The Washington Post

Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Guide

Jan 09, 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. Hope you survived the Polar Vortex and are looking forward to the highs over 60 degrees (!!!) this weekend. I know we are. If you're looking for ideas for things to do, here are 9 places to start. If the opening of El Rey or the cupping of Geisha coffee don't float your boat, we're happy to take questions about things that do. 

Trying to catch as much of Saturday's Patriots game as possible after being at an event in Falls Church until 9 or so. Anywhere to watch within walking distance to the Dunn Loring Metro — or a quick hop off one of the Arlington Orange Line stops, or should we just head somewhere off the orange line in the city? (That's where we're heading back, anyhow). Thanks!

I like the multi-screen experience at the BlackFinn Ameripub, which is about a 5 minute walk down Gallows Road from the Dunn Loring station. It's a bit fancier than the downtown/Farragut Square BlackFinn, if you've been there.

Go three stops east to Ballston and you've got more choices, including First Down and Carpool. (I've been told the latter gets Pats fans during the season, but I don't have first-hand knowledge.)

Hi GOGs! My husband and I are going to see Jim Gaffigan Saturday night at Warner Theater, suggestions on where to go? I've been to Chef Geoff's many times, anything new and worthy of trying out? We'll be driving in from Annapolis so we're mobile if there is a must try - we've been to Bourbon Steak, POV, J&G, Del Campo, Hanks Oyster Bar, Lincoln if that gives you any idea on what we go for. Thank you as always for your guidance!

You've hit some good spots so far. If you're looking for something really close, I might go for either Bistro d'Oc or Cedar, both of which I think are a little under the radar but consistently good. A little farther away (but not too far!) and definitely worth the extra few blocks is Daikaya -- my favorite restaurant in the city at the moment.

Hi GOG Gang. Thinking about checking out Dry 85 this weekend. How does it compare to Bourbon, Southern Hospitality, etc.? And if you recommend it, are there any other good bars nearby for cocktails and craft beer? Thanks.

Annapolis's new whiskey bar is definitely worth a visit if you're in Annapolis. I was impressed with the selection (52 bourbons, 60+ Scotches), though it's smaller than what you'll find at Jack Rose or either of the Bourbons in D.C. It's more laidback, prices are generally lower, and it's got a great vibe to it. Great craft beer choices, too -- Dogfish Head, Terrapin, Stone, Port City, Brewer's Art, Devils Backbone, etc. Probably the best selection in downtown Annapolis right now. 

Places to go afterwards: I'd say Level is your best bet for cocktails. I really like what John Miller and his team do, in terms of inventive flavors and house-made ingredients. And if you haven't been to Dry 85's sister bar, Red Red Wine, I'd put that on the list, too, for a glass or flight of wine.

I am going to be in town for the weekend. We would like to go out and watch the NFL playoff games on Saturday. Our usual go-to place is the Penn Quarter Sport Bar, but I believe it is still a Seahawks bar and we have no desire to spend a game with that fan base. Any ideas for a more "neutral" place to watch the games? Preferably in Penn Quarter/Chinatown in possible, but definitely in DC. (We would also like to avoid a Colts bar as my husband is a Pats fan, but doesn't want to to be at a "Patriot Bar") Thanks so much - and LET'S GO CAPS!!! (The reason for the visit!)

My favorite "neutral" place to watch football in Penn Quarter is Hill County BBQ. They do drink specials during football games, and there's a bar menu with tacos, Frito pie, gourmet nachos and spicy sausages. (It's not exactly neutral during the season, but this is the playoffs, so you don't have to worry about finding Cowboys or Texans fans in the bar.)

Other places I've watched games this year include R.F.D. Washington, which is great if you can get a seat at the bar, and District of Pi, where friends and I split deep-dish pizza and downed Schlaffly beers. All are easy walking distance to the Phone Booth, too.

I'm trying to not go out Friday night in order to get up and do some locals gone tourist stuff downtown Sat morning. What are some good exhibits that are going on right now?! Besides Anchorman at Newseum of course :)

Of course! Even if you're not a fan of yoga, I'd be sure to stop by the Sackler to see Yoga: The Art of Transformation. It's a really unexpected and pretty unprecedented look at the complicated history of yoga, which wasn't always about finding zen and smelling like patchouli. The Hirshhorn has a really nice show about destruction in art and, if you don't mind spending a few bucks, the Phillips exhibition of work by Van Gogh is definitely worth a look. For something a little more offbeat, head to the Corcoran where you can see work by Mia Feuer, including an ice-less skating rink that visitors can skate on (one at a time).

Gurus: I know this is a ridiculous question but here goes. I'm completely obsessed with Beyonce's new album and I want to dance to it in a sweaty club from start to finish. Any chance a club will indulge me a la Michael Jackson night or is it going to be an at-home dance party?

I am also obsessed this record. (Read Carrie Battan's review in Pitchfork, which I think really has the broadest understanding of what the record is exploring about love, sex, and class.)

So, unlike the new Kanye and the new Daft Punk, I haven't heard yet that anyone will be spinning this record start to finish. U Hall, step up here?

I tried the googles, but I didn't like the answer - so I'm hoping you all can help. Trying to come up with some new places that have bottomless (drinks) brunch deals on Saturday. We need some place in DC and feels moderately special (think Masa, not B Smith's) where our off color v-day jokes wouldn't feel out of place. We've done El Centro, Zengo, Masa, Lincoln, and Vendetta. Do you have other suggestions? Bonus points if they serve something other than mimosas and bloody Mary's.

Ripple and Vinoteca were the first to leap to mind as places that will be both boozy but still classy (and loud enough to mask whatever exploits you'll be discussing). I've been meaning to try Beuchert's, because I have a few friends who swear by it, and I know they do bottomless drinks for brunch too.

Happy New Years GOGs! I'm going to finally check out Rose Luxury on Saturday and would like to go for drinks after dinner. As I don't usually hang out around that area, do you have any suggestions for a post-dinner spot that would be fun for a few 30-something ladies? Thanks!

Rose's is great - you'll have a wonderful time. Avoid the impulse to stay at Rose's to drink; the bar is great, but on a busy night, it feels a little like purgatory for anxious people who are waiting on tables. For now, while the restaurant is white-hot, it makes sense to let those folks chill out and take a seat and sip while they wait. Head instead to Hank's on the Hill -- it's a great place to get an after-dinner drink; another option is Beuchert's, but it gets pretty crowded.

What are your thoughts on Tom's Bluejacket review? I found myself agreeing with him for despite numerous visits, it is not growing on me. Almost the opposite. The beers are good and interesting and the chance to explore so many different options for the palate is a fantastic concept. But I find myself shrugging and saying, "it's alright" more than "wow - gotta get me a full pint of this one!". And the food is weak. Service is good though when you can flag down one of the waiters that are kept on their toes as it is non stop busy....

I have to say I always find something I want a full glass of at Bluejacket, and I usually start with a flight of all the new beers that have been added since my last visit. The "standard" beers are interesting enough for people who just want an IPA, or a lager, or a Belgian ale, though there have definitely been times when a 4-ounce pour of a beer was enough for me.

I haven't had dinner at the Arsenal, so I can't really comment on Tom's review of it. I will say I'm not as big on the barleywine as he is (different strokes), and I haven't had a cask I'd describe as "balmy" instead of "cool." (Case in point: The barleywine should be served at 54 degrees, 1 degree below the cask's prescribed temperature.) I wonder if his cask ale was sitting around at the bar, waiting to be carried to the table.

As for service, I stick to the bar. I find it's much faster to just go through bartenders, unless you go Sunday-Tuesday. Otherwise, you may, as I did, find yourself waiting 20 minutes for a beer, even if you've got a table. (That's not counting the time between finishing one glass and finally ordering another.)

It's my favorite part of Thursday!

Sorry. A couple of technical problems on this end. Persevering, though. 

I'm on the third date with a guy who lives in Baltimore. Any ideas for something to do together this weekend, maybe to take advantage of the weather?

Is the date in Baltimore, or D.C.? You didn't say.  If you're in  Baltimore and sports fans, you could head to Birroteca for beers and pizza and watch whatever games are playing. You can combine your great cities by hitting Artifact Coffee (one of my favorite places in Baltimore, because it's so gorgeous) for its Toki Underground pop-up, Tokifact. It continues through Saturday. After that, head to WC Harlan a little early in the evening - and have a lovely drink in some of the most romantic confines in all of Baltimore. That is pretty much the perfect date. 

If you really want to do something by day, consider heading the Belvedere Square Market, where you can eat and hang out, just like you might at Union Market (but they have a better-stocked Neopol's). Check out more ideas in our Baltimore neighborhood guide.  

If you're in D.C., I'd consider starting your day with some fun takeout from Woodward Table, then taking a walk around the Tidal Basin, showing him around the Mall a bit. (I mean, you have to with an out-of-towner.) Then, if it's going well, dip into our list of best events for the weekend to see if there's anything that catches your fancy.

My husband and I have a rare night out without the kids on Friday. We'd like dinner and to do something fun in DC. The catch is that we can go out as early as 5:00, but we have to be back in Silver Spring by 9:30. So I'm guessing that leaves out any shows/plays/etc. Do you all have any thoughts? The last time we did this we had dinner at Ethiopic and mini-golf and drinks at H St. Country Club. Thanks!!!

I like that H Street combo. Steph and I looked for plays and shows, and can't find much that would fit your schedule. How about this: Head for Penn Quarter.

1st Stop: Depending on your interests, you could either hit the "American Portraits" or "Dancing the Dream" exhibits at the National Portrait Gallery, and then get a glass of wine at the Kogod Courtyard. *OR* Head over to Poste for happy hour. If it's not raining, grab a warm drink and seat around a firepit on the patio (grab a blanket to keep your lap warm). If the weather's bad, sit inside and try some exclusive beers from D.C.'s 3 Stars Brewery at the bar.

2nd: Grab dinner at Daikaya (nothing like ramen on a cold night) or wood-grilled scallops or the Goodfellas pizza at the neighboring Graffiato.

3rd: Now that you're full, get your competitive streak going and head west to Penn Social, where you and your husband can challenge each other at Skee-Ball, a game of Jenga made from 2-by-4s, shuffleboard, a huge Connect Four set and other games.

And you're right on the Red Line, which should make getting back to Silver Spring a snap.

Which restaurants do you recommend? I would love Rasika, but it's already full. Any others you recommend or which ones give us the biggest bang for our buck? Thanks!

If you can't get in to either of the Rasikas, there's always Bombay Club, which shares several menu items and would probably still be considered the best Indian dining room in D.C. were it not for its siblings.


I like using Restaurant Week to try new places, on the logic that even if I'm disappointed by a newcomer I'm only out $35 or so. Osteria Morini and Alba Osteria are two participating newcomers you could try -- both have pedigree so they're safe plays. Less safe: The Arsenal at Bluejacket, which Tom Sietsema didn't think very much of. But hey, at least the beer is great.  

I have a first date this Sunday. I'm would like for some outdoor first date ideas. I'm open to anything. Cheers!

I think ice rinks are a great date idea, especially if you can pair them with somewhere to warm up and chat afterwards. Try pairing the outdoor rink in Georgetown with pizza and a beer at Pizzeria Paradiso or an Irish Coffee at the new RiRa on M Street; the National Gallery's lovely rink is close to the bars at Rasika or Iron Horse, or Teaism for something warmer; If you go to Canal Park, I'd nurse my bruises afterwords with a house-made beer at Gordon Biersch or Bluejacket.  

Hi. My husband and I want to take advantage of some free babysitting tomorrow night to hit the town. Anywhere in DC/MD/VA is fine. We'd love to have dinner and see something - music/art/theater, but nothing is really jumping out at me for Friday night. I am 7 months pregnant, so nothing that is solely alcohol focused would be great. Thanks!

 Studio Theatre has two great shows, "Tribes" and "Edgar and Annabel," which would give you a chance to come into town, to a very busy part of the city, and have some fun. Nearby, you've got plenty of food options, if you get there early enough (say, 5-6:30, you'll have no problem getting into the swanky Barcelona, or Estadio (which will happily make you a wonderful virgin version of their famed house gintonic). You can also slip into Ghibellina for its happy hour - which is really awesome not just for the drinks on special, but because the pizza is half-price (and it's very good); or the trendy Etto, whose cauliflower pizza is not to be missed. If you get to these places early, you should have no problem; hit the theater afterward.

Looking for a spot (either good-sized bar/lounge area or semi-private space) in DC that could comfortably fit 20-30 grad students and alums for drinks/networking from 6:00 or 7:00 onward on a Friday in late January - but a minimum isn't really an option. Anywhere new and exciting I should investigate?

This is tough. Not that many "new and exciting" places we know of where 30 people could come at 7 on a Friday without making reservations or securing space with a minimum. You could try Ivy and Coney, the new Midwest-themed bar in Shaw, and see if they'll save you the back room, but the capacity of the bar itself isn't more than a few dozen, I think. Maybe Right Proper, the brewpub next to the Lincoln Theatre, could save you space in the back bar? (Again, with that many people, I'd urge you to call first, not just show up.)

If those don't work out, there are the old standbys for groups on a Friday: Science Club, the Laughing Man Tavern, the Iron Horse, Buffalo Billiards. (If it's Buffalo, you can usually just show up and comandeer a space, since their room rental fees can be high.)

Looking for restaurant for Valentine's... what would you recommend? Thought about Iron Gate but they're all booked, and also Restaurant Eve, but they're too expensive. Any ideas on nice, romantic places that won't break bank, still have reservations, and are in DC or Northern Virginia?

Have you looked at Oval Room or Mintwood Place?

Hi Gurus! Happy New Year! I'm looking for some advice on something to do Saturday morning (from about 9:30am until noon) with my 13 and 10 year old nieces. We will also have my 1 1/2 year old daughter with us. I was thinking potentially Union Market to look around, grab some breakfast, etc. Other fun places that we could take them to eat? Any ideas that would be interesting to them and keep my 1 year old entertained are welcome!

Okay, so I just had a quick pow-wow with a couple of moms in the Weekend section about this. They think Union Market would be fun early -- getting sodas at Buffalo and Bergen  or the fancy hot chocolate at CoCo Sala. They also suggested heading to Georgetown for lunch, windowshopping and browsing, perhaps stopping in at Serendipity 3, going to Georgetown Cupcake (depending on your daughter), or even trying ice skating, if your nieces know how to skate and the rain holds off. Museum-wise, they also suggest browsing through the National Gallery, and maybe stopping off at the Cafe, or hitting Teaism afterwards.

Okay, we need to wrap things up. Sorry for the delays earlier. We hope you're thawed out and ready to enjoy the weekend, and we'll see you here again next Thursday.

Post Points code: GG3306.

In This Chat
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.
Recent Chats
  • Next: