Got Plans? The Going Out Gurus and ChurchKey Beer Director Greg Engert discussed beer, the Cherry Blossoms, nightlife, weekend outings and more.

Mar 22, 2012

Got Plans? The Going Out Gurus discussed fashion, nightlife, weekend outings and more.

Hi everyone. Welcome back to Got Plans. This week, we've got a very special guest: Greg Engert, the beer guru behind ChurchKey, Rustico and other perennial favorites. He was recently nominated for a James Beard award for "Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional" -- the only beer professional among the nominees. If you've got questions about finding the perfect beer, how beer bars work, the upcoming Bluejacket brewery by Yards Park … he's the man.

We're also joined by Kathy Orton, who helped put together the Post's excellent Cherry Blossom Guide, because we know many of you will have questions about the festival, which kicks off this weekend.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then let's begin.

I know Churchkey can get really, really crowded at happy hour, but what is the best time to come if we're hoping to get some guidance from Greg about specific beers?

Actually, happy hour time is the best time...I think because we were so packed from open to close for so long when we first opened, people presume that this is still the case. From 4pm until 7pm Monday-Friday is pretty quiet and the absolute best time to mull over some craft beer with myself or one of my dynamic, well-informed, personable and passionalte servers, bartenders and managers.

Hey Gurus, This is the first year that I'm going to Shamrockfest. What should I expect? Any events that I should definitely check out? Anything I should avoid? Any info you have would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

It's a giant party in a stadium parking lot with multiple stages, multiple beer tents, an "Irish Village" with fiddlers and games, a DJ/dance tent, carnival rides, the works. It's definitely an experience. Band-wise, locals Scythian and Boston's Dropkick Murphys are the bands to catch.

One piece of handy advice: In my experience, the beer tents that aren't next to the main stage or the Irish Village have the shortest lines.

Is the Maui Brewing Coconut Porter available locally?

Yes it is! You will find this brew mostly in 12 oz. cans throughout DC, VA, and MD (along with Mana Wheat, Bikini Blonde & Big Swell IPA). Occasionally we even get draft at ChurchKey in DC! Coconut Porter is really nice beer...especially when tasted blind. That's when you stop thinking of it as a one trick pony that just tastes like coconut (natural to do so due to the name)...blindly tasting showed me that expectations and judgements are very adjusted by names, brewery reputations, etc. I found this Porter quite intriguing when blind-tasted...the coconut offered so much nuanced complexity I could not put my finger on the flavor as obviously coconutty...give this a shot along side some other dark & roasty brews!

For those wondering what the heck Maui Coconut Porter is, it's doing quite well in the current Beer Madness competition.

Last winter in Paris we fell upon the Curio Parlor on the west bank. Excellent cocktails, dark rich colors, both tables and couches, the latter occupied by couples unafraid to share a long kiss. The bar's website, quickly resolves to a facebook page, but a google search does come up with lots of good reviews and images. Is there a similar bars in Washington: a little trendy, romantic and intimate? (Weekends the Curio Parlor turns into more of a packed dance club, thats not the goal here.) Thanks

Curio Parlor is run by the guys behind London's awesome Experimental Cocktail Club, FWIW.

D.C.-wise, I'd probably steer you towards a place like Church and State, the drinking den hidden above Fruit Bat on H Street. Really dark, nice corners, some sofas, fantastic drinks. And great for a couple, I think.

Greg, First off, I live in the neighborhood and am thrilled with what Churchkey and B&B have become. You guys have approval for a roofdeck that would transform the place from the best beer bar in DC, to perhaps the best beer bar in the country. I can't even imagine how nice it would be to sit outside in weather like this. Any progress with this? Thanks!

Thanks so much for the compliments! We work as hard as we do to be a special place for the neighborhood as well as the greater public...

Baby steps for sure with the roof deck. It will happen one day for sure, but we seem to just keep piling on the projects (my boutique brewery bar & restaurant called Bluejacket should be open next uear at this time!). So the roof deck will one day be a reality but certainly not in 2012...sorry!

I'm visiting tonight! First date. there any chance you have some of Kentucky Breakfast Stout left? :)

Unfortunately we kicked our keg and sold through all of our bottles this past Monday (in like 35 minutes!?!)...

However, I have a litany of delicious brews that may be able to slake your thirst for KBS. I'll be at BBCK tonight, so ask for me when you arrive and we will get down to business!

Hi Gurus, I'm coming to DC for my birthday on Saturday night, and Rasika is on the list for dinner, but I have no idea what to do after that! It's been so long since I've been out in DC. We're early/mid-thirties, into music, could be into dancing. Overall, pretty flexible. Any suggestions? Thanks!

There's not a ton to do in that neighborhood music-and-dancing-wise after dinner, though I do love the late-night country music and dancing at Hill Country -- and especially the two-for-one drinks after 10 p.m.

I'd suggest getting a cab for a quick ride over to H Street NE. There's jazz at HR-57, DJ Oso-Fresh spinning hip-hop and awesome dance music at the Sova wine bar, rowdier dancing at Little Miss Whiskey's ...

I was wondering how DC ranked among beer culture circles for 'beer bars' or 'brew pubs' or just general availability. I've found that you're more likely now then ever to find a good beer variety here in the DC area then just about any other city this size. While it seems other places (Portland? SF?) seems to get a bigger rep of being more favorable to the independent breweries.

Maybe I'm biased...but I am pretty sure DC is getting the kudos it deserves at this point. And I think we deserve the attention we are getting.

We have as many beers available here as any other place in the USA, if not more. Due to the work of beer bars, past & present, the transient scene calling for craft beer from all over the country and the world, gentle importation & distribution laws, we have a dizzying array of deliciousness. In addition to the fantastic beer bars, almost every bar is incorporating craft are many of our fine dining destinations. The only thing that I would have accepted as critique in years past would have been the dearth of locally-brewed craft beer...but we all know that is no longer a legit critique!

I drove past the Stadium the other day and saw the Bullpen and Beirgarten have been torn down. I understand they are planning on putting something more permanent there, but will it be ready for Opening Day?

The new "Fairgrounds," which is combining the Bullpen and Das Bullpen spaces into a larger market with live music, food trucks, vendors, games, etc., will be open for opening day, according to owner Bo Blair. Don't go looking for it at pre-season games, though.

Can you provide some information about the Cherry Blossom Festival fireworks on April 7? Are they going to be worth a trip into DC from the suburbs of Virginia, and where would be a good place to watch that would be accessible by car?

I think it's definitely worth the trip. The problem will be parking. I would suggest parking near a Metro stop and taking Metro to either Waterfront (Green line) or L'Enfant Plaza (Orange, Blue, Yellow and Green) and walking to the Southwest waterfront. It's a bit of a walk but not too bad in nice weather. The festival runs most of the day and is capped by the fireworks show. There are bands, a food truck rally, a arts and crafts marketplace, dragon boat and sailing demonstrations, origami demonstrations and lots more.  

Hi GoGs! Last Friday after work, I spent a couple of hours exploring the Portrait Gallery. I would like to do something like that more regularly, but haven't been able to find other museums that are open past 5pm. Do you have a list? I remember seeing one in the past, but am not sure where to find it now. Thank you!

Actually, come summer and on holidays (and in this case, the National Cherry Blossom Festival counts as  a holiday),  several museums add extra hours to their days -- a very good one is the Museum of American History, which posts the days during which it extends its hours here.  Another is Air and Space. And of course, another way to visit is to attend the parties that many of museums now host -- you are encouraged to roam the galleries, which is nice. Check out Phillips After Five (the next one is April 5) or Take Five at American Art (the next one is April 19). And don't forget about events such as Artomatic, which is coming up this spring -- it'll also keep the lights on late.

I just wanted to say thank you to Greg. I've been gluten free since I was 18 and used to feel so out of place at bars and eating out because I couldn't drink beer. So thank you for serving gluten free beer and allowing me to feel normal.

My pleasure! The coolest thing is that the gluten-free community has been so organized, vocal, and such great patrons that many bars and restaurants and now breweries are taking notice...we have seen some down-right delicious gluten-free options being developed and the list continues to grow! The Green's line of Belgian style GF brews are great, New Planet is making some interesting stuff out of Colorado, and Dogfish Head has a nice little GF brew in their Tweason'Ale. Craft brewers are paying attention so more, and even more exciting, GF brews are on deck (then GF craft beer fans can decide what they want to drink, rather than just settling for any old GF macrobrew...). We have 12 GF beers on the list right now at ChurchKey.

There was a discussion among members of the D.C. beer crowd on Twitter last night about what a customer should do when they receive a beer that tastes "off" from dirty lines or a skunked keg. As a beer professional, what course of action would you recommend, and what would you say if/when the bartender says, "Well, it's supposed to taste like that"?

This is very important! I have had many experience all of the USA with being served an "off" beer.

First, you need to know your styles. Buttery (English Ales fermented with Ringwood yeast), sour (all sorts of wild beers...Traditional Lambic & Gueuze, beers deliberately innoculated w/ Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, Pediococcus etc. &/or barrel-aged) even skunky (green bottle macro imports) can be acceptable and (mostly) intended. If your beer is completely flat, buttery, sour, skunky, cardboardy, smells of gym socks or worse, consider the style and the brewer's intent...a GREAT resource for all of you smart phone users is to search the beer at the brewery's website, on Ratebeer or BeerAdvocate, and compare what you are tasting to the notes of the brewer or the masses. If the flavors don't add up, or if the beer has not been deliberately kegged-casked-bottled with mild or even zero carbonation (this can be intended!) and is flat, then there is an issue (beers need foam...great for aroma...demand head on your beer! if flat, may be an infection or the soap has not been rinsed from glass...).

Tell the bartender...if they will not comply with your complaint...ask to see a manager or the resident beer could even show them the smart phone research. If all of this fails to get you the beer refunded, then don't go back.

And let the brewery know. They do not want the beer they have worked so hard to craft to be ruined by a lack of passion or caring or understanding...


I come down on the side of "Say something, then and there." This has happened to me numerous times -- Bartender hands me a beer that I've had plenty of times before, and something tastes like cardboard. I was at the American Tap Room, got an IPA and, like Greg says, it tasted buttery. Not right at all. Told the bartender, he poured himself a taste and pronounced it "fine." I told him I disagreed. Then I got my check and left. I think I'll be asking for a taste of the next beer I order there.

Which breweries from the DC metro area do you see having the potential to extend their footprint nationally (or at least out of the area) to the size of say Dogfish Head or Flying Dog?

I think that with the way that craft beer is growing, the sky is the limit. It comes down to what breweries want to do. I have heard that Port City only intends to stay regional (mid Atlantic and a bit of the south)...DC Brau seems content to gently grow...what's cool is that the locals are so conscious of the local community that they are not going to make the mistake of some other craft brewers by expanding too fast and too soon (at the expense of fulfilling local obligations to the thirsts of our regions beer geeks).

Another cool movement is happeneing among smaller producers that are hooking up ours & their local scene, while shipping little bits of their beer to major city centers in the USA and even further afield. Stillwater Artisanal has been doing this for some time, Cabinet Brewing in NoVa intends to follow suit, and even my project, Bluejacket, is enamored with that possibility...

One of the weirdest moments of my recent vacation: I was in a fantastic little beer bar in Prague called Kulovy Blesk, which specializes in little Czech microbrews. They had 15 beers on draft -- including Flying Dog's Snake Dog ... for $3.50  a half-liter.

Best restaurant to see the Cherry Blossoms?

Though there are few restaurants that offer up-close views of the cherry blossoms, you're in luck: Justin Rude put together a fabulous blog post on where to eat and then take a walk to see the cherry blossoms as well as the best places to grab a picnic to take with you to dine among the trees.

Can you tell me how crowded thge MadMen competition usually gets? I am also trying to imagine how much you actually get to eat and drink for your $40 per person. Any additional information would be much appreciated!

I went to Quill's last cocktail competition (last summer) and you got a spread of cheese and snacks, passed hors d'oeuvres, a guided tequila tasting, and small-pour samples of each of the competitors' drinks. The bar was also open if you wanted something more substantial. There was a good-sized crowd, not overflowing. (It's on a Sunday afternoon, after all.) Plenty of bartenders in attendence.

It's a fun contest, especially if you like unusual/original local cocktails, but it's not a place where you're going to get hammered for $40.

Thanks for letting me beat a dead horse guys. I love the Maui Porter -- it's a great beer, not at all overrun with coconut -- but it's tough to find. The "Beer Finder" portion of Maui's web site is down now, but yesterday indicated its distribution was almost entirely West Coast (and Puerto Rico, which is actually where I first had it). Maybe the site is simply outdated? Do you know of any retail outlets currently carrying it?

I have been hard at work on my beer selection at PLanet Wine, a pretty cool little shop next to our very own Evening Star Cafe in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, VA.

We have plenty of Maui CoCoNuT Porter there...and we are actually selling a 5 pack of fantastic brews that made it to the Elite 8 in Washington Post Beer Madness. Grab one of these and decide for yourself who should move on in the comfort of your own home!

Getting out of work early this Friday, I'm trying to find some fun, outdoor date ideas. We'd love to see the cherry blossoms, and we'd prefer to avoid some of the crowds (although we realize they're inevitable!) He lives in Ashburn and I'm in Arlington, so we're willing to go around VA or DC. Any suggestions for mid-day (and later) outdoor activities we might not normally get to do, and then other activities/events and fun food/drinks in the surrounding area would be much appreciated!

Are you cyclists? How about taking a bike tour of the blossoms? Or if you want to combine noshing and pedaling, try the Blossoms Bites by Bike Tour. Looking for a more pedestrian option? How about a guided tour of the blossoms led by National Park Rangers? They also offer nighttime Lantern Walks. For food options, check out this blog post.

I like craft beer. When somebody offers me a Coors, should I thank them, decline, and explain by describing myself as a beer geek, beer snob, beer guru, or other?

Well it depends...I mean I know beer geeks who occasionally like to cool off with an ice cold macro and there is obviously nothing wrong with that, or with drinking macros in general. Different strokes for different folks.

Not sure I should advise on how to pass, but were it me I guess it would depend on the situation. If other beers were available and crafted, I would opt for one of those...if not, maybe drink some good vino (if available), or some spirits/ cocktails...I don't remember a time when I went to an event and there wasn't something I wanted rather than a macro available...and if you think that might be the case, bring some craft brews along with you. Since that's customary will be both generous AND taken care win.

Does the skinniness of your jeans coorelate with the type of beer you'll be drinking that day?

If skinny jeans did correlate to a single style, then I'd be out of a job...I mean I can't just drink the same thing every day (and I can't stop wearing skinny jeans). So I guess Skinny Jeans=Craft Beer generally in my book.

I have a bunch of family coming to town the first week of April. My super quiet cousin is among the group, but is arriving a day before anyone else, so I need to entertain. He's in his mid-20s, not a bar-goer, and reads a lot. So I'm looking for suggestions for Saturday night and Sunday day activities. LOC is out because that is planned when the rest of the group arrives. I've heard of Capitol books, but haven't been, is that good for a book lover? Anything similar? Or maybe the art and video games exhibit? Sounds like something a guy would like. Any suggestions are appreciated! Thanks!!

I agree that the video games exhibition at American Art is a do. But don't forget that this is also a pretty geeky town -- Politics and Prose is a favorite place for many bookish types to hear a reading, or meet an author (and the ones who come to the space are among the most high-profile writers in the nation.) The Sixth and I also will frequently bring in authors such as Tina Fey -- though early April looks like it's a concert (and not a bad one: Terence Blanchard! There's never any drinking at these shows, either.) Busboys and Poets also has tons of authors come through, not to mention some of the most popular open-mike poetry nights in town. And finally, there are really cool storytelling events such as Speakeasy DC and Story League (neither might make the dates you've given, but they're definitely ideas worth stashing for a rainy day).

We are going out with our friends tomorrow (Friday). They are getting a babysitter for their toddler and we are looking for a good time for the evening. A jazz bar would be a nice suggestion. We are in our late 20s and early 30s. Please advise. They dont get the opportunity to go out too often

If they don't get out much, I'd try to show them some cool new things but not try to cram too much onto the agenda. Two three-stop plans for you:
1. Grab dinner at Masa 14 or El Centro D.F.
2. Head to Twins Jazz to see clarinetist Salim Washington and the Harlem Arts Ensemble.
3. Go to Blackbyrd Warehouse for a late-night drink and DJs spinning cool party tunes in a laidback atmosphere.


1. Go to dinner at either Boundary Road -- an intimate little restaurant and bar where President Obama recently dined -- or classy Ethopic across the street.

2. Catch some jazz at HR-57

3. Afterwords, grab a glass of wine at Sova while DJ Oso-Fresh spins or a cocktail at Church and State.

I'm a big fan of English cask ales and am excited to see them on at ChurchKey, but after a recent trip to England where I drank a lot of cask ale, I wonder if it's better to drink English ales in bottles here. The casks will never be as fresh or, really, taste as they're intended to. What do you think?

As far as English casks go, most importers will only ship them out in the colder months (as they are prone to losing their character rather quickly...being so deliciously unpasteurized, unfiltered and naturally carbonated). This coupled with their tendency to ship bolder and higher abv beers means that from October to March I'd be confident drinking them here and enjoying their fresh nuances.

(But be wary...this has as much to do with the bar as the beer...if a bar does not educate and get their staff excited to champion the cask ales, then the beer will not move and may go bad. Also, at BBCK (and both Rusticos...and Columbia Firehouse, Evening Star Cafe & Tallula & Eatbar...most people don't know we always have cask ale at all of thsoe places!) we not only clean the hell out of the cask lines with great frequency, we literally pull out the cask lines and replace fully 2 times a month...this should be de rigeur in the business.)

An importer called B. United is doing amazing things with cask ale! They are literally shipping the cask ale in stainless steel tank containers filled directly at the brewery. The container is glycol-jacketed to maintain 32 degrees F...and no air or light will hit the brew. Once in Connecticut, at their facility, the beer is racked into casks and shipped. So for us in DC, these casks are as fresh as they are in England!

Look for some fresh casks of Thornbridge, Harviestoun & Hambleton Nightmare Porter in the coming weeks at CK and other fine (cask) beer bars.

One other vacation story: I spent part of my vacation pouring beer at the CAMRA London Drinker real ale festival, and spent much more time in pubs. I can say that the English casks I've had at Pizzeria Paradiso and ChurchKey recently are pretty accurate reflections of what the beer tastes like across the pond, though I would say in some cases it's not quite as "bright" as you'd find it in England, when a cask may only be a few days out of the brewery before the first pint is poured.

What's the status on Bar Pilar's upstairs? Is it open yet?

Upstairs is expected to open around April 1, was the last I heard. Looking forward to it, because the downstairs has been getting so, so crowded (again).

Greg, I'm a huge fan of what you've accomplished with the beer programs at ChurchKey and Rustico so am looking forward to see what happens with the brew pub. As a devout beer lover, I have to confess that I've been underwhelmed with the DC based brew pubs and micro brewers over the years. High gravity or heavily hopped styles can mask a lot, but for lighter and more balanced styles local efforts always seem to come up short. I have a working theory that DC's godawful water is a particular challenge/obstacle to brewing here and maybe explains what I've observed. Thoughts?

I certainly hope no brewer is merely using the local water untreated for brewing...and I doubt they are.

Brewers today almost across the board will strip the water to utter softness. They then will add certain salts when necessary to achieve certain flavor effects in certain styles.

I think that there is a very vocal minority that loves low abv beers above all else...but that the quieter multitudes are still clamoring for big and bold. There seems to be an early shift toward the former, but many still love their Imperials. I think as there becomes a larger audience for session brews, brewers will brew more of them, or larger batches of those already being produced.

Have you had Pratt St. Ale House & DC Brau's Burial at Sea? Fantastic low abv English Mild...we have it on cask at CK and it is being poured at DCist Exposed Photo Exhibit Event at Long View Gallery tonight...a version of Burial aged briefly in Catoctin Creek barrels (it is outstanding).


We have let known to our friendly Rustico bartenders when a beer doesn't taste right (specifically I remember a Dale's tasting way off). No questions asked - they re-poured us another beer of our choosing. I also once ordered an unfiltered Pils there that I did not realize was supposed to taste like it did, and did not like it at all. Again, no questions asked and they poured me something more to my liking. These are the kinds of places I like to spend my $$ at. Thanks Greg for all your great work on the beer scene in the DC area.

That is so great to hear. I love my staff...they are fantastic ambassadors for the craft beer movement, as as for great dining and drinking experiences.

What area beer bars are doing anything special for Session Beer day on 4/7/12?

Great question and I hope so!

Session beers are gaining momentum as brewers consistently craft low abv beers (below 4.5%...some say 4%...) brimming with flavor. These are fantastic as you can have more than a few in a social setting, or all alone, and not be hammered.Some recent faves include Elysian Slight Return, 21st Amendment Bitter American, Schlafly House in Session.

Since April 7th was the day in 1933 that the repeal of Prohibition had a sort of "soft opening" (FDR amended the Volstead Act w/ the Cullen Harrison Act) allowing the production and consumption of beer at or below 3.2% alcohol by weight (about 4% alcohol by volume). Full repeal happened on December 5th.

A fitting day to celebrate low abv brews! Here at CK we will be pouring the Schlafly House in Session on DRAFT, as this is the fresh, 2nd batch of the beer that I brewed w/ Paradiso & Meridian Pint last year for the same "holiday". Cool difference this year is that we subbed Tasmanian Galaxy hops for Amarill in the massive dry-hopping. Galaxy gives huge passionfruit, peach and mango notes that sing w/ Simcoe's (the other hop for dry-hopping) gorgeous pine and grapefruit qualites. Boldy hoppy and only 4.2% abv! Almost would have been permitted on the 7th of April 79 years ago...


This is one of the best chats I've read - I have learned so much from Greg Engert! Very helpful as I attempt to expand my beer horizons...

Glad to have been here...I love doing the chats for the it Food Section or Going Out Gurus!

Hi there. I have a three-hour date with my husband Saturday evening. Given that we're in Rockville, I don't think we'll make it all the way to the Tidal Basin and back within that time. So where in Montomgery County can we get a good luck at them? Thanks!

Kenwood, a neighborhood in Bethesda between River Road and Little Falls Parkway, is said to have close to 1,200 cherry trees lining its streets. Why not take a drive and/or walk then have a nice meal at Matuba Japanese Restaurant in Bethesda to cap off the day's theme?

Are there any viewing parties going on this Sunday?

There are indeed. Here's a list. I'm partial to either the viewing at Lounge 201 or the cocktail class at Last Exit.

Aren't cask ales a little pedestrian for someone who likes hoppy flavors of IPA or more complex microbrews. They also tend to be less effervescent, which might be a bonus for some. I think they tend to be perfect for an easy-going, laid-back beer that's not overlycomplicated. Also great if you're drinking in a London pub. I think it would be rare to find ales sitting in a cask for too long in a London pub; they drink hard and fast there.

I like comparing hoppy ales on draft and those on cask...

Since coldness and carbonation accentuate bitterness, hoppy casks will have a gentler bitterness...since they are chilled and possess creamy carbonation (they are NOT warm & flat!). I find those who dislike hops like them more on cask on account of this...bitterness can turn some off...

And the slightly warmer temps willincrease evapoartion to encourage greater volatility of aromatic compounds...releasing bigger aromas into the nose. This plus the fact the casks often have hops added into the cask (dry-hopping) means that hoppy aromas may often be even more intense and complex.

Casks are not pedestrian. Ever. They are one of the coolest parts of living a life in craft beer.

And the slightly warmer


How do you think the blossoms and crows will be this Friday (tomorrow)? We're looking at going during the daytime so parking could get interesting, but the metro would be impossible (especially with a stroller). :-/ Also, would there happen to be any Scotch-tasting events going on tomorrow? My husband would be eternally grateful if there are!

Tomorrow is supposed to be our last day of 80 degree weather for a while and with rain predicted for the weekend, I'm guessing a lot of people will "call in sick" tomorrow to see the cherry blossoms. So expect crowds. And you're right: Parking will be a problem. Early is probably better than later, and that's the case with the Scotch tasting, too. If you are planning to bring the stroller to the Scotch tasting, I'd say give Jack Rose a try but go early. Parking isn't going to be any easier in Adams Morgan.

Hi there, Friends from out-of-state are coming into town for spring break and we are meeting them for dinner tomorrow night. There will be 4 adults and 4 kids (9-13). I don't know if the parents are adventurous eaters so I am looking for a good place to take them that will offer good but standard fare (think burgers) and is kid-friendly. I have thought of Clyde's but am wondering if you have any other suggestions--something Irish/English-Pub like?

It's not exactly pub-like, but you should consider Burger Tap and Shake by Foggy Bottom -- the kids will love the DIY burgers and awesome milkshake flavors.

Hmm. The chat software is showing you've answered the "Non-Tidal Basin Bloom Viewing" question 3 times and counting now

My apologies. Having some technical difficulties today.

I would like to take my SOS out for a romantic date night to celebrate a new job.. we are both late 20's and like all food and drinks and activities. Suggestions? Preferably events in the District and not a meal where each entree is $100! Thanks!

I love people like you, who likes everything. Makes our jobs so easy. But you didn't say when you want to do this, so events will be tough, but I'll throw out a few cool things that are happening this week; DCist Exposed opening tonight, this cool classical concert of Nirvana, Portishead and Radiohead songs,  the 5X5 opening party at the Skyline. Lately, I'm really liking a stop at Blackbyrd for dinner; it's so low-key, the food is so homey (there are oysters and lobster rolls, and mac and cheese), and this past weekend, they had a DJ spinning in the dining room, which made it much cooler. And finally, I really can't help but think of a romantic date night doing a beer dinner or wine dinner - Birch and Barley does them once a month (the next one isn't till late April), Belga Cafe has one coming up next week; four-course dinner, plus paired wines, under a $100...a person, but still, you have to try a multicourse wine dinner to understand how awesome/special they are.  UPDATE: The amazing Greg Engert also notes that you can do this every night at Birch & Barley, with a five-course chef's tasting menu and beer pairings created by him, and frequently introduced by him, too. That sounds so awesome, I'm putting it on my to-do list.

Hi Gurus! We're going to see the Hunger Games on Saturday evening at Hoffman Ctr, and we're looking for a dinner beforehand (probably in Old Town). We've done the Majestic, Restaurant Eve, and Vermillion. Is there anything we've missed? Or should we just repeat? It's also our 10th anniversary, so I wouldn't mind making it special (movie notwithstanding!)

If it's your anniversary, there's nothing wrong with doing any of those three -- all special places with great chefs and service. (If you can get into Eve, I'd definitely do that, and mention it's your anniversary when you call.)

Hi. Love the chats! Looking for a place in NoVA that does an Easter Brunch that would be suitable for a family with a 1 year old. Thinking a buffet might be best. I think some hotels in Reston had petting zoos for the holiday last year. Any chances of a repeat? Thanks!

Justin Rude suggests Liberty Tavern, which will be having a buffet, and is great for little ones. Any readers know of any petting zoo brunches? By the way, I think we need one of those in D.C. like every weekend, like a drag brunch.

Thinking about trying out Sixth Engine this weekend for dinner and drinks. Good plan, or should we give it some time to settle in? Thanks!!

I've been to the bar a couple of times -- still haven't done dinner there -- and it's turned into a pretty solid place for happy hour and late-night drinks. Cocktails are reliable, the beers are good, wine is decent for the price point (~$8-$12). I think it's worth a visit for a couple of drinks -- the crowd is late 20s/early 30s -- and since I like the food at Town Hall, I'm willing to give the food the benefit of the doubt.

Hey Gurus! It's my (gasp) 45th birthday Easter Sunday and a couple girlfriends and I were looking to celebrate with dinner and drinks the night before (Sat). We live in the Courthouse/Clarendon corridor, so were planning to hit a 40s friendly neighborhood outside our own. We were thinking of Penn Quarter but things look totally booked up that night. Any suggestions for a dinner venue and area that will have 40s friendly crowds? Thanks!

Have you tried any places in the 14th Street corridor? Thinking Birch & Barley, Pearl Dive, Masa 14, Cork -- all very 40-something friendly, even if Cork and Pearl Dive don't do reservations after 6/6:30.

My Northern New Jersey friend, his wife and two teenagers are visiting colleges in the area Easter weekend. I am tasked with recommending a brunch spot for them. Maybe a place near where they could walk it off afterwards? DC or VA would be best. Thanks so much.

They might try to snag a reservation at Founding Farmers, which is near Foggy Bottom, or Tabard Inn (I stress trying to get these reservations now) or, also very close to GWU, Ris, -- all are in the heart of everything, and they can walk to the White House, campus or public transportation fairly easily from there.

My daughter has been growing out her hair with the idea of getting it cut for charity (to be made into wigs). I know salons will often do the hair cut for free or a reduced price but I am wondering if there are any schools or organizations that are doing the hair cuts as an event? I thought I saw this being done as a charity fundraiser from a local university but I can't remember where it will happen. Do you or someone in the audience know of any such events?

The big one is St. Baldrick's, which is usually done right before St. Patrick's Day, but events go on all year. Check out the St. Baldrick's Web site for info on events.

(Whoops -- answer cut off)

The other big organizer to look into is Locks of Love, which turns donated hair into wigs for children.

I still haven't been to one of these around town. Are there any good 80s or 90s dance parties coming up in the next couple of weeks?

The ones I like:

March 31: Saved by the '90s at Eden, with a live performance at Coolio. Yes, that Coolio.

April 21: Lil' E's '80s alternative night -- less Madonna, more indie/alternative bands -- at the Black Cat.

April 28: DJ Dredd's all-Madonna/Prince/Michael party at the Rock and Roll Hotel

Friends in town this weekend and its supposed to rain! Walking around DC for the cherry blossoms, etc., just went out the window. What are some fun indoor activities (metro-accessible, nondrinking) that some 30-something ladies can do this weekend? Thanks!

How about a Mad Men party? (Or another Mad Men party?) Another option would be the 5X5 kickoff party at the Capitol Skyline (artsy, drinking not required), the Angelique Kidjo show at Lisner -- all indoors, all super-cool.

I've seen it at the P Street Whole Foods but I couldn't say if it's there RIGHT THIS SECOND.

For the Maui Coconut Porter fans ...

That's going to do it for this spirited chat. Thanks to ChurchKey's Greg Engert for joining us online. We'll definitely have him back for another beer-focused chat in the future.

Next week, we'll be joined by performing artist Paige Hernandez. 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.
Greg Engert
Greg Engert is the beer director of the 10-restaurant Neighborhood Restaurant Group, which includes ChurchKey, Rustico and Vermilion. He sources rare beers from around the globe and teaches monthly beer education classes at the Rustico in Ballston. An advocate of pairing beer and food, Engert was named one of the Sommeliers of the Year by Food and Wine Magazine in 2010, received a StarChefs Rising Star Award in 2010, and was nominated for the James Beard Foundation's "Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional" award in February 2012.
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