Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Gurus

Oct 04, 2012

The Going Out Gurus discussed concerts, rooftop happy hours, weekend getaways and other ideas for seasonal fun.

Welcome to this week's edition of Got Plans? Inspired by last night's presidential debate, and this weekend's big Stewart-O'Reilly Rumble, we're feeling kind of  argumentative today. We're also giving away four tickets to a world-music concert at the Atlas on Friday featuring Malian musician Fatoumata Diawara. To score them, tell us your favorite bar or restaurant to hear live music and why. (We don't mean the 9:30 club or Black Cat - think more low-key.) Let's get started.

Hi there. I'm visiting DC for the first time this weekend and was wondering what are the best bars to go to near Hotel Helix. Bars with live music are a huge plus. Thanks!

The 14th Street corridor is Washington's hottest strip of restaurants and bars right now, but the only bar with regular live music in the immediate area is the New Vegas Lounge, around the corner on P Street, where the lively band plays Motown hits and frat-party classics.

(Further north is the Black Cat, one of D.C.'s best-known live music venues, but it's less "bar with live music" than a concert hall. )

Right around the hotel, though, there's ChurchKey, one of the best beer bars in the country with 50 taps and 500 selections in bottles; Black Salt/Pearl Dive, which pairs some of the best oysters around with classy cocktails and indoor bocce; Stoney's, which is one of the most comfortable neighborhood bars around; and Number 9 Lounge, a modern gay lounge with a great two-for-one happy hour.

I have to be up at Sibley on Saturdayafternoon -- is there anywhere around there to eat for lunch that I'd be able to go from the hospital and get back within an hour? Thanks!!

The Palisades isn't loaded with lunch options,but you're not that far from Kotobuki, which offers some of the city's best affordable sushi and sashimi, and the Belgian-French deliciousness of Et Voila!. Either way, it's only about a five-minute drive from Sibley.

Dear Trusted GoGs, My beloved St. Louis Cardinals are on a potential playoff collision course with my second love, the Nats. To get there, however, they need to beat the Braves in the one game playoff tomorrow night and I'm wondering, what watering hole is best to watch it with other Cardinals fans? Much love.

My vote would go to District of Pi, since they're the offshoot of a popular St. Louis pizza chain. I've run into St. Louisians (is that the right term?) at the bar, tucking into deep dish pizza and drinking beers from the fantastic Schlafly Brewing Company, which is the largest American-owned brewery in St. Louis these days.

For the first time ever I get to root for not one but TWO teams in the playoffs. But my question is about Friday night's Wildcard game with the Baltimore Orioles. I've watched O's games at numerous bars, but with a 8:40 EST starting time, said bars will begin to be overrun with Friday night crowds. Where can O's fans gather on Friday night in DC to enjoy the game?

You know, I've been wondering about this myself, and for the exact same reason: The game is going to stretch into prime Friday night party time for most bars.

The Green Turtle at Verizon Center will be showing the game -- I mean, they're a Maryland institution, and not really on that main Penn Quarter drag. So I'd say they'd be a good bet. 

I'd really like to hear from other Orioles fans on this one: Where are you going on Friday night?

My parents are coming this weekend for a visit and my sister & 1.5-year old niece will be coming down from Baltimore to hang out with us on Saturday. What family friendly outdoor activities can you suggest that would accommodate everyone (but really mostly the wee one)? Preferably something that revolves around animals as apparently it was discovered earlier this week at the petting zoo that she enjoys hugging goats. Gross, but cute. The niece wasn't overly excited by our recent trip to the National Zoo as the animals are not at a very huggable distance, even the ones in the kiddie area. Any location within a 45-ish minute drive from Arlington is ok. Thanks!

There are tons of fall festivals happening in the area, many of them with animals. Try the Leesburg Corn Maize and Fall Festival, which features pig races and horse-drawn wagon rides. Or, check out Butler's Orchard's Pumpkin Festival in Germantown, which promises pony rides and face-painting. Hope those aren't too far away!

We're bringing our young daughters (8 & 9 y/o) to DC for the Justin Bieber concert. Staying the night in the city (Mayflower) wondering what else to do, where to eat, etc. Thanks in advance!

What an awesome trip for the kids.  (And clearly you're planning ahead to make it special.)  I'd definitely take the girls to Shake Shack for a lunch or dinner; it's  just up street from you, and their burgers, and shakes, and fries, are pretty kid-proof (we even like the veggie burger there.) The show is on a Monday night, so I can't help but think there's not a lot that's crazy going on (it's a little too early for ice-skating rinks and holiday markets). I think a fun trip to the Spy Museum or Madame Tussaud's would be an awesome choice -- look for discounts on sites such as Goldstar. We're out of prime tourist season so there might be deals to be had.

When are you going to post not to miss Halloween events, specifically going on Friday 10/26 and Saturday 10/27? Any craft beer related ones?

There are Oktoberfest events that go through that weekend, but so far we haven't heard of anything specifically involving both Halloween and craft beer. Sorry! There will be, however, a list of best Halloween events surfacing sometime in the next couple weeks, and many of them will be taking place that weekend. Hang in there!

You should be able to get to Wisconsin Ave and back. The new Cava Grill just opened today and takeout from Masala Art would be a great option.

I'll admit to never having been to Masala Art for lunch, but their lunch buffet sounds like a great idea.

Hey Gurus, I moved out of DC months ago, but my boyfriend wants to visit for his birthday and have a lunch with about 10 to 15 friends on a Saturday in November. It's my job to pick a restaurant! Can you give me a couple of suggestions for somewhere affordable in the city that's either burgers and fries or Italian? Thanks!

For Italian, Carmine's is built for big groups of 10-15, and it puts you right in the heart of the city. For burgers and fries - it's a little harder to fit 10-15 at a lot of places, but you might have luck at the Black Squirrel, Good Stuff Eatery, and Meridian Pint, which has a lot of other dishes. You can find more options in our best burgers list

Can't beat the bluegrass at Tiffany Tavern in Old Town: great music, nevera cover charge, and that great feeling of having stepped out of 2012 DC and into a different place and era. Plus the back room is a great retreat for when you really want to chat with your companions rather than listen to the music.

This is true. One of Northern Virginia's gems for live music.

The Blue Banana in Petworth will be playing the O's Game with sound on Friday Night with $3 Natty Boh's and $Stoli O Drinks!

Thanks, Blue Banana! (But Bohs and Os sounds like a good deal.)

Gotta say, as far as local venues go, Jammin Java wins - fantastic national independent talent with the occasional more known name thrown in, a great atmosphere, and staff that gets it. But my absolute favorite ever, I think, is the Hideaway Cafe in St Petersburg, FL. Its a listening room, with signs on the door that say don't talk while the music is going, but unlike other listening rooms I've been to (Eddie's Attic) THEY ENFORCE IT!! There's nothing worse in the world than an acoustic, intimate set ruined by some jerk at the bar who won't shut up. Hideway does it right.

Err, we'll take your Jammin' Java rec, but St. Petersburg is a little out of our coverage area...

Personally I'm heading to the Mushroom Fair at Brookside Gardens, Md. Gourmet food demos, scientists with microscopes, family-friendly forays, count my brood in! Sunday noon-5.

People with mushroom phobia, also known as mycophobia, you've been warned.

Can you get a drink without dinner at Bistrot Lepic, or do you have other suggestions in that vicinity?

You can most definitely get just a drink at the upstairs bar, and sometimes you may be able to get a table if you show up early, but it can be hit or miss, depending on the crowds that night. What are you looking for specifically? Wine bars? Bars in general?

I'm in full-fledged DIY mode and have been looking for cheap furniture finds that I can make my own. Other than Craigslist and the curb, are there any stores or flea markets in the area where I might be able to find inexpensive pieces?

Miss Pixie's is a staple for browsing for me, and you've got to check out Bentley's, on Upshur St. in Petworth, if you haven't. Takes some sorting, but you'll find a few decent (and not overpriced) pieces.

The flea market at Eastern Market isn't bad choice. While not overflowing with options, I've seen tables, mirrors and decorative pieces that I'd like to have in my place (if I had more room).

Hi GOGs! I want to go to a book signing for one of my favorite food bloggers (Smitten Kitchen!) which will be part of the National Press Club Book Fair in November. I've never heard of this, and their website doesn't give a lot of information. Do you know what the deal is? Do I need to pay? Thanks for all the great advice you give!

Hi, looks like the event is a fundraiser, and so there is an admission price of $10. Get tickets and find out more here. Looks like there are a lot of great local authors on the list, including a few from this fine establishment.

To the poster looking for kid-friendly stuff, you can't overlook Art on the Avenue in Del Ray, it's just amazing and in one of the most family oriented parts of the Metro.

Yes. This annual arts festival is absolutely worth stopping by this weekend.

The Blue Banana is in Parkview. Love, Petworth

The it's-in-Parkview-not-Petworth nitpicking is tedious for everyone else. Love, everyone who's not a block south of the Petworth Metro.

Don't forget Praline, 5 minutes from Sibley in a shopping center just off MacArthur, delicious French food either in downstairs cafe or upstairs restaurant.

You've reminded us all. Thanks.

I had originally planned to celebrate my early November birthday with six or so friends at the Demo Kitchen at Society Fair. However, I just saw on their site that they are now only doing the Demo Kitchen on Fridays and at an increased price of $75. Is there anywhere else that would provide a fun, foodie experience in the $50 or less range (before drinks, tax, etc.)? It doesn't have to be the same type of setting, just a fun, unique way to celebrate a food-centric birthday. I loved how this was more interactive and exciting than a regular dinner out but different than a cooking lesson type of thing, which I probably wouldn't be able to drag my friends to.

Take a look at this week's review of Seasonal Pantry, which is a cute space in the city, and it seems to have won Tom Sietsema's heart. Another idea might be to sign up for one of the classes/pairings at Living Social's space -- Justin tried the sausage and beer class (there's still space), and he totally loved it because of the instructors. I took the boo and some friends to a cocktail/spirits class with Gina Cherservani, and it was really cool, too. (The hard-to-please boo was happy, in part because he ate his plate of Red Apron charcuterie, and then mine.) 

Looking for a place to celebrate my 39th bday while watching Nats game on Sunday. Are there any sportsbars that won't be full of 20-something frat boys, may be fun/cheery but not so loud you can't have conversation, and where I won't need an angioplasty after eating? I recognize my style - more fine whiskey than beer - doesn't fit with a sportsbar scene but I have to see the game!

Don't know how many people you plan on bringing, which would really effect my answer, but when I'm looking for good food/booze/beer for a game, I lean toward ChurchKey, which has only five screens but a great beer list and a gourmet menu; Virtue Feed and Grain, where the beer-tails, flat-screens and video games are paired with Cathal Armstrong's great comfort food; and the roof of Jack Rose.

My favorite bar for live music is Quarry House Tavern in Silver Spring. I love the local divey feel and feel comfortable going there solo as a little get away from daily stresses. Plus they have jukebox....bonus!!

We agree on this one -- especially about the jukebox.

Just looking for a nice cozy place to have a drink, and a small bite. Go to Black Salt a lot and want something different although we like Black Salt but the happy hour there has become extremely kid-friendly and crowded, so we're looking for quieter and somewhat grown-up.

We were just discussing how find a grown-up, quiet place in that area is a little difficult, since Georgetown up to Glover Park can be kind of a party row. We like the cocktails and the vibe at Bourbon the best of all the other options. Second option: The bar at Peacock Cafe, but that's a little deeper into Georgetown.

Hey, you didn't say local in your question!! In that case, Jammin Java all the way. Its out of the way, so chances are better that the people that are there are there because of the music, not because it was the closest bar they happened to pass by. That sometimes means going to a show with 10 other people, but if the music is good, its totally worth it.

Haha, as soon as I saw your response, I realized I had left it open. Well, if anyone's ever in St. Pete's, now they have a place to go.

Not nitpicking, really. Neighborhood identity matters to a lot of people. We all kvetched in 80s when the real estate agents transformed Logan Circle into "Dupont East." We all found it annoying in the 90s when Petworth was "North Columbia Heights" to those same real estate agents. Parkview deserves to reclaim its identity too.

I await the vigorously contested Lanier Heights/Mount Pleasant/Adams Morgan border wars of 2013.

FWIW, according to the D.C. government, the Blue Banana is in Columbia Heights, and Parkview doesn't officially exist as a neighborhood for tax purposes.

I'm a huge Orioles fan and am excited they made it to the playoffs. Any places to watch their wild card game on Friday with other O's fans? Preferably in Arlington or Alexandria but willing to go to DC. Bonus if they have drink specials. If they continue to the ALDS, any bars showing games and supporting the team? (I realize I live in Natstown so this may be an impossible dream)

If I had to guess for Arlington/Alexandria, it would be Crystal City Sports Pub, just for its sheer size -- and the fact that there won't be many other sports on.

Do you know of any place that will be showing the Stewart/OReilly debate? Preferably where I can also get a beer to go along with it.

We do not. Chatters? Heard of anywhere? (Sorry -- I've been sick and somewhat out of it this week.)

Help!!! My father-in-law is coming out in 2 weeks (he's been here plenty of times) but is bringing my husband's aunt and uncle who've never visited. We're tasked with the daunting chore of where to take them to eat. They are picky eaters, don't do sushi, ethnic food. They are literally american and seafood (cooked). I've run out of places and so far the only thing on the list is Mikes American Grill, Clydes, Bonefish/Charthouse. Something moderately priced and in the fairfax/springfield/tyson's area is idea but I'm willing to go into MD. Oh and I should mention they're here for 12 days. I've said I'm going to cook but they're insisting it'll be to much trouble with work. What do you suggest?

Here's a quick list of some places that could work: Harth, Seasons 52, Cafe Deluxe, Wildfire. If you wanted to hit Reston Town Center once or twice, that would give you several cool options including the burger place The Counter, and Jackson's Mighty Fine Food, followed by  maybe a stop at a wine bar like The Tasting Room, or dessert at Pitango or Red Velvet. Actually, Virginia is teeming with American places, so you shouldn't have too hard of a time.

Since we are being picky about neighborhood boundaries, where is Pleasant Plains? It is on a sign in the Columbia Heights Metro station. How come I never hear this neighborhood mentioned?

Ah, this one I know. (Thanks, walkingtowndc!) Pleasant Plains was a large working farm located basically from 14th Street over to the McMillan Reservoir, south of Park Road down to Florida Avenue. As landowners died, it was sold bit by bit and eventually subsumed into D.C. in the late 19th Century. Much of it is now part of what we commonly refer to as Columbia Heights, as well as Howard University.

I'm heading to the Kennedy Center tonight and will need to grab something for dinner on the way. Are there any quick take-out places around the Foggy Bottom metro? I am SO unfamiliar with that stop!

You could try Burger Tap and Shake. If you're thinking of something healthier, hit the Sweet Green, or the  Whole Foods that's right near the Metro. You can swing right back over and catch the shuttle to the Kennedy Center, no problem.

There's also a Roti in that same complex, just FYI.

She will be at Politics and Prose, if you don't want to pay an admission fee. Of course, you may end up spending more than $10 if you have dinner at Comet Ping Pong before her reading.

If you go to NPC, though, you get to meet Jim Meehan, the cocktail genius behind the drinks at New York's PDT, who's pushing "The PDT Cocktail Book."

My favorite place to hear live music was always the Jaleo in Crystal City where 2 guys would come in with Spanish guitars and sing Gipsy King/GK style music. Then head over to the tapas place on King Street where they would continue performing. (Not sure if this is still going on, but I used to frequent Jaleo for this reason!)

Haven't been to Jaleo in ages either, but I can tell you that Las Tapas in Old Town still has Gypsy Kings-ish guitar music on Friday and Saturday, and flamenco performances Tuesday through Thursday.

Heading to PumpkinFest at Ridgefield Farms (thank you Capitol Deal!) in Harpers Ferry in a few weekends with friends -- what's a good place to grab din on the way back to DC? Is Frederick sort of on the way home? Somewhere we can feel like 30-something adults again after a day of being kids at the pumpkin patch, hay ride, haunted house, etc.

I don't know what happened to my answer here! Sorry -- I think your best bet from Harpers Ferry is actually to come back through Virginia, which would put you pretty close to Purcellville and the very lovely Magnolia's at the Mill. That should make you feel grown up.

Piano bar at 701

There's something about tinkling ivories that makes a martini classier, right? Same reason I love having a cocktail when the piano player is playing at the Jefferson's Quill bar.

Brunch at the Bombay Club on Sundays with live piano playing. Awesome Indian food paired with great piano - my kind of Sunday (and bottomless champagne!)

Anything is better with bottomless champagne, right? (We do love the Bombay Club, though.)


I am looking to liquidate my large collection of high-end designer shoes and lots of new with tags clothing. I have done eBay and Bonanza in the past, but would prefer to just sell it in one place and be done with it. Is this something I could do at Eastern Market? or would the table fees be prohibitive? any other ideas for similar flea markets/neighborhood opportunities to sell of my entire closet. thanks!

So Eastern Market flea market, it's possible to sell clothes, but looks like they're not in search of clothing or accessories vendors at this time.  I've hit resale stores as a I've rid myself of all my 20-something mini-dresses, and you could try a couple of things -- Second Time Around in Georgetown does high-end designer shoes well and a lot of more adult clothing (as does Secondi in Dupont). But both are consignment stores, which does mean you leave your clothes, and you wait. But the return is far higher than you'd get selling your stuff and walking away. It might take a month to sell, but at least it's out of your hair in the meantime. For selling on the spot, Mustard Seed in Bethesda is a good option, both because they offer a good amount, and because they frequently take a lot of things. The caveats: Many of these places don't take office-wear (because nobody wants to buy it); and they're not going to pay you nearly what you think your stuff is worth. It's a catch 22, but if it's more important to get it out of the house, they're worth trying.

My favorite spot in DC to take in live music is right down the street from Atlas itself - HR-57. Though this place has moved locations twice over the past couple of years, it's still the most affordable place to hear high-quality, live jazz in the area. If you show up Weds or Thurs, cover is only $8 and its BYOB ($3 corking fee per person). Can't be beat, great spot to unwind, and if you know some jazz and can play, the house band will let you jam out with them.

All true. Have to admit we were a little worried when it moved to H Street -- and then moved again down the street -- but everything seems to be working out.

Thanks to everyone who wrote it. We're going to give the tickets away to the chatters who suggested Tiffany Tavern and the piano bar at 701. Please send your contact details to and we'll make sure your tickets get to you.

Thanks. We'll see you all back here next week.

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The Going Out Gurus
The Going Out Gurus 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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