The Washington Post

Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Guide

Mar 20, 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.

Hello everyone. It's a big day here: The NCAA tournament has begun (here's our where-to-watch guide) and we've unveiled our own bracket: Monument Madness, which finds local statues squaring off in a tournament decided by your votes. (My sleeper pick: The National Fire Dog Memorial.)

It's going to be a gorgeous weekend before another winter storm arrives next week. How are you making the most of it? We've got a few ideas.

Hi! I'm loving this year's Beer Madness bracket... and that it's focused on local brews exclusively. I saw that Meridian Pint is having tastings of all of them over the next 2 weekends. Any other places or events that tie into the beers featured in the bracket? Thanks!

As I wrote on the blog yesterday, Meridian Pint is going to put all 32 local/regional Beer Madness participants on tap over the next week. The 16 "Malt" and "Crisp" competitors go on draft tomorrow, and they'll be replaced by "Hops" and "Fruit/Spice" beers on Monday.

Meridian Pint is the only bar we're working with for Beer Madness, but the 32 beers participating were selected because they're generally available around the D.C. area. The exceptions are the brewpubs, such as Bluejacket and District Chophouse brews, which almost exclusively sell their beers on-site.

In conjunction with the college basketball tournament, a friend this weekend is hosting a beer tournament, in which participant-selected beers advance through a bracket by winning blind taste tests. I would love to bring a local, or at least regional, beer to the party that will prove competitive among the other beers. Any suggestions? If not, I also would welcome recommendations for beers (from any area) that I can pick up relatively easily in the city. Thanks!

A great followup from the previous Beer Madness question. My favorite local canned beers these days would include DC Brau's On The Wings of Armageddon, the Brewers Art's Resurrection and Ozzy, and Stillwater's Classique, which aren't hard to find at good beer shops.

I plan to take the day off on Friday to watch the games. Where is the best place in DC that will be open for brunch AND that will be showing the first game at 12:15pm? Thanks!

Penn Quarter Sports Tavern and Public Bar will both be open downtown, serving food and drinks while showing all games. Here's a longer list of options.

Hi Gurus, my friend and I in our early 30s want to jump around for a couple of hours on the dance floor Saturday night. That means Top 40 stuff cause we're predictable like that and would love to be in the Logan/U/Shaw triangle. Boring, I know. Any suggestions? The basement at Bar Pilar is the only option we really know about. Obviously will take suggestions in other neighborhoods too. Thanks!!

I'd toss the ridiculously fun and wildly popular Axel F into the mix -- lots of great '80s and '90s back-in-the-day jams. It fills Liv to capacity, and it's free. Always groups of ladies throwing their hands in the air. 

Dodge City can be fun before it gets too packed. I might also toss Marvin and Nellie's Sports Bar into the mix because the temperatures are going to be good on Saturday, and you should have outdoor options. 

Oh, and I should also toss the Black Cat's Gay/Bash into the mix. It's a strange and awesome mix of old rock and metal, dance floor bangers and drag kings. The crowd's predominantly gay, but mixed, and it's a great time.

We have dinner reservations at Kapnos on Saturday and would like to go watch basketball afterwards. Is there anywhere on 14th that will be showing the games? Or do we need to head to Dupont or Adams Morgan?

Thing That 14th Street is Strangely Lacking: A place to watch sports. Most of our favorite new places (Doi Moi/2 Birds 1 Stone, Le Diplomate, Black Whiskey) don't even have TVs. ChurchKey has, um, 4. Pilar has 1. I think there are 1 or 2 at Barcelona, but there's no way they'll have the sound on. I'd head to Ventnor or the upstairs deck at Jack Rose for your NCAA fix.


Hi, gurus! We're celebrating my boyfriend's birthday on Saturday, so a group of us (late 20s) will be grabbing a late dinner in Foggy Bottom. I don't spend much time in that area, so not sure if there's anywhere we should go after for more drinks/fun? We aren't really into the stereotypical club scene...we're more into lounge-y, like the Gibson, or a more chill dance scene. Thanks!

For loungey in Foggy Bottom, you have to go to hotel bars. The swanky Bourbon Steak serves some of the best cocktails in the city (though they're mostly $14-$16), and has a terrific little patio. It gets very busy, though -- the Four Seasons attracts lots of high profile guests.

For something more relaxed but still classy, I enjoy the small A Bar at the Avenue Suites hotel. Kind of a hidden gem with inventive drinks, interesting but not overbearing music and a small but attractive L-shaped courtyard patio. It has a chic European vibe that has impressed a couple of my friends, but it's not super lively, so not a ton of people-watching potential.

Do you have any suggestions for activities or events for this Saturday afternoon/evening that do not involve beer or basketball?

Ooh, a challenge. How about the free National Cherry Blossom Festival Family Day at the National Building Museum, which involves hands-on art, architecture, music from taiko drummers and the Blues Alley Jazz Orchestra, and a Dance Dance Revolution contest?

How about the Annapolis Oyster Roast and ritual Burning of the Socks, with all-you-can-eat oysters and live music at the Annapolis Maritime Museum? (Okay, there is beer there, but you don't have to drink it.)

How about free movie screenings from the Environmental Film Festival?

Gurus, Have a first date Sunday evening. He's a whiskey drinker, I am decidedly not. Where to go? We're meeting between 5-6pm. In DC. We are in our late 30's. Preferably Adams Morgan/U St/ 14th St/Penn quarter. Quiet, relatively discrete. Likely 2 rounds only (if I like him, 1 if I don't.) Yellow/green line metro accessible. I was thinking Black Whiskey, 2 Birds 1 Stone or Boundary Stone? Yay? Nay? Other suggestions?

For quiet and discrete, go to 2 Birds. It's relatively empty on weekends before 7. (I have first-hand knowledge of this.) The whiskey selection is small but stellar, and the bartenders can definitely steer both of you towards something you'll like. 

Boundary Stone I love, but I'm not sure it will be quiet on a Sunday with NCAA games on.

Hi! A guy I'm trying to convince to move to DC is flying in for a visit tonight. We will get to the city around 1030/11, and I want to start off the trip with a wow. Anywhere worthwhile still open that late? Nova is ok too.

Take him to Shaw. Get oysters or whelks at Eat the Rich, maybe pimento cheese or pulled pork at Southern Efficiency, and end with ham and sherry at Mockingbird Hill. All open late -- I think Southern Efficiency is only open until 12:30, and that's the earliest.

Afterwords, go get the house drink -- a shot of Makers and a glass of sparkling rose -- at All Souls, which is only a block away.

Hosting my college friends this weekend and one of them is newly (well new to me) gluten free. We have reservations at Founding Farmers and Le Diplomate but I'm wondering about some more casual gluten-free-friendly restaurants we can stop in for a quick bite or order takeout, preferably around H St/Hill/Chinatown. I'm clueless on this so I just want to make sure she feels comfortable and has options, thanks!!

I put this question to Stephanie Merry, our resident expert on all things gluten-free. (You should read her cover story on gluten-free pizza.)

She says:

Jose Andres places are all great, and Zaytinya is especially good.

District of Pi would work.

Hmmm, H Street. I think Argonaut marks their menu.

Sticky Rice would be good too, but she'll have to watch out for soy sauce. They mark their menu though (I believe) so it should be pretty easy.

Fritz, what time does 2 Birds, 1 Stone open? No hours listed on the website and no phone number listed. Thanks!

Okay, so I answered this question without factchecking myself, and 2 Birds 1 Stone is closed on Sunday. Mea culpa.

In that case, I'd say you should make tracks for Southern Efficiency or All Souls (half a block and a block and a half from the Shaw Metro, respectively). Both open at 5. The Passenger can also be surprisingly sleepy on a Sunday afternoon, if that's an option.

Please tell me more! Their website is severely lacking. I'd like to go but have no idea about price point, etc. Also, as a vegetarian, I can't tell if I'll leave hungry or not.

Southern Efficiency makes delicious pimento cheese served with toasted bread. It's either $5 or $6. As a vegetarian, you're not going to have a huge variety of dishes, though I do love the peanut soup and fried pickles. (Those are two separate dishes.)

As far as pimento cheese goes in D.C., I'd put it just below the Right Proper version. Vidalia's plate of pimento cheese and pickled okra is still the king for me.

Cava Mezze Grill is an excellent option. So is Protein Bar. And apparently Roti Mediterrean Grill also. For cupcakes, Red Velvet has a couple of gf options. Sticky Fingers has some gf options, as well.

More gluten-free options.

Hi gurus, My dad is in Baltimore for a conference this week and my husband and I are driving up to meet up with him on Saturday afternoon. He's a beer lover and homebrewer and last time he was in town I took him to Brewer's Art. I'm thinking this time we'll do Max's for a couple of brews and then dinner at Of Love & Regret. But I'd love suggestions if you think there are better options in Baltimore. Thanks!

Oliver Ales is a great little microbrewery and pub on Pratt Street. Mostly English-style ales and stouts, but they're firm favorites even in D.C. 

OLAR is my favorite beer bar in Baltimore -- I love the vibe there, and I love Stillwater Ales. I like your plan that way.

One thing I'd encourage you to consider: A tour of Union Brewing, which is located in Woodbury, just off the JFX. They do tours and tastings in their taproom every Saturday.

Here's my recent (December) rundown of Baltimore bars. Ran out of room in print, but Smalltimore (in Canton) is a great, affordable beer bar, too. Number of great Burley Oak and Dogfish beers last time I was in.

Fritz, who makes the best Old Fashioned in DC? Anything respectable in VA-preferably Alexandria area? Thanks!

For me, an Old Fashioned is three ingredients: Whiskey, bitters and sugar. That's it, with maybe a flamed orange peel. I am not in the "fruit salad in a cup" camp.

I love the versions at the Passenger (especially with their own-label Catoctin Creek rye whiskey), Southern Efficiency, Bar TNT and Bourbon Steak.

Don't assume the pimiento cheese is vegetarian--most likely it is not, as most places use non-veg cheddar. Fritz, did you ask if the peanut soup uses chicken broth? Thx.

I was told the peanut soup was vegetarian.

I hadn't thought about the rennet in pimento. Lavanya (our resident vegetarian) is going to follow up on this.

My sister and best friend are coming into town for my bridal shower the first weekend in April. They'd both really like to see some cherry blossoms, as they come out every year around either December (for the National Tree Lighting) or February (my sister's bday). Will some be around then? Are there any out of the way places we can go to see them? We won't have a ton of time to get down to the mall.

Cross your fingers. The Park Service predicts that peak bloom this year will be April 8-12, due to the cold snaps we've had; historically, the average peak bloom is the first weekend in April. (Even then, peak bloom just means that 70 percent of the trees are blossoming, so you'll probably see something.)

My friend is taking a bus into DC and will arrive at Union Station at 1pm tomorrow. Since I'm not off of work until 5, and likely won't be in the city until 6, what are some things she could do to refuel and occupy her time near the station?

Near Union Station, you've got a nice bar at the Hotel George a few blocks away (on N. Cap and E streets) or the more pubby Dubliner (catty corner from Union Station at F and Mass). If she doesn't have a lot of luggage, the National Postal Museum is revamped and right next door, and I absolutely love the walk from Union Station across the front of Capitol Hill to the Botanic Garden. If she likes theater, it's also a short walk to the Folger Theatre's Shakespeare museum and gallery. (Trying to think of a few things other than usual National Gallery options.)

It's supposed to be sunny in the 60s tomorrow -- I might grab a sandwich from Pret in Union Station and have lunch at the National Gallery's sculpture garden, or on a bench at the Capitol Carillon. Underrated spot, that.

Tentative plans for a small group happy hour at Churchkey tomorrow (Friday). Any advice on timing and grabbing a spot?

EARLY is the rule of thumb on Friday. Get there at or as close to 5 as you can. I was there last month on a Friday around 5:15-5:30, and a booth or two and a couple of barstools were still available.

I'm dating a guy that is on a low carb diet. I have no idea where to take him for an early dinner on Saturday. It would need to be in the Penn Quarter area. 6pmish as we have 8pm tickets to a show. Not super loud, doesn't need to focus on alcohol as we'lre saving that for later, early 40's couple that are sophisticated eaters that really just appreciate high quality food. Suggestions? All I could think of was Hill Country so he could get his meat bonanza. Thanks Gurus!

Oh, Hill Country is awesome in this regard. I'd also throw in Joe's Stone Crab, where he can get his fill of steak, crab claws and veggies.

I have been gluten free for several years now and I've also had a good experience at: Rasika, Rosa Mexicano, and Clydes. For dessert, you should also check out Hello Cupcake and the Sweet Lobby. If your friend is gluten free due to Celiac, I would actually stay away from Cave Mezze Grill. After explaining to the food prep people that I had an "allergy," they did not understand why they had to change their gloves and why I could not any foods that have cross-contamination. Cava Mezze (the more formal restaurant) is a great option, though.

I'm looking to plan a welcome dinner for our summer interns in mid-June this year - any thoughts? We need private space for ~45 people somewhere within a 10-15 minute walk from McPherson square, preferably no small plates and somewhere kind of exciting.

Joe's Stone Crab, Woodberry Table, J&G Steakhouse all come to mind. (We're actually debating whether J&G would be exciting to interns not.) 

Hi! I am planning a get together this summer in Bethesda and I was wondering if you had any suggestions on restaurants that is good for groups. It would be great if it were walking distance to bars! Thank you!

Depends on the size of your group. I've been impressed so far with Roof in Bethesda, and their outdoor space will (finally) be open in the summer. Black's Bar and Kitchen and Brickside are good, too. Both of them are convenient for barhopping around the Woodmont Triangle.

All the smokey meat at Del Campo! (For the non-dieter, the best bread and olive oil!)

RE: WHISKEY QUESTION Fritz, what time does 2 Birds, 1 Stone open? No hours listed on the website and no phone number listed. Thanks! Is the lack of a website and phone number due to some exclusivity they are trying to cultivate because it's not suppose to be a speakeasy. It's 2014 - not even a twitter account?

There's a 2 Birds Twitter account: @2birds1stonedc. I follow them to keep up with the bar's ever-changing cocktail menu.

Also, I should add that when I've had questions about 2 Birds (how late the food is served, for example),  I've just called Doi Moi and they've told me, since it's technically the same establishment.

Gurus - I'm submitting early as I'll be teaching during the chat. You have never let me down, so help! Friends changed the date they are coming to town and now it's tomorrow. They are staying at the Helix (Dupont/Logan area). Where can I take them for drinks or dinner (I'm thinking they'll want a whole evening) that either doesn't need a reservation but we can get into without having to wait 3 hours for a table or I can get a last minute reservation for? I think they would like to stay in northwest. Thank you!!!

I'm seeing available reservations at Menu MBK, Alba Osteria, and Catch 15, to name three new restaurants that have been getting good reviews. And Roofers Union in Adams Morgan would be another fun choice.   If you reeeeally want to stay on 14th street, do drinks at 2 birds 1 stone while you wait for a seat at Doi Moi (they do take reservations, if you don't mind eating at 6 or earlier).

And thus this marathon Got Plans? session must come to a close. Enjoy this weather while you can, and we'll see you next week. (Also: Thanks, Dayton!)

Post Points Code: GG1305.

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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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