Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Guide

Aug 29, 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, everyone, to this week's Labor Day Weekend edition of the Got Plans? The city is dead, and therefore your oyster. There are some major new restaurants that have opened this week, plus there's "Potted Potter" and the rest of the weekend's best bets. Let's get it going.

GOG's, Looked online but couldn't find a definite answer. Any chance Union Market will be open on Monday because it's a holiday? Thanks for keeping me hip!

Any time! Union Market is open Wednesdays-Sundays, so you'll have to find another way to get your oyster/salumi/juice fix.

i know bar charley was scheduled to open at the end of august. is it open and has anyone checked it out?!

Fritz, who is at the beach right now, was able to stop by Bar Charley the other day. It opens next Thursday. His blog post about it will be going up really soon, but until then, here's a summary: Cocktails are super-cheap ($7!),  and some of them are high-concept (like a daquiri served in hollow, coconut-shaped ice). The food menu is all over the map: Chaat, deviled eggs, shrimp dumplings, sloppy joe. Check out Fritz's post shortly for all the details.

Thank you SO MUCH for last week's suggestion to float my son's remote control boat in Yards Park. It was perfect. We picked up a box of Astro Donuts, and headed down there in the mid-morning. There were already a bunch of kids, but not so many that it was crowded. And not only did we not get hassled (as was my fear about the reflecting pool), but the security guard came over to admire the boat and chat with us. We finished our day at the Building Museum with mini-golf and bbq. A perfect GOGs day!

So glad you had a nice time! Nothing beats donuts on the water (except maybe mini golf and barbecue).

I'm looking to get away to the beach for one or two days, but not relishiing a 3hr drive to OC. Any ideas?

There aren't big waves, but I'm a fan of Lake Anna, and you can get there in under two hours (depending on traffic). I would just recommend going to the cold side this time of year; the warm side gets a little bathtub-like for my taste. Chatters, any other ideas?

We are heading to Del Campo for dinner and are looking for some nearby yummy pre-dinner cocktails. Suggestions?

Oh, you really ought to drink at Del Campo, whose menu was designed by one of my favorite bartenders in the city, J.P. Caceres, and really pairs with the South American flavors. I, and pretty much everyone I know, loves the pineapple-laced Papa Porteno, and the Limonada Suicia (which can be ordered virgin) is complex. Second choice: Hogo, which is about two blocks away, and ranks up there with my top five cocktail bars in D.C. right now (do yourself a favor and prepare for Del Campo with the Fuego Verde, a pitch-perfect habanero-laced drink).

When does it end? Do I still have time to get down there?!

Time is running out! Sept. 2 is the last day.

Hi GOGs I missed Tom's chat yesterday so I'm hoping you can help me out. I'm going to Bethesda on Saturday to visit friends who are staying in a hotel there. Any recommendations for dinner? No diet restrictions but must be casual.

Certainly -  I know that if Tom were here, he would point you to the American bistro Food, Wine & Co., which he recommends often.  There's also Haven Pizzeria and Newton's Table.   Redwood has a huge patio if you want to sit outside.

I recently threw a 2003-themed party to celebrate my 10 years in DC. I selected music from 2003 -- which made me realize how many songs are 10 years old now (Outkast's "Hey Ya", The Darkness "I Believe in Love," Maroon 5's first album). But that made me want to seek out some DJs that play aughts music. Are there such nights? I feel like I've been dancing to 80s music-themed nights since the 90s, but have we progressed to the music of 2000-2010 as an era?

Haha,  I want to say you should just hit the dance floor at the  Front Page, where it's always kind of 10 years behind. (I'm asking for your wrath today, aren't I?) But srsly you might try Becky, the dance party at Rock & Roll Hotel where they specialize in playing the stuff that DJs don't love to play, but you would totally roll up to them to request if you didn't know better. Like, maybe, some Katy Perry.

I can't figure out how to get to the event calendar any more. Help?

Yeah, we're working to make that a little easier to find, but for now, we have a link to all of the events, which you can narrow down by selecting what you're looking for in the left-hand bar. The other option is to the use the search, on this page under the header What to do in D.C. On the right side is a little search function, and you can pull down what kind of event you're looking for, and whether you want something this weekend, next week, or ever. It's not easy, I know, nor is it perfect. But we're working on it.

Hiya Going Out Gurus! I am posting early, because we are getting back on the trail and are riding our bikes into the District this afternoon (from Harpers Ferry). We are staying downtown on Connecticut between Dupont Circle and Farragut Square and wondered if you have any suggestions for a casual restaurant where we would be appropriately dressed in shorts and polo shirts (it's all we could pack in our backpacks while we rode). Thanks for your suggestions!

There's plenty that's casual in Dupont. How about DGS?  It's a casual restaurant that has upscaled Jewish deli fare, and it's got a great happy hour, too. Another new offering -- also, strangely, an acroynm-named restaurant -- is GBD, from the folks behind Churchkey and Rustico, so you really can't go wrong. Fried chicken, excellent beers, and doughnuts are on the menu. And I'm going to guess after your bike ride that you can afford the caloric indulgence.

Hi! My brother is heading back to college this weekend and my mom wants to take my family for 5 out for dinner tonight after work in NW DC. My family isn't terribly adventurous food-wise, and my mom, who doesn't eat out much, would balk at paying $25+ for entrees. Any recommendations for where to go? Between Logan and Dupont Circles would be great (or Penn Quarter), but I can't for the life of me right now think of somewhere that's not tapas with more reasonably priced food. Appreciate your help!

You can't beat pizza, right? I'd say Pizzeria Paradiso might be your best bet. If your family likes Thai food, Rice also leaps to mind as a nice but not too expensive dinner out.

My parents and sister are visiting this weekend and since they've done all of the traditional tourist attractions before, I need help. We all like to go for walks/be outside, and my mom loves shopping. I was thinking of heading to the wineries one day and maybe the National Arboretum the next - any other/better ideas? Also, we have a dog that my parents love so I would like to try to find a few activities that could include her - thanks!

You can absolutely do a winery with your dog - two of the most dog-friendly around are Barrel Oak Winery and Bluemont (Bluemont is LOVELY, and bit quieter), Barrel Oak is a party, with food, picnickers, and children. The Arboretum would be great - it's one of the staff's favorite places to go (but check if pets are allowed, I'm going to guess no). On Saturday is the DC Blues Festival, which is free, and a staple, out at Carter Barron. It's one of our best events this weekend, so definitely check out that list. 

Hi, Gurus- Can you tell me where on Dupont Circle the weekly farmer's market is held? I know what day it's held--Sunday, right? But I don't know what time the market opens and what time it closes. So, two pieces of info are requested: Location of the market, and the hours of operation. Thanks.

Yep, it's on Sundays, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. If you're taking Metro, get off at the Dupont north exit, and you can't miss it -- It's on 20th street from Mass Ave all the way up to Connecticut. Here's some more info. Make sure you stop by the booth with the super-good pain au chocolat.

Hi! We are seeing Neverwhere @ the Atlas theater Friday night @8. We plan on eating at Dangerously Delicious before hand. Afterwards, is there somewhere cool to go not terribly far that would have nice cocktails for my fiance and nice non-alcoholic cocktails for me (I can't drink right now due to the medication I'm on, but I hate missing out!). A laid back vibe where we could actually hear each other is preferred. Close to union station is fine too, since that's the metro we will be taking home.

Lucky you -- I saw Neverwhere last week and loved it. I think more places are catering to non-alcoholic drinkers, so you could always ask the bartender to whip something up for you wherever you go. In terms of bars, you might give Vendetta a shot. If you want to go closer to Union Station, you could try the bar at Le Grenier. I went there the other night, and it was adorable and totally low-key.

Hi GOGs! I'm done with online dating. Where do you recommend meeting eligible men in their 30s in DC and NOVA?

Tough one. I think it might be less about where you go, then how you go. This is tough for some people, but if you go to a bar on a weeknight -- by yourself -- people will chat you up. If you go out with a big group of ladies, that's less likely to happen. There's also the approach of just doing things you love. Join a running group/painting class/book club/whatever intrests you, and you might find someone who's just right.

Whenever you get an invitation from someone outside your regular circle -- whether it's to a friend of a friend's housewarming or birthday party, or just a happy hour with some coworkers you don't often get to hang out with - go! People on the edge of your group -- your third-degree contacts --  are always the most likely to get you into new places, and you'll meet new people through their friends. It'll be easier to chat people up in those situations too.

I'm with these ladies about getting outside of your circle. Try a Meetup, like Mid-Atlantic Hiking, or the Salsa Room, or a running club (I like Capital Striders a LOT), or just make it a point to visit museums every weekend, so long as those are actually in line with your interests. And go alone, in part because people will be more inclined to chat with you, but also because being able to do things solo is really enriching for you socially. But the final thing is to be social yourself, even if that's hard for you. Take a stab at trying to talk to men, even if it doesn't always work out; D.C. is hard for men too, and I can't tell you how much better it all goes if you're willing to break the ice.

Hello. Do you know if they will be open this Monday? I tried calling before, but no answer. Thank you!

Just got them on the phone - sorry, they say they'll be closed. If your doughnut craving is not specific to Astro, though, GBD in Dupont will be open until 2 on Monday.

Hi there, I have decided to get a tatoo, but am not sure how to go about finding the best place/person. Preferably in Alexandria or DC. Any recommendations or advice on researching this? Thanks!

I've heard good things about Jinx Proof and Fatty's but don't know any specific artists to recommend. Chatters, any ideas?

Hi, My boyfriend and I are taking a day trip to Lake Anna on Sunday. It looks like there is a winery close by and tons of water-related activities on the lake. Any other recommendations for things to do/places to see while we were are out there for the day? Thank you!!!

Speak of the devil. There's also hiking in Lake Anna State Park, but I'd probably just stick to the lounging and water-friendly activities. If you've never tried stand up paddleboarding, I'd recommend that (you can do it in DC, too, but this would be more peaceful I think). I'm mildly obsessed, and I know Lavanya is a fan too...

I am going to bike to Mt. Vernon from DC this weekend but was wondering about admission. Do you have to pay just to walk around the grounds, or to take a tour and go inside? Idk that we play to stay for a while (the bike ride would be our main event) so 17 dollars each seems like a lot- but we also don't want to bike all the way there and not see anything! Are there any good places to grab sandwiches or some sort of picnic-esque lunch in old towne on our way?? Thanks!

Sorry - it looks like you need a ticket for admission to everything including the grounds. I've done the ride before, and there is a small food court/bathroom/gift shop area that you have access to without getting a tickets - but I wouldn't eat there, only mentioning it so you know you have a place to stop and refill your water bottles. I have a picnic idea for you! I did a story on picnics earlier this summer, and one of the ones I tried was from the Butcher's Block in Old Town. It's boxed, and will fit perfectly in your bike basket, so you can cart it off to a more scenic spot on the trail and stop for lunch near the water. Last time I did this, there were some picnic tables off the trail a little bit past Old Town that had a really nice view.

We recently took advantage of the nice weather and ate outdoors at a restaurant in Rockville, However, bugs were swarming around us. I told the waitress, but she just shrugged her shoulders. I suggested we go eat indoors, but the other three persons in our party didn't want to bother and just wanted to finish their meal and leave. It didn't see any device the restaurant was using to repel bugs. What do you suggest if this occurs again?

Eating outdoors is an at-your-own-risk endeavor (around the GOG pod, we like to think of the chatter  in Tom's chat who lost it over rats on the Adams Morgan). If it has been raining, or you're near a wide patch of grass, plan ahead and wear mosquito repellent. In some ways, you can predict whether it's going to be buggy -- and you can ask the hostess if there have been more bugs than usual, or simply look and see if anyone else has dared to sit out there. If not, I'd stick with the indoors.  Bug repellant devices (like outdoor heaters) are a nice touch if a restaurant can think to add them (and probably far better for their businesses), but ultimately, the indoor vs. outdoor issue is for you to decide, and deal with. One exception: If the bugs in question are flies. And the flies are out because the tables aren't clean. In that case, you mention it to a manager on the way out the door.

I had a bad tattoo from college fixed nicely at Rick's Tattoo in Arlington, and a few friends have had good experiences there as well. My co-worker recommends British Ink on H St. in DC too.

For the tattoo-seeking chatter.

Hello. I'd like to take my parents to a matinee on Saturday. They really enjoyed "The Butler" and we watched "The Big Year" and "42" last week on vacation. What is in theaters now that you could recommend? A friend suggested "Blue Jasmine", but it sounds somewhat depressing to me. Thanks!

Blue Jasmine has been pretty divisive. I know people who have loved it and hated it. The Avalon has a couple good bets this weekend -- The Hunt and Black Fish. Museum Hours is another possibility. That got the coveted four-star review from Ann Hornaday.

Gurus: I'm moving to Boston (boo/yay) and wondering if you know of anyone like you in Boston. You're the reason my friends think I'm cool and in the know. Thanks!!

Boo! It's just getting good here! So, I don't know of anything quite like us, as we are kind of an Internet relic, having launched in like 2000 or something? But I can say Eater always does a good job of covering what's new in the bars/restaurants world, so start there. Chatters? Any good Boston blogs for our old pal?

I have friends coming to town in a few weeks and need some Saturday and Sunday brunch spots. They come every year and I tend to get lazy and just hit up Comissary, but I'd like to get back to impressing them. Any thoughts? Dupont/Logan/U Street would be ideal, but Saturday we are acting like tourists, so I guess it could be anywhere. New favorite spots? Thanks!

Oh, you're in luck: As Steph and I wrote in our Style story this morning about how Washington slows down this week, there are still plenty of Le Diplomate reservations available -- and even at prime brunch times! I see one for 12:15 on Sunday at Open Table right now. I also reeeeally liked the brunch at Daikaya -- the Japanese chicken and waffles are amazing. Table recently debuted an affordable five-course brunch tasting menu, too.

a few miles past mt vernon is Washington's distillery which gives tours (very interesting) and I recall was free (though maybe only free with admission already to Mt Vernon?)

Ah, yes, great tip! Admission is free if you bought tickets to the main site, but you can also buy tickets to the distillery for $5.

Next week i'm going out of town with my toddler, leaving my husband and five-year-old son to fend for themselves. Any suggestions for activities they can do together? Thanks!

Besides our usual fun kiddie things to do, like going to the Air & Space Museum (which is full of interactives kids like to touch and play with); there are a couple of cool events next week, including The Diggity Dudes, a kiddie-funk band who profess to play fun music for kids and adults; they're at Jammin' Java on Sept. 7. Also Sept. 7 is a show by the Great Zucchini, who can work his magic on any kid . He's at a gallery in Kensington; here are the details. I'd add to that a visit to the amazing Clemyjontri Park, where a playground spans two acres and includes a carousel.

Just a reminder to post it. Thanks for everything!

Ahh, I appreciate the reminder! It's GG6250. I'll repost at the end, too, guys.

Gurus, I could use a pick me up and am trying to plan a weekend that does it. In this final weekend of summer, what would you do on your own that would help chase away the blues and either take advantage of the great weather or generally what DC has to offer that might disappear in the coming weeks and months?

The quickest way to a pick-me-up is to get moving, in my opinion, so I'd suggest going on a long bike ride or hiking in Rock Creek. I did a great hike a couple weekends ago  that started at the Nature Center, which is accessible via public transportation, and went past Boulder Bridge. There's also Page to Stage this weekend, if theater is your thing, and so many other possibilities.

Are there any bars worth going to that late? From what I've seen/heard, this 4am closing time (which is applicable Fri-Sun nights) is been a huge bust.

The only bars, I'd think, are ones with dance floors, so after you're done imbibing, there's something to do for that last hour. So, perhaps a U Street Music Hall (which never gets going till 1 a.m. anyway)? Or a Marvin?

I took my family of 5 to Hill Country BBQ in Penn Quarter & everyone had a blast. It's casual, the portions are huge, the food was delicious, & it's a fun atmosphere. We had to wait a while to get a table, so you might want to get a reservation.

Thanks for the intel.

Hello. NFL starts soon. Do you guys know any bars in DC that are Jacksonville Jaguar bars? I'd like to go watch the game with some fellow good time Jaguar buddies.

You might try Mason Inn - Fritz wrote about the Glover Park bar this week, and it's like the United Nations  of  Southern schools. Looks like fans of Georgia, South Carolina and Texas A&M (booo!) all hang out there.

My wife's 30th birthday is coming up in early November and I'm looking to throw some sort of get-together/birthday event for her and somewhere between 10-20 friends. We tossed around the idea of just doing a big dinner out or renting a bar for a few hours, but that seemed a bit too par for the course for her. The Culinarie Iron Chef event is an option, but do you all have any suggestions for additional alternatives? DC proper on a weekend night would be preferred as well as potentially having access to booze (though not a necessity). Thanks for the help!

You could do dinner or drinks + John Oliver at the Warner. Another option: I had a friend who rang in 30 with a game of bar golf, which was a lot of fun and since it was during a Saturday afternoon, the bars weren't yet crowded. That also meant everyone got to bed early, which is important after day drinking once you hit your 30s...

Have you been to Penn Social? One of the folks I work with said they have a good happy hour and an open mic night. What is the place like? Thumbs up or thumbs down, and what kind of crowd would you expect to see?

It's a massive two-floor space with lots of games (including cornhole and giant Jenga) and TVs, so it's good for a group. I would probably compare the vibe to Buffalo Billiards.

A little early, but I'm looking for a good place to pick pumpkins that doesn't charge an admission fee and isn't too far out. My son will be around 11 months at the time, and he probably won't get much out of the "festivals", but we still want to take him to a field to pick. Since we'll just be getting a pumpkin, we also don't want to drive forever (we're in the Reston area). Even better if they have a little market or a cider/donut-type stand...

So finding free ones is a little tough right now, since the big patches that have their information up are also the ones that charge admission. So i'll offer a couple of those for now and ask you to check back in. First, there's the Pumpkin Fest Leesburg. And I'll throw it out, because they offer so much, but there's Ticonderoga Farms in Chantilly, though it will charge admission for its fall festival. I know the little one is 11 months, but there's no harm scoping out which one will be your favorite in years to come.

Any word on what restaurants will be doing brunch on monday?

A lot of restaurants take advantage of the three-day weekend with Monday brunch. Here are a few options for you:  Zengo, Founding Farmers, Tonic Foggy Bottom, Masa 14, El Centro. Shouldn't be too hard to get a reservation at any of them.

Okay, guys, great questions today, it was a blast, but we're going to get started on our own long weekend. Here again, is the Post Points code, for those of you who are looking for it: GG6250. Have a wonderful weekend!

In This Chat
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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