Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Guide

Jul 18, 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. It's hot as blazes out there. How about cooling down with free milkshakes at Z Burger this afternoon, or free gin drinks tonight? We're ready to tackle all of your going out questions, no matter the subject, so fire away. (Just be gentle with us, as vacations mean we're a little shorthanded this week.)

What are the best bars for a larger group of people to go for a birthday? We don't want bottle service, just reasonable prices and a fun atmosphere that has something for everyone - preferably with lots of seating and centrally located to the metro.

Penn Social is good for this -- huge space, lots of things to do, from skeeball to giant jenga sets to sports showing on 20-foot projection screens. Kind of an adult fun house. Buffalo Billiards, the rooftop deck at Arlington Rooftop Bar and Grill, the basement of Hill Country and Iron Horse Tap Room are similar spots with room to spread out, where you can usually show up with 25 people and not have to worry about some folks getting stuck outside.

But be warned that "lots of seating" is going to depend on many factors, including the day and time you go. If you plan an event for 25-30 people at Thursday happy hour or on Friday night without a reservation, it may be hard to get enough seats. 

How likely is it to get two seats at the bar at Rasika (late, but to eat) on a Saturday? How late would it need to be? Special occasion, but also an unpredictable schedule.

Ah, it's hard. I hardly ever encourage people to do that (whereas I might, at say, Estadio) -- because even I have been unable to snag a seat there, during hours that most people like to eat dinner, anyway.  Fritz recommends Fiola, which I agree with; it's got that special occasion feel, plus the bar is set apart. Don't bother with the bar food, order a Smoke Gets In Your Rye, and ask for the dinner menu.  Another place I've quite liked was Del Campo -- it has a tasting menu at a separate bar which feels really intimate, and the cocktails are very good.

I'm heading to the beach this weekend with my littles, but can't decide between Chesapeake and Matapeake. We're going mostly because it's a giant sandbox, but I'd like the water. Any arguments to sway me one way or the other? Thanks!

Chesapeake Beach has the bigger, wider beach. No denying that. It also has other attractions, such as the Railroad Museum.  I'm fond of Matapeake because it's a little more rustic -- woods come up almost the the sand, there are picnic tables and Adirondack chairs, and it's totally dog friendly. 

One other factor: Matapeake is free. Brownie's Beach, the big park south of Chesapeake Beach, has visitor fees.  

I really enjoyed the drinks/outdoor space at Suburbia, but can someone please pass along that their music NEEDS to change. A group of six of us actually took our food back inside after having our conversation drowned out by a pretty steady stream of terrible R&B/hip hop.

Okay, objections noted. But, when it comes to music, bartenders have their own taste, and some places are big believers that music reflects the mood they want the place to have. (See: Marvin.)  That said,  I instantly want to run when I hear classic rock blasting.

Has anyone been to the Big Board? How is it? My friend is in town and is obsessed with going. Also, any street parking near it?

I like Big Board, especially if you go early during happy hour and can get a couple of seats at the bar to play "Don't Break the Ice," "Connect Four" and other classic board games. It can get crowded though. Part of me wishes they'd reserve seats at the bar for people who are playing games, rather than just sitting and drinking. (Trust me: It can be frustrating, as in "Those people don't need to sit to drink beer! We can't play 'Don't Break the Ice' standing up!")

Cool spot, though. If your friend like board games, especially some of the older ones on the "reserve" list, it's a fun place to start the night.

My husband and I are 40. We would like to go somewhere to have a drink and dance. Is there a place to go in Montgomery County or DC that won't make us seem like the chaperones?

Quarry House Tavern offers live rockabilly and oldies bands on Saturday night, combined with one of Montgomery County's best beer lists. I'd start there.

Hi, my wife and I have been invited to a fall wedding at the Cosmos Club, and the invitation states 'Black Tie Optional'. I have never been to the Cosmos Club before. If I show up in a proper 3 piece suit and not a tux, will I be in good company, or in the minority? Thanks!

I think you probably want to call or email the bride on that one (since there's plenty of time); it kind of depends on the rest of her guests, no?  But I think, in general, men who like their tuxes in this town will wear tuxes, and men who like suits wear suits. The Cosmos Club is ancient, exclusive and while it's lovely, it's right in Kalorama.  So I will also add this: Give yourself plenty of time to get there and look for parking. Restaurant Nora is on the same block, and on a weekend night, it's nearly impossible. (I lived two doors down from the Cosmos for almost 8 years.)

Did Justin Rude move to the Washingtonian to work as a food photographer? I thought he was at the Washington Post. Maybe he freelances? I apologise if this is old news and I just missed the transfer.

Sadly, Justin left the Post and now works on the other side of the industry, doing PR and organizing events.

My husband would like to learn more about Scotch. We've done wine tastings, a tequila tasting in Mexico, any DC or VA bars offering opportunities to learn about Scotch? Thank you!

There are formal classes that pop up, usually organized by one particular distillery or brand. (The Macallan and Glenfiddich are old hands at this.) The Scotch Malt Whisky Society had an event at Jack Rose last month -- only natural, because Jack Rose has one of the largest whisky selections in the country -- and I've seen events at the Scotch Bar at the Willard, too. I would try calling one of those bars and see if they have anything lined up.

Less formal, but no less educational, would be for you to visit Jack Rose or the Willard and talk to the well-informed bartenders about trying various Scotch flights. Ask for Harvey Fry at Jack Rose -- the bar sprang from his amazing collection -- or Jim Hewes at the Willard's Scotch Bar.

I'm looking for a restaurant for lunch this Saturday in the Eastern Market/Barracks Row area for a group of 8-10, mainly college kids with several older adults. We'd like a place that's inexpensive to moderately priced and can accommodate us with little or no advance notice. The group includes a vegetarian, a devout carnivore and adults who like healthy options. Any suggestions for us? Thank you!

Eastern Market restaurants get pretty busy, but there are quite a few casual options. Matchbox is one (call ahead to see if they can squeeze in your group of 8). I'd skip Ted's this time, because of the long waits and the size of your group (though I wouldn't dissuade you from getting a few of the housemade pop-tarts for dessert). I think you'd have the best luck at District Taco -- healthy veggie tacos (I'm obsessed with the egg white breakfast tacos, which you can load up for free), meaty ones, salsas, queso, everything easy to order and highly casual, which should move things along easily for your bigger group. Also, it's exactly what college kids want to eat. Other, similar options:  Good Stuff Eatery - burgers (including a very popular vegetarian one), plus, upstairs seating that would be easy for your crew.  Next door is We The Pizza.

Which of teh 50 Rickeys in the Rickey month celebration are your favorites? And are they ever going to post the passport on their website?

Trust me, I've been nagging them about the passport. The person who does the site updates has been slacking, apparently.

As for the rickeys, I've enjoyed a few on travels around town: Room 11, Bourbon Steak and Daikaya should all be on your list. (I'd say the Passenger, too, but it's closed this week while the bartenders are down in New Orleans at the annual Tales of the Cocktail convention.)

I tried to get an adult slurpee on Friday the 5th of July. I follow Suburbia on Twitter, looked at the Union Market website, went by hours listed there. Went for lunch and they weren't open. Although people were setting up, and when I asked, they said they would be open "later." They said they were waiting for the kegs. I told them I didn't want beer. Not so friendly to someone actively trying to give them money!

Suburbia is open from 5-9 p.m. on Fridays, and from around noon (not always exactly on time) until 9 p.m. (or so, depending on business levels) on Saturday and Sunday. 

In a twist of good luck, I find myself solo from Sunday afternoon until work Monday morning. No husband or kids... just me. Was thinking of calling up a friend and then decided that I think I'd like to spend the day solo doing something fun around DC/Arlington - interesting, good food at some point, indoor (not a glutton for punishment at this time of year). Born and raised in the area, I am looking for something outside of the norm. Thoughts? Suggestions?

You don't say what you like, entertainment-wise or food-wise, but what do you think about a D.C. day, catching a Fringe Festival show (or the Sunday matinee of something like "America All Better" at Woolly Mammoth or Studio's "Rocky Horror Show.")  Then, zip over to the National Gallery of Art and see an exhibition, or just catch the cine-concerts (with live music) of Hitchcock's very rare, restored silent films. (There's one at 4 p.m.) Dinner is a bit harder, as a lot of D.C.'s finer restaurants close on Sundays. Oyamel is open, however, as is Jaleo,   so that should be on your radar.

give us the post points code this week!

Ah, yes, sorry about that last week, folks. Here it is: GG7704

I think what seperates DC from other beer destinations is price. In San Diego, Portland, Chicago, or Seattle, local beer is rarely over $6. In DC, a $6 local beer is usually a happy hour special.

As someone who loves drinking in Denver, Fort Collins or Philadelphia, understand what you're saying about price points, but I don't know of many bars where "$6 local beer" is a happy hour special. For example:

You can get *two* local beers for $5.50 at happy hour at DC Reynolds.

You can get local beers for half-price at Pizzeria Paradiso's happy hour.

You can get four different local drafts for $4 every weekday at Smoke and Barrel from 5 to 8 p.m. 

You can get $3.50 DC Braus (including Everyday Junglist IPA) at Scion every weekday from 4 to 7 p.m.


Oh, and my Sunday Washington Post Magazine story, which was about three reasons the D.C. beer scene is on the cusp of greatness, is here.

So I have organized a bunch of folks for HH tonight to celebrate ending old jobs, starting new ones, summertime, etc. and was going to check out the Rooftop Soiree thing at Beacon because it seems like a potentially perfect combination of a rooftop, awesome music, drink specials, and general merriment ... The forecast, however, calls for "feels like 100" at 8:00pm. Any fun ideas for an equally or more fun alternate destination that might avoid us all melting away?

I almost want to send you all to Penn Social, which is big, subterranean (and so nice and cold), and has general merriment  in the form of games. I know you said you needed indoor option, but because I think heat and rooftops are actually what summer is all about, how about frozen cocktails on the roof at Donovan House? And then there are indoor/outdoor spaces like Hotel Helix, which is rather nice for big-ish groups, because it's secluded enough that you feel a little like you're having a private party.  Here's the happy hour menu.

We have a late reservation at Rasika and want to go somewhere for drinks beforehand. Where would you go in the Penn Quarter area if you could get just one cocktail (or glass of wine) before dinner there?

Definitely Fiola: Excellent, moody space with one of the best bartenders in the city. Plus, the drinks run the gamut from light (Aperol cocktails) to very serious (the amazing Smoke Gets In Your Rye). For wine, Proof, though it gets quite crowded at that bar.

Wow, for the 40 year old couple who wants to drink and dance, the best you can offer is a place with oldies bands? My husband and I (both 42) still make it to the Black Cat or 9:30 Club on occasion - sure, there are some under 21s, but there are also lots of 30s and 40s as well. I hope we're not supposed to be consigned to some suburban bar with cover bands playing oldies just because we are over 40. Life doesn't end at 29.

Sorry, but the question asked for places in Montgomery County, a county that honestly doesn't have much of anything going on in terms of drinking or dancing. (And seriously, if you go to see the Rockabilly and garage rock bands there on a Saturday, you'll see early 20-somethings up through 40-somethings dancing to original material as well as classic Buddy Holly or Carl Perkins. It's not an 'over-40s only' kind of scene.)

I'm not in my 20s anymore, and I'm out at bars more than most people. It's possible to go see Goldie at U Street Music Hall and find crowds of 40-somethings there getting down to drum'n'bass music they remember from the '90s, or see groups in their 30s and 40s getting down at the '80s and '90s nights at the Black Cat or DC9 or even the retro No Scrubs party at the 9:30.

But on weekends, it's odd. I love Dodge City during the week, but you can't move in there on Saturday nights for all the 21-23-year olds. U Hall can be the same way. And Little Miss Whiskeys. And the second floor of the Rock and Roll Hotel. And so on...

I suggest the bar at Restaurant Eve as an alternative. The bar is usually filled with people waiting for tables, so the turnover for seats is quick, you can get the full menu, and it tends to be less crowded in the summer.

Thanks for the suggestion! Eve is definitely "special occasion" -- but it is in Alexandria. Just an FYI for the chatter looking for a walk-in dinner. If you go, you might consider asking whether they can get you into PX afterward for a cocktail  - I was at PX recently, and everything was killer.

Thanks - he's less interested in the games than the wall street style beer prices. Is it worth going just for that?

Oh, you know, I just realized I misread that question and wrote the response based on the Board Room, not Big Board. Big apology on my part.

I don't get the Big Board, because I've been there a number of times and the price ALMOST never changes. I've never seen, you know, Chocolate City beer fall $1 because everyone was buying Guinness, or the price of Yuengling go up $.50. And I'm not dropping in quick and dashing out -- this is while sitting there and enjoying one of the very tasty burgers, or hanging out at the downstairs bar waiting for the live music to start upstairs.

I love me some GOGs, but you just recommended oldies bands to someone who's only 40 and wants to dance!! C'mon people 40 is not that old! I am - gasp- 40 also (white, female mom of two) and in the past few weeks have had a great time dancing at Marvin, Park, and Alero, just to name a few. Honestly, if you avoid the few bars that are known to cater to the very young crowd (like McFadden's) you will see people of all ages out pretty much anywhere. I even get carded on a regular basis!

I think (being that in we're in our 30s, some of us veering toward 40) we're aware that 40 is not old. Alas, Marvin, Park and Alero are great options for folks who are not in their 20s, but they're also all in D.C., and the chatter was asking about Montgomery County, where the options are still geared toward bars (and, in my opinion, skew a little young).  Quarry House is still a really cool, divey spot; I'd even check out Jackie's Back Room for a quick cocktail beforehand.

What have you seen that's good? Not good? I mostly agreed with the Post's review of Madame Ambassador, though the actors were good. Elephant in My Closet was really good. Steve Jobs was quite good, although somewhat depressing. John Blade, SuperSpy was very fringy. Liked Fish Outta Water. Any suggestions?

Stephanie Merry, our resident theater fanatic, and the rest of the team have been updating their reviews in the Theater section pretty much daily, so I'd start checking there for recent reviews. ("Real Housewives of H Street" was getting raves today.) She's not on the chat today, but you can follow her on Twitter, too, for fresh updates.

Can u consider providing a 2nd code for missing last week? Thanks

Sorry, guys, I was flying solo last week, and it slipped my mind, and I don't think I can backtrack and get a second code at this point. We'll have to call this one that time Lavanya screwed up - again, so sorry.  We do giveaways frequently, so please join us and try to score some even better stuff -- concert tickets! party tickets! -- in the near future.

" when I hear classic rock blasting." I instantly want to run when I hear anything blasting. I am SO tired of places being too loud to think, let alone have a conversation.

Agreed. I hate shouting across a table, or a rooftop deck, or something like that. I understand it being loud in a club or if there's a band playing, but otherwise, it's so pointless.

Where should we go for drinks after Bar Pilar tomorrow? Air conditioning is a must. We've been to Gibson, Marvin, Kapnos.

Hmm. Friday night, which means you don't want to be anywhere overcrowded (and thus sweaty), such as Le Diplomate or the basement of Saint-Ex. What about the tropical concoctions at the Islander? Their Dark and Stormy is the perfect warm-weather drink, and there are other Caribbean cocktails, too. The basement-level bar at the Saloon is usually pretty cool. You could head south towards Logan Circle and try the whiskey cocktails at Black Whiskey, or a kolsch or similarly refreshing beer at ChurchKey.

I have a friend in town this weekend who has a small bit of business to take care of (today) before a full weekend of quality time. My question is, what are some must-dos (and especially this-weekend-only events), including a few that might give a couple ladies some reprieve from the heat? The colonial farm in McLean is doing their Market Fair, Fringe Festival is going on, and...?

There's quite a bit going on this week, including the D.C. Drive In at Union Market. Here's our list of Best Events this Weekend. You might be crazy and try to see if there are singles available or standing room for Book of Mormo  (there are very limited seats, I hear). Jody Watley is playing at the Howard, Kurt Vile is at the 9:30 club, and Friday, DJ Dredd is spinning Prince at the Black Cat.

Funny, I read that as Board Room, too. I didn't even notice until the poster questioned again. What is up with Big Board, though? I have been only once since I was in the area walking by and was looking for something to drink. I admit, the concept was somewhat "enticing" but totally hokey. I still went in, even knowing well that it probably didn't move like Wall Street does. Knowing that, I still decided to try it, grab a drink. The bartender was really nice, the food looked good (but didn't eat). I have serious doubts that the beer prices ever reach rock bottom and again, I'd say the concept is hokey. If you don't go into it with Wall Street expectations and instead just want a chill place to drink beer, Big Board wouldn't be a bad place. However, I'd rank H St NE as one of the least expensive/cheapest neighborhoods for drinking beer, where beers don't cost on average 8 and upwards. And, no, I am not the poster who queried about beer prices in this city.

I agree with you on all of this, including the Big Board/Board Room. I think the concept is weird -- I know it's a riot in London, apparently, and New York -- and if you just told me it was a neighborhood bar with huge windows, fantastic burgers and cold beer, I'd be happy. As it was, I was just confused by why the prices weren't moving.

That sounds hilarious...

Our Steph called it "consistently amusing, if rarely transcendent." Read her full review.

What are the post points codes referenced?

Welcome! Post Points have been around a while, but they're new to the Going Out Guide chat. Basically, you join us (or read us at some point during the day) we offer you a code. You go to the Post Points web site, sign up, claim your code, and you get points that you can save up for things like movie tickets. They're our way of saying thank you (except when I forget to give them to you).

is the stinky arum still on display & is it worth a trip to see/smell?

Still on display, not blooming yet, so no putrid odor. (You can watch a web cam via the Botanic Garden site.) Personally, I want to know if the scent sticks to your clothes afterwards.

I'm looking for a few romantic picnic spots, take a blanket some food, etc... bonus points if I can bring a bottle of wine. Any suggestions?

You can't beat Heurich House's screening of "Casablanca" this Friday; you can bring wine there. Though you can't bring wine (public spaces in D.C., and particularly the Mall, don't allow it), I  also really like the sculpture gardens when there's not an event. You can hang out at the National Gallery of Art sculpture garden, the Hirshhorn's cool garden (which I honestly never paid much attention to till Song One) has a few cool patches of grass. I think Hains Point can be lovely, though I kind of wish there was more grass. Of course, you can't get a prettier estate than Hillwood, where you can bring a picnic (I'd call about the bottle of wine, though). Oh, here's my recent list of great summer dates. Not that you asked for that, but sounds like it might come in handy.

Hi there -- My sister and her boyfriend are visiting next weekend for a couple days. She's been here many times, but it's his first trip to the DC area. So we're trying to come up with activities that would be fun/interesting for both of them. Thinking about going for crabs in Annapolis, but am blanking on what we can combine it with it. Any ideas? Doesn't necessarily have to be in Annapolis, but some sort of activity along the way (to try to make the drive out of the district worthwhile)! Thanks.

You can take a waterfront cruise/tour of Annapolis, visit the Naval Academy, take a picnic to Quiet Waters Park ... How about going across the Bay Bridge to Stevensville, grabbing some of the best crab cakes in Maryland at the Stevensville Crab Shack, and chill out on Matapeake Beach? (It's not really a beach for swimming -- more for putting your feet in the water and hanging out.)

On the way back from Annapolis, you also pass the Bowie Baysox minor league baseball stadium, which is a low-key kind of fun. (Hot dogs! Contests between innings!)

Okay, we have to run -- Thanks for stopping by and asking questions and offering suggestions of your own. (And being patient while the two of us answered everything.) Hope to see you back here again next Thursday at 1.

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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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