Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Guide

Oct 31, 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. Happy Halloween. If you're looking for a party tonight, check out this list of 15 options, which include a Black Sabbath cover band, scary cocktails, trivia at the Port City Brewing Company and poppin' bottles with Drake.

Want to avoid costumes? Try a concert instead. Our picks for the evening include Passion Pit and Cypress Hill.

And did you see which coffee shop topped our readers' poll? Very controversial in the office, to say the least.

Okay, let's get started.

Hello Gurus! So my lady friends (all 30s) are getting together for a night on the town on Saturday night and we were thinking ESL, as its been forever since we've been there. We are not interested in bottle service, just a place with a cool vibe, good drinks, and age-appropriate crowd. Yes on ESL? Or should we consider somewhere else? Thanks for the help!

Yes. For all the competition -- including ESL co-owner Eric Hilton cannibalizing his own crowd with the likes of Marvin and Chez Billy -- ESL remains a reliable destination for great funk and house music and a cool adult crowd, even if it's not as cutting edge as it used to be.

I have 16 girls coming into town and right now (because of the size of the group and the desire for the bride to dance) we are planning on going to Clarendon Ballroom Saturday night. Anything better I should be considering? It needs to be metro accessible and we went to high school in the late 90's so a little throw-back rap would be a plus. Thanks!

With 16 girls descending on a club at once, Clarendon Ballroom would be a good idea. (Just be warned that doors don't open until 10 p.m. this week due to a private event.) If you want to get an earlier start, I might head down the block to Clarendon Grill -- they have Crazy in Stereo, a party-ish cover band, playing -- before the Ballroom. I worry that the lines at Spider Kelly's or Whitlow's might not be conducive to a crowd as big as yours.

Hola GOGs!! Two part question: Submitting early since I have a meeting, but here's the dilemma. I have tickets this Sunday to see Sister Act at the Kennedy Center. We are also doing Brunch beforehand at Teddy and the Bully bar. The showing is a matinee, and with the brunch before hand, I am at a loss of what to wear. I have only gone to night performances at the Kennedy Center. What is the dress like during the day there? What could I wear to brunch AND matinee and not look out of place? Also what should I tell my hubby to wear (who is partial to cargo pants and funny tshirts...)?? Normally for brunch I break out my "fancy" yoga pants and cute top with tall boots this time of year, not sure if that will fly? HELP!!! (oh and I'm an early 30 something female) Second part is - any tips for Teddy's? The menu looks amazeballs.

At a matinee you'll probably see a whole range of attire - some women might be wearing skirts and others might be wearing jeans - but I always think that a show at the Kennedy Center is a little more fun when I dress for the occasion. You don't have to be super-dressy, but you'll probably want to go a step above fancy yoga pants - maybe a cute silk top with pants and flats or a low heel?

As for Teddy, both Fritz and I have only had drinks there, so we can't personally advise. But here's Tom Sietsema's first bite.

Is Halloween done after today or are there more parties this weekend?

In a perfect world, it would be done after tonight. You don't dress up as Santa on Dec. 27, do you? But there are still more events on tap. The Park at 14th will have events with costume contests tomorrow and Saturday, for example, and the Clarendon Halloween Crawl hits 13 bars between Court House and Clarendon on Saturday afternoon, including Whitlow's, Spider Kelly's, Bracket Room and IOTA, for drink specials from 2 to 9 p.m.

With the cold weather, my friend and I were lamenting lack of places in DC to just hang out with a hot drink on a comfy couch by a fireplace. The hot drink would preferably be hot wine, which we both had glorious experiences with in Paris. Does such a mecca exist?

Yes: Tabard Inn. Except it's popular and gets crowded, so if you can go on an off night, you'll have a better time.

Room 11 hasn't lit its outdoor firepits yet, but with a hot buttered rum or mulled wine in hand, that's my favorite outdoor winter bar experience in the city. The firepit tables at A Bar and Bourbon Steak were pretty awesome last winter, too, and both offered a menu of warming drinks.

Hey Going-Outers! My parents are coming into town for an impromptu visit to provide moral support as I get my bar exam results and find out whether I got a new job! I am looking for things to do on Saturday and it seems like DC will be a ghost town this weekend - no festivals or big events we can attend. Any ideas on where to go or what to see? My dad loves people-watching and my mom likes being outdoors and exploring. They are up for festivals, shows, seasonal events, etc. I've been here for four years so we've seen all of the touristy places a few times already. Any help is much appreciated :)

There's one festival actually - do your parents like photography? FotoWeek DC is taking over a bunch of galleries in the area with exhibitions, outdoor projections, and more. Or for your outdoorsy mom, if you guys have transportation out of the city, you can check out some wineries and the pretty fall colors in the area (a glass of wine will also help with those bar exam nerves - we're keeping our fingers crossed for you!)

A few of my girlfriends and I are getting together for a couple drinks tonight to vent. Are there any options that are in the downtown or dupont area where we can get some festive drinks, deals and actually hear each other? We were thinking Irish Whiskey to take advantage of half price bottles of wine, but wouldn't mind something more Halloween-y. I didn't see anything on your list that fit the bill, although they sounded fun!

I'd say Firefly, at the Hotel Madera, is the best place around Dupont for this -- especially in the little lounge area. Happy hour runs untul 7, and includes $6 cocktails and $5 glasses of wine.

Science Club is a refuge on otherwise crazy nights -- never too loud early on, either. Their deal until 8 p.m. is $5 wines by the glass or $20 per bottle.

(I know you said "deals," but I'd also recommend the new cocktail menu at the Blue Duck Tavern, and they have those cool glass booths to hang out in. Sadly, the prices can't compare with half-price wine.)

What about Barcelona on 14th Street nw? That outdoor firepit along with the heat lamps seems divine and cosy for a hot yummy warm drink for a chilly night. No, I don't work for Barcelona, either.

Potentially, but the cocktail menu I saw there didn't include any hot drinks.

I should add that a friend really liked her "Hot Apple Pie" cocktails on the chilly patio of DC Reynolds last night.

How is this controversial in your office? I'd love to hear what are the jealous rivals in the PO? I think there are a number of places to get a better-than-decent cup of coffee nowadays. I sometimes think Baked & Wired goes under the wire for their goods. And, as far as cupcakes go - hands down, I think Baked & Wired outruns all of its competition. It's all in the crumb.

Hang on for one reader response ...

How does a cupcakery take top honors as the best coffee shop in the area? Has no one been to Qualia, or Filter, or Swing's, or (name about 7 other dope, local places)? Redickerous. I demand a re-count.

I am coming to town for Corey Booker's swearing in and party at the Liaison Hotel in Capitol Hill (yay!) We want to go out after but we will be in semiformal dress. Will people be out drunk and in costume all over on Thursday night? Where in the area (short cab ok) will we be able to avoid that scene and grab snacks/cocktails. Thanks!

I don't think you'll run into TOO many costumed revellers around the Liaison. Close to the hotel, I'd strongly recommend the bar at Fiola (very classy, fantastic cocktails), Charlie Palmer Steak (great wine selection) or Bistro Bis in the Hotel George.

I want to plan an outing to Eastern Market for a group of ladies, followed by a lunch/brunch. We have a few dietary constraints (gluten-free, vegetarian, etc.) Any ideas on a casual place that can accommodate our needs?

Hank's on the Hill does a fantastic brunch, and it can cover all the veggie/GF needs. Ridiculously good brunch cocktails, too -- love the spicy Bloody Mary with shrimp cocktail.

I'm thinking about ordering a boiled wool coat. Anyone have experience with boiled wool? Is it itchy? Is it warm? (The coat is teal with an asymmetrical zipper and I'm madly in love with it.)

I have an asymmetrical boiled wool jacket that I love. It has a good liner, so it's not itchy - check out the liner before you buy, and go for it!

Hi- I am planning a party for next weekend where we hope to rent out a private room at a bar for a karaoke party (we don't mind finding our own DJ if the bar doesn't have one but we would need them to have a sounds system. We have been in talks with shaw Tavern, black whiskey, science club, sollys, and little miss you know of other bars with private spaces you can rent out? (bonus if they dont have a room fee like black squirrel!)...we are just trying to get a good list so we can feel out all of our options. Thank you!

Yeah, the soundsystem requirement might make this a tough one, especially on short notice. How many people are you planning on?

To the commenter who asked, I went a few weeks ago. No scene there as it's fairly empty (not sure if people know about their brunch yet). But the food is delicious! I really enjoyed the chicken and biscuits and the flapjack station. Be friendly with the waiters and they'll keep the mimosas coming. It's a great all you can eat/drink brunch.

Hey KC bruncher - a reader recommends the chicken and biscuits for you.

We're going to the Alexandria Film Festival on opening night, Nov. 7. Any suggestion on a particularly good Old Town restaurant, that isn't off the charts in price. Something less expensive than Restaurant Eve.

Certainly. Check out the Old Town outpost of Hank's Oyster Bar, or the all-American charm of The Majestic - both within walking distance and easier on the wallet.

OK, so I've gone to some of the places for deals specified by Fritz (for happy hours or just great places to drink) and I've had some experiences that would likely qualify as different from the ones that you (Fritz) seemed to have. For example, I've gone to places for a great martini and they didn't pour the high quality gin that you got (only a couple of days prior). Not to question your integrity but what I am wondering is do you think people recognize you and that could account for some differences? I think you've been working this beat long enough that people probably know who you are/what you look like, unless you are out on the town incognito. People often ask this of Tom S and so it made me wonder about Fritz, too.

Yeah, I mean, it happens. And like Tom, it takes me about a split second to realize when it's happening. I purposefully go to places on a variety of nights when I'm reviewing, so that I can try different bartenders, have different experiences, etc. I can also tell you that I've had experiences lately where I loved a cocktail on one trip and then, with a different person behind the bar, it wasn't the same drink. But I definitely don't make reservations under my own name, and it's easier for me to just drop in on places than it is for Tom. And if people do make better drinks for me, well, (a) I'm going to tell everybody what's in the drink, so they're going to have to make it that way for everybody else, and (b) it's pretty easy for someone sitting at the bar to watch what's going in every single drink.

BTW, I'm dying to know where the Martini Incident happened.

It would probably be about 30 people, maybe with people trickling in or out.

Okay. At that size, you've touched most of the places I would recommend; I think the next tier of places -- such as Sticky Rice or Wonderland -- might be larger than you need.

Near NIH, delicious, discreet service and allows for quiet talk

I'd vote for Passage to India, though Tom found the food somewhat hit-or-miss in a review earlier this summer. But the service and the setting are exactly what you're looking for.

Hey all. We have to run -- we have a bunch of blog posts coming this afternoon -- but hope you have a safe and happy Halloween, and we see you here next week.

Post Points code today is GG8016.

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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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