairly picky boys? Thanks!!

I would buy in advance, because you can pick your admission time. Nothing worse than getting there and then finding out you can't actually get into the exhibit for an hour. 

A lot of nearby restaurants are closed on weekends, because downtown can be a bit of a ghost town. But you're not far from Shake Shack, Nando's and some other fun fast-casual places on Connecticut Ave.

Hi all--two weeks ago I asked where to take prom dresses to donate and a bunch of you answered. Gurus suggested St. Anthony's bridal in Rockville and after checking out their website, I liked their missions and went this past weekend. Huge storeroom filled to the top with bridal gowns, accessories and another room filled with prom dresses. I'm not part of the organization, but I liked what I saw and they were so appreciative of my donations! So those of you looking to do some spring cleaning, this is your place. Thanks!

Thanks for the first-hand report.

Lake Accotink and Burke Lake aren't too far from Falls Church. Both have a carousel and mini-gulf and Burke Lake has a train! Mason Neck is a little bit farther, but you can follow an not-too-long trail (not with a stroller) and look for eagles over the Potomac. Huntley Meadows in Alexandria is a lot of fun, too.

Y'all are the best. Seriously.

Look up Fairfax County's website - Burke Lake is great, and there are several county parks that have little nature centers all over the place.

Another recommendation for Burke Lake.

I haven't gone yet, but my boyfriend and I have tickets for a "Sundate" (their phrasing) at the Phillips Collection. $25 per person gets you museum entrance, a cocktail and dessert at the cafe, and a ticket to the music preformance of the afternoon. I thought it was a great idea!

Great idea. The cafe, if folks don't know, is being run by Tryst, so you know the dessert is going to be great. Another idea along the same lines: Sunday concerts at the National Gallery of Art. They're at 6 p.m., and you the cafe generally offers a chance for a little pre-concert aperitif.

Thank you for the brewery tour recommendation last week - we are going to attempt it this Saturday! And suggestions for post tours activities? I feel like that 4-8pm on a Saturday is hard to find something to do other than dinner and drinks. Thanks!

Hmm. If you end at DC Brau, you're not far from Union Market. I'd go there, browse the vendors, grab some oysters ... The weather's supposed to be nice on Saturday, and it's it's also a short drive from either Chocolate City or DC Brau to the National Arboretum. 

I hate to say it, but I highly recommend Trump Vineyards as well - good wine, nice patio, and great view.

Ha. Yes, all carried over from the old Kluge Estate winery that was there for ages; Kluge was  a premier winery, so it makes sense that Trump Winery would be lovely. It opened in 2011. I'm kind of shocked I haven't made it over, but I definitely will now. Thanks!

Clemyjontri in McLean or this new one in Franconia.

Hope this parent has a lot of time to take their kids exploring. Thanks again.

We are hoping to have a party with 30-40 friends somewhere outside in the District on a Saturday afternoon in the next few weeks. If there are any parks that would allow us to rent a pavilion and BYOB that's our first choice (but seems like it's against the law), but an outdoor bar/patio would also work. We prefer the Shaw/U Street area, but can go anywhere Metro accessible. Nothing too fancy, but a nice place to chat and hang with friends. Any suggestions?

It's against the law to rent space in Rock Creek Park, Meridian Hill or Hains Point and BYOB. Not saying it doesn't happen, just saying it's illegal.

Along Shaw/U Street, I'd say the roof at 1905 would be a good bet. Maybe the back patio at Dodge City, or the front patio at American Ice. 

I've also seen large groups taking over the roofdeck at H St Country Club and the beer garden at Biergarten Haus lately.

National Arboretum? I also seem to remember someone saying that they got married in one of the gardens around the National Cathedral. And I thought there was a local monastery that had a nice wedding place (can't remember the name).

Thanks - again I think you need a permit for the National Aboretum (and to take photos with a nice camera or have them professionally taken also requires a permit, so be aware). The Bishop's Garden at the National Cathedral is stunning, as is the Franciscan Monastery.  By the way, flip through this gallery and see if you don't come up with a few places that strike your fancy. I would also look into the back side of the Lincoln Memorial, where tourists seem to rarely venture, and there are some pretty steps. I feel like all of these places would be lovely, in the early morning, at 10 a.m. or earlier, because you won't yet get the heavy tourist presence. Congrats!

Tortilla Cafe also has MOST excellent tamales.

They do indeed. Such an unassuming looking place from the outside.

OP, here. Thanks for all the suggestions--this should keep us occupied. :)

Glad we could help.

Tabard Inn was the perfect suggestion, I was kicking myself for not thinking of it. BUT I just called and they are all booked up. It is a busy time. Dupont circle would be a really good place to go though, because we live in Foggy Bottom and thats a really nice walk with lots of stuff to look at. Any other suggestions for there that would fit the bill. I also should have mentioned my dad is pretty hard of hearing so nothign too loud. I love Lincoln but the music is always so loud.

Fritz and I both say Firefly. American food, a really quirky, talky interior, and in the neighborhood that lends itself to taking a walk afterward.

My husband will be celebrating a BIG birthday (ends with a zero and its' over 50). We want to celebrate with about 40 friends and family at a restaurant that features a private room (and, if possible with music). We enjoy Maggiano's in Northern Virginia, but live near Columbia and do not want to trek to Virginia or G'town. Suggestions.

Clyde's in Columbia has a private room overlooking the lake, which would be nice. You could also try the Victoria Gastropub, which has a fun English pub feel -- there's an event room that's big enough, or you could reserve the outside patio if it's warm enough.

I like the Ale House in Columbia, which has two private areas with their own bars, but they're not separate rooms, if that makes a difference.

It looks like Saturday is going to be a great day to spend outdoors. I'd like to spend time with my date in the sun, outside the city. An outdoor concert would be ideal, an easy hike / photo adventure would be fun. Maybe an event or just a picnic in the park. Any suggestions for something no more than an hour's drive from the DC area?

Check out a few of the ideas I posted for a reader in a date rut above - I think there's a lot there to try.

Hi Gurus, I have a lot of family coming to town for my graduation from the Corcoran in a couple of weeks. Places like Blue Duck Tavern and Bourbon Steak sound delicious, but are a little over our price range since we have such a big group. There will probably be 14 of us (no kids) with varying tastes including a vegetarian. Any suggestions? Graduation is at DAR Constitution Hall. Thanks for your help!

Congrats! Actually, our cover story for tomorrow is about restaurants that can accomodate large groups for events like graduations and rehearsal dinners (though 14 people should be pretty manageable). You're close to Founding Farmers and District Commons, which would fit your budget, and across the Ellipse from you is the Hamilton and Chef Geoff's, which can also take big groups and are reasonably-priced, all-American food.

Okay, we have to wrap it up. Thanks for all your questions and suggestions. (Especially for the NoVa parks, which I will admit to knowing nothing about.)

Remember to check the GOG Blog, as we'll be answering some of the questions that we didn't have a chance to answer today. Have a good weekend, and we'll see you back here next week.

Oh, before I forget. The woman who wanted "Liz and Dick" to watch with her girlfriends can have this jewel of a DVD. Email fritz.hahn@washpost.com and I'll hook you up.

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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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