The Washington Post

Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Gurus

May 16, 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 is going to be a heck of a weekend, any way you slice it. You've got Opera in the Outfield at Nats Park, Museums cutting admission fees (including the Corcoran and the Phillips Collection) for Art Museum Day, 25 restaurants tasting their dishes for charity at the 9:30 Club's Sound Bites,  Eurovision at the House of Sweden ... so many things to do. What are you looking forward to?

Hi Gurus, just saw that a showing of The Breakfast Club is kicking off Rossyln's outdoor film season. I've never been, but who can resist young Judd Nelson all soulful and angsty?!? Anyway, I need some tips on logistics. Do I need to get there early? Do folks bring chairs or just blankets? Food or no food? Thanks!

You don't need to get to Gateway Park too early. On  my visits to the Rosslyn film fest, the crowd has been good-sized, but not Screen on the Green level. There are often food trucks around, but that's not guaranteed. (You can always get Piola to go.) Some people bring low camp chairs, but I always think that's rude to the people behind you -- blankets are the way to go.

BTW, folks, "The Breakfast Club" screens at dusk; Ferris Bueller is up next Friday.

My husband and I are looking for suggestions for a new restaurant in Penn Quarter to try for our anniversary in about a month. What are the top places to eat in that area right now?

Tom Sietsema gave the new Daikaya a winning first look; and I've been hearing only raves myself, so I'd make that your top choice. Some other options: Azur, the seafood-focused restaurant from Frederik De Pue (though in Tom's chat yesterday, there was some grumbling about that one);  and Del Campo.

Hi Guru's! My best friend and his wife will be in town from LA for just Friday night. I would like to take them out for happy hour and then dinner somewhere in the Penn Quarter area. If you could recommmend somewhere busy and fun with good people watching for happy hour, that would be great. As for dinner, we are not too picky - as long as there is beef, chicken, and seafood on the menu - everyone will be happy. If possible, we'd like to keep the happy hour spot close to the dinner location. Please let me know - thanks!

For happy hour: Go to the Hill Country Backyard BBQ, which I wrote about for tomorrow's paper. It's a giant party on the lawn of the National Building Museum with live music (beginning at 5:30 p.m.), picnic tables, corn hole, margaritas, Shiner beer ... basically a giant cookout. Great people watching, trust me.

For dinner, I'd head to the new Del Campo, which specializes in grilled meat, South American-style, or the more classically European seafood at the new Azur.

I will miss this weekend's museum day where selected museums have free admission or reduced admission. Is there a similar event in the fall?

I don't believe there is an Art Museums Day, but there are more opportunities this summer. The Corcoran will have Free Summer Saturdays, with events and free admission, beginning May 25th and running through Aug. 31. And look out for Jazz n' Families Fun Days on June 1-2 at the Phillips Collection. It's part of the D.C. Jazz Festival, so there will be plenty of music, plus free admission.

Haven't been yet, but I think Tom also liked the brand new NoPa

Ah, yes, thanks! If they're carb lovers, especially, Nopa is a cool option. In my humble opinion, the best thing about the Bajaj restaurants is the service - pitch perfect. It can be nice for a special occasion.

Hi Gurus! I was just wondering if you've been to Sound Bites before? I'm debating going but I'm just wondering if you think it'll be worth the price tag. Thanks!

Well, it's for charity, with all proceeds going to DC Central Kitchen. That's the first thing you should know. (The second is that I'm volunteering to judge the cocktail contest.)

You get free food from 25 restaurants and businesses, including Shake Shack, Red Apron, El Centro, Jaleo, Pearl Dive,  H&Pizza, Rappahannock Oysters, Gordy's Pickle Jar and Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken. You get five bands, including Deathfix and Lee Fields & The Expressions, and two DJs. You get to try good beer. I think it will be a blast, and again, for a great cause.

Any idea if they will let me take my small dog into the Hill Country Backyard BBQ? Also, how late do you think it will go? Thanks!

Yes, you can bring a small (leashed) dog, and the party goes until 11 p.m. Starts clearing out earlier, though -- my impression is that the crowd is there for HH and the band, and then head out to dinner or somewhere else for the rest of the night.

I heard there's another Opera in the Outfield this weekend, but I can't seem to find details. Do you have to buy tickets? Is it BYOB? Do you think it's worth checking out?

Fear not:  Opera in the Outfield  is Saturday and we have all the details here. You can bring your own picnic, so long as the goods are in a small soft carrier, not a cooler. No outside alcohol is allowed (this, after all, is how the Nats concessions folks make their money). You can buy alcohol once you're there. I do think it's a really cool event, great date night, etc., this time especially, because the opera is an American opera, sung in English. Should be a little easier to follow. 

A friend from Germany, who visited me in DC several years ago, is in town for a couple of days in mid-june and requested that we go eat seafood by the water while he's here. I'm stumped for quality places, unless we head to Annapolis; any suggestions? If not, where would your non-waterside DC/NoVA picks be for quality, possibly local, seafood these days? If Fritz has any other suggestions for a partying, late 20's guy from Wiesbaden while he's in town, I'm all ears.

Go to Annapolis. Your waterfront dining options in D.C. and close-in Virginia are limited and not that exceptional. I'd say Skipper's Pier, which is actually in Deale, southern Anne Arundel County, and Jimmy Cantler's are my favorites. (Cantler's is an old-school crabhouse; Skipper's Pier does great local seafood on a dock, with an outdoor pier where sailors can and do tie up.) Skipper's is an easy drive, too -- you basically stay on Pennsylvania Avenue almost until it hits the Bay.

Hello! I recently met a great guy in NYC. He is visiting friends in DC this weekend, and also wants to spend time with me. I'd like to plan a fun Saturday afternoon/evening for us to get to know each other better. He moved out of DC a few years ago, so I thought "New in DC" would be a fun theme, since there doesn't seem to be a big festival or anything in town. Union Market? 14th Street? Please help with itinerary suggestions. Thanks!

That sounds like a great date idea. You could start at Union Market and make your way down H Street, getting drinks and snacks at some of the newer restaurants there. If you want something brand new, there are two recently-opened taco places -- Sol and Chupacabra. You can also pop into some of the art galleries there, like the Randall Scott Gallery or Connersmith, which currently has an exhibition with live chickens.

In the other direction, You could start near Chinatown at Daikaya and make your way up 14th Street to some of the other new restaurants that have opened there: Le Diplomate, Black Whiskey, Ghibellina, B Too.

Gurus, apparently I'm a novice on this point, so your guidance/expertise is welcome. On a tab at a bar, there was the amount, sug gratuity, tax and the total (which included the sug gratuity). Okay, fine. Maybe they get stiffed, so this is a way to ensure they don't. However, below the total, they have more gratuity with amounts for 10%, 15% and 20%. I'm still not offended because maybe some people need help with the math. I'm sure there are occasions when I would be. It did leave me confused though. Is this for exceptional service? Isn't that what the differing amounts represent (quality of service)? So, what is this sug gratuity that really isn't a suggestion, as it's included in your total tally. Is it a matter of, well, gratuitousness? Thanks

Wait, they filled in the suggested gratuity on your check, between the amount you owed and the total? That's a ... bad move. I'm familiar with the suggested tip lines, as they're good for people who can't do math. My only problem with them is that they generally want you to tip on the total including tax, which makes no sense to me.

Hey Gurus! Is it too early to get any info on the hotel summer pool parties? In 2 weeks my SO and I are returning to DC for a romantic rendezvous, anything we shouldn't miss? We do have a return visit to our favorite wineries on the list. Thanks! Loving GOGs from afar.

No word on a lot of them yet. Capitol Skyline is brining back the clubby Adult Swim parties on Sundays. No word on BYT or other Saturday events. Donovan House will be reopening its rooftop pool deck to the public around Memorial Day, but I haven't seen the finalized plans yet.

Hoping to go to Opera in the Outfield this Saturday, but I've never been to a ball game here in DC. So, how do you get there again? And do you know if they will continue to let people in after the performance has started? Will the concessions be open? Can you bring your own food and drink? Limits to bag sizes or any other restrictions I should be aware of?

The best way to get there is by Metro or bus -- if you're coming from the Red Line, hop on the Circulator from Union Station for a quick shot there; otherwise, take the Green Line to Navy Yard-Ball Park, and walk a couple of long blocks. You can walk in after the performance has started, but it's highly likely you  won't be able to get seating on the outfield, and will have to snag a seat in the stands.  Concessions will be open, but only those in the Main Concourse, so it'll be limited; you can bring your own food, less so on the drink. Check out this post I wrote that answers pretty much everything you're asking.

Fritz, its says doors are 1pm for Sound Bites but can you show up at any time? Are there set hours? like from 1-5? Is everything held inside the club or is it in the parking lot? Is it $40 to get in and then pay as you go for food and drink samples? I'm going alone-is that a bad idea? I checked the 930 website but didn't see a lot of information. Thanks!

It's 1 to 7:30 or so, and you can show up any time. (Here's the schedule, if you're curious.) It's mostly indoors, but there will be some outdoor events, such as a performance by the Batala drum toupe, too.

Your ticket includes all-you-can-eat food from the 25 restaurants; drinks are a la carte.

Gurus! Help! My spouse wants to do wineries for a BIG birthday but between renting a limo and schlepping all of our friends out there (and the $$$) I don't think we make the logistics work. Are there alternatives in the DC area where we can drink wine outside on a Saturday afternoon? Private space perhaps?

Vinoteca has a happy hour on weekends, too, plus a patio that you might be able to score for your event. Give them a call.

I have another thought, too, particularly because what's missing here is the local wine, and the "day out in the country" element. How about shlepping everyone to a wine festival, but letting your guests get their tickets? There's a big one coming up: Vintage Virginia on June 1st and 2nd.

Oops, one more: This Sunday, there are tickets left for the Spring Wine Festival at Mount Vernon. But I'd check whether the weather will hold.

If you want local, quality seafood in DC with no water views, head to BlackSalt (their happy hours are a great option too). You can even walk along the C&O for a little bit of river viewing and then head to BlackSalt.

Eh, it's an option, but definitely not what the chatter was looking for. (And given the option of walking along the C&O Canal and dining with views of boats on the Chesapeake Bay, I'd definitely take the latter -- it's an experience you're not going to get in Wiesbaden.

I'm back in DC for two weeks after moving away last year for grad school - what's new and exciting (or old and still wonderful) that I should be sure to check out while I'm in town?

The big story since you've been gone is the explosion of restaurants on 14th Street and the further concentration of bars -- especially rooftop bars -- on H Street and at the eastern end of U Street.

The Hill Country BBQ (mentioned earlier) was getting raves from a lot of the customers I talked to last week; more than a few said, completely unprompted, that it was better/cooler/more fun than Jazz in the Garden, so I'd suggest that. And Yards Park, down by the Nats stadium, is a fantastic outdoor public space. Definitely awesome for a picnic.

Chatters -- your favorite things from the last two years?

PostPoints says, "Every Thursday at 1 PM, the Going Out staff discusses concerts, happy hours, cheap date ideas, weekend getaways, new exhibits and other ways to have fun in the Washington D.C. area. During the chat, a PostPoints code will be provided that participants can enter into the PostPoints website (under Claim my Points) to earn 15 points." I join your chat frequently, but have never seen this code. Where is it? Thank you!!!!!

Hi, we just started giving the code away last week, and we're already remiss. Thank you for joining us every week, though! Here's the code folks:  GG2846. To get your points, sign in to your PostPoints account (, Claim My Points, and enter this code to earn 15 PostPoints.  Note, this code will expire in 24 hours.


If you ran a tab at a bar that has an attached restaurant, think Gordon Biersch etc. Then the POS or other computer system automatically generates a suggested Gratuity at 15%, 20%, or 25% (or other amount determined by the management and automatically populated by the computer). It should aid the diner with the tip. It's an artifact from the diner's experience that one receives such receipts at the bar. It probably wasn't filled in but just a suggestion; however, in my opinion, if you're running a tab of more than 3 drinks ($15 bucks for beer, $25 for booze) you tip 20%. None of this dollar a drink on a credit card,


I recommend booking a public tour through Reston Limo. If your group is big enough, you'll be pretty much the only people on the bus and it's so much cheaper than booking a private tour.

Yes, that's my usual recommendation, too, if the group decides to shell out the cash. Though if you're headed to Vintage Virginia, see if there isn't some kind of ticketed shuttle the festival has arranged from the Orange Line. Frequently there is.

Dear GoGs, I might have submitted this question too late last time because I could only join at the end of the chat. Anyway, I am wondering what the best bar perches (from each of the gurus or collaborative) would be. Sort of secret gems that would be great to get lost for a couple and extra perks for great people watching, too. I'm not talking about those hidden booths behind cloths where you are removed from the bar and people, just about great perches, great vantage points that offer romance or coziness but also great people watching. Many thanks.

Oh, no! We actually loved your question, and have stashed it away to make it the focus of a blog post so we can answer it thoroughly.  Trust us, we're on it!

what's the best place to grab a cocktail with my boyfriend in Dupont before a fancy dinner out? Maybe something new?

It's fair to say I've been ho-hum about a lot of cocktails in Dupont proper lately. Head east to Black Whiskey (with Jack Caminos, formerly of Brixton/Black Jack) for good bourbon drinks, or south to the always-classy Tabard Inn. For something less formal, GBD has some fun punches.

Where to go around the Kennedy Center for a (not too fancy) bite to eat?

There's super-casual Tonic and Burger Tap & Shake on the GW campus, and by the World Bank, Founding Farmers. Or, a few blocks north, how about tapas at Boveda? If you want to sit by the water, you could also head over to Washington Harbour and try Farmers Fishers Bakers.

Hello! My birthday is coming up soon and I'm looking for a fun place to karaoke on a Wednesday night! I want to accommodate about 10-15 people. We don't need a private room or anything, just a good place where we all can gather. I'm looking for anything metro accessible and fairly centrally located (i.e. Chinatown, U street, etc) Thanks for the help!

Cafe Japone does all the basics well. I'm partial to the live-band karaoke in Hill County's basement, which is strong on country but also does everything from Abba to '80s, and the fun Kostume Karaoke at Solly's on U Street, where you dress up in costumes before taking the stage.

With 15 people, though, you might have more fun if you just get a private room at Musette, especially if everyone wants to sing. No worrying about interlopers and waiting 30 minutes for your chance to perform.

I'm the OP on this question. To clarify, it had a the subtotal (amount of all drinks purchased), the sug gratuity, the tax - and then the total, which included all the aforementioned lines. Below the total, they had the math calculations for an additional 10%, 15% and 20% on top of the already factored in sug gratuity line above the total. I don't mind that they list out the suggested tip amounts (I've seen that done before and not all POS do that automatically, FWIW). I have never seen where you are supposed to/asked to tip twice (double tip). I hope this clarifies that this is about 2 suggested tips (where 1 is not really a suggestion because it becomes part of your total bill), not help for the math-impaired. Thanks

Yeesh. This sounds horribly pushy. Can I ask which restaurant?

I'm also thinking about checking out Sound Bites solo. What do you expect the scene to be like?

I expect it to be something like a 9:30 Club show, but lots more social, since people will be walking around and tasting food, even while the bands play. It's not going to be the usual show where everyone stares at the stage the whole time.

My aunt and uncle are coming for lunch on Sunday and their request is "healthy ethnic food," any ideas? Also, I've recently had too much Ethiopian food, so that's out. My uncle is diabetic and has an extremely limited diet. Preferably in NW DC.

As a healthy eater from a family of diabetics, I think I got this: You might try Malgudi in Glover Park. South Indian food, which isn't easy to come by in the city anymore, includes plenty of vegan, lentil-heavy dishes, including uttapum, dosa and rava dosa, that should fit the bill. (Just ask them to make your dosa with no ghee and little oil.) It's pretty fiery, too, and should give Ethiopian a run for its money. Here's the menu. I actually love Thai Tanic, too -- substitute brown rice, of course.

Hello Gogs, my friend, his pregnant wife, and three of her friends are all visiting from out of town for Friday night only. We are going out to dinner downtown, and then would like to go out for a little bit after. Since the wife will not be drinking, can you think of somewhere fun we can all go? It can still be a bar/lounge, but it would be awesome if the place had some good/interesting non-alcoholic beverages for her to enjoy. Just trying to make sure she has a fun time, even though she can't imbibe with the rest of us. Anywhere downtown is cool, as we can just cab it. Thanks!

Fun/cool spots with non-alcoholic cocktails, when I was taking a couple weeks off the sauce, included Graffiato, Hank's on the Hill and Room 11.

Okay, work calls, and we have to run. If we didn't answer your question in today's chat, keep an eye on the blog, where we'll try to cover a few more.

And for those of you who participate in the Post Points program, we just started handing out Post Points codes last week. To get points for participating in this chat, log in to your Post Points account and enter code GG2846. This code  will be valid for 24 hours.

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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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