Got Plans? Discuss great ideas for local entertainment, dates and family fun.

Oct 20, 2011

The Going Out Guide staff discuss great ideas for local entertainment, dates and family fun.

Hello everyone. This week we have two special guests joining us to answer your questions. Miles Gray III, the managing partner of Smith Commons, is here to give advice about Howard Homecoming. He is a Bison alumni and has been hosting Homecoming-week parties at D.C. nightspots since 2006.

We also have J.T. Yaung, the head of the area's largest Meetup Group, the 20s & 30s Going Out Group. (Lavanya's Weekend section cover story last Friday chronicled a night on the town with that group.

Feel free to ask them questions directly, and the Going Out Gurus are also here to cover all of your favorite going-out topics. Ready? Let's go.

Hey GOGs, Any suggestions for a good place to watch the world series- particularly with a large Cardinals crowd? Thanks!

I'd say The Pug on H Street is one option. As of last night they were offering $2 cans of Bud or Shiner, depending on your rooting interest. 

For authenticity's sake, though, you could watch at District of Pi's bar while sipping on Schlafly beers and eating St. Louis style pizza. 

Let's start with a question for Miles: You're a Howard alumni. What is it about Howard homecoming that brings so many A-list stars and musicians to Washington for the weekend (or the whole week)?

Most of the the A-list stars and musicians are either Howard Alums, have Howard Alums in there professional networks or did a gig at Howard Homecoming on their way to stardom. I remember meeting Kanye West on the yard during Homecoming in 2003 and some of us knew him as a producer by name, but the majority of people had no clue who he was. That's Homecoming!

hey GOGs! I'll be in Dupont Circle this Saturday, and am looking for a fun, inexpensive place for lunch. No food restrictions - I'll eat just about anything. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks!!

Have you been to ShopHouse yet? It's Chipotle's Southeast Asian spin-off, which means banh mi and rice bowls instead of burritos. The pork and chicken meatballs are tasty, and as someone who normally couldn't care less about green beans, I crave them here. Tom Sietsema even included the place in his recent Fall Dining Guide, which was a pleasant surprise.


There's also Shake Shack

Something up with the chats today, or are you guys just contemplating really hard? ;)

Yeah, we're having some really frustrating tech problems over here today, which is making this process unusually slow. Please bear with us. 

How crowded do you think Nightmare on M St is going to be? Are there any bars that you think will be quieter than others?

The annual Nightmare on M Street bar crawl is bigger than ever this year -- 17 bars around Dupont and Farragut Square are participating, ranging from Public Bar and the Front Page and McFadden's to smaller places, including Black Rooster, Bread and Brew and Recessions. I expect Madhatter, Rumors and Sign of the Whale will be packed; I'd think 19th, Bread and Brew and Black Rooster will be a little more calm.


Do the technical problems include the responses being anonymous? The names are missing!

That's all part of the plan -- today's Guess the Guru day! 


No, that's part of the tech problems too. This should help.


Besides Yardfest, what events are recommended for a first-time visitor to homecoming? Or should we just see what's happening at the bars on U Street?

Miles says:

On Friday, first time visitors to Homecoming should soak up yardfest. The entire Yardfest. Homecoming veterans may remember the impromptu and legendary performances by Jay-Z, DMX, and B.I.G. in past years.

On Saturday the football game and battle of the bands is mandatory.

For genuine Howard Homecoming experiences you must have wings and a drink across the street from Howard at Chuck & Billys.

Both nights have extensive nightclub events. The best ones are the one's that people are talking about on the yard. Think of it as pre Facebook, original social networking.

Any suggestions for cultivating lasting connections with people I meet at events? I've meet lots of really great, fun people at Meetups but haven't had much luck keeping in touch later.

From J.T.:

The best way is to continue coming out to events. Over time, you'll see some of the same people and get to know them at events you'll both have interest in. Whether you should exchange numbers, I usually play it by ear. If you get to talking and find you have similar interests, by all means exchange contact info. Some people are more comfortable with different communication mediums. Usually, you can't go wrong with Facebook!

Hi Gurus Any word on when Willam Jeffrey's Tavern is going to open? How about Eamonn's? Thanks.

Fritz says: No word on Eamonn's yet, but William Jeffrey's Tavern -- from the folks behind Rhodeside Grill, Dogwood Tavern and Ragtime -- should be serving beers by Thanksgiving if all goes well.

Hey there gurus -- don't know what I'd do without you! I'm sure you get this question all the time, but the last time I went to the Kennedy Center I was 12 and it was a matinee showing of Beauty and the Beast and I'm not quite sure what the grown-up dress code should be. My husband and I have tickets to the Saturday night performance of Les Mis -- what's appropriate? Cocktail dress for me, suit and tie for him, or is that a bit much? Also, any thoughts on locations for pre- and post-show drinks? Thanks!

I do think for Les Mis you'll be great in a cocktail dress, particularly if it's not too sparkly or New Year's-y; hubby, however, could get by without a suit jacket, or without a tie, his choice.  It's definitely a step up from office attire, but not quite formal.  Since you'll be dressed so nice, you could try to score a reservation at Ris or Westend Bistro, which aren't too far (like a few minutes' cab ride away).

I'm looking for something lively and fun for a 30th birthday tomorrow night (Friday) in Bethesda for 4 people without a reservation. Moderately priced, and somewhere that will be ok for vegetarians, that we will be able to park! With a bar, since we might be waiting at it for a while. We'd like to go around 9. Options in Silver Spring slightly less ideal but also possible. Thanks so much!

OpenTable is showing lots of availability for 4 at 9 p.m. tomorrow in Bethesda, so you have a lot of options. From what I'm seeing, I'd go with Newton's Table, Grapeseed or Redwood, probably in that order. -- AB

Hey Gurus! Hoping you can help me out with a kind of unusual question. I'm thinking about putting together a day of activities related to Lincoln. Right now I've got visiting Lincoln's cottage, drinks/dinner at Lincoln, and then going down to the Memorial to wrap up the night. Anything else you can think of that would go with the theme? There's a gap between the cottage (closes at 4:30) and dinner right now. If it matters, this will probably happen on a Saturday.

I like this question. There's a lot of Lincoln-related activities in the D.C. area: I'm partial to the museum at Ford's Theatre, where you can see the clothes Lincoln was wearing the night he was shot, as well as the gun that killed him. The House Where Lincoln Died is right across the street.

The National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring has the bullet that killed Lincoln and bone fragments from his skull as part of an exhibit called "Abraham Lincoln: The Final Casualty of the War."

You can see the first public statue of Lincoln outside the former City Hall/D.C. Courthouse at Judiciary Square.

And if you're looking for something before dinner, you can see portraits of Lincoln at the National Portrait Gallery, which is where his second inaugural ball was held. And it's open until 7:30. For more ideas, check out my guide to Civil War sites in Washington.

I'm a young Howard Alumna ('09), looking for one good event to go to. I did the standard homecoming events as a student. Is there a great young alumni party to check out?


Miles says: There certainly is. A group of Howard Alums collectively known as The Varsity Club, have been holding an event for the last 5 years. The event is simply known as "The Reunion". This year it's being held at Buddha Bar. It's a semi-formal Alumni focused event that has sold out every year. The website is

Help! My best friend from high school, whom I haven't seen in about a decade, is in town next week and wants to catch up. I am always petrified of having enough to talk about at such events. She's staying out in Rosslyn and I work near Metro Center, and we're both happy to travel. I'm thinking something along the blue/orange lines at those points that is quiet enough to catch up, yet has enough going on that we'll have plenty to talk about if things get slow. Thank you for any suggestions!!

Central Michel Richard. It's boisterous in the way that you'll never run out of things to talk about and the mood will be light and lively throughout. And for something a bit simpler and cozy, there's Bistro d'Oc.  -- AB

Been in a date-scene rut. What are some fresh/new date-night ideas with my boyfriend? We will try anything!

From JT: We host plenty of events that are couple friendly. For example, we regularly host bus winery tours and cooking classes. Matter of fact, we have an upcoming hayride & campfire event coming up that would suit you well!  Other than that, depending your interests, they can do a day trip to Harper's Ferry river tubing, or up to Snowshoe skiing or snowboarding in the winter time.

From Lavanya: I totally agree with JT. Make more day-dates to get out to the country, go to festivals, wine-tasting, road trips. That way there's not so much pressure to sit down at a fancy restaurant and have a serious "date night." 

What are the best bets as far as nightlife, this weekend, for Howard Homecoming?

I'll jump in for a second here and point you towards the Going Out Guide's curated list of events. My personal list includes Talib Kweli at the Park tonight, Young Jeezy, Wale and Big Daddy Kane at Yardfest tomorrow, the Reunion at Buddha Bar tomorrow night, Taraji P. Henson hosting the Day Party from 3-9 on Saturday afternoon at the Park, and Axel F, which is a night of '70s and '80s funk, hip-hop, go-go and R&B, at Liv on Saturday night.  -- FH

Why does it seem as if most Howard Homecoming events are targeted at Alumni (or the community at large who didn't attend Howard) instead of students? When most events cost $50 or $60 just to attend, that doesn't seem to be very friendly to a student's budget.

Miles says:
There are plenty of events marketed to students, but those events are usually marketed on the yard and in the dorms. Those events are priced to fit the undergraduate budget. The events you see more broadly advertised, are the ones that need to reach Alumni. These events are more costly, because typically they cost more to produce. As people graduate and move on, the things that "wowed" them in undergrad aren't really impressive anymore. As artists grow in popularity so does the cost to book them for appearances.

I'm planning on going out for Halloween on Saturday like everyone else, but didn't find the expensive Nightmare on M Street tickets worth it last year. Will other bars nearby still be partaking in the Halloween fun without having to officially buy tickets?

Yes. We have about three dozen events in our system so far, ranging from Hot 99.5's always raging Freek-O-Ween at District ($5,000 for the best costume!) to an open-bar party at Town Tavern ($10 for all you can drink until 10 p.m.). The problem with the behemoth that is Nightmare on M Street, though, is that you probably won't be able to get in to any of those 17 bars if you don't have the official wristband. Since it includes some of the most popular Midtown Saturday night destinations, such as Madhatter and Front Page, it may make nearby non-participants, such as Lucky Bar, Buffalo Billards and Cafe Citron, even more crowded.  -- FH

... but I think you might have good suggestions. I have lived in DC for a little more than a year and love it. Before that I lived in LA for 6 years where I went to school. Next weekend I am going back for my first visit and a reunion with my 6 (female) roommates from college. I really want to bring something to my friends from DC (they mostly live on the West coast, except one is in Paris). Usually I would bring some local craft beers to share, but I don't want to have to check a bag on my flight. Maybe some yummy local treats? Kitschy souvenirs? Any ideas?

This is a great question. Since you can't really take a chili half-smoke or a Maryland crab cake on a trans-continental flight (and I'm not sure you'd ever want to in the first place) you need something non-perishable. Perhaps your stylish L.A. friends would care for an authentic D.C. FBI T-shirt?? Chatters -- what do you bring your friends from afar when you want to give them a piece of the District? 

Hi gang, My in-laws are in town and watching the kids while my wife and I spend a night in DC - the first night to ourselves in almost two years. We're giddy with excitement. We have dinner plans at Obelisk and staying at a hotel near Dupont Circle, and then brunch at the Tabard Inn. Is there anything going on this weekend (saturday primarily) in the city that we should be checking out?

 This sounds like an amazing date weekend. You could consider the event Wine Riot at DAR, which has a Saturday day event, leaving your night wide open.  Or if you wanted to get in some culture, check out two fantastic exhibitions that recently opened: Warhol: Headlines at the National Gallery, and Warhol Shadows at the Hirshhorn.

gurus, I have friends from Nashville coming to visit DC for the first time early Friday morning who are looking to do a couple of quick tourist things, then have a few drinks around town after lunch. If it helps, I live on the Orange Line in Arlington and we'll be probably be going to Chinatown for lunch, but would rather take them to a part of town with a little more character, to help them feel like they are in DC. I thought you had posted a list of faviorite day drinking spots before (or at least covered in past chats), but I haven't been able to track it down. Thanks!

If you hang out near the White House, you have a lot of options: oyster happy hour at Old Ebbitt, the hidden-but-plush Off the Record bar in the basement of the Hay-Adams, the old-school feel of the bar at P.J. Clarke's.

My wife and I are going to see a show at the Hippodrome in Baltimore this weekend and have never been to that part of town. Any good restaurant recommendations within walking distance? Thanks!

The consensus around here seems to be Alewife. -- AB 

A friend's bachelorette is coming up and she wants to go dancing. I haven't been dancing in years! We're early-40s and she wants to go somewhere where we are the oldest people and not where its too super fabulous but at the same time she doesn't want to go somewhere super cheesy. Does such a place exist??? Thanks!!!

From JT: The best places to go dancing are clubs. The only large club in Northwest Washington is Ultrabar. There are several what I'd call "mini" clubs in NW, you might consider, Eden, Josephine, Lima.    Most clubs draw a younger crowd, though I will say Lima and Josephine are a bit more "upscale" and may be more your speed. The new Lost Society is also very trendy.

From Lavanya: Lima, Josephine (newly renovated!) and Lost Society are really great bets - many many people out on the town these days are in their 30s and 40s, so don't worry about that. But do dress up; all of these places attract crowds wearing their highest heels and tightest dresses. Skip the veil and bachelorette paraphernalia, too. I swear, bouncers cringe when they see it.

Hey Guru's - I have a group of friends visiting that I want to take beer tasting. However, a couple of the folks in the group don't drink beer - rather wine or a mixed drinks. Having never been to places such as Birch & Barley, Rustico, Pizza Paradiso, which establishment in the VA/DC area would you recommend we visit that would satisfy all of our tastes the best? Bonus points if they have tasty appetizers........thanks!

One of the things that surprises me is that it's so hard to find a place that has an amazing beer list, an amazing wine list and an amazing cocktail list. Usually you only get one of the three. Birch & Barley/ChurchKey is probably the best, though I find their cocktails a little underwhelming. Great apps, though. Jack Rose has more than a dozen taps and an excellent cocktail list, as you'd expect from a place with 1,400 whiskeys. And the new Smoke & Barrel has a fun cocktail menu (a whole list of boilermakers!) to go with 20 excellent European and U.S. microbrews, plus some of the best wings in D.C.  -- FH

What about OId Bay seasoning? Or - my personal fave - salty oat cookies from Teaism? For anyone with kids, a onesie or t-shirt for the babe that says, "Future President".

Old Bay is on the right track, but it's something of an acquired taste if you're not from around here. Maybe that's the point.  -- AB

Something from the White House gift shop.

Yeah, the White House Christmas Tree Ornament is an excellent choice, and you can get it at the Decataur House on Lafayette Square.  -- FH

One of the best dates I had was a cooking class at L'Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda. You learn an entire meal. After we did the class we then cooked the same menu again as a dinner party.

I've done the cooking-class-as-date thing at CulinAerie on 14th Street. The best part about it is that it requires a lot of interaction and, as you said, you learn skills that you can put to use again and again.  -- FH

Any ideas on a sunday breakfast/brunch in the West End area (or neighboring area)? The only wrinkle is that we need a reservation for 10am (or earlier). Most places I've found seem to open at 11am or later.

How feasable these are depends on the size of your party, but Ris and Founding Farmers, two of the most popular brunch spots in that area, are open at 10 a.m. and 9 a.m. respectively.  -- AB

Hey there! I'm truly hoping you can help me out! I have a friend from college, now in Grad school, who will be coming to DC this weekend. We're meeting for dinner and I'm trying to find a place where the food will be great and the atmosphere really fun but since she's a grad student it can't be overly expensive. Her only requirements is that it have good alcohol and cheese, any recommendations? I'd love to show off how awesome DC is!

Room 11 has one of my favorite cheese plates, and it won't set you back as much as, say, Proof's. Good wine and cocktails, and you're showing off a neighborhood gem. If you can go early, my other option would be Estadio, which isn't as pricey if you stick to the small-plate end of things.

Hoping you guys can help! So my parents are coming into town unexpectedly this weekend and I need a place to take them for dinner. They're generally not the most adventurous eaters- although they did like Rasika (thanks in large part to the kind waiter who deciphered the menu for them). But usually I end up taking them to something like Pizza Paradiso to be safe. Any recommendations for a similarly accessible ethnic eatery or modern American place, not too fancy, in the central DC/Eastern Market area? Thanks!

Haha, Pizzeria Paradiso is my "dad-approved" restaurant too. Downtown, you could try to see if Graffiato has a reservation, if they liked the high-end-ish vibe of Rasika. A couple of other places near there: Jaleo, Zaytinya (both of which take reservations) and Vidalia (both Vidalia and Jaleo registered on the new 2011 Fall Dining Guide). I want to suggest Atlas Room on H Street NE for some really interesting American food. But there's also Sonoma in Eastern Market, and of course, Acqua al 2, which a number of Gurus love.  I veered a little American on this list, but all of these places are hardly predictable.

I'm a Spelman Grad that lives in DC and didn't get any tickets for any of the Howard Homecoming events this weekend for me and my friends that will be in town! Are they any popular events that aren't sold out yet?

The best reason to pre-purchase tickets to events is that so many have "highly variable" pricing that means admission becomes more expensive as the night goes on. I just did a spot check and there are tickets left for most of the big events, including Taraji P. Henson's party at the Park, the Reunion at Buddha Bar, Mobb Deep at Liv and Diddy at Love.   -- FH

Miles says:

The key to economic success during Howard Homecoming is planning ahead and purchasing ahead. Events that are organized by the university as well as the great nightlife events do sell out. You absolutely must purchase tickets for the game vs North Carolina A&T before they sell out ( this game will be high energy and NC A&T has a large alumni base in DC. Nightlife events escalate in price over time and are always difficult to navigate at the door, so pick your party and purchase as early as you can.
If you don't want to spend money during Homecoming, you certainly don't have to. Great times are always had on the yard both Friday and Saturday. The Homecoming Steering Committee does a phenomenal job of organizing Yardfest each year.


There's always the "Lincoln on Beer" t-shirt from the Ford's Theater gift shop. It's a Lincoln quote about beer.

I don't know what this is, but I am intrigued.  -- FH

Might be worth noting that we are all in our mid-20s and that I am totally open to silly /tacky gifts - a la DC themed beer koozies or a chocolate obama -- as well as more traditional things

I'd definitely check the America! store at Union Station, some of those Political novelty stores -- can't remember the name, but there's one on Penn right across from Freedom Plaza.

Help! Birthday party about two weeks away and I can't come up with any ideas that are at least somewhat outside the box. This is the big 3-0 so I'd like to do *something* beyond just a small dinner out. It would have to be a Saturday night, metro-accessible, and a place that can accomodate 20 or so people without too much problem. Bonus points for bar games and/or cheesy 80s/90s music. Any great ideas? You guys are always so creative! I need some inspiration.

I love bar games. I would make it happy hour-ish on a Saturday night, though. That way you could pick something like Iron Horse Tap Room (skee ball! big buck hunter!), Buffalo Billiards (enormous spaces with pool/darts/shuffleboard/etc), maybe even Bedrock Billiards, which has all the usual stuff PLUS one of my favorite jukeboxes in all of D.C., a Wii, and couches for the group to flake out on.  -- FH

JT Says:
Try Buffalo Billiards, they have everything a sports bar / pool hall should have.

Obama bobbleheads! They have them at the America! stores. (I would suggest the life-size cutouts, but they would be hard to transport...)

You know what's sad? "james knox polk bobblehead" is a googlenope. Sigh.   -- FH

Why doesn't the LA-bound poster save the hassle at the airport and get some good gin, lime juice, and bubbly water after landing and make everyone gin rickeys? Introduce your girls to our official drink while giving them some Washingtonian hospitality. Nothing could be more authentically DC.

This.   -- FH

And that's going to do it for us today. We'd like to thank Miles Gray and J.T. Yaung for joining us and offering their advice, and we apologize for the technical difficulties. We'll see you back here next week for what promises to be a Halloween-themed discussion. See you then.    -- Fritz

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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. Join the thousands of readers who have followed us on Twitter and Facebook. And for nightlife news delivered twice-weekly to your inbox, make sure to sign up for the Going Out Guide newsletter.
Lavanya Ramanathan
Alex Baldinger
Fritz Hahn
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