Cheap ethnic eats, bowling in the ’burbs

In the most recent Got Plans? chat, the Going Out Gurus took questions from readers about where to find that popular aughts cocktail the cosmopolitan and the area’s best cheap ethnic eats. Check out the highlights below, and search the boldface terms at goingoutguide.com for more information.

A friend is coming to town . . .

And he wants to try out some smaller, authentic ethnic places. Where are the best places to head for pho/ramen or tacos in the District? I know there are at least a couple of newer places that have popped up, but I am drawing a blank on what they were. Thanks.

Lavanya Ramanathan: This question is so up my alley. For tacos alone, try Tacos El Chilango; if you really want to sample broader tastes of Mexico, head to Mama Chuy. There are a lot of things I like about El Chucho, though they’re not exactly authentic: They do have a pozole, tortas and tacos.

For foodie visitors, it’s absolutely necessary to eat the local cuisine: Ethiopian and Salvadoran. For Ethiopian, I’m obsessed with the traditional breakfast at Dukem . . . and Habesha for its amazing, cheap veggie platter. For Salvadoran, we just got a few nods in the GOG pod for the Salvadoran sandwich at the Eastern Market stalwart Canales Delicatessen and the pupusas at their cafe next door, Tortilla Cafe.

As for Vietnamese, I know a lot of people love Pho 14, but I’ve never been a huge fan. I’d much rather dine at Pho Viet. Better: Hop the train to Virginia and go to Pho 75, where everyone around here goes for the real deal. If you were up for renting a Zipcar, you could head to the amazing Eden Center, and grab a banh mi at Song Que — a place so good that Anthony Bourdain is among its fans. It’s one of my favorite places to eat, hands-down. Ack, one more — Fast Gourmet! In a gas station. Order the Chivito.

Kennedy Center dining

A friend and I will be going to the Kennedy Center to see Alvin Ailey on a Friday evening. Do you have any dining suggestions between the Foggy Bottom Metro and the KC that won’t be too expensive (up to $35 per person, without wine), too crowded at 6-ish or too slow for a 7:30 show? Are there any pre-theater specials? Thanks!

Ramanathan: If you’re headed to the Feb. 9 show, you’ll be right on time for Restaurant Week. You might make a reservation for District Commons, which is one of the rare restaurants that will allow diners to select anything from the menu, and the total (pre-tax) per person would be right around your budget, at $35.13. The restaurant is pretty large, so it shouldn’t be too crowded, Restaurant Week or not, particularly if you get there at 6.

Finding a good cosmo

The tips on bars with fireplaces and hot drinks are great . . . but I have an overseas visitor on an American tour stopping by, and he has been comparing cosmopolitans across the country. I drink only wine, so I’m at a loss. Where should I take him for the best of what this area can offer? Thank you very much!

Fritz Hahn: Cosmos? Seriously? Is he a “Sex and the City” fan? Take him to the Passenger, Hank’s on the Hill, Firefly . . .

Oh, wait. You’re a wine fan. He wants to drink cosmopolitans. Go to Proof. If they’re not slammed, see if the bartender can track down Adam Bernbach, who runs the cocktail list. I bet he can whip up an amazing one.

Bowling in NoVa

Has anyone been to Bowl America in Falls Church? Is it a dump or okay? Isn’t there a cool bowling alley in NoVa?

Hahn: “It’s the anti-Lucky Strike,” former guru David Malitz says from way over in the Style section. Fatty food, cheap beer. It’s a little tired, from the shoes to the balls, but there’s a reason it’s $13 for all-you-can bowl (after 9 p.m.) outside of weekends.

Birthday spa day

Hi, Gurus. I want to do a spa day to celebrate my birthday. What are some good places you can recommend? I have been to Spa World and that is not what I have in mind . . . something more relaxing and calming. If there are any great “bang for your buck” places, I’m interested in that, but I also recognize that for many spa places, cost does increase with quality. I would prefer somewhere Metro/bus accessible. Thanks for your help in getting me pampered!

Ramanathan: I feel like what you need is a retreat. Hotel-based spas are a good way to do this, because they combine treatments with the kind of service that doesn’t feel as clinical as some medi-spas, or as hair-salon-y as some of the spas in the back of, well, hair salons. A couple I’ve known about that are splurges include the spa at the Jefferson, and Red Door at the Willard is always a favorite of Washingtonian women. Last thought: Try Bliss at the W Hotel. I’d honestly also sign up for Gilt City, because they’ll frequently have deals for nicer spas in town, if you wanted to try a place without the huge investment.

I understand what you mean about Spa World. I love it there, and yet, on a weekend, it can also be crowded, chatty and about as relaxing as the Orange Line.

Drinks in Dupont

Looking for a bar in Dupont/Farragut area to grab a few drinks with a couple of friends. Ideally a lounge-type place with an older (30s/40s) crowd. Suggestions?

Hahn: I’d suggest the lounge at Firefly, Bar Dupont at the Dupont Circle Hotel or the lounge at Science Club. On the weekends be warned that all will fill up. . . . I’d try to get to any of them early. (If price is not a concern, I like the redone Edgar at the Mayflower, but the cocktails were around $15.)

Have questions about the best events of the coming season? This week, the Going Out Gurus will be joined by Style section writers, including film critic Ann Hornaday, classical music critic Anne Midgette and pop music critic Chris Richards, to discuss The Post’s Spring Arts Preview. They will be online at 1 p.m. Thursday. Submit questions in advance at goingoutguide.com.

 
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