Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Guide

Sep 26, 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. I love this time of year -- every weekend seems to bring a multitude of festivals, from Oktoberfest to Crafty Bastards to the Barracks Row Fall Festival. (Who doesn't love the DC State Fair?) You can see them all in our list of the weekend's essential events.

In other news, I checked out the brand-new Petworth Citizen last night, and while it's still in soft opening mode, the family-friendly atmosphere and great cocktails promise much for the future. Maura has rounded up the bars showing Breaking Bad on Sunday, and Lavanya has details of the 2013 edition of FotoWeek.

On to your questions...

Our daughter wants to go apple picking this weekend. We have no clue where to go. We're in NoVa if that matters. Any suggestions?

When I go apple picking, I like the places in the Shenandoah Valley, such as Chiles in Crozet or Dickie Brothers in Roseland, but those are about two-hours-plus from Fairfax. (I think it's worth the drive, but it depends on how much you want to make a day out of it.)

You might try Marker Miller in Winchester, which is closer in and is offering seven different kinds of pick-your-own apples right now, including Red Delicious and Crispin. There's a farmers market, too, if you want to pick up apple butter or apple cider doughnuts.

Have a meeting at 1 so submitting early. I REALLY need a good fall photo. Can you recommend a place I can get a good shot of a pumpkin field and close to DC/Arlington would be best. THANKS!!!!!!!!

I have to admit to not being to familiar with pumpkin patches in Northern Virginia -- chatters? 

But if you don't mind driving up 270 this weekend, Butler's Orchard in Germantown is kicking off its season with the annual Pumpkin Festival -- think hayrides, scarecrows, pick-your-own pumpkin fields, apple cider -- everything that says "Fall" to me.

Hi Gurus, thanks for taking my question. My husband and I have got some friends coming in from out of town next month, and we're hoping to show them a fun side of DC at night. We usually take visitors out to one neighborhood on Saturday night and do dinner, then head to some fun bars in the area. Our go to the past couple months has been Ethiopian near Shaw and then up U Street for drinks (ending up at Ben's for late night snacks...). Some of our friends have done this area, though, so we're looking for something new. Can you please suggest a neighborhood with one great restaurant for dinner (price not an issue, but 1/2 the crew are vegetarians), plus some fun bars where we can enjoy good drinks? Ideally there would be a mix of bars so we could hit some nicer ones and get progressively more dance-centric all in one neighborhood. Thanks so much!

H Street is perfect for progressive dinner: Vegetarian-friendly fare at Ethiopic or Boundary Road, cocktails at Atlas Room or beers at Biergarten Haus (bonus if you want live music for Oktoberfest), rooftop drinks at Avery's or H Street Country Club, indoor bocce at Vendetta, dancing at Little Miss Whiskey's.

My bf & I have been working in separate cities. We are meeting in Richmond on Thursday night and have Friday off, but don't know what to do. Should we stay in Richmond, head to a resort near Richmond or just head north and come back home? We don't spend time down there so we don't know what to do or where to go. We don't want to visit any museums or historic sites. We are looking for good food, alcohol, music, festivals, & fun things to do. Your help is greatly appreciated!

Tom Sietsema did a little guide to Richmond dining not too long ago. And Fritz's guide to Richmond eating & drinking earlier this year was pegged to the Redskins' training, but has nothing to do with football - the suggestions here are for everyone. Hopefully that's enough to get you started!

We've never been to Crafty Bastards before. When is the best time to go? As soon as it opens, to get a chance to buy the best merchandise? Or on the second day, to avoid the enormous crowds that we've heard about? Do you gurus have any vendors on your do-not-miss list?

Your impulse is correct -- vendors at Crafty Bastards can be a bit picked over on the second day. Definitely go on the first day, and early, if you're planning to do a lot of shopping. We'll have a guide to some of the vendors on the blog later today, so check back!

I second that. Their donuts are awesome! Your daughter can play out the sugar on their fun playground equipment, including a pirate ship. My kids love going there with their grandmother.

I mean, what kid doesn't love a pirate ship?

And apple cider doughnuts are up there with Stone Fence cocktails as my favorite things about fall. (The Stone Fence is rye whiskey and hard cider -- I love it with fresh cider from the Distillery Lane Cider Works near Frederick.)

Will uncharacteristically be out of work early around 6 p.m. tonight, which means I have a chance to catch happy hour before it ends. Any new happy hours (or standards I might have overlooked) I shouldn't miss in Farragut/Dupont (or even West End)? Thanks!

Three Farragut/Dupont happy hours you might want to try, as long as you can get there by 7:

Discounted craft beer and wine at GBD. Beers rotate, but last week had some awesomely funky beers for $3-$5.

The Noshes and mixed drinks at DGS. Pair a mini grilled tongue reuben ($4) or smoked salmon tartare ($5) with a Brooklyn Brown Ale ($4) or a nice bourbon and ginger highball ($6). 

Half-price craft beers and discounted snacks at Scion. I love getting Great Lakes, Founders, or Allagash rarities for around $4. The food isn't bad, either -- spring rolls for $2.50, or a bowl of beer-battered rock shrimp for $5 or so.

Sticky Rice is very vegetarian friendly - Boundary Road was not as much when I was there, but it's good. Also, Little Miss Whiskey's is great, but they need to clean the bathroom - seriously. I'm not sure I can go back it was that bad.

Yes on Sticky Rice -- I eat veggie stuff there all the time. (And pescetarian, too.)

I haven't encountered a scary bathroom situation at Little Miss Whiskey's recently, but I'll take your word. I'm more worried about the giant mosquitos on the back patio.

Do you know of any discounts on any upcoming events at the Kennedy Center? Or any deals for seniors on events in the area?

Do you use Ticketplace's half-price tickets site? They have good deals if you're a last-minute planner. Right now it lists a lot of "Shear Madness" (related: No one should ever pay full price for "Shear Madness" because it is always on this site), but if you check back closer to an event, you can find tickets for other concerts and performances (like the lucky people earlier today who were able to snatch up tickets to the Wayne Shorter Quartet/Esperanza Spalding show). There's always plenty of theater tickets for other venues available on the site, too. If you buy through the Kennedy Center, here's their page about senior discounts. Another good resource is Goldstar, which has tickets to the KenCen's production of "Million Dollar Quartet" and the upcoming Verdi opera .

Good morning! What is normal/accepted for tipping in regards to drinks? Does it change if it's merely a drink at a bar versus a cocktail that is part of dinner? What if it's a 100 dollar bottle of wine - or 200? Should it always be 15-20%, or, for instance, a set tip amount for a bottle of wine regardless of price? This Q came up with a friend who is visiting a swish restaurant in Los Angeles very soon that apparently offers a margarita that is 100 bucks (one drink) and she wants to know if this will become "100 bucks, plus 10% tax and 20% tip" IE 130 bucks... Thanks!

I do separate beers/cocktails at dinner vs. at the bar. When I'm out at dinner with friends, we just tip 20 percent on the total bill for food and drinks, and don't separate things out. When it's just booze and not food, standard is $1 or $2 per drink, depending on the complexity. (Maybe more if it's a pricy cocktail with a lot of ingredients.) I don't care if a vodka-tonic costs $6 or $10 -- I'm tipping a buck, unless the service is awesome.

For gimmicky $100 drinks, I'd say maybe a $10 tip? I don't think you need to tip $20 just because the bartender picks up an an expensive bottle of tequila instead of the usual. The counter argument is that if it's a swish place, and the service and atmosphere are great, they might want to tip more.

I'm heading to Thai X-ing tonight to take some friends out for a farewell dinner before they move. Is there a dress code there? I know it's in a house, so I assume it's not black tie, and I also would dress up from jeans, but just how dressy? Also, I found out it's not only BOYB but BOYC (cake) for birthdays, so I was thinking of bringing one for the celebration/farewell. Good/bad idea?

I've mostly worn jeans to Thai X-ing, honestly, though I've also worn a jacket and slacks for a friend's birthday. (I thought a suit would be a little TOO formal -- service and atmosphere are more laidback than that.)

As for cake, I'd ask some of the other guests if they were planning to BYOC -- you don't want to have multiple cakes, especially after what is always a very filling dinner.

How bad do you think Snallygaster will be this year? I had an amazing time last year and already have my tickets this year, but I'm worried it will become one of those festivals where you end up just fighting to get around. Also, since Union Market parking lot is a huge space, I wonder if I'll spend the other half just trying to get from one side to the other to try a beer that sold out.

I called Greg Engert before I wrote about Snallygaster, and he's emphatic that it will be bigger and better than last year. We're looking at a larger space and at least 50 more beers than last year. I mean, I thought it kind of sprawled at Yards Park, and that was the perfect size for it. As you say, there's going to be a lot of running around looking for certain beers. When I got there last year, the first thing I said was "Where are the gravity-keg beers from Franconia?" and speed-walked to that part of the park. 

I think one of the other things that the organizers are saying is that they don't want it to be over-crowded. If you went to the pre-Snallygaster Oktoberfest events in the Rustico parking lot, you know how slammed things can be. With 200 beers and a couple thousand people, lines this year shouldn't be out of control -- I hope.

but you haven't had a real cider donut unless you've been to a cider mill in Michigan. I didn't know I had it so good growing up!

Michigan ciders are awesome. I, however, think the best apple cider donuts come from Lancaster County PA. Maybe we need to have a blind tasting?

If this is more convienient, you could also go to Fredericksburg. Cute little town, some wineries, B&Bs and an amazing Wegmans to stock up for the week. :)

Fredericksburg is great, but I'd still take Richmond, especially for shopping in Carytown and dining in Church Hill. (Read my story, which Maura linked to above, for more.)

We were talking about suggesting Charlottesville for a weekend away, though I think it's overrun by students in the fall -- especially if UVA is at home for football.

A good chance to try new beers, or a purgatory of standing in lines for taps & porta-johns?

A bit of both? I haven't been to Living Social's beer festival, but I've heard plenty about long lines for beer and bathrooms at last year's event.

In terms of trying new beers, I'd say Snallygaster is the big one. I always have fun at Cap City's Oktoberfest, though there aren't always a lot of "new" beers. And if you want to drink this weekend, don't overlook the Hoppy Oktoberfest party at Mad Fox, with IPAs from more than a dozen Virginia breweries, plus Oktoberfests on tap. They usually do multi-beer parties well.

No, the best cider doughnuts come from western NY.

In the words of a great sage, "Everyone thinks they have the prettiest wife at home."

I'd also suggest the 11th St corridor. All of the restaurants have veggie options (Maple for Italian, Meridian Pint for upsale bar food), etc. You can also hit the bars associated with the restaurants or walk over to DC Reynolds and Looking Glass on Georgia.

True, but they specifically asked for dancing, and your only dancing option on 11th is Wonderland, which is generally a mid-20s pickup scene on weekends. (Trust me, I know.) On H, you've got Little Miss Whiskey's, Rock and Roll Hotel, Biergarten (to a degree) and Jimmy Valentine's if you want to move your feet.

It's only the two couples, so no worries about another cake. My question was more if it makes sense for the meal, or would feel entirely out of place. Thanks for taking my q's!

A small cake, maybe? You're going to be stuffed by the end of your meal, since the food is served family style. Just something to consider.

I went to LS's beer and wine festivals at Yards Park and the Fairgrounds and I won't go back to another LS-organized event - beers and wines you can buy at Safeway (little penguin. really?), long lines for tastings, you can't buy bottles and really, really bad bathroom lines.

What does a female wear to a formal, afternoon wedding? If it were an evening wedding, obviously a long, formal dress; but, that feels too much for an early afternoon wedding. And am I expected to change into a more formal dress for the evening/night reception? I am friends with the groom but he's no help and I don't know the bride to reach out to her.

Emily Post's etiquette book is pretty much the bible of wedding planning, and she says you should wear a "Cocktail or dressy afternoon dress." So you'll be ok in something that's cocktail or midi-length, with "daytime" fabric (i.e. no satin or velvet). And you definitely don't need to change into something longer in the evening, because "formal" attire is an all-encompassing term that includes cocktail dresses. Only if it were black tie would it be more proper to wear a long dress, but even then, weddings are less formal these days so the hemline rule isn't as strict. If you're looking to go shopping, here are a few styles that could work, depending on the setting: Colorful lace with sleeves, strapless lace, peplum, simple & chic, ladylike print, another simple & colorful one, aaaaaand now I just want to go shopping. Farewell, productivity!

Can we count on you guys to provide us Feds with some ideas for us on how to occupy our time? Extra credit for suggesting bars/restaurants that are offering specials.

If the government does in fact shut down (and fingers crossed that it does not), we will certainly have a page with details on happy hour specials, events, etc. 

Hi, a group of about 10 of us will be spending the weekend at a hotel in Georgetown celebrating my 40th birthday. I have chosen dinner restaurants, but what about dancing? Where can we go that isn't full of undergrads, but the music is main stream (i.e. "Blurred Lines") and not overly techno? Preferably in GT! Thanks!

There's not a lot of non-ungrad dancing in Georgetown. The new El Centro (formerly Third Edition) is one option, as it has multiple bars and dance floors. The new Gypsy Sally's club above Malmaison, which I'll be writing more on soon, has live music that's more Americana in scope (think blues, country, bluegrass) but a large dance floor. There's also a bar with no cover and a DJ. I'm also thinking it might be worth a call to Puro on Wisconsin Avenue -- I've seen a Gypsy Kings-esque band there as well as a more mainstream DJ, but it depends on what night you're going.

A group of five of us wants to attend Shear Madness this weekend so thanks for letting us know we shouldn't pay full price! But... the half-price ticket site does not indicate the row or seat numbers for the tickets it sells. In your experience with this site, have you found that the tickets are for decent seats? As much as I'd like to avoid full price, good seats are more important to me. Thanks.

As a general rule, half-price tictets anywhere are never going to be the best seats in the house -- they're the leftover tickets. The KC's Theater Lab is a small venue (for the KC, at least), so you're not going to be up in the bleachers or anything, but you'll probably be towards the sides or the back. I have never actually bought tickets to Shear Madness through Ticketplace, though, so I can't say for sure - you could try giving them a call? Are there any other chatters out there who have experience with this?

Not that it's any of my business, but having just had a mild heart attack looking at my bank account statement after a month of going out a lot, I was wondering how you handle all of the drinking/dining out you need to do. Are you fully reimbursed, is there a time when you are visiting for work, but decide to go off the clock, or are you responsible for your own tabs? BTW, visited Petworth Citizen on Wednesday for the neighborhood soft opening. Food and drinks were good. I think that locals are really really excited about this place.

It's tough. The Post pays for our tabs when we're out reviewing places, but we all also spend a lot of time "off the clock" while on the town. That's part of the reason I'm conscious about happy hours and things like that -- I can't afford to drink $14 cocktails every night.

As for Petworth Citizen, I agree that people are really excited about the place -- it has a really welcoming neighborhood atmosphere, and it was nice to see all the parents out with kids around 7/7:30, and the more couples/singles scene gradually taking over the bar later.

Good day to you dear Gogs! Can you help this big sister out? I need your advice on where we should take my brother out for his birthday. He is turning 24 and coming up from Richmond tomorrow night so that we can take him out to dinner. His one request is that he wants to go somewhere with good steaks. We are in Arlington, and knowing my parents they don't like venturing into DC for food unless it's truly worth it. I am looking for ideas that are also not too pricey, no $30 steaks please. I realize being in Arlington, Ray's is right around the corner, but I'm hoping for suggestions to lesser known or thought of places please. Thanks so much!

Ray's is well-known for a reason -- there's no steak in Arlington that comes close, especially at that price point. I'd say your next best option for good steak frites in the neighborhood is the $21.50 steak at Lyon Hall, though it's not cut and aged the way you'll find it at Ray's.

Personally, I'm partial to the steaks at Bistrot du Coin, especially the rib eye with bernaise ($23) and the tournedos with funky roquefort cheese ($22).

We can't have a blind tasting of cider doughnuts, because the only proper way to eat them is at the orchard, fresh out of the fryer, with a cup of cider (hot or cold - your choice.)

You raise an excellent point.

Someplace downtown, quiet enough for oldish people to hear each other talk. Food has to be good, but gourmet-level not required. Ideas?

You can't go wrong with Harry Brown's, across State Circle from the State House, or the more lively but not crazy McGarvey's Saloon on the dock. (I love their crab cakes.) Another option is Red Red Wine, where I've always been happy with my food (mostly seafood and salads) and small-producer wines. One thing to note: They do have bands on Friday, but generally not after 10. If you're there on the early side, you're fine.

Okay, we have to run. We hope you enjoy the cooler weekend weather at a festival of your choice, whether you're celebrating pumpkins, Oktoberfest or the city's finest homemade pies.

Post Points Code: GG2956.

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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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