Got Plans? The Going Out Gurus were joined by Lauren Winter and Brian Miller of the bar and restaurant design firm Edit.

Feb 16, 2012

Got Plans? Lauren Winter and Brian Miller of the bar and restaurant design firm Edit joined the Going Out Gurus to discuss bar design and aesthetics, new projects and the Washington D.C. scene.

Hello everyone, and welcome to Got Plans. We're excited this week to have bar and restaurant designers Lauren Winter and Brian Miller as our guests. They're the duo behind Edit, the firm that has put its mark on American Ice Company, Boundary Stone, Blackbyrd Warehouse, the Gibson, Rogue 24 and other popular bars and restaurants. (They're also working on the forthcoming Chez Billy in Petworth, Daikaya in Chinatown and Tom Power's Velour/Herringbone restaurant, among others.) You can read more about them and their work on the GOG Blog.

Today, we're also giving away a pair of tickets to DCypher Dance's "Access Granted," a dance performance that's part of the Atlas Performing Arts Center's upcoming Intersections festival. To win, just tell us where to find the most stylish public restroom in the D.C. area and what makes it so special. (We've made our own list if you need inspiration.)

And with that, let's get started.

Would love to hear more about the work you're currently (and will be) doing with Eric Hilton. What's the inside scoop on the projects you're working on? Also, LOVE what you did at Dickson with the wine bottles!

A few places coming up from Eric & Ian Hilton's restaurant group:

Chez Billy, 3815 Georgia Ave NW: a French bistro & bar in two connected early 20th century buildings that used to house Billy Simpson's, a restaurant with a fascinating history from the civil rights era. We've had to completely rebuild this place due to years of vacancy and water damage, but it's great to see so much new invenstment in Petworth.

Satellite Room, 2047 9th St NW: A very casual bar and restaurant adjacent to the 9:30 Club, we took inspiration from old Las Vegas and have some interesting details that tie into that. Should be a fun place to grab a drink and burger before or after a show.

the Brixton, 901 U St NW: Two levels of dining and bar plus a roof deck with amazing views, this will have a pub feel but pay homage to the cultural mix of London's Brixton neighborhood.


A friend and I are planning on going to Spelling Buzz at Rock and Roll Hotel for the first time tomorrow. I understand that sign-up begins at 6, but how fast does this fill up (to the max 40 participants)? If we get in a little later (we both work out in the 'burbs), do we still have a chance to play? And if we don't get in - what would be a fun alternative on H St?

I think this is really variable, based on the weather, the week, who's playing downstairs ... I've been to the Hotel's drunken spelling bee on nights when all the slots are filled before 7, and nights when there are still spaces available at 7:45.

If you don't get in, head down to the Pug, where you can quiz each other from the Trivial Pursuit cards on the bar and, because the Pug is celebrating its birthday this week, serving "liberally poured whiskey shots" on Friday night.

Everytime I find a bar that strikes the balance of not empty but not too crowded on the weekend the place seems to get popular and lose whatever initially attracted me. I'm thinking a place where it's possible to go in with a few friends, talk to them, meet other people, have a decent shot of grabbing a bar stool or get a drink at the bar without wading through a crowd three deep. Science Club used to be my default and it seems to have gotten much more popular. Last time I tried to go to Marvin on a weekend around midnight I couldn't move. Two weeks ago I went to Dickson with just one other person and couldn't find a spot to really even stand. Where should I be going now before they get too popular as well? What places have I maybe written off and should go back to as the popularity shifts somewhere else?

Everywhere in the city can be a great laid back hangout if you time your visit right. Marvin is not going to be a place to grab a few barstools and catch up with friends at midnight on a weekend, but at dinnertime the roof deck is a great place to post up. On a busy Saturday night you can find us at restaurant and hotel bars that may have an earlier crowd, or neighborhood places like Room 11 and Rustik.

Timing is everything. I remember Tom Sietsema once said that if he were a regular Joe, he wouldn't go to a place that the Post had just reviewed for at least a couple of weeks.

D.C. has this insatiable need for new bars, new restaurants, new everything, and they're all packed right off the bat. (I can tell you that I always check out new places at peak weekend times for a review, and it's one of my least favorite parts of the job -- pushing past 10 people to try to get to the bar is rarely fun.) I was supposed to go to a new place on the other night, and a friend texted to say not to bother because it was such a .... zoo. On a weeknight.

So what I would suggest is go back to places that no one has talked about in a while, and places that aren't right in the middle of a hot neighborhood. When was the last time you thought about about Acre 121 in Columbia Heights, booths in the back of the first-floor bar at DC9, even Gazuza or Gua-Rapo?

Going to see Cosi Fan Tutti later this month--do you recommend eating at the Kennedy Center or are there any better pre-theater places in the walkable vicinity (likely driving and parking at Kennedy Center if that matters).

In his chat this week, Tom Sietsema noted that the new District Commons adds to the eating options near the Kennedy Center (though admittedly, the walk from Washington Circle, will be a little less breezy this time of year than in the spring). We'd add to that Notte Bianche and Dish and Drinks. And if you're taking Metro and then the shuttle to KenCen, you could always increase your options by dining in Foggy Bottom; there is that Circa there now.

Dear GOGs, My younger sister (31 yo) and some of her teacher friends will be in D.C. for a conference, and want me to take them out dancing on a Saturday night. Since I am now a not-as-cool married lady, I'm not sure where to take them. I definitely am not interested in Adams Morgan. I like the U Street area, but am not sure where to dance other than Patty Boom Boom. H Street is a little complicated transportation-wise. Do you have any suggestions?

U Street Music Hall -- which Brian is a partner in, for full disclosure -- is the best small dance club in the city, possibly the East Coast. Blackbyrd gets some dancing, depending on the DJ and the night. Pure is the spot for hip-hop on the strip, and you'll also find people grooving on the small floor at Dodge City (mostly old soul and funk) or the rooftop at Nellie's.

Any chance this movie will get enough distribution to make it to the DC area? IMDB says it was on 14 screens as of February 14th.

Yes, "Coriolanus" will screen at West End Cinema beginning Friday, but given the rave reviews, subject matter and star-studded cast, I can't imagine it stays that way for long. Ann Hornaday gives it four stars in tomorrow's Weekend section. 

Do bar/restaurant owners consider things like a hook for your purse or coat? I don't think I would not go to a bar that didn't have them, but I would be more inclined if they did.

In general we love anyplace that has room for jackets/purses or chairs and barstools that make it easy to hang such items.

It's always something owners think about, but there are a couple different approaches - we can understand that a place where people tend to move around more may not want patrons to store personal belongings as it can make theft easier.

I have a question for the architects. In recent years, it seems like Tom and the Gurus and their readers keep bringing up how LOUD every restaurant is. It seems as though it's impossible to go out to dinner and talk to friends and family without yelling the whole time. Do you think this trend will ever die? Is this something that restaurant owners specifically ask for?

It's not something owners specifically ask for, but in recent years a move toward more casual places means less upholstery, carpeting, curtains, and other materials that soak up sound. We think the perfect sound level is one where you can hear the people you're with but not the people at the next table, but that's hard to achieve and even one rowdy party of six can throw the balance off for a whole restaurant.

Are owners going to try for quieter places? Well, the loud places are the popular ones, and no owner wants an empty room...

Oh wise gurus...I am looking for a fun date idea for Saturday night in DC. Any suggestions (and let's face it, better if alcohol is part of the plans). I'm not opposed to dinner at a restaurant, just looking for somewhere that is more unique than a regular dinner out. Can ya help me out?!

Since I don't know anything about your date's likes and dislikes, I'm just going to riff. How about Neal Brennan at Arlington Cinema -- he's one of the writers from "Chappelle's Show," the one, in fact, who coined the phrase  "I'm Rick James, [expletive]." (Which still has real-life applications, to this day...) Of course, that one is assuming your date isn't the squeamish type. But comedy always seems to get daters in a good mood. If you could wait till Sunday --  most of us have Monday off anyway -- the funk-soul party Daylight returns to Liv and should be a blast.  

Can't go wrong with provocative mosaics on the wall...

Unless people actually try to steal the art!

Hey guys, love your stuff! What are some other places (restaurants/bars/coffee places) in DC that you particularly like the design of?

There are some places in DC that have a really great feel and are always make us feel great, like Buck's Fishing & Camping, Toki Underground, Proof (where Lauren's husband works), Clyde's, and Off The Record.

Some divey places would never claim to have great design, but just have the right atmosphere and couldn't feel more right, like Velvet Lounge, the Black Cat, and Stan's.


My boyfriend and I are sadly broke at the same time. Any suggestions on things to do Sunday Night that don't cost a lot? Thanks!

The J Dilla tribute at U Street Music Hall is probably one of the best events around town on Sunday, and you can have your whole evening paid for with $10 each. That's not too shabby. 

Do you or anyone in the chat have experience with party bus companies such as Keg Bus or Girls Night Out? We're pricing some out for a bachelorette party this Spring but don't know anyone personally who has used them. On paper the idea seems great - nobody has to drive and they (allegedly) get you into bars with no cover charges. Thoughts??

I took a trip on the Boomerang Bus for a story, and everyone I've talked to then and since has had good things to say. You don't drive, you get into bars without waiting in line, you get cheap drinks. The downside is that you don't generally know which bars you're going to in advance, so you could go to Blackfinn, Public Bar and the Rhino Bar, or you could find yourself at Rumors. Kind of a roll of the dice unless you're booking the whole thing for yourself, in which case you can help choose the bars. (This is a good bet for more than 30 people; otherwise, it's not cost-efficient.)

Love the open-facing men's and ladies' room sinks at Lyon Hall in Clarendon. As a man with many female friends, I can finally share in the intimacy of being excused from the table together and having a moment to share a private thought before returning. Yet the setup is classy enough to keep the personal arrangements, well, personal.

The men's room at Estadio for one exceptional element: a framed poster of the front cover of the Pixies' Sufer Rosa. Awesome album. Awesome cover!

I will cosign this 100 percent.

Hey GOGs! You all never let me down so I come to you seeking some direction. My friend is coming to town this weekend - she is from Indiana but used to live here in DC, so we have done the typical touristy thing. She is currently an architectual grad student .... and we love us some beer and wine. We have all day Friday for an out of town trip and the day Saturday. Any ideas how to combine her interests and our love of booze, while keeping in mind a limited budget? THANKS!

This city has some great architecture that's free/cheap, but there's too much security to brown bag it. We'd suggest grabbing a bite and a few drinks at lunchtime and then walking down to the Mall for both wings of the National Gallery of Art and the tunnel between them, the courtyard of the Freer, the Botanic Gardens, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Building Museum. And the spaces are even more impressive when you're carrying a little buzz.

Hi GOGs! Really looking forward to the long weekend ahead and my boyfriend and I want to do something fun and different. Willing to drive for a daytrip somewhere, but local is cool too. Things we like? Breweries and wineries (tried to get tix to Flying Dog but all sold out!), comedy clubs, eating out, sports, staying active, etc. Things we probably wouldn't be events/galleries/artsy things. Some friends may be joining us so it need not be couple-y. Would love your thoughts!

It's no secret that we love the Charlottesville area for this; great food, cool vibe, and yes, local breweries and wineries that are more established than you'll find elsewhere in the state. First, check out the itinerary we created, and our list of restaurants/hangouts to hit. Then, since you'll be sipping, you probably want a place to stay; since you're not in the market for a romantic getaway, my advice is check out  Living Social/Groupon to see whether there are some deals for that.  They always seem to have hotel deals close to home.

My friend and I usually go out for a fancy meal each March to celebrate our birthdays, but this year want to do something a little different. We thought of visiting one of DC's neighborhoods for some food, shopping, music, bar-hopping - whatever. U Street and the Atlas District look fun, but I wonder if we'll seem out of place. We're more Helen Mirren than Cloris Leachman, but still.

I don't think you'd look out of places getting cocktails at Atlas Room or Church & State, having dinner at Liberty Tree or the Queen Vic or Sushi Rice, catching up over drinks at the Argonaut, watching burlesque shows at Red Palace, getting a slice of lemon chess pie at Dangerously Delicious ... Now, if we were talking about late-night raving at the Rock and Roll Hotel or Little Miss Whiskey's, it could be a different story. But there are more than 20-somethings singing at Sticky Rice's karaoke.

I used Chariots for Hire for a birthday party and had a great experience! For about 30 people, we each paid about $35 and it was a full size bus, but I know they have smaller ones. Totally worth it! They picked us up and dropped us off wherever we wanted - we just had to have a semi finalized agenda to them about a week in advance. Aaaaand you can bring whatever food/drink on the bus and your own party music.

More for the bachelorette planners. Thanks.

If you are using merriam webster's definition of style: a distinctive manner of expression, then nothing is more "stylish" (or scary) than the bathroom in Dan's Cafe. Nothing says distinct like a wall of chewed up gum!

Gross and pedantic, but true.

Is the trend still towards having open kitchen restaurants (where patrons) can see how the food is being prepared, or is that passee

There's less of a feel that everywhere should have open kitchens these days - it suits some concepts and not others. Some chefs love being able to see everyone who walks into their restaurant, some want to be able to focus on the cooking and nothing else. Dining rooms feel great with  some of the sound and energy that comes from an open kitchen, but anyone who's worked in a kitchen knows the sounds aren't always good ones.

Hi GoG's! My friend, who works in retail, surprisingly has Monday off next week and would love to go out for brunch. Do you know of any places that will have President's Day Brunch? Belga Cafe's menu looks divine, but alas we are hoping to stick to NW. Thanks!

Well, in keeping with the President's Day theme, there's Lincoln, which is, like, practically obligated to mark the occasion. They're doing brunch all day, and DJ Adrian Loving spinning.

I am going to Josephine w/ a group of friends on Sat. We are late 20s-early 40s. Is this a good place for that age group? Looking to drink & dance, but not w/ a bunch of 18 or 21 yr olds. Trying to figure out what the vibe is there, what type of music they play & what we should wear. Can you also suggest another location nearby in case we don't like Josephine? Thank you!

Josephine is not a place where many 21-year-olds go, simply because it's pricey. (Tables are in the $500-$1000 minimum range.) The vibe is upscale clubbing, dressy, ready to party. The music is house, a little techno.

Are you aware of any mug clubs in thd DC area? ...the type of place where you maybe pay a price annually and then have 'your' mug hanging on their back wall, or something along those lines???

Iron Horse Tap Room and Bailey's are among the places I know that have their own mugs -- you buy a membership, they keep a mug for you. It's larger than the usual pint glass, and you don't pay for the extra booze -- it's a benefit of membership.

Rock Bottom's mug club is kind of similar, though it's free to join. You show your card at the bar and get a 22-ounce beer for the price of a 16-ounce beer. The difference is that it's not "your" mug -- it's just an oversized mug that you get to sip from. Not bad, though.

The Library of Congress -- Jefferson Building. Spotless, well-appointed, and soothing. Ideal for keeping your hands immaculate before you leaf through historic treasures in the Reading Room!

This is a good answer. And so thoughtful.

For Lauren and Brian, It seems the current trend for bars and restaurants is industrial or minimalist design. That translates to a lot of hard surfaces, exposed ceilings, and a lack of tablecloths. So that means many of these new bars and restaurants are extremely loud and noisy because there's nothing to absorb sound. I hate having to yell to the person across from me. Liveliness vs. being too loud are different things. And frankly, it seems like an afterthought for some places. How do you design these spaces with the customers enjoyment and ability to have conversations in mind? Love the candle-light of the Gibson! Thanks.

Trying to design for conversation in a place with more industrial feel is tough! Nobody wants to sit in a place with white acoustical ceiling tiles that feels like their office, so how do you hide the sound treatment? In one new place we're working on we're putting in large sound panels that are covered with artwork on canvas. At the Gibson we broke up the ceiling with deep coffers and fabric panels that quiet the room.

Sometimes there's just nowhere good to put sound attenuating materials - unfortunately the same materials that are good at absorbing sound are good at absorbing spilled drinks and food.

I want to take out a few friends for helping me through a rough patch. I was thinking a two hour long happy hour (not full on dinner but more than just drinks) for about $35 a person. Would that be possible anywhere in Bethesda/Chevy Chase that is not a loud sports bar?

Aren't you a thoughtful person. Tomorrow's happy hour of the week is in Bethesda, actually: The rejiggered happy hour at Rock Bottom Bethesda with $2 off all beer and wine from 5 to 7 after work, so you'll pay less than $3.50 per drink. Get some big nacho or appetizer platters int he little upstairs pool room and you'll be set.

Could also take them to Freddie's Lobster and Clams, which has a bunch of after-work specials on weekdays, including $10 for a craft beer and a box of clam strips, and $2.50 beers when you purchase a lobster roll.

Where would you go?

Ahh, I was just there and had a nice dinner at Bollywood Bistro, which is an Indian restaurant that's underrated (my guess is that it's so far from D.C.) They do a crispy palak chaat that awfully similar to Rasika's, but spiked with green mango (and uh, about half the price), and their bread basket is also to die for, as was the gulab jamun. Personally, I might ask for a little more fire next time I go, but then I just ate Sweetgreen's February salad covered in double-dose of sriracha...  After dinner you can head over to the Wine House wine bar...

Green Turtle in chinatown has a mug club, they have hundreds of numbered mugs hanging above the bar

Slipped my mind. Thanks.

Why does it seem that every bar has to change the locks on their bathroom stalls and doors multiple times, even brand new bars seem to have to change the locks

I once asked this question of a bartender at a dive bar with a perennially broken bathroom door lock. His response was that people always came up and shook the lock to see if the bathroom was unoccupied, and then they shook it again to make sure it was locked, and if no one came out within another minute they shook it again to tell whomever was in the bathroom that there was someone waiting impatiently outside. Occasionally they'd kick the door to get it to open.

Needless to say, these people were/are frequently drunk. 

Maybe a stupid question, but is it possible to do Charlotteville without a car? Or should I just suck it up and rent one? Thanks!

You're going to have to suck it up. Things are actually quite close to each other (the breweries are within a mile or two of the wineries, etc.) but you still need a car to get from place to place. Also, it's pretty fun to stop at a few wineries on the way down - there's Blenheim, owned by Dave Matthews (yes, that Dave Matthews) and Barboursville, which is frequently mentioned as one of the best in the state, thanks to its Octagon wine. This is all actually kind of making me want to head down myself, for journalistic purposes, of course....

Where do you find the artifacts and art for your projects?

Usually we find things in conjunction with the owners - it's got to be part of a shared vision. At American Ice Company and the Brixton we've worked with Joe Reza, who also builds custom furniture and is a genius at finding offbeat items that suit the bar's concept and style.

We always find inspiration at places like Miss Pixie's and Goodwood in DC, Second Chance and Housewerks (Baltimore), and Community Forklift (Hyattsville).

Hi- I need help please! Planning a bachelorette party for a fun 30 year old. There will be 13 other 30 somethings who are looking to drink (shots are ok as are classy cocktails) and dance to fun music (no techno!). Any suggestions? Thought POV would fit the bill but they are closed on March 17. Need to be aware of march madness and St. Patty's crowds on that day. Thanks!!

Oh God. This is the perfect storm: March Madness, St. Patrick's Day, a bachelorette party and a Saturday night. Does your party *have* to be on the 17th?

Metallic Beads on the entryway? Awesome.


hmm. it looks like they are doing their Pres. Day Brunch on Sunday, not Monday. Is that the case? I think we're going with Belga anyway- their winter brunch menu is too amazing to pass up!

Ahh, you're totally right. Silly me, assuming a "President's Day Brunch" would actually be on President's Day. Sorry about that. Another place near Belga to consider is Ted's Bulletin. A caveat about Eastern Market Metro -- there is some Orange and Red Line work this weekend, and even though Eastern Market isn't on the hit list, I found the last time that I ventured onto the Orange Line there during track work, my non-drinking brunch cost me four hours out of my day. 

As a newer resident of Petworth/Park View I just wanted to let you know how much we are looking forward to Chez Billy opening. With Looking Glass Lounge (dive bar), Blue Banana (sports & live music) and DC Reynolds (american restaurant) to open soon I'm excited to see Petworth become a great neighborhood and destination spot. Thank you!

Thanks, we're very excited about the uniqueness of Chez Billy and its addition to the neighborhood.

I'm also interested in a Char'ville get-away, but the link you posted does not work for me.

Thanks for the heads-up! There's a tech blip happening, but we're getting it sorted out, and that link will be up and working temporarily. In the meantime, how about some bathrooms? I like the luxe ones myself - Brasserie Beck's is awfully nice!

Once a month my husband and I get to go on a date thanks to a babysitting group. We only have three hours, 5-8. It seems early for some things (performances, etc.) but late for others (galleries, etc.). Any ideas for things (other than eating) that we could do? Thanks! And yes, because of the time constraint, the closer to Rockville, the better, although certainly anything in MoCo would be fine.

Have you been to VisArts in Rockville? Their galleries are open until 9 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and they frequently have exhibits, painting and drawing classes (with wine), poetry and live music (first Thursday of the month), etc. Pair that with happy hour at Gordon Biersch, and you're set.

You can always make more babies...

My husband and I are having a staycation for the long weekend. Any fun activities going on that we shouldn't miss? We are open to anything, preferably in DC. Thanks!

Here's the Going Out Gurus' Best Weekend Bets list. Really like the sound of Neal Brennan -- the comedy writer behind a lot of "Chapelle's Show" -- and the barleywine festival at Pizzeria Paradiso, and the tribute to Don Cornelius of Soul Train at Liv.

The Brixton sounds great, any word on when it'll be open? I'm hoping in time for the beautiful, sunny spring weather. -the eternal optimist

Apparently the Hiltons are eternal optimists, too, because they're talking about opening in March. I think it'll be later in the spring than that.

Planning to get my parents tix to see Memphis when it comes to the Kennedy Center this summer for their anniversary in March. Any suggestions for a restaurant near-ish to get a gift certificate for din to go with it (where a $50 gift card could pay for most/all of dinner)? Thx! ps - I can't totally remember why...but I remember being obsessed with the bathrooms at Coco Sala!

Haha, were there chocolate fountains? I think for the $50 to feed two people, you might consider something casual/fun rather than fancy. Again, I'd check District Commons, but perhaps you could convince them Burger, Tap and Shake is hip and fun. And of course, there's Founding Farmers.

I know it's late but I want to second the recommendation for Dish & Drinks. A great pre-theater menu and a very easy walk to the Kennedy Center afterwords.

Cool, thanks!

If I'm not too late: make a reservation! I live in the neighborhood and it's next to impossible to not wait a long time after 830am. Yes, even on Sunday or Holiday. If you're ok with 30-60 minutes wait, go for it, otherwise call ahead. Caveat: if it's just two to three the bar is usually has a couple of seats open.

Thanks to everyone who joined us today, and thanks to Lauren Winter and Brian Miller of Edit for talking about bar design and upcoming hotspots.

We liked all the bathroom suggestions, and we're giving the theater tickets to the reader who suggested the Library of Congress' restrooms. Send your name and contact information of and we'll hook you up.

See you next Thursday.

In This Chat
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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