Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Guide

Jul 25, 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. Gorgeous weather outside today (and forecast for tomorrow, too). You should get outside and enjoy it.  Here's our list of the weekend's best events, and details on a great new rooftop on H Street.

Let's get to the questions. 

I'm looking for a good but not terribly expensive/exclusive steakhouse. We aren't big foodies and don't like "weird" things, and don't like too much seafood (which is tough in DC) - preferably something that has good pasta options and alternatives to just steak

I think Ray's the Steaks is exactly what you're in search of. As basic and American as they come, no frills, but excellent steak (or so I'm always told). There are assorted sides, including a mac and cheese, but not a huge menu.

I want to meet a bunch of friends on our day off for a food truck picnic lunch. It will be a Friday, around 1 or 1:30, (not a Truckaroo day). Where is the best place in DC to hit a bunch of trucks AND find a decent spot to sit to enjoy a lazy lunch with a group? Thanks!

That would be either Franklin Square (between K and I) where you'll find an array of trucks every weekday, all centered around a somewhat shady, nice park.  A great option if you're coming from Metro Center; the other prime lazing spot is Farragut Square (near K and 17th), where pretty much the same happens. I think the offerings can be a bit more distinct over at Metro Center (they tend to line up on 12th Street), but no grassy patches there, though you CAN sneak your food over to the food court in Metro Center.

I really need ideas for a 40th birthday gathering of 25+ people on August 9 or 10. First choice is somewhere we can cookout, play wiffleball, and drink beer - but I haven't been able to find anything that is available or affordable (most don't allow beer and we don't feel like trying to be sneaky about it). So, I'm looking for somewhere - other than my house - where we can catch up and hang out. While the birthday boy does want beer, I'd love to find something more exciting than just meeting at a bar. Cost is an issue, but we're willing to pay to rent space somewhere. Thanks!

If you don't want to be sneaky, there's almost nowhere in the immediate Metro area where you can reserve space at a park and drink alcohol. There are exceptions, of course -- but Yards Park makes you hire security guards and have insurance, Arlington's two available parks (Rosslyn Gateway and Clarendon's Metro park) require you pay $100 and have a license from both Arlington County and the Virginia ABC, etc.

If you want to be outside, I'd suggest one of the newer outdoor bars, such as the Hill Country Backyard BBQ, which has games, picnic tables, barbecue smokers and full alcohol service, plus live music on Fridays and Saturdays. Bardo on Bladensburg Road is just a large outdoor area with beer, picnic tables and cornhole. No kitchen yet, so you're invited to BYO food, which could be fun. The Boomerang Party Boat is basically the anti-Odyssey: You sail up and down the Potomac for a few hours drinking beers, dancing, etc. Way more lively than a dinner cruise.

Chatters -- more ideas for an outdoor birthday with *legal* booze?

Does anyone else in the DC metro area hold outdoor yoga beyond the Sunday's at Meridian Hill Park?

Resident yogi Stephanie Merry recommends a Lululemon-sponsored session in Dupont Circle every Wednesday night at 6 p.m.

GOGS, I'm submitting early. Is there a beach, river or pond nearby where you can swim with your pooch? I'm looking for someplace where you can wade in with your dog. I'd prefer a beach, something around the Chesapeake would be fine, or down on the Occoquan.

Matapeake Beach, located on the Bay just across the Bridge, offers a dog beach. Downs Park in Pasadena, north of Annapolis, has a small dog beach, too. (Quiet Waters, which was a great dog beach, closed that area of the park because the beach was eroding.)

Dogs are legal at Calvert Cliffs, which could be fun -- just know that you'll have to walk about two miles each way from the parking lot to the beach.

Gurus! Sorry for a question I'm sure you get a lot, but what is there to do in Frederick after a brunch at Volt? There are antique stores, right? Any ones that stand out? Is there anything else happening up that way?

There are antique stores in Frederick, and a slew of other cute boutiques. There's also a golf course if you wanted to hit the driving range, but I also really like doing a little hiking, or even laying out on the "beach" at Cunningham Falls, which has falls, but also has a more relaxed lake (manmade, I believe) where you can swim, soak up the rays, whatever. You can also visit the Monocacy Battlefield. Or stop at one of the nearby wineries -- I'd recommend Elk Run, or (better), Black Ankle, which don't do the sweet fruit wines common in that region.

Hi friends, I want to go out for breakfast by myself Friday morning in DC. Somewhere totally delicious but not too fancy, ideally with outside seating. In NW, striking distance to downtown. Suggestions? Thanks!

G Street Food near the White House offers some great international breakfast sandwiches and omelets -- the Norwegian Lox on a bagel is great, as is the spicy Hungarian omelet. It's close enough that you can wander over and eat in Lafayette Park if you don't want to sit outside. You could also try Johnny's Half Shell, which is closer to the Capitol, and has been serving breakfast to politicos for years.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Open City in Woodley Park, which offers filling breakfasts and great coffee right on the Red Line. Problem is it's a block from two of the biggest hotels in D.C., and there are frequently lines.

For anyone else who's hungry, check out the guide to the Best Weekday Breakfasts in the D.C. Area, compiled by the Going Out Guide and Food Section staffs.

Fritz, You can legally have booze at Fort Hunt and do exactly what they want: Fort Hunt website. Personally, with that short of a notice/lack of planning, I would suggest going to Hains Point, playing mini-golf and having awesome food and pitchers of beer from the Grill. Then if there was still a desire to play wiffle ball, there is usually plenty of room down at the point.

Interesting. When I called them about it, I was told you'd have to apply for a "special use permit" for alcohol. 

I second your Hains Point idea. I was just over there a few weeks ago. 

Any suggestions for a weekly trivia night around Farragut Square?? Thanks!

There's not a lot right on the square or directly around it. We love trivia at Stoney's on Wednesdays in Logan, and on Mondays at Tonic at Quigley's, which aren't too far from Farragut. 

Senior citizens used to have the opportunity to see free movies at early morning times. This was a welcomed treat for people on fixed incomes and they enjoyed driving their cars during a less traffic congested time . It was a social monthly event. I wonder if this will ever come back?

I don't know of big movie theaters that do this, but there are still places to see films for free. Look to the museums: The National Gallery regularly screens films (sometimes very related the exhibits, sometimes a bit more loosely); right now, it's screening a series of Hitchcock's silents, with live accompaniment.  The Freer regularly shows new film from Asia. A place to see second-run films is the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse in Arlington, where seeing a move on a Monday and Tuesday is only $2 -- they have "Great Gatsby" and "Star Trek Into Darkness" on the schedule now. Not a bad proposition at all.  The National Theatre (Metro accessible) screens free  classic films in its beautiful theater during the summer -- you've got several more weeks to catch them.

Need help please. Husband and I find ourselves with all day Friday overnight to Saturday noon without kids. Looking for a place within 2ish hours of DC where we can ride our bikes, hit up some wineries, and then spend the night in a little town where we can walk around in the evening, have a nice meal and a few cocktails (in a patio would be nice) and not break the bank. Too much to ask for? Thank you in advance.

I just went down to Richmond to write a guide to the city timed to Redskins training camp, and I have to say I was impressed. (I hadn't been to Richmond in *years*.) From art galleries to restaurants, historic sites to cocktail bars, it has everything you're looking for. Bike riding on Belle Isle, drinks at the Legend Brewery overlooking the James River, browsing the shops on Cary Street -- It would be a great place for a 24 hour getaway.

It might be too far (the writer didn't say where he/she lived) but Centennial Park in Ellicott City is PERFECT for this sort of thing. LOTS of pavilions of all sizes, gorgeous lake, grills, etc. and alcohol is allowed, as long as it stays in the pavilion.

Great idea. Thanks for the tip.

I'm a relative newcomer to the area and accidentally came across St Michaels as a nice place to spend a weekend day. I enjoy unwinding there but would like to see something new. Do you have any suggestions for a similar town/city/village?

Cambridge is a good bet. On the water, nice little historic district, cool antiques shops and boutiques, outdoor concerts and some great little oyster bars and seafood restaurants. It's small, but you could easily spend a day there, especially if you go to the nearby wildlife refuge.

You can take your dog to what we locals call the "Georgetown Dog Beach." Go to Montrose Park (31st and R St NW) and walk down the service path. At the bottom vier to the right and about 1/4 mile walk you will see a great sandy spot where dogs go play right in the water.

GoGs- any unique ideas for a bachelorette party? My friend wants to do something different and adventurous... I have no idea where to start- help!!

You don't say when the party is, but if it's this summer, you could rent a couple of cars and ride to Busch Gardens for a silly day at the amusement park; or go tubing in Harpers Ferry (you can bring beer along for the trip -- you have to rent a cooler, and it would be wise to get a DD). If you're athletic, we're all huge fans here of the Adventure Park at Sandy Spring -- ziplining without the trip to Jamaica. Go paddleboarding on the Potomac.

I have saved the best for last: Show the groom and groomsmen up with a day of grand prix racing.

Hey Gurus! Thanks in advance for taking my question - I could use your help on this one! Taking my husband out for his birthday in a few weeks to Blues Alley. Want to do drinks and a nice dinner beforehand, but my preferred spot for dinner, Blue Duck Tavern, is booked up. Do you know if seats at the bar are hard to get on weekend nights, and if so, what would you suggest as an alternative? Thanks again!

My Blue Duck visits are mostly on weeknights, so I don't want to steer you wrong with bad advice. On the other hand, for a birthday -- especially one where you need to be at a show at a particular time -- you don't want to take chances.

What about Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons, Rasika West End, or perhaps Fahrenheit at the Ritz Carlton? All fancy enough for a special occasion, and even closer to Blues Alley than Blue Duck. (Fahrenheit is only a few blocks away.)

Hi GOGS! I'm looking for a place in the Woodley Park/ Adams Morgan area to do a bachelorette party dinner with a bachelorette and friends who are in our early-30s. We're not looking to go too expensive, and we have a couple of vegetarians in the group. Are there any fun, tasty places to eat in that area? Thanks!

Ripple would be my first suggestion, honestly. I think it would be a little more fun than Mintwood Place. Cashion's is a favorite, but would be a little small, depending on the number of ladies in your group. (Please, no one say Perry's.)

If I were to take a "sick day" and head out there, what should I do, see, and eat? Especially crabs!

Tour the Maritime Museum, try a beer from the (relatively new) Eastern Shore Brewing, get oysters and crabs at St. Michael's Crab and Steak House (on the water, a bit of a trap) or 208 Talbot (much nicer and pricier). You could even take a lighthouse tour (via boat) if you have enough time and the weather cooperates.

Hi GoGs, I'm stumped and hoping you can help. I have a friend coming in to town and want to have an awesome dinner on Sunday before going to 930. Awesome means not super expensive (under $100 for 3 people), not super loud, and not super fancy since we won't be dressed for it. Doesn't have to be close to 930, but red meat is a no go for 1/3 and seafood for the other. Help!!!

I would head over to to Ghibellina on 14th, if your show is an early one. They have happy hour on Sunday, and if you time it right, you can drink, order a half-price pizza (the veggie-loaded Bianca is my hands-down fave) and then start ordering small plates such as the farro salad, and whatever suits you (if folks have dietary restrictions, that's often a way to go).  If the show is later, like 9 or 10, you might head to Cause the Philanthropub on Ninth Street. It's a bit meaty, but the owners are former Peace Corps types, so you know there's a veggie burger on that menu. Check out Tom's review here.

Thank you for the suggestion but we have family there and were looking for something that would only take 2 hours. 95 (or even 301) on a Friday is frightening. What about Winchester, VA? Possibilities for fun? Thank you.

Okay. I left midmorning for Richmond and the traffic wasn't horrible once I broke past the Beltway. (Thank you, VA, for high speed limits - made it from downtown to Richmond in under two hours.)

Winchester has a nice historic downtown, the Museum of the Shenandoah, a bunch of Civil War forts -- and you're not too far from all the wineries around Upperville and Purcellville. None of us have spent a lot of time there, though.

Some weeks ago, I was headed downtown and decided to check the Weekend Section's "On Exhibit" so I'd have the museum listings just in case I had extra time, but only openings and closings were listed that week and for several weeks thereafter. Finally, the July 19th edition had the complete listings. Is there a schedule for schedule for publishing all ongoing exhibits vs. just openings/closings? I suppose I'm showing my age, but online listings just aren't the same. And I can't easily hand a copy to visiting friends and family. Plus, I already pay for the print edition, I don't want to have to pay for printer ink, too.

Hi, thanks for writing, and for subscribing to the paper, which I personally always love to hear. So, here's the stock answer we've been sending around:

 Due to a cutback in staff, we had to scale back our museum listings, only running the openings and closings of exhibitions for a couple of weeks. We have published the full exhibitions lists in the last two issues, which we plan to continue doing. We understand how important the exhibitions listings are to our readers.


I'll add to this  a "We're sorry!"


You could also try the trapeze studio (TSNY DC). I believe they'll let you bring in booze for after swinging celebrations.

How did I forget about the trapeze!!!? Thanks for the reminder.  Great idea: The Trapeze School of New York (DC).

We're out of time. Thanks again for all the questions. See you next Thursday.

PS: Post Points code is GG2924.

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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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