Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Gurus

May 02, 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. Big weekend on the way: Kentucky Derby, Gold Cup, Cinco de Mayo, the opening of the Hill Country patio (with live music) at the National Building Museum -- and sunny weather to boot. Good thing we're here to help you make sense of it. Ask anything and everything that's on your mind.

Before the season started, the Post ran a story about new options near the park, some of which weren't open yet. Any updates or recommendations for pre-game pub crawling? Thanks!

Only two places have opened since our big pre-season Nats package. Gordon Biersch opened its brewpub at First and M SE, and the Park Tavern opened down the street in Canal Park. The former has been *packed* before games. The latter has a large patio, which helps hold the crowds. No happy hour, though.

Hello All, My Grandma, Aunt, and Uncle are coming to town tomorrow for the weekend, and I am trying frantically to find somewhere to take them for high tea. When I studied abroad in London, they visited and LOVED high tea, so trying to replicate that experience. I just realized that the Willard requires reservations, but not sure I will be able to get in this weekend... any other options??? thanks so much!!

That sounds lovely. We actually have a list of afternoon tea spots in the area - maybe one of these will work for you? If you can get outside of the city, the British Pantry would probably be your best bet.

Hi- I'm looking for a birthday present for my roommate and was hoping to do more of an "event" then a gift you wrap up. My first choice would be some sort of wine class, but a beer drinking class could work as well. Wine pairings, wine education, etc etc. Anything that is interesting and worth the price (i'd be willing to pay a decent range of prices). I'd prefer to stay in the district, and weeknights or weekends are both ok. Any thoughts on where to look into? I know righteous cheese, cork, and vinoteca tend to have classes but vinoteca has not posted new May classes. Thanks!

Beer "classes" are harder to come by these days, though if you see the beer-and-cheese pairing class at Meridian Pint, jump on it. Plenty of beer dinners at places like Pizzeria Paradiso, Meridian Pint or Jack Rose, but they're not as educational. (Makes me miss Greg Engert's classes at Rustico, which appear to be on hold as Bluejacket gets closer.)

I've taken classes at the Washington Wine Academy, both to write about them and for personal education, and they cover the basics (French wines, the ABCs of beer) as well as more specialized classes, such as Belgian Beers or New Zealand wines.

Cork's wine classes are out of this world -- lots of rare stuff that non-oenophiles have never heard of. You can sign up for classes in advance on the Cork Market page.

Hi, do you know if they are going to bring back their mini-golf course? Thanks

They are -- but as a bigger, better 18-hole course. (Alex has the full writeup on the blog.) Personally, having played last year's course, the one thing I'd like to see this time is some late-night/happy-hourish adults-only nights. With Hill Country cooking bbq and hosting live music outside on Fridays and Saturdays, it would be a pretty awesome date night.

Hi! We're comtemplating taking our 5 year old on a trip to Spain later this year, and want to expose him to some of the food before we go. Where can we go to find empanadas? And we're open to suggestions for other foods for him to try :-) We made a seafood/chicken paella and he liked that. Thanks!

Plenty of options for you: One of the four locations for Julia's Empanadas, or you could catch the DC Empanadas food truck,  or you could try the creative empanadas at Dupont's Panas. For other Spanish food, take him to one of the several locations for Jaleo,  or Estadio, though the latter is pricier. Hope you have an awesome trip.

The Jefferson has a lovely tea. Reservations required but I've been able to get last minute easily.

Another tea suggestion.

I'm looking for a place to host my birthday party with 30-40 late 20s/early 30s friends in a few weeks. I have a friend who is an amateur DJ, so I was hoping to find a place that will let us take over their sound system for him to play, at least in the space we reserve. All the places he has relationships with are booked up for the Saturday night I'm hoping for in a few weeks, so I was wondering if you had any suggestions. I'd prefer to stay in NW, be relatively metro accessible, and have a reasonable minimum tab for a group that size. Thanks!

"Amateur DJ" is one of those phrases that set club owners shaking in their boots, especially on a Saturday night. (No offense to your friend, of course -- just telling you what I know.) If you want to provide the music, you might have to rent the whole space out. Is he bringing his own speakers/laptop setup?

Anyway, places I would consider calling would be on the more casual side: the Pinch, Solly's, the Dunes ...

I had tea there with a friend a few years ago. It felt like we were at the back of beyond, but the place was charming and the tea was excellent.

A vote for the British Pantry for our chatter looking for tea.

If you want to make the hike south to Fredericksburg, Pinkadilly is a great place--they do require reservations, but all you need to do is give them a call!

An additional tea suggestion. Thanks, guys!

My husband and I have a very rare Saturday night out this weekend, and are planning to hit a few spots on 8th street. Ideally, we'd move through a few spots, having a drink and/or small bite at each place as we go. Ambar is at the top of the list - what else should we do??

I'd broaden your area slightly to "Eastern Market" instead of just Barracks Row. That way you can add Hank's on the Hill (oysters, cocktails) and Beuchert's Saloon (small veggie/odd cuts plates, cocktails) to the Eighth Street destinations. I like Ambar, especially if you can get a drink on the patio, but would also add Lavana for charcuterie and smoked cheese plates, or small shared plates of pasta; a shared bowl of mussels and Belgian beer at Belga Cafe; and maybe a drink on the quiet back patio off the second floor at Lola's.

I had planned a little taco tour for my boyfriend and I of some of the best taco spots of DC in honor of Cinco de Mayo. Riding our bikes to District Taco, El Centro, El Chucho, Chinito's. But I've been seeing all these specials and events going on that I'm wondering if it's really the best day to stop in sample a taco and move on.

I think of Cinco de Mayo as the drunker cousin of St. Patrick's Day, to be honest. The places you list won't be too bad (as long as you hit El Centro between brunch and the evening rush), but if you could choose a better day than Sunday -- say, Saturday, or Sept. 16, which is Mexican Independence Day -- I'd do that.

A friend is comign to town later in the month and is looking for some fun touristy activities downtown. she suggested a segway tour but those things weird me out a bit. What tours/activities am I not thinking of that we should try? Any hints would be well appreciated, I'm at a loss!

Check out this story from my colleague Alex about six different tours for visitors, including those Segway tours. I'm on your side - they are so dorky-looking. You could try a bike tour instead, or if the weather is nice, you should get out on the water. If you just want to be touristy but don't need a structured tour, get paddleboats on the Tidal Basin and enjoy the views. You've probably already thought about taking her to the zoo and the Smithsonian museums. And as a reminder - the monuments are always nicer after dark, especially when it's warm. If you tell us more about what your friend likes, we can give you a few more tailored suggestions.

Hey Gurus - my birthday falls on a Tuesday this month and I'd like to do something a little more than just happy hour with a small group of friends. I was hoping to do some kind of wine class or tasting, but it seems like I'd have to rent private space in the wine bars in DC (which I do not want to do). Any insight of wine classes/tastings or other ideas for a Tuesday evening? It must be DC and metro-accessible. Thanks!

I'm a big fan of Bistro Lepic's free Tuesday night wine tastings, which involve a French wine producer offering free pours of two or three different bottles, and talking about the products. It gets crowded, but it's (a) free, (b) fun and (c) free. Once the tasting's over, you get 25 percent off wines for the rest of the night.

Cork also has a happy hour on Tuesdays with unusual/non-menu wines. It's not a tasting per se, but the wines are discounted from 5 to 7, and the bartenders do know their stuff. 

Finally, Vinoteca has Tuesday night wine classes from 7 to 9, and they're usually pretty great: You try six themed wines for $40. Only bummer is that the next series doesn't start until May 21.

It's not in Northwest, but when we had our wedding at Whitlow's they let us use an iPod to have our own music. Minimums were reasonable as well.

One option.

What about Haydees? I've been there only twice and they had crazy parties going on in that place that took over the entire first floor. That's probably around 30-40 people.

This is true. My only hesitation is that Haydees also has some pretty cool regular parties, such as the TNT funk/soul throwdown, and mariachi nights, and you might not be able to conflict with them. But it's worth a shot.

Where is the best spot to watch the caps playoff games in arlington?

Both the Front Page and Union Jack's are packed with Caps regulars (if they're not at the game).

The best place to eat near a Baysox game is Old Bowie Town Grille. Good food, great prices, excellent entertainment.

While I like the blues and classic rock bands at Old Bowie Town Grill, it's not exactly near the stadium. Could do an afternoon game at PG Stadium and then drive to Old Bowie for some entertainment.

Not really a class, but it could still be fun to do the wine or beer cheese pairing at Union Market, then step a few feet over to get champagne and oysters from Rapahanok (SP?).

Righteous Cheese with wine, Red Apron paired with beer, Rappahannock oysters and champagne. Sounds like a wonderful afternoon.

Gurus, I have a friend from out of the country who is just passing through DC for part of a day - and the timing is, unfortunately, late afternoon and evening on Sunday. I know a lot of the museums and other DC things close around 5:30 or 6 on Sunday - what are some offbeat or fun DC museums or things to do that won't kick us out before dinner? (She's underage so going out and drinking, one of my defaults, may not work.)

The Cinco De Mayo festival on the Mall goes until 6 this Sunday, so you could catch the end of it and then take your friend on a stroll if the weather's nice. And unlike the museums on the Mall, the National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum is open until 7 p.m. every day. You could also go to the Kennedy Center for the 6 p.m. free performance at the Millennium Stage -- and then take your friend to the rooftop patio to take in some pretty D.C. sunset views.

Are there any bars that have tvs outside?

Plenty, and even more will be coming now that the weather's turning. I wrote this guide to sports bars with outdoor TVs for the NCAA championship, but the information's still valid.

Gurus, I have my yearly corporate party on Saturday in Falls Church, and my coworker, his wife, and I want to meet beforehand for some cocktails. They are coming up from Fredericksburg but love good spirits, beer, food, etc. I'm at a loss for where to go... Ideally I'd like to stay in the FC/Arlington/Tysons/Merrifield area. He likes gin, she likes cocktails, they both appreciate good beer. I was thinking Liberty Tavern or Mad Fox brewery. Any other suggestions? We're meeting around 4-4:30, event is at 6. Thanks!

Argh, your 4 p.m. start time rules out Bar TNT, the inventive Columbia Pike cocktail bar that's about 15 minutes from Falls Church. It opens at 5, so you might *just* have time, but it might be pushing it. If you want to stay in Arlington, I'd do drinks at Lyon Hall over Liberty Tavern these days. 

For beer, you can't go wrong with the house brews Mad Fox, but don't forget to jump across the road and have some cool craft beers at Spacebar. Lots of fun, hard-to-find taps there.

Hi - thanks for taking my question. We have 6 people coming in from Phila for the Nats/Phils game on the Sunday of Memorial Day wknd. Can you help me? Just moved here & I want to act like I know what I'm doing. Brunch on Barracks row on a Sunday? Where? Deals? thank you!

The Chesapeake Room and Matchbox are both on our Best Brunches list, and Beuchert's, a newcomer, is another good option.  Ambar also does brunch, if you want your friends to try something more exotic than your usual omlettes. Since you mentioned deals, a good budget choice could be Market Lunch, and you can show your visitors the charming Eastern Market.

Hi Gurus, been seeing lots of postings and articles over the past few weeks for the Hill Country Backyard BBQ that starts tomorrow. Are we supposed to bring blankets or will there be tables set up? I know there's cocktails and beer for sale, but can you BYOB also? Any additional info on this fun even would be much appreciated. Thanks!

First, it's not BYOB. No outdoor park in D.C. is allowed to be BYOB.

There will be some picnic tables and some chairs -- and even a few hay bales -- set up for folks to sit on, but not a ton. You're welcome to spread blankets and sheets on the ground, but I'm told you can't bring small camp chairs, like some people do for Screen on the Green.

Also, live music starts at 5:30, which should be fun.

Ted's Bulletin!

oh yes! that too!

Hi GoGs! Hope you are enjoying this great weather! I read about the DC Toasts event at the Howard Theater and saw that the guy from the Columbia Room is the person putting the event together. I do not know much about it, so before I bought tickets, I wanted to see if you all had any insight. Yay or Nay? Thanks!

I am 100% excited about DC Toasts. (I wrote a big feature about it for tomorrow's Weekend section.)

I learned so much writing that, leafing through 1900-01 newspapers to learn about the African American mixologists who found the Black Mixologist Club, reading about the old saloons where they worked, and hearing the story of Dick Francis, born in slavery, trained as a bartender and wound up running the bar at the U.S. Senate.

Your ticket is good for unlimited cocktails from 10 different bartenders -- all historic cocktails that might have been served in turn-of-the-century taverns -- plus food and a live performance by the Chuck Brown Band. Sounds like a win-win to me.

I went to a party last year at the Warehouse Theater that the person just rented the space and brought in a DJ....

Might be big/costly for 40 people, but it's an option.

Last week you gave me excellent recommendations for viyards in Charlottesville, and I just wanted to say THANK YOU!

You're welcome. Any particular favorites?

So I am trying to score a reservation for June at Le Diplomate for a special dinner. Have 5 in our party- I see their rule is 30 days in advance. So short of trying open table at 12:01 am thirty days in advance are their any other tricks? Any person I can call and beg for a table?

I'm afraid I can offer you no special tricks, but we will all send our best reservation vibes your way. If you're shut out on Open Table that day, you should also call and see what they can do for you. Worst comes to worst, you can try your luck as a walk-in -- which our boss says is not as bad of a wait as you'd imagine.

We just moved from Clarendon, where we knew all of the places with weekend drink specials (Lyon Hall, FireWorks, Rooftop, Cafe Asia, Rustico), to Old Town, where the only one we know of is Rustico (and that's not really Old Town). Can you help out with similar places with weekend specials in OT (really looking for places we can walk to and not late night). Thanks!

Hmm. I just checked my notes and wracked my brain, and most of the good happy hours in Old Town are Monday-Friday only. 

I tell you what: Chatters, if you know of a good Saturday/Sunday drink special, send it my way ( and I'll publish a list of them on our blog.

We had a really nice brunch at Zest on Barracks Row before the Nats game last week. I hadn't been there in a couple years and was pleasantly surprised by the food.

Okay, we're out of time and have to run, but if you submitted a question that we didn't get to, we'll try to answer it on the GOG Blog in the coming days. Promise. In the meantime, enjoy the weekend, whether you're playing the ponies or sipping tequila with a burro, and we'll see you next week.

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.
Recent Chats
  • Next: