Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Gurus

Mar 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. This week Columbia Room's Derek Brown and Rappahannock Oyster Bar's Travis Croxton join the Gurus to discuss 40 Eats.

Hi everyone. There's a lot on our plate this week: March Madness, the coming of Spring, next week's Craft Brewers Conference ... and, before we get to those, a Going Out Guide basketball viewing party tomorrow at Penn Social. (You can find all the details here.) Good luck at Pop-a-Shot!

But first: Your questions.

I have a 1 year old who isn't walking yet and probably won't be for another few months. So she's either in a stroller or we do have a hiking backpack. We need to get out and do some fun things as a family. We usually have about 3 hours before we have to be home for a nap. Where can we take her? She's usually up for anything new and interesting.

I turned to resident things-to-do-with-kids Guru (and Weekend Editor) Amy Joyce for help with this one. Her suggestions:

Everything! The DC area is so great for walking. You really have no restrictions. So what sorts of things do you WANT to do? You probably can. 

I usually would pop my boys into an Ergo or the stroller and head to the zoo, which of course is stroller friendly. The National Mall is great, too, and any of the museums have stroller parking if you’re willing to carry your little one inside. Check out the butterfly exhibit at Natural History. The National Gallery is great, particularly the huge Caulder mobiles, for little ones. Lots of big interesting things to look at that mom and dad would appreciate too. Have lunch at the café there, where she can watch the waterfall. The sculpture garden is nice for a stroll(er). Brookside Gardens. National Arboretum. Rock Creek Park trails (many are paved). 

The world is yours.

Hi Gurus--I'm meeting a friend after work for drinks and to catch up. Are we likely to find two seats at the Tabard Inn bar, or will it be full by 6? What's your favorite place in that neighborhood for drinks and conversation?

You shout be able to find seats at Tabard at 6, no problem.  The front room, with the fireplace and sofas, is probably the best place in Dupont for dates and friends catching up, since the noise level is low and the drinks are meticulously made. The bar itself is pretty tight, but you might be able to find a spot in front of a bartender at 6 -- it can happen. Boqueria, one of the restaurants in the running for a Rammy for new restaurant, is another option, with a sizeable bar and small plates, in case you get hungry.  In answer to your favorite place question, its definitely Tabard, but I think we're all waiting anxiously for Iron Gate Inn, just across from Tabard, to re-open with chef Tony Chittum, late of Vermillion. Then, there may be a little competition for best place in the neighborhood.

Hi GOGs, I have a visitor coming to town who I would like to take to a burlesque show this weekend or next weekend. Unfortunately, he gets in too late on Friday to catch the show at the Blackcat. Are there any other performances going on?

Since the Red Palace closed, D.C.'s burlesque scene has scattered to the four winds.

The Big Hunt has started hosting burlesque in its basement "Devil's Kitchen" bar every Saturday night. I haven't made it over yet, but plan to. Another odd location for weekend burlesque: The Bier Baron. Only place I know of where you can drink rare microbrews while watching the dancers...

We're going to Volt tonight for my wife's birthday dinner. Reservations are at 6:30 p.m. Do you have any suggestions about what to do and what to check out around the area if we get there earlier in the afternoon? Thanks!

That sounds awesome -- our guru Amy Orndorff just had an amazing time at Volt, enough that I'm now dying to finally go myself. Downtown Frederick has a lot of cool boutiques and antiques on Market Street, and we all agree that's a great way to pass time.

I'm not sure if this is the best forum in which to ask, but I'm at my wit's end. I'm off to the Kentucky Derby for the first time this May, so am need of at least one great Spring hat. Hoping to avoid excessive price tags, I first thought of vintage or consignment stores, but I am not familiar with those stores in the area. I'm in DC, but have car and will travel. Friends have suggested Nordstroms and others, and maybe post Easter sales will be affordable at retail locations. Any thoughts or suggestions welcome!

Skip vintage and consignment stores -- you should be able to find what you're looking for at Proper Topper, or maybe Madewell or J. Crew. (I know at least one Gold Cup attendee who found her broad-brimmed chapeau at Anthropologie.) And, of course, if you go with one of the latter stores, you might want to dress it up with ribbon or something to cut down on the risk of wearing exactly the same hat as someone else. 

Where are good places to watch some March Madness B-ball on Saturday? We are old college friends but now 40 years old. So not looking for a super young college crowd. Any place on H street that's good?

Assuming the weather forecast stays in the 50s on Saturday, you could watch at Biergarten Haus, which has big TVs (with satellite channels) outdoors in its beer garden. Crowd doesn't skew young during the afternoons, either -- you'll even see a family or two. Argonaut is another good H Street option with a cool beer and appetizer menu, though it's not a typical sports bar with a surfeit of TVs.

Any fun parties on tap for April 6? Looking for something Michael/Madonna/Poppy/Housey for a bunch of ladies! Thanks!

Not seeing too much at the clubs, to be honest. The Moon Bounce party on the Black Cat's backstage might be close to what you're looking for, with a mix of house, '80s pop, some remixes, uptempo house and so on.

I've heard that sort of mix at Saint-Ex and Dodge City lately, though their miniscule dance floors can be a downer if you really want to get down. 

The usual recommendations -- Lost Society, Little Miss Whiskey's, Wonderland, El Centro -- all still stand, though I don't know if any are doing anything special that night.

I saw some at Nordstrom Rack in Friendship Heights yesterday.

Hat recommendation #1 ...

Try T.J. Maxx. They often have some elaborate hats. If you get one that needs some embellishment, use some ribbon and a big sparkly pin.

... and Hat Tip #2. Thanks, y'all.

How to dress for spring when temps are still in the 40s? I'm thinking mainly about my winter shoes, which are black and heavy-looking. Luckily my coat is grey and I can accessorize with pastel hat and scarf. I'm going to Chicago at the beginning of April and just have no idea what to bring. It's really hard to travel in the seasonal transition period. Sorry--not much of a question; mostly just a rant. Thanks for listening. :)

By this time of year -- and after, what, 5 months of chilly temperatures that began pre-Sandy? -- I don't think anyone can blame you for feeling a little rant-y. I think the best way to dress is as you describe -- transitionally, but intelligently. Stick to tights and closed-toed shoes and keep that coat on (!) if it's chilly, but you can totally start to brighten up your dresses, blouses and accessories, with pops of color or the floral/tropical prints that have been hot for the past couple of years. That's true for makeup too - a little punch of pink (or red) on your nails or lips are great ways to telegraph "spring" even if you're not exactly baring your legs yet. I think the problem in D.C. sometimes is that we dive into wearing pink sundresses at the first sign of sun, and then look dumb. As for Chicago, it's pretty reliably not springy till May (I lived there a while ago, so if I'm wrong, readers, correct me). In early April,  you'll be perfectly fine in what would have been your D.C. winter clothes.

I have to be in Gtown tomorrow for a meeting. We should be free by early evening and we're looking for things to do there. I haven't hung out in that area in years. Can you recommend some restaurants, bars, shopping, cool places? Thanks!

When I'm in Georgetown these days, I'm drawn to the redone basement bar at Birreria Paradiso, which has a great beer selection; the upstairs raw bar at Tackle Box, for clam rolls and steamed shrimp; cocktails at the dark and loud and cool Bandolero, from "Top Chef" Mike Isabella; and the tiki bar at Farmers and Fishers on the waterfront at Washington Harbour.

I am taking my visitors (all adults) to Annapolis next Saturday (30th) and could use some help!! First, where is the best place to get a crab cake and Second, what are some can't miss attractions? Thank You!

Token Reminder From a Maryland Boy: Crab Season starts April 1. No fresh crabs from the Chesapeake can be sold before that date, so you're not getting blue crab -- or it's frozen blue crab. Sad, but true.

Everyone has their own opinion about the best crabs in Annapolis; I'm a loyal fan of Davis' Pub in Eastport. (I know folks who swear by McGarvey's and Federal House, too; I like McGarvey's a lot.)

As far as can't-miss sights, I like to wander around the city and look at the historic buildings. The Naval Academy is great -- don't miss the museum and John Paul Jones' crypt -- and the oldest statehouse in America that's still in use. Lavanya and I went to the Banneker-Douglass for our Guide to Annapolis, and it's an off-the-beaten-path museum about Maryland's African-American history.

It might be a little early for the gardens at the William Paca House, but they're also a favorite.

Reader who submitted the Fatback-related question: I accidentally deleted it (and my response). Can you send it again? Thanks, and sorry for the inconvenience. 

Hi Gurus! My cousin and his wife are coming to town tomorrow before driving to visit our whole clan, so we're going out to dinner. He just told me that he and his wife have become vegan in the past year. Is there a nice restaurant in Herndon/Reston area that has a good steak (for my fiance) and some vegan choices? I want a nice relaxing sit down dinner....I have seen them in years. Thanks guys!

Actually, Reston is probably your best bet; I just called the Clyde's there, and the manager tells me that they can absolutely turn some of their vegetarian dishes into vegan ones by omitting cheese and dairy, so that's a good option for you. In Leesburg -- a little further away, but worth the trip -- is the Wine Kitchen. A friend of mine is vegan and said they were incredibly accommodating to her dietary needs, and that the wine was excellent. One more choice:  The Counter - a much more fun, casual burger joint with a vegan veggie burger. I know you asked for a nice dinner, but I'll toss this one out there for you.

Hey Gurus, I am in need of your infinite wisdom. My boyfriend and I have a date scheduled tonight (Thurs), and I can't think of anything creative to do, other than a nice meal. Any thoughts? We like just about everything, but would like to keep it in DC and close to a Metro or bus line. My ideas were either happy hour at Sushi Taro, or maybe the Take 5 jazz concert at the Portrait Gallery and dinner at Co Co Sala. What do you think? Other ideas? Thanks!

Take 5 is great if you've never been, though I'd pair it with something different than CoCo Sala -- think Hogo for tropical rum drinks and Swedish-inspired cuisine from pop-up chef Ed Hardy, or over to Pi Pizzeria for deep dish pies and St. Louis beers.

Help! I've been roped into helping my friend's MOH plan the bridal shower/bachelorette party the weekend of April 27th. They were thinking of getting a suite for out of town guests and having the shower in the same venue (maybe using a conference space and self-catering). The main problem is their budget is super tight. Any ideas of hotels in the city that might fit the bill and not feel super corporate-y? Or perhaps of a cute venue that would allow us to provide most of the food and drink or at least extras and have them provide the basics? The plan is to later go out to dinner later in the evening (maybe convening at the hotel) and then head out dancing on H Street.

There are some awesome ideas out there, actually. Fritz recommends the Avenue Suites in Foggy Bottom, which has a really cool, mod bar called A Bar downstairs, with a lovely patio that might work really well for your event, and not feel at all like a conference room. Their food is also really good, so you might not even have to cater out, but have cool finger foods brought to you instead. Another couple of options include the Hotel Palomar in Dupont Circle, which has a restaurant, Urbana, with great pizzas and a very cool vibe (and a very cool private room in the middle of the space). The benefit to this one is that it's easily accessible by Metro. And finally, there's the Dupont Circle Hotel, which has a hopping cafe downstairs that's attractive and bright, and spacious.

Are there any Fatback-style dance parties happening on April 27th? A friend is having her bachelorette party that night, and Fatback would be totally up her alley but it looks like she'll be a week too late.

(Whew. Thanks for the re-send.)

So Fatback is officially kaput -- the last party was in February. The guys are doing separate parties now, but nothing that falls on April 27. Clusterfunk is close, but that's the third Saturday of the month at Liv.

So I have a slight conflict of interest with this one, but Axel F at Liv is a stunner. It's run by Jamil (Main Ingredient at Marvin) and Rhome, my Nightlife Agenda co-author and WPFW veteran. It's all soul/R&B/go-go/disco and straight-up FONK -- think the soundtrack to the roller rink in the '70s and '80s. Ridiculously good times guaranteed. It comes closest to giving the bachelorette what she wants.

I have scoured the plays/some music venues for Saturday- at most of the DC venues around during the evening. I'm leaning toward hanging in NoVa. As far as the options there, I'm a bit foggy and need your help. Synetic Theater is dark that night. Artisphere is a maybe. So any music/play venue in NoVa besides the two I looked at would be helpful:) Thanks

Hi! Plenty of options for theater in Virginia this weekend.  Our Stephanie Merry wrote about "Voodoo Macbeth" for tomorrow's Weekend section -- it's at the Gunston Arts Center in Arlington. The touring company of the Upright Citizens Brigade is at the Alden Theatre in McLean. "Never the Sinner" is at 1st Stage, also in McLean. There's also "Proof" at Theatre on the Run in Arlington, and "Ladies Swing the Blues" at MetroStage, near Old Town. Hopefully one of those will work for you!

Is there anywhere I can get brunch and watch the tournament TOMORROW (Friday)? Thanks!

Do you want brunch food (eggs/bacon/bloody marys) or just some place to watch games that's open early? Open City and the Coupe have TVs and all-day breakfast, but I've heard from floods of places that will be putting basketball on TV before noon, ranging from the new Gryphon to Public Bar to Maddy's.

My friend lost a bet (we closed on snowquester - I was the more optimistic) and so has to come play Trivial Pursuit with me. Only, I don't know how it works in the pubs - is a team of 2 OK? Any recommendation for a fun game that's on Monday nights? Anywhere in the area is fine.

Monday is the domain of the Monday Night Trivia Fight at Wonderland, which is one of the longest and most entertaining quizzes in the D.C. area. Team of 2 is fine, though there will be teams of 6 or sometimes more. (Many places in the D.C. area cap teams at 4 or 5.) Different people host every week, so it's always different. 

I also like the pub quiz at Fado in Chinatown on Mondays -- always competitive, good general knowledge and picture rounds. 

hi Gog's I was a loyal reader about 5 years ago when I moved outside the area. I'm coming back for a visit this weekend and would love some tips of fun things going on. Specifically daytime activities. Thanks!

Welcome back! We missed you. (Too much?  Too much?)  Basically, Washington is unrecognizable these days to those of us who were here five years ago. Here's a list of some of the best events  this weekend. Of course, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is also underway; this weekend will bring the start of the ranger-led tours, the fun Cherry Chit-Chat runs and the Cherry Blossom Food Tours. This weekend at the Portrait Gallery marks the opening of the Outwin Boochever competition, which should be cool. You might also visit some of the new growing neighborhoods like the 400-600 block of H Street NE, which has cool lunch spots now, including Batter Bowl Bakery, or the new Union Market; 14th Street, where you can now grab coffee at "America's best coffeehouse" Peregrine and then go for a stroll into new    boutiques, stopping for fresh doughnuts at Cork Market. And if you want some lunchtime barbecue and beer, you can do that at beer garden the Standard (Saturday afternoons are my favorite time to go, anyway.) If you wanted to check out what's new,  food- and drink-wise, in fact, here's our  new list of Washington's essential eats, with a number of restaurants you will never have heard of, because so many are new.

Speaking of Annapolis-- what should a visitor do at night? The only place I know of is Metropolis which is kind of a sophisticated, night spot, or somewhat "cool" in that area. I usually hang on U Street but I want to do a different option when its warmer.

Annapolis' nightlife can be somewhat wanting -- it's more of a laidback and only occasionally rowdy pub and bar scene than a DJ and dancing scene, for sure. There's Acme for live music, Dock Street for dancing ... 

I'm a JMU alum and am thrilled they're in the NCAA tournament again. I'm planning on leaving work on Friday in time to see the JMU/Indiana game at 4pm. Looking for a bar, preferably in Old Town (easiest area to get to from my office) that would have the game on. Good appetizers are a bonus. Any suggestions?

You'd be in time for happy hour at the Light Horse's upstairs bar, which has some decent deals: $3 beers and discounted apps, including hush puppies and loaded grilled cheese from 4 to 7 p.m.

Hi Gurus, This may be an odd request, but I was wondering if you, or any chatters, could suggest some good spots around DC (U Street, Logan, Dupont preferably) with free wifi? I just moved and have yet to set up my internet, and in the meantime I'd like to find some low key places around where I can get a cup of coffee/tea/a sandwich/a drink/etc and bring my laptop with me. The only place I can really think of is Starbucks, and I'd really prefer something more independent, with a neighborhood feel. A friend suggested you guys have any favorites around? Thank you! ~from a girl tired of internet surfing on her phone

I love your affinity for neighborhood spots, and we have so many in D.C. right now. In Dupont, try Dolcezza, or Filter  for excellent coffee and good breakfast fare; the problem is that they're a little but of a madhouse on the weekends (though nothing compared to Tryst).  The Coffee Bar is another cool little spot closer to Logan Circle that offers free wi-fi; in Adams Morgan, Pleasant Pops Farmhouse Market is quieter, so it's a great place to get serious work done. But the king of coffeeshops right now is Blind Dog Cafe, and I have a terribly soft spot in my heart for them myself. The salads, and sandwiches, are awesome, and when it's nice, the patio is so quiet. And finally, here are some more options because my fingers are tired of typing all of the places I love.

Hello! I would like to do a long run and end at brunch. Where can I go that would not be offended that I am wearing running attire?

I guess it depends on where you're running to/from, but any place that has a diner-like atmosphere should be cool with your running clothes. Commissary, on P Street, is next to a Lululemon, so they're used to getting athletically-attired diners. Sidling up to the counter at Market Lunch in Eastern Market would be another good option.

I've read conflicting reports about how much is actually open at Union Market (granted, I know the offerings have been expanding since it opened), and I can't quite picture it. Best time to go? Are there places to sit and eat a meal or is it conducive to snacking or shopping for edible goods? Etc! Thanks in advance.

It's kind of always slammed -- I'll be honest. Quite a bit is open now, and I'll give you the highlights in super-short form: Red Apron grilled cheese sandwiches and beer; the stylish-people magnet that is Rappahannock Oyster Bar for wine and oysters;  Salt & Sundry for geeked-out home chefs and mixologists to ogle rose water and Bittermen's bitters; Neopol's for smoked salmon on a bagel; Righteous Cheese is incredibly gracious about helping you pick a cheese and wine pairing that can eat right on the spot at their bar.  There's at least an hour and a half of fun to be had.

Is this better than what was there before? I can't even remember what was there before. Anyway, or is it only that it got a makeover but is underwhelming? Thanks

So I haven't been in the rooms, but the renovations downstairs are pretty posh, and I'm a big fan of how much light comes in there (making it a nice place for a daytime event). Cafe Dupont downstairs is quite the mod little hotel bar, and the food is pretty tasty. Readers? Anyone stay at the hotel?

Hi! My husband and I are going to the Hippodrome in Baltimore for a show in May (celebrating our anniversary). What are some options for dinner beforehand? Or if we eat at home, what about drinks or hanging out before the play? Thanks!

Since it's an anniversary, I'd recommend getting reservations at Woodberry Kitchen. You won't regret it.

OP here. So we actually have been to Take 5 before (twice actually), which I should have clarified in the original post. Would love to hear of any other ideas you have! We would like to try something new and fun.

Okay. How about bluegrass night at the Argonaut (grab dinner at the Queen Vic or Granville Moore's) before; serious late-night dancing at Que Sera in Napoleon's champagne bar in Adams Morgan (mix of rock, R&B and anything that grooves) with dinner at the bar at Cashion's or Mellow Mushroom first; and there's always John Corbett (you know, from "Northern Exposure"/"Sex and the City" fame) and his country band playing at Hill Country tonight, with half-price cocktails for the ladies ...

Sorry -- forgot this the first time around. Veritas in Dupont Circle sent word that they're hosting a free tasting of Spanish and Argentinian wines tonight from 5 to 7. Why not try a few of those, then head down Connecticut Avenue for a few games of Don't Break the Ice or Jenga at the Board Room?

Hey Gurus, This may be a little far so I'll take input from anyone. Heading to Rams Head Live Friday night for Aaron Lewis-- show doesn't start until 9 and the boyfriend and I don't really care about the opening act. We're leaving Crystal City at 4:30, which means we'll have time to kill. We'd only like to pay for parking once. Where can we go after we park near Power Plant Live to grab a beer and watch some March Madness? Thanks!!!

Not a huge fan of the bars around the Inner Harbor -- I'd rather be in Fells/Mount Vernon/Canton. Closest for good beer and TVs is probably the Pratt Street Ale House, a few blocks west of PPL, near the convention center. Good house-made brews, bunch of screens by the bar.

A friend of mine is in town tomorrow night, staying near Logan. I don't have reservations anywhere. He loves beer but will drink anything. I was thinking Churchkey/Birch & Barley but feel like we may have trouble trying to get in there and I have no idea what other places in that area would be fun to try, for drinks or dinner (yes, I am totally out of the loop). Thanks for your help!

Aw, thanks. I think if you can pop into ChurchKey earlyish (like 6), then you should have no problem popping in. But I might also point you to Estadio up the street, where you can dine at the bar, or Pearl Dive (again get there early, in both cases.) All of the above are pretty happening, and should also give your friend a great peek at what D.C.'s all about right now. After dinner, you could try popping over to Standard up the street for beers to end the night.

It's open afternoons Wed-Fri and not crowded then. I don't think it's terribly crowded Wed/Thurs evening (open 'til 8), but the cupcakes are always gone by 7:30.

Thanks for the tip.

HI! My parents are coming into town next weekend and I am looking for a Saturday day of fun! I am hoping to do a hike in Virginia, followed by a vineyard tasting. Do you know of a good hike near a vineyard? Any good lunch spots nearby? If you don't know of hikes- just your favorite vineyards that are 1.5 hours or less from the city? Thanks!

Sorry for the late answer on this, but we think Harpers Ferry followed by one of the wineries in that area would be a great idea in Virginia. Near Harpers Ferry, Breaux is a popular choice, but there's also newer places such as 868 Estate Vineyards, which has a restaurant on site, Grandale Farms (make a reservation).  It has a beautiful view.

Okay, guys that's it for today, thanks so much for staying with us for this long long chat. See you next week, Thursday at 1 p.m. We'll be in the middle of the Craft Brewers Conference, so Fritz will be taking your questions with hops in his bloodstream. Just sayin'.

In This Chat
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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