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The Going Out Gurus
of the washingtonpost.com Going Out Guide
Thursday, April 9, 2009; 1:00 PM

On Thursday, April 9, the Going Out Guide staff discussed cheap outdoor wedding venues, bars that host charity events, why people dance while wearing backpacks, how to get to Camden Yards via public transit, and lots more.

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washingtonpost.com: Spring is actually trying to act like it wants to be here today. Hope you all get a taste before the rainy weekend. Maybe take a long lunch outdoors before you join us at Current tonight. I (Rhome) won't be on the wheels this time, because we've filled that slot with the always classy and stylish Christine Moritz. So let's get to these questions now.

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Washington, D.C.: I need recommendations for great drinks with good bartenders in the city. I am on the hunt for my wedding signature drink and my girlfriends and I intend to go a bar on Saturday night to experiment with different drinks.

Thanks!

Fritz: Can I talk you out of Saturday? Please? What it sounds like you need is a lot of bartender face time to tell them what you like, what you don't, what you're looking -- hell, even what your color scheme is, if that's important. (I've seriously heard about that last one from bartenders. Not kidding.)

Saturday night is probably the busiest night of the week for top bartenders, whether they're making cocktails for dinner guests or the the folks perched at the bar. Most will be focused on getting the drinks out and will not be able to be at their most attentive. (Strange, but true.) I'd try going earlier in the week -- like, say, a Wednesday, when crowds aren't as thick you you and your bartender will have more time to chat.

But it sounds like you have a crew of girls fired up and ready to hit the town. Try to make an early reservation at the Gibson (6 or 7 aren't too hard, depending on the size of your group) and make friends with Derek Brown, who does cocktail consulting on the side. I'd suggest your next stop should be Gina Chersevani at PS7's, who makes wonderful cocktails of both the girly and old-school persuasions. If you can stomach the crowds, Rachel Sergi at Zaytinya is another good resource. All should be able to help you find the right drink for Your Special Day.

(If you take my Wednesday advice, the Gibson and PS7's suggestions still hold, but add Chantal Tseng at the Tabard Inn, who's probably making my favorite drinks in D.C. right now, and Owen Thompson of Bourbon.)

Good luck.

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Free for all Friday: It's a MIRACLE!!! The market is closed for Good Friday, which means I have off!!! The weather is supposed to be so-so from what I've seen. Can you direct me to some daytime finds that might be worth checking out in the city? Still haven't seen the Ocean Hall or Multiverse so if you could throw me some things near there so that I might wander in. The new exhibit at Govinda Gallery..worth checking out? I assume I missed the Bob Marley one that was there a couple weeks back, any idea if it happens to be up somewhere else??

Stephanie: Lucky you! Bob Marley is indeed still at Govinda Gallery, though only until the 11th so you'll be just in time. Other than that, I'd say check out Multiverse, and also hit up the fantastic Dutch Cityscapes exhibition while you're at the National Gallery. If you're into architecture, the design finalists for the Museum of African American History are on display at the Smithsonian Castle and they're super cool.

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Husbands 30th birthday: Hi all

I'm hoping for some suggestions. It's my husbands 30th birthday next month and I'm planning a surprise party for him. I have his parents and grandpa and aunt/uncles and friends from back home coming in town. He doesn't know any of this and I need to find a place for dinner for everyone. There's going to be a WIDE mix of ages (he and I are 30, parents, grandparents and our friends). Where would you suggest I go? I'm looking for a place with excellent food and good mixed drinks.

There will be about 30 people and it needs to be metro friendly (within a block walking), moderate priced and American food (family is not adventurous and some refuse to eat seafood).

I am literally clueless and I need to book something soon.

Help!!!

Julia: I'm leaning towards one of the Clyde's restaurants, just given the size of your party (Gallery Place, perhaps?). Do you have any kids in the mix? Because that makes Clyde's an even better bet. Not such a hot place for cocktails....but, you know, fits the older and youngest edges of your demographic and the moderately priced criteria.

Ardeo and Art and Soul all come to mind as other options. These will set you back a pretty penny. If you're footing the bill for all of this, I'd call the restaurants and see if you can work out a fixed-price, per person cost.

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Reston: The scene changes so quickly, I feel out of touch. Where are some good Sunday brunches anyway, either D.C. or Va.? Thanks.

Julia: Don't feel out of touch, Reston! When I go out for brunch, I usually look to some of my old favorites: Creme on U Street, Meze in Adams Morgan, Matchbox in Penn Quarter. The dim-sum brunch at Cafe Atlantico when I want something fancier. I have yet to eat brunch at Eventide in Clarendon, but that's one I'm itching to try.

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Confused..and a little jealous: For any one who missed it, the Death Cab for Cutie show last night was awesome! Old, new and everything in between. However, I left a little confused. Here's my question: If you get a seat in front, why would you just stand there? The first few rows looked like statues. I was practically dancing in my seat. I know they're a good band but I don't think I'd be awestruck into paralysis.

Not a going out question, but it is related and I though you all might have the answer. Thanks!

David: I think it's just a matter of how different types of people enjoy a show. Some folks are movers and shakers. Some simply aren't. Usually if I'm really enjoying myself I'll be moving around at least a bit, but you'll never see me and be like, "That dude's dancing up a storm!" Just because somebody is standing still it doesn't mean they aren't enjoying or appreciating the show, y'know?

It was a busy live music night around town last night with Death Cab at DAR, Neko Case at 9:30, Lissy Trullie/U.S. Royalty at Rock and Roll Hotel, but Fritz and I saw Comet Gain cover Felt, so we win!

Fritz: The final number, which incorporated a slowed down, almost soulful version of "Kids at the Club," was killer. As was opening with "Realistes."

FWIW, I was right near the stage, and there was a trio of girls standing in front of me who couldn't have been more than 15 or 16. All dressed up for a big night at the club. They danced their butts off to Crystal Stilts. Every song. Turning and jumping up and down, spinning each other around -- just pure joy and love of the music. I turned to a friend standing behind me and said, "Man, we've gotten old and jaded, haven't we?" Once upon a time, if it was Velocity Girl or Unrest or whomever, that would have been me and my friends.

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Bloomingdale: Hey GOGs, Help send a kid to camp. I'm looking for a bar that will let us do a fundraiser but won't charge an arm and a leg for the room. Any ideas? Thanks

Fritz: It's funny, but bars are usually happy to help you raise money for good causes. Usually works one of two ways: You charge a cover, which goes to the charity, and they make money on the drinks; or there's no cover, and a portion of the drink sales (or of the sales of a special drink) goes to charity, with the rest going to the bar.

Try places like the Bottom Line, Science Club, Chi-Cha Lounge (or Gazuza), R.F.D., Gin and Tonic, Whitlow's on Wilson, Porter's, Bourbon, Bobby Lew's, Clarendon Grill -- I know all of them have done fundraisers in the past.

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A wedding of my own...: I've searched your transcripts, but haven't found this answer...After 32 years, I am in the position of needing to plan a wedding. We want something small -- like a little chapel -- and just a nice place for a reception- - no big hall, nothing overly extravagant, but nice and classy -- somewhere in or as close to Annapolis as possible. We're thinking October for around 50-ish people, and are completely open to Fridays, Sat, or Sunday. Maybe even afternoon. Anything that avoids "cookie cuter-ness."

Can you guys or anyone else lead me in the right direction?

Please?? ---from a girl who never dreamed of her wedding...

Julia: Hahahaha. Yeah, I never dreamed of my wedding either. Made planning one a lot more difficult.

The only wedding-ish venue I know up there is the Paca House and that may or may not be too expensive for you (though it looks cheaper during the week!) Anyway, I know we've had this question before and readers have chimed in with answers so.... readers?

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Falls Church, Va.: What can you tell me about the Marian Anderson Tribute concert that's happening at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday? Is it true Denyce Graves an Sweet Honey in the Rock are giving a free outdoor concert?

David: Yep. It starts at 3 p.m. on Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial. Denyce Graves, Sweet Honey in the Rock, the Chicago Children's Choir and the U.S. Marine Band are scheduled to perform.

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Washington, D.C.: Gurus, I need your help! Friday night, my best friends and I are all going out to do...something! We are three single ladies in our late 20s and want to do something other than dinner and a movie. Dinner is a must, everything else is optional. And Fritz, if you want to join us, we won't say no!

Stephanie: Cherry Blast sounds like it might be up your alley. Catch a yellow school bus from Dupont and end up at a party in Southeast, complete with art, music and dancing. If you opt for the bus (rather than driving there), then you could grab dinner in Dupont. How about Pizzeria Paradiso or Bistrot du Coin?

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Washington, D.C.: I'm looking forward to the Orioles game against Tampa Bay on Friday. Is there a way to get from Washington to the game and back again using public transportation? Thanks!

Fritz: Ah, the annual How do I get to Camden Yards by Public Transportation question. Two options.

1. Amtrak from Union Station to Penn Station, then light rail to Camden.
Con: Expensive, with tickets $15-18 each way if you don't buy in advance.
Pros: Runs late (until 12:30 or so nightly), trains every hour.

2. MARC train to Baltimore, bus back.
Pro: Fairly cheap.
Cons: Service only runs for an hour after the game. You need to take light rail from Baltimore to BWI, then get off the train and hustle over to get a Metrobus back to Greenbelt station, where you hop on a Metro train back to D.C. Kind of convoluted, and if you miss the last B30 bus to Greenbelt, you're sort of stuck.

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Kaiju!: I just wanted to share that I went to the Japanese style game show at DC Arts Center this weekend upon your tip and looooved it. So thanks!

Stephanie: You're welcome! Unfortunately the run for Kaiju! is over, but Landless has a bunch of other interesting(ly-named) shows going on as well. The Flying Spaghetti Monster Holiday Pageant, anyone?

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Washington, D.C.: Love the chat... Looking for ideas for my 30th birthday. I'm looking to take out/treat 10-12 friends (all couples). My thought is to take everyone out for a multi-course tasting menu (i.e. more like a Palena versus a 1789). Looking to spend in the neighborhood of $100/person. Is this going to be realistic including wine or is wine something that can be negotiated into the price? Also, any other restaurant ideas? Something on the trendy side, but not stuffy. Can be anywhere in D.C. - maybe something with a semi-private room (although now I'm prob asking for too much). Many thanks!

Julia: I have two initial reactions to this question: 1) "whoa, tough one" and 2) "this guy sounds like the most awesome friend ever!"

Tasting menus with wine pairings usually get up over $100. Rasika is around $55 (if I recall) so that might be an option for you if your group likes Indian. You might consider checking out Bistro Bis, Equinox, The Oval Room and Tosca. I think they all do tasting menus as well. Perhaps give Poste a call too. During the summer last year they had these mid-week chef's dinners in their courtyard. Could be cool for you and your group. And yeah, can these things be negotiated? I bet they can. Name your price and see if the restaurants can accommodate you.

Oh, Brasserie Beck strikes me as another cool, if a little pricey, option. Hope this helps!



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Friday Night, DC: Okay so I guess this question is for Fritz. I have been a huge supporter and fan of Shadowroom but think I've gone there one too many times recently. I'm looking for something similar to do this Friday Night maybe in the Dupont or U Street Area. We are a group of 4 girls and 3 guys.

I've heard some buzz about a "private party" at FLY Lounge. Is it really private or can you pay the cover and still get in? Also we heard Current has a new roof deck. Is that open this Friday? Finally is Policy worth checking out? We want to go dancing! Help!

Rhome: Don't go to Policy if you want to dance. There is no space for dancing. Fly is really small. I got the info about the party you mention. Looks like there was a closed list that required RSVP.

Fritz: I'll second Rhome on Policy. No dance floor, though I liked the lounge. Disco City DJ Chris Burns is in there this Friday, so at lease the music will be good, and I really like the no-minimums policy for tables, which I blogged about last Friday. Cool vibe, just crowded and no room to move.

Fly is small and so is the dance floor. The "Fly Private" is a cool no-cover affair that I've hit up. Busy, nice atmosphere, but not something where you can really cut loose, especially with a group.

Instead, I'm going to suggest you make a trip to Stir, the new lounge that replaced Indebleu last weekend. I paid a visit on Friday, and it's everything Indebleu was not: bare white walls, lots of couches for bottle service, no fancy cocktails. Just a plain room with a KILLER soundsystem and a large area for dancing. Had a very good time, and will definitely check it out again soon. (Look for a brief writeup later today or tomorrow morning, depending on how much I can get done before our happy hour at Current.)

Oh, Current. You should check that out, too. You can usually get your dance on upstairs on weekends, and they've had some good DJs in lately.

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Houston, Tex.: Statues at Concerts - be happy they were at least standing up! Here in Houston people apparently sit at shows and get mad if you stand. (We had to move from the second to last row to behind the seats at an OAR concert, dealt with it last night at Springsteen, it's a yearly issue at DMB, etc.) So, be happy somone didn't ask you to sit because -they- spend money and -they- cannot see! Grrr...

David: Howdy, Houston. This is another issue at concerts, but it really shouldn't be at ROCK shows. (And yes, I'll count DMB in there.) You have no right to complain if someone is standing at a big rock show. There can be a gray area sometimes, though. Like for shows at Sixth and I. Theoretically bands chose to play there because they wanted to play a seated venue as opposed to, say, 9:30 club. So should people sit, or should they stand if they want? In an instance like this you just have to hope there's some good collective decision making involved.

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Richmond, VA: Hey, maybe you guys can fill in a piece of the puzzle for me. I'm visiting a friend up there in two weeks. We're going to the Newseum, which closes at 5, and have reservations at Sei at 6:30. Any cool suggestions on how to spend the time in-between?

Rhome: Have a stroll through Civilian Arts Projects or the National Gallery of Art.

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The Gibson: Fritz, a quick question. How far in advance do you recommend making a Fri/Sat night reservation at the Gibson? I have someone visiting next month who I know will love it, so I want to make a reservation to ensure we have a place.

Fritz: They take reservations up to a month in advance. For weekend reservations, I'm told you should be calling AT LEAST 10-14 days in advance, if you have a group of four or more.

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rfd as a fundraiser place: they wanted more money to rent the room than we actually need to raise.

Fritz: Uh, wow. I've been to fundraisers there, and had no idea they charged that much. (There's one for Children's coming up next month that I'll be writing about soon.)

Any veteran fundraising party planners have advice to share?

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Petworth: Dear GoGs;

I will find myself out of my own neighborhood this evening, and down in SW. I'll be looking for dinner. Is there anywhere worth eating at down there these days?

Julia: Like the Waterfront area? The food options aren't great down there, unless you're going highbrow at CityZen or MoZu or lowbrow, eating grimey oysters off the fish stands at the wharf. Cantina Marina, perhaps? Though I admit it's been a while since I've been there.

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Washington, D.C.: My parents will be in town this weekend. Any thoughts on something to do Saturday evening? Unfortunately, the Nats and DC United aren't in town.

Stephanie: Would they be interested in a play? Ion is fantastic and it's the last weekend to see it. You could also check out the baby boomer-friendly A Long and Winding Road or an old stand-by, like Chicago.

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Washington, D.C.: I need to book a celebratory dinner on a Monday night. My two first ideas were Palena and Obelisk, neither of which are open on Mondays. Can you suggest an alternative with a similar atmosphere?

Julia: Though not quite as romantic as either of those, I'd add Proof to your list. Open Monday and great food for a special occasion. Ditto Corduroy.

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NW: went to the discotheque underground last week and had an awesome time. know of any other places/events that can recreate that vibe (i.e cool people and cool music)?

Emphasis on cool people. I'm over hanging out with the "stand and look cool" crowd

Fritz: Two ideas for you:

Friday: Cherry Blast, the thinking-hipster's Cherry Blossom event, with DJs, live electronic music, CityDance performances, poetry, drinks, artist projection works on the wall, etc., at an empty warehouse in Anacostia. Shuttle buses are running from Dupont Circle. (Details available in your friendly neighborhood Nightlife Agenda.

Saturday: Yuri's Night, the only cosmonaut-themed party that could get me out of the house, with a "Weird Science" fair, burlesque dancers (Trixie Little and the Evil Hate Monkey and Lil' Dutch are must-sees), an art show, live surf music from the Atomic Mosquitos, DJs and drinks. It's at the Warehouse Theater.

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North of Dupont: Hi, any suggestions for a date night tomorrow for under $100? I'm northeast of Dupont Circle (near Local 16) so somewhere within a 20 minute walk would be nice! Thank you, Gurus!

Julia: Regent Thai. Really well-priced, but still kind of romantic/special feeling. Cork's not bad either; actually, if you're willing to spend a little more, that might be a better option as it's more romantic. I swear you can get out of there for under $100 for two!

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Indebleu?: I guess that I am out of it, but Indebleu closed? When? Why?

Fritz: They split Indebleu (the restaurant) and Tantra Lounge (the first floor bar/lounge) into two spaces to give them individual identities. The lounge closed for a refit while the restaurant stayed open, and in a few weeks, it will be the other way around.

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Fundraiser Location: I've done a fundraiser for the Avon Walk the past two years at Science Club. They gave us the upstairs space for free once we told them it was a charity fundraiser and they worked with us to get some food out that didn't cost too much and did a couple of drink specials. You are also able to plug your ipod into their sound system up there and be your own DJ.

Fritz: From someone who's been there...

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Arlington, Va.: My new roommate just got out of a really bad living situation and we want to throw her a housewarming party! As the weather gets warm, what kind of theme would you suggest for an awesome housewarming party? What was your favorite themed party? We have a yard, access to a grill, plenty of friends, and tables for drinking games and we just need a great theme! Thanks!

Stephanie: I don't think I've ever been to a themed housewarming party, but you might want to check out last week's chat for ideas, because we asked readers to suggest happy hour themes. The winner was the Risky Business theme night, although we were all partial to the idea of a mad tea party, complete with crazy hats. If only you could play beer pong with tea cups...

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Bringing the Souf to the North, one Ya'll at a time: Please please tell me there is somewhere I can get Firefly in bars here, is anyone carrying it? So far I'm striking out at my neighborhood liquor store too.

Fritz: Firefly, the sweet-tea flavored vodka that I simply cannot get enough of, is making strong in-roads in D.C. I've seen it a number of places: Breadsoda, the Reef, Gin and Tonic, Bourbon -- I've had it at all of those.

Also, it's at your better D.C. liquor stores, inc. Ace Beverage.

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Washington, D.C.: Henceforth, whenever I read this chat, I will imagine Fritz as a Creepy Old Guy, standing off to the side at a concert, staring at two dancing 15 year olds.

Fritz: Ha. I was trying to get out of the way of their backpacks, which they were wearing while dancing. I kept having to move backwards, which I'm sure the people behind me didn't appreciate.

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Washington, D.C.: Hubby's mid-30th birthday is this weekend. His dream birthday involves a bar, his friends, and a bottomless glass of beer. Unfortunately, our friends are either out of town or busy playing Easter Bunny. This is hubby's last birthday before becoming daddy himself. Any ideas on how I can make this birthday memorable? At nine months pregnant, I'm not so into the crowded bar scene and no fun to drink with.

Julia: Wow. First, your husband should know what a lucky guy he is that you're even worried about this given your due date! Second, maybe go someplace like Chef Geoff's Downtown and have dinner in the bar area, where the beers are big and its not too crowded (totally stole that idea from my sister in law, who did this for my brother not too long ago). Not wild, wild, wild about the food there, but the appetizers are good and it sort of feels like being in a regular old sports bar, but with less people and better food. Alternatively, you could go the beer geek route and take him to some place like Birreria Paradiso or Rustico or Brasserie Beck for dinner and then wait until his friends get back in town for a raucous night at the Front Page or whatever. Oooh, or maybe some place like Thirsty Bernie, where the food is good and the games are on. Good luck with the baby!

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Arlington, Va.: Another thought for the person celebrating the 30th by treating friends. You could rent out a wine shop and have a catered dinner. I know Planet Wine in Del Ray does that kind of event (they call it the Farm Table), and they sell the wine at the retail price for dinner with no corkage fee. I had a fantastic dinner with friends there - absolutely fantastic with a five course meal, and we came out about $80-$100 per person (with more than enough wine for all). I know other wine shops do a similar deal. Just a thought.

Julia: Hey, that's really cool. Thanks for the tip!

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Washington, DC: Having never been to Co Co Sala, would a party of 10 have trouble getting in for just drinks around 9ish? If so, are there any other bars/lounges in that area that could accomodate us?

Anne: Are you thinking Co Co. Sala for tonight? Or this weekend? I'm headed there at 9 myself this Saturday, so we can compare notes if you go. It gets really packed around the bar on weekends, so you'd have to squeeze... and I've seen them turn away people without reservations. So I wouldn't recommend trying that. What about Asia Nine for super-colorful cocktails as a backup option?

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For Newseum goer: I would rec the Portrait Gallery over the National Gallery because the NGA also closes at 5 like the Newseum and the Portrait gallery is open until 7:30. At the very least, the courtyard at the Portrait Gallery is a nice place to sit and chat.

Rhome: I realized I my error right when I clicked "Publish". Thanks for the correction.

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Arlington, Va.: Fritz, I'm assuming the economy has put a lid on any new bars opening within a short walk of Nats Park this season?

Fritz: Kind of. The first real sports bar that's planned to open, I was told, will be in the Velocity condos, which open in September if all goes well. (This topic is the subject of tomorrow's Weekend section column, made timely by Monday's Opening Day -- my first season without Nats season tickets, speaking of the economy.)

The best I can offer is Molly Malone's, the gorgeous new replacement for Finn Mac Cool's on Barracks Row. I got a walk-through with the owner last week, as I wrote my Nats piece. (He was offered spaces closer to the stadium, but turned them down for various reasons, including "It was really, really expensive" to get a lease over there.) I've been back twice since. It's nothing like Finn's -- all glowing wood and exposed brick. Full review coming very soon.

Better news about Molly's: They're offering a free shuttle between the bar and the stadium before and after games.

And Julia and I are hard at work on a clickable map of bars and restaurants with specials before and/or after the games, or places you can grab a bite to eat on the way. You'll probably see that this afternoon.

Oh, and in more Nats news, it looks like I'm twittering from bars on Monday. (So much for playing hooky.) Look for that on the GOG blog.

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Re: Bringing the Souf to the North, one Ya'll at a time: I've had it at the Bottom Line, 17th and I NW, too. Man that was good stuff.

Fritz: It's DANGEROUS.

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Reston again . . . : We have 2 nights booked at a hotel near 12th and K. What restaurants can we walk to (or cheap cab) from there?

Julia: Brasserie Beck, Acadiana, Oya and DC Coast come to mind, but here's a map with some of the nearby restaurants for your exploring pleasure. If this is the same Reston who was asking about brunch, I'd opt for Matchbox in that neck of the woods. Casual, sure, but so delicious.

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Fly Lounge Friday: The scoop on the FLY Private party is the guys at the door are pretty much the same as anywhere else. I think they do a decent job of keeping it as invite-only as possible but I've definitely seen them let people in not on the list. I assume it's like anywhere else though...come early, dress nice, be nice, and they should be cool. It's a small place but fun time.

Fritz: It's not super hard to get invites. (I've wound up getting them from three different promoters.) Check jamiehess.com and get on the list.

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Firefly: I also know that Sticky Rice carries it. As of next week FLY Lounge will have Firefly Vodka & Firefly Tonic Drinks. A new juice drink to mix with vodka instead of Red Bull, Tonic, etc...

Fritz: Ah, Sticky Rice. Right. Pug might have it too, if you're on H.

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Sticky Icky: Ever since it's opening I have been meaning to check out Sticky Rice and everything I have read about it seems to be a hit! Just snagged some $25 gift certificates for $5 so I picked up three!! I could totally eat $75 worth of sushi! Two stipulations: good Sunday through Thursday and (of course) alcohol not included. My question to you: best night to go on those days to have a good crowd but avoid the Karoke craze (not sure what day that is) ANDDDDDDDD...this might be a stupid question and I think I know the answer but Saki is alcohol, right? Rice wine?? Just curious, what is the alcohol content in general knowing that it varies with brand, etc.

Stephanie: I went to Sticky Rice last Thursday at about 9:30 or 10 and it was the perfect time (that is, if you eat dinner late like I do). It was pre-blingo crowd and post dinner rush, and I didn't have to wait at all for a table, which is rare. I'm thinking you could go a little earlier (maybe 8:30?) and have the same experience. And yes, sake has alcohol in it, and it goes down deceptively easily, so be careful with that stuff.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Gurus! This one is a tough one. I have a large group of friends who wants to go roller skating together soon. We can do it evenings or weekends. We can drive places (but if it is Metro accessible all the better.) We'd like to drink, but it isn't a dealbreaker. And, we'd love to not be tripping over little ankle biters! Adult skates only are a plus.

Is there anyplace around us that fits the bill?

Fritz: The other day, I found out (completely randomly) that the Jelleff Boys and Girls Club in Georgetown does roller skating on Saturdays from 7 to 9:30. $3 to get in, $1 to rent skates. No roller blades.

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Washington, D.C.: hello,

I'm planning a June bridal shower in D.C. and was thinking of making it an afternoon tea. Do you have any recommendations for a place (other than Tabard Inn or the Mayflower) that might accommodate 30 people and is economical as well? Thanks!

Jen: I've had afternoon tea at the Four Seasons and the Mandarin Oriental; both can handle large groups. I wouldn't say they are terribly economical, but if memory serves, they were not drastically more expensive than the Mayflower.

Mandarin Oriental's tea was a buffet. At the Four Seasons, they brought the trays of finger sandwiches and desserts directly to the table, in case that sways you one way or the other. Don't think you could go wrong either way, really.

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Alexandria, VA: A follow-up from last week: I inquired about a good place to take the bf for his birthday, and went with your recommendation of Brabo. The food wasn't bad, but not what we would expect from Chef RW. We noticed that, much like several nice Alexandria restaurants we've tried, the food was relatively bland (not well-seasoned) and we were surrounded by an, um, older crowd (middle-aged, bad dye jobs, and talking loudly on cell phones in a quiet dining room because they can't hear). So here's my question: is this just an Alexandria phenomenon we should get used to? Where do you all go in Old Town for well-seasoned food and a younger crowd?

Julia: So sorry to hear you didn't have a great time. Pass my apologies onto your man as well.

I have noticed the, um, older crowd thing you mention in Old Town. Pretty much at all the places I visit regularly. Vermilion (which I probably mentioned last week too) is among my favorite spots to eat there, particularly for the flavor. I went in the fall one time and I still remember the smoky flavor in the collard greens. So anyway, I think that's one to add to your list if you haven't already. Farrah Olivia might be another.

The crowd in Del Ray is decidedly younger (30s), but none of the food there could qualify as fine dining.

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Columbia Heights, DC: Rumberos in Columbia Heights has allowed me to hold fundraisers there for free and will create drink specials too if you do it early in the week.

Fritz: More fundraising ideas.

Hey, we're almost out of time, so if people want to send me places they've hosted events for charity, I'd be glad to compile them and post the responses on the blog. fritz DOT hahn AT washingtonpost DOT com.

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Bootora, Ind.: I have some out of town friends coming this weekend and I really wanted to do a picnic on the Mall, just in case there happened to be any cherry blossoms left, or at least look at the tulips, but it's supposed to rain! Is there any place on the Mall that we can go to eat our lunch that might be protected, or at least covered?

Anne: It's all about the beautiful open -- emphasis on open -- spaces in D.C. But when it suddenly starts pouring on the Mall, people just dash for the nearest museum, which kindly welcomes all. All the big Mall museums have cafeterias inside, so you could eat there (being polite to buy *something* since you're taking a table). Another idea -- head to Old Post Office Pavilion not far from the Mall. It's food-courty, so you could take a bench for your picnic. And yeah, the Tidal Basin cherry blossoms will be pretty much over, but spring in D.C. has many other flowers to offer all over town.

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Dueling Piano Bars: Hi Gurus, do you know of any Dueling Piano Bars in D.C, Arlington, or Alexandria?

Fritz: Best bet is still Bobby McKey's at National Harbor.

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Birthday celebrations: For the various people looking for a place to celebrate a birthday with a bunch of people, I would highly recommend Lebanese Taverna. They offer a very reasonably-priced fixed-price menu (I think there is an option for $25/person), and they allow you to add house wine for something like another $12 a person (and I believe that is unlimited). You get a TON of food, a private room, and the planners helping you with the party are always wonderful. I have had to look into a number of places with private rooms, and Lebanese Taverna is always the least expensive and offers the most in terms of food.

Julia: This is a great suggestion, particularly given the economy. I think LebTav wouldn't be appropriate for what the last two chatters were after (one wanted American food, one wanted a tasting menu), but like I said, this is worth posting all the same.

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Washington, D.C.: How old are you guys? Risky Business? I'm just created a new rule, the "Risky Business" rule: anyone old enough to think Risky Business is still a well known pop culture reference is not allowed to reenact the underwear scene.

Fritz: I'm definitely not old enough to have seen "Risky Business" the first time around, but when you have Bob Knight and the Prince of Darkness recreating that scene in an ad for Metallica Guitar Hero (WHICH I SO WANT) during the NCAAs, I have to think that it's still a reference that people get.

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Washington, DC: I went to Sticky Rice with a friend last week (on your suggestion, actually), and while the food was great, the service was miserable. We waited 10 minutes for a server to take our drink order, which he promptly forgot when he brought us one can of PBR (did he think we wanted to split it?). Then another server was assigned to us. The food came out from the sushi bar quickly and was excellent, but we had to scrounge for soy sauce and flag down our server for drink refills because he never seemed to come back and check on us. When he did return, it was to hand us the check, even though we still wanted another round before heading to Rock and Roll Hotel. Once we handed over our credit cards, we got the slips back, signed them, and headed out. Monday, we noticed that he had charged one of us for both portions of the check. They need to get a handle on the disappointing service, because delicious tots or not, I'm not sure I'd go back.

Julia: Yeah, I hear ya. I'd be pretty steamed about that too.

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Washington, DC: Gurus! I'm looking for a bar my colleague and I can patron to regularly unwind after work. Good beer, good bartenders, somewhere between/convenient to Potomac Yards and Seven Corners areas...any ideas? Thanks!

Fritz: Dogfish Head Alehouse in Seven Corners would be stop number one for me. Great beer (naturally) and there's even an iPhone app that shows you the current beer list. Service has always been pretty friendly, though I've sat at the bar every time except once.

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Wedding Venues: If you don't have a big budget . . . we had ours at Waterford. There's one in Fairfax and Springfield. One stop shopping and they did a beautiful job.

Julia: A suggestion for the to-be-weds. It's not in Annapolis, but hey...

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Firefly continued:: Schneider's on Capitol Hill carries it. They also carry a competitor in about the same price range, Jeremiah Weed Southern Style Vodka. Interestingly, in a blind taste test, Firefly came up short. But that was straight up...either one you mix with something they probably taste the same.

I also submitted a question via email about locations for a "stock the bar" shower for my roomie...want to return the favor by answering it?

Fritz: I tested Firefly against Sweet Carolina at the Reef one night, and Firefly crushed it. Like the JW, but haven't done a head-to-head yet.

Oh, I sense a happy hour coming up...

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Washington dc: Hey gurus...love your work!

I am turning 31 tomorrow and going out for dancing at the Vegas Lounge on P St. to celebrate with friends. They want to take me out for dinner and drinks beforehand...what are your favorite places within a walkable distance to Vegas Lounge?

Thanks

Rhome: Lalibela for solid Ethiopian, despite the lack of atmosphere. Logan Tavern for comfort and bar food with some added fanciness. Thai Tanic for what the name says.

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Thinking Town as a good place for my bf's 31st bday party..: We will be a mix of drinkers, dancers and non-dancers. I get the feeling we all listen to the same top 40/hip-hop/pop music. Seems like a good pick? Other suggestions?

Fritz: Yeah, totally. That's what Town's good for. I'd say Chief Ike's is the dive option, and Grand Central down the block could be a solid backup.

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Why do people wear BACKPACKS when they dance?: I experienced that once at Wonderland and nearly punched the dude.

David: People did odd things back in 2006/2007.

Rhome: Why do women haul around these GIGANTIC PURSES in crowded nightclubs, on the dancefloor too? IRKSOME.

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Arlington, Va.: Hey GOG's, need some help to spice up or potentially tear down a relationship...looking for a place to rent a hot-tub, ala Blind Date style. Any suggestions? Love the chats, and thanks.

Julia: No, but this question is awesome.

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Arlington, VA: My boyfriend and I are taking an open-ended roadtrip over to the beaches this weekend, likely Bethany/Rehoboth this weekend. We don't have firm plans and figure we will just go where the car takes us. I'm wondering if any of you know of places that are open off season. Will most of the restaurants/bars be open? Are there any not-to miss restaurants? Back in the day when I used to go regularly there was a place just north of Bethany, Redfin, I think it was called, that had great food. Any suggestions?

Fritz: I've been out to Bethany preseason thanks to the charity of a friend who owns a house there, and we found that most of the restaurants were open, but the bars do shut unreasonably early. (That's why it's The Quiet Resort, I suppose.) Dewey's bars have already opened.

As for food, I really liked the Mexican food at Agave, a very cool tequila bar and restaurant in Lewes with the best margarita on the Eastern Shore. No joke.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi GOGs,

The parents are coming to town this weekend and I have lots of fun things planned (including brunch at Old Ebbitts and then seeing "Chicago" on Sunday). For Saturday, I was thinking of doing a guided walking tour of a neighborhood they haven't seen yet (they've visited several times).

Have you guys done any of the walking tours around here? I'm leaning toward Capital Hill/Eastern market but I live in the U-Street area, so that one would be cool.

Thanks!

Julia: I have done both and they're both informative and really fun on nice days. I'm partial to the U Street one, just because I like the Black Broadway history angle. But I love the architecture in both places so you really can't go wrong.

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CT: We will be visiting DC April 17-20. Will the cherry blossoms still be out then?

Anne: Sorry to say, no. Our handy-dandy cherry blossom guide has a photo updated every day to show you what they look like now -- take a peek and you can see that most of the blossoms have turned to leaves and it's just the one still hanging on this particular branch. But like I was just saying, D.C. is gorgeous with other flowers everywhere, even after the cherry trees have done their thing. Read this FAQ (scroll to the bottom) for some ideas for alternatives to blossom viewing at other gardens.

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Getting ready to go out.: Hi Gurus. Now that there isn't a MisFit online chat you've moved from my second favorite to favorite. Savor the moment!

I do have a serious question. I am going to a really fancy political-type black tie event in a few weeks I have a dress (from a wedding) that I can wear. But I never wear makeup or get my hair or nails done. How do I start? Is there someone I can hire to lead me by the hand? Or someplace that is really good for the totally clueless? I live in Bethesda, but could go almost anyplace in the area. I am starting to panic and just REALLY need some help.

Thanks!

Julia: Call Dawn at D'Brows and see what she would charge you for a consultation with one of her make-up artists. Maybe that could help? I hired one of her lovely ladies for my wedding and she was amazing.

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Washington, D.C.: Any recommendations for this coming Sunday night? With Monday off and my boyfriend in town, it seems like a good time to take in some of the places that get slammed during the weekend (Bourbon, The Gibson, St. Ex). Any recommendations beyond those? I'm thinking low-key, not too loud, cocktails and conversation, pricey is fine if the drinks are worth it (a la anything Chantal makes). We're ok with DJs, so long it's not a DJ/dance night (think St. Ex on Saturdays).

Any events Sunday worth mentioning? Calendars are bereft, but I'm guessing that's a symptom of it being Easter Sunday.

Fritz: You, D.C., are a person after my own heart. Sunday is probably the best night to go to Cork, since you can try Tom or Rachael's cocktails without the crowds breathing down your neck. Gibson, too. And Bourbon. And PS7's. Or wine bars like Veritas, which was actually peaceful a few weeks ago, and Enology.

Also one of the most fun nights to go to Eighteenth Street Lounge, thanks to the excellent Sam "the Man" Burns. Speaking of Sundays, gotta say Easter's generally a slow night. Your neighborhood bars will have folks out, but it's quiet on the lounge front.

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WAshington, D.C.: Hi guys, I'm just starting down the path to raw foods and was shocked to find out that dc has no raw food restaurants. Can you recommend a nice vegetarian restaurant in the city as my consolation prize? I'm tired of watching other people eat. I'd like to eat too:(

Fritz: I'm willing to bet you that Vegetate will be able to accommodate you, and well.

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Bad Host - Arlington: So I need a place to take some family out to lunch on Sunday. I've put off making reservations and don't know where to book a reservation. Also, one of them is really into Broadway type performances. Any recommendations on entertainment?

Julia: Sunday's tough, being Easter and all. Maybe check out Stars Bistro in Dupont and see if it has tables available? The singing server thing is, um, not my thing, but the American food's not bad.

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DC: It's not exactly going out related, but traveling seems to come up quite often. As a person craving a getaway, do you have any recommendations? What are the gurus favorite non-U.S. travel spots?

Julia: I just saw this question and it's way off-topic, but I couldn't resist. Besides, Fritz and I were just talking about this at a bar last night. My favorite places in Earth, in no particular order, are: Pai, Thailand; Melbourne; Santorini.

Fritz: Uh, yeah, Julia.

Anyway, I think it's a great time to take advantage of all those Caribbean deals before hurricane season hits. I love the Dominican Republic -- got a great all-inclusive deal there last year under $600, including air from National. Check the picks in our sister publication Budget Travel. I'm currently looking into St. Maarten or the Turks.

Rhome: Bahia (Brazil) and Brittany (France). Yup.

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Frugal Brides Unite!: I'm in the midst of planning my wedding and strongly urge other brides to look into the public garden venues. October might not be best for some of the outdoor only venues but a number have 'mansions' or 'manors' on site as well.

All the Md. counties have them. Not sure about Anne Arundel but the MoCo one is www.wehavethewhere.com.

Julia: Yeah, a friend of a friend got married on a hilltop in Md. somewhere and spent like $50 to reserve. Pretty awesome.

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washingtonpost.com: And that's a wrap. Free sushi later. Fritz will be doing sake bombs. I'll be laughing in the corner. Until next week!

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Every Thursday at 1 p.m. ET, washingtonpost.com's Going Out 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. If you're looking for more ideas, see the Going Out Guide or read transcripts of past Got Plans? discussions.

Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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