Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Guide

Jul 11, 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.

Welcome chatters, to this week's post-July Fourth, post Monument-lighting, pre-McCartney chat. Fritz is off reporting somewhere, so it's me and Steph for this round. Let's get started!

Hi Gurus! My wife has always wanted to go to a murder mystery theater/dinner. Are there any in the DC area that you could recommend? Thank you!

Toby's Dinner Theatre is one of the area's longest-standing dinner theaters, and frequently pulls from the D.C. talent pool. So that's a great option. And of course, at the Kennedy Center is "Shear Madness," which is one of those classic Washington things to do, though there's no dinner. It's always running, and always selling out.  People love it.

I heard from someone who was at Suburbia last weekend that it would continue to be open, tho I had thought last weekend was it. Or is it now returning after the New Orleans trip? I know you'll have the latest news!

Ah yes, plans have changed at Suburbia. Last we heard, during the monsoon of a GOG happy hour, Suburbia is skipping the New Orleans trek and staying put through the summer. That's good news for anyone wanting to get some slushy alcoholic goodness during the upcoming drive-in movie series.

My mom and gmom are coming to town this weekend for the night and I'm picking them up from Union Station. Any suggestions for a nice, inexpensive lunch nearby, with parking or little walking from parking?

Sure thing. You'll be within walking distance of Art & Soul, and Bistro Bis, which can be pricey at dinner but have much more affordable lunch options. If you take a short trip to H Street, you'll find Boundary Road and Ethiopic -- the latter was a top pick in Tom Sietsema's fall dining guide last year.

Are there any restaurants in the DMV you can recommend for solo diners? Ones that are comfortable, wouldn't make it feel awkward, and might even have something to occupy one's time while waiting for the meal?

I frequently see folks dining alone at bars, which is also the best way to get around what can be a long wait for a table in this town  -- I'd highly recommend a stop at Red Hen's bar, which is huge, and the service is quite convivial. Another good one: Mandu on K Street -- the bartenders are chatty, and get to know their customers, so that can be fun. I see a lot of folks dining solo at the bar at Estadio, and I could imagine the same at Ghibellina, and there's something about ramen that's also almost better solo -- try downstairs at Daikaya.

Is there a good place to do lunch near the Zoo on a Friday afternoon? If not, anywhere close enough to walk to/metro a few stops? Thanks!

How about Cafe Sorriso? It's near Woodley Park Metro. I hear their gelato is very good too, though, I'm afraid I haven't tried it this summer.

Just an FYI for those going to the Book of Mormon, do not eat in the restaurant upstairs unless you have mobility issues that prevent you from going somewhere else easily. The food is at best similar to poorly executed wedding food. Its all prepared ahead of time. its also expensive for what you get. There are plenty of better places to go, including a number right across from the Foggy Bottom Shuttle.

Here's one chatter's take on the Kennedy Center restaurant. A lot of readers were asking about pre-"Mormon" eats in Tom's chat yesterday, too. A few alternatives in the West End, nearby: Bayou, Westend BistroRasika West End, Marcel's.

I want to gift my friend a spa/massage package for her birthday. I live in Alexandria and would go to Sugar House, but she livesin Bloomingdale and would like to keep in local. Can you recommend a spa place that's easily accesible by Metro.

For something extravagant, the spa at the Mandarin Oriental can't be beat. A more price-conscious option would be Aura, although I can only vouch for the location at 15th and P. Chatters, any advice for the spa-seeker?

I like Notti Bianchi as well - really nice atmosphere, not crazy expensive.

Here's another option for hungry "Mormon" ticketholders.

Hello! My brother and his girlfriend are coming DC briefly in August (it's at the end of a longer trip we are taking together). His girlfriend has never been to DC. I want to make sure she has fun, but also sees the monuments and maybe a museum. This is our itinerary: Dinner & Pie on H Street, Bike Monuments & Mall at Night, Union Market, National Archives for Search for the Seventies (she's a photographer), Book of Mormon, Cupcakes from Baked & Wired, Walk along Potomac/Georgetown, Dinner & Drinks outside on 17th or 14th Street, Doughnuts from GBD for Dessert, Fly Home. Is there anything I absolutely need to add to this list (keeping in mind that they arrive Saturday evening and leave Monday)? We can bump everything but Book of Mormon.

You have quite a full schedule! Honestly, it sounds like you've covered a lot of the big things and you have a nice mix of active outings and more low-key ones, including the event everyone wants tickets to -- Book of Mormon. I wouldn't change much of anything, except maybe adding some down time in the form of an evening drink at Garden District (formerly Standard) or other outdoor spot, if the weather is decent.

Happy Thursday, Gurus! What can you tell me about the courtyard movies at Heurich House this summer--do they usually fill up, how early do you have to show up for a spot, can you bring a bottle of wine with your picnic? Thanks for any tips!

Since a number of the movies have been rained out, the nights when Heurich House has been able to host have been extra packed, they tell me. People start lining up around 7, even though doors open at 8 (and the cap is only 250). On the plus side, you're free to bring a picnic, including wine.

I'd like to have in my back pocket a list of worthwhile restaurants in the area to visit on those occasions when we have a Zipcar for extra time after running errands/picking berries/dropping guests at an airport. They don't have to be in the boonies (say, Inn at LW) or special-occasion (2941). Maybe neighborhood gems that are hard to muster enthusiasm for the extra-long walk or bus ride when we have so many options nearby in Penn Quarter and Capitol Hill. Examples we've recently enjoyed include the two Belgian restaurants on Macarthur Blvd and Tallula in Arlington. Any suggestions? (We tried to avoid limiting the driver by going to places like MadFox or DFH Alehouse where drinks are the primary draw.)

I love this question. So, I drive in and around D.C., because I grew up here, and I also have family to visit in the burbs. But I also love the flexibility of being able to get out of the city, where I think there is some excellent dining, particularly of the ethnic variety. One, of course, is Eden Center -- I always stop at Song Que Deli for some of my favorite banh mi in the area (Anthony Bourdain even featured the place on his show; pick up tofu from Thanh Son Tofu; and for a fuller dinner, there's hot pot at Rice Paper. I am beyond sold on Shilla Bakery in Annandale for amazing Korean baked goods (there are samples!) and bingsoo.  Chefs always tell me they love La Caraquena, a staple here. In Maryland, in Rockville in Particular, there's some of the best Taiwanese/Chinese food you'll find in our area: I had a killer meal at A&J the other night, and the Cava in Rockville is fun, and Jumbo Jumbo is the jam for bubble tea and authentic Taiwanese snack foods.   I like the sit-down environment of the Friendship Heights Pete's Apizza much better than I do in the city (not the boonies, but not exactly easy to get to by Metro).  If you're out berry-picking anyway, there's Potowmack Farm for a gorgeous brunch.  Okay, now I'll you guys -- got any stellar suggestions in the 'burbs?

Going to Brew at the Zoo tonight for the first time. What should I expect? Super crowded and hot? Fun?

Yes. Yes, it will be hot and crowded, but don't worry, it will be fun, and that's why this event is always a sell-out. Be sure to bring cash to speed things along at the food trucks, and get there on the early side; folks tend to linger in after work for the Friends of the National Zoo fundraiser, so getting there early will ensure you get to taste a bit more without crazy lines.

Virgin Freefest will take place on Saturday September 21st and feature Vampire Weekend. How do I know this? Well I just gave in and bought tickets to their New York show. They also have a weekend shaped hole then. Although Merriweather has a concert scheduled for 9/20, so maybe not.

Fun. I love a little conjecture. So, the announcement last year actually fell right around now (it was made on July 6, 2012), and tickets went on sale right around Aug. 23. It looks like Virgin Mobile was posting a few teases on its Facebook page as recently as Monday. Last year, the bill included Jack White, Skrillex, M83, Santigold and others. Vampire Weekend is a possibility. I'm going to add Holy Ghost, since they check the dance box, and are generally awesome. I have be wondering like crazy when Frank Ocean will be lulled out of hiding. Or, what do you think guys, Kanye? He likes indie just enough to do a one-off, no? 

heading to DC to meet a friend from NYC next weekend - have tickets to Book Of Mormon Sunday night the 21st, already have brunch plans that day - would love to hear ideas for Saturday afternoon /evening and Monday day. We get into Union Station around 1:30 Saturday, leaving Monday at 4:30ish. no car. staying at Marriott on 22nd Street. Cocktails a must, friend is on a tighter budget so no major splurges if possible !

One way to avoid splurges is to head to the free museums -- maybe you and your friend would enjoy strolling around the Hirshhorn, or seeing the Ballets Russes show at the National Gallery? The Corcoran is free on Saturdays, too.   If you'd like to see even more theater, the Fringe Festival tickets are pretty cheap -- and will provide a way different audience experience than Book of Mormon! Steph and I did a little guide to it here.

As for cocktails -- we have a great list of some of the best here. Your hotel is near Bourbon Steak, the first slide in this gallery, which offers a house-bottled strawberry-and-bay leaf soda mixed with gin, egg white, and orange liquer. How's that for a start?

Hi Gurus! I'm celebrating my 32nd birthday this Saturday and would love recommendations for things to do in DC during the day for a group of 6-8. I'm weighing mini-golf at the National Building Museum (but is the wait too long, or is it geared mainly towards families with young children?), drinks at Georgetown Waterfront, or paddle boats at the Tidal Basin... weather permitting. Do you recommend any of these activities, or others? Thanks!!

So, minigolf isn't the best for a big group -- it gets kind of slow, plus, even if there aren't a ton of kids, you will be through the course in about 30 minutes.  I think you have a winner with the waterfront. How about upright paddling and/or canoes from Key Bridge Boathouse, taking a ride out on the water for a little while in the morning; then walking up to Chadwick's for their Saturday happy hour, or Farmers Fishers Bakers to share tiki bowls, or Bandolero for drinks and tacos, and then just hang out in the sun for a while?  I think there's actually a Groupon right now for Key Bridge Boathouse, so get your friends to snag those before you go.

Help--I'm meeting someone for a first date--just drinks--this Saturday, and I need to pick the place. Somewhere between Arlington and Leesburg (he's willing to drive to Arlington, but I'm not willing to drive to Leesburg). And a place that's not too pretentious and not overrun with 20-somethings. Thanks!

Haha, what if you start dating? Will you always have to meet in the middle?

Okay, sorry. How about Northside Social? The upstairs is a nice wine bar, warm and with an amazing list. Downstairs is a coffee shop (you can still get wine), but serves coffee, tea and delicious sweet things, if the date goes well. Another option is Screwtop -- I think that's a very good option, actually.

A friend from NYC is meeting me in DC the weekend of the 20th. We have tickets to Book of Mormon on Sunday, and already have brunch plans, but would love suggestions for Saturday afternoon/evening and Monday day. We get in around 1:30 Saturday and leave 4:30 Monday. Staying at the Marriott on 22nd St. Friend is on a budget, so nothing too crazy.

Fun weekend in the city? I would definitely make a little time to visit the National Gallery of Art, which has the big "Ballet Russes" show. And perhaps afterward, you can zip into Rasika, one of the city's top restaurants. If you get there just as it opens, I'd pop over to the bar, get a drink and try their famed palak chaat spinach appetizer (worth it, trust me). On Sunday, perhaps after brunch, before the musical, take a little time to explore Georgetown (free); now that the waterfront park is complete, it's pretty fantastic, and you can get right up to the waterfront.

Hello! I've lived in Loudoun County for a year, but I've never been to any of the area's wineries. However, I'm not much of a drinker and my bf prefer's beer to overpriced and "hoity toity" wine. We also love good food and music! Do you have any local winery recommendations or know of any fun events going on in the Loudoun County area? Thanks!

Oh, check out this rundown of some of the wineries I like a lot. (Photos here.) Actually, breweries are gathering steam in the area, thanks, probably to some of the ground that wineries have broken. I think you should get started early and split the difference. Two wineries, two breweries? I'd do Corcoran Brewing, no question; and you might consider promising to take him to Alexandria to take a tour of Port City at some point. As for wineries - there's one attached to Corcoran Brewing, though I like a couple nearby better: Sunset Hills is a beauty, and for music, try Notaviva.

Is the waterfront park in Georgetown really complete? That's great news...thanks for the chat!

Yup - last summer was the first summer it was fully open, and it is quite lovely. You can step right on down the stairs and dip your toes in the Potomac. I like to get there very early, because between bikers, runners, paddleboarders and shoppers, it gets a bit crazy.

Hi GOGs My wife and I are taking off work Friday to staycation and hit up some museums, and then we have tickets for the Paul McCartney concert at night. As a result we'll be in tourist uniform - polo and shorts sneakers for me, probably sundress for the wife. We were thinking about stopping in to Central or another downtown restaurant for an early dinner before the concert. Question: are we dressed okay to eat at a restaurant like Central or Bibiana?

That sounds like an amazing day. Soooo, I think on a Friday, a Bibiana or Central might feel a bit off in shorts and a polo, since they're pretty formal, and it being a Friday means they'll be attracting a post-work crowd. Can i suggest something else? How about Oyamel? The food was even better than I remembered the last time I was there, and they have a pretty good happy hour that includes $5 margaritas and $4 tacos, but it runs early, from only 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., so I'm always kicking myself for missing. Since you have the day off anyway, you could head there, start with drinks and snacks, grab a table for the rest of dinner, and hop easily onto the Green Line from Archives, and be on your way to Nats Park.

Tomorrow, Friday evening, looking for outdoor music and food that would be fun for the adults and not draw stares for bringing the kids along. Think Building museum and jazz in the garden probably not a good plan? DC or NOVA fine. No MD please. Thoughts much appreciated!

The building museum draws a bit more of a happy-hour crowd, but Jazz in the Garden is actually a great choice. It's long been a popular place for folks who want to get out but take kids along. Be sure to pack blankets to spread out, and a good picnic, because the wait for food can be epic.

Yoyogi for Sushi in the Kentlands. Best sushi around. So good and incredibly inexpensive. I always stop by, even if just for take out, when I'm in the area.

Thanks for the suggestion!

I'm sorry we didn't get to some of your nightlife questions. When Fritz isn't here, some of those stump us a bit. But  I think we need to wrap up this rodeo, because some of us are...going to Book of Mormon.  See you next Thursday at 1 p.m. !


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The Going Out Guide
The Going Out Guide staff 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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