Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Guide

Nov 14, 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. It's a bright, lovely and chilly Thursday -- just as it should be in November. We've got a lot to talk about today: Will you check out the new "Anchorman" exhibit at the Newseum? Did you try Impala Cantina's new Impaloca? Would you eat sliders riding on ramen buns?

We're ready to take all your going-out related questions ... beginning now.

My train leaves at noon on Saturday. Do you have any recommendations for a weekend breakfast or brunch (but I can't wait until 11:30!) near or in Union Station? A place that takes reservations is preferred, since there may be up to six of us, one of whom is notoriously impatient. Thank you!

You definitely want to head to Art & Soul. They open at 7:30 a.m. for breakfast on weekends! It's just a short walk to the station.

I really appreciate your support of new theater in DC. Thank you. You also do a good job telling people that they need to turn off their cell phones before a performance. Good job on that, and I'm sure the actors appreciate it too. However, it seems that some of the special flowers that attend your performances can't resist checking messages during intermission and don't turn their phones off when they are done. You might think about doing a second announcement at the end of intermission before the play starts up again. Just a suggestion, and know that I don't blame you for the woman who left her phone on and when it rang towards the end of the show, she just ran over to the side of the theater, and fished around in her bag while the phone kept ringing despite the fact that there was an exit door a few feet from where she stopped. I blame her. But you might be able to help with that second announcement. Have a great day.

Here's a PSA from a theatergoer, and I'll add to it - no texting during the show! Everyone else in the audience can see your screens light up, even if you hide them in your purse. And actors have told me that they can see it from the stage, too.

Hello Gurus, I'm organizing a get-together at Port City Brewery for my boyfriend's birthday next Saturday afternoon. Following the beer tasting, we'd like to head into Old Town to continue the celebration. Do you have any suggestions for pubs or bars that might be able to accommodate our group? Thanks!

I'd call the Light Horse. Their upstairs bar has areas that could easily accomodate your group, and if you give them enough notice, they can even reserve a section exclusively for you. (And they have good beer, to continue the theme.)

Second choice would be Daniel O'Connell's, because that sprawling pub frequently has room to spread out.

We need to take our family's Christmas card photo this Saturday. Can you recommend an outdoor spot that is already decorated for the holidays? If nothing cra to mind, any other creative photo locations are appreciated. Anywhere in DC, VA or MD is fine.

Christmas begins on Saturday at National Harbor. I bet they will have some perfectly-trimmed trees and lights for your photo op. I'll throw this out to the chatters, too - anyone know of any other locations that will be decorated by Saturday?

The outlet stores at the national harbor open next week. How bad do you think the crowds are going to be? I know national harbor pretty well but I can't for the life of me figure out where these shops are. That area is already pretty congested so isn't finding parking going to be more of a nightmare than it is already?

First things first: The shops are not actually AT the National Harbor development. They're on Oxon Hill Road, closer to Oxon Hill Manor and the Beltway than the Gaylord and the Potomac. (They're not walking distance, in other words.) The outlets have their own parking lots, so that shouldn't be a problem.

I'd expect it to be pretty crowded for the first few weekends, especially with holiday shoppers and sales targeting them.

Hi! I have a ridiculously specific question. My 7-month-old is just starting to crawl. Before winter sets in for good and we still have some nice days I'd love to do something outside, but I hate that he's always cooped up in his stroller when we go out. Are there any playgrounds (or other activities) in the area that are appropriate for older infants? We live in Hill East but are willing to travel a bit. Thanks!

I sent your question to Weekend's On Parenting expect Amy Joyce. She writes:

Try the pizza playground at the zoo, then take him up the hill a bit to the seal area. He can crawl by the tanks as the seals dive and swim right at his eye level. You also could dip into Amazonia, where the very large fish that swim at eye level are entrancing for crawlers.

If you're looking for good playgrounds not necessarily in your neighborhood (assuming you know everything there), Livingston Park is a good one for older infants, as it has the rubberized play area and baby swings. In fact, most neighborhoods have good playgrounds for new crawlers. I've always liked the toddler playground at Lafayette in Chevy Chase D.C.

You could also let him crawl around Rock Creek Park and enjoy watching ducks swim by, play in the leaves, and enjoy the sunshine while you can. 

Hello Gurus! A group of 6 to 8 of us meet monthly for a book club. We take turns hosting and unfortunately, my studio apartment is not big enough for all of us. Do you have any ideas for some bars that could fit us seated during happy hour on a Wednesday or Thursday? It doesn't have to be quiet but needs to be somewhat less noisy for discussion purposes. Thanks so much!

Hi! Basically, you need a bar that is neighborhoody, but not too swamped with a happy hour crowd. If you live near 14th Street, my first thought was Bar Di Bari - there are always seats when I walk by, you guys can get inexpensive wine, and they always have freelancers camped out with laptops there, so they won't mind if you linger for a while. Or maybe Bistro Bohem would let you guys use the cafe space? Fritz chimes in to add the Queen Vic, where he has previously seen book clubs gather, and upstairs at the Board Room.

I am planning a happy hour for one of our coworkers who is leaving. My office has never socialized together after work before, and I doubt many of my colleagues ever socialize, in general. Where can I take a group of 10-15 people with ages ranging from 30-70 (most in the 50-70 range) in the Penn Quarter/Downtown area? It will be on a Thursday and will probably run from 5-7:30. I'd rather find a bar with enough space for a few of them to sit at a boring bar/restaurant than go somewhere cool. Thanks!

That's happy hour time, so many places will be at least a little busy. I'd suggest upstairs at District Chophouse, where there are tables and couches at which to sit, house-made beers to talk about (at happy hour prices, no less) and pool tables if conversation isn't working. (And there's a swingin' Sinatra/big band soundtrack, too.)

Iron Horse Tap Room's basement would also fit the bill, though it's a little louder than Chophouse. But there's always seating at happy hour, and there's plenty of room.

I might also suggest the patio at Poste at the Hotel Monaco -- they've just kicked off their winter patio hours, which mean hot cocktails, fondue and firepits outdoors. It's definitely something different.

You may want to try Flatiron Steak and Saloon. I have only been there for Sunday brunch (good huevos rancheros) but it seems to have the vibe you are looking for. And Light Horse can get crazed.

I haven't been to Flatiron since the summer, when it was brand new, and wasn't really feeling the bar scene. Good reminder that I should go back.

I know Light Horse can be packed on a Saturday night, but I figured that if the reader was asking for a Saturdary afternoon/early evening, it might not be too bad.

Maybe the courtyard at the American Art Museum / Portrait Gallery? Other groups meet there regularly (including a philosophy dicussion group on some Sundays.) But check both mueum calendars ahead of time to ensure that there isn't already some official museum event scheduled to take place there (such as the trivia contests.)

That is a good idea, but it will depend on what time they want to meet. It closes at 6:30, so a happy-hour book club might be a bit rushed. But for groups that meet earlier in the day, or anyone looking for a quiet refuge with free wi-fi, the courtyard is great!

Hi Gurus, it has been a bit chilly, though not as cold as I would have thought. Although, Fritz, the last couple of days we have been well below average for this time of year (can we still talk about averages when the temperatures are on a climate ride of their own). Anyway, at present, we are still about 10 degrees below average but heading back to near averages. All that aside, Barcelona on 14th street nw - those heat lamps on the patio look amazing, especially with the below-average temps. How is the place, though, from the inside out? I'm not talking about decor. Another question - why is Teds on 14th street more expensive than the one on the Hill? Please don't say it's because 14th street is more, more, more... ! Because all I hear about the Hill is how expensive homes are there. Something is a disconnect. Thanks.

Taking them one at a time:

1. I haven't really been impressed with Barcelona so far. Take the firepit on the patio: It's basically laid out so only one table in the whole place gets to enjoy the warmth. The cocktail menu is average. (I mean, it's a chain.)  And I'd rather snack at Estadio.

Tom wasn't impressed with it either.

But there aren't a ton of outdoor dining options on 14th Street.

As for Ted's: The new one is twice the size of the Capitol Hill original, and it's in a new building, which means the owners are paying more than they did for the original low-rise space on Barracks Row. (Another bonus: Ted's got in there when Eighth Street was kind of sleepy.)

If it's a game night (pretty often this time of year), I would think it's going to be crowded in a lot of places.

This is a very good point. And if that's the case, I'd say jettison my Iron Horse idea. I don't know why, but Proof/Chophouse/Poste are rarely overcrowded before sporting events. Maybe people don't feel comfortable going there in Ovi sweaters?

Thanks so much for taking my question on the chat today. I was pulled away for an impromptu budget meeting (bleh) so I wan't able to respond to your question. You are right, this Satuday night special, free abundant parking fairy tale doesn't exist; I was just trying to make sure I wasn't missing some obvious utopia, like Club Unicorn. We may just get buzzy at my house. Thanks!!

(This is referring to last week's question looking for a cool nightspot with dancing, drink specials and free parking on a Saturday night.)

I mean, I don't want to make anyone stay in on a Saturday night. I wouldn't be doing my job otherwise. If we look outside of Northwest D.C., there are places like Shirlington Village, where you can drink bourbon at Copperwood Tavern or Guinness at Samuel Beckett's while taking advantage of numerous parking garages AND Metro-accessible bus routes. I know people who drive to Ballston/Clarendon and park at the garages at the mall, or Clarendon Square, before hitting bars like Green Pig and Lyon Hall, or dancing at the Ballroom. (Just make sure you have a designated driver.) 

I am often looking for coffee shops and/or cafes to write in the District on evenings and weekends. I love Tryst, but is often loud in the evening, and does not have Wi-Fi on the weekends. Any suggestions?

You could try Tryst's sister restaurant, the Coupe, which is also 24/7. Also check out The Coffee Bar, near 14th Street, during the day on weekends - it's not open late at night, though. On 14th, there's Bar Di Bari, which is generous about letting people came out for long periods with their laptops (though the coffee at Coffee Bar is better), and it's open late.

Related: Here's our recent list of best coffeeshops.

Any good new nice pizza places in DC? Looking for good pizza in nice atmosphere near the metro (2 Amy's too far). Would Graffiato's be an option?

Ooh, you definitely want to go to Etto, which is one of the best new pizza places to open recently, and is from the folks behind 2 Amys. Tom loves, it, we all love it. If you can't get a seat there, check out Ghibellina across the street.

This may not be your target audience, but I am hoping for suggestions for kid-friendly activities relatively early in the morning. The tree-lighting festivities in the area are mostly pushing bedtime. We've had a great time at some local plant nurseries, of all places, but I'd love other ideas for an active kiddo who doesn't always want to sit sedately in the stroller!

Here's one for you: The Reston Holiday Parade, which takes place the Friday after Thanksgiving. The ice rink opens at 8:30 a.m., there's the Gingerbread Man Mile for kids who want to run around, and the parade with Santa, Mrs. Claus, floats, marching bands and all the bells and whistles starts at 11 a.m.

I've been a fan of the Botanic Gardens' holiday decorations since I was a kid, and the colorful display, which features trains chugging around buildings made from plant materials, opens at 10 a.m. daily.

Oh, and on Saturdays and Sundays, your tots can ride a trolley with Santa at the National Capital Trolley Museum. That's pretty cool. 

I appreciate your justification of the higher prices for the 14th location of Teds but while I understand your logic I do not agree. It's a chain, a semi-local chain. The thing about chains is that the consumer is supposed to know what you're going to get (consistency) though I know this town lacks understanding of this concept on all too many occasions. The thing is that Matchbox, also a semi-local chain, also opened on 14th just a little sooner on 14th (in fact, across the street, practically) - and had to deal with expensive retail costs, costs of building new a beautiful building, etc. I think there prices are consistent with the one in PQ - and Matchbox had the privilege of opening up in PQ when, well, it was rather sleepy and unspectacular. So I'm not sure how much, honestly, I buy your argument, alas.

I'm not justifying the prices or taking the side of Ted's. I didn't set the prices. Just offering one possible explanation.

My husband & I are looking for a nice meal to celebrate our 30th anniversary next Tuesday. Since we're staying at National Harbor thinking lunch or dinner there or in Old Town Alexandria.Is the water taxi still running between the two places? Thanks1

Yep - here's the info on the water taxi. You didn't ask specifically for recommendations for your anniversary meal, but I'll toss some out there anyway: Vermilion and Restaurant Eve are both worthy of a special-occasion splurge.

How about Clyde's or The Hamilton? Been to both with people in a wide age group, and folks seemed happy enough.

With a sporting event, not Clyde's. And I wouldn't do happy hour with a group at the Hamilton. It's crowded and the bar isn't conducive to being there with more than three other people if you want to converse. I like it for a date, or meeting friends before a show downstairs, but not with 15 people.

Hey there! My dad's good friend is bringing his wife and two daughters (25 and 18) to DC for Thanksgiving. They are from NYC, so fairly sophisticated, I would guess. I don't know them, but have been tasked with ideas for them over the weekend. I have suggested a bunch of museums, maybe check out 14th street for boutiques and cool you know if they can go to the Round Robin Bar and/or Off the Record with someone underage? I thought either would be a neat "Old DC" spot. Any other specific suggestions?

Most hotel bars are ok with adults accompanying underage guests, so I think you'll be OK. 14th Street is a good destination for boutiques and cool restaurants, as is Eastern Market or Union Market. You could also take them to the theater - maybe they'd be interested in seeing "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" at the Shakespeare Theatre, or the pre-Broadway premiere of "If/Then" with Idina Menzel at the National Theatre? For the latter, they'll get to see it way before their NYC friends do.

I work in the area and we almost always steer folks to breakfast at Bistro Bis if they need a sit down place near Union Station. (Full disclosure, I think Art & Soul is fine, but over-priced for what you get and the last time I was there for lunch the service was not great.)

Here's another suggestion for the early morning bruncher.

I haven't had a chance, yet, to try either Eat the Rich or Mockingbird Hill? Any first words or thoughts on either of these places? Should I save myself a couple of trips or what!? Thanks

We featured both places in our recent Shaw Neighborhood Guide. I think you should only make one trip, honestly. Go to Eat the Rich for oysters, whelks and a glass of wine or beer, then head next door for slices of rich iberico ham and a couple of glasses of sherry.

Or do that backwards. Either way, a fun night of moveable feasting.

The coffee shop writer might enjoy Coffy Cafe on 14th just above Park.

Thanks for this suggestion!

I work up in Silver Spring and have been tasked with planning a HH for 20 or so people. As a DC resident I don't get out here much. Do you have a recommendation for a reasonably priced HH spot for a big group?

My first choice would be Sidebar. You can reserve one of the "rooms" with couches for happy hour, and the cocktails and beers are top-notch. You might also call Scion and see if they can reserve part of the bar for you; their happy hour, with half-price craft beers and $5 wine by the glass, is one of the best in town.

I was thinking that Chez Billy in Petworth on a Saturday night might work. They have a little back room bar area that I think can be reserved. plus another bar upstairs and one on the back patio. Pretty sure they would have a DJ. Parking in that area isn't bad, and it's close to the green line and bus lines on Georgia. And there are other bars in the area they can walk to (Petworth Citizen, DC Reynolds, Looking Glass) if they want to mix it up.

Thanks, all. Sorry if we didn't get to your question this afternoon. We have to run -- here's a little preview of tomorrow's Weekend cover story on the burgeoning beer scene in Leesburg.

Post Points code: GG7694

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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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