Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Guide

May 23, 2013

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.

There's a long weekend ahead. Looking for something to do? Check out our Weekend Best Bets or a jam-packed Nightlife Agenda. (Speaking of: Anyone going to try the Green Hat cocktails at Boundary Road tonight?)

We're happy to talk about restaurants, such as the new Etto; vegan ramen; the forthcoming Capital Fringe Festival; Heck, we'll even discuss the sinkhole cocktail.

Ready? Here we go.

Any cool outdoor events happening in the district in the next two weeks?

Lucky you - right around Memorial Day is when we begin to see plenty of things move outdoors. So far, we've got the new Hill Country barbecue soirees at the National Building Museum; tomorrow brings Jazz in the Garden back. Petworth Jazz Project starts on Saturday. There are plenty more in coming weeks, including the Dupont-Kalorama Museum Walk Weekend.

Hey GOG, What would be your recommendation for something to do on Friday night? Possibly music related (blues, rock, alt). I'm thinking Hill Country BBQ, is that every Friday? Any other suggestions welcome. Thanks! Dude with a Date

Hill Country's Backyard BBQ is every Friday; everyone i talked to there while writing my review raved about the place. (A few, without any prompting, declared it "better than Jazz in the Garden," which kicks off this Friday.)

Given the precarious state of the weather forecast, you might want to have some indoor backups. For blues/rock, you might want to consider Johnny Neel at JV's -- Neel was in the 80s-90s incarnation of the Allman Brothers, but also played with Gov't Mule and Gregg Allman's solo projects.

Where are the best spots in town if I want to go watch the European Champions League final on Saturday afternoon? I want a spot where the volume for the broadcast is on. Thanks.

Since there are two German teams in the final, the Goethe-Institut is hosting a free -- and, more importantly, BYOB -- viewing party at its Chinatown headquarters. No tickets required. I've been to watch soccer there before, and they get a great ex-pat crowd.

Biergarten Haus is also going to be nuts: You should probably call and make a table reservation if you have a large group, or show up early (doors at 11) to stake a seat outside if you don't. (Just watch your beer consumption, because liters of lager take a toll on your wallet.)

Other places that have said they will have the match with sound include Fado, Bar Pilar and Lucky Bar.

I'm the president of a small local hobbyist club. We want to hold an awards banquet on a Wednesday night in October, with 20-25 attendees. We're looking for a venue with private or semi-private rooms, no stairs, accessible by Metro, and about $25-30/head including non-alcoholic drinks and all taxes and tips. In years gone by, Blackie's House of Beef in DC or the Orleans House in Rosslyn would have done the job, but they're now one with Garfinkel's department store, Old Heurich beer, and the Washington Diplomats soccer team. In recent years, we've assembled at Tony Chen's Seafood Restaurant in Chinatown, but the three flights of stairs with no elevator are becoming daunting for some of our older members. Any kind of cuisine is OK, as long as there's a vegetarian option, and a buffet would be fine. I'm sure I'm not the only one looking for such a place for club banquets, retirement parties, etc. Can you help?

Earlier this spring, we had a cover story about large restaurants in D.C. that can pull off private events with aplomb. Our list included The Hamilton, Carmine's, Old Ebbitt, Founding Farmers, Range, and Bungalow Lakehouse, just to pick a few. If you're ok with small chains, the Clyde's and McCormick & Schmick's restaurants are very accessible, and all have private rooms. The new Nopa in Penn Quarter has a private dining room that might also accomodate your group (The main entrance has stairs, but you could call ahead to ask where a handicapped entrance might be). Restaurants in hotels also tend to have many options for private dining and are quite accessible.

Husband and I are driving down to Charlottesville early Saturday morning. Any recommendations for good strawberry-picking spots along the way? (Or at least not too far out of the way?)

Fritz is a big fan of Chiles Peach Orchard in Crozet - a beautiful little place not far from Charlottesville. Their berries are ready to go!

Hi gurus! I know you've answered this question a million times, but where should I take a group of 7 girls next Sat for dancing for a bachelorette party? We will be around Chinatown for dinner (and hotel), so looking for some place not TOO far from there. If you'd have asked me 5 years ago, I would have no problem coming up with a place (Rumors, Mad Hatter, etc), but I haven't been out in DC in a while! Looking for something fairly casual, Top 40 music, etc. Thanks!!

Muse isn't a bad place to party - it's got a small dance floor, but rarely gets crowded, so you can make it your own, and not feel like your whole night was spent waiting in line at the bar. But if you really wanted sensory overload/ridiculousness, there's Ultrabar, where Tom Cruise's son is actually spinning this weekend.

Where are at least five top, go-to locales in Alexandria, Va., that people who've never visited that city before can check out? Thanks!

Five things I'd do in Alexandria:

1. Take a water taxi and see the city from the Potomac. There's one tour that makes a big loop up to National Airport, down to the Wilson Bridge and back in less than an hour.

2. Visit the George Washington National Masonic Memorial. It's an odd museum that mixes Freemasonry and our first president (a Mason), including Washington's bible. And there's a stellar observation deck overlooking the city.

3. Get something to eat: There are some great restaurants in Alexandria, including Restaurant Eve, Virtue Feed and Grain, Eamonn's a Dublin Chipper, Hank's Oyster Bar, and Vaso's. 

4. Do some shopping in the boutiques on King Street -- everything from antiques to designer dress to kid-pleasing (and clever) toys to vintage barware.

5. Visit the Port City Brewery and Tasting Room -- probably the best touring-and-tasting experience in the metro area right now, thanks to their revamped tasting bar.

6. To get the revolutionary atmosphere, wander around and visit the Carlyle House, the Lee Fendall House, Gadsby's Tavern, or Christ Church; there are plenty of Civil War sites, too, such as Fort Ward.

7. I haven't even mentioned bars, but a cocktail at PX or Eve would be a must, in my mind.

Does the Hamilton have a food/beverage minimum in addition to the ticket charges for its shows?

Nope. But if you want to eat, you really should buy a seated ticket -- the few seats in the mezzanine bar areas go really quickly.

Hi - we're spending an upcoming Thursday morning touring Catholic University w/our 2 daughters, ages 16 and 13. Any recommendations for other places to see or things to do in that area of DC - we'd like to make a whole day of it. Thanks!

An excellent place to visit near Catholic is The Franciscan Monastery, modeled after European buildings. From there, you'd be just a couple of miles from Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, which actually begins to bloom with waterlilies and lotus in May, so you're just in time. Be sure to call ahead - it's been affected by federal budget cuts, like the  National Arboretum, which is closed on Thursdays now.

I appreciate all the ways to refine the events calendar. I'd love to be able to search for one time events as well.

Thanks, that's a great suggestion. We know it's not the easiest to maneuver. This isn't the perfect solution, but a great way to find some one-time events is to read the Weekend Best Bets each week, and Nightlife Agenda, both of which pull out most of the  one-time cool events each week. 

My two sisters, both of whom moved away from DC 25+ years ago, are coming for a visit next week and we are going to be downtown tourists for a few days while they are here. I'm thinking Newseum, Museum of American History, National Gallery of Art. Am I missing any must-sees? And can you recommend places to eat near these locations? Thanks so much.

If you and your sisters have an interest in fashion, dance and/or modern art, I would put the Ballets Russes show at the National Gallery at the top of your list. I haven't seen them, but the Newseum has several JFK and Camelot exhibitions on display right now. Another museum activity you might like is the mini-golf at the National Building Museum, with an architectural course that could be an exhibit on its own. As for food: On the Mall, you'll be near the excellent Mitsitam Cafe (recently re-reviewed in the Spring Dining Guide) in the National Museum of the American Indian. If you end up near the Newseum/Building Museum, you're close to Daikaya for ramen and Japanese small plates, as well as Graffiato for Italian small plates. A few blocks over in Penn Quarter, there's the new Nopa, as well as Jaleo and Zaytinya. Enjoy!

Wondering if you know of any places around here that have sailing meet up types of things. I have done DC Sail Wednesday night sails in the past, but twenty bucks for an hour of sailing is really not worth it (Was a member and am not enjoying the growing pains of the past two years) and I don't know if I have the time available to make being a member of DC sail worth it.

There are plenty of other clubs in town besides DC Sail -- there's the Potomac River Sailing Association for racing, and the Sailing Club of Washington (a volunteer organization, like DC Sail) has Thursday night social sails.

6) Check out the art studios and street artists at Torpedo Factory on the waterfront! :)

Worth a browse on the waterfront, sure.

Hi - I'm meeting a friend tonight for drinks and dinner. She asked that we stick near the orange line - I'm thinking the downtown stops (Metro Center, McPherson Sq., Federal Triangle, etc.). Do you have suggestions for somewhere fun and lively - willing to go to two places if there's an especially fun bar. Not too worried about price, but would probably prefer to avoid crazy expensive steak houses. Thanks so much!!!

How about Del Campo, where the drinks are fun, and there's a steakhouse vibe (plenty of smoking meat), but it's  not so stuffy? Here's a little about the chef, and a look at the cocktails. (They, and the fact that J.P. Caceres is the consulting mixologist have inspired me to head there for a drink  next week, too.) It's on I between Seventh and Ninth, but that's a very short walk to Metro Center.

Can you suggest 14 local bars that Caitlin Dewey frequents, so I know where to steer clear of her condescension?

Zing! Honestly, Caitlin's post was making a joke out of the original story: A published report (from New York of all places) that said hipsters were driving up beer prices. So we came up with a list of places where you can still get cheap beer (ie PBR, Natty Boh, Stroh's) for $4 or less.

For me, the interesting point is how many places try to cater to both demographics: The Pug has all local beers on tap for $5-$8, but they also sell 16-ounce Natty Boh/PBR tallboys for $3/$4. The Pinch will have Barrel House's Mandolin Tripel for $9 a glass, but  also Yuengling or a 16-ounce PBR for $4. Rustico's probably the most extreme example: So many high-end craft beers you can't find anywhere else, and then $2 happy hour "college cans" of Keystone and Coors Light. Restaurants have to appeal to a variety of price ranges if they want to survive these days.

I appreciate the pointer to your article, but these places sound like a lot more than $25 a person. Can you make some suggestions with that criterion?

Oh gosh, sorry about that! Family-style places like Carmine's would put you in that price point because you'd all be splitting a few big dishes. Other inexpensive places with private dining (some are chains): Levanese Taverna, Matchbox, Capitol City Brewing Company, Gordon Biersch.

Super random, but the Hamburger Hamlet in the Crystal City mall on Crystal Drive constantly has groups in there for events. No stairs and I think the prices should be reasonable.

Another suggestion!

The bachelorettes may want to check out Penn Social, too. Plenty of room to dance and the music was decent last time I was there. Haven't been there enough to get a real handle on the crowd, though.

Ah, of course. It definitely has really picked up a following, plus, even if no one was in the mood to dance, skeeball and beers could make for a different, memorable bachelorette.

Suggestions for places to go: 1) UEFA Championship: I know about the standards (Fado, Lucky Bar, Summer's). Anywhere for the legitimate Bundesliga fanatics? 2) Monaco Grand Prix: early and esoteric, but places to watch? 3) Outdoor sand volleyball courts around the memorials: can one just walk on; do players accept interlopers? 4) Nats vs. Phillies/Orioles: pre-gaming at Bullpen or has the Hill Country BBQ permit for the nearby standup kicked in? Finally, a non-sequitur: best places for weekly outdoor BBQs over the summer: The Standard, HIll Country BBQ at the National Building Museum. Any others? Thanks.

1. I mentioned Goethe and Biergarten Haus above. I've seen a few Bayern scarves on regulars this season, and they draw big crowds for Germany matches. Goethe will probably have more German speakers, though.

2. The Grand Prix is on so early -- starting at 7:30 a.m. -- that someplace like Summer's might be your best bet.

3. Volleyball courts are National Park Service property run by D.C. Parks and Rec. They're booked in advance by permit (there are a ton of rules), but if no one has reserved it, I'm sure you can play until they show up. (If they have a permit, though, you'll have to make way.)

4. Rocklands has applied for a liquor license for its little outdoor barbecue stand across from the ticket office, but I don't think they've received it yet. I'd still go to the Fairgrounds or the new (and pricier) Park Tavern if it's sunny, and Gordon Biersch if it's raining. I wish Justin's would host block parties more regularly. 

5. You nailed my two favorites there. I was at Art & Soul last night, and they are kicking off a weekly pig roast and oyster fest on their patio every Wednesday. (Strangely, I wasn't actually there for the pig roast; I was sampling a cocktail.) The $35 ticket includes meat from a whole pig, oysters from Rappahannock Oyster Co., sides, etc.

Hi guys--I read you from Michigan, and will be in DC this weekend. We have tickets to a patriotic concert on Sunday at the Kennedy Center, but no firm plans other than seeing monuments etc. (my friend is a first-timer). I'm torn about whether to go to Annapolis on Monday--I like it there, but it will involve a bus ride. But I really want to see the Chesapeake Bay. Should we stay and see the parade in town? Any thoughts or shouldn't miss things to do would be great. Hope everyone has a great weekend.

The Memorial Day Parade is a big deal, and it's free. You might couple it with attending the memorial service at Arlington National Cemetery: There's an 11 a.m. wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns, and the service in the Memorial Amphitheater. You could do that before the 2 p.m. parade begins. (Take Metro from the Cemetery station to Metro Center or Federal Triangle and you're within walking distance of the parade route.)

My friend and his wife are visiting with his two young boys this weekend ( staying in Dupont). Not seeing a lot of events geared towards children this weekend. Any suggestions? Also, what restaurants do you guys bring friends with kids to? We have done Comet and Matchbox in the past. Thanks!

Restaurant-wise: The Moms on staff are suggesting Shake Shack, Zorba's (especially if you sit outside), Pizzeria Paradiso (again, go for the patio) and even Kramerbooks.

As far as activites, check our Weekend's Best list at the top for strawberry festivals, mini-golf at the National Building Museum, and Memorial Day concerts and parades. (What kid doesn't love a parade?)

I might get out of work early tomorrow - any suggestions for a memorable lunch destination? I want to check out a restaurant that I would not normally get to - any neighborhood is fine and preferably with outdoor seating, but not required. Thanks!

What a great idea. (And I'm sure you've put a few thoughts in readers' heads.) Former dining editor Justin Rude compiled this list of fine-dining lunch deals earlier this year; I'd at the $14 deal at Proof, which is good for an entree (including sauteed potato gnocchi with roasted mushrooms, a shrimp burger or a pork parmesan sandwich) and a glass of wine.

If a bit of a drive isn't a problem, the strawberry festivals look to be a little more kid-focused than otherwise, which might be nice. And if the boys can handle a little heat in their food, Nandos is a great choice (my kid brother had no trouble with it).

Yeah, I'm in favor of strawberry festivals -- especially Delaplane, where they can enjoy games and a tug of war and all kinds of fun.

As for Nando's -- Great idea. Don't forget you can get your chicken mild or barely spicy. (Not that I ever would, personally.)

I have a $50 opentable dining check and I want to try somewhere new with amazing food. I would like something similar to Blue Duck Tavern in terms of atmosphere and quality of food and service (I've been there before so that's why its not on my list). Any suggestions?

Sure: You can check out Ancora in the Watergate, Table in Shaw, and Le Diplomate  in Logan Circle, all on Open Table.  Also, The Old Angler's Inn in Potomac and Art & Soul on Capitol Hill are not exactly new, but recently got makeovers.

I'm heading to the Nats game tomorrow night. I know we will be starving after the game. Can you recommend some places where we can sit down and have some good food? We will be driving, so they don't have to be within walking distance. Gordon Biersch is always slammed before & after games, so I am avoiding that place.

For good food, head over to Barracks Row and Eastern Market: Ambar for Balkan cuisine (and a lovely patio), Tash for Moroccan sizzle, Hank's on the Hill for oysters and seafood, Beuchert's for odd cuts of meat and amazing veggies.

Please don't forget to put up the PostPoints magic number!

We won't! This week's lucky number -- only slightly less magic than the Powerball -- is GG4014.

Okay, that's going to do it for us. We hope you enjoy the long holiday weekend and join us back here next week. 

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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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