Restaurants for a first date, and dog swims

First dates, BYOB restaurants and bars for football fans were on the agenda during last week’s Got Plans? discussion with the Going Out Gurus. Check out the highlights below, and for more information, search the boldface terms at goingoutguide.com .

First-date dinner

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Love the chats and advice. Looking for a good place for a first date.

Lavanya Ramanathan: So, part of the advice I have to dole out is that dinners are not great first dates, though I think that avoiding anything too fancy or too expensive is okay. The options really depend on the person: If you’re a little older, want to put the emphasis on good food or don’t want a scene, how about a nice little dinner on the patio at Cafe Saint-Ex? The food has really perked up (and will reveal instantly if you have a picky eater on your hands); the patio will be good because you’ll be able to hear each other. For the adventurous, we-used-to-be-in-the-Peace-Corps types, I’d suggest the new Izakaya Seki, which has a intimate little crowd around the bar, or Ethiopic. And if you’re laid back, like a little action and love barbecue, you can’t beat the Standard. Oh, a nicer take on the Standard has to be Smoke and Barrel. Get the gritcakes. Seriously.

Corkage fees

I’m originally from L.A., and it is always awesome to find a good restaurant with a low corkage fee. I’ve never seen anyone take wine to a restaurant in D.C. Is it done here? Any good places with a low fee out there?

Alex Baldinger : It’s actually pretty common around here, I would say, with most corkage fees in the $15-$25 range (be sure to call ahead if you’re wondering about a specific place). Lots of places do it for free, though, and the first one to come to mind is Thai X-ing.

Ramanathan: Open Table [www.opentable.com/washington-dc-restaurants] also maintains a list of places where you can BYOB. At Charlie Palmer Steak, there’s no corkage as long as you’re drinking the American stuff.

Dog swim

I have heard that some pools have a dog swim on the last day of their season. Do you know of any in the D.C. area?

Ramanathan: This is true! It’s going to happen [Sept. 8], and we just were planning on getting a list together. Here’s a tease — the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority will be doing it at the water parks. [Visit www.nvrpa.org for details.] Why do I love the idea of dogs on waterslides?

Texans

Is there anywhere in the city where Texans fans watch football? Although we have had no trouble finding bars to watch the Longhorns with other fans, my wife and I aren’t seeing Houston on any game-watch bar list. Help please, or are we doomed to Sundays in our apartment with the NFL network?

Baldinger: It’s tough for Texans fans, since any “Texas” bars would probably give first kick at the can to Dallas Cowboys fans, which I still think is unconscionable in this town. (Readers, if you know of a bar that unabashedly shows Dallas Cowboys games, please tell us so we can put them in a special file for purposes down the road!)

I called around to a few places including the Rhodeside Grill, which draws big crowds of Texas Longhorns, but it wouldn’t consider itself a Houston Texans bar. But with the beauty of the NFL Sunday Ticket, they, along with many of the larger bars in town, will show every game, including your beloved Texans. I have a hunch, though, that if you showed up at Hill Country wearing your finest Owen Daniels jersey, you would be welcomed with open arms.

Girlfriend’s birthday

Hi folks. The GF’s birthday is tonight and she doesn’t know where she wants to go for dinner, so it is up to me to figure it out. I’m looking for something inexpensive (gotta pay for the impending vacation somehow) and we are getting over colds (hot/abrasive stuff is out). We live in Columbia Heights. Thinking about Surfside followed by FroZenYo but we’ve done that a lot, and we just ate at Maple last week. Any ideas?

Ramanathan: Why not do El Chucho? It’s in Columbia Heights and, frankly, their happy hour is a KILLER. It’s not so spicy that you can’t enjoy it. Whatever you do, get the corn. And maybe instead of fro-yo, head across the street to Room 11 and splurge on a coffee and goat-cheese cheesecake (or any of their other awesome desserts). Oh, by the way, hit El Chucho before 7 p.m. and you’ll have a far easier time getting a table.

Philadelphia

Dear Gurus, this is a bit off-topic, but I’m hoping you can help a loyal reader. My wife and I are thinking of visiting Philly this weekend, probably leaving Saturday morning and returning Sunday night. Do you have any suggestions on 1) what neighborhood to stay in 2) must-do sights and 3) cool bars/lounges? We’ll probably drive there, but would like to stay close to the nightlife so we don’t have to take the car around. Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks so much!!!

Ramanathan: I am a huge Philly fan. I can’t tell you what neighborhood to stay in, but I can tell you where to drink and eat. First, make a stop at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is really, really incredible. For dinner, you could hit Continental, which is a kind of crazy ’50s diner meets Asian food joint (near the water, so that’s a fun walk), or Standard Tap (the food’s great, too, but you can also just grab beers, in true Philly fashion). For a good, grimy little bar with crazy dance parties (not unlike the Black Cat ), I’d check out the Barbary, or the slightly more tame Johnny Brenda’s. And before you leave, head to Honey’s Sit ’n Eat for brunch. It’s not that out of the ordinary (and they take only cash), but it’s like a weird Philly tradition, and full of people-watching.

Have questions of your own? The Going Out Gurus will be online at 1 p.m. Thursday. Submit questions in advance at goingoutguide.com.

 
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