Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Gurus

Sep 06, 2012

The Going Out Gurus discussed concerts, rooftop happy hours, weekend getaways and other ideas for summer fun.

We know summer isn't officially over until Sept. 21, but with Labor Day behind us and the weather outside so gray and rainy, it feels like the end of the season.

But let's not get gloomy -- there's a weekend ahead of us. Got any big plans? Looking forward to the opening of Union Market, the D.C. Shorts Festival or tonight's Fashion Night Out? We're here to answer your questions and talk about what's happening around town. Here we go...

We're are headed into town to eat at Zantinya on Friday night to celebrate my birthday. Our reservations aren't until 9:15, so we are looking for something interesting to do in the area prior to that. I wanted to do the "Spy in the City" mission, but it is sold out. Do you have ideas for something equally quirky, I don't want to end up doing the typical "grab drinks at a bar" thing!

Why not hit up a screening at the DC Shorts Filmfest? There's a 7 p.m. show at E Street that should get out just in time to make your reservation. Here are more events tomorrow to consider as well.

My husband has been working in the Bay Area for the past four months and is here this weekend. I'd love to plan an awesome date night for Friday, showcasing our cool city, remind him what he is missing. He's working near Metro Center, and we are open to all types of food and drink but would love to avoid busting the budget. Any suggestions?

Believe me, I know from experience that it's pretty hard to convince someone living in gorgeous California that D.C. is awesome, haha. I think we best Cali any day with our diversity and amazing free museums. And also:  San Fran may have Alice Waters, but do they have The Luther? I don't think so.

So, I know this sounds like a cop-out, but I want to toss this one out to the readers, to hear what you we have in D.C. that you can't get in New York, L.A., Chicago or anywhere else in the world. Readers, where should they go to remind him how awesome D.C. is?

Hi Gurus, I probably should have wait to ask this question but can you tell me where is a good area to stay for New Year's Eve in Baltimore? We would like to make a hotel reservation. My husband and I have tickets to see Louie CK and thought we'll stay there and celebrate New Year. Also, do you know if there are any fireworks plan in Baltimore? Any activities? Thanks so much!

This has to be a record for Earliest New Year's Eve question. Baltimore's fireworks are at the Inner Harbor (and have been for decades), which is the most hotel-heavy part of town. No word on specific activities yet, but I'd probably stay at the Hotel Monaco, which is a short walk from the Inner Harbor but not quite in the center of the (very loud) action.

My birthday is in a few weeks on a Saturday and I'm looking for a good spot to meet up with friends. Preferably something with good music and martinis but nothing too crazy loud or crowded for our 30 something crowd. I usually hang in the 14th street area. If it has a TV or two with the football games on that night, the guys will be happy.

How many people are you expecting, and do think it's a situation where people will come and go, or are you looking for somewhere where you can show up/drink/dance together?

HI Gurus Any suggestions for good French food? My father, a devoted francophile, is coming to town this weekend and as requested french fare. We've done Lepic and Bistro Francais...any other suggestions?

I vote La Chaumiere or Montmarte. Both wonderful. Chatters, any more suggestions?

Dad's birthday is this weekend, and what he really wants is a slice of German chocolate cake. He'll only eat one slice, and no one else in the family likes German chocolate cake, so I'd rather not buy a whole cake. Any ideas on where I can get this slice? NW DC/Silver Spring is ideal, but I'm willing to go pretty much anywhere within/reasonably close to the beltway. Oh, and a cupcake is not an acceptable substitute.

I checked around, and it looks like you can get a big old slice of German chocolate cake (or the whole cake) from Cafe Mozart. Not a cupcake - a slice.

So, side note: Non baked-goods historian that I am, I called Cafe Berlin to see about finding your your cake. Well, the kind woman at the restaurant explained to me that German chocolate cake is not on the menu because it's not actually German - the fellow that created it was named Sam German.

Our date night is coming up and while this is awesome, we struggle finding things to do. Because of the time (5-8, not changeable), it seems too late for day things and too early for night things. Any suggestions? Thanks! (Oh, because of the time, we should probably try to stay in Montgomery County.)

You don't say when (or where) you're doing date night, but there are plenty of things you could try after work in Montgomery County, even if you want to avoid hitting the same-old happy hours.

VisArts in Rockville has happy hours and performances on its rooftop, and a full slate of art exhibitions (and, occasionally, classes in that time). Strathmore also has a cafe, a gallery and a number of special events dotting the calendar. For example, when Pat McGee plays at the end of the month, there's a pre-concert tailgate (beginning at 5:30) with beer, barbecue and music.

And, to go with our summer's-almost-over theme, you could always just meet at the Bethesda Crab House and crack a dozen local crabs. (That's my idea of the perfect date.)

What about a bike ride along the Mall and picnic at Hanes Point?

Would be lovely, especially if it cooled down a bit this weekend...

Any suggestions for vegan food in Kingstowne Alexandria Area?

You wouldn't be too far from Loving Hut in Falls Church, which we just reviewed, and which I like a lot (mostly for the Southeast Asian food, including pho). Another option in Warrenton is Black Bear Bistro, which has a cool mixed menu of meat dishes and vegan takes on classic American food. Like a fried green tomato sandwich, or vegan shepherd's pie.

Hope you guys can help - my girlfriends and I are in our early 30s, where can we go to meet age appropriate men? We've been all over the area (Chinatown, U street, Clarendon) and it seems like every bar we go to is filled with youngins. What would you recommend for a Saturday night?

I'll toss this one out to the crowd. 30-something guys? Where are you hiding?

A walk along the mall in the evening. No place in the world as breathtaking and patriotically (hope that's a word) as the Mall when the sun is going down and the tourist population is less. A walk before a nice dinner in the area.

Great idea! Love the Lincoln Memorial and MLK Memorial after dark. And now is a fabulous time to visit: The Reflecting Pool just opened this week (anyone who tried to camp out there for fireworks the past couple of years knows the construction site was a serious eyesore).

For the poster who's trying to find a French restaurant for his Francophile father, I'd recommend Le Refuge in Old Town. It's family-owned and operated, charming, and reasonably priced. It's one of our Old Town faves!

I'll see Le Refuge and raise L'Auberge Chez Francois.

My best friend is quite the foodie and I'd like to do something special for her birthday at the end of September that will be fun for her and economical for everyone else (me). She also likes rooftoops and outdoorsey things in general. Do you have any ideas appripriate for a 30 something foodie on a budget? Cooking classes? personal chefs? Restaurants? Something a little out of the ordinary dinner with friends would be nice.

I've done cooking and mixology classes at Culinaerie, and would recommend it. (They offer everything from knife skills to French cooking for couples. Check the schedule.) Living Social has been coming hard with wine tastings, pop-up dinners and other events at its F Street headquarters, so I'd also look into that.

I I saw Hill Country had giant slices for sale last week. Haven't had that specific cake there, but the other desserts I have had there were pretty good. Think it might be $7 a slice.

I haven't had dessert at Hill Country -- usually too stuffed on barbecue, Shiner and whiskey to think about cake.

Speaking of Hill Country, though, did anyone go watch the Cowboys there last night? Curious how it went.

I moved from NoVa to the Silver Spring area this year, and with football season approaching, I realized that Arlington, etc., seems to particularly have a number of sports bars where I can get a beer, half-decent food, and know that every game is on (10+ TVs). Where is my best option to replicate this experience in southern Montgomery County, between Silver Spring, Bethesda, Rockville, etc.? Or am I stuck venturing back into DC?

The best sports bar in Montgomery County for the all-around experience you're looking for is Caddie's on Cordell in Bethesda -- tons of TVs, decent bar food, cheap beer. Union Jack's is a close second, I think. Silver Spring could use a good sports bar -- something better than Galaxy.

But you can also "make do" with fewer screens at Rock Bottom Brewery, which has good beer and a couple of projection screens, or Barking Dog.

Hi Gurus, thanks for taking my question! I'm having a very small daytime wedding with only around 12 family members and friends on a Friday. I'd like to take everyone to a nice lunch afterward to celebrate. Can you suggest any restaurants in the DMV that would be appropriate for such an occasion? I'm more concerned about great food and a fun atmosphere than about impressing anyone.

Congratulations! I love the idea of a small wedding, and looking for lunch, rather than dinner means you'll have a intimate experience, and not have to worry as much about how you'll fit 12. We were thinking Blue Duck Tavern (which has at least one communal-style table and gets nothing but raves from the folks we know); if your crowd might be amenable to Indian food (and I get it, not all are),   Rasika West End does a cool lunch scene and has space in their library area for bigger groups. And finally, Sou'wester, because, come on, that view. Good luck and best wishes to you!

Hey Gurus, any tips on which bars will be showing the convention tonight with the volume turned up? Bonus if there are food or drink specials. Thanks!

I talked about this a bit in a blog post yesterday -- most of your Capitol Hill bars (Capitol Lounge, Union Pub, Lounge 201, Bullfeathers) will have the president's speech on with sound. Bullfeathers also has a happy hour that begins at 10.

Off the Hill, you'll find the convention on TVs at every Busboys and Poets, a watch party at Star and Shamrock on H Street NE, Ventnor in Adams Morgan, etc...

This is kind of "new DC" but I really love 11th St. in Columbia Heights. Maybe do wine at Room 11 or American craft beer at Meridian Pint, then head to Maple for a nice Italian dinner. Or there's Mexican at El Chucho, BBQ at Kangaroo Boxing Club, etc. We had some family out from SoCal and they remarked on the amazing kinds of beer and beer-focused bars that we have here.

I've actually done the 11th Street Bar Crawl on dates before: Happy hour tacos and margaritas at El Chucho, up to Meridian Pint for beer and wings, then nightcap with wine or cocktails at Room 11, especially if you can get a seat on the patio. So much fun.

Haha. I know you can't please everyone, but I have to laugh (but first thank) at your suggestions: we don't drink and husband hates seafood! We're in Rockville and date is set for Saturday. We'll find something and even if we don't, hey, even just being at Target without little kids is awesome. Thanks again!

Oops! Here are a couple more options.  Rockville has Matchbox, and I've been hearing it's as good, if not better than, the one in the city; I had a good time at the Italian small plates restaurant Sugo Cicchetti, which has a busy little scene and is just off 270, so it's really accessible from Rockville.

We're hitting up some minor league baseball in Waldorf this Saturday. Can you recommend a bar in the area where we might be able to watch some college football beforehand? Thanks!

Amy Orndorff, who wrote about the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs for our big Minor League Baseball guide this summer, says there's not much around the stadium, but there is a Hard Times Cafe on Route 301 a few miles away, so you can get your football/Frito Pie fix there.

Any other Waldorf suggestions?

Stetsons might show it.

Another option.

You should try Parkway Deli in Silver Spring. They have a lot of good cakes sold by the slice.

Noted. Thanks!

Definitely check out Society Fair's demo kitchen in Old Town Alexandria. Awesome experience, definitely one a foodie will love! $50/person during the week for a 3 course gourmet dinner cooked in front of you! So cool. Did this with a bunch of girlfriends a few weeks ago and EVERYONE loved it. Highly recommend :)

I haven't done this, but it sounds pretty awesome.

If you had around $300 saved up for a truly fabulous pair of heels, what store(s) would you go to find them?

I think any shoe-obsessed woman would tell you that one major secret is the shoe department at a good Nordstrom (like Tyson's). They have lots of boutique and indie brands, and the best part might be the return policy, which is fantastic, particularly when the shoes that were amazing in the store fall apart the first time you wear them. Personally, I have figured out which brands I like, and so I stalk my shoes online - Solestruck, Piper Lime and Revolve Clothing are favorites for me. You can often dig out a better price or use a discount code, which you can't do in a store. 

Take him out somewhere with fois gras. Proof's is stellar.

Thank you. Proof in general is stellar, and in the vicinity of Metro Center.

I can't vouch for the quality, but I know Safeway sells individual slices of cake. I think I have seen German Chocolate. The slices are actually a good size square.

Thanks. You might try calling Whole Foods as well, since they have a pretty extensive bakery.

Love lunch at Fiola, and Bibiana has a semi-private space that fits about 12 people. Congratulations!

Two more suggestions for the happy couple.

Hi there! I've got a friend coming back in to town this weekend after moving away a few years ago. It also happens to be his 30th birthday. We're looking for a good spot to post up for a few drinks in the Dupont/Logan area (or somewhere metro accessible if you have a good option). The catch is, he is going to have friends popping in and out all night, and he wants to be able to catch up with them, so we have to be able to actually hold a conversation. What say you Going Out Gods?

People popping in and out on a weekend is the hard part. I'd love to say, "Oh, do it at Black Jack or on the roof at El Centro D.F.," but you don't want to have people waiting in line to get in to see the birthday boy.

Upstairs at Stoney's would be one suggestion. The basement level Cantina at Darlington House would work, too. Or Crios, the next taco bar on P Street next to Scion.

Maybe upstairs at the Bier Baron, formerly known as the Brickskeller? I was there for Ukrainian Independence Day recently and they were good about pushing tables together for a group. Also, they were out of far fewer beers than you might have expected.

Hello GOGs! My grandma is coming to visit for a weekend in DC in late Oct. I am trying to do some research now on interesting things to do that don't involve tons of walking (she can walk short distances, just very slowly, and we'll rent a wheelchair from the hotel for the weekend). I was thinking of the Mt. Vernon river cruise, but do you have other ideas on theater options or other tours that can accommodate an older visitor? Any special events that you've heard about for fall or Halloween? Thanks so much - I am looking forward to a great visit!

I definitely think you might put "War Horse" at the Kennedy Center on your calendar -- that should be a fantastic show (it opens in late October), and the KenCen is such a impressive place to take a family member.  For tours, I have long liked the Open Top buses, because they will drive you directly to the tourist sights (including the Mall and the National Cathedral), so there's very little walking; or if you want to just stay on the bus, you can see all of D.C. and a little bit of Arlington without having to ever get up. (You can read our take here.)  I believe it's a two-day pass, too, so you can break up the sightseeing over two days. Torpedo Factory Arts Center in Alexandria is doing a fall Dia de los Muertos festival that is quite cool.

Cakelove has an awesome German choc cake by the slice (but I find the cupcakes dry). I think it's called NGC cake. I dream about it.

Thanks -- another option for our cake-seeking chatter!

I'd like to plan a camping trip for some city gals in mid October. We def need clean, safe, well lit bathrooms. We'd like someplace pretty to see changing leaves and want it to have some nice walks (I hesitate to say hikes) and other fun things to do (what does one do when camping besides eat?). It needs to be within a 2-3 hour drive of DC. And it would be nice (tho not mandatory) to have a lake/water nearby Suggestions?

This sounds like glamping. You might want to find a place with cabins instead of having to pitch tents. Lavanya recommends Berkley Springs, W. Va.. which has hikes and falls nearby. Amy recommends Deep Creek Lake, where there's a lot to look at, hikes to take, kayaking, and all kinds of shops and antiquing nearby.

Chez Billy has good french food (for the francophile dad) and I hear they have a nice private room (for the wedding folks). My work here is done.

Chez Billy is a beautiful space. Just stunning. But I'm pretty sure most of the Hilton restaurants don't open till 5, so lunch for wedding folks is probably out.

At least early in the evening, Russia House will reserve a table for you. James Hoeben in Dupont is almost always empty enough for a big group.

Russia House -- this is true. I was there the other weekend on the early side, sipping vodka and drinking Obolon, and you could definitely have a conversation. (By the end of the night is something else entirely, when the Russian techno and house gets banging.)

i just rented a house with girlfriends in wine country va - highly recommend over camping any day! just over an hour outside dc and our house was in the middle of nowhere with gorgeous views, a fabulous kitchen, amazing outdoor patios/sitting areas, and plenty of bedrooms. and was still relatively cheap. we were a very short drive from a handful of awesome wineries and plenty of places to walk/hike as wel!

If you're not wedded to camping, you might want to look at renting a house somewhere in the Charlottesville/Staunton axis. Plenty to do:  wineries and breweries, pumpkin picking, hikes in the Shenandoah, antique hunting, etc. 

What are some great art exhibits to take my visiting brother (former art major, now going deaf so trying to get back into being interestedi in art) to? He's more traditional than avant garde.

First show that comes to mind is the George Bellows retrospective at the National Gallery of Art, which is where I'd send you anyway, because it always nicely walks the line between traditional and contemporary art, diving the aesthetics between two buildings. See images from the Bellows show here. As a former art major, I think he'll love the breadth of the place. Over at the Hirshhorn, a major Ai Weiwei show will open on Oct. 7 - not traditional, but it looks fascinating. 

All right folks, we're done here. If we didn't get to your question, check out our roundup of best bets for the weekend. And be sure to check out our spankin' new guide to the D.C. taco scene.

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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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