Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Guide

Jul 31, 2014

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

Hi everyone. A glorious day outside right now, so I'll start by teasing tomorrow's Weekend column on three places to have happy hour outside in Montgomery County. You might also want to check out our list of things to do this weekend, ranging from the always-awesome Lego Brickfair to the all-you-can-eat-and-drink Rickey Month party at Jack Rose.

How do you feel about Virgin FreeFest not returning to Merriweather this year?

Oh, and there are still a few places left in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video game contest at Atlas Arcade.

Let's go.

Hey! My friends and I are around 30 and for some strange reason want to do a bar crawl in Adams Morgan on saturday afternoon/night. Any advice for where we should go? Oh, and we plan on taking a drinking break to have some donburi (yum!) at some point. Any recs for 3-4 bars where we arent going to feel too old, but also get the Admo experience. And, as an FYI, Ive had 3 terrible experiences at Roofers Union, so I'de prefer to not stop there. (Bad service, bad drinks, bad clientele). Thanks!

My Adams Morgan highlights tour these days would include Jack Rose's rooftop (maybe the tiki bar?) for cocktails; Smoke and Barrel for tacos and craft beer; the rooftop deck at Mellow Mushroom, which I've found to be more laidback than either Jack Rose or Roofers Union; and a late-night game of darts or pool at Bedrock Billiards, which still feels pretty awesome and old-school, and gets more neighborhood regulars, even on weekends.

To mix it up, I'd toss in a stop at Bukom Cafe, where I had fun listening to reggae and drinking African beers after watching the World Cup, and the quirky Dr. Clock's Nowhere Bar, an indie-punk dive with cheap beer that may as well be hidden in plain sight on the strip.

I vaguely recall this having been brought up before, but I need some encouragement! I am a 30-something woman who has gone to movies by herself and had no problem with it, but there are certain activities - such as going out to eat or going to a concert - which to me scream "group activity" or "date." There are two shows coming up at the Hamilton that I'd *really* like to see, but for which I have not been able to find company. So, I'm considering just buying a ticket and going on my own. Words of advice or encouragement?

Just go! Especially the Hamilton, where you can see the show from solo bar seats in the balcony overlooking the stage, and you don't have to worry about feeling awkward sitting at a table by yourself. (Besides, it's a concert. Even on a date, you're going to be giving 99% of your attention to the act on stage instead of talking to someone, right?) I've gone to the Hamilton by myself before. You can order a snack or sushi at the bar before dinner, have a drink, watch the show, just like anyone else.

I go see bands, eat dinner at bars and hit up late-night dance parties by myself and see nothing wrong with it. If I can't find someone who wants to out on a Tuesday to see a band I want to hear, I'm not going to let that stop me. Life's too short.

Hi GOG! My cousin is visiting from Brooklyn with her family (staying near Thomas circle,) any recommendations for a fun dinner tonight? It will be five of us, including their preschooler. I'd like to suggest something interesting, maybe even sophisticated, yet child friendly. Since they're currently stroller-less we're also trying to stay close to their hotel or a metro stop. Thanks!

Hello! First of all, since you have a kid with you, I'd recommend going on the earlier side -- all of the restaurants in that neighborhood grow less child-friendly and get louder and busier as the evening goes on. In the 14th street neighborhood, the ultimate kid-friendly restaurants are Ted's Bulletin and Matchbox, but they're not exactly sophisticated. I'd head up the street to Compass Rose for elegant takes on global street food -- I saw some young families there on Friday, actually. You could also try to snag some sidewalk seating at BToo for mussels and frites, or Etto for charcuterie, wine and excellent pizza. South of Thomas Circle, there's also Lincoln for American small plates and kid-friendly mac & cheese, and Mio for Latin fare, which both offer patio seating.

Our family is looking for a fun place to take my daughter for dinner to celebrate her 21st birthday next week - any suggestions?

What a great question and a nice gesture. Our group suggestion here is that you should take your daughter out to someplace that she'd love but never be able to afford on her own.

If she studied abroad in France, for example, buy her dinner at Le Diplomat, where a bottle of wine can cost more than a 21-year-old's weekly dinner budget.  If she's a fan of sushi, try the tasting menu at Sushi Taro. Love brunch? Introduce her to the utterly divine dim sum at the Source.

Hahaha, that was me. I go everywhere alone now and also started up with a couple meetup groups to go hiking. That is the one activity that *should* be a group activity, because bears and snakes and sprained ankles. See you at The Hamilton!

Yeah, I'm not sure I'd go off hiking alone into the wilderness (or on the Billy Goat Trail) alone. One of the first things they teach you in Boy Scouts. But anywhere like the Hamilton, the Black Cat, 9:30 Club is great solo. (Some places aren't: I feel like the seating at Carlyle Club and Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club are geared more towards groups and couples than solo guests. At Carlyle, where I've been solo before, you tend to get stuck at the bar.)

I know you get this sort of question often, but my wife and I were DC/Arlington residents for 8 years and moved back to our native Nashville last fall. We are back in town next weekend and head back again this fall, so I wanted to know what's new on the bar and food scene that we can't get back home. To give you some guidance, off the top of my head, the things I miss most (aside from the museums and public transportation) are Indian (Rasika!)/Thai/Vietnamese food, the bewildering beer selection everywhere (was disappointed Bluejacket hadn't yet opened when we left), Union Market, and great mussels and frites all over. We'll be staying in Columbia Heights and Court House in our next two visits if that matters. Thanks!

Hello! Here's a checklist of newbies for you: Right Proper Brewhouse in Shaw for craft beers, Crane & Turtle in Petworth for minimalist French/Japanese fusion, Water & Wall for Asian fusion in Arlington; Science-fair liquid nitrogen ice cream at Nicecream in Clarendon, Thai street food at Soi 38 in the West End, a pot of mussels from Belgian chef Frederik de Pue at Menu MBK's bar, Doi Moi (if you get a chance to visit it while you lived here), and Rose's Luxury (if you have time to get there early and wait in line) for one of D.C.'s most unique culinary experiences. And Rasika is always worth a return visit! Hope that gets you started.

Hello, Gurus! I'm hoping to spend a few solo hours in Annapolis on Saturday. I've never been there before and wanted to see if you could recommend some fun things to do. I'm interested in history, shopping and good food.

Annapolis is full of history, shopping and good food: Shame about the rain in the forecast for this weekend. Here's a few ideas:

If you like historic houses and gardens, the Paca House is probably the best, with its gorgeous ponds and landscape. The Naval Academy Museum is free, and there are tours of the grounds that show off the various monuments and buildings, including John Paul Jones' grave. Lavanya and I are both fans of the Banneker-Douglas Museum, the African-American history museum that's celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

For shopping, there are a number of boutiques on Main Street that range from classic Annapolis preppy to stylish on-trend boots and dresses, if you avoid the tourist traps. Antique shops and indie stores line Maryland Avenue. The stuff on the dock itself is just okay. (Oooh, Lily Pulitzer and Sperry stores!) I also like West Annapolis,w hich isn't really walking distance from downtown, but has antique shops, vintage clothing boutiques, quilt stores and home decor shops a short drive from the State House.

For good food, head across the bridge to the Eastport neighborhood: Boatyard Bar and Grill has a fantastic raw bar amid nautical decor; Davis's Pub has one of the best crab cakes anywhere. Back in town, we also recommend ice cream at Storm Brothers, a glass of wine and a sandwich at Red Red Wine.

I'll pretty much go anywhere alone (I'm a 40s female), except for an amusement park, but I will say that I avoid shows at the Birchmere in the big room, because it's very awkward to try to find a seat at a table with groups of strangers.

Yes, that's a good point. Blues Alley will seat solo music lovers at tables that have 1 or 2 empty chairs, but they put you in a seat rather than making you walk around asking "Is this seat taken?" which cuts down on the awkwardness a bit.

Mostly because in the last couple of years I've justified missing sets at Firefly by guessing that they might end up on the Freefest circuit later (which worked perfectly with The Avett Brothers). I guess it's a good reason to check out All Things Go (no, not affiliated, just jonesing for fall music fun).

I'm actually excited about All Things Go's Fall Classic, if the Union BBQ and the Thievery set at VinoFest were anything to go by. It's great to have another large space for festivals in town -- and you don't have to spend two hours trying to get out of the parking lot after. (Plus, you know, Future Island and Bear Hands.)

Hi guys! My 18 year old cousin is coming into town this weekend and I'd like to take her out on the town Saturday night. Any suggestions for fun activities or places to eat/get dessert? It need not be a club.

One of my strategies with visiting family, unless they are very picky, is to always take them to a restaurant with cuisine they can't find in their hometowns. And with an 18-year-old, you'll want a place with a fun but sophisticated vibe that will make her feel older. That could mean Daikaya Izakaya for small plates of Japanese fare (or ramen downstairs), the Red Hen for Italian, the aforementioned Crane & Turtle for French/Japanese, Toki Underground (if you're willing to wait), Ethiopic if she's never had a chance to try Ethiopian food before, Compass Rose for street food from all over, and Domku for Scandinavian/Eastern European food.

I enjoyed the Hill Country pop-up in front of the Building Museum last year, but this year it has become a neighborhood eyesore. The porta-potties smell when you walk past on the sidewalk, and since it's only open a few days per week, it appears no one from Hill Country stops by the check on the space for days. Fences have been knocked over since at least Monday. I'm all for new uses for public space, but there's limited utility and I'll be glad when it's back to a green space that all can use. Do you know if it's been profitable with the reduced hours for Hill Country to continue it next year?

I'm also disappointed that the Backyard BBQ cut back to a Thursday-Saturday schedule instead of Wednesday-Sunday. I've been a few times since May and it seems like they're always busy, which wasn't the case last year. (I liked it on a Sunday afternoon, but man, it could be dead.) 

I don't walk by it often when it's closed, but knocked-down fences and reeking toilets aren't good for the neighborhood. I'd definitely share your concerns with both Hill Country and the Building Museum, since it's their space.

And, as I'm sure you know, it will revert to the Building Museum's lawn after Labor Day.

If the poster in question was looking at the Johnnyswim show, I'd be down to meet up!

Going to a happy hour with a friend and her 6 month baby tomorrow. I was thinking Hill Country BBQ at the Building Museum, but now they are predicting thunderstorms. Any suggestions for a baby friendly happy hour?

Hmmm. We -- okay, I -- tend to recommend outdoor spots for people with babies, both because the kids are starting to move around, and if the kid has a meltdown, it's easier to get them out of there. (Also, loud, crowded indoor happy hour bars aren't really the most kid-friendly places.)

Here's an idea: The Kogod Courtyard. There's a cafe serving wine and beer; it's covered, so it's all-weather; it's completely kid friendly; and the atmosphere is so much better than a dark, busy bar. 

If you want a more traditional happy hour spot, Comet Ping-Pong and 2 Amys are notoriously kid-friendly, and no one will give you an evil eye if the baby makes noise.

I have out of town friends from Madison, WI coming this Fri afternoon til Tues morning. What fun things do you suggest for a mom and teenage son?

If he's into sports, a Nats game is a good crowd-pleasing option. The Portrait Gallery tends to have something for everyone -- the teen might like the celebrity portraits in the "American Cool" exhibition, or the athletes in the sports section. There's bowling and bocce at Pinstripes in Georgetown, or kayaking on the Potomac. The Hill Country Backyard BBQ has a cool cookout vibe, and live music. Food-wise, a hungry teenage boy would be into the build-your-own falafel at the original Amsterdam Falafel, pizza and ping pong at Comet, Shake Shack (around the corner from the Portrait Gallery), or get him a chivito sandwich from Del Campo.

OP here - Aahhh, I am looking at the Johnnyswim concert! (And Jackopierce, as well.) Can you connect us in any way???

Sure, why not? Any and all readers going to Johnnyswim, please send your email addresses to fritz [dot] hahn [at] washpost [dot] com and I will send out a group email sharing contact info. You could reserve a Got Plans? table or something.

Now I want to know which shows the poster is going to - what better new friends to make than ones who share a good music taste? And if one of them is Red Wanting Blue and the Alternate Routes, the giant group that I'm going with will be hard to miss. Come find us and say hi!

Yeah, someone should just make a sign that says "GOT PLANS?" and put it on a table, and let everyone who reads the chat sit there and get to know each other.

I admire all of you for doing it. I have few friends (which I really don't mind until it's time to try a new restaurant or going to an event) and I have always felt so awkward because it always felt like I was trolling (I am a female) for some company (which was not the case but I would gladly talk to anyone who would talk to me at the bar). Anyway, no question. Just that I envy you.

This is the other side, which, as a male, I don't generally experience. I have female friends who only went solo to "familiar" bars like Galaxy Hut, Black Cat or Bedrock where they knew they wouldn't get hit on too much, or the bartender would take care of any unwanted attention. They wouldn't go to places like, I dunno, Rumors or Helix, if that makes sense.

Yes, I'm sad -- I've gone every year since it was (not-free) at Pimlico. It has been much harder to get tickets in recent years, though, due both to popularity and to problems with Ticketfly. (I haven't been able to get actually *free* tickets in several years.) So I won't miss that hassle, but I'd like to see them bring it back as a paid event in the future.

This is a pretty common answer. If you've been lucky enough to get the "free" tickets in recent years, it's rad. But it can be a hassle.

I'm going there for a whotography class field trip Saturday morning, but am free in the afternoon. Anything good nearby? Galleries? Restaurants?

Just a few blocks up from the cathedral is La Piquette, one of Tom Sietsema's new standbys for its classic French fare, as well as 2 Amys, a longtime neighborhood favorite for pizza. It's about a 15-20 minute walk, but the American University museum always has something interesting on its walls - check out the list of exhibitions here.

I know you get this question all the time, but where do the 30-somethings go to dance in the city on a Saturday night (top 40)? No offense to the 20-somethings, but sometimes its nice to be around your peers. Thanks, appreciate the help!

El Centro D.F., the Park at 14th, the Huxley, the upstairs at Mari Vanna late night, Dunya ... just a few ideas.

planning to go on a bike ride early Sunday morning starting in Vienna and heading east. You have any good places to stop along the way that offer great breakfast food? Or a wonderful craft beer selection?

For breakfast, we're having a tough time moving beyond the Vienna Inn, where you can order anything from eggs, country ham and home fries to chocolate chip hotcakes and still get change from $6. Not gourmet, but good.

Mad Fox Brewing Company in Falls Church would be beer destination -- such a neat little brewery and consistently good beer. Closer in, you can choose between the Westover Beer Garden and the Dogfish Head Brewpub in Seven Corners, both of which aren't far off the trail between mile markers 4 and 5.

Did you guys forget to post the code for today?

No, the chat hadn't ended yet. But since this seems as good of a place as any, we'll stop here. Thanks for joining and reading. Post Points Code is GG1556.

Cheers. See you next week, when it will already be August. (WHERE does the summer go?)

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The Going Out Guide
The Going Out Guide staff 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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