Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Gurus

Apr 04, 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.

Hi everyone. Thanks for joining us on a cold-but-sunny Thursday afternoon. There's a big weekend ahead, with cherry blossom fireworks and a crawfish boil among the items on our Weekend's Best list.

What are you most looking forward to doing? For me, it has to be a Green Hat gin-and-tonic from the taps at Union Market's Red Apron. (More about that new concoction here.)

Graduation is just around the corner and we're looking for a good place for dinner after the ceremony. The graduate has requested someplace with steak and seafood and I've looked around on your website but can't narrow down the choices. The ceremony is at DAR Constitution Hall, so ideally we'd eat downtown somewhere. What would you say are the best 2-3 steakhouses in the area? Thanks for your help!

Congrats to your graduate! If you want to stick close to DAR, BLT Steak could be your best bet. It's near the White House and has a festive atmosphere. I've had great seafood there, and the popovers are awesome. Also J&G, inside the W Hotel, gets high marks.

We have a rare Saturday night out and are itching to try something new in or around the Dupont/Logan/U-Street area for dinner, drinks...anything fun really! Got anything new for us?? Thanks!

Hey, we have a whole gallery of new restaurants for you to flip through! A few in your area: Mari Vanna, for Russian cuisine, Table, for upscale French, the new Matchbox on 14th, with interesting architectural features, or A&D,  or Hogo, where you can eat Rogue 24 chef RJ Cooper's food at a fraction of the price, thanks to his Gypsy Soul pop-up. If you want to venture into Chinatown, I'd also recommend the new izakaya at Daikaya (which takes reservations now, fyi everybody).

So I'd really like to see some fireworks this weekend (I just can't wait for July!), but the information on the Cherry Blossom website isn't too specific. Do you have suggestions for where the best place to see the fireworks from would be? Is the festival earlier in the day worth going to for three 20 somethings?

For me, the absolute best place to see the fireworks is from the deck at Cantina Marina, the wonderful dockside bar on the Southwest Waterfront. Problem is, a lot of people agree, and it can get crowded. So go a little early and kill time on the water with margaritas or micheladas.

As for the festival itself, it's always seemed family-focused to me, though there's live music, food trucks and other distractions. It's worth going in the mid-afternoon, wandering around and then heading to the bar to wait for fireworks, assuming that the weather forecasts are correct.

Hi Gurus--I'm leading a team for the National Eating Disorders Association 5K walk on the Mall this Sunday. We're a group of 8 and are looking to have brunch afterwards somewhere close by. We'll be in jeans and sweaters, nothing too fancy, (but no running gear). We're ending on the Mall itself, so I'm thinking we'll walk uptown closer to the Federal Triangle/Penn Quarter area. Any ideas? Thanks!

You may have some competition since the Cherry Blossom 10-miler and 5k are the same day. If you're looking to stay fairly close to that area, then you could try the Hamilton, hit up Matchbox in Chinatown, or head more towards Eastern Market and grab a table at Matchbox or Ted's over on that side of town. Just keep in mind how early you'll be finishing the walk. While these restaurants will all be open at 10 or earlier, most don't start serving until 11.

The in-laws will be in town the weekend of April 12. They've been interested in a Potomac cruise on previous visits but we've never done one. I couldn't get that much help from Yelp or the GOG (apart form the Potomac Riverboat Co. being feature in the 6 D.C. tours to try article). Is Potomac Riverboat your go-to suggestion, or are there others you'd recommend? I'm guessing the cherry blossoms will be waning but still in bloom that weekend, so our priority might be having a good view (does being a boat with a taller deck help?). It'd be nice if you could grab a drink on board, but it's not as important as the cruise experience. We could take or leave tour guide announcements, as they've likely seen the sights from land, but feel free to highlight any tours that are especially informative/entertaining. Thanks.

For cherry blossom-specific tours, I'd recommend the American Spirit cruises run by DC Sail. It's a three hour tour on a schooner -- a real sailboat, not a clunky powerboat -- around the Tidal Basin and up and down the Potomac and Anacostia rivers. Much different than the usual dinner cruise-style tours. There's one on Saturday, April 13 with  space open.

Oh, for people who want to see the fireworks this weekend, there's a special cruise on Saturday night, too.

(Standard disclaimer: I've taken lessons at DC Sail, and like their non-profit mission.)

The one caveat about PRC: Their cherry blossom cruises are Monday-Friday only. So if your in-laws can't do Saturday, do PRC. If they can't go Friday, then go with American Spirit. 

My husband and I are parents to 1 1/2 yr old twin boys and looking for a night out on the town. Preferably a nice dinner somplace new in DC.

Hi! Is there a certain amount you're looking to spend, or a specific cuisine? I'll take a stab in the dark and throw out a few names of some newish places that you could check out: Bandolero, Ambar, Boveda, Ancora, Malgudi, and all of the suggestions for the other couple, above.

Can you recommend a couple of places for drinks suitable for a large group (15-20 people) in Old Town Alexandria?

The upstairs "game room" at Virtue Feed and Grain and the back room at the upstairs bar at Light Horse are the first two that come to mind, because I've gone to events at both. The Light Horse will even let you reserve the space for free; just call Dave, the GM, in advance.

My boyfriend and I had planned to attend the Phillips after 5 event tonight, but alas, it is sold out. Any other suggestions for something to do after work? Up for anything, but would prefer it be near the Metro and not too hard to get home to Woodley Park afterward. Thanks, gurus!

If you want to stay in that artsy vein, then you could hit up the Renwick's Handi-Hour, which is basically craft time with good beer and live music.

Going to a show at the Hamilton Live tonight, and probably won't go home first after work. Is there a place nearby that you guys recommend where I could go, probably by myself, and get a seat at the bar, a decent (but not obnoxoiusly expensive) glass of wine, and read my book to kill some time before the show?

Places where you can do this -- other than the dining room bar at the Hamilton, which might also work -- include Le Bar at the Sofitel, the bar at Ceiba, or, if you don't mind German wines, Cafe Mozart. The latter will be the least crowded and noisy; Ceiba's bar is hit or miss in terms of how crowded it will be, but I've gone there for cocktails after work by myself, sipped a dark and stormy and read.

Hi GOGs, I'm looking for a hip (but not too hip - think more elegant but youngish), fun, centrally-located venue for a casual, celebratory open house/cocktail reception for a Wednesday night coming up in the next month. Any ideas?

Can you be a little more specific? Are you talking about a private room, open-bar, what?

Hi Gurus! I'm looking for first date ideas within the District. It's a mid-week date and any and all suggestions are welcome. Good spot for drinks/conversation, an activity, etc. Some place that allows for conversation without too much noise/distraction, but enough to keep things lively and fun.

If it's mid-week next week when the weather may warm up, then you could wander around the cherry blossoms -- the Tidal Basin is so much less crowded on weeknights -- and bring a picnic.

So, it looks like I'll be losing my big toe nail, just in time for sandal season. Any specific ideas for a closed toe (women's) shoe that I can wear all summer without hose? I plan on getting some espadrilles but they're a little too casual for the office. Thanks!

Ballet flats are your friend -- especially the slightly pointy-toe or tiny block heel ones, which dress up the look a bit, if that won't hurt your foot. I like the slingback or d'orsay kind, which will give you the feeling of wearing a sandal without actually showing the toe. Also springy loafers, like these from J Crew.

Hey Gurus! I know it's not a designated fashion chat, but you guys seem to know what's up. I recently purchased a pair of Frye boots (pretty much my price limit/holy grail of footwear) and want to make sure they remain all pretty and odor-free for as long as possible. With past pairs of boots I didn't really do anything until it was too late, so I've started stuffing dryer sheets in these when I'm not wearing them. Any tips for keeping them smelling like "roses," especially when I'll probably be storing them in my closet soon due to the impending warm weather? (I hope I didn't just jinx things.) Thanks!!

Maura had the great idea to check the Frye web site, but they have nothing beyond the basics of leather care. Alas, we don't have any brilliant tips for you, although I've heard the dryer sheet method works. Chatters, what say you?

I am picking up relatives at the Hotel Monaco on Sunday (they are visiting from California). We would like to have lunch somewhere in Baltimore before heading to DC. I never go to Baltimore so don't really know what is nearby. I have a reservation at Alewife, but some reviews are terrible while others are glowing. And they don't seem to have crabcakes on the menu. How is that possible? Should I keep my reservation or go someplace else? I couldn't get a reservation at Woodberry Kitchen.

Michael Mina's Wit and Wisdom is the big crowd-pleaser these days, right on the water near Fells Point. (Haven't eaten there, but hear great things.) There are spots open for Sunday brunch, sez Open Table.

My fallbacks in Baltimore for lunch are Brewers Art (a brewpub with fantastic food) or Ze Mean Bean (Eastern European). I've had friends talk up Alewife to me, though.

The lack of crabcakes? It's because crab season just started Monday. Patience is a virtue. They'll be big by Memorial Day.

Any recommendations for a place that will have the games on (bonus: w/ sound) in the Atlas District? thanks

You know, H Street really could use a good sports bar. I've heard the sound on at Biergarten Haus, Avery's and (I think) the H Street Country Club. Go further west and Big Board's a good bet.

Husband and I are both foodies and don't get out often anymore, so we'd like something trendy and fresh - preferably not tapas (price range of $$$ - $$$$).

Gotcha. Table is definitely a good bet, then. Blue Duck Tavern isn't new, but they've just switched over to a spring menu, so if you haven't been there, it might be a good chance to check it out. If you want to hold out for reservations at Barmini, that would be a really cool date.

Friends coming into town looking for a good happy hour on a Thursday night. Good bar munchies, beer and drinks. Where would you send them? Dives are fine!

If they don't mind walking a few blocks down to the Circle, try DGS for Jewish deli-style snacks and cocktails, Irish Whiskey Public House for a pub vibe, or the Big Hunt for a dive with solid craft beer. (Honestly, I might just grab a few stools at the zinc at Bistrot du Coin for wine and frites.)

Ah, thanks, Fritz, for reporting about the $22 cocktail. It has finally arrived, albeit a year or two behind some of NYC's top spots. I have to admit, I hope the trend doesn't catch on too much here because the quality of cocktails that I've had don't warrant a $22 price tag. Now, if it's stellar, that's a different story but stellar is not something I've seen all too often on my cocktail radar here, alas. I guess for perfectionists, you can always buy the bottles yourself and mix and stir and shake to your heart's perfected content. Cheers!

I was telling some friends the other night that if the $22 barrel-aged Manhattan had been presented among the pricier drinks at Proof, Jack Rose or the Passenger -- say, around $16 -- then I'd be singing its praises. But the $20 barrier is a tough one to break psychologically. I think at that point, people will demand perfection: "Why is this drink so expensive when the fill-in-the-blank at Bourbon Steak-or-Fiola is so perfect and only $16?"

Sadly, I'm afraid there will be more of them soon.

The Fam will come to town in June, so be on the look out for a bunch of Eurasians with southern accents. Anway: 1. What do you like for a large dinner in Pen quarter on a Saturday (30 ish?). Right now Carmines, Clydes, M&S seem to be the obvious choices, but anything more interesting would be a welcome suggestion. 2. and speaking on interesting, we would like to set up something a little touristy, (they are from out of town) but unique for a Saturday morning - DC Ducks was my first thought, but again interesting suggestions would be cool. thanks

1. Hill Country can easily handle 30 or more, and is more unique than Carmine's or Clyde's. (I'd toss Pi out there too.)

2. Tourist suggestions: The thing about the Ducks is that you won't be able to get all 30 people on one boat. It's more fun than an open-top bus, for sure. 

Hi! I asked Tomthis questino Tuesday, but didn't really get an answer...I am going out to brunch with some girlfriends this Sunday in Alexandria. There will eb 4 of us. We want to go somewhere with cheap mimosas, as we plan on drinking several. Also, good food would be nice! Jackson 20, Chart House, and Chadwicks have all been tossed around. Which one is the best? Or is there a better option for us? Thanks!

Of those, you want Jackson 20: $13 for unlimited mimosas, and the food -- everything from biscuits and gravy to bagels with lox -- is reliable, since it's a Kimpton hotel. 

I use the Dr. Scholl's insoles that contain charcoal in my boots. Never have odor issues when using them. You could just stuff them in your boots when you put them in storage. You could also try using insoles for running shoes (the kind you buy separately at running shoe stores. They usually have anti-odor, anti-bacteria, and moisture-wicking materials in them.


Hi all! I've got a tough one for you. I'm looking for a spot for a casual brunch on Sunday for a group that has suddenly ballooned from 4 to 10 people. Lucky me! A few of us arre running the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler so something where one can show up in running clothes is preferable. Any recommendations for downtown DC or Silver Spring (or anywhere in between on the red line, really)? Tonic has generally been a good bet for this sort of thing but the last time I was there service was abyssmal so I'm hesitant to go back.

Between the 10-miler, the 5k, the walk on the Mall and the usual horde of Cherry Blossom tourists, Sunday is NOT going to be a fun day for brunch downtown. Then again, do you want to Metro back to Silver Spring hungry? Didn't think so. 

We're trying to think of some offbeat ideas -- Union Market is so close to the NoMa station, Menomale isn't that far from Brookland or Rhode Island Avenue, Union Pub is an acceptable no-one-will-make-fun-0f-your-shorts spot near Union Station.

Chatters? Can you help in the few minutes we have left?

Atmosphere may be lacking, depending on your viewpoint, but the bar at the Whole Foods in Old Town has organic Mimosa happy hours on the weekends. You can grab some hot food, hang out, and the people watching can be pretty good.....

Whoa, really? First happy hour at the singles-heavy Whole Foods in Clarendon, and now mimosa happy hours in Old Town?

Since crab season has officially started, does that mean I can go to main ave and get chesapeake crabs, or do I still have to ask where they're from.

I'd still ask. I mean, they're going to be young and not full-size. A lot of Marylanders will tell you that the crabs aren't at their best until June, anyway, after soft-shell season starts.

AHHHH. Friend coming into town and wants me to pick a brunch place in Georgetown and I just realized it's the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler and probably need reservations. 4 adults (1 is a vegetarian) and a baby. Any ideas?? She really wants to do gtown because her husband has never been.

Your best bet is Farmers Fishers Bakers for brunch on the Georgetown waterfront on what promises to be a pretty day. Looks like Opentable still has some reservations available. Peacock Cafe is also very classic Georgetown for brunch, and has availability as well.

Happy Thursday! My friend wants to have a bday brunch this Sunday after church. She likes caribbean food, is leaning towards a buffet type of brunch, up to $40, &the option of a to-go box. Is there anything like that in the DMV that fits the bill? I suggested Creme and 876 cafe Or maybe just southern style brunch? Thank you!!!!

Caribbean-esque is kind of tough -- but if you want to go Southern, we'd recommend Eatonville on U Street or Ma-Ma's on Georgia Ave Georgia Brown's. (sorry, we didn't realize Ma-Ma's was closed on Sundays)

Thanks again for joining us. If it really does hit 60 on Sunday, enjoy those outdoor brunches. We'll see you back here next Thursday.

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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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