Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Gurus

Nov 08, 2012

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

Hi everyone. The election is finally over, so we can stop talking about debate-viewing parties and candidate-themed cocktails ... and start talking about inauguration parties and balls. (And, heck, New Year's Eve while we're at it!) 

But first, let's talk about this weekend -- and Thanksgiving dinner, too, since you need to make Plans. Ready? Here we go...

Ok, I know the election was, like, two days ago but I'm already planning on going to an inaugural ball. When should I be looking for information about official vs unofficial balls to come out and how to get tickets?

As someone who's been through two inaugurations with Weekend and the Going Out Guide, here's what I can tell you: 

1. You're probably not going to get into one of the official balls unless you're a donor, well-connected, or you're dating/married to/best friends with someone who's well connected or a donor. Tickets for the official events are rewards to supporters, and are subsequently very hard to come by.

2. And in any case, I think the smaller quasi-official balls are more fun. Less security, less stuffy atmosphere, and far easier for the common folks to actually attend. Among my favorites last time around were the Kentucky State Society's Bluegrass Ball (free bourbon, Muhammad Ali *and* the Temptations!), the Illinois State Society's Ball (Bill Murray! Pierogies! "Ferris Bueller's Day Off on TV screens!) and the Hawai'i State Society's gala, where the vibe was way more luau than black tie. (I honestly felt overdressed in my tux.) Tickets for those three are onsale now, and will run you $200-$300 for tickets, which include dinner and an open bar.

Don't worry -- We'll have much, much more on these as we get closer to January.

Not sure if you answer travel questions but thought I'd give it a shoot....going to Chicago in early December, anything I must see or do? It will be my first trip to the city so I want to keep in mind general site seeing, good holiday events, good food, and any special events! Thanks!

Hahah, first, you're going to need to bundle up. I lived in Chicago many moons ago, so I thought I'd grab this. I loved how much there was to do. Must-sees include the Art Institute of Chicago (contemporary art fans might like MCA),  one of the best museums in the country; and I think the Building Formerly Known As the Sears Tower is fun. The Magnificent Mile is a great place to see shoppers and take in a festive scene (stop at the Ghirardelli for a hot cocoa, trust me).  Since it's been a while since I've lived there, I'll throw the rest of this question out to the 'nuts:  Anyone have any fantastic restaurant/bar recommendations in Chicago?

Hey Guys, I'm sure you get this question a lot but we're planning a birthday dinner at Rosa Mexicano for our friend and are looking for something to do afterwards. We went to Redline last year so we're looking for something similar in terms of vibe. Thanks!

In that area, I'm a fan of going to the downstars bar at Hill Country. Good music (generally free), a late-night happy hour after 10 p.m., and lots of tables. Depending on the number of people, you might want to call ahead.

The upstairs "Brewer's Lounge" at District Chophouse has a cool pool-and-sofas vibe, though it's not as busy as Redline tends to be, if you want to mingle outside your group. For that, I'd head for Iron Horse Tap Room, where, again, depending on the size of your group, you can either reserve a private area, such as the small room overlooking the main bar, or take your chances trying to grab seats at a bar without reservations. The place is big enough that it shouldn't be too hard.

Some friends and I are looking to venture out into the cold to watch the Texans take on the Bears on Sunday night. We are a little bored of our regular Lou's/Ventor's for games in our neighborhood. Are there any other bars with SNF specials that won't be too crowded since it seems the federal government has Monday off? We are all in the Columbia Heights area but would be willing to go anywhere in the district. Thanks!

Two ways to go about this: First, you can go to a bar that supports one of those teams: Hill Country for the Texans (yeah, I know they show the Cowboys too) or Union Pub for the Bears. Both have plenty of drink specials and a better atmosphere than a neutral bar. (You don't have to know the words to "Bear Down Chicago Bears" to have a good time at Union Pub, trust me.)

If you're just looking for a place showing the game, there are no shortage of options, including Public Bar, the Mighty Pint, Duffy's or even Dodge City. There are more options on our list of NFL bars.

Ok - so a group (there will be 7 of us, mostly men) of college friends are coming up from Richmond, which they do fairly regularly. And I am on deck for coming up with somewhere hip and trendy to eat and dance. H street is off the list, as we live right by there and take them out there ALL the time. For reference, last time they were in town we went to Bandalero and ended up at 18th st. lounge - so they like to go big and very trendy. And I am all out of ideas!! please please please give me some guidance!

Got it -- while Mintwood Place is hot hot hot, it might be a little formal for your crowd; so I'll also throw in Pearl Dive, which is boisterous and right in the middle of 14th Street, and The Pig (worth it, by the way, to read the review, just for all the synonyms for pork that Justin Rude had to come up with). If you liked ESL, afterward,  I can't think of a place hotter right now than Tropicalia to do your dancing. Just take it easy on those caipirinhas, guys; I am still cursing my poor choice to have a few of those a few weeks ago. 

Heading to Adam Carolla at the Warner Theater tonight! Looking for a place nearby where we can grab a couple drinks before and maybe a bit. Not so much a sit down dinner though, just someplace fun and casual. Suggestions? Thanks!

Well, at the Warner, you're right across the street from Chef Geoff's, which has a tremendous happy hour until 7 p.m.: Beer-battered picks, fried mac and cheese, burgers for less than $6, giant 34-ounce "Supermugs" of beer for $8.95 ... It's fun and busy.

You're also not far from Shelly's Backroom, which is a cigar bar, but is cool for smoked wings and a beer or an Old Fashioned. And while it's not a go-to by any means, the Elephant and Castle pub around the corner on Pennsylvania Ave. does British beers on tap and passable pub food if you just want appetizer-sized fish and chips or something like that.

Gurus - I need your help! I've been out of the DC bar/club game for a while. My 30th birthday is coming up and I want to dance like I'm 22 again. DC is ever changing and the hotspots of yesteryear are no longer. Any suggestions for a Saturday night? I'm into all kinds of music (electro-pop, hip-hop, top 40's, etc.). But I don't want to be surrounded by barely legals. Thanks!

I've been loving the vibe at Little Miss Whiskey's, so I'll say that. (I got tired of the crowds for a while, but I'm enjoying it again, moreso than Rock and Roll Hotel's cramped upstairs dance parties. ) The DJs switch up frequently enough to keep things interesting.

The problem is that the Top 40 parties tend to draw a younger crowd, while the more esoteric nights of Brazilian, or Afropop or even rarer house/funk have an older demographic. I had a blast at 1920 the other night, with classic hip-hop playing all night. Lots of fun. And Axel F at Liv -- which, granted, features my Nightlife Agenda-writing co-hort Rhome Anderson of the Poem-Cees -- is ridiculously fun if you like old-school '80s.

Hi, guys, in case you haven't noticed - we're having some serious technical problems. We're answering your questions, and they're not showing up. Bear with us :)

The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is awesome. I liked it much more than the Field Museum. You MUST go to the original Billy Goat Tavern (lower level of N. Michigan Ave.) for the Chezeborger! Chezeborger! experience. It's also a great dive bar atmosphere. I was there with a group of 10 people and our shared bar tab after 2hrs was less than $100. seriously. I would also reccomend Cantina Laredo on North State Street for surpisingly good, fresh TexMex food and margaritas.

In Chicago in December: See if Second City is doing their holiday show yet. Go no matter what show they are doing. Also, DON'T MISS the Chicago Christkindl Market:

15th Anniversary today! Just got word that my in-laws are paying for dinner and watching the kids (WAHOO). Any advice on good place to go? I work in Clarendon and and hubby coming from Ffx Co. Would like a fun place with cocktails and noms. Nothing over-the-top chic, but since we aren't payin', money is no object! Also - NO Great American restaurants (Mikes, Ernies, etc.)

How about the new Fuego? We're hearing excellent things about this restaurant so far (housemade tortillas, actually spicy Mexican food....)

What is the deal with The Dunes? A band I like is playing there, but there is no info on times and prices on the Dunes website, and they don't answer their phone. Is it worth a trip on show night?

I like the Dunes quite a bit, though it's a pretty free-form space, very casual, quiet shows. I do find that it's best to try to check out their Facebook page, which usually has all the details and is up to date. 


Little Serrow 

Hey guys - My dad is coming to town this weekend and I think he would really love Little Serrow. Also, he is the only person I know who is ok with no substitutions. We are going to see "Woody Sez" at the DCJCC on Saturday night. Would you recommend trying to eat before or after? (The play starts at 8pm.) How can we get in on time and see the play? Should I have a backup plan? Thanks! 

Fritz Hahn:

I would not -- not -- plan on doing Little Serrow on any night where I had tickets for something else at a certain time. There are just too many variables to consider in the equasion. You don't know how long it's going to take to get seating, and once you're at the table, your meal stretches out, thanks to seven courses that show up when they're ready. It's not like you'll be in-and-out in 90 minutes, even if you're there at 5 and seated soon after 5:30. 

As for after, Woody Sez runs around 90 minutes, and Little Serrow does its last seating at 10 -- with people getting those tables sometimes putting their names down around 6:30 or 7. So that's out too.

If you can get to Toki Underground early (5:30-6, you won't have much of a problem getting tables without a reservation; our restaurant reviewer Justin Rude is still recommending Boqueria for a ton of small plates for sharing.


So, guys, we see about a million questions here left to answer, and our answers to you aren't showing up live. So we're going to end the chat, and publish your questions and our answers online in one big GOG blog post by 3 p.m. today. We'll leave this chat open till then, so continue to submit questions if you'd like.  So please check back there. So sorry. Please join us next Thursday when we promise to be up and working.

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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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