Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Guide

Sep 12, 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. Summer is going out like a lion. We're up to our elbows in new restaurant openings -- see our field tests of Duke's Grocery and Smashburger? -- and are looking forward to this weekend's cooler temperatures. I'm thinking that the 6-mile bike tour of breweries and a distillery sounds like a blast.

We're ready to take your questions, and you're always welcome to chime in with answers of your own.

My teen niece will be in town and we'd like to find a fun and different place to take her to dinner. She mentioned conveyor belt sushi -- any recommendations for a place in Montgomery Co or DC? Or, we're open to another teen-friendly place that she'd be unlikely to encounter in her smaller hometown.

Try Yo! Sushi in -- wait for it -- Union Station! We don't hate it. In fact, our critic appreciated that the sushi was fresh. But I want to make another recommendation. I like Sticky Rice for this - tons of sushi and fun stuff, like garden balls and tater tots -- plus, it feels like the coolest place to go if you're a teenager (plenty of loud music, graffiti walls, tattooed staff). Don't go on a Saturday night at 8 - shoot for earlier, and it won't be such chaos trying to get a table.  Afterward, you can even share a slice of pie for dessert at Dangerously Delicious.

Hello! I consider myself a savvy internet searcher but have of late had an awful time finding both the Going Out Guide (not the blog, but the actual page where you can see what type of events/music/festivals are happening on a given weekend). I always get to it in a round-about way -- can you point me to a link or an easy way to get to it? Thanks!

We hear you - this is something we're working on, so thanks for bearing with us. You can visit, which is our old calendar that allows you to see the events by day of the week. 

I realize this sounds ridiculous, but I've lived here for 8 years and have never been to Columbia Heights. I need to rectify this. If I go, what should I do? I'm most interested in restaurants and good bars, but am open to any other ideas. Also, is there easy parking?

Whoa, you've NEVER had to make a Target run? I'm impressed.

Columbia Heights is loaded with good neighborhood bars and restaurants, and there's easy parking *most* weekends, as long as you're not trying to park on 11th between Park and Kenyon. 

Our restaurant picks include the tacos and tortas at the excellent Taqueria Distrito Federal, the comfort-food-with-a-twist at Room 11, great pho at Pho Viet, and laidback Mexican at El Chucho.

Barwise, Meridian Pint is one of the city's best beer bars, with an all-American selection of two dozen drafts. I'm a huge fan of the Red Derby, a classy dive with cheap canned beer and a roof deck. Mad Momos has a cool back deck and decent grub. Room 11 pours some of the best cocktails in town. The Pinch is good for local bands and offbeat events, and the Wonderland Ballroom -- one of the trailblazers in the neighborhood -- hosts excellent trivia on Mondays, impresses with a diverse lineup of standup comedy and storytelling, and has DJs going until the wee hours on weekends. Great beer garden, too.

I did a major closet cleanout last weekend and have a bunch of clothes to get rid of. A lot of them are nicer work clothes and I'm hoping to find a consignment store to take them to. I'm in VA, so would prefer somewhere in VA or DC. Most of the clothes would be best suited for 20s/30s and are very small sizes, and they're all well-known brands. Any suggestions for places to check?

Current Boutique has locations in Clarendon, Old Town, and Logan Circle. And they tend to look more for the work-appropriate J. Crew/Anthropologie stuff than, say, Buffalo Exchange, where I see so, so, so much Forever 21. If you have any really upscale stuff, I'd take it to some of the boutiques in Georgetown, like Ella Rue or Tari, or to Diva Boutique in Old Town, where you might get a better price.

If you had one weeknight to check out the new spots that have sprung up on 14th St. which would you hit? Would like to start with one or two good places for happy hour and then do a crawl for apps, dinner and cocktails. We have already been to (and loved) Le Diplomate. Bestfriend is moving out of town at the end of the month and trying as many new places as possible is the plan. Thanks and love you guys!!

Love this idea. You could start out on the early side at Etto for your appetizers -- a glass of wine and a plate of charcuterie (plus, since it's a small place, getting there early will increase your chances of getting a seat). Or you could see if you could snag the great window seats at Ghibellina. Dinner picks: Doi Moi or Kapnos, which both got great First Bites from Tom Sietsema. You can finish your night with a cocktail at 2 Bird 1 Stone, the sister bar to Doi Moi, which has some inventive takes on classic cocktails on its hand-drawn menu. But there are plenty of choices, so I'll let others chime in!

Dear Gurus - I miss the Reef something fierce. I used to have happy hour on the roof every Friday. So, now what? An outside space with good beer, preferably with decent food or close to decent food. Also, not too loud. Meridian Pint won't work - I'm there too much on other nights. Derby - there too much on other nights, and food is not great, nor is there close good food.

Friday's a tough call. I mean, I love Garden District (TAFKA Standard), but I avoid it on Fridays due to crowds.

I'd suggest DC Reynolds in Park View for the two-for-one happy hour and better-than-average bar food; beer specials and Himalayan momos on the back patio at Mad Momo's; $5 steins of German beer at BiergartenHaus; $4 margaritas and beers and upgraded tacos at El Centro on 14th,  and while the weather lasts, half-price drinks and cool Asian-inspired snacks atop the Donovan House Hotel at its DNV bar.

A friend and I are taking the bus to the VA Wine Festival on Saturday,so we'll be there most of the day. Based on prior experiences, Am Rhein and Barboursville are sure stops. I also want to try Castle Hill Cider. Any other wineries or vendors that should be at the top of the list? (Neither of us like super-okay Chardonnay or very sweet wines, but we're open otherwise.) We're bringing the usual fruit/cheese/crackers but I'm not averse to purchasing something there if it's really good.

I love this question. The Virginia Wine Festival this year is really bringing out some of the best wineries in the state, and covering a broader region than we usually see at smaller festivals. So, I think you're absolutely right about Am Rhein and Barboursville. Add to that list Trump (yes, Trump), if for no other reason than that they took over one of the best estate vineyards in the state. I like Charlottesville's Stone Mountain Vineyards, because they've attempted to do Italian-style wines, which is rare for the state, and they've been doing it a reasonable amount of time; Veritas is a favorite of local soms, and their wines are particularly summery -- they excel at whites and roses. And I was looking for Linden and didn't find it, so I'll add this one: Prince Michel. And here's my trick for Virginia wines - I don't love the Chardonnays, either, because really, that's what California does very well. Instead, sip what Virginia does well: Viogner, which ranges from good to excellent in the state, and it doesn't have the oaky-buttery business I don't like about Chardonnay.  Second: Cabernet Franc, which wine-growers have had success with. Also, when you visit Barboursville, don't leave without a bottle of Octagon, their famed, award-winning blend.

Hi GOGs - suggestions for places to meet for drinks where conversation level is good? I was going to go to the Tasting Room, but see that they have live music on Saturdays so would love a couple of different options since I don't know that area well. thanks!

Try Range for cocktails. They've put a little more thought into it than some of the neighborhood's other restaurants. It's a big space, but there are plenty of nooks, and tons of food, should you want to snack on a little something.

The Cascade Cafe, our go-to for lunch, has deteriorated to the point we are looking for alternatives. Besides the Garden Cafe in the gallery, where do you suggest?

From the West Building, it's a quick walk to Fiola, which serves three-star lunches at bargain prices: You can get a fresh pasta entree and a glass of wine for $19 between 11:30 and 2:30. You're also near 701, which isn't quite as good as Fiola but is even cheaper: $15 for an entree from the lunch menu and a glass of wine.

Does Doi Moi take reservations? Their website is a shell.

Unlike sister restaurant Estadio, Doi Moi takes reservations for dinner. They're on Open Table.

The recent DC vs B'more strife aside, I am going to a Ravens game this weekend. Its a 1pm start so I'd like to grab Brunch/Lunch near the stadium beforehand. Suggestions? Sports theme/crowd not required. Thanks.

Why would go there? 

Just kidding. Try Frank & Nics - it's about two blocks from the stadium, massive and serves agreeable American food.

I am heading up to Suburbia at Union Market on Friday, I believe someone mentioned hot dogs and beer. How is the walk from the Metro, long? safe? not a good idea? On a side note I am still upset that I missed Goose Island at Churchkey, how was it?

The walk from the Metro to Union Market is about four blocks -- not bad at all. I've done it a number of times, frequently after docking a bike at the Metro station.

I also (sadly) missed Goose Island last night because I was out hitting bars for work. Anyone get to try those rare Bourbon County bottles? 

I'll be spending the weekend in the Sterling/Leesburg area for the Divas Half Marathon. What's a good place for a carbo-loading meal and what's there to do in the area after the race?

I'd head out of Sterling to nearby Ashburn and eat at Ford's Fish Shack, one of our essential eats for its fish and chips, but Tom Sietsema has gotten behind the lobster rolls and crab cakes, too. It's casual enough that you won't feel out of place post-run, and I've been and had an incredibly delicious salad, not to mention great service. As for after the race, it's billed as being in wine country, so why not? Leesburg has some good ones: Tarara isn't far, nor is Lost Creek Vineyards.

My parents are taking me out to dinner on my birthday, and I'm trying to find someplace nice in the city to take them... I'm on a limited budget, so something more expensive than I could afford. It'd be great if the restaurant was in an area we could walk around afterwards or if there were other activities and things to do nearby. We're open to cuisines, but my mom likes seafood a lot. I was thinking 701, should I keep my reservation there? Other suggestions? It should be a special occasion kind of place. Thanks!

701 is nice -- it's elegant and quiet, which makes it a good place for dining with parents. I think you'd also do well with Azur, the new(ish) Frederik De Pue seafood restaurant, also in Penn Quarter. The Blue Duck Tavern is another great-for-special-occasions pick, and despite the name, pescetarians will have a good experience at Bourbon Steak. At both of those, you're a short walk from the Georgetown waterfront.

gah! Thanks for answering my question, but having dinner at Range and was hoping to meet friends after at a different spot. any ideas?

I love the slip of a patio behind the Clyde's. Mi Cocina can be fun, if corny, and their menu is loaded with both regular and frozen margaritas.

Plato's Closet is better for stuff like Forever 21, Target, Aeropostale, etc. Hint: They don't take much in the way of professional clothes, and they are very much aimed at the 20s/30s crowd. So, you may have some luck, but I wouldn't put all your faith in it.

Our consignment poster was looking more for a place to donate her professional clothes, but here's a suggestion for anyone else doing a closet cleanout.

I went to Bar Charley last weekend. Drinks were good, but food wasn't anything special and it was so loud that I left without getting a second drink. El Chucho is owned by the same people, right? Is it a similarly loud place? Is the food better?

Well, you DID go on opening weekend, which is probably my least favorite time to go on to a new restaurant. (Going opening night is its own kind of special treat.) I was there last night, and it wasn't extremely loud in the bar, and I thought the food was good. Wish I would have ordered the bison sloppy joe, though. 

El Chucho is a completely different beast from Bar Charley -- bigger building, higher ceilings, more room between tables. The roof is way more quiet than eating downstairs, which is basically the bar with a couple of tables next to it.

If you like seafood, you can take a decent walk to Federal Hill to Nick's Inner Harbor Seafood. Delicious crabcakes, steamed shrimp and oysters, and tons of beer options. Definitely a great Baltimore experience.

Co-signed 100 percent. Nick's, and the rest of the Cross Street Market, is a certified Baltimore gem, and it's an easy walk to the stadium from there.

I often eat out on my own and prefer dining at the bar when by myself. What are some great restaurant bars for dining solo, where you can usually get a seat and that have good food - either the same good food as the rest of the restaurant or something special that sets it apart? Prefer VA or DC and open to most any type of food. Trying to expand my rotation beyond my usual neighborhood/regular haunts.

Fiola and Casa Luca are go-tos for me, and I've rarely had trouble getting a seat. Same with Wolfgang Puck at the Source -- which has a cool bar food menu -- and Bourbon Steak. And the Majestic and Restaurant Eve in Alexandria. Love all of them for sharing a couple of appetizers and sipping on cocktails or a glass of wine.

If you're looking for something a bit more cafe-like Paul's and Teaism is under a ten min walk.

I prefer the sandwiches at Paul to Teaism. You also have seats next to the Navy Memorial, which is nice.

Morning Gurus, I just got married, and I am planning on doing a mini-moon here in D.C. during Columbus day weekend. We got engaged at the W over looking the White House a few years ago. I have a few ideas in mind, being an ex-Washingtonian, but would love your advice. We want to do it up!! Any suggestions as to romantic hotels and restaurants? I have already been to Komi, but something like that would be fun. We would love a romantic dinner somewhere and some fun activities. I was also thinking of checking out the Passenger... I appreciate your help gurus, I have been a fan for over a decade!

Hey, congrats! Since you already know the city well enough, you guys could head out to one of the little country inn restaurants, like the Old Angler's Inn or the Ashby. You'll get some nice views of the changing leaves.  If you want to stay in D.C. proper, you could do a tasting menu at Rogue 24, or grab reservations at Minibar/Barmini, assuming you want to splurge. You should also make reservations at Columbia Room, the bar-within-a-bar at Passenger. It's super-intimate and would be really nice for honeymooners.

Any sights or restaurants in the area worth checking out? Will not be going on the ferry to NJ.

I love Cape Henelopen State Park. You've got all kinds of bike trails, the World War II observation post and heavy artillery exhibit, a disc golf course, and it's still warm enough to go kayaking or swimming, if you want.

In Lewes, you can go antique shopping or check out Delaware historic sites, such the Zwaanendael Museum, which is a replica of the town hall in the Netherlands where Lewes' original settlers were from.

Food wise, I highly recommend the lobster rolls and crab cakes at Striper Bites, and the tacos, guac and margaritas at the always-busy Agave restaurant.

Another brunch option would be Regi's in Federal Hill.

Hi! I'm taking my husband out to dinner for his birthday this weekend in Foggy Bottom. The plan is to then meet up with some friends afterwards for a few drinks. I was thinking it would be fun to go to the new El Centro in Georgetown - there will be about 10-12 of us. Thoughts, yay or nay? Is there another place we should go? Looking for something closeby to Foggy Bottom area where we can grab some good drinks and talk - we're all in our late 20s. Thanks!!

Between the rooftop deck, the back patio and the large bar area, we don't think you'd have any trouble fitting your crowd in El Centro. 

I also like the huge patio at Tonic at Quigley's. They're playing up Tuesdays as Tiki Night, but it works any night of the week. You could easily push two of the picnic tables together to make room for 12 -- there was a group about that size when I was last there. 

I'm attempting to find a concert (classical, or jazz, not rock) or theater event in the downtown DC area to celebrate my anniversary Saturday with a typical pre-theater dinner + event. However, the GOG calendar seems remarkably empty of such events this time of year. Kennedy Center has nothing (no NSO, no Jazz, no Opera, just some Arts festival that doesn't interest me). Shakespeare is opening Measure for Measure, but of course there are no reviews yet. I also don't see any new exhibits opening (or recently opened) at the National Gallery, Portrait Gallery, Hirshhorn, etc). I would have figured that by mid-September things would be back to normal, but it seems that these curtural events are still recovering from their summer slumber. Any suggestions?

I caught a rehearsal of "Measure for Measure," previewed in the Weekend section tomorrow, and based on the R-rated brief snippet that I saw, I am totally excited to see it. I'm intrigued by Forum Theatre's "Agnes Under the Big Top,"  Round House Theatre's "The Beauty Queen of Leenane," and Studio Theatre's "Torch Song Trilogy," all currently on stage. 

Sadly none of the bites at the bar are vegetarian (although there is the salami and cheese). This is disappointing because there are such wonderful vegetarian Italian nibbles.

So, I've been making myself a regular at the restaurant's sister spot, Casa Luca - there's lots of vegetarian fare on the starters - the beets and bruschetta are to die for, and for pasta, the ravioli san leo is a stunner. Also, the desserts are practically tear-jerkers. (Note: Because I love you all, I will tell you about Casa Luca. But it's hard for me, because at this point, I'm still able to get a reservation, and I really don't want to ruin it...for me.)

My beautiful bride has a big birthday in a week, on a weekday...I have some cocktails with friends set up near Archives, but drawing a blank for something special to do during the day (great weekday brunch in DC?) or after cocktails (the view from the W?) Help help help thanks thanks thanks.

I'm going to kind of borrow from another question here: What about taking her to see Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes at the National Gallery -- we all think that it's one of the most romantic exhibits in town at the moment -- after lunch and a glass of wine at Fiola? 

I think the view from the top of the W is pretty romantic, actually. Stick with that idea.

I know, I'm terribly un-hip. Any places that are required these days? I may be headed there Saturday and I'd like to go some place I haven't been before and is worth it. Drink and appetizers are what I'm after. Thanks!

Cusbah is great for spicy Indian and Pakistani food paired with a refreshing beer. Not quite as new as some places, but totally worth it.

Lavanya, have you tried many chardonnays from VA? Many of them are not heavily oaked, and I think, better than CA's over-oaked chardonnays.

I have, but I always value the opinion of others. I recognize, and I think I note it there, that Chardonnay just ain't my thing. But I do stand by my assertion that you should drink what a region's own winemakers say they're good at - in Virginia, that has been Viognier and Cab Franc. 

Don't forget the back room of Matuba Japanese Restaurant at 4918 Cordell Ave Bethesda, MD 20814. Jealous, wherever you go!

Excellent, thanks! Here are some Matuba details!

I'm hosting about 15 women (ages 25-33) for a bachelorette party the first weekend of November. I have most of the planning done except where we want to go out Saturday night. I live near Capitol Hill. I was thinking of us all treking out to the National Harbor since it's such a big group. Any commentary on how that might go? (We would be coming back to my house to crash.) Alternatively do you have other ideas. I'm anxious about taking 15 people anywhere in DC proper without some sort of advanced planning. Thanks!

If you're going to National Harbor with a group that size, it is IMPERATIVE that you arrange transportation ahead of time. Party bus, make taxi reservations, something. Transportation is not National Harbor's strong suit.

A thought: I would suggest going to Old Town either in addition to or instead of National Harbor. Perhaps cruising boutiques (and maybe dinner) in Old Town, and then taking a water taxi over to National Harbor for (maybe) dinner and barhopping, before having some Ubers pick you up and take you back to Capitol Hill?

Can you recommend any clubs / venues to see some down-home bluegrass music? Extra points if I can bring my six year old son.

Hmm. This is where I would love to still be able to recommend the Tiffany Tavern. For you, I suggest checking out Madams Organ for the Wednesday night bluegrass jam session. You can also catch the Newgrass Effect at the American Legion Hall in Wheaton every Tuesday (free, donations accepted). 

With your son, look into the free outdoor concerts at the Hill Center (9th and Pennsylvania SE) every Sunday afternoon. They're free and all ages. Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen are playing this week at 4:30 p.m.; Bill Emerson & Sweet Dixie are there on Sept. 29. 

Okay, that's it from us. Don't forget to check out our rundown of The Best Things To Do in D.C. This Weekend, and we'll see you here next Thursday, when it hopefully won't be 100 degrees outside.

Today's Post Ponts Code: GG4028

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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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