Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Gurus

Aug 16, 2012

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

Welcome chatters, we're back for yet another edition of Got Plans? This week, we've got lots to talk about, but mostly booze, because it's D.C. Beer Week, National Rum Day and fine time to visit the wine country all at once. And now, you can soak it up with deep fried Twinkies. It makes us tipsy just thinking about it. Let's get started, shall we?

Thank you for your suggestions for what to do on our Day o' Dorkiness last week. Unfortunately, the language museum was closed, but we would never have found the Columbia Sportspark without you.

We went to Frisco's for lunch and were very impressed with their beer selection. (Unfortunately, we didn't get to try as much as we would have liked because they only poured full pints. I don't understand why a place with that many draft beers, lots of space for glasses, and no public transportation nearby wouldn't have small pours.) Their IPA had a nice hop flavor without excessive bitterness but big at 7%; the pale ale was also on the hoppy side. I thought both had thin mouthfeels, but I felt the same about Port City when they first started and wouldn't say that any longer.

Our happy discovery was Kloby's Smokehouse off Route 28 and, um, some other big road south of Route 32. Their beer selection was almost as impressive as Frisco's and they do small pours. Their bourbon selection is growing, and they are quite passionate about it. Their special food item is the Jar Be Cue - pulled pork, cole slaw, and baked beans layered in a mason jar. My boyfriend wept. I cried over the flight of bread puddings. Great day, all around. Thanks.

Sounds like you had a great time with museums, beer and batting cages. Thanks for the feedback on Frisco's -- I'm going to try to get up there once I'm not swamped with DC Beer Week events. (The no-small-pours thing is weird, but I know plenty of brewpubs that only sell full-sized glasses, including District Chophouse.)

Also, I want Jar Be Cue.

I will have out of town guests (next Friday) who have visited this area before. I would like to take them after 5pm for a stroll somewhere where we can leisurely walk, stop for coffee or gelato and then go back home since we have a full day on Saturday. We are in the Rockville area and have no car, so it needs to be metro accessible.

You could feasibly head to Bethesda, which has fun little sidewalk scene on the weekend -- Dolcezza is one of my favorite places  (I could eat their plum and lime-cilantro sorbets all day long). You can also get a great coffee and a gelato (or an affogato, and call it a day). But the neighborhood should have lots of fun little shops and restaurants to stop in, and sometimes, sidewalk musicians, too.

What ARE the laws about drinking in public (i.e., on the mall, in the parks, on a picnic)? Does the Red Solo Cup and No Questions Asked rule really apply?

Bottom line: It's illegal, no matter what container you're drinking from. You can be cited and fined for drinking booze on government land -- I know people who've gotten busted while, say, having a cookout in Rock Creek Park and not being very discrete. There are parks in Virginia where you can get a permit to serve booze (think family reunions and the like) but in general, it's frowned upon.

Naturally, we can't encourage you to break the law, but we can urge you to use common sense.

Have any of the Gurus been to Ballston's World of Beer? What did you think? Can it be our own Churchkey on Glebe Road?

I went to World of Beer last week, and it was slammed -- people next to me at the bar were giving up and getting checks instead of ordering more beers because bartenders were taking so long to do just about anything. (Case in point: I had to talk to four bartenders to get two beers and one check. At one point I counted 11 staff members behind the bar.)

That said, World of Beer has potential: 50 taps, a large patio, room to move around (when it's not wall-to-wall customers). They've only been open for two weeks, so I'll give them another chance. I wonder how many other people will, though.

How many drinks before a person is over the limit for driving an automobile?

Enough to blow a .08? It really depends on the person's weight, the kind of drink, whether they've eaten ... I just think it's pointless to take a chance. If you're worried about it, don't drive. Period.

....are so obvious. Might I suggest a Starbucks cup with lid? Washingtonians enjoy caffeine at any hour, right?

Hey, remember the old high school trick where you dumped out a quarter of a soda bottle and filled the rest with booze? I mean, I've just heard about it. Obviously never did it.

Gracious Gurus, I need your help. I'm planning a happy hour for my BFF next Friday. Her birthday is next week and she's turning 30 something. We have about 10-15 people with a mix of races in their late 20s to early 30s. Amazing cocktails are a must and maybe a place to sit outdoors would be nice. What do you think?

That's super-awesome of you to plan a party of your BFF -- we don't see that enough. Two thoughts come to mind, that have a cool vibe: Donovan House's rooftop has those stunning views, and a great happy hour. If you want to check it out in advance (dress, etc), check out our rooftop bars gallery, which has some stunning pics. It might be fun to show up at Beach Bar too (as long as you land there at 5 sharp, to get seats and not have to jockey for space) -- personally I wouldn't do cocktails there, but frozen margaritas and cheap beers...and sand. In the city.  (And speaking of frozen drinks, they are happening, everywhere, so here's a gallery of where you can find those.)

Hi! This might seem quite specific but....I'm looking for any bar in DC that has a laid back vibe, where you could go, sit and enjoy some good beers or drinks with friends, actually hear what they are saying, and maybe play some darts or pool. These type of bars don't seem to exist in DC! Hopefully I am just missing them....any thoughts?

Hate to sound like a broken record, but it depends on the night and the time. I can think of *so* many bars where I go with friends to talk, drink good beers, play darts/shuffleboard, etc. during the week, but wouldn't try to do the same thing on a Saturday night. 

Some places I've been lately that work Sunday-Wednesday/maybe Thursday: Atomic Billiards, Meridian Pint, Bedrock Billiards, Boundary Road, Bistro Bohem, Smoke and Barrel, downstairs at the Black Squirrel, Lil Pub, Trusty's ... I could go on, and I think many of those would actually work on a weekend, too.


Any idea whether World of Beer on Glebe Road would be appropriate with young kids? I'm talking dinner at 5:30 on a weeknight, obviously not during prime weekend hours?

Funny thing about World of Beer: They don't serve food. Well, their own food. There's no kitchen, so you have to order in food from the nearby P.F. Chang's or BGR. They're nice about giving you menus when you can actually flag someone down.

Also, I was there around 6:30, and it was a zoo. So I might skip that with kids and go to Rustico instead for the good food/craft beer fix.

Please, oh dear gurus, help make up my mind for me! They both sound delicious. I have never been to Black Squirrel - what's the place like? Thanks!

Both sound awesome, actually; I think I'm going to try to pull a doubleheader tonight. Anything at ChurchKey is going to be way crowded, though. Black Squirrel is a little less insane, especially during the week. I like their bare-bones basement tap room, which has a couple dozen taps, and I do love me some Lagunitas beer

Going back to the alcohol question earlier, you could try popping into ChurchKey first and then taking the Circulator to Adams Morgan and walking two blocks down 18th. Easy bar crawl.

Being a former resident who has been away from the city for longer than I'd like to admit, I'm heading to town for a few days. I've already planning on hitting up some of my favorite spots, but was hoping to hit up a weekend event. Something to remind me how nice it was to live in DC with all of its going-ons. Any suggestions? Anything new I should check out?

If you're coming this weekend, it IS D.C. Beer Week, and there may be no better way to check in on your old stomping grounds than to survey its brand-new beer scene. You can check out all our local breweries -- including D.C. Brau, Chocolate City, and even Albermarle Cider Works and Devils Backbone -- in one place Saturday afternoon at Smith Commons. For live music, there's Jammin in the Park at Yards Park and a cool go-go show at Fort Dupont (check out what else is on Saturday in our weekly Nightlife Agenda Post). And both are free.

Had chocolate dipped bacon for the first time last year at the New Mexico state fair. Quite pleased when I found it at Ocean City this summer (Jessica's Fudge House, on the boardwalk near the inlet). Do you know of any places that offer it in or near DC?

Oh, yes, bacon comes all kind of ways around here. Find the simple chocolate "enrobed" bacon at Co Co Sala's chocolate boutique. There's also the bacon lolli at Founding Farmers, which isn't dipped in chocolate but a cinnamon-sugar glaze. And you can get your bacon wrapped around a peanut butter cup, dipped in cola batter and deep fried at the Passenger. And of course, you could always grab a Mo's Bacon Bar -- I think they're carried at Whole Foods and Teaism (oddly enough). But they're not deep fried, and what's the fun in that?

I started looking to make reservations for my first wedding anniversary dinner in a few weeks, figuring I'm actually getting ahead for once. Naturally, I want it to be someplace nice, but I'm currently 0 for 5. Looked at Citronelle first - they were flooded and will be closed for at least 6 months. Looked at Komi and Corduroy next - they will be both be closed for their annual summer hiatuses - and then CityZen, which is simply closed on Mondays. Blue Duck Tavern is actually open, but no seats are available at the time we want. Any suggestions for Plan F? Only real food limitation is no seafood.

Quick Guru huddle came up with a few suggestions: Justin and Tom Sietsema are in agreement that the Oval Room is firing on all cylinders right now, so we'd suggest that; Rasika West End is very good, though different from its more acclaimed Penn Quarter sibling; and I have to say I enjoy Restaurant Eve more earlier in the week, wheher you go for the full-bore tasting room or just enjoy the anything-but-regular dining room.

I'm a little embarassed that I didn't realize it was DC Beer Week. And thank goodness this is an anonymous forum where I can ask what might be a silly question - are any bars in Arlington participating/hosting events? Yes, I realize Arlington is not "DC," just wondering if the events expanded out to NoVa. Thanks.

Rustico in Ballston has had a few events -- they're hosting Georgia's rather excellent Terrapin Brewery for a tapping and glass giveaway tonight, and Ommegang will be in the house tomorrow.

Hi Gurus! I hope you will be able to help me. After some stress at work and working hard to save money, I have enough that I can really treat myself. I would like to go to a spa for a full day...massages, facials, spa lunch, the works! I was thinking about the spa at the Mandarin Oriental because ever since the Mandarin Oriental opened, I have had daydreams about going to the spa there. Recent online reviews though give me pause. I know that I should treat online reviews with grains of salt, but I want to make sure that I get my money's worth. So, if price was not an object, where would you go for a full day at a spa in DC, Arlington, or Alexandria? Any help would be appreciated!

I can't help but think the Jefferson's  spa experience is what you're looking for. But I think you'll get a far better sense from catching up on a chat we did this spring about all things spas. We had the amazing Mclean Robbins, a spa and travel writer,  on, and she was full of ideas for all kinds of budgets. (I desperately want her job.) Here's a link to the chat transcript - lots of great suggestions for nails in there too. We need to have her back, ASAP.

We have to go to Capitol Hill to pick up our dog. Anything fun we should see/do while down there? We'll have two small children and the dog, so that limits us a bit. Also, no beer please; we don't drink. Thanks!

I think you'd all love Yards Park -- spray fountains, space to run, fun for all ages. It's down near the Nationals Stadium, but it's really close to Barracks Row and the Hill. There's a great playground in Lincoln Park, too.

What's the best place to get cheap(ish) beer and food before a nationals game (taking metro)? The extra challenge is I'm looking for a place with vegetarian options..

Justin's Cafe never disappoints, though it does get very crowded. If you're down there early, happy hour starts at 4 p.m. so there's your cheap(ish) beer covered. Food-wise, they offer a few veggie sandwiches to go along with a menu of really nice pizzas that you can customize as needed. 


Need some other ideas? Check out our Nats Park Food + Drink Guide

Planning on hitting up Eighties Mayhem at the Black Cat next week. Do you know if I need to get my tickets ahead of time, or would I be safe in just getting them at the door if I show up within the first hour? Thanks!

Eighties Mayhem gets busy, but it rarely sells out. I'd think you'd be fine getting tickets at the door and skipping the service charge.

My sister's coming to town for an interview, and I'd like to show her the more fun side of town for dinner one night. She'd like to get a good burger and have a beer in a sit down environment- (not a Good Stuff like takeout place), any ideas? Any new, fun places?

I love the burger at Boundary Stone in Bloomingdale, and though that place can get crowded, it's got a great neighborhood vibe. Not the most convenient for barhopping, though. The Brixton's burger -- aged cheddar, house-made pickles, soft challah bun -- was way better than I thought it was going to be, and you'd have the opportunity to show her the awsome new roofdeck. (Only caveat: Don't go on a Friday-Saturday.)

any good ones --- or a restaurant with GF options -- in the area?

There are actually a ton of places marking up their menus these days -- Scion and its sister restaurant Crios both offer plenty of gluten-free (at Crios, there's so much corn-based fare that they don't bother marking it GF). I have noticed that Agora has marked up its menu quite a bit to make it clear which dishes are gluten-free.  Then there are the many places that do vegetables and fish, Asian and Mexican well -- that should include places such as El Chucho for tacos, Cafe Saint Ex for its small plates, including those amazing brussel sprouts and salads. Busboys and Poets (and probably Eatonville next door) offers gluten-free options that are well-marked. Our pals at Express did this fine list of several more options.

I know D'Vines in Columbia Heights sells the Mo's Bacon Bar, along with some other chocolate combination. I'm sure the staff will be glad to suggest an appropriate wine or beer to drink with your Mo's Bacon Bar.

Another Bacon Bar spotting. Thanks!

Hello! I am trying to plan a rather wild night out this Saturday for myself and 2 other moms. Drinking is a must, maybe dancing, possibly small plates dining, but definite *good* cocktails must be had. We are in NoVA but are looking at Arlington/DC/Old Town Alexandria. Thanks for your help!! Woot :)

Let's do this moveable feast-style through Arlington: Start with glasses of wine at Screwtop wine bar. Maybe some cheese. Make your way down the block for cocktails and dinner at Green Pig or, if you're in the mood for French and cocktails, Lyon Hall. Next stop: Dancing to a cover band at Clarendon Grill. Cap it off with a trip to the tiki bar on the roof of Whitlow's or, if there's too long of a line, head three blocks south to Arlington Rooftop Bar and Grill.

Hey GoGs, I've been interested by Boundary Stone in Bloomingdale but whenever I look up information about it, it sounds more like a whiskey place than a drinking establishment? Is it a whiskey-only bar? That would be a little strange, if it is. Can I also get food to go along with the drinks? What's the crowd like? Thanks for any clarification you might have for me.

A whiskey-only bar? That's more like Jack Rose ... I just double-checked my Boundary Stone review and it definitely mentions the food (great deviled eggs, arancini, a beer-can chicken) as well as the draft beers. The owners are keen whiskey fans, especially when it comes to Catoctin Creek, but there's plenty of other stuff there to sate your thirst -- and one of the city's best jukeboxes, too.'d stop mentioning Boundary Stone in these chats! My go-to 'hood bar is already crowded enough! Seriously, though, I love seeing those guys doing so well. Great owners/bartenders/servers there.

Whoops. Sorry. Did it again.

that the group would be a mix of races? Is there any place in DC where that would be a problem? Or even a consideration?

Ack! Sorry -- I actually meant to address this and forgot. I KNEW that it was going to be a trigger phrase for readers.   Particularly in light of all the  "swagger-jacking" talk in D.C....

Sooooo, I'd describe myself as a person of color, and I was totally of two minds on that part of the question. On one hand, yes, why does it matter? D.C. is not just a diverse city, but one of the most inclined to mix across race/ethinicity/background that I've ever lived in (New York's nightlife is so segregated, it drives me insane when I go back now).

But I actually thought the question was quite a sensitive one -- the reader wanted to make sure everyone felt comfortable (and for some people it's  more comfortable to not be the only person of color in the room). I think it was just a thoughtful person covering all of his/her bases.

I've had/run into beers from Chocolate City in only a couple of places in the DC area. I like their brews. In fact, I'm over DC Brau, which of course is everywhere. Even when you want to find something else! Anyway, can you point me to a few more places that serve/sell beers by Chocolate City and also tell me why I can't find them in a lot more bars in the area? Thanks

Well, hopefully you saw that Chocolate City is hosting its first anniversary party -- with $5 beers all night! -- at Penn Social tomorrow. 

I regularly see Chocolate City at some of the smaller good beer bars, including DC Reynolds, Dodge City and the Big Hunt. (It's always on at Wonderland, too.)

The reason you don't see as much of it is because the brewery is smaller than most local operations. They don't make as much as DC Brau or Port City, so it's harder to find them. Simple as that. But you can swing by the brewery every Saturday and get beer to go ...

People are wondering how many drinks it takes to risk drinking and driving! We live in a urban area people! Take metro or a cab!!!

To be fair, not everyone lives near a metro station and not every bar is near one, either. (Let me tell you how much fun I had being a designated driver on a trip to Dogfish Head in Fairfax ...)

I liked your pieces on the VA wineries. Having never done that, is it possible to do tours etc on weekdays? And if I'm driving from DC, what do I need to know about 66 HOV restrictions (sorry, I don't drive much).

Aww, thanks. It is possible to visit some of them on  weekdays, but many, like Linden and Tarara, offer bells and whistles, like tours and tastings led by the winemakers, on weekends only. (That said, many places I visited - and I visited a lot -- don't really do tours of the property these days.) That doesn't mean you shouldn't visit -- once the colors start to change, weekdays are an awesome time to go and avoid the crowds (I'll do a list of my favorite wineries for views as we get into October). 

The driving restrictions on 66 won't affect you coming from D.C. because they're on the opposite side -- in mornings, they're imposed on those headed to D.C., and in  the evenings, the restrictions are for those headed home toward Virginia. You'll be going counter-traffic both ways.  

Gurus, Due to work and other commitments, I haven't been able to go to any D.C. Beer Week events yet. That all changes starting tonight and I want to try some great beers, preferably new ones and beers I can't find elsewhere. What are your picks for great happy hours and beer dinners?

Our guide to the best D.C. Beer Week events is right here, though it's getting smaller every day. The ones that I'm excited about: Cask night tonight at District Chophouse, the crab feast with Evolution and 3 Stars tomorrow (which is almost sold out), the Chocolate City anniversary party (see above), and the big DMV Brewers BBQ at Smith Commons with beers from 18 (!!!) D.C., Maryland and Virginia breweries under one roof. 

After visiting the Mandarin, Ritz and Four Seasons (it's a tough life), my vote is with the Four Seasons in Georgetown. Mandarin is amazing but SO expensive. Do NOT go to the Ritz in Tysons.

Thanks for your suggestions! I have heard that about the Tysons spa.  This all makes me want to go a spa, like now.

Sorry about that, I had been looking at their website and I did remember a few people talk about the food so I guess that that would mean they had food, unless people were ordering from neighborhood joints. Anyway, back to their drinks. If you go to the website, under menus, it lists "Food" and "Whiskey" as the only options, which I queried whether or not they served anything else to drink. Thanks so much for the info! Can't wait to get myself over there!

Oh, I hadn't looked at their website in ages. That is ... weird.

If in Old Town, I would stop by Virtue. Great cocktails and the staff is so nice.

The staff does indeed rock, and the setting is a lot of fun. I have to admit I hadn't had any of Sophie Szych's cocktails until this past Rickey Month, and I really liked what I had.

I seem to remember that Dino had notes on the menu for items that could be made gluten free or are naturally gluten free.

Can you link to that piece? Or pieces? Trying to plan a trip down to Richmond-area wineries this weekend, any help would be much appreciated!

Ahhh, my winery piece is really looking at what's happening in Northern Virginia, since it's the state's fastest-growing winery community. If you do decide to visit any around here, here's a guide to all the places you should eat and shop while you're there.

Hi, GOGs, can you recommend a good Afghan restaurant in the area? I went to Kabob Palace in Crystal City for the first time recently and enjoyed it. However, I am interested in a restaurant that offers other traditional foods like palau and aushak. No ambience required! Any suggestions for me?

Tom Sietsema likes Maizbon, which is a little more formal than the Crystal City kabob shops; I'm still a fan of Helmand in Baltimore. 

Not glamorous.......but amazing

The more people we tell about Spa World, you know, the longer we have to wait to get our body scrub. Just saying. 

Not sure what you mean by good (fancy?) but Silver Diner has tons of delicious GF options.

Of course. Everyone needs a pancake sometimes!

Hi! I'm celebrating my birthday with some friends on Friday, and I'm trying to find a place that to go that won't be packed full because of Beer Week events, but also won't be dead. The guests are all mid-20s. Any suggestions?

Petworth/Park View bar crawl: Happy Hour at DC Reynolds, live R&B/soul music at Chez Billy, late-night drinks and dancing at the Blue Banana, nightcap at Looking Glass Lounge. 

Gurus, I am curious about Volt. It's a good hour drive from DC. What do people do? Is there a hotel or lodging that they stay at? Do they have a chaperone? How do you imbibe, um I mean enjoy, your dinner with a drink or two, and get back to DC without raising the question of drinking too much and driving? Thanks so much.

Yeah, man, it's tough when you really want to enjoy your meal with a beverage pairing and know that you have to pass because there's a 40-mile drive awaiting you. 


What I've always wanted to do is build an overnight trip around my Volt reservation. Book a room at a fabulous Frederick hotel (there's a little place called the Best Western...breathtaking) and make a stop at the Flying Dog brewery for a tour in the afternoon, go enjoy a mind-alteringly good dinner before retiring and heading out the next morning for a hike at Catoctin Mountain Park.


Anyway, bottom line: If you've been looking forward to your Volt trip for months, I'd splurge and book a room overnight rather than abstain from drinking. 

Looking for an outdoor concert, festival... anything fun and outdoor for tomorrow. Trinidad and Tobago fest looks fun but that's Saturday. DC or Arlington/Alexandria. No movies, please! Thank you.

Try Jazz in the Garden! It's quite kid-friendly, and there's live music, of course. And Yards Park actually also has a show on Friday night - check their web site (it's so kid-friendly, get ready for the kids to want to jump in the water...) Get there early to get a spot. And there's the Rosslyn Outdoor Film Festival as well - no music, but a lot of fun. (More outdoor movies.) It's next weekend, but  I think the Petworth Jazz Project is a highly worthy mention, particularly for families.  Should you be free next week, too...

My boyfriend got a new job in the Tenleytown area and I'm sorry to say it'll be my first time venturing into that neck of the woods. Where's the first place we should try for dinner? Moderately-priced (entrees under $25 please), any type of food.

Try Masala Art -- but make reservations if you can. It's always so busy.

So the bf's birthday is today. To celebrate I got a hotel room in DuPont and tickets to the Israel Vibration show at Howard Theater tomorrow night. Sounds fun right? All a suprise. Well the show was cancelled!! Not that the show was the ONLY thing we were going to do but it was the main attraction. Now I'm stuck with a hotel room in the city and not a single idea!! I want to do something special and original but am seriously lacking inspiration here people!! Please throw me a bone so that I might attempt to still blow his birthday socks off?!? Doesn't have to be amazing but original or new would be good. We don't really go out in DuPont much these days so any good semi-new, worth-checking-out spots would work. No restaurant week recommendations please

So sorry to hear that! How about a spicy multi-course dinner at Little Serow -- with it being August, it's a little dead around town, so you might be able to get in without too much trouble (soo, the line is long at 5:30, so get there at 5 if you can). Another thought is Estadio - if you get there at 5ish, it's so easy to  plant yourself at the bar and have an awesome night with delicious food. The bartenders make great food recommendations, too. Afterward, maybe you could head up 14th Street afterward to Blackbyrd for sparkling rose to celebrate?

Thanks for all the great questions and comments today. Sorry we couldn't get to everyone. Hope you make the most of this glorious weather -- hey, it's National Rum Day! -- and we'll see you here next Thursday.

My husband I booked a late lunch at Volt - still did the tasting menu with amazing pairings, but then had several hours to explore Frederick (and get coffee, walk off the wine, etc.) before heading back to DC. Just an idea if you don't want to/can't stay overnight.

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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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