Transcript

Got Plans?

The Going Out Gurus
of the washingtonpost.com City Guide
Thursday, July 5, 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: It may feel like a Monday, but thankfully, the weekend is nearly upon us. So how'd the holiday treat you? Where'd you spend the day? Take advantage of any museum exhibits? Scope out any new restaurants? We've got David, Fritz, Jen, Rhome and me (Erin) ready to get this train rolling.

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Arlington, Va.: Hello Gurus!!

A couple of friends and I are going to a show at the Washington Improv Theatre on Saturday night. Can you recommend a couple of low-key restaurants in the area to go and maybe have a drink and some good food? Thanks!!

Erin: It seems like nothing in the Chinatown area qualifies as low-key anymore, doesn't it?
Clyde's, Ella's, Jaleo, Matchbox and Zaytinya are all casual, but pretty mobbed. You can try for reservations at Jaleo, Zaytinya or Oyamel to avoid waiting.
Also, Bar Louie finally opens tomorrow with burgers, cocktails and a typical smattering of American plates.

Kanlaya behind the Verizon Center is another thought, with pretty good Thai dishes and tropical drinks.

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Glover Park, Washington, D.C.: I'm looking for the perfect DC brunch spot. Seems easy, right? Every city must have one. So far I haven't found it in DC. I've tried the usual suspects - The Diner, Open City, Rosemary and Thyme and Kramerbooks - but the trend in DC dining seems to be marginal tasting but overpriced food, crowded and loud dining rooms, and the "we don't care because we have customers no matter what" attitude from the wait staff. Can you point me in another direction? I'd like to be pleasantly surprised this time.

Erin: You're definitely trapped at the most over-popular brunch spots. Have you ventured down to Bardia's New Orleans Bistro? It's tiny, but I'm always charmed by beignets at brunch. Also, Bourbon doesn't do a bad job with sweet potato fries, customized eggs and plenty of bloody Marys. Along the Bloody Mary route, I also like Merkado.

For pancake standards like the Diner, Busboys and Poets has a pretty array and less of a crowd than the Adams Morgan area. Across the street, I'm a big fan of the crabcake benedict at Creme.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi GOGs! Any good live music options (preferably smaller scale/indie) to recommend for this weekend? Thanks.

David: The show of the weekend is unquestionably Half Japanese at the Rock and Roll Hotel tomorrow night. True avant-garde, outsider legends, and this is the full original lineup, which doesn't get together too often. I did a short profile on them for Express (which you can read in that link) in case you need some background info. There's a decent amount of buzz surrounding Vampire Weekend, who fuse indie and Afrobeat. They'll be a block down from the Half Japanese show tomorrow night at the Red and the Black. Then there's the local showcase of Georgie James, Middle Distance Runner and These United States at the Black Cat, which could be fun if you haven't already seen those bands a dozen times each. A lot of people are probably psyched for Tortoise at the Black Cat on Saturday, but man, talk about one of the most boring bands ever!

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Museums: What are the top picks for exhibits this weekend? I've done all the usual galleries. I don't want to pay entry fees.

Fritz: If Julia were here, I'm sure she'd steer you to the birthday party that the National Museum of Women in the Arts is throwing for Frida Kahlo on Sunday. The bonus is that admission is free (usually $10). Can't wait that long? On Friday night, Connor Contemporary is hosting a reception for its new show, "Academy 2007," which features works by newly-minted MFA grads.

Oh, and Julia would probably also suggest you to check out the July edition of her Comings and Goings column for more information on this month's major gallery openings.

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Washington, D.C.: Hello Gurus!

My hairdresser says she goes to a Gallery Place cinema that has leather seats and serves alcohol. I am curious if this is true and if so how the heck you get tickets for it.

Jen: Unless Regal Gallery Place has a secret portal that leads to this luxury auditorium, I am not aware of the leather seats and alcohol deal there. Is it possible your friend is thinking of Mazza Gallerie, where they do have such a theater? If Gallery Place has started an auditorium like this, please correct me. I may have missed that memo.

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Dinner on Saturday: I need help making dinner plans for Saturday! My midwest parents are coming to town to meet me, my brother and his GF. They've been here a ton but have never been to Chinatown. Places/locales they've liked in the past are Bangkok Bistro or Rosemary's Thyme (aka, nothing too fancy where you can have a conversation). Can you suggest anything similar in C'town, bonus pts if they take reservations.

Thanks!

Erin: Places that I would normally recommend (Matchbox in particular) will probably be nearly impossible for a party of five on a Friday. Austin Grill could work for your party. The food is not stellar by any means, but it's usually easy to nab a table. District Chophouse is another thought. If you're in the mood for more upscale Mexican, Oyamel is definitely worth a try.

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Washington, D.C.: Burma has tasty food. No one really notices them above Kanlaya and the decor is pretty plain, but the ginger salad is mighty tasty.

Erin: Right you are. I would go the distance for that ginger salad, but I wouldn't pick it out if I were looking for a place to get drinks as well as some good food.

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Glover Park, Washington, D.C.: Have the dates for restaurant week been set yet? If not, do you know when the dates will be announced?

Erin: As I posted in our blog, Restaurant Week will take place Aug. 6-12. That means that tomorrow's the first day to start making month-in-advance reservations.

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Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.: Will there be beer vendors at the Tiger Tourney. Hoping to have a few pops on the course.

David: Yep, you'll be able get some brews while watching Tiger and Co.

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Alexandria, Va.: Happy Thursday!

Now that it's summer I have a craving for lemonade and soft shell crabs. I like the Tower of Crab at DC Coast, but want something more budget friendly. Where's the best place to get them? Must be metro accessible! Thanks!

Erin: I very much enjoyed the soft shells at Hank's Oyster Bar last week (for around $20). They were sauteed and served with grapefruit, though the preparation changes pretty often. Pesce and Sushi-Ko also have soft shells right now, though I cannot attest to lemonade.

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Stuck in a rut: My bf and I -- ok, or maybe just me -- are in a bit of a D.C. rut; just tired of the same ol' same ol'. The tourists look like they are having a blast, so I was thinking maybe it would be nice to be a D.C. tourist for a day (though I'll NEVER stand on the left side of the Metro escalator). Not this weekend, but the next (the 14th/15th), I'd like to plan a D.C.-tourist weekend. I'm going to buy all the gear -- the T-shirts, FBI hats, etc., but wanted your assistance on agenda. What are the top DC-tourist things to do and in what order? Also, are there any fun festivals that weekend that we could drop by? Thanks so much GoGs!

Jen: 1. Go to the Air & Space Museum, or any other museums on the National Mall.

2. Walk as slowly as you possibly can while looking confused. Make sure you stand in the way of Washingtonians who appear to be in a hurry while you do this. (I'm sorry, love the tourists, but some of them often do this.)

3. Walk around outside the Capitol and Supreme Court buildings. Take lots of pictures that will later be deleted from your camera's memory because they are totally boring.

4. Go to the National Zoo. Loudly announce that in your humble opinion, that panda is definitely knocked up.
5. Ride one of the water taxis in the Georgetown Harbor. Take more pictures, only half of which will turn out to be boring.
6. Walk around in Georgetown and buy unnecessary items just so you can say you purchased them in Georgetown.

That's plenty for one day, no?

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Gallery Place: The E Street theater has a bar, but not leather seats as far as I know. Maybe that's what she's talking about?

Jen: I wondered that, too, but since there are no leather seats, I thought maybe Mazza more closely fit the description. If there's a secret portal at Gallery Place and no one told me sooner, I'm going to be ticked.

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New York, New York: If you're briefly escaping an event at the Convention Center at Mt. Vernon, what are the best places to drink around there? (Please include hotel bars if they're good)

Fritz: There's not a lot right around the Convention Center, to be honest. You've got the Old Dominion Brewhouse right there, which has 14 beers from one of our top local breweries (though it's not a brewpub), and right around the corner is Vegetate, an all-vegetarian restaurant with a cool lineup of summer cocktails, though they don't open until 6 p.m. You might want to wander a few blocks south to the busy Chinatown neighborhood, where I've been enjoying cocktails at Poste, Zengo and Zola. A few more blocks south is Rasika, which has some of the best drinks in the city.

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Washington, D.C.: Happy Thursday, GOGs!

My job moved me to a location near the new baseball stadium and near the Navy Yard metro station. It's amazing that I can see the day-to-day growth of this construction.

My taste buds have declared an end to my visits to my building's cafeteria, Five Guys, and Subway. Do you know of any places that I can check out in this area? My preferred cuisine is bug-free and tastes great.

Erin: I love Levi's Port Cafe. The owners are the friendliest people and serve up juicy ribs, crisp fried chicken and plenty of Southern sides. I've never had enough room to eat dessert at the time, but I usually try to get peach cobbler or red velvet cake to go.

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San Francisco, California: Coming in from SF in a couple weeks, and going out on Saturday night with a group of gals.

I love the nightclubs in Vegas and LA...is there anything in DC that compares?

Thanks!

Rhome: Big, glitzy, and loud? We've got a few of those here: Ultrabar, Love and Platinum to start.

On the smaller side, Eyebar and Fly.

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Smashing Pumpkins: Do any of you have any idea how hard it is going to be to get tickets to the Smashing Pumpkins show at 9:30 next week? I plan on logging on to the tickets.com website promptly at 10 am tomorrow and attempting to purchase my two tickets, but is there a better strategy to ensure I get my tickets? Would calling be a better option?

Thanks,

Adoring Smashing Pumpkins Fan

David: It's going to be really, really, really hard. That's just how it is. I don't think that calling would be a better option, just hope you get lucky online. I'd get on there by 9:55 or so, too, just to be safe. Tickets.com's Web site has been known to get overloaded for big events like this, and you'll probably get stuck in the dreaded virtual waiting room. SOMETIMES after a show is seemingly sold out a few tickets will pop up, so you can always go back and check an hour or so later. Have some friends try to score tickets as well, power in numbers and all that.

Also, the Pumpkins have gone to great lengths to ensure that scalpers can't mess with 'em. Check out all the rules for this show: "Ticket Limit- 2 ticket limit for this event per household, customer, credit card number and email address. Patrons who exceed the ticket limit will have their order cancelled automatically. All tickets non-transferable. No name changes for will-call once order is complete. All sales will-call only. Tickets will be available for pick up night of show only. Photo ID required."

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Maryland: Hi! My husband and I are going to see Phantom Saturday at the Kennedy Center. We're planning to have dinner somewhere close, maybe in Georgetown. I'm the adventurous one who, he sticks to the basics. Either way we'd like to try something new and willing to spend a little more than usual. Any suggestions?

Erin: That sounds like a fabulous night. I saw "Phantom" a few weeks ago and thought they did a fabulous and opulent job. Mendocino Grille is at the right end of Georgetown and does a good job with California cuisine.
You could also splurge on the pre-theater dinner at Marcel's.
In Foggy Bottom, Notti Bianche is very close to the Kennedy Center.
As an aside, the desserts at Circle Bistro are fantastic. I stopped in after the show and was completely dazzled. Pastry chef Peter Brett used to work at Blue Duck and is doing delicious fresh ice creams and seasonal treats.

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Cubeville, D.C.: Hey gurus,

Thanks for all the tips on non-Mall firework viewing places. We went to Arlington Cemetery and had a great view.

Who is responsible for the fireworks? They did an amazing job (as usual) and I was wondering who I should be giving props.

Fritz: Glad we were able to help. (And I'm really glad the rain held off.) The downtown fireworks are produced by Pyro Shows, under the auspices of the National Park Service.

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Potomac, Md.: With the long-ago demise of the Astor Restaurant on M Street, which featured live Greek music in its upstairs bar, D.C.'s selection of authentic ethnic night-clubbing has dwindled. Are there any clubs or bars in the city that feature real Italian, Greek, Irish, etc. entertainment, particularly music?

Rhome: Is this the same Astor that's now on Columbia Rd?

We could definitely use some insider contribution from chatters that dig on authentic ethnic scenes. To start I'll toss out Russia House for eastern European classical, Ireland's Four Fields for Irish, Roha and Dukem for Ethiopian, Zanzibar for West African and Caribbean and Marrakesh for live belly dancers.

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Columbia, Md.: You forgot the Spy Museum for touristy things to do.

Jen: True, add that to the list. I forgot a lot of things, really, but that's certainly a worthwhile one to add to the mix. Thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: So let me see if I have this straight ... my BF and I were both going to try to buy tickets to the Smashing Pumpkins show in hopes that one of us would succeed - but we live together and have the same billing address. They won't allow this?

David: That's right. If you both are somehow successful, the second pair will automatically be thrown back into the pool of available tickets. (Your first will be safe.) Perhaps a bit extreme, but that's what happens with a high-demand show such as this one.

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Rockville, Md.: Can you get to the inner harbor in Baltimore on the Baltimore light rail?

I am totally chicken about driving places I haven't been before and I have a pre-paid pass to park near the University of Maryland that is expiring soon. Pratt Street and Lexington Market sound familiar so I'm sure I can find a stop to get on the light rail near my garage, but none of the stops are called "inner harbor" or "aquarium" (my main destination).

The aquarium web site says it is accessible by public transportation but doesn't say which stop. Neither does the MTA web site.

Oh, and what else should I do while spending a whole day in the vicinity of the inner harbor?

Thanks so much for your help.

Fritz: There is a UMD stop, btw.

Now, to get to the Inner Harbor, you just go to the Convention Center stop and walk five blocks east (or so). I think the Aquarium is closer to 10 blocks, though, so wear comfortable shoes. Near the Inner Harbor, I'm a fan of wandering around Federal Hill, which is up Light Street. Lots of cool little shops, restaurants and bars, plus the always-interesting Federal Hill Market, where you can get good subs and seafood. You could also head in the other direction and wander around Mount Vernon, near the Washington Monument and the Walters Art Gallery. Plenty of interesting antique shops and bookshops that way.

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Arlington, Va.: The only place that I've been to offer sushi is Cafe Asia. I'm not a sushi afficionado, but a visitor coming to town tomorrow is.

Can you recommend places that offer good sushi (without parking headaches would be ideal)?

Erin: On MacArthur, Kotobuki has delicious and cheap sushi, but you'll likely have to stand in line for it. I am a big fan of Glover Park's Sushi-Ko on Wisconsin, which offers valet parking and fabulous fresh wasabi.

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Central: How is Michel Richard's Central restaurant? There is no menu online.

Erin: Central is delicious. It's kind of an American French bistro hybrid. There are several burger options (including an indulgent lobster burger with ginger mayonnaise), a heaping charcuterie platter and other Frenchified takes on American classics. It gets pretty noisy inside, but it's surely worth a visit.

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Arlington, Va.: I have two college students visiting from Europe. Any suggestions for where a couple 20 year olds can hang out (Arlington or DC) since they cannot get into most bars/clubs?

Fritz: Here's a story I did for the Interns' Guide about where to go when you're under 21. Lots of information about clubs in there. In Arlington, I know that Murky Coffee seems to have a good underage following.

Other suggestions from the group?

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Bethesda, Md.: Hi Gurus,

In search of the best chocolate milk shake in the DC area. We're talking the kind made with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, NOT chocolate ice cream watered down with milk. Even better if they can go a step further and make it malty.

Willing to travel. THANKS!!!

Erin: Have you tried the Dairy Godmother? She does malted sundaes, but I'm not sure about milkshakes. They sure are delicious, though. Have you checked into the options at Moorenko's?

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Near the Inner Harbor: Fells Point used to have a bunch of cool junk/antique shops

Fritz: I love Fells Point (and not just because of the Wharf Rat and Soundgarden). I sometimes feel like telling people to go to there when they're in Baltimore is played out, but it's usually good advice.

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Falls Church, Va.: Gurus - Any fun outdoor festivals or other events this weekend? Thanks!

David: Well there's the big USA/Alexandria Birthday Celebration on Saturday, if you didn't get your fill of fireworks last night. A nifty folk/bluegrass festival up in Carroll County with Doc Watson, Jean Ritchie, Tom Chapin and more. That one's a little on the pricey side (compared to the rest of these, at least), but should be fun. There's a big Festa Italiana downtown on Sunday. And then there's Reston Festival, which we like if only because we can use the headline "Festin' in Reston."

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Congressional Country Club: Hey Gurus -- I searched all over the internet and couldnt find an answer, so i'm hoping you can help. I have tickets to watch Tiger, Phil, and the rest on Saturday at the AT&T National at Congressional Country Club. However, I cannot figure the best way to get there from the district (I do have a car) and what the appropriate attire is. Thanks for the help!

Fritz: I'd take River Road all the way there. (It splits from Wisconsin in Georgetown.) For appropriate attire, honestly, I wouldn't vary too far from a polo shirt and khaki(ish) shorts.

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Smashing Pumpkins: I think the rules confuse the issue a little - it's perfectly fine for two people to -try- to get tickets at the same time with the same billing address - they just can't get four tickets that way. They can only get two. Stay in phone contact, one of you can drop out when the other one gets through the whole miserable process. (I went through this for Justin Timberlake - my friend succeeded first, but it took about half an hour of us sitting on the phone together cursing the virtual waiting room.)

David: Yes, exactly. You can both TRY to get tickets but if you both succeed, then one pair will get thrown back. Definitely stay in good contact with your ticket-chasing buddies. Try to figure out some CTU-type communications scheme.

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Best Milkshake: I don't know how they are made, but the milkshakes and Ben's Chili Bowl are VICIOUS. They could put crack in them cuz I sure am addicted.

Fritz: I agree wholeheartedly. Runner up (for me) is Storm Brothers in Annapolis, which has the best ice cream in the known world.

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Georgetown Area - PLEASE HELP: Looking for a quiet place in the Georgetown area where my boyfriend and I can go to have a private conversation. I thought we could just go to the park - but with these downpours it is not an option.

Thank you.

Fritz: The upstairs wine bar at Bistro Lepic -- quiet, intimate, and service doesn't hover unless you want them to.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Gurus, love your chats! I'm hoping you can help me. My girlfriend's birthday is coming up and I want to take her someplace nice (I know, I know, everyone says this). I've done some research but keep coming up with places that are a bit too nice (read, expensive) and traditional (read, uptight). Can you recommend a place that serves fantastic food (though not too adventurous) and that is 25th-birthday-fancy without making us feel like we're out of place? Something that runs about $125 for both of us would be best, but if you know THE restaurant, price is no object.

Thanks!

Erin: As somebody who just celebrated one, I think that a 25th birthday is a big deal and an opportune time to go all-out. My choice for a not-too-expensive event would be to play dress-up at 1789 with the restaurant's three courses for $36. It offers such a special, exquisite dining experience, though men are required to wear a jacket.

I also love the more casual room at Restaurant Eve. The Bistro is not over-the-top by any means. I've seen young families in there and always enjoy myself. It'll take some budgeting to come in under $125, though.

DC Coast is lively, though it's gotten to be a bit more casual recently. I also think that Butterfield 9 and Cafe Atlantico do a very good job.

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Washington, D.C.: Happy Thursday, GURUS!

I'm hoping that you can help me. I have a good friend coming into town tonight and staying for about five days. She's been here before as a tourist, so I want to do something new. I'm hoping to take her to The Awakening before they move it, but I have no idea how to get there and can't seem to google myself any decent directions. Can you help? I have a car. Thanks GURUS, you rock!

Fritz: I feel like the Directions Guru today, but your best bet is taking 15th Street south past the Mall. It merges with Maine Ave., then follow the signs for 395 South, and exit when you see the sign for the golf course. Just keep going past the course, and the Awakening is at the southern tip of the peninsula.

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Metro Center, D.C.: Any word on when the new restaurant Bluepoint on 13th & E is opening? Also, other than the obvious "seafood. steaks. martinis." description on the sign, any insight on what type of place this will be?!

Erin: Bluepoint was originally supposed to open on June 30, so hopefully things will get rolling with final inspections (as usual). It's one of 4 or 5 in the country and plans a raw bar/steakhouse vibe with booths, wood paneling and plenty to drink.

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Downtown Washington: Because you (or at least your 15th and L brethren) work right near there, perhaps you have some sort of dirt on that sketched-out bar on L Street at 15th, right next to Ollie's Trolley and down the street from the Post Pub. It only seems to be open late at night, has a hand-written sign in the window that says "Smoking Allowed Here" and always seems to have about 10-15 shady-looking people hanging out front. Any ideas? I work near there at night, and always have been curious.

Fritz: That's the bar attached to Ollie's Trolley, which does -- somehow -- have one of the few permits allowing indoor smoking in Washington. It does feel kind of sketchy inside, but if you need a smoke with a bottle of beer ...

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Quiet conversation in Georgetown: You can definitely get your quiet conversation on at Ching Ching Cha, the chinese teahouse on Wisconsin between M street and the canal. (Across the street from Papa Razzi, next to the Pleasure Palace or whatever it's called.)

Fritz: Thanks.

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College Park, Md.: I am headed to Rasika for the first time tonight. Any must have food suggestions or cocktails? It is for a special b-day celebration.

Erin: The palak chaat (fried spinach) is a must-order.
It's rather difficult to narrow down all of the enticing choices. Last time I was there, I ordered the vegetarian tasting menu and practically rolled myself out several hours later after an incredible spread of seasonal flavors that offered morels, fresh corn, fabulous lentils and more food than I could even fathom.

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washingtonpost.com: That does it for us. Thanks for tuning in and, as the helpful newscasters advised us yesterday, try to take cover when lightning strikes.

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