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The Going Out Gurus
of the washingtonpost.com City Guide
Thursday, February 8, 2007; 1:00 PM

Every Thursday at 1 p.m. ET, washingtonpost.com's City Guide experts share their best bets for local flavor, great dates and family fun. Got plans? Great. Need plans? Just ask. We have the skinny on the bars and clubs, concerts, kitchens, theaters and special events that keep life interesting. We're going out gurus, and we're at your service.

Of course, we're happy to answer questions about local entertainment, but we need to hear from you, too. Introduce us to the coolest DJ or the fastest bartender you've encountered. Sound off on the week's best concert or the city's best burger. Tell us about the best place to amuse little kids or a big art fan. Together we can plan fun ways to spend weekdays, weekends, dates and holidays. The pleasure is ours, and yours.

Each week a different guru will act as host or hostess, but the entire staff is at your service. If you're looking for more ideas, see the City Guide or read transcripts of past Got Plans? discussions .

The transcript follows.

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washingtonpost.com: Good afternoon and welcome to this Thursday's edition of the Going Out Gurus discussion. Has it been cold enough for everyone this week? We're digging deep into our cold-addled brains to come up with some hot ideas for the weekend. If you're celebrating Valentine's Day this weekend, we've got some ideas, and if you're not, we've also got some ideas. So, without further ado ...

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Northwest, D.C.: Please Help. I recently discovered I can't have wheat. Does anyone know of restaurants that serve gluten-free dishes or that are accommodating? This may be a Tom question but just wondering what the etiquette is if I ask at a restaurant for gluten-free dishes.

Erin: You poor thing. My grandmother has severe wheat allergies and it's so difficult to find suitable meals in restaurants. Wheat appears where you'd least expect it -- salad dressings, soy sauce, soups, scrambled eggs and sauces -- so you have to be very careful. First thing is don't worry about being picky. Be up front about your allergy so that servers don't ignore you as just another South Beacher. Stick to simply grilled, no sauce dishes.

This is where my typical aversion to chains flies out the window. Legal Seafoods, Outback Steakhouse and Maggiano's have gluten-free menus. I cannot condone Maggiano's in good conscience, but if you crave pasta and want to have it in a restaurant, they have it without wheat.

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Washington, D.C.: GOG- i'm new to DC, and single. valentine's day is around the corner so i'm just curious where a fun, 25 year old gal should go on valentine's day or this weekend, to meet other singles? i'm cute, i'm fun! but i don't know very many people in the city yet and so i'm looking for somewhere that is friendly enough for a single gal to venture out on her own. and of course, i'd hope for there to be liquor and mingling. thanks!

Fritz: There are a LOT of singles events going on over the next week. You can get laundry lists as part of the Nightlife Agenda column and in our special Love Week section.

My picks, though, would be the "no couples allowed" party at Chief Ike's next Wednesday, Chi-Cha's "night before Valentine's" event on Tuesday, maybe the Hatentine's Day All-Hate Review at Palace of Wonders, since the Evil Hate Monkey's routines can be pretty interactive with the audience.

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Capitol Hill, D.C.: There are rumors circulating that Kelley's Irish Times is closed, any truth to these rumors and if so why?

Fritz: No. This is all a baseless Internet rumor. Not true at all. I got a forwarded e-mail, called the bar and they said it was a lie. It's funny how this took on a life of its own. I didn't put up a blog post about it because I figured that was just going to fan the flames and keep an untrue story alive.

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Red Line, D.C.: Fritz, I am delighted that you too have a worn-out cassette version of Background. Lifetime's music was a key component of my college years. I am looking forward to seeing their show at the Black Cat. I have been to a ton of hardcore shows both here in DC and in other cities, but I have yet to go to a hardcore show at the holier/indier than thou Black Cat. Will I expect a throwdown and some upbeat dancing on Friday, or will the powers that be ensure that this is a sedate/no-fun experience?

(PS -- I have seen two of their reunion shows this past summer and they didn't play anything from Background or from their seven inches, it was all Hello Bastards & Jersey's Best Dancers).

Fritz: Yeah, but even tracks from "Hello, Bastards" and "Jersey's Best Dancers" are better than 99.9 percent of the stuff that followed from the likes of Fall Out Boy (aka "Jersey's Second-Best Dancers") and their ilk.

Anyway, David and I agree that this is going to be a great show -- I'm going to try to make it over after I hit some work-related bars. There won't be stage diving, since the Cat is pretty adamant about not allowing that, but there better be dancing and craziness. I mean, this is Lifetime .

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Washington, D.C.: HELP! I am a going to a gallery show and don't know what is appropriate to wear. It is going to be at a Georgetown gallery. Should I wear a dress? Jeans? I don't want to be under dressed or over dressed.

Janet: I think you'll find that an arty crowd -- which I'm assuming this will be -- tends to dress down, but does it with imagination. So, no matter what you decide, think about how you can be original.

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Old School...: Submitting early, and really hoping you can help me find somewhere in the area that has the old Pac-Man or Ms. Pac-Man arcade game? Many thanks!!

David: Well the Ms. Pac-Man at Galaxy Hut is the one that first comes to my mind. Last time I checked one of the dudes from Middle Distance Runner had a high score on there that's going to be very hard to top. Wonderland has one, too. I believe that Black Cat still has one also. Any other (Ms.) Pac-Man spots out there?

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Arlington, Va.: What are a mother and daughter to do in this city, tomorrow, during the day?

We have the day off and are having a hard time choosing between exhibits, films, various indoor activities!

Thanks for any recs!

Julia: Tough to choose, isn't it? As far as exhibits go (and at the risk of repeating myself week after week), Joseph Cornell at the American Art Museum is a must-see show. While you're at there, you could check out the Portrait Gallery's Josephine Baker show too. Be sure to visit the Lincoln Gallery . (Warning, that link is to a panorama, so it takes few seconds to load, but it's worth it). If you dig flowers, check out the orchid exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History.

I'm dying to see " Factory Girl ," but it's not for every mother-daughter relationship! " Le Petit Lieutenant " is supposed to be a good French film.

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Rosslyn, Va.: I recently purchased a new suit and I am looking for a good tailor where I can get the pants and the sleeves on the jacket tailored. I have taken a few things to my local dry cleaner before, but I haven't been thrilled with the work they have done. Do any of you know a good place where I can take my suit?

Janet: My knowing friend recommends: Hamza Simrick

574 S.Joyce 23rd

Arlington,VA 22202

703.521.6909

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Alexandria, Va.: Are there any Valentine-themed wine tastings going on next week? Maybe something that pairs the wines with chocolate?

Erin: Try this site for wine events that look pretty love-themed to me. If you're looking for suggestions on things to try at home, Fritz and Julia caught up with several local wine merchants to get their picks for Valentine's Day .

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Beer, D.C.: With all the griping about service and beers being out-of-stock, I find it hard to believe the Brickskeller is really one of Fritz's favorite beer bars. What am I missing?

Fritz: As I said in my beer-related blog post yesterday, I like the upstairs bar at the Brickskeller -- you know, where the draft lines are. My reasoning is that I can see what's available and the bartenders can let me know right away if they're out of something, or if one beer is going because it's at the bottom of the keg. Things like that. The selections are usually pretty interesting; this was where the Rodenbach Flemish Ale made its local debut.

That said, I usually don't go to the Brick late on weekends, when it's crowded, servers are stressed and beers are more likely to be out of stock.

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Washington, D.C.: Booo the Black Cat.

Just thought I'd weigh in on the issue.

Fritz: And what issue is that? Lack of stage diving? Because I don't want your sweaty legs kicking me in the head while I'm trying to watch a show?

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U ST?? What's up?: I live on 12th Street, and I was wondering if you could clear things up for me. My little fav shoe store seems to be closing and moving to a larger space at Woodley. I have not got the final word on this, do you guys? (I have to stay in close touch with my cool shoe supplier).

Janet: Er, what's the name of the store?

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Arlington, Va.: Hi GOGs!!

Going to see King Lear at Folger on Saturday with a few friends. Any word on the performance? Where are some cool places to grab dinner or drinks?

Erin: I saw the show and thought it was very powerful. The performers express a lot of agony through movement and physical displays. It's graphic and difficult to watch at times, but I left feeling totally drained. If you're in the fourth row, actors may crawl over you. They take full advantage of the theater space.

It's something you'll definitely want to discuss afterward. Try Sonoma.

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Washington, D.C.: Dearest GoGs, Besides my fiance, the biggest love of my life is the North Face down jacket I've had since my freshman year of college. Through all of the winters it has kept me warm, the down has lodged in clumps throughout the jacket and now only parts of it keep me warm! Do you have any suggestions for places I can go to have it restuffed? Thanks!

Janet: I hate to break it you, but instead of finding a place that could possibly restuff the down, you'd be far better off to buy a new one. I know that's a budget blow, but I don't think you're going to have good results even if you find somebody to do it

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Washington, D.C.: Any insider info on the DJ A-Trak/Clipse show at Fur tonight? I talked to one of the guys at Commonwealth and he said it's just ten bucks at the door (for guys), and that they don't anticipate selling out the place.

Fritz: Well, they've done a really, really bad job of promoting it, and Fur is a huge venue. We don't think they're going to play more than 4 or 5 songs, or maybe a medley of hits -- this is more like a "special appearance" deal than a full-on show -- but hopefully A-Trak will spin for a bit.

This is the "grand opening party" for Commonwealth, Pharrell's clothing store, which opened in Adams Morgan last month. More info can be found here .

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Washington, D.C.: The City Guide talks about a funky dress code for Chi-Cha Lounge. What would 20/30 something women wear to the V Day Eve event?

Fritz: Something nice, a little classy, that wouldn't make the man of your dreams turn and run?

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Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.: Hello GOGs. I'm contemplating my first show at Merriweather (tickets go on sale this weekend). I was just wondering if there's any way to get out there for a non-car owner. Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks!

David: Find a friend to drive you? There doesn't seem to be any easy option, unless you could figure out how to pick up the bus that drops you off at Columbia Mall and walk from there. Sometimes On Tap magazine runs bus trips out there for shows, but no word on if they'll be doing one for the MCR/Muse show, and usually when they do these trips a ticket is included.

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Washington, D.C.: A suggestion: On the City Guide page, could someone label the link for the Nightlife Agenda as being the Nightlife Agenda? I always go to the City Guide page on Thursdays to try to read Nightlife Agenda but it always takes me a while to figure out which link it is. Maybe that's one reason why people always ask you questions they could have found the answer to by reading the Nightlife Agenda? Thanks! I love both Nightlife Agenda and the chat!

Anne: Hi D.C., it's always fun to talk with a City Guide regular. We're glad you're into the Nightlife Agenda column, which David, Fritz and Rhome write for Thursday mornings. It's about their favorite DJs, bands, dance nights, fundraisers, festivals or other funky things happening in the next week, usually at bars and clubs. On the City Guide main page, I think we often do label it as Nightlife Agenda, but because some people aren't familiar with the name of the column, sometimes we mix it up and highlight individual events that we think are cool. It's usually in the From the Gurus area in the center, but we always want to make it easy to find. What do other people think? I'd love to hear from regular readers and anyone who's just checking out the column for the first time.

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Ms. Pac-Man/Galaga: They have one at Corner Slice Pizza joint in Bethesda

Fritz: You mean there's a reason to go to Corner Slice beyond post-late-night-at-Rock-Bottom? That's amazing.

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Re: North Face: To the person with the North Face down coat - try calling North Face to see if they'll replace it for you. If it's a defect that shouldn't happen, they have a lifetime guarantee on all their clothes. Give it a try, worst case they might give you a discount on a new one.

Janet: Here's another reader's suggestion, although it did sound to me that it wasn't a defect, but more a matter of wear and tear.

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20036: Hi GoGs,

This may be more of a question for Tom's chat, but do you have any recommendations for a good Italian bakery in the area? I'm looking for some good Italian sweet bread. Thanks and love your chats!

Erin: How about Vaccaro's in Union Station? Anybody care to satisfy this craving?

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Washington, D.C.: Is there a bar in the metro area that shows the UCLA basketball games, preferably with a lot of UCLA fans?

Fritz: In the past, the go-to spot has been the Ugly Mug on Barracks Row, but I'm not in love with the crowded bar area.. Any Bruins have any suggestions?

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Alexandria, Va.: Submitting early so I hope you don't miss my question. Do you know of a bakery that (1) delivers, and (2) is making special treats for Valentines Day?

Erin: I just called Sweet Jane Catering . Unfortunately, she's booked through Valentine's, but she does deliver, so keep those cupcakes, brownies and treats in mind. Baked and Wired can deliver on occasion, when it's not too far. It really depends on the size of the order. Most places can work something out if you have a large order.

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Falls Church, Va.: Boooooo on stage diving and crowd surfing.

David: What, you don't like getting kicked in the head by someone's Doc Martens? Man, the number of shoes I ripped off of crowdsurfers back in the day. There was a Foo Fighters show at Tower Records where I think I may have reached double digits!

Fritz: I was going to go find an old Fugazi bootleg where Ian lectures the crowd on the dangers of stage diving, but ... yeah, it's just not a good idea once you're older than 16. (Says the guy who used to do it at hardcore shows at Kilimanjaro back in the day.)

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Rhode Island: I want to get a gift certificate for Pilates in Alexandria for my best galpal back home- any suggestions? (pilates on the reformer, not mat)

Erin: Call Studio Body Logic . I haven't taken a class, but I've gone to check it out and it seems very professional. Plus, you can splurge on custard across the street ... or do most people not ruin a good workout right afterward?

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L'Enfant Plaza, D.C.: Maybe it's not the same experience as a real arcade game, but for about $10 at any toy store you can get this special joystick thing that hooks up to your television and will let you play old school Ms. Pac Man and Pac Man all day long.

Fritz: But then you're the only one who sees your initials on the high score screen. Where's the sense of accomplishment in that?

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Bethesda, Md.: For the wheat-free diner, Austin Grill also has many gluten-free dishes.

Erin: Thanks. It's nice to expand cuisine options with some Tex-Mex.

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Washington, D.C.: Where can I get some really tasty duck???

Erin: Don't laugh, but Mark's Duck House. Maybe it's the most obvious answer, but they live up to the name. What kind of duck are you looking for? For a nicer entree, Ardeo's duck was a treat for me.

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Washington, D.C.: Fritz,

Thanks for yesterday's blog about RFD's Ale Tasting. Which day would you recommend? Are there one or two brews to look out for on either day? Most importantly, which day will you be going?

Thanks!

Fritz: I think both days are great. I have plans on Wednesday -- long-standing commitment -- and am bummed about missing Oliver's Hot Monkey Love and the triple from Brewer's Art. Jason Oliver's Baltic Porter, which I think is still on at Gordon Biersch, is a thing of rich, dark, complex beauty. On Thursday, the Cap City beers should be stellar as usual, especially the Belgian lambic, and the oak-aged Imperial Stout from Sweetwater is already in my dreams. I'll try to make it the second night.

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Ms. Pacman: I know that Asylum had a Ms Pacman game and I think Pharmacy bar had a the table version. They can come out with whatever Wii, PS3 stuff they want, but nothing beats Ms Pacman!

David: Some more Pac-Man options. What is the difference between

Pac-Man and Ms Pac-Man, really?

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RE: Clumpy down jacket: Put your clumpy coat in the dryer (low heat) with 3 or 4 tennis balls. It works, I swear, I've done it for my down comforter too.

Janet: Hmm. Possibility. I know that it works for a down comforter from my own experience. Worth a try at any rate.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Gurus!!

I just started reading this weekly chat and think it's great. I am having a good friend come into town next weekend, Feb. 16-18, and need to know what is goin' on around town! I want to plan a little early, a.k.a. not the night before, so hopefully you can help. We're both 23, fun, love groovy live music as well as museums. We're on a budget but willing to dish a bit for a good show/exhibit/dinner. He has been here a few times before so I want to avoid the Smithsonian scene. I know Lily Allen is playing at the 9.30 club but tix are sold out. Any suggestions?

Thanks!

Julia: Thanks for reading! Yeah, that Lily Allen show will be amazing. I so wish I was in town for that.

Exhibits, exhibits, exhibits: three cool shows open that weekend. The biggest of the big is the Disney-Tishman Collection at the National Museum of African Art. Most of these works of African art haven't been exhibited before. You might also consider two smaller shows: Nightscenes at Flashpoint and 5+5 at the JCC. The first features eerie urban photographs. The second features work by 10 artists with local ties.

At the National Gallery, the recently opened Jasper Johns show is another one for you to consider. It's the exhibit of the moment -- at least until Modernism comes to town.

Last Train Home is kind of a D.C. event, so that might be a good concert pick. For a performing arts, I'd look into the Hip-Hop Festival at Dance Place. Tickets are only $20 and there should be some pretty cool dance and spoken word. Check out the official site for more info.

Don't know when he's leaving on Sunday, but you could trek down to Chinatown for the Chinese New Year Parade . It's free and kicks off at 2 p.m.

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Fairfax, Va.: Looking for chocolates for Valentine's Day.

Not the Russel Stover or Godiva.

Is there a local candy shop that makes good chocolate?

Erin: Artisan Confections is all the rage right now for great local chocolates. Kingsbury does a nice job. Blue Moon Chocolatier is also local. I mean, they may not come in that precious red velvet heart-shaped box, but you'll have amazing chocolate.

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Washington, D.C.: Hey Guys.....a group of us girls are headed out to try Zola's for dinner on Friday night. Just wanted to know if this is a "nice jeans" friendly spot or not. Plus...do you have any lounge recommendations...a spot with good Neo-Soul/R&B music. Thanks!

Rhome: You shouldn't have any problem at Zola with a classy ensemble based on tailored, chic jeans. Your post dinner music needs can be met at Twins Lounge where Alison Crockett is performing.

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Washington, D.C.: Can you recommend a romantic Spanish restaurant in DC (asides from Jaleo) that serves quality seafood paella? Many thanks!

Erin: The burgundy dining room of Taberna del Alabardero is romantic. I mean, with a pitcher of sangria, what isn't romantic? But really, Taberna is lovely. It's pricier than the loud Jaleo, but the lobster paella and service are both excellent.

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Washington, D.C.: I have a college friend visiting who I haven't seen since graduation (a few years ago) and we have one night on the town...any suggestions on where to go? I was thinking Adams Morgan only for the pizza factor and the fact that if the bar is awful, you can always go next door or to the next block.

Preferrably looking for a few places to warm up and booze and then cap it off with some dancing!

Thank you!!!

Fritz: Ew. Ew. Ew. NO ONE SHOULD EVER GO TO ADAMS MORGAN FOR THE PIZZA.

I'd say that if you're set on the neighborhood, hit Bobby Lew's for some low-key chatting, then Bourbon, the Reef, Bossa, Toledo Lounge, and finish at Chief Ike's (hip-hop, '80s, rock) or Heaven and Hell if you need clubbier music. (Man, the dance options in Adams Morgan are just so tired these days.) And get falafel when you're done.. I love the Old City of Jerusalem on Columbia Road because they have really great shawarma and lamb dishes.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm looking for lingerie for Valentine's Day and need something with more choices (and better informed staff) than Victoria Secret. Metro-accessible please! Thank you!

Janet: You could try Romance for the Senses , which has a good and varied selection of nightgowns, bras, underwear, etc., etc. There's also Coup de Foudre (D.C.) and Sylene's (also D.C.).

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Washington, D.C.: Fritz,

I have to ask again...any word on when the Pug is going to open?

Fritz: I was in the lounge on Sunday watching soccer and Tony said he'd gotten the permits and it would be open this week. And his phone is off, so that's all I know.

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Romeo, D.C.: Which do you think is a busier dining night actual Valentine's Day or the weekends before/after? Ya'll are the best!

Erin: Aw, shucks. As for busiest, I would imagine that it'll fall in a 50/50 split. Eager couples will charge out of the gate, but the following weekend can be crowded with compensatory dinners for those who provided lackluster Valentine's nights. Pick whichever is easier. You might have a better time finding reservations that are farther out (ie: next weekend).

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Silver Spring, Md.: Going up to Sonar in Baltimore tomorrow for the early Yo La Tengo show. Can I expect a full set, or will they cut it short for the later Rapture show?

I've also never been to Sonar before...any advice on parking, dinner, etc?

David: Nah, it'll be a full set. Doors open at 9 for the Rapture show, but that's just the club stage. They won't be letting people in to the main stage until close to midnight. Expect to get the usual hour and a half or so from YLT. And if you can beat the traffic, get there early for the Rosebuds, who are very awesome. There's a parking lot right across the street from the venue that's free, and if you show up early enough you should have no problem finding a spot there.

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Foggy Bottom, D.C.: What fun parties will be going on in Georgetown for young singles on Valentines Day?

Fritz: What, besides the slow jam party at Smith Point?

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Arlington, Va.: I've been dying to take a hip-hop dance class. Do you know of any places, besides the Joy of Motion, in VA or DC?

Rhome: You can try Culture Shock's classes . Then head over to the Universal Capoiera Center on U Street for Saturday night parties where dancers gather .

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Ms. Pac Man: Stetson's on U Street has Ms. Pac Man.

Fritz: Score. Thanks. But does anyone else want to play Baby-Pac? Remember that one? It had a built-in pinball game. Man, that was so sweet.

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Bristow, Va.: Hello Gurus, my 19th wedding anniversary is coming up this month, and normally, my wife and I would travel to celebrate our anniversary every year. But this year, I'm looking to stay local and hoping to find something to go and do here. Could you recommend a romantic getaway for an old couple in the D.C. metropolitan area? Thanks.

Anne: Happy anniversary to you! I love the idea of going on vacation in your own town. Sometimes the best thing to feel like you've gotten away is to escape the quotidian chores and scenery of your own place. I like the idea of taking a night or so in a chic D.C. hotel, like Hotel Madison , George or Monaco , each with classy dining rooms and lounges built in. If it does warm up, you can walk the streets and bridges, go ice-skating or if it's still this shiver-shivery, go gallery-hopping or plan a night out at the theater .

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Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: I have some friends coming in from LA next weekend and staying in Georgetown. I want to take them to dinner at a really unique, fantastic restaurant. Looking at Georgetown primarily, and I definitely want to impress with great food and atmosphere! Any suggestions? You guys are the greatest!

Erin: You could take them to the frosty waterfront. Agraria's many many fireplaces would make for a nice atmosphere. Otherwise, the cozy Bistrot Lepic is a winner.

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Washington, D.C.: Any suggestions for bar space for a low-maintenance engagement party (30-40 people)? Looking for private space (for at least part of the night) and a drink special or two. Lots of smokers, so a convenient smoking area would be nice. Been looking in the Adams Morgan/Dupont/U Street areas, if we can find a good space elsewhere that's fine. Checked out Stetson's upstairs, and they asked for ~$300; the goal is a "get the space free if you spend $x" place. Any thoughts? Thanks!

Fritz: Bourbon usually will work with you for that -- party in the upstairs Blue Room space and there's a heated back patio. You could also try the upstairs at Soussi.

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Washington, DC: I have a dinner date on Saturday night and was hoping to go dancing (big band style) afterwards. Is there anywhere in the Dupont area that fits the bill?

Rhome: Definitely not in Dupont and Clarendon is probably too far afield for you. Any helpful tips from the gallery?

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Ms Pacman: David, just so you know, there is a HUGE difference

between Pacman and Ms Pacman. Pacman isn't even worth

your quarters.

Fritz: Co-signed!

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City Guide thoughts: I wish you could search more than one place/cuisine at a time. If I'm looking for a place to eat with friends, we usually try to look in several places (Chinatown and Downtown, for example) and having to search both is just kind of a pain. Same thing with type of food. I think I remember the City Guide having this capability a few years ago, but I could be making things up.

Anne: Good to hear, thanks for sharing this recommendation. We'll keep that in mind as we make improvements to the search. There's not a great way to search two cuisines at once right now, but you can sort of search two neighborhoods at once if they're next to each other. For example, type restaurants in the keyword box and Downtown in the location box and then set a proximity of, say 2 miles, which will expand your search from the center of that neighborhood outward, so that will pull in other restaurants, even if they're in a different neighborhood. The closest things to the center will come up first, so you could make your radius as big as you want, really.

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Washington, D.C. : Headed to Bourbon in Adams Morgan for a birthday- what's the dress code like? Thanks!

Fritz: There's no dress code, but that doesn't mean you should come in looking like a slob. Most people make some effort on weekends.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi, it's Kristen from Express. That shoe store the U St. chatter asked about had to be Carbon. They are closing the U Street location to concentrate on Woodley Park, but Shoefly just opened one there -- the reader should check it out!

Janet: Thanks, Kristen. I just found out that Carbon is about to close U Street, but didn't know Shoefly had opened there. Thanks for the info!!

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Loveless in D.C.: About 6 of my twenty-something lady friends and I want to go somewhere on Valentine's Day where we can dress up and drink fancy cocktails and talk about our lack of love. Any suggestions? We are all grad students so a happy hour at a nice lounge would be ideal!

Julia: A girl after my own heart -- absolute best way to spend Valentine's Day! Eyebar's probably your best bet. They offer drink specials from 5-8 on Wednesday.

I wouln't wear a *really* swanky dress there or anything, but Helix is another great spot for a loveless ladies' GNO. The half-price happy hour deals don't apply to cocktails, but it's still a good spot to split some apps and chat without paying a huge tab at the end of the night.

Leaving the budget behind, you might try good old Eighteenth Street Lounge . I like that place best on a weekday night.

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Washington, D.C.: Have you guys heard of a place called Thai Crossing in Shaw? It apparently is run out of some basement and my boyfriend desperately wants to go? I don't know whether to be worried or excited... any insight is welcome!

Erin: It's good, but it's not awesome. You're right that a man cooks out of an English basement apartment. Since he does it himself, it takes forever. Order, then wait an hour before even going to get it. I called once at 8:30, arrived at 9:15 and waited until 10. That was 90 minutes from order to presentation. That said, it tastes like good quality Thai food that tastes homemade and it's worth a shot.

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Waiter Crush: Fritz, have you ever left your number for a cute bartender or waitress? it's so cliche, but i've got a huge crush on a waiter at my favorite neighborhood spot. worth taking a chance? or is the possibility of being shamed out of my local haunt too great? (FWIW, he's been my server a few times, but i mostly just admire from afar...)

Fritz: Look, this is one of those things that it really can't hurt to try. Next time he's your server, make some small talk, be a little chatty, and leave a little note with the check that says "Hi. I really enjoyed our conversation today about [x] and I'd love to talk to you more/you sound really cool/etc. Coffee?" If he's coupled up or not interested, there's nothing you can do, but at least you gave it a shot and tried in a distinctly non-threatening way. Also, if he says no, let it go and move on immediately.

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Adams Morgan, D.C.: Hello Gurus. A tipping question for you. As most know, DC adds a 10% tax on bar/restaurant bills. Are we citizens supposed to tip on the pre-tax or post-tax total? I say pre but restaurant friends of mine, understandabley, say post. I've been tipping post-tax for about three years now and am feeling ripped off. Who's right?

Fritz: I always feel like I should tip pre-tax and then usually pay post-tax. It's weird to tip based on a total that includes money that doesn't go to the restaurant.

Erin: I agree, but it really depends on the percentage you're tipping. If you're going with the 15%, tip post-tax. These days, 15% doesn't cut it as a decent amount for good service. If you're usually a generous tipper, you can go for the pre-tax. Hope that's not confusing.

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Washington, D.C.: Regarding the... "get the space free if you spend $x" place.

Do you know of any in the Gallery Pl/Chinatown/Penn Quarter area? I would think that RFD and RnR accomodate these requests.

Fritz: RFD charges a fee for the back room, but you can pick your own beers for the taps. RNR will accomodate if you have a certain number of people, but it's not really that great a bar -- maybe if I was having a party before or after a Wizards game or something.

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What is wrong with D.C.?: Hey GOG's,

OK, maybe I have your attention...speaking of single of Valentines Day - my friends and I would like to know why Washington D.C. remains single, footloose and fancy-free? Well, at least the former. It seems that it's a hard place to couple up seriously. Let's just say that the "good" ones (for lack of a better term) are already taken or not into a committment. What gives?

Thanks.

Fritz: You're not looking hard enough or meeting the right people?

Rhome: I hear this a lot from my women friends but 0% of my male friends ever complain about this. I didn't say it was fair.

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Arlington, Va.: GOGs, I just recently started dating someone (3 dates) and I don't know what I should get her for Valentine's Day. I don't want to go overboard but also don't want to come off like I don't care. What would be an appropriate gift? Flowers? Candy? Thanks!

Erin: How about heart-studded thongs from Victoria's Secret? Just kidding. You could go with rose-colored champagne flutes and pair it with a nice bottle to share or definitely pick up some good chocolates. It so depends on her interests.

Julia: I think Erin's got the right idea. Subtle and sweet at the same time. Fritz and I called a bunch of local wine shops for their advice on romantic wines and champagnes. Check out the results here . (Hint, you might find the perfect solution to your dilemma in the last paragraph.)

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DUH!:

The difference between Pac Man and Ms. Pac Man is the bow!!! Way cuter. And then if you win, she gets together with Pac Man. Sure, that's what every girl wants, right?

David: Yeah, it's the bow. I think I was quoting "Wayne's World" when I originally asked, but I could be wrong. You have to give the manufacturers of Pac-Man credit for making some sturdy joysticks. For how much those things get smashed around, they are always intact.

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Washington, DC: Fritz,

Busch makes a top notch Winter Ale, which I have never seen on tap outside of their resort (Kingsmill). Any idea if I can get it anywhere in the area?

Fritz: The winter bourbon cask ale? I heard it was on at ... somewhere in December, but I can't remember. It might have been in Baltimore. Chatters? Beer geeks?

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Fairfax, Va.: For the allergic chatter (sorry, I'm late joining the discussion), the Great American Restaurants chain in Northern VA offers a gluten-free menu, and in my experience has been quite helpful/accommodating with questions about ingredients & preparation (my son has the same allergy).

Erin: Wow, I do not remember that, but how fantastic. I love that chain. Thanks.

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Downtown/Dupont, DC: Please help me! Myself and two great girlfriends are thinking of hitting a happy hour tonight before some of us leave town for a bit. We're 30-somethings looking for low-key with nice drinks/wine (preferably some specials). If it helps we've liked Firefly, Science Club, Simply Home, etc. in the past. Would love to keep the need to yell quotient down to a minimum...

Thanks Guys...you're the greatest!

Fritz: Have you been to happy hour at Vidalia? Always a great wine deal going on. I'm a huge fan of Bistro Lepic, especially when "low key" and "wine" are involved.

Actually, this might count as special, though it's not free: Sonoma has been doing special wine tasting nights on Thursday from 5:30 to 7:30. You taste four or five wines (sometimes with a rep from one of the wineries involved) for $20. Snacks are usually included, too. Call 'em and make a reservation if you want to go, because it does fill up.

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OMG!: I had no idea that Fritz says "Ew. Ew. Ew." That was too funny.

Fritz: The mere idea of Jumbo Slice will do that.

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Washington, DC: Indeed, the winter bourbon cask ale. Hard to believe it is made by Busch; but it's hard to beat on a cold night.

Fritz: Have you tried the bourbon-aged cask ale at District Chophouse? Really delicious.

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Rockville, Md.: I know the theme is Valentines, but I have my 15-year-old baby cousin coming into the city for a visit this weekend, and I have no idea what to do with her! She likes to feel grown up -- doesn't like overly girlie stuff. She is more into indie/funky/different things. Of which I have a long list, just none that I can think of that would be appropriate for a freshman in high school! Help!

Anne: Hi Rockville -- I'm taking a guess at the kind of arts or music she might be into, and granted, some of these are oldies even for the Gurus, but they're all cool things to expose an adventurous teen to. Friday night are two shows that Gurus are excited about -- you've heard everyone talking about Lifetime already, and Jonathan Richman plays at the 9:30 club (that's an early show, actually), and 15-year-olds can go to either of those. I bet she'd like hanging out at a coffeeshop like 14U or Tryst , and teens seem to love shopping in Georgetown, which, if you're there, you could stop by Govinda -- preview the punk rock photos for a sampler of the show. Jasper Johns is an exhibit that I think can speak to any age, too.

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unique, impressive in Georgetown?: umm, 1789?

Erin: Ok, just make sure that any attending males pack a jacket and tie. I love 1789, but feel like it's a lot to expect warm weather friends who're already stuffing suitcases with coats, scarves, thermal underwear, hand warmers and snow boots to pack a 1789-style outfit.

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RE: U St Question: I think the earlier question, (store on U Street closing) was Carbon? I walked by there this morning and yes, the sign in the window said Woodley open, U St closed.

Janet: Rhome: Fritz would know the details better since he actually buys stuff there but I only window shop. Evidenly they're going to have more space and therefore deeper stock?

Janet:

Just spoke to Kevin Powers, who said he's in the process of closing Carbon on U Street. He's got more space at the Woodley location, and he's expanding his women's line.

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Denver, CO: Re: Low key engagement party:

Just was in town for a very hip/low key baby shower at Sonoma--highly recommend the place. You should be able to negotiate a food and beverage minimum in place of a rental fee.

Fritz: Ah, right. The upstairs area. Wine and a fireplace sounds great right now. And by "right now," I mean this very second.

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Washington, D.C.: Why does tipping 15% no longer "cut it"? Even if costs, etc. have gone up, it's a percentage, not a fixed amount, so it should adjust with them.

I don't know where this 20% thing came from.

Fritz: Because restaurant owners are stingy. Personally, I was fine with the way it was when I bartended at a pub in London: We didn't get tips, but we got more than the minimum wage, so our salary wasn't dependent on the customers.

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Alexandria, Va.: Hi Gurus! I bet you'll be bombarded with Valentine's questions today. I hope you can get to mine.

My boyfriend and I have decided to stay in this valentine's and do one of our favorite things we get when we go out - a cheese plate with wine. We've got the wine picked out - a lovely Vin d'Alsace. Might you all knowing gurus be able to recommend a few types of cheeses for us to try? We don't really know where to start in picking our own. We like, gruyere, any type of bleu, bries, and good "stinky" cheeses (but are also open to just about anything).

Is there anywhere in the Alexandria or Bethesda area that we could go to pick out our cheeses? Somewhere we could possibly taste them before buying?

Thanks in advance. You guys always give the best advice!

Erin: In Alexandria, Cheesetique and Whole Foods could give you better suggestions than I can. Whole Foods may seem like a cop-out response, but the selection is amazing and they're liberal with samples.

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Rockville, MD: Hey Gurus, I've been trying to figure this out for weeks, but have yet to find an answer. Do any of y'all know if South Beach restaurant is closed for good in Bethesda? Thanks!

Fritz: They don't answer the phone, the Web site is gone, and the only contact number I had is disconnected. I'd say signs point to "gone."

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Anonymous: Can you tell me where I can take belly-dancing classes in Arlington (Courhouse, Clarendon, Rosslyn, Ballston)? Or NW D.C. area? Thanks.

Julia: Yes to NW! If you just want to try it out, hit up Meze in Adams Morgan. They offer belly-dancing lessons on Sunday nights. If you're looking for a more structured class, check out DC Dance Collective .

Don't have any specific suggestions for your neck of the woods, though. I'd try calling gyms in your area. Some of them offer trendy classes like Belly Dancing.

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Alexandria, Va.: My boss just told me he needs dinner reservations for VDay with his wife and it has to be French restaurant in the middle of 7pm dinner rush! Can you guys recommend something that is nice, romantic, and more importantly -- still taking reservations. I've called Citronelle, Le Paradou, 2941, Marcel, La Bergerie...and no luck at all.

Price does not matter...just great food...can you help me?

Erin: Ouch. That's definitely a challenge. Could you try for Aquarelle? I haven't actually been there, but there's availability, French fare and a view.

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Courthouse, Arlington: Hi Erin, Fritz, Rhome, can you please tell me where me and my friend can go to hear hip hop, Top 40 (songs that we know or played in the radio now). Anyhwhere in D.C., Clarendon area. A lounge (not a club, but where people can dance if they want to) - good drinks a plus. Thank u!!

Fritz: I think kstreet is now doing top-40 on Saturdays. I'd probably go there, Modern, Play, maybe Avenue for something that's bigger than a lounge but not quite Love. Less fancy? Lucky Bar has dancing, as do Chief Ike's, Third Edition or the Griffin Room (the basement of the Guards).

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Washington, D.C.: Do you Gurus think the Best of DC Shorts screening will be worth the time and money?

Anne:

I think if you're interested in getting to know some of the people who are into making movies in the area, the DC Shorts screening of the 2006 winners it's a great way to meet people and a cool way to learn about the hidden cinematography and storytelling skills of your neighbors. It is $10, but hey, obviously if you don't like one film, it won't last too long.

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Re: Chophouse Burbon Ale: ...is good, I agree, but the Nut Brown and the Oatmeal Stout are preferable. Delicious!

Fritz: Not a huge fan of the oatmeal stout, but that Brown is something special. I just wish they'd put it back on cask.

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Falls Church, Va.: Hit PX for the second time last weekend. Tried Grog for the first time - amazing! Gotta say though - I forced my husband and my friend's husband to wear jackets - and there were a ton of women there in jeans (albeit nice) and sweaters. Come on! If they are going to make men dress up, the female patrons could also be expected to dress accordingly! I was in a skirt and my friend in black slacks.

Oh - and you def need reservations for Fri/Sat nights. and you need to call at least 2 days in advance.

Fritz: Thanks.

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washingtonpost.com: Got to wrap up for today, folks. Have a good week, and stay warm out there.

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