Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Guide

Apr 10, 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. It looks like we've got a gorgeous weekend on the way, with temperatures even coming close to 80 in time for the end of the Cherry Blossom Festival. (Better late than never, we guess.) How are you planning on spending the sunny days?

In the news: Chefs from Toki Underground and Rose's Luxury are teaming up for charity; Love nightclub is on the auction block; restaurants are cooking up special Easter and Passover menus; and our Alex is pretty sure the Foo Fighters are playing at the 9:30 Club.

Is the Bullpen 21 and over during day games?

The Bullpen is open to anyone before Nationals games, including families. (They have Little League-related events and games during some selected weekend homestands.) After the game, however, you must be 21 to enter.

I've been to a lot of places lately where the service isn't up to the price or quality of the drinks. Sometimes it's because of a new staff member or because the place is newish. I want to like the places. How can I let them know they need better help (other than posting a lame Yelp review)?

This is a problem, for sure. There have been a couple places lately that I really thought about reviewing, but the level of service was so bumpy that I figured it wasn't worth my time. (The latest casualty: Heavy Seas Ale House in Rosslyn, where things have been decidedly choppy since opening, especially on Thursdays and Fridays.)

I feel like most managers have to have some idea of what's happening, but it's always helpful if you tell a manager or general manager *while you're in the bar or restaurant*. That way they can look into the problem and, if they can't remedy it that second, at least identify what's going on. It's better to use sugar than vinegar, too: Perhaps, on the way out, say "I live around the corner and could see my self coming in here often, but it took forever to get drinks tonight. You might want to [offer a suggestion]." 

If a place is new, and they're serious about sticking around, they should listen. This is a much more effective way to tell them "I want to like it, but" than writing a tirade on Yelp, which many restaurant professionals think is a forum for griping and little else.

He used to live here years ago and we would like to show him a part of town that has really changed. We are thinking Cork for dinner - do you have a better idea for a place where we could still get reservations this weekend? Also anything fun to see or do for people in the 40s to 50s? Thanks

If you really have your heart set on 14th Street, you might have trouble getting a reservation at one of the newer places on short notice, unless you don't mind eating at 5:30. I see some slots open at Cork at 6 - better jump on them quickly!

Ultimately, if you end up not getting reservations, you should put your name and number down at one of the no-reservations restaurants in the neighborhood, which are all excellent (Doi Moi, Etto, Estadio) and use your wait time to take a little walk with your in-laws. If you show up at 6:30ish, your wait won't be very long at all. While you're in the neighborhood, you could see a show at the Studio Theatre or the Source.

If you don't mind branching out from 14th Street, you'll probably have better luch with reservations in Shaw, and your family will be equally amazed by its transformation. You could try Baby Wale, Thally, or any of the Derek Brown restaurants on 7th. They also might be interested in checking out Union Market for lunch the next day.

Hey GOG! I'm planning my sister's bachelorette party for late May - she loves musical theater and enjoys a lowkey night out (cocktails in a lounge vs dancing in a club). If I had all the money in the world I'd take her to NYC to see a show on Broadway and hit the town there, but my wedding budget is already tight. Do you know of any good theater in DC during May? And any recommendations for bars with fun (and not too expensive!) cocktails with seating? Thanks for taking my question!

So I went to resident theater expert Stephanie Merry, who admits "I do love a good musical." Here's what she suggests:

• This is late in the month, but Fiasco Theater is supposed to be awesome and they're doing a musical retelling of "Cymbeline" at the Folger.

• Maybe not quite the right tone for a bachelorette party, but "Threepenny Opera" at Signature should be really great (not to mention jazzy). 

• And then there's "Smokey Joe's Cafe" at Arena, which is a cabaret with lots of great music.

Afterwards, I'd making a reservation for the Gibson. Right now, you really want to be at the upstairs bar, where bartender Frank Jones is crafting custom cocktails for guests. You fill out a short form that looks kind of like a sushi menu, where you tick off what kind of spirit you want, how sweet/spicy/fruity/dry you like your drinks, etc. It's such a cool concept, and a pretty unique one for D.C. Also, despite its speakeasy reputation, once you're in the Gibson it's a fairly low-key, low-stress place. 

Other drink options might include 2 Birds 1 Stone or Quill at the Jefferson; I really feel like bartenders Sophie and Rachel at Quill have been clicking along nicely and coming up with some great cocktails lately, as their People's Choice award at Artini showed.

"but the level of service was so bumpy that I figured it wasn't worth my time." Can you clarify? It sounds like you're saying you don't want to give a bad review but I doubt that's what you mean.

Oh, I have no trouble giving bad reviews when warrented, but this wasn't a review of Heavy Seas alone.

I was going to include Heavy Seas in a roundup in an upcoming feature story, but rather than spend that portion of the piece writing about how long it took to get a drink and how my party's order was botched, I cut Heavy Seas from the article altogether and am recommending a different place instead.

As a new-ish DC resident, I'd love to go see the cherry blossoms, but I (already) can't stand the crowds of tourists. I work a 9-5, so this might be impossible, but can you recommend a good time to go see them that will be less crowded?

I think dinner time is the right time, honestly. Around 6-ish, people are getting hungry and kids are getting cranky, the paddle boats have closed, and you can spend a very happy hour or so strolling on the basin.

The other option is to get up an hour or two early and go on the way to work. I've had friends Instagramming from runs around the blossoms the last few days and the crowds haven't looked awful.

Chatters, any other viewing tips you can share?

My in-laws are coming in town this weekend. Any suggestions for activities this weekend for a 1.5 year old and grandparents, that is either down town or in Old Town, that is metro accesible (no car) but doesn't require too much walking? Bonus if we could see some cherry blossoms but not have to deal with the crowds. Also, how crowded do you think the sculpture garden would be for lunch?

EVERYWHERE is going to be crowded this weekend, thanks to warm temperatures and the Cherry Blossom parade and associated street festival. The good news is that there's plenty for a toddler to see at the parade, such as floats and marching bands, and the parade route, from 9th to 15th along Constitution Avenue NW, is close to Smithsonian and Federal Triangle stations. (You might appreciate Regina Belle and Sheena Easton more than the kid, however.) 

A picnic in the Sculpture Garden is a great idea, though I might encourage you to try the Hirshhorn's garden before the NGA's -- it's more hidden and less touristy, so there's often more room for groups.

My daughter is at UMD. We'd like to pick her up on Easter and go to brunch in DC. Do you have restaurant suggestions easy to get to from College Park?

For pure convience, if you're trying to stay relatively close to Rhode Island Avenue (assuming that's the way you're driving in), a few options could be 1905, Boundary Stone, Rustik Tavern, or Bistro Bohem. They're pretty laid-back and casual, though, so if you want a more upscale Easter brunch, you might want to venture further in - maybe to Poste or Nopa in Chinatown?

I am returning to DC on Saturday after a stay in Paris and am looking for somewhere to go on Sunday that will resemble a Parisian cafe. With the weather so nice, and Spring finally arriving in DC, I'd like somewhere that offers outdoor seating, espresso and some interesting people-watching. Ideas s'il vous plaît?

You're going to be disappointing yourself. Just saying.

I'd say the Paul by the Navy Memorial for a sandwich and cup of espresso would be prime for people watching, especially this Sunday. (And, you know, they're French.)

You might also consider Cafe du Parc at the Willard Hotel on Pennsylvania Ave., or Le Diplomat on 14th Street. Those sidewalk seats at Le Dip can be hard to get, though.

One of my girlfriends is organizing a girls night out for her birthday (we're all late 20s early 30s). The original idea was to get some margaritas and food at El Centro then go dancing. Unfortunately, the birthday girl needs to head back to the burbs by 9:30pm. Are there any places where we can get the dancing started closer to 8pm? Or will everything still be dead? We're fine with a pretty empty dance floor as long as the music is upbeat and fun.

The dance floor/roof deck at Marvin can be dead that early, but there's still music. Same with Den of Thieves, which has the DJs kick off around 8 but doesn't get going until later. If you like reggae, check Patty Boom Boom -- they have happy hour from 8 until 10 or 10:30 or so, which is when the main act goes on. There's music and cheap drinks, but it's not as lively as it is later on. (On the other hand, it's free.)

Many places in that neighborhood -- thinking Policy, Saint Ex, Lost Society -- don't really have DJs going until 10 or so.

Hi, I'm looking for a great place (without breaking the bank) to have a graduation gathering in May for my husband, who is getting his masters degree. Most of the guests will be classmates/ professors who are men, ITprofessionals and range in age from (25-55). I was thinking of a bar or somewhere where we can have appetizers/beers/ cocktails-20 to 25 people.

Are you planning to reserve a private room, or just have a whole gang show up at the bar at the same time? For the former, I really like the upstairs at Baby Wale, which is a really pretty and festive space. You could also reserve the roof deck at 1905, which has gorgeous views. Another option, depending on the time of day, would be the Brixton, with its roof deck and multiple floors.

Are the cherry blossoms (and other trees) blooming at the arboretum? That might be a good place to take the kids that's not on the mall, although not really metro friendly.

Yeah, the Arboretum is not really Metro friendly, especially with a small child. From Metro Center, for example, it's about a 15 minute drive or, according to WMATA, a 52-minute ride on trains and a bus that involves at least one change.

Also, on the Mall, I'd rather go to the Haupt Garden than go to the Tidal Basin. More peaceful, honestly.

I'm part of a group that meets at a restaurant in Alexandria on Monday nights to play boardgames. We were looking to branch out and find a few other places to try out. Any ideas for relatively open seating places on Mondays with decent cheap food in the Alexandria area that can handle about 15 to 20 people? (Bonus if they aren't offended by the occasional Cards Against Humanity session)

Southside 815 might be an option, or Ramparts, now that it won't be crowded with college basketball viewers. TJ Stone's has good beer and pub food.

If you don't mind a drive, I wonder about the upstairs at Evening Star Cafe, the Number 9 Lounge.

Obviously, please do yourself a favor and call ahead. If you say "We're bringing X people and everyone will eat and drink," you'll be more likely to be welcomed than if 20 people show up en masse and start playing CAH without warning.

Any ideas for a fun one-night stay and good food within an hour of DC? We have unexpectedly received a child-free night this Friday (a month before our twins are due) and are trying to figure out where to go. We are trying to stay within an hour of Rockville and are considering downtown DC (cherry blossoms), Alexandria or something a bit more out of the city. Any ideas are very welcome!

If you decide on D.C., some festively upscale grown-up restaurants still have reservations for this weekend: Check out Casa Luca , BLT Steak, Cashion's Eat Place, J&G Steakhouse, Mourayo, or Aggio or Buck's Fishing & Camping (both in Chevy Chase). Or you could try one of the pretty Virginia inns, though I'm not sure about their short-notice availability: Patowmack, Ashby, Goodstone, or the Old Angler's Inn in Maryland. Congrats on your upcoming arrival!

GoGs - hope you can help me out with this one. Living in the Vienna area for a few months - any recommendations on night life out here? Happy hours? Or even more specifically, where to meet other single people in their 30s?? Thanks so much!

Oh, Vienna. There's not a lot there. Well, there's cheap beer and chili dogs at the Vienna Inn; some fine music and comedy (and a bar) at Jammin' Java, including a show by former Cardigans singer Nina Persson this Saturday night; and believe it or not, the bar at the Whole Foods, which has happy hour from 4 to 6 on weekdays.

Other than that, there's not much for nightlife in Vienna. You might make the short drive (depending on where you are in Vienna) over to Falls Church for Mad Fox and Spacebar, or the Dogfish Head Alehouse, which regularly has live music and entertainment. 

Okay, everyone. We have to finish getting tomorrow's Weekend section online, but wanted to wish you a happy Thursday and hope you enjoy the weather.


Post Points code is GG5523.

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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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