The Washington Post

Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Gurus

Feb 21, 2013

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

Welcome chatters, to this week's Got Plans? We're taking Oscar questions and more today, so let's get it started.

My husband and I are looking for a place with good food and ambience to celebrate our 3rd anniversary next week. We wanted to go to Cafe Renaisance in Vienna, but they are booked at the time we want. Do you have any other recommendations of places within 20 minutes of Reston that would be good for a special occasion? We like all kinds of food and are willing to spend a little extra but not break the bank. Thanks for the help!

How about Maple Ave Restaurant? Our most recent review -- from just last year -- describes it as "tiny" and "terrific," which sounds right for an anniversary, don't you think? Click on the link to read the review.

Hi everyone! I have been asked to attend a military gala with a high ranking officer in March. I am in search of a stunning gown! I'm open to either a gown or cocktail length. I'm in my 40s and quite youthful looking. I was thinking a vintage or second hand boutique either in Virginia or Washington DC. Any suggestions on where to find this stunning gown?

Hi! I've seen a lot of great cocktail dresses at Current Boutique (four locations, two of which are in VA). Now that inauguration season is over, you might have an even better selection, if people have already started to consign those dresses. If you think you'll only wear the dress once, you can also Rent the Runway.

Two couples (in their 30s/40s) are having a rare childfree evening on Saturday in DC. Not sure where to go where we won't feel out of place but can still have fun and enjoy good beer...H St. was mentioned but will we feel too old there?

I think you should be fine (says the Guru in her 30s, who still likes H Street....). Because H Street is so close to the Hill, you see a pretty mixed crowd of folks, so long as you're at the right places.  So, I'd stay away from Rock and Roll Hotel, which feels really young lately. Here's what I'd suggest: Dinner at Granville Moore's (renowned mussels and great beer selection) or, if you're looking for something a bit fancier, possibly the new Le Grenier or Atlas Room, where you can get a great classic cocktail (try the Pisco Sour, it's amazing). After dinner, you could head to Biergarten Haus for beers, but I'll throw out a couple more: You could see jazz at HR-57, or sip cocktails at Church and State. Or play a round of video games at Atlas Arcade. And end the night with a piece of pie at Dangerously Delicious, which stays open late.

I have a men's pea coat that I'd like to to have altered. Is there a place convenient to Mount Vernon Triangle that you would recommend?

It's a few blocks away on 13th and Mass, but I've taken clothing to Georgetown Valet for alterations, and had great results. I'll let chatters chime in with any other suggestions!

Fritz, were you salivating like I was reading in the Food section earlier this week about the Bluejacket Brewery coming soon to the Nats Park area?

Fritz is on vacation this week, but we're sure he's salivating from afar. For any other readers who might have missed the story: Check it out here. Exciting, yes?

Hi! You answered one of my questions last week on going out dancing with some girlfriends.. for women in their 40s... but, you talked about dance lessons. They sound great, but we want to go to clubs on Saturday! Salsa clubs....any fun clubs... in Alexandria...or between Reston and Alexandria. Any ideas?

Well, look outside of your area just a bit, and there's a great one. In Arlington, the Salsa Room is a huge scene -- it's very popular, and they have events (with lessons, or come later) on Fridays and Saturdays. I think the way to find out the most about what's going on is to join their Meetup. For women, I really think you can't beat salsa dancing -- there's always a ready partner, and I've found they're always respectful, and just there to dance.

A group of us are planning a going-away dinner next Friday around 9. I already have a booking somewhere for 11 people but it looks like more people are interested. Where could we find a place last-minute for a group of around 16 people in our late twenties to early thirties? We want a place where we can go for drinks in the neighborhood afterward, maybe around U street, Logan Circle or Penn Quarter. Thanks!

You could probably make it happen at a place like Hill Country or Carmine's in Penn Quarter -- both are pretty spacious restaurants, but I'd call ahead. I'd also check with your original reservation to see if they can add a few additional seats; it's still a week's notice, and I can't imagine they want to lose a booking that large.

Hi, My sister-in-law is visiting with her two kids, aged 2 & 4, this weekend. We took them to the zoo last time they were here. Any ideas for winter weekend activities or events that are at least a little family friendly?

The Intersections festival on H Street has a bunch of kid-friendly performances -- Mr. Skip, the Zip Zap Circus, All Around Me (especially good for toddlers) and Tosin are all on Saturday -- and you guys can all eat at Dangerously Delicious Pies afterwards.

I'm going to DC Shorts at 701 Pennsylvania Ave on Saturday night. I'd like to get dinner in the neighborhood beforehand, but my brother is a terribly picky eater - burgers, fries, pizza and I'm a big foodie and always want to try something new. We've done Ella's and Matchbox. Anything good in the area that would fit both of our tastes?

The reader is talking about the Snuggle With Stars Oscar watch party, if anyone is wondering. Nearby, you could try Oyamel. It's Mexican, but surely guacamole and tacos will not offend him. They even have fries (they're just covered in mole...). Also in the area is Cedar, though if you ventured up Seventh a little, you'll find Hill Country,  or Poste, which got a fine review last time around. The environs are a little cooler than say, District Chophouse, but the food should please your brother.

Are there any places that host Oscar-viewing events? We follow movies like other people follow sports, and this is the SuperBowl!

Our Jess Righthand is writing a blog post about this right now, but I'll preempt her with a few suggestions: An Oscars happy hour at the Helix Lounge, the annual watch party at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse, a super-fancy watch party at the Ritz, and a decidedly less fancy pajama party at the Navy Memorial.

Hi GOGs! I'm going to the Caps game next Tuesday night with a group of 10 coworkers, kind of a work bonding thing. I'm trying to plan a HH beforehand, but don't want to go anywhere too packed. Do you have any good bar recommendations within walking distance of the Verizon Center that would be fun for a late 30s crowd that likes beer? We don't need to sit down, but don't want to be packed like sardines either. Thanks!

Hmm, I think you're going to find a bit of crowd no matter where you go, because of the game, but also because you'll hit a weeknight happy hour crowd.  But I think you'll have better luck at maybe at Penn Social, since it's GIANT and underground, it might not see as much foot traffic.  That's your absolute best bet, but I'll throw in a couple of other options: Avoid the direct area around Verizon Center by going to Capital City Brewing near Metro Center (still just a few blocks' walk), or head to RFD, and get there a little early. Avoid at all costs: Gordon Biersch, Greene Turtle.

Hi Gurus! I hope you can help me. I'm looking for consignment shops in the area that accept old prom dresses. I have two from the late 1990s/early 2000s that are (in my opinion) stylish and in very good condition (worn once and then stored properly since) and I'd like to get some money for them if possible. I've checked the websites for Secondi, Second Time Around and Current Boutique, but it doesn't look like they accept dresses this old. Do you have any suggestions??

I checked in with the Post's Janet Bennett Kelly, who knows all things fashion in D.C., and here are her suggestions:

"Mustard Seed in Bethesda accepts vintage, but I’m not sure if these dresses fit into that category... Try Inga’s Once is Not Enough on MacArthur Blvd."

Going up to Balitmore tomorrow for the big craft council show at the convention center. Any tips for killing a few hours after lunch on a potentially rainy afternoon? We recently visited the aquarium but haven't seen much else.

Since you're going to the craft show, I'll assume you like art: The American Visionary Art Museum, the Walters, and the Baltimore Museum of Art (with new contemporary wing) would be nice if you have the time (they're not in the Inner Harbor, but a short drive away). Fells Point is a charming neighborhood for a walk with waterside views and some window shopping. Station North is another neighborhood to check out for its galleries, cafes and plenty of murals.

My bf & I have spent most of the winter indoors & we are both bored with our routine. I want to take him out on Sat night. I'm thinking dinner & live music or dancing somewhere/anywhere. Any shows/live music/club events going on this Sat night? He's not into fine dining, Indian or Ethiopian, but into everything else. I just need a menu with healthy options. I drive and I don't drink so I'm willing to go anywhere. Thanks!

You guys could try Pearl Dive, which is pretty straightforward seafood, and very popular. The caveat with many of the restaurants on 14th street is the interminable wait, so I might also point you to a couple of places that have been around a little longer, and so aren't quite as slammed. I love Cafe Saint-Ex's cooking right now, and Bar Pilar is also cooking well, particularly if you stick with some of the dishes that have been around longest (like the fried chicken, burger or their stellar roasted beet salad or malt-roasted potatoes). The reason I steer you in that direction is because it sounds like you probably haven't been to Tropicalia, which is one of the best places to be out dancing right now, with live music frequently and a great space and crowd. It's really unpretentious.

Thanks -- if I took him to Oyamel, he would literally order a water and nothing else. I was actually thinking something on the more casual side, no reservations necessary.

Hahah, sorry. That bad, huh? Poste on a Sunday night really shouldn't be that fancy (and I was thinking it would fill your need for something foodie-ish) -- I always just drop in. Hill Country is barbecue -- that might be your best bet, in addition to Carmine's.  There's also a Luke's Lobster in the neighborhood (I'd check and make sure they're open on Sunday, though.)

Hi! (submitting early in case I have to miss the chat) My sister and aunt are coming to visit this weekend and I wanted to get your opinion on a few plans! My sister works at the Philadelphia Museum of Art so I always use her visits as an excuse to see the museums here. We have been to a bunch already- the Phillips, Phillips after 5, Textile, Renwick, National Gallery - and we'd revisit any of those or try something new. Are there any great exhibits going on now that are "can't miss"? We'll probably go to one Saturday and one Sunday so any ideas are welcome! For Sunday, we'd like to hit up a post-workout brunch. I generally follow the brunch scene and have some favorites but wanted to see if there was anything new on the horizon. Food is more important to us than drinks and we'd rather not go anywhere to fancy. I'd prefer to stick to the Logan Circle/u-street/Dupont/downtown/Mall areas. Past favorites of mine include Vinoteca, Rustik tavern, and Pearl Dive. Any great ideas? Thanks!

This weekend, you might consider visiting Arlington -- Artisphere has a pretty cool show of industrial design with cutting-edge objects from around the world that's opening tonight (you can see one of the objects from the show on our Weekend's Best blog post).  Also, if you haven't seen the Ai Wei Wei show at the Hirshhorn, this is your last week to do so; it should be pretty crowded, but is the first major exhibition of his work in the U.S., and therefore totally worth seeing.

If you can get a reservation at the Tabard Inn, it's one of the city's must-try brunches (get the doughnuts, for sure). Masa 14's prix-fixe brunch is another decadent one -- in addition to the bottomless cocktails, you can try as many menu items as you'd like. If you liked Vinoteca, you might also like brunch at The Pig.

Following the salsa question for going out and husband and I are looking for a less 'club' like vibe to take lessons and/or practice our salsa..where we can embrace our Latino heritage and avoid the 'going out' vibe of a lot of night clubs. Northern Virginia (Alexandria/Arlington/Springfield) would be great..but we are willing to get out into the city too.

There's Forever Dancing ballroom in Falls Church you could try. Also a lot of fun  when they have a live band is Artisphere, because it's an arts space, not a club.  I'd sign up for the e-mails and you can see when they've booked a Latin act, which is frequently. Readers, any other suggestions for dancing without the drinking?

Just got the call for happy hour and I need your help. Looking for a fun, mature atmosphere. Nothing too fancy or pricey. Haven't been out in a there anything that comes to mind in downtown DC or on H Street?

In a pinch, I'd try Barcode. It's a big happy hour crowd, and you can get a great deal even on chichi drinks like cucumber cocktails. Bonus points for being a block from the Metro.

Take your brother to District of Pi on F Street. It's not too far away and he should be perfectly happy with the pizza selection.

Thanks. If you're willing to do pizza again, here's an option!

Please don't sell them to shops. Donate to Once Upon a Prom! -

Another suggestion for the dress-consigner!

Gurus. Is there anything fun happening Saturday? My SO and another couple (all mid 20's) are looking for something to do in DC, MD, or VA. It looks like the weather might be a toss up so inside might be best. Any ideas either day or evening? Thanks!!

Check out this week's guide to the best of the weekend: You could see the new exhibit at the Corcoran, or sip barleywine (which is actually beer), at Mad Fox, or watch like 13 hours of Oscar-nominated movies in a row. Your call. You might also consider getting some seats in the splash zone at Synetic Theater's new show "The Tempest" or head to the Kennedy Center to see some of the exhibits around the new Nordic Cool festival.

Can you recommend or really do you know of any Jewish bakeries in the Northern VA area? It seems everyone is out in MD or I'm stuck buying my Jewish pastries at Whole Foods...While you're at it, Jewish delis too (Other than Chutzpah).

Not strictly a Jewish bakery, but they've got it at the Heidelberg Bakery! Poppyseed, prune, apricot and raspberry.

Okay, that's a wrap. We've got to wish the lovely Jess Righthand off on her spirit quest. Thanks for joining us this weekend, guys. See you next week at 1 p.m.

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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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