Got Plans? On Love columnist Ellen McCarthy joined the Going Out Gurus to discuss dating ideas, relationships, Valentine's Day and the Washington D.C. scene.

Feb 09, 2012

Got Plans? On Love columnist Ellen McCarthy joined the Going Out Gurus to discuss dating ideas, relationships, Valentine's Day and the Washington D.C. scene.

Hi everyone, and welcome to our pre-Valentine's Day chat. There are LOTS of February 14 questions in our queue, from date-night restaurants to bars for singles to Valentine's Day ettiquite, and we're ready to tackle them.

Joining us for this special Got Plans? is Ellen McCarthy, who writes the "On Love" column in the Sunday Style section and frequently covers love, relationships, weddings and vegan cupcakes for the Post.

Coincidentally, tomorrow's Weekend cover story is all about dating -- our picks for first-date destinations, the best desserts for two, and even places to pop the question. (You should probably wait until at least date #4 for that one.) You can get a preview here.

Okay? Let's go.

Trying to figure out where to meet people - it seems like the singles scene in Washington is either 20-ish fresh college grads, or late 40-ish people. I'm in my late 30s and have no idea where singles my age are spending their time! Ideas?

It might sound like a cliche, but I'd focus on activities that interest you.  If you like running, join a running club, if you're into public service, find a volunteer group.  You'll find mature, like-minded people there. As for nightlife, I'd focus on more upscale places that attract a mature crowd. Try the bar at the Ritz in Georgetown or in the W Hotel. 

Other suggestions for singles in their 30's?

I'm reading a book about how to get dates. Evidently, it helps if I have loyal aides hide the intern in the car. Any other good ideas?

Get elected president.  Maybe this is your year!

Send 'em a New York cockroach from the Bronx Zoo! http://www.bronxzoo.com/roach/?utm_source=2012-02-Wildlife-Matters

My top Bronx Zoo-related Valentine's Day gift would be a high-end glass cutter for our favorite cobra.

Closer to home, our own zoo allows you to adopt a Madagascar hissing cockroach, a naked mole rat, a flamingo or even a pirhana for your Valentine. All the info is on the National Zoo Web site.

My boyfriend and I just started dating about a month ago. He has plans for us for V-Day, and says he doesn't expect much from me since it's mainly the guy's job to make it a good V-Day. Is that true? I feel like I should get him or do something, but I don't know what...this is the first time I'm dating anyone at Valentine's Day, so I'm especially clueless. I'm also not one to bake or cook.

At least he's laid out his expectations, right?  That being said, if you really like this guy there's no reason not to make him feel special.  A card that relates to an inside joke or a book you know he wants would be appropriate.  It doesn't have to be big, just personal.

don't you think valentines day is a bit contrived? i hate feeling forced to go out and do something. why can't we celebrate our love as we will?

I'm sure we all have something to say about this, but I'm very anti-Valentine's Day. Nothing to do with any particular person, but it's as bad as New Year's Eve. The restaurants are overcrowded, the expectation levels are so high, the gifts ...

I think you've got at least 362 other days a year to show your love for someone (don't do it on New Year's Eve or St. Patrick's Day). Just treat Valentine's Day like any other night.

I second that emotion.

What if your significant other has no real "interests" in the strictest sense of the word? What activities should we partake in?

Oh, I bet he/she does have interests.  You just have to pay attention. When do they seem happiest? 

My wife and I (40-somethings) were planning to do dinner at BlackSalt for Valentine's Day. Any suggestions for what we should do after?

An evening drive around the monuments?   It's easy to forget how beautiful this city is. 

I usually hibernate all winter but the weather wont be so terrible this weekend that I cant drive anywhere so what suggestions do you have for indoor daytime activities for an early 30s couple.

You're in luck, with cold weather headed this way this weekend, we just put together a great list of our fave winter-weather escapes. Can I recommend Spa World, if you're adventurous? It's an indoor fantasyland of saunas and Korean food, and in the hot rooms, you can hang with your honey. In silence. In 160-degree heat. If you wanted something more active, there's rockclimbing at Sportrock, minigolf and duck tacos at H Street Country Club (you can get started early). Or hit an indoor pool near you. I actually had way too much fun at one last night.

I have been tasked with planning a charity happy hour somewhere in DC. Are there certain bars/restaurants that are known for being amenable to this sort of request? Thanks!

These happen so frequently that almost every bar in DC is familiar with this request -- and usually happy to accomodate. Cafe Citron has a nice upstairs room you can reserve. You could also try Darlington House.

The Passenger hosts a different charity group every Monday and gives 10 percent of happy hour proceeds to the selected cause, so I'd definitely talk to them.

The downstairs lounge at Laughing Man Tavern is another popular spot for charity fundraisers, since it's basically free to reserve. Science Club, too.

Hi, all. My SO and I have a tradition of celebrating Valentine's Day with heart-shaped foods. We got a heart-shaped Papa John's pizza 2 years ago, heart-shaped burgers at Z-Burger last year...you get the idea. Any suggestions for us this year? Cheesy, non-traditional, and/or non-fancy suggestions would be particularly appreciated. Thanks, <3

You could try cooking this year.  Do a heart-shaped lasagna and  a giant heart-shaped chocolate chip cookie.  Or whatever.    And then carry the tradition on to other holidays... George Washington's silhoutte for Pres Day, Shamrocks for St. Patty's, etc.

Ok, I know I'm old and all, but hear me out. What the heck is bottle service? Do you just go to a night club (I'm talking about POV, which used to be the modest rooftop bar of the Hotel Washington) and they bring you a $60 bottle of Grey Goose for $300? Do you get mixers? Do you get your own personal bartender or do you have to make your own martinis? Do you get vermouth and olives? I just don't get it. Please explain.

It varies from place to place, but it's usually something like this: You agree to spend a minimum of $300-$500-$1,000 at a nightspot. In exchange, they give you a table for the night and admission for a certain number of people. You either order bottles of liquor a la carte (say, $250 for a bottle of Patron, $200 for a bottle of Ciroc) or get several bottles as part of a set-price package (maybe two bottles of vodka and a bottle of champagne). The bar provides mixers; you generally pour your own drinks. The advantage is that you have a place to sit down and relax, and you don't have to wait for drinks. If you want another one, you pour it yourself. (And yes, if you want to sit down and pour your own gin and tonics, you could stay home and do that on your couch. I've heard that before.)

Now, this isn't always the case. Sometimes you just have to hit a minimum tab to get a table. If you do this while ordering martinis from the bar instead of ordering a bottle of Grey Goose, then that's fine. The bar doesn't care where the money comes from.

Every year my sister holds an anti-valentines party inviting over a few single friends, we watch a movie (Fatal Attraction?) eat and debate the lack of men in our lives. Any movie suggestions this year? or perhaps there's somewhere other than her apt. we could go have fun?

Why not try the Rock and Roll Dance Party at the Black Cat?  It always gets a good, fun crowd.

I think it's funny that we all complain about Valentine's Day (especially my husband!) When I lived in Japan, I had to celebrate Valentine's Day by providing home-made chocolate treats to every single male co-worker in my office, which was customary - all the women had to do it. Then, a month later on March 14th, the men were supposed to reciprocate on "White Day" though of course they never did. Ugh. All I have to do for Valentine's Day now is decide what flavor cupcake to bring home!

Ha.  Perspective is everything.

what should i do if my girlfriend is going up to see her family this weekend? Should i go with her or stay here in DC?

Hmm, depends where her parents live. A penthouse apartment on the Upper West Side of New York? Probably beats freezing here. But if you're asking what's keeping you here, there is a lot going on this weekend, from the D.C. Record Fair to the reopened Bar Pilar, to the Barleywine Festival at Mad Fox, to heckling the runners at the Cupid's Undie Run.

I and my friends are all in your demographic. I don't know where you live, but most of us live in areas where you can buy a condo or modest house suitable for single people (not family homes). So, Arlington (Clarendon and Shirlington in particular) as well as Columbia Heights and the U Street to Logan Circle area are big spots. Hangouts also include the H St Corridor. Look for fun and trendy, but not college kid or family-oriented, areas and places to meet people your age! And definitely use Meet Up. There are a million fun groups there. Sadly, I've recently moved to the Philly area where there -really- aren't any late 30s/early 40s people to hang out with or date. People marry much younger here and have kids, so there's a real gap in my age range. I miss DC!

My advice for people in their 30s is always to look for places that have really cheap drink specials, and then cross those off their list.

Clarendon and the 14th Street corridor have a number of places catering to 30somethings: Pearl Dive, Eventide, El Centro, Liberty Tavern and Bar Pilar are good places to start.

Hi Gurus, I have been unemployed for the past two months. I spend a lot of time applying to jobs and prepping for interviews, but I want to make the most of the rest of my free time during the day. I have already begun volunteering, checking out some museums and the free shows at the Kennedy Center. But I'm starting to run dry on ideas. What else can I do during the day, by myself, that's free or low cost? Also, I do have a car so I am open to day trips. Thanks!

Oh my gosh,  DC is such a great town to have this problem.  When else are you going to have time to really enjoy all the museums and historic places around town.  Treat yourself like a tourist a couple times a week and explore different exhibits/attractions.

Hi Gurus, I've been invited to an Embassy 'Ball'. Only problem: I don't have a ball gown. (I imagine they're those big poufy skirted sleeveless dresses.) Any idea where I can pick one up, ummm, fairly cheap? It's highly unlikely I'll get much use out of it. I thought I could get away with a long skirted prom dress, but they aren't out yet.

Try one of the great second hand stores around town -- Secondi on Conn. Ave or Current on 14th.  But don't think you have to wear some big taffeta thing.  A chic knee-length dress is totally fine.

When is the next Peach Pit event and what's the location like?

The next Peach Pit -- an all-'90s pop dance party with DJ Matt Bailer -- is next Saturday, Feb. 18. It has become a fixture on the calendar at DC9, a no-frills rock-and-roll club with room to dance, vinyl booths for taking a break and a cool rooftop deck.

Hey there GOGs. After being married to my wife for 32 years I'd like to do something different/unique for Valentine's day. We always do the dinner out, flowers, candy routine, so I'm hoping you guys could suggest something fun and different to do. Perhaps something with dancing, or music? But any other ideas would be welcome. Thanks!

A trip to the Carlyle Club in Alexandria might be fun.  They have a swing band and a dance floor. You'll feel like you've been transported back to a different era.

Hi there, My younger brother and I both attended college in DC, so by now we've done all the big touristy things with our parents here - visited the monuments, most of the museums, etc. They're visiting for a day on the 25th for his 22nd birthday later this month and we can't really think of anything to do. Do you have any suggestions for a fun event going on, or a lesser known attraction we could check out? I know that's pretty broad but we're up for anything. Thanks!

You're in luck, the weekend of the 24th is the first weekend for a cool new exhibit at Artisphere, "Frida Kahlo: Her Photos," which will make its only U.S. stop here. That's a must that weekend, and honestly, afterward, I'd zip over to the Kennedy Center afterward to see whoever is playing the Millennium Stage. (Or maybe make a visit to the new MLK Memorial.) And end the day with an awesome dinner -- you should make reservations now for Birch & Barley,  which is just the kind of place you can take your parents, but they can feel hip.

My husband and I are looking to try something new to get out of the regular go to restaurant routine. Do you have any recommendations for a first-time-friendly dim sum restaurant near the Verizon Center? Thanks!

It's not "authentic," per se, but The Source serves a contemporary, Asian-fusion dim sum brunch (you won't find barbecued lamb samosas or American Kobe Sliders on too many dim sum menus) on Saturdays, and that might be a good place to start if you've never had pick-and-choose experience before. The same can pretty much be said for Ping Pong Dim Sum, a London-based chain with two D.C. outposts. For something more authentic, you would be better off at Tony Cheng's

We have tickets to the Caps game tonight. Is there anywhere in the area we can get oysters before the game? We thought about Old Ebbitt, but it's a bit of a hike. Anywhere closer? If not, where else would you recommend going for a causal fun dinner?

Clyde's and Old Ebbitt are part of the same corporation, so you can get a very similar (but not as extensive) raw bar right at Gallery Place. Even better: Get there early for the Oyster Hour Happy Hour, with half-price oysters and other raw-bar foods from 3 to 6 p.m. and again from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Where to go after watching the awesome people running to the Capitol in their underoos? Walking distance (generous) is best since parking's a bear there.

The starting line is one block from the Tune Inn.

Hello. Do you know of a somewhat frou frou place in Northern VA that can host a bridal shower? It would need to accommodate 25 to 30 people and includes at least 1 child, maybe 12 years old. The majority of the guests are coming from out of town and are looking to not spend over $30. Is there anyplace that may host a cupcake decorating party or a tea room (other than the one in Aldie- already checked it out), or something else along those lines? The majority of inexpensive cooking/ decorating events at cooking classes and restaurants seem to be geared toward children and less than 15 people. Thank you.

Try Cookology in Sterling. You can combine a cooking class with the shower.

Hey gurus, any ideas for a few girls in their early 20s who want to party on Valentine's Day but in an anti-Valentine's way? maybe a bar that is having drink specials and will be full of cute single guys? No cover would be nice (a girl can dream)! We usually like to party somewhere on the Red Line or on U St.

There's a funny party at the Bottom Line -- the annual Shred Your Ex, Find Your Next bash -- on Saturday you might want to hit up. And another one on Saturday at Town Tavern, where they're declaring Cupid stupid and hosting an open bar from 8-10. As for Valentine's Day itself, Bar Pilar hosts a anti-Valentine's party, but probably isn't at your price point; you could always head to the Black Cat's rock-and-roll dance party. It's free, you can dance, and I suspect there will be a fair number of singles.

I have a friend visiting from out of town this weekend. Most of the restaurants I want to take him to don't take reservations. It hit me that people may be celebrating Valentine's Day this weekend as opposed to Tuesday. Do you think a lot of restaurants will be packed on Saturday with people out on Valentine's dates? If so, I may wind up just getting pizza and taking it home instead.

Nah,  come on, don't let VDay keep you at home.  Maybe avoid the fancy date spots, but you can still go get a great, fun  meal at Bar Pilar or Dangerously Delicious Pies or the like.

Every year I have wanted to go see the Oscar Shorts at the Archives but have never gotten there. I'm determined to make this year different! If I do go, how early would you recommend getting there? Is there a line? Do they sell out?

Let's make sure everyone hears this: Free tickets are distributed one hour before showtime. You must be in line at that time to get one. (So you can't send one person to get tickets for a group of four who can't get there in time.) Doors for the theater open 30 minutes before showtime. It almost always "sells out" while people are still in line.

In my experience, people are in line at least 90 minutes before the tickets are distributed. Bring a book. On the other hand, you could always pay to see the shorts at the West End Cinema.

My oldest, most dear friend from childhood is having a small destination in Napa this spring, so instead of the traditional shower & bachelorette party shenanigans, I surprised her with a weekend in DC. I'll be scanning the chat for fun ideas to flush out our weekend, but we do have several missions I could use your help with. Because she lives in a rinkydink town, she'd like to use this opportunity to find both some fancy underthings and a pair of cool, funky shoes - perhaps in a fun color - for her big day. Only catch is she's a size 11 - 11.5. Any suggestions of shops we could hit up for a bra lady or a shoe guy?

For lingerie, try Trousseau in Vienna.  And you'll be near Tysons Corner then, so you can fulfill all your friend's shoe shopping dreams. 

Ellen's right about Tysons and shoes. But I'll add one stop in particular. As unlikely as it sounds, the shoe department at Nordstrom's is insane. High-end boutique shoes, indie designers, all of it. (Says the staff shoe addict.)

I swear I heard somewhere that one of the DC museums was hosting a special exhibit about video games, but I can't seem to find the source / what museum it is. Any help from the experts? My boyfriend would LOVE this.

Sadly, you're going to have to wait until mid-March for the Art of Video Games at the American Art Museum, which I have to admit I'm kind of stoked about.

In the meantime ... how about a day trip to the National Pinball Museum, which recently relocated to Baltimore?

Do the Gurus know of any bars having any Anti-Valentine's Day parties for us single guys?

We haven't heard of any, but my gut says you should congregate where you're unlikely to encounter to couples. A bro tour at Port City. Top Golf in Alexandria. Whiskey tasting somewhere you can laugh at all the miserable-looking dudes shelling out hundreds of dollars for a "romantic" dinner.  Our own newsroom bros, Fritz, Justin Rude and Alex actually wrote about the best places for bro-mance; it should be full of good ideas.

FYI: Bar Pilar's kitchen is still closed, but the bar is open.

Yep. I was at Bar Pilar on Friday night, and wrote this blog post about it.

The owner tells me the target reopening date for the kitchen is the end of the month.

Scheduled to do brunch at Brasserie Beck - have you been, reviews? Also, could use some metro-accessible daytime activities for Saturday. Thanks!

I'd put Brasserie Beck in the solidly dependable category. You'll rarely be disappointed but you're unlikely to be doing cartwheels, either. Better if you're going to have a brunch beer or two from the extensive list of Belgians. It's the kind of place I'd go with my parents, but probably wouldn't be my first choice with a group of friends. Mussels on the brunch menu is always a strong argument in a place's favor, if you ask me. 

Long story short- I offered to help plan a baby shower for a co-worker, and now have suddenly become the hostess! I can' afford, or have time, to make an entire spread for 25 people, so I'm considering turning it into a potluck- I'd make a couple of main dishes, but have others bring sides/dessert. Is this totally tacky? Most showers I've been to , the hostess has provided everything.

I think people understand.  You can get a ham or turkey and just ask people to bring a side dish or dessert to share.

I'm going on a first date this Saturday afternoon and wanted to do something different than the usual museums (other person is new to DMV, but been to the museums)? Any events going on that are not outside and possibly Metro accessible? We can go to MD or VA too.

How about the zoo?  And then a cozy drink after.

Hello Gurus. I am searching for a 'go-to' place for cocktails. I'm located between Courthouse and Rosslyn, but most of Arlington is very metro-accessible. I went to Eventide last weekend and was disappointed with their overly ambitious drinks. What are you some of your favorite places in Arlington? Thanks!

Curious: What made you disappointed with the "overly ambitious" drinks? Have to admit I haven't been to the new bar yet, but have heard good (and somewhat mixed) things from cocktail-loving friends.

Lyon Hall has a solid, not-too-extensive list of classics, and EatBar is fun.

I've accepted that I'm going to die alone. So... Any interesting things happening on Sunday?

You're not going to. But perhaps it'd be good to do something that can change your perspective on life.  Try volunteering at a soup kitchen or spending some time in nature on a long hike.  Or go see a good movie.

Is Cafe Milano really worth the hype or are there better spots than serve Italian food?

Well... it's partly about the food and partly about the scene.  It doesn't usually make Seitsema's lists, if that tells you anything.

Ask them to bring the recipe with it, and you turn it into a gift for the co-worker. Especially if you ask for easy to do recipes that are fit for the new mom.

Oh, very cool idea!

Chocolate sounds good either way, but she just got back from a trip and I'd like to be able to hold a conversation. American Indian or Breaux? We're both in NoVa but closer to the District.

Breaux's Chocolate and Cabernet tasting. Because I suspect American Indian will be mobbed with rambunctious children. But also because I think a getaway to that area is a great idea, and gives you time to catch up on the road. If you are looking for something closer and less intense, you could always just head to Co Co. Sala and sit at the bar, or the Artfully Gifts and Chocolate in Virginia.

What's the best lowkey option for going out to dinner in Arlington on Valentines Day (yes, I know that's an oxymoron). My husband and I just decided we didn't want to cook, and are looking for a fun and easy dinner date. No dressing up and no special menus. Our first thought was Rustico, but it's booked. Any other ideas?

Why not just eat at the bar at Rustico? Seriously, I do that all the time. No reservations required. Other options: Pho 75, Ray's Hellburger, the bar at Eatbar (again, no reservations taken/needed).

Hi Gurus (and Ellen)! My bro not only just landed a great new job in NY and is moving to Brooklyn in a week, but his birthday's also on Saturday (turning 25). I've been tasked with finding a place for our small fam ("Party of Four") to go for a celebratory dinner. We all love seafood, and prefer either Mediterranean or raw bar leanings...also would like a place with a more fun, young atmosphere (I'm 26, and the parents are, in their words, "hip!"). In lieu of DC institutions like Kinkead's, Jaleo, etc., I'd rather go for somewhere fresh and close to nightlife so we can go out sans 'rents afterwards. Thank you in advance!

Pearl Dive seems like a lay-up in this instance, though you can't make reservations. What I'd do is get there an hour early, put your name on the list and head upstairs with your brother (and parents too, if they're into hanging out at nicely-appointed bars) to Black Jack for drinks, classic movies projected on the bar's brick wall and yes, bocce. They'll call you when your table is ready downstairs, and if you're feeling peckish you can have oysters at the bar. 

With the Undie Run's two bars (Pour House and Capitol Lounge) at capacity, what's your best suggestion for meeting up with non-runners afterward? I'd love for my dear friends to come spectate, but feel bad asking them to show up and then not being able to hang with them afterward. I've ended up at Good Stuff the past two years (which has been wonderful - thanks, Spike!) but was looking for another idea.

Like I said earlier, the Tune Inn is one of my favorite bars in D.C., and it's really close to the starting line. But you could just wander a few blocks down to Barracks Row or Eastern Market for Boxcar Tavern, Lola's or Tunnicliff's -- any of those should be able to accomodate small groups.

Thanks for the suggestion. I have been doing that now for a while and hit up all the major tourist spots, many more than once. Do you have any ideas that are out of the box? Something that wouldn't have occurred to me by now, two months in.

Have you spent an afternoon in the rainforest-like environs of the Zoo's Amazonia exhibit, watching free-roaming monkeys leap through trees over your head and pirhannas swim through the water below you?

Have you toured the humid "subtropical" room at the Botanic Gardens, looking at the colorful plants from around the world? Or wandered through the Arboretum, which is still an impressive sight in the middle of winter?

Hi Gurus, For those who are interested in swing dancing for Valentine's Day, may I add a shameless plug? Gottaswing's Have a Heart Hop tomorrow night at the Dulles Hilton would definitely be a change of pace. There will be a live band, a silent auction to raise money for two local charities (Lucky Dog Animal Rescue and the Honor Flight Network), desserts, performances, and of course the dance floor will be open all night. The Hilton dances get a good crowd and a range of ages and dancing ability (there's a beginner lesson). I've gone to the Have a Heart Hop for the past several years (as a single, but I know lots of couples who go, too), and it's a lot better than the old dinner and a movie!

I'll second this -- Have a Heart Hop, with a live '50s/'60s cover band, was one of our picks of the week in the latest Nightlife Agenda column.

Do you know anything about the programs at the DC Improv. Someone suggested the group as a good place to meet people. Just wondering if the all knowing gurus had some insight too.

Do you mean Washington Improv Theater? The Improv is a comedy club, but WIT is a theater company that offers classes in the fine art of not being so uptight.  The cool thing is you check it out first by attending a free workshop (and I recommend checking out one of their shows, too -- they're a lot of fun). Another one to try is Speakeasy. Both are not only good ways to get to meet people, but also really emphasize letting loose, being more fun and less concerned with what people think -- REALLY important skills to have if you're trying to meet people for dating and friendship.

I'd like to send a little something to my boyfriend at the office on Vday - weird or ok for guys to receive gifts at work? Any thoughts on what to send?

It depends on the guy.  If he gets embarrassed easily, I'd wait and give it to him in person. Unless you *want* to make him blush...

I'll agree with Ellen here. Depending on how long you've been dating, you should know your guy -- would he be embarassed? Would he think it was funny? If someone sent me a card or a pizza or a nice bottle of wine or something -- sans mylar balloons and singing valentine -- I'd be perfectly cool with that. But if his office is a little uptight, I wouldn't chance it.

To add to Fritz's pizza suggestion - which I kind of love because it's hilarious - Fuel on K Street is doing heart-shaped pizzas for V-day. I think that would be an awesome boyfriend gift.

Hi GoGs! My s.o. and I are going to make a fantastic dinner on Valentine's Day and will eat it .. wait for it.. at the dining table! Nothing super fancy or expensive - just celebrating our relationship and enjoying each other's company. I have a question: Our friend lives in College Park and he's been wonderful about hopping on the Metro on weekends to hang out (even with all single tracking!). But we want to switch it up and meet near his neighborhood for a change. Any suggestions on where to go and do fun things on Saturday during the day and at night? We're up for almost anything (except bowling, friend has carpal tunnel). If you can recommend places to eat as well, that would be great! Friend has a car, but bonus points if he doesn't have to drive. Thank you thank you!

Okay, so this involves a little bit of driving, but you know what would be fun? An afternoon tour of all the little taquerias around Riverdale and Hyattsville: Taqueria Tres Reyes, La Placita, R&R, La Fondita. I would be up for that in a second.

Hi GOGs! Hubby and I are heading to the International Wine and Food festival on Sunday and looking for good options nearby for food (since last year they had nothing but crackers and cheese basically for food). We don't mind making this our Valentines Dinner, so something nice, but not TOO expensive would be nice, near the Regan building (or metro accessible). We are early 30's and I am allergic to fish and nuts :) if that helps! :)

Oof, I'm surprised you're going back after the crackers and cheese last year! Near the Reagan building and cheap, you could try Chef Geoff's, or Hill Country (which isn't that nice, but shouldn't be slammed with V-day'ers). Againn isn't too far of a walk; and finally,  I'd add Cafe du Parc to that. If you can, call ahead and see if anyone's taking reservations, just to be sure you have a spot.

Hi, I'm looking for first date ideas in the evening (and probably midweek) that allow good conversation but don't focus on sitting at a table and staring at each other like an interview. I like to be active, but it's dark, cold and not conducive to a stroll anywhere. Museums are closed, music venues too loud, and hockey tickets are too expensive. Please help an online dater stay motivated!

I hear you. Trust me. My ideas would include skee-ball, trivia nights, a happy hour visit to the National Portrait Gallery or American Art Museum (open until 7 p.m.) with a glass of wine in the courtyard first, a DIY-beer tasting with the little four-ounce beer tastings at ChurchKey or Meridian Pint, the free wine tasting happy hour at Bistrot Lepic every Tuesday night ...

I tried this at Meridian Pint last year and loved it. Any places have Infinium? Maybe I'll be lucky enough that they're on the red line?

The only place I've seen (or, I should say, noticed) Infinium -- a collaboration between Sam Adams and Weihenstephan that's aged champagne-style -- this year is ChurchKey. A 750 mL bottle will set you back $40.

Thanks for joining us for our 90-minute Valentine's Day chat, and thanks to "On Love" columnist Ellen McCarthy for joining us to talk about dating and romance.

If you need more ideas for Valentine's Day -- including places that are throwing anti-Valentine's Day parties -- check out Lavanya's Weekend section cover story and watch our blog tomorrow.

See you next week.

In This Chat
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.
Ellen McCarthy
Ellen McCarthy writes about weddings, love and relationships for the Post. The On Love page appears each Sunday in the Style section.
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