Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Guide

Jun 20, 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.

Hi everyone. We're stoked about the lovely rain-free weekend on the way. Our list of the weekend's best is heavy on outdoor events: skaters Tony Hawk and Rodney Mullen on the Mall, the Barbecue Battle downtown and the NoVa Brewfest, for starters. What are you cised for?

Any additional hints you can provide on the location of J.Cole's secret show tonight? He hasn't tweeted anything yet, and I've already eliminated places that are booked for the night...

Are you talking about the album release party? That's at the upscale lounge Opera, starting at 10 p.m. Hadn't heard of a separate performance.

I moved away from the DC area last August, and I'm coming back up for a week and a half. What has changed, in terms of the restaurant scene in DC and Montgomery County? Any price range up to approx. $50/person is fine. I'll gladly welcome suggestions for Sunday brunch, lunch, dinner, and happy hour. I love Italian, any kind of Asian (minus Indian), Greek, Spanish, Mexican, and Cajun/Creole, anything really. Thanks!

The biggest openings of the year so far including the French-themed Le Diplomate, a 14th Street restaurant that  is such a scene, you probably should put that on your list. We've seen an explosion in Italian as well -- GhibellinaEtto and Red Hen are some of the ones you need to know. Honestly, I'd add to that a trip to Rappahannock Oyster Bar in Union Market (which will likely blow your mind); and for happy hour, how about one of these rooftops, which represent one of the big new trends happening in bars?

Hey GOGs! What's your best suggestion for a cheap happy hour on Friday? We're looking at somewhere between Chinatown/Penn Quarter/Metro Center or down the Orange line (not past Clarendon). Any suggestions? And for the record, though we like cheap beer, we are not of intern age.

The eternal Washington summer dilemma: Somewhere with a great cheap happy hour, but not so cheap that it will be overrun with interns. 

Around Chinatown/PQ, I like Hill Country for $3 PBRs and $5 margaritas and RFD for $4 "beers of the day," which might not be dirt cheap but is a good deal when you're talking Bell's Oberon or Allagash. And the house beers at the District Chophouse brewpub ($3.25 at happy hour) are always good value.

We're going to the pirate festival at the National Geographic museum on Saturday. Could you recommend a kid-friendly restaurant for lunch nearby? Thanks!

Sure - Only a few blocks away from National Geographic, you'll find Nando's for peruvian chicken and fries, Shake Shack for burgers and milkshakes, and Vapiano for pizza and salad.

This might be more of a Dr. Gridlock question, but we are headed to Norfolk in a few weeks to take my WWII obsessed son to see the USS Wisconsin. We are Marylanders, and I am very worried about the VA traffic on our return from Norfolk on Sunday? We were planning to head back around 5:00 - is that insane? Do you or any fellow chatters have any advice? Also, is there anything else fun to do in Norfolk for two elementary aged boys? Thanks!!

I haven't braved the drive from Norfolk/Va Beach since last summer, but I know the general advice is to leave really early (right after lunch) or late (after dinner) to avoid the awful I-95 traffic, which seems to get bad around Kings Dominion.

And with the kids, don't forget Norfolk's beach and boardwalk, though they're small compared to, say, Ocean's City.

Chatters, advice on Norfolk travel and family sights?

I have a friend coming to visit who just went through a very one-sided break-up, and is convinced her chances of meeting someone or getting hit on are over (she's only 28!). I'm at a bit of a loss as to where to take her to maybe talk to some guys and lift her spirits, since we've definitely aged out of the Adams Morgan scene. Nicer bars on 14th? U Street? She's not much of a dancer, and I would like to stay in the city. Any suggestions would be great, thanks!

Tell your friend she's stressing about nothing. Many of the bars on 14th Street -- Le Diplomate, Black Jack, Black Whiskey, Tropicalia, Bar Pilar -- cater to a audience in their late 20s/30s. (Trust me: Most 23-year-old dudes are not dropping $14 for a margarita on the roofdeck at El Centro D.F.) 

Hello, I would like to take my sister on a short drive to a beach trip this weekend. She has been my rock since I have been ill and I would like to take her to a place and have her get pampered. Request a short trip because I cannot drive she will be driving - which she does not mind (but I do!!). Is Ocean City too far to drive? Even going to a luxury hotel would be nice. Just want to give back what my dear sister has given me. Thank-you

Ah.The beach isn't the shortest drive -- it's about three hours, depending on where you're leaving from. If that works, I'd plan on leaving very early (9 a.m.) on say, Saturday morning, and heading to Rehoboth, which is a little more luxe (if you want to "pamper" her) than Ocean City. You might dine at the newish A(muse), or the popular Salt Air. As for hotels, good luck -- the rentals are very difficult to find once the summer arrives, and requests for last-minute rooms are met with scoffs by the front desks. So you might consider returning late the same day.  For something a little closer -- but keep in mind, none of these are particularly luxe -- check out our list of nearby beaches. And finally, If you wait till next weekend, you can even take a bus together, so the drive isn't quite as bad - the beach buses run by DC2NY launch on the 28th.

"don't forget Norfolk's beach and boardwalk" huh?

Okay, maybe I'm wrong -- the Ocean View beach and park, with a view of the bridge and tunnel? Is that technically not in Norfolk?

Don't forget Virginia Beach, whcih is on the Atlantic and has a beach and oraddwalk much like OC or Rehobeth. And of course, Busch Gardens is a very short dirve west from Norfolk, and what kid (or adult for that matter) doesn't enjoy Busch Gardens? Plus, of course, historic Williamsburg!

More Norfolk ideas.

Was wondering if you can help me identify exactly what the flavor(s) is/are in Green Hat gin. I recently tried it, straight, by the way, and did not like it at all. Apologies, Fritz, because I think you do. To me, it has the proper burn of gin but that's about all I can say for it.

Two questions: What gins do you usually like? And did you have the new summer gin or the regular? The summer has a lot of floral character to it -- tons of citrus peel, cherry blossoms, rose -- and less juniper than usual. To me, that makes it more suited for mixing than drinking neat, the way I would with Monkey 47 or Damrak. 

Phew. I run that route for work a lot (Navy). Its bad on the weekends and can be bad during certain times in the week. I would say that leaving after 5 pm is better than leaving around lunch. 95N gets awful around Fredericksburg. 64 can also be bad on the weekends. Its just traffic going to the beach. Your kids will probably like the Nauticus museum (I believe its connected to the Wisconsin).

A voice of experience. Thanks.

A cousin is visiting next week with her son, a rising high school senior, to check out DC colleges. We're supposed to meet Monday evening for dinner. Any suggestions for a "fun" place, either near GW or downtown DC, that can accommodate six people with a variety of tastes and not break the bank (i.e. no more than $30/person without liquor)?

If you want to stick close to GW, you could try Founding Farmers, which has a big menu. A short walk from there is the quintessential aspiring-poli-sci-major-visiting-GW-for-the-first-time restaurant, The Old Ebbitt Grill. The brand new MXDC at 14th and F offers family-style Mexican, which would help you keep your costs down. There's also Lincoln and Teddy (which opens on the 24th), two presidential-themed restaurants, that might provide a good D.C. experience for your cousin's son.

I'm from Virginia Beach, and made the I-95 trek back to college many times. I still drive that way to see family down there. You'll need to leave very late (try around 6 or 7) or very early. I like to leave around 8 or 9 a.m., to be honest. That way, I get back to the D.C. area with enough time to decompress/unpack before bed. Nauticus is a great museum, and you won't be too far from the Virginia Living Museum or Children's Museum.

Hey, friends of mine are trying to entice me to head up to Linganore Winery this weekend. Evidently there will be music that will be reminiscent of my youth along with wine tastings. Anyone familiar with this place?

 I've been to their festivals before -- they can be fun if you bring a lot of people, blankets, food and just chill out. The little markets that are set up aren't going to take up a good amount of your time. The wine is unlimited (but you know, take it easy), and they make nearly two dozen varieties -- many of them very sweet fruit wines -- for you to try. The tastings are pretty rushed; don't expect it to necessarily be a wine tasting experience so much as a chance to sip on a few wines before you head off to your blanket for music. I'd say I had a decent time, mostly because I had excellent company, so if you go, bring the same.

Hello, Within metro accesible DC, where would you go for a weekday breakfast (8 am timefram) that is not an nightmare of an egg. Founding Farmers? Florida Diner?

Hi! We've got a whole list of weekday breakfasts for you peruse right here. Johnny's Half Shell earns especially high marks from Tom Sietsema, who recommended it for breakfast on his chat yesterday.

Any suggestions on what time to get there before the place gets slammed so that I may have a chance at getting a seat at the bar? Also, I doubt they do but thought I'd ask - do they do a HH ever? Are the drinks really expensive? When I say expensive I mean more expensive than anything else priced on 14th Street NW? thanks

Early. Based my experience and experience from friends, your best chance of getting a barstool is between 5 and 5:30, when everyone else is just leaving work, or (strangely) around 10-10:30, after dinner but before the late-night crowd arrives. Also, going earlier in the week is better, but still, the place is never empty. 

I'm not aware of any happy hours, and prices are reasonable for 14th, and sometimes even cheaper: Many house cocktails, including French 75, Negroni and a pretty good Sazerac, are $10. I also liked the gin-and-maraschino Roland Garros ($12). You can get a pretty decent glass of wine for $9 or $10.

Another beach question - South Dakota cousins visiting next week and his kids have never seen the ocean!!! For a Friday road trip w/elementary/middle school kids - is Ocean City our best bet? Thinking both traffic and best ocean experience for the kids. Thanks.

I do think a road trip on a Friday will be just fine for heading to Ocean City. OC is probably your best bet for the kids, both because the beach is wide and spacious, but also because the boardwalk is going to be a big draw for them to hang out, eat ice-cream and funnel cake and people-watch.  Assateague Island is another possibility, because of the wild horses, but won't necessarily have that fun factor that the Boardwalk can have.

To answer your 2 questions: I had the regular not the summer version. Examples of gin that I like would be Plymouth, Portobello, Hendricks and for a domestic, Death's Door. I generally like really clean gins, though some listed have some flavor (and for me are occasionally fine, depending upon how I'm drinking the gin). Thanks

I do love the Portabello. Green Hat, to me, gives off a lot of coriander, celery and fennel. It's more herbacious than a London Dry.

My husband and I are retired. We are quite active but need something to stimulate our minds. Any suggestions in the line of plays in the DC metro area that are thought provoking and entertaining.

Theaters like Woolly Mammoth and the Studio Theatre tend to bring in contemporary plays and world premieres that would challenge you, but you should also look to smaller theaters with more limited seasons, like Forum Theatre, Happenstance Theatre, Dog and Pony DC, and Taffety Punk, which consistently create excellent theater.  For this week, I wrote about a world premiere by local playwright Allyson Currin called "Caesar and Dada" at WSC Avant Bard that might be of interest. If you don't mind theater that's a little experimental and unpolished, you could try some of the 10-minute plays at the Source Festival (and the Fringe Festival, coming up in July, would fit the same bill). You might enjoy a weekend trip to the Castleton Festival as well.

Hi, GOGs, Do you know how the tickets for an AFI (Silver) Docs show work once it is sold out on-line? The website says the documentaries are "never really sold out" and that they switch to standby seating before the showing. Are extra tickets set aside for standbys or would I be going to the theater on the off-chance that I could take someone else's seat if they didn't arrive 15 minutes before the show? Thanks, trying to decide if the standby line is worth it!

You've got the basics. If a film is "sold out," they allow people to get in line for the chance to buy any seats that are empty 15 minutes before the start of the show. There are no designated standby tickets, so you're getting there early in the hopes that someone else can't make it. Personally, I don't know if I'd travel across town for that.

Our friends from out of state will be visiting next Friday through Monday. All together we will hve 4 adults and 5 kids aged 9 months through 6 years. We will be hosting them in our house in MD between DC and Baltimore. Do you have any sugestions? I was considering the Pirate exhibit at the National Geographic Museum. I have never been there, is that worth the trip and admission price?

Ah, so I just checked with our Kids Post editor, who thinks your crowd might enjoy the National Building Museum a little better - it's a top spot for young ones, and this exhibit is one of the popular options for your tykes, who might want to interact more with the exhibits. There's also very cool kid-friendly minigolf displays in the museum that they might want to check out.  Other thoughts -- the butterfly exhibit at the Museum of Natural History. Then the kids might enjoy running through the museum checking out all the bones, mummies and big animals.

Hello, GOGs. You've mentioned the word "growler" in your occasional discussion of beer tastings in DC or Alexandria, and I don't know what that is. Can you tell me what a "growler" is, and how do I obtain it? Thanks.

A growler is a glass jug -- usually 64 ounces, sometimes 32 oz or a full gallon -- that you get filled with fresh-from-the-tap beer at a brewery or licensed liquor store. It's reusable and environmentally friendly. Most breweries sell them for $5 or $6. (Wouldn't you rather have one with a Chocolate City or DC Brau logo instead of Whole Foods? Thought so.)

The only catch with growlers is that it's fresh beer, so once you take your growler home and open it, you need to finish the beer pretty quickly. It doesn't keep like individual cans or bottles. Most brewers advise people to finish the beer the same day or a day or two later, before it goes stale and flat.

A family friend has a summer internship in DC and I wanted to take her to dinner (with drinks). Where would you go for a good DC experience, that a just-graduated 22 year old might not afford or go to on their own? The only restriction - I have celiac, so it must have gluten free options.

Steph recommends Zaytinya, where she went and they have their own special gluten-free menu that will be perfect for you (call Oyamel, too, which was delicious the last time I went there, and I've heard they also will provide you with a clear menu). For your guest, she can say she ate at a Jose Andres restaurant, and have a pretty fancy meal while she's at it. Agora is another one I can recall having gluten-free options clearly marked - the age group on 17th Street might be a little closer to hers.

I have a few questions about the rooftop bar at the Donovan Hotel. Do you have to pay just to get onto the roof/pool area? Are they separate or together? Do people swim all night every night or is there a time it switches over from being a pool to just being a lounge/bar? Also, has anyone been and is it fun/interesting? Its getting great reviews! Basically I just want to know the story!

First things first: If you're not a paying hotel guest, you're not allowed to get in the pool this year. That's the line from the bar, at least, though I've heard that friends of friends sat on the edge of the pool and put their feet in the water. I don't want to encourage that, since I don't know if you'd get tossed out. I've been several times and have never seen non-guests in the water.

That said: There's no charge to get up to the rooftop, no dress code, none of that hassle. (When it fills up, there may be a line to get in.) The frozen cocktails are great, the scenery is good, and if you arrive at the right time, you can grab a deck chair and lay in the sun. Sounds like heaven right about now.

I'm going to a show at the Roundhouse Theater in Bethesda tomorrow. I need a cute place for a quick drink/small bite for 4 people that will get us out in time for the 8 PM curtain. Looking for something with a good vibe, not too fancy, not too casual. Dare I say it? Hip.

The revamped Food Wine & Co. got a nod from Tom Sietsema recently. Lavanya likes the big patio at Redwood. There's also a nearby Jaleo, where you can order a few small dishes and a sangria, and duck out in time for your curtain. I have grabbed a bite at Tandoori Nights before shows at Roundhouse before, and when I tell my server about the limited timeframe, they have been reliably quick.

Late submission here, but SO and I are going to the Gaiman event tomorrow evening. What's the best bet for dinner around the event?

Tonic, across the street from Lisner, is fun but may be swamped with other audience members. Within walking distance, there's Kaz Sushi, Founding Farmers, and District Commons. If you don't mind going a few blocks further, Boveda is another good option.

Submitting early, since I live in Japan. I've been stationed here with the Navy for the past two years. I'm coming home to visit family for July 4th week. Definitely hitting Surfside in Glover Park and 2 Amys. After being gone for 2 years, what else do I do with my week at home?

It's summertime, so I can't help but think you might want to check out the new backyard barbecues at the National Building Museum, which are kind of a happy hour scene, plus check out one of these cool new bars and rooftops (I'd add Hogo -- mostly because I'm a little corny, and I think it's funny if you were to drink Navy strength rum.)  Take a stroll down 14th Street NW, and see the entire neighborhood transformed. Meet friends at Jazz in the Garden.  On July 4th, you could do a Nats game in the morning, check out the amazing park and concessions, make a stop on your way out at the new Gordon Biersch, then take the train to the Mall for fireworks. (Beware the Washington Monument, which is sheathed in scaffolding.)  Hope you have a great stay.   

I wouldn't exactly call Agora an experience though.

Yup. That's about right.

I am going to Merriwether for the first time. Tickets say doors open at 5:30. What time do you think music will start? What time do you think Zac Brown will actually play. Thanks for the help, I love these chats

Just took a survey of our music critics/Merriweather goers. Our best guess in this situation -- 5:30 gates, two openers -- is that the first band will be on around 6:30, and Zac Brown will be on between 8 and 8:30, probably towards the later side of that spectrum. But if you only want to see ZBB, be there by 8.

Hey GoGs, what's the deal with Mothership, which is on Georgia and Lamont? It looks like it's got a nice patio, but I haven't had the chance to swing by there yet to see if it's as good as it looks.

Mothership, from the El Floridano truck folks, seems like a cool addition to the neighborhood. The menu, according to Tim Carman,  is teeming with unusual stuff -- Lousiania sheepshead, blue catfish, etc.    Check out his positive review here.

What is the Post Points code for today, please?

Ah, where would we be without this friendly reminder? Here ya go: GG5692

Lavanya has it about right - the winery is right down the road from me. Go for the music and the company, not for the wine unless you are a fan of very sweet wines. It's definitely a party atmosphere, and you can have a lot of fun. If you palate for wine runs to something not so sweet, there are three other wineries within 5 miles of Linganore (Black Ankle, which is my wife's and my favorite, Elk Run, and Loew's). Also, bring a designated driver - the roads are country twisty, and too many folks from the festivals creep across the center line.

Yes, I'm glad you mentioned the DD. A day of festival drinking, plus a lot of sun, plus a fairly long (hour-plus) drive back to the city definitely means you want someone else to be driving.

Hi Gurus, we are going to Ocean City this weekend for a friend's bachelorette party, and since there are only 2 of us that aren't the bride, it's becoming a pretty expensive trip at 300 buckos per person. Do you have any suggestions that I could bring up as a last ditch effort? Of course I'm all for the happiness of the bride, but since she's not completely sold on the idea of Ocean City either, isn't it better to save some of those dollars for booze and dancing?

Yeah, that's expensive, and yeah, you want to save money for the fun stuff, not just hotels and gas. What about staying in town and getting a room at the Donovan House or the Liason -- somewhere with a rooftop pool deck where you can while away the day in the sun with a cold drink in hand? Then the savings go for Ubering to bars and drinking champagne or similar.

Thanks for all the great questions today. We hope you enjoy the weekend, and we'll see you back here next week.

Today's Post Points code: GG5692.

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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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