Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Gurus

Apr 18, 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. The weather outside is gloomy (especially after last week's nonstop sun), but we're here to help you plan and make the most of your weekend, your happy hours and anything else. (Speaking of happy hours, did you see that GBD's happy hour launches tonight? It sounds pretty awesome.)

Right. On to your questions and comments.

we want to a DC brew tour, hitting DC Brau, Chocolate City, and 3 Stars, and if possible, New Columbia Distillers. Maybe add Port City to the list. We're thinking brunch a Churchkey before setting off. And we decided that despite the fact that the breweries only offer samples, it's still best to find a DD, and with 8 of us, maybe it's best to rent a little party bus. Does anyone already offer this sort of tour, or will we need to devise our own itinerary, and do you have suggestions for party bus rentals? I know of Chariots for Hire, but who else is out there?


I've actually done this a few times, filling growlers along the way. They're less than seven miles apart. Depending on where you're coming from, it's easy to do in a line. (Google Maps is your friend.) Here's my suggested order:

Start at DC Brau, which opens at noon. You get four tickets for tasting beers (2-4 ounces). They do tours at 1, 2 and 3 p.m., but you want to be there on the early side to avoid lines. It's a very cool brewery, with paintings by local artists, barrels full of aging beer and plenty of beers to try. (There's always a food truck, too, if you need lunch.)

Next, hit Chocolate City. They're open from 12:30 to 4:30. There are no real tours, per se, since the brewery's so small, but you can sample one or two beers and talk to the brewers/owners about the place. You probably won't stay too long.

Finally, hit 3 Stars, which is mostly a straight shot up North Capitol Street from Chocolate City. They're open from 1 to 4 p.m., with tours at 2 and 3. There are beers to sample and Logan from Smoke and Barrel will be grilling on site this weekend.

I'd actually caution you against doing brunch at ChurchKey, and suggest you have dinner there after touring. It's simply a matter of timing: ChurchKey opens at noon. You wouldn't get out of there in less than 90 minutes or so, especially with a group. Since breweries have set times for tours, and are only open until 4 (Brau and 3 Stars) or 4:30 (Chocolate City), it would be logistically difficult to do all three if you started at 1:30. It's possible, but might feel like a forced march. 

One note about a designated driver: These aren't full bars. Don't expect to be drinking pints (or even growlers) of beer at each stop, because none of them are allowed to give you more than a "taster" of a beer for on-premise consumption. I don't think anyone's going to be getting drunk.

That's not the case at Port City, however, which has a full bar with all of the Alexandria's brewery's beer available, plus a TV showing sports. But because it's so far from the other three, I might just make it its own trip.


I received an invitation to a fundraiser for a non-profit. Dress is "Linen and Bowtie". Never heard of this before. Can you please explain exactly what that means? Thank you!

Oh, I like this question. It means you should dress like you're headed to a summer garden party, or an outdoor wedding, meaning lightweight fabrics, but slightly formal, fun and vintage. If you're a woman, it means a sundress or light-colored dressy ensemble; if you're a guy, have some fun mixing checks and pastels and  maybe a vest rather than a suit jacket. Now, this is probably going to be too costumey to actually wear, but I think you might get a sense of linen and bowtie from checking out photos of the annual Seersucker Ride. Good luck!

Last year, my wife and I had a great time at Poste's Oysterstock, and are sad to see it's apparently not happening again this year. What other oyster-centric events are going on in town?

Argh, you missed the Eastport Oyster Fest in Annapolis (March 23), the PJ Clarke's Oyster Party (last Tuesday) and the Hank's Oyster Bar Oyster Fest (last Saturday). There's the famous Oyster Riot at the Old Ebbitt in November, and the Maryland Seafood Festival at Sandy Point over Labor Day weekend.

Have you been to the Rappahannock Oyster Bar at Union Market? The weekly Tuesday oyster happy hour on the patio of PJ Clarke's? While they lack the boisterous nature of a festival, they're both really good destinations for bivalves. (And the PJ Clarke's deal, with 50-cent War Shore oysters and $3.50 DC Brau, is as cheap as you'll find.

Is there any place on U street (or AdMo, etc.) with live music on Friday nights, with parents and in-laws in tow? Essentially, it can't be super crowded, or start really late. I'd also prefer it not cost too much.

Hope you like jazz: That's what you'll get at Twins (first set usually at 8, second at 10), or Columbia Station (9 p.m.). Madam's Organ is a good spot for blues, but it gets crowded and rowdy (not in an awful way), and the bands don't go on until after 10.

I'm looking to go out for my birthday, and bring a bunch of the girlfriends for less typical night on the town. But I can't seem to find any karaoke bars that cater to minors :/. Any suggestions? Other ideas are welcome. The date is Thursday 5/9

I just ran down every karaoke option I could think of , and they're all 21-and-over -- even the Norabang (private room) options, and no one in the office can come up with anything. Readers?

HELP!! My wedding anniversary is at the end of this month (married for 9 years). My wife tasked me with planning the day and I'm really stuck. I already made dinner reservations at Restaurant Eve at 7pm. My only other plans that day were to sleep in with breakfast in bed. I joked that I was going to do yard work until it was time to get cleaned up for dinner and she thought I was joking. We live in Fairfax and have no kids, I don't want to spend a fortune since we're saving for a house renovation. What's going on around town on May 4th. I thought about the museums but we've done those so many time.

I think you're off to a great start with Restaurant Eve reservations. There is a lot going on that day, including Derby Day events (we'll have a fuller list soon, but here's one, a little pricey) and the Gold Cup and the DC Chili Cookoff (though that last one probably is not anniversary-appropriate).  I honestly would skip the museums so your day doesn't feel harried getting to D.C. then back home to get dressed then to Old Town. About a trip to a couple of wineries in your neighborhood, because spring should be in full bloom. Pack a light picnic (save room for Eve, you know...)  and check out Barrel Oak Winery, Corcoran Brewery or any of the others on this list. If wine isn't your thing, you could pack the same picnic and laze away the day at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens (here's a photo gallery to get you excited) or Lake Accotink park, which happens to open bike rentals and mini golf on May 4.


Hi Gurus, My partner and I would like to rent a canoe from Fletcher's Boathouse for a day next weekend, but we'd like to break it up a bit with some hiking, a picnic or a walk to Georgetown. We're wondering how exactly that we have to bring the canoe back to the boathouse each time, or are there places along the river where we can tie it up and go do other things?

You can stop along the river to go hiking, have a picnic on the banks, explore the C&O Canal or whatever catches your fancy, but remember that you're responsible if the boat drifts away. 

I'm looking for a place for some thirtyish women to enjoy some interesting cocktails. Would like to have some live music as a backdrop, not the main focus, and don't want to pay a cover charge. Something dressy and lively would be great. I know it's a lot to ask for.

The Jefferson Hotel's Quill Bar is great for this: Good cocktails, live piano music from 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The Mandarin Oriental's Empress Lounge has live jazz from 8 to midnight on weekends, and while the cocktails are pricey, they're also good.

Also, really, while it's wine instead of cocktails, I'm a big fan of the Wednesday jazz concerts in the upstairs wine bar at Bistro Lepic in Georgetown. Everything from Django-style hot jazz to sultry ballads, a great bartender and a fascinating menu of French wines.

I will be driving to Frederick on a Saturday in early June to transport my daughter to a bat mitzvah and will be picking her up hours later from the reception. Guessing that I will have about 5-ish hours (maybe 11 A to 4 P) to kill, looking for ideas / activities in that area. If good weather, wouldn't mind some relatively easy walking / hiking. But if raining, other suggestions as well. Also places to get lunch as a party of one. Thanks for the help gurus!

How about a little trek over to Cunningham Falls State Park, which has a few trails, and the falls to admire? Here are more details about the type of hikes you'll find; I like the park because it's relatively shaded, which is nice for June.  For a lunch afterward, I'd hit Lunchbox, the casual spot from Volt's Bryan Voltaggio. If you decide it's too hot come June, you can always do a little sidewalk shopping on Market Street in Frederick, which is packed with little shops. You can plant yourself with a book and iced coffee and get some "me" time at Cafe Nola. This sounds like a great opportunity to have a cool day, solo.

I completely disagree with your statement Fritz: One note about a designated driver: These aren't full bars. Don't expect to be drinking pints (or even growlers) of beer at each stop, because none of them are allowed to give you more than a "taster" of a beer for on-premise consumption. I don't think anyone's going to be getting drunk. Case in point: A friend of mine did this exact thing last week and ended up with a DUI. It's not a matter of getting drunk, it's a matter of getting pulled over and getting a DUI which still has legal ramifications (lost license, fines etc.)

Thanks for the reminder and cautionary tale. I'm definitely not trying to encourage anyone to drive drunk. Everyone is different and everyone should know their limits.  

But if you do the math, trying a two-ounce sample of beer at all three breweries (up to 4 samples at DC Brau, 1 or 2 at Chocolate City, 2 to 3 at 3 Stars) is equivalent to drinking one pint of beer over the space of two or three hours. And there's no rule that says you have to finish every single beer you're offered, either. (Trust me, you might not want to.)

I think the Korean karaoke bars in Annandale are all ages. Could maybe work as the last stop of the night.

I got IDed with a group at Cafe Muse. (We all did.) Maybe it was because they were going to be delivering drinks to our room?

Definitely worth a call.

I have a foodie (but not a snobby one) friend from San Francisco coming into town this weekend and we want to go to Saturday brunch. I'm looking for some interesting options in DC and am hoping you all can help. Thanks.

I shared this one last week, but Mintwood Place's brunch is getting a lot of buzz; and Le Diplomat has just opened, but if you can get in before the dreaded noon hour (when, in my educated opinion, all of D.C. rises, gets out of the gym, and descends on brunch places), you should be able to get in without much trouble.  Another option: The Pig. If you really wanted to give your friend the new D.C. experience, stop at Peregrine for coffee (it WAS named the country's best coffee house), then hoof it over to Standard, which doesn't offer brunch fare, but beers and chance to sit outside and people-watch, while you're noshing on corn on the cob and barbecue sandwiches. It opens at noon.

hey there, group of 30-something looking to go dancing this weekend to some Top40, 90s, 80s music. not hugely into the bottle-service club scene but looking more for a bar with dancing. thinking Policy but looking for other ideas.

Policy, Lost Society, El Centro D.F. and Dodge City all fit the bill. (Dodge City's dance floor has been PACKED the last few weekend nights I've been there -- even moreso than Lost Society's.)

Hi gurus, Has there been any word on whether the Post's Peep diorama winners are being displayed around town this year? I loved seeing them at Artomatic for a couple of years but wasn't able to make it over to the Post's offices for the display there. I'm really hoping to be able to catch them in person somewhere. Thanks!

They're in the front windows of the Post building -- a few floors below us -- on 15th Street NW for the rest of the month of April.

Hello! We are a group of 7 friends (6 girls , one fabulous boy) and we would like to celebrate our 25th anniversary of being friends (we are all mid 30s). Looking for a chill/cool/fun vibe (rooftop bar perhaps?) that isnt too expensive in the Arlington/Clarendon/Alexandria/Faifax area. This would be for Friday May 3rd - Any suggestions would be helpful! No allergies or food restrictions. Thanks!!!

This sounds like a great excuse for a get-together. The island-themed rooftop bar at Whitow's on Wilson can be a blast with a group. Arlington Rooftop Bar and Grill is another place that has been growing on me. The rooftop is much bigger than you'd think, and it gets an older crowd than some other Clarendon spots. Also, if the weather's nice, I still enjoy Mango Mike's in Alexandria -- something about sitting outside under a palm tree with a frozen mango margarita says "party" to me.

Greetings GoGs...what is the antidote to rude/bad bartenders??? As we get inundated by more watering holes every week here - it seems like a LOT of places are hiring bartenders that just lack basic customer service skills, let alone drink-making skills! Is this a reflection of the clientele in the District, or is it that bar owners/managers here are just not paying attention. I could go on, but just wanted to bounce this off of your wisdom. Cheers!

Do others feel this is the case? I'll throw this out to the peanuts.

But I have some inside knowledge of this, and I suppose I would agree that some bartenders can be rude.  I can guess that a lot has to do with expediency -- bartenders have to move quickly, and new bars in particular, if those are the ones you're speaking of, are slammed in their first months, at the same time that staff is becoming acquainted with their workspace, the cocktail list, the computer system, etc.  At high-volume bars in D.C., people walk out on tabs, argue with the bartenders, start fights and pass fake bills -- really, a bar can be a very trying workplace. I don't agree, however, that a LOT of places hire bartenders without customer service skills - there are some great bartenders in town  including the lovely ladies at Hogo, and the calm, friendly barmen and women at Estadio, who have to make a mean drink and know their way around the food; at Mintwood Place and Hanoi House; the awesome cool guys at Breadsoda and Mandu on K Street (no...more...shots...please). My list is very long. 

We used to go to Cafe Japone in Dupont in my undergrad days (granted, that was 8 years ago or so). Not the nicest place, but it does have karaoke and you just get an X on your hand if you're underage.

This is good to know. Thanks!

Is Hill Country's Live Band Karaoke all ages? I thoguht it was, if you get there on the early side. Been a while since I've gone, but no one asked for IDs--but we also ate dinner there. of course, they'd ahve to be willing to celebrate a day early, sicne it's on Wednesdays.

Yeah, I'd avoided it for that reason (looking for a specific Thursday night), but it is possible to hang around at Hill Country if you've had dinner there.

Hi Gurus, The weather is supposed to be nice this weekend and I'm planning on going to the national zoo. I'm not familiar with that area so is there a good place for two couples in their mid 20's to enjoy some drinks and and a light meal afterwards? Outdoor seating would be a plus but isn't required

In Cleveland Park, there's the Cleveland Park Bar and Grill, which has a rooftop deck and an upscale sports bar vibe. Or you could head down to Woodley Park and grab gin and tonics and light snacks at New Heights, or even a beer and a spot on the patio at Open City. (As a former Woodley Park resident, I always hesitate to recommend Open City on weekends, because it's such a popular spot with tourists.)  

Partner and I are celebrating a small anniversary on Sunday and are both laid-back people who aren't very interested in anything especially grandiose. Current weather forecasts are good for Sunday, so we'd just as well like to do something outside, if there's anything noteworthy around the city to enjoy the weather. What would the Gurus suggest?

I posted an answer for another couple above, and I sort of fell in love with the idea of a picnic in a pretty park --you don't say where you are, but you could snag a parking spot or simply head to the waterfront just behind the Lincoln Memorial and walk along the water all the way to Hains Point, where you could spread out a picnic; you could make a fun day of exploring the National Arboretum or one of the cool gardens I mentioned above. Sunday is also the annual Shakespeare's Birthday celebration at the Folger, which you could pair up with walk to Eastern Market, and a little food crawl on Barracks Row. Start with coffee and a nutella scone, by the way, at Pound the Hill.

Hey, any info on when the new Iron Gate in Dupont's reopening? I was just thinking that it was getting on for the time of year when sitting under their grape arbor is fantastic and realized that the re-opening seems to have taken ages.

I asked about this at GBD (sister restaurants and all) and they're shooting to get in open before summer hits. I really hope so -- I loved sitting outside there.

You have to pay at 3 Stars?

Sorry, no, not anymore. Typing too quickly. I was remembering when it first opened. Last visit was free drink tickets, same as at DC Brau.

Hi and thanks for taking my q! Mom's birthday is Monday and I'm in charge of picking the spot for dinner. She's on a bit of a health kick and wants something with a decently healthy menu but is still 'fun & hip'. She loves Seasons 52, but wants something new. Thoughts? VA preferred (Falls Church, Arlington, McLean)

So you didn't mention whether ethnic foods were off-limits, so I'll throw out one place, serving Thai food, that's so adorable it's perfect for taking a mom to: Sisters Thai. There are a lot of interesting fish dishes (sorry, no calorie counts). Another stylish option might be Rice Paper in Eden Center, which serves Vietnamese. For American fare, Liberty Tavern has a long list of salads and dishes such as mussels (relying on a smoked tomato broth for flavor, rather than heavy creams or coconut milk), and fish and scallops that are pan-roasted. Of course, the best bet is always let your server know you're looking for something on the lighter side of the menu, but I think there are good options at all of these.

Hi -- I have a friend visiting from Denver for all of next week and am looking for some things to do with her for the evenings. We both like to head out for apps and drinks and both enjoy bands and good music but are open to anything fun. We are both a bit on the (ahem) older side of 40 but get along with most age groups. Any ideas? Was thinking trivia one night mid-week, maybe a game night or an interesting movie another?

Pub Quizzes: Try Fado (Monday), Ireland's Four Courts (Monday), the Queen Vic (Tuesday), the Argonaut (Wednesday)

Game nights: It's hard to beat the carnival of events at Penn Social, with giant Jenga and Connect Four, indoor corn hole, skee-ball machines, pool and shuffleboard. The Board Room in Dupont Circle is a great spot for classic board games -- everything from the Game of Life to Break the Ice to Operation. The Friday-night Spelling Buzz spelling bee at the Rock and Roll Hotel is always a hoot.  

Apps and drinks: RJ Cooper of Rogue 24 is killing it with his pop-up restaurant at Hogo right now, especially when you pair fried belly clams or a bowl of creamy pimento cheese with rum-heavy tropical cocktails. Also good: an afternoon spent exploring Union Market (especially the oyster bar and Red Apron for cocktails on tap); visits to Room 11, Hank's on the Hill, Proof and the Passenger; Jazz and drinks at the Black Fox Lounge; free wine tasting on Tuesday nights at Bistro Lepic.

In Cleveland Park, St. Arnolds Mussel Bar (formerly Sabores) will have the sides of the restaurant up if it's nice weather. Also, Ardeo and Bardeo has a little hidden roof deck upstairs.

You're right about Ardeo/Bardeo. It's a cool little space. Word of warning, though: It closes after brunch and doesn't reopen until dinner at 5 p.m.

My last visit to St. Arnolds was ... unspectacular for the high prices.

There is at least one in Clifton now

Thanks! That's Paradise Springs, and I can't vouch it since I haven't been, though I can vouch for the ones on the list I posted.

If the weather isnt great, she could poke around the library on Patrick St and then have lunch at the bar at Wine Kitchen, which is a 60 second walk from the library right on the Carroll Creek Promenade. Actually if the weather is nice, she could sit outside on their patio with a book as well! The Frederick Civil War Medicine Museum is right next to the library as well (I've never been but could be interesting). And there are many antique stores in downtown Frederick - I like Great Stuff by Paul, a huge warehouse-type space on East 6th Street.

Wonderful suggestion for the Wine Kitchen -of course. And all the others, too! Thanks!

This is more staying-in related, but hope you can help! Given all the changes in the liquor laws, I'm having trouble staying on top of who is open when and what they are selling. My biggest question is: who is filling growlers in DC? Any chance De Vino's / D'Vines is back in the business? They were one of the few places with both a good selection and decent prices (Sherry's on Connecticut just started, but is charging at least twice the price of corresponding 6-pack, which seems crazy).

De Vino's will not be doing growlers, because they don't have the right liquor/grocery license that the law requires. D'Vine's is working on getting the license all sorted out, and hopes to start doing growlers again "in a few weeks," they say. Fingers crossed for them, since, you know, D.C. bureaucracy and all.

Hi GOGs! Never too early to plan in this area so...where should we take two small children (2 and 4) for some water fun over Memorial Day? I would prefer it not be an ALL day affair, but maybe the better part of a day. Thanks!

Memorial Day weekend will bring the opening of all the waterparks and pools -- FYI, there will be lines before these places swing open the doors. One of the favorites around here is the Water Mine Family Swimmin' Hole, which is pretty impressive and in Reston. (You didn't say where you were, but there such parks in Maryland and Virginia, notsomuch in D.C.)

I have a hip, out-of-town guest, and I know she'd like to do something fun tomorrow (Friday) evening. BUT... I need to be able to take along my two kids (ages 2 and 4). Do you gurus know of any activities going on tomorrow night that would appeal to adults yet be kid-friendly?

Friday night + hip doesn't usually involve kids. (Strange, but true.) How late are you looking to go out with the kids? I'd probably suggest the Georgetown French Market, which runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wisconsin Ave. Lots of shopping and snacking for you and your guest, and the kids will find lots to look at. When you've cruised all the shops, take the kids to Volta Park or the splash park down on the Potomac. ETA: What about Truckeroo? Take your cool friend to the Fairgrounds, show off our awesome food truck scene, get a drink, hear some live music, let the kids run around. It's totally kid friendly, at least until dark.

Okay, we've run out of time (again) with plenty more great questions still in the queue. So how about this: Check the GOG Blog in the next couple days, and we'll try to answer more there. Sound like a plan? 

In any case, 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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