Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Guide

Jan 30, 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. The big news this weekend is the Super Bowl -- and the Puppy Bowl -- but we have a lot of things to talk about. Frederik De Pue's Menu MBK opens tonight with what Maura calls a "Cheese Chariot." There's a Grilled Cheese lab on the way. And we still have a few days of Meat Week. I went to Showtime on Tuesday night for the debut of DCity Smokehouse's bar menu, and I was impressed with the delicious, smoky brisket. (It goes really well with Natty Boh, apparently.)

On to your questions ...

Where should we get drinks after dinner at G on Saturday? We're two couples, looking for somewhere classy with barstools available and quality drinks. We don't want to fight for standing room or to get a bartender's attention. Thanks!

Honestly, trying to find an empty bar at 14th and U streets on a Saturday night is next to impossible. It's becoming the Times Square of D.C. nightlife. But here are three options:

1. The Gibson. The hidden cocktail bar is quiet and doesn't allow standing. The drinks are first-rate. But getting a reservation can be tricky, especially on short notice. If you can't book a table, they'll take your number and text you when something opens. Call them now and hope you get lucky.

2. 2 Birds 1 Stone, the cocktail bar hidden under Doi Moi, has some of the best drinks in the city right now. For some reason, it's often half-full right after dinner -- or that's my experience, anyway.  The secluded little booths would be perfect for four, if you can get one.

3. The last one is a longshot: The upstairs bar at Bar Pilar can be empty when the one downstairs is full.

Is the Russian Embassy doing anything special here in DC for the Sochi Olympics?

Not that I've heard of. (I mean, getting a visa there was hard enough.) Mari Vanna is running a special with dishes from Sochi beginning next Friday; the kickoff party on Feb. 7 includes free vodka shots from 6 to 9 p.m.

Hi GOGs, Posting early because I'm not sure where this busy day will take me. I'm celebrating my birthday this weekend with 4-8 friends and want to get drinks at a classy establishment. I'm thinking either POV or Quill at the Jefferson (looking for something classy.) Between those two, is there one you would recommend more for the other? I've been to POV and love the view, though the crowd last time seemed a little odd. Never been to Jefferson but have heard great things. Or do you have another classy, great cocktail place that you recommend? Thanks for your help!

Two very, very different places. The W is flashy, loud (espeically on weekends) and has great views from the heated rooftop bar. The Jefferson's Quill bar is more sedate, with classy service, refined cocktails and free bar snacks. There's also live piano on weekends. 

The only thing to consider is that the Jefferson can get crowded - it's not well set up for groups, unless you call ahead and make a reservation.

Hi GOGs, 40-ish couple with free babysitting (thanks, grandparents) for either Friday or Saturday night. We're dieting (no carbs/sugar) so something that is not food or drink focused would be great. We're also budget conscious, so something cheap or free would be even better. Open to most everything. And if there's some awesome event going on with great food/drinks, we might consider using our date night as "cheat day" for the diet.

Do you like theater? There are a couple of interesting shows this weekend in NOVA that have half-price tickets available on Goldstar. MetroStage is doing a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, The Alden is doing "La Cage aux Folles," and in Herndon, Industrial Strength Theatre has a new interpretation of "Richard III." There are even more choices for reduced-price theater if you venture into the District. You could also check out the free exhibits at the Artisphere -- it's the last weekend for the Alicia Eggert show. But if you want to cheat, there's a chocolate festival in Fairfax this weekend.

Staying at the Embassy Suites near Dulles airport sunday due to very early Monday morning flight. Any ideas where we can catch the big game around there? We'll have a car so short drive is ok. Thanks so much!

You're not far from Finnegan's, a traditional Irish pub with good food and a bunch of flatscreens. For a more traditional sports bar, I like the Ashburn Pub. Not fancy, but decent beer and lots of TVs.

My mom is coming into town, and I want to take her to some memorable restaurants, but really want to minimize cost. She loves trying new things. And I am a vegetarian. Where should we go?

Here's our list of cheap eats and vegetarian spots -- and many of the latter are quite budget-friendly. I'd take her to Daikaya for the veggie ramen, a vegetarian sampler at Ethiopic, Malgudi for Indian food, dumplings and tofu at Mandu, Sundevich or G for delicious sandwiches (get the cauliflower sub at G). Hope that gets you off to a good start -- and chatters, feel free to chime in with your favorite adventurous-but-cheap-and-vegetarian eats!

I'm brand new to the D.C. area and am dying to explore beyond the monuments. Any "must-see" neighborhoods or ideas for a rookie? Thanks!

At the risk of sounding self-serving, check out a few of our map-based Neighborhood Guides, such as Shaw, Eastern Market and Barracks Row, or Cleveland Park.

One tip: Walk, don't drive. I feel like you miss far to much of the sights and rhythms of a city when you're in a car instead of on the sidewalk.

Umm... have you ever been to the Embassy? It is probably the least friendly place I have ever been (including getting detained for extra questioning in the Russian airport). I am pretty sure they would never want you anywhere near there and certainly wouldn't invite you over to watch the games.

I've been to the Embassy several times (not just for consular/visa matters) for charity events and it's gorgeous. Huge chandeliers, sweeping staircases, marble everywhere.

I can't blame the chatter for asking, especially when you consider that open houses that the Canadian Embassy threw during the Vancouver games, for example.  

Dear GOGs, My husband and I unexpectedly have a long weekend coming up and are debating whether we should plan a staycation or hit the road for a close-by getaway (Baltimore, Rehoboth etc.). Any activities happening this weekend that we should stay for? Thanks for the help!!!

Hmm. It's going to be in the 50s this weekend. And you know you're going to want to flee town in a few weeks when the tourists and Cherry Blossoms arrive. But I wouldn't say no to a quick offseason getaway to Rehoboth ... If you decide to staycation, you've got Chinese New Year celebrations downtown on Sunday, and the big Chocolate Lovers Festival in Fairfax all weekend.

I've been dating someone for about two months now, and am having a hard time coming up with ideas for things we can do together on the weekends during this cold winter. We've been doing a lot of the same - going out to eat/drink, and going to the movies and the museums. Do you Guru's have any recommendations for other things we can do? Trying to stay in DC/VA, and am open to anything. Thanks!

I totally hear you -- I have a serious case of the winter blahs right now. First, check out our winter preview, which has plenty of non-movie, non-museum events, like some upcoming theater and music festivals. Also, if you're looking for something indoors to do together, now seems like a good time to take a class. There are so many different learning opportunities in the area that it shouldn't be hard for you to find something you both like -- whether it's trapeze, cooking classes, language, art (check out the Arlington Art Center), or wine appreciation (Screwtop in Arlington). It'll bring you closer to your new boyfriend/girlfriend, too.

Walking over driving is great advice. Also, get one of the bus apps that shows the next bus info and a map of the lines and use the bus to get around. You'll see much more of the city. DC is a great city. Welcome!

Agree! Which apps are your favorite? A free one called Next DC Metro and Bus has been working well for me.

Bowling or duck pin bowling, especially on a double date, is fun! Weekend afternoons can be tricky, though, due to kids' b-day parties, so call ahead.

Great idea. And Pinstripes, the new bowling alley coming to Georgetown, should be opening in February.

Can you all think of some unique spots where I could look into planning a milestone birthday party this fall? Somewhere like the Mansion on O, or somewhere that combines activities with drinking, a brewery, just somewhere unique for my one of a kind husband! We'd need a private space for probably 50 people.

Mansion on O is an interesting one, especially with a group, because you can wander all over the place. The Woodrow Wilson House would be rad, too. (You need to see the president's wine cellar.)

I'd say a group tour/tasting at Port City Brewing in Alexandria, or the New Columbia Distillery -- the makers of Green Hat Gin -- would be fun.

Apropos of nothing, my dream party spot would be George Washington's Distillery at Mount Vernon.

I like DC Next Bus and BusTrackDC.

I like the free version of NextBus, even though there are NEVER times for the 42-43 for some reason. But I'm pretty sure that's WMATA's fault.

Depending on what you're into, you could do a "theme" exploration, such as checking out the Lincoln memorial, Ford's theater, and Lincoln's Cottage. Ending with dinner at Lincoln. There are also supposed to be some pretty cool walking neighborhood tours. I've been here a long time and have been meaning to do one.

This is a fun way for a history buff to get acquainted with the city. But it doesn't just have to be historical sites -- you could decide to check out all of the various farmer's markets in the city one week, or take yourself on a self-guided art gallery hop (the small commercial/nonprofit galleries in neighborhoods, I mean -- not the Corcoran Gallery/National Gallery, which you may have already seen), or task yourself with finding your favorite taco in the city. So many possibilities!

That's all from us today. Enjoy your weekend and the end of the deep freeze (fingers crossed).

Post Points code is GG3610.

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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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