Got Plans?: Halloween parties, walking tours and great restaurants for first dates

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The Going Out Gurus
of The Washington Post's Going Out Guide
Thursday, October 29, 2009; 1:00 PM

The Going Out Guide staff discussed Halloween parties, walking tours and great restaurants for first dates on Thursday, Oct. 29 at 1 p.m. ET.

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washingtonpost.com: It's a big day today. We have two pairs of VIP Capital Food Fight tickets to give away -- that means you can get into one of the biggest foodie (and sold-out) events of the year for free. And to win, just tell us which area restaurant you think is best for a first date and why. Oh yeah, and we imagine we will be answering some Halloween-related questions, too. Let's start.

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Washington, D.C.: Favorite place for a first date is Taylor on H St. Its open late, perfect for quality grub after a performance or concert. The menu and ambiance are perfect -- they say "I have great taste" but at the same time "I'm not trying too hard."

Julia: Ooooh, I love this one. Outside the box, but totally cool.

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Baltimore: Last week you recommended that the asker check out the Elicott City Ghost tour.. stay away, it was horrible, wasted money. I felt like the tour guide was making stuff up. Also, PFI is now taken over by the county and they have a cheesy production there, put on by middle schoolers (seriously, 12 year olds jumping out while you tour the grounds). However, the Fells Point Ghost Tour was beyond amazing - lots of history, ghosts and when you're done, your in Fells Point!

Fritz: Really? Ouch. I haven't been on it for a couple of years, but I remember it -- especially the Patapsco Female Institute -- being kind of spooky, even if the stories could be kind of corny at times.

Fells Point Ghost Tour, eh? Could it be scarier than going to Westminster Hall at night -- unarmed -- to visit Poe's grave?

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Reston, Va.: Back from London, and I have some comments.

Two of the many things I enjoyed on this repeat trip were:

1. The National Gallery has Friday evening programs - "wine, nibbles and a chat" as well as docent led, one-hour tours of 3-4 works of art. This last tour starts at 8 p.m. but from 6 p.m. you can enjoy wine and music in the Sainsbury Wing while waiting for your tour. The wine/nibbles/chat are short courses on a specific topic of interest (the one I missed was about Impressionism).

Do we have anything like that in D.C.?

2. I love to go on London Walks. They have about 100 walking tours in their repertoire and each day has a different schedule of walks. They are also cheap -- 7 pounds, or 5 pounds for frequent walkers.

Does D.C. have this, and especially cheap? 20 bucks a pop isn't cheap, but if we had ones that were 10 bucks I'd start doing these on weekends...

Thank you!

Stephanie: It sounds like you're looking for something along the lines of Phillips After 5, which is a week from today. There will be wine, live music (thanks to Chopteeth and DJ Todd Threats) and lectures/tours about Man Ray's art. As for walking tours, I covered this a bit in last week's chat, but I think the most comparable tours to what you're describing are the ones offered by Washington Walks ($10 a pop, but they have a frequent walker discount, as well). The tours are pretty sweet (examples: haunted houses, the memorials at night, the history of U Street), and every fall and spring those tours -- and a lot of others -- are free through WalkingTown DC. The fall installment was in September though, so sit tight until May or so for more free options.

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Clarendon, Va.: Best place for a first date is Zaytinya. Relaxed atmosphere, solidly stocked bar, in the heart of the city, quality food and lots of going out options afterward.

Julia: Another contender. Hey, did y'all get my memo about Mike Isabella chatting at 1:15? Pretty cool booking for post.com. (You can click away to him, but you must, must come back to us:)

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Anti-halloween bars?: This question is probably blasphemous, but I don't like Halloween and wondering if there are any bars promoting a non-Halloween atmosphere. Only asking since it falls on Saturday night. I've gone out sans costume before and the masses are downright hostile, so not doing that again.

Thanks!

Fritz: Very good question. I was wondering this myself. My advice would be trying some of the classier bars and lounges -- say, Bourbon Steak, the bar at the Jefferson, Town and Country -- or maybe a restaurant/lounge. Even some of the nicer cocktail spots, like the Gibson, are having costume parties.

Chatters? Any ideas?

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Arlington, Va.: Hi GOGs! Love your chats! Me and my friends are going to brave the crowds this year's Nightmare on M Street... if you were us, what would be your game plan that night?

THANKS!!!

Fritz: I'd avoid the more popular bars, at least later. Every year, we hear from people who got stuck in long lines outside Front Page, Madhatter, etc. If you want to hit Public Bar or BlackFinn, do those FIRST. Then meet some friends at Steve's Bar Room, James Hoban's or maybe Bread N Brew later on.

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Woodley Park: My favorite first date place in Bar Pilar which can work for just drinks, drinks and grazing, or dinner and more drinks. Dimly lit and laid back vibe. You can share or not share. Great unpretentious food, good beer and wine list, not too expensive. Also, if you want to continue the date there are several places in the area to choose from.

Stephanie: Totally. Bar Pilar gets my vote, too.

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Washington, D.C.: I personally think there are a lot of restaurants in D.C. that are good for first dates, but I would probably go with some place that is fun, with great food, not too loud (in order to encourage conversation), and not overly romantic (as to not make the couple feel uncomfortable). Also it shouldn't be super expensive (nothing like blowing half a pay check on someone who won't be around a week from now). The one place that seems to fit the bill and comes to mind is Cafe Atlantico. The drinks are fun, the decor is vibrant and the food is good. It's also in a great location, so if the date is going really well you can always head over to the more seductive Zola or Proof for a nightcap.

Anne: I like your criteria! There's some debate here over whether Cafe Atlantico's prices are "super expensive" or not, but nice approach.

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Washington, D.C.: Hey GOG's! Going out to for dinner/drinks on Sunday with some friends visiting from out of town, and was hoping you could help with our plans. We've narrowed our dinner choices down to Proof, Cork or Blue Duck Tavern. Assuming you have been to all three, which would you recommend? Any good after-dinner spots to hang out at on a Sunday evening? Looking for someplace with a good friendly vibe and drinks. We are all in our 30s -- if that helps. Thanks!

Julia: I have been to all three. I'm partial to Proof and, of course, I'd probably get drinks there, too, as they have an ambitious new cocktail program. You could also walk over to PS 7's for cocktails after dinner if you wanted a change of scene. Cork would be my second choice. And I'd get beers at the hot new spot ChurchKey. Fritz and I are digging it -- what do you guys think?

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Anonymous: Call me crazy, but where can I find non-Halloween fun this Saturday night? I love to see costumes, don't feel like wearing one myself, but people tend to give you grief if you don't dress.

Rhome: You might want to stay home and give out candy to the kiddies. That way you can see costumes and bond with the neighborhood youth you only interact with when griping about them loitering in front of your house (or maybe that's just me).

But seriously, there's another question in the queue about this. There are a lot of folks out there who don't want to be bothered, but I also know that bars make a lot of dough on Halloween and would be loathe to give that up.

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Not-Halloween question: I'm newly single and want to go swing dancing (or similar). I'm a woman in my mid-20s and will be by myself (no friends either). I also don't have a car. Where can I go so I don't feel out of place or need a partner?

Fritz: My favorite spot remains the Jam Cellar (Tuesdays at the Josephine Butler), and not just because they've asked me to DJ once or twice over the years. Very friendly crowd, great music, optional classes with fantastic teachers.

There's a very social crowd at Chevy Chase Ballroom on Mondays and Fridays, too. Monday's more of an after-class practice, but brings out some solid dancers. Fridays feature live bands.

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Arlington, Va.: Best first date spot -- Galaxy Hut. Casual food, Pac-Man, good beer, and really good gelato a few doors down to end the night with.

Fritz: Stop stealing my moves.

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Clarendon: First date: Chuck E. Cheese. It's a no brainer! If she's a cool gal (or guy), she'll love the pizza and playing games (and what easier place to flirt than while playing arcade games!), but if she rolls her eyes and thinks it's ridiculous to go to CC on a first date, she's definitely not a keeper anyway (and you didn't have to waste much money on her!). Works like a charm!

Anne: Seriously? Ew. No. Unexpected concept, though, I'll give you that.

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Washington, D.C.: I agree on the non-Halloween. Don't get me wrong, I love this time of year and all that, but I have no desire to be scantily clad and seems that's the only option. I'd try places like Cleveland Park Bar and Grill, other 'sports' bars, or smaller places that aren't in areas with tons of other bars. As for me, friend of mine has the 31st for a birthday and hates costumes so he's having everyone over to watch football.

Rhome: Saturday night World Series Game 3 viewing party with suggested costumes of past Phillies and Yankees legends? Or your costume could be "beer drinking game watching guy".

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Washington, D.C.: I'd disagree with Zaytinya as first date option. I went for something like a third date, and it can be loud and you have to sit pretty close to other diners. Never been, but I'd think H Street Country Club would be good first date-food, drinks, and miniature golf in one place. Couldn't get much better than that!

Anne: Good point. Some others are suggesting loud places, like 2 Amys, too. What say you, chatters? Does being too loud make a place a dealbreaker? I think Zaytinya could work in warmer weather if you could sit outside, though. Or if you're there on the early side. Nice idea for H Street.

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Washington, D.C.: Looking for a good brunch spot on Saturday before college football. Ideally want a place that offers unlimited champagne/mimosas (have to get ready for game time!), decent food and open around 11ish. Thoughts?

Julia: If you're willing to set the bar at "decent," the food at the Front Page (in D.C.) might qualify. That sounds harsher than I want it to. Is the Front Page's brunch the best you've ever had? No. But, it's a massive buffet with waffle, omelette and carving stations. It's decent -- and they offer unlimited champage for $3 and mimosas for $4.50, when you buy the $21 brunch. I like Creme a lot, but there's often a wait for a table, which complicates game-day matters. Readers have chimed in on Tony and Joe's brunch, but I've never been.

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Herndon, Va.: I'd have to go with Matchbox for a first date. It's close to concerts, sporting events and movie theaters. The wait will tell you how a potential partner can handle adversity, then you'll get to find out if they're a burger or pizza person.

Julia: Good suggestion (one I've used many times in this chat, actually). But what do you gain from knowing whether a person is a pizza or a burger person? I mean, I'm probably . . . both.

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New Years: Please answer my new year's question, someone in my group has suggested Zanzibar (not my scene) and I want to be able to say "NYE events come out on x date, let's wait to decide."

THANKS !

Fritz: Well, the big hotel party events are trickling in, but we probably won't know about the big club events (9:30 club, Fur, Love) or lounges (Park at 14th, Josephine) or even dive bars until mid-November, and possibly even later. (Seriously, I was bugging bar owners with "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" phone calls in mid-December and not getting specifics.)

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Washington, D.C.: I think Agraria is a great date spot. It's relaxed but classy and there's a wide variety of food and drink options. It's also a great location on the Georgetown waterfront. You can walk to the movie theater, stroll along the park on the river bank (if the weather is nice), or head somewhere in the area for a nightcap.

Julia: Nice one.

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Washington, D.C.: Love the chats! I have Monday and Tuesday off -- starting a new job Wednesday. What would you do if you had a day or two off to be a tourist in your own city?

Stephanie: Hey, congrats on the new gig! If I were in your shoes, I'd probably start with a long walk, camera in hand, since the leaves are looking so amazing at the moment. Another idea would be to take in a talk with Cate Blanchett (love her!) at the Kennedy Center, which is noon on Tuesday. Though you'll have to act fast because tickets are dwindling. If museums are more your thing, check out the cool show of fortunetelling art at the Sackler or the Craft Invitational at the Renwick, which has knit superhero costumes among other fun displays.

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K Street Government Cubicle: For a first date, nowhere beats Tabard Inn for romance with good food, good wine, and a good setting for conversation. Cozy in the fall and winter, an oasis in the spring and summer. The food is not so adventurous that a date might be alienated, but is sufficiently interesting to provoke conversation. The nooks, crannies, corners, etc. can test the merit of a date's curiosity (a necessary ingredient for a fun relationship).

Fritz: Okay, but how much romance do you need on a first date? And what, exactly, could you do to follow drinks in front of that roaring fire? You gotta but in some effort on the first date, but you can't set the bar TOO high, you know?

Personally, I love the bar at the Tabard (and brunch at the Tabard), but I put the restaurant in the anniversary/romantic birthday category.

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First Date: H Street County Club -- with the caveat that it should be on the early side before it gets too crazy. It is a little different -- a little kooky, and it is the perfect combination of dining/restaurant and event.

You can learn a lot about someone both by the way they react in competitive situations, and if not that, the "D.C." golf course is ideal fodder for conversation!

Julia: Cosign on the competitive situations. Having terrible memories of an old boyfriend who had to beat me at everything -- even though I am clearly superior at old school Mario.

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Washington, D.C. (Chinatown): Hi GOG's, I just wrote in about Sticky Rice on H Street, NE, my favorite first date spot in D.C.! Not sure it went through, but Sticky Rice has delicious food, isn't pricey and an ambience that is hip but not intimidating. The booths are great for conversing and getting to know someone, and the sushi rolls have fun names (great convo to break the ice!) Also, the restaurant has "blingo" night and Karaoke night...maybe for future dates? : )

Fritz: I've written about Sticky a bunch -- Blingo and karaoke would be excellent dates unto themselves, and I think the sushi is great, if not exactly, you know, Sushi-Ko.

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U Street: Best first date place: 2 Amy's. The food is great, it's casual and not too expensive. Having my date pay for an expensive meal on our first date makes me feel a little awkward. The length of a meal there is good for a first date as well: not too long, not too short.

Rhome: A note of agreement on this and the Comet Ping Pong suggestions that have come in. If anyone insists that it's important to break your wallet on a first date, tell them Rhome heartily disagrees. Plan a first date with A, B and C stages. Stage A should be low-pressure and not costly. Even if you have the dough, the expectations can still be awkward. And if it's not a good fit, you can easily bail on stages B and C with both parties able to save face. Let's try to reduce the potential anxiety triggers in getting to know another person and enjoying an evening in someone's company as much as possible.

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Washington, D.C.: My favorite place for a first date is Sticky Rice on H Street, NE. The food is delicious, the ambiance is hip but not intimidating, and the booths provide a great setting for getting to know someone. The sushi rolls have cool names (great nervous conversation starter!) and the restaurant also hosts special events, like "Blingo" and Karaoke Night...maybe for a second date? : )

Julia: Another one!

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Columbia Heights: Have you heard anything about the opening date of the new bars, The Passenger and the Columbia Club, from the fantastic Brown Brothers, Derek and Tom? I've been itching to check it out.

Fritz: They are a couple of weeks away from opening their new cocktail lounge in the old Warehouse Next Door space. Bartenders/owners Derek (ex-Gibson) and Tom (ex-Cork) have a lot of expectations to live up to, including mine.

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Arlington, Va.: First date place: I'm sure plenty would disagree, but I think to help take of some of the pressure that goes along with a first date a more casual place like Comet Ping Pong would be great. Sure it's not the classiest place & you can go other places in the city to get better pizza and drinks. But there's something to be said (at least for me) about a guy who can let loose and have fun on the first date.

Julia: This is kind of cool. You guys are a lot more casual than I thought you'd be.

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Washington, D.C.: Hey Guys,

First time I've ever hopped on the chat before, the opportunity to get tickets to this event was too good!

Anyway, I've been living in D.C. for about 3 years now and my go to spot used to be the OLD Sushi Taro, but now I'd have to go with Palena/Palena Cafe. The restaurant serves some of the best food in the city hands down. The roast chicken and cheeseburger are absolutely fantastic, and any soup you get there is bound to be one of the best you've ever tasted. The atmosphere/decor is elegant and classy, but not too presumptuous or pretentious. For a first date, you don't want to take a girl to Komi or the tasting menu at City Zen, those types of meals are reserved for occasions other than a first date. I think Palena's atmosphere and food finds a balance between casual and romantic that is perfectly suitable for a first date. This all topped with the Cleveland Park neighborhood that is great for a post-dinner walk makes Palena the perfect first date spot for me.

Julia: I miss the old Sushi Taro for date nights too. So pleasant up there.

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Falls Church, Va.: My husband and I went to Pad Thai in Fairfax on our first date. The food was great and the place is off the beaten path enough that it was nearly empty (giving us plenty of freedom to focus on each other). It'll always be a special place for us because, hey, the whole first date thing worked out for us!

Julia: Cute!

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Bethesda, Md.: OK. anti-Halloween question? What concerts or other events can you suggest for those of us that want to get out of the house and away from trick-or-treaters and don't want the costumed bar scene either?

Fritz: Funny you should ask. Just this morning, we came up with this Best Bets list of the weekend's top non-Halloween events. It's got live music, theater, karaoke, antique pinball machines (that you can play!!!!) and even the Washington Ballet in a less-formal setting.

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Washington, D.C.: Best restaurant for a first date? Captain Pell's Crabhouse or any other crab shack where you can get good and messy. Might as well get all the niceties out of the way now...if your date can't handle it, then it's not worth a second date! (P.S. I'm a girl.)

Rhome: This suggestion has dangerous beer burping potential. If fun is being had it could be a bonding experience.

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Help!: Any suggestions for places I can go to get a last minute halloween costume or at least get inspired?!

Fritz: If you want the pre-made, pre-packaged costumes, I have to say the Spirit costume shop in Friendship Heights really does have everything you need. Also plenty of accessories if you need a pirate eyepatch or Captain Caveman club or something like that.

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Date Spot: Co Co. Sala = sexy! Cool atmosphere, incredible cocktail/wine list, chocolate.. yum yum

Rhome: And it's not loud. But the downside of the sexy atmosphere, low lighting and close seating is the potential for awkwardness if that spark of chemistry doesn't manifest early on. Might be better for a 2nd date that's heading up the charts with a bullet.

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Chinatown, D.C.: First date-- Gotta be Kramerbooks & Afterwords. There's no better way to get to know someone than seeing the books they gravitate towards. You can kill an hour in there without spending a penny just getting to really know their tastes. Plus then you go for the extra delicious dessert options (I'm looking at you, Boston Creme Pie) and coffee in the dimly lit cafe.

Stephanie: Nice. I think Capitol Hill Books is a great date spot too, but you may have me beat since in Dupont books + food = one-stop shopping!

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Washington, D.C.: I love PS 7 for first dates- the lounge menu has cheapish, delicious food, Gina C's hibiscus margarita might be my favorite cocktail in the city, and there is interesting people watching without being too noisy.

Fritz: Honestly, I've been finding the lounge waaaaaaaaay noisy the last couple times I've been in. Not quite Rasika level, but still not somewhere I would go on a first date.

Although them cocktails could lure me back in a heartbeat -- the Sun and Sand, a summery Brugal rum/orange/vanilla concoction with a rootbeer crust around the lip of the glass, is awesome.

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Washington, D.C.: "First date: Chuck E. Cheese."

Actually, you need to have kids with you to go to Chuck E. Cheese. Seriously, you can be 'too old' to get into a place. Violating a child protection policy is usually considered a bad idea on a first date...

David: GREAT idea for a second date, though...

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Washington, D.C.: I had my first date with my now wife at Bistrot du Coin. Loved the bustling atmosphere which allowed for great conversation. The food is terrific and prices are reasonable, which includes in my opinion some of the best french fries in town. Their muscles and steaks rock! Taylor also just opened on K and 5th next to the new Busboys and Poets.

Anne: So here's a vote for the benefits of a loud place, eh? And another one for Taylor, I see. Keep the ideas coming!

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Happy Hour Haunting: I am awaiting the article Julia was writing a couple weeks ago. The one where she was going to not only mention the food but also the places where a single gal could go and enjoy or avoid attention. I was wondering if you could help me find it...

Julia: Hey there! The article in question actually hasn't been written. I wasn't quite sure I was going to write it, as I thought it might come out as "Hey, readers, random dudes have talked to me at these places! How hot am I?" (For the record, not very hot.) Anyway, here's a headstart for ya. I met strangers at the bar at every place on this list of oyster happy hours (with the exception of Black's, which I visited with a friend.) Basically, I think all it takes to meet people in this town is to sit alone and be willing to talk with strangers. Just yesterday I had a great chat with a guy at the bar at Restaurant Eve at lunch. He knew I was Irish. I've got another list of 'Mad Men' type bars coming out on 11/6 that'll be good to look out for too. Except, once again, those are the types of bars where people talk to you about their divorces.

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15th and L: What's the word with the new restaurant that opened in the old Ollie's Trolley on L St? It looks like a Baltimore rowhouse and there is no name or anything. People have wrote in to Tom Sietsema, but he seems to be above checking it out himself.

Fritz: I wrote about the Reserve a couple of weeks ago. It's kind of a weird space, but I like the lounge seating and that the "top shelf" happy hour with $5 drinks runs until 9 -- perfect for when you get stuck at work.

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Ideal first date: An ideal first date doesn't trap you into a multi-hours-long dinner... in case the person is a psychotic nuisance or a mute bimbo.

An ideal first date keeps things light and casual and gives you something to do so there is some interaction beyond the uncomfortable questions and conversation.

An ideal first date also does not break the bank.

This is why getting coffee and s'mores at Cosi is ideal. You get to sit for a while, focus on roasting marshmallows if the eye contact is getting to you or conversation is slow, and it's fun!

Anne: I was totally with you up until the smores.

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Arlington, Va.: Best first date place in the D.C....years ago a co-worker tried to convince me that I really did like seafood, I just hadn't tried good seafood, so he took me to Johnny's Half Shell. It wasn't really a first date at the time but seven years later, we're married, so I guess it counts as a first date now.

Anne: Adorable story... but tell us, what made it work?! The person more than the place?

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Tenleytown: Hey Gurus!

What to do during the day on Halloween? Nighttime is covered!

Stephanie: Hey yourself. Hard to give recs when I have no idea what you're into, but how about HallowFest at the Botanic Garden, Arts Day at THEARC or the event formerly know as the Smithsonian Trunk Show?

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D.C.: Love the chats!!!!! Thanks :)

Bit of a dilemma -- want to take my girlfriend out on a date night tomorrow and am a bit stumped. Want to do dinner and then go somewhere for dancing, but not really into the whole "let's grind up on our 200 neighbors because we can't move." Also would like to try Capitol Hill or somewhere in NE. Any suggestions? Thanks!!!

Fritz: I think the DJ party at Little Miss Whiskey's will be less costumes and more folks out to dance. Such a laidback vibe to the place whether the DJs are hip-hop, goth or electro. Pair that with dinner at Sticky Rice or hoagies from Taylor, maybe a nightcap at the Pug.....

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First Date: Go to Poste for Happy Hour (truffle fries!) and then check out the always interesting exhibits at the Portrait Gallery across the street. If the date is going badly, split after that. If it's going really well, head to Nando's -- since you only had fries or apps at Poste -- and get takeout to bring into Rocket Bar.

Anne: Now this is an itinerary! For the record, Fritz and Rhome are still very pro Nando's. So pro, in fact, Fritz says it might be even better to stay there -- more sauce options.

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Ledroit Park, D.C.: Are there any BYOB places in Washington -- not Va. or Md., but in the city itself?

Fritz: Are you talking restaurants or clubs? Many restaurants will let you bring your own wine. HR-57 is among the few clubs that will allow you to do this, but you do have to pay a couple bucks per person for corkage.

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Wash your DC: Hey Gog-gers,

Turning viente y seis in December. I want to go with 10 people out for dinner on a Saturday night then magically have it turn into that evening of -- boozing, shaking it, shenanigans, etc. Restaurants must take reservations.

Suggs?

Julia: Felicitations! I'd try a U street corridor/14th Street spot like Eatonville. That way you're close to all of the shakin' it spots there.

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World Series Dilemma: Hey GoGs! I'm a Phillies fan and my best friend is a Yankees fan and we're looking for a great neutral bar that will be playing the game tonight (and onward...) with sound. Where's the best place to get our baseball on?

Rhome: Bar Louie should be neutral ground. I've heard some folks say they're heading to Ventnor in Adams Morgan. More suggestions from the room?

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Alexandria, Va.: Best first date spot is Carpool in Ballston. I'm biased because I met my wife there, but go and watch a football game, play pool and drink decent beer. The food is not necessarily great, but after enough beers it's decent enough.

Julia: Hmmm... cute story, not sure if it counts.

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First date: How about the place, the Continental?, in the Hotel Palomar that has pool, skee ball, etc? That certainly keeps things going if conversation lags, plus, great views of the river and a walk over the Key Bridge.

Anne: Little confused here. Continental is across from Hotel Palomar and has no river views. But I guess you could go over to the hotel bar for that. Anyway, a good combo of options. Is the skeeball new?

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Washington, D.C.: I think Cork would make a great first date spot. A little bit of wine always helps the conversation flow easier (especially if it's a blind date) and it would be fun to sample different small plates. The wine flights can be fun---pick a region, pick red or white, share etc.

Plus it's not your usual suspect and show's that you can branch out beyond the expected Gallery Place or typical small plates choices like Jaleo (also nice for dates but more traditional).

Julia: I agree -- wine is a nice to have.

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Washington, D.C.: Surprised no one has mentioned Rasika yet for a good first date. The drinks are delish, the food is excellent, and the ambience is great. It can get a bit loud, but not overly loud and the tables are nicely spaced out.

Fritz: It's just kind of hard to get a table, and the bar is always packed. If you go on a first date, you want to be able to sit and talk, right? Not stand for 20 minutes, unless you go on a Tuesday. (But the cocktails are really delicious.)

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Arlington, Va.: I don't think a first date needs to be a food/drink meet up. My favorite place would be Teddy Roosevelt Island. It's a place that not everyone knows about, so points for creativity. The trails are quiet, great for conversation. If all goes well, you could always grab food/drinks in Rosslyn or Georgetown.

Rhome: Dap to you on getting outdoors. Definitely needs to be more of this going on for date ideas.

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Washington, D.C.: For a first day, I really like Haydee's on Mount Pleasant street. They have happy hour until midnight on weeknights and delicious fajitas. Some might think Mexican is too messy for a first date, but it's only worked out well. Really, most of the restaurants on Mount Pleasant are good for dates, small-ish and quiet.

Julia: An interesting choice. I can't imagine Haydee's as a good first date spot... mainly because I only go there for cheap margaritas.

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Arlington, Va.: Thanks for the heads up on the Pumpkin Beer Tasting at Black Squirrel. I went on a whim with a friend from work and we really enjoyed it. I didn't necessarily like all of the beers we tasted, but the food was FANTASTIC and the staff was very friendly. I would definitely recommend the place for someone looking for a casual atmosphere with a good beer list and much-better-than-average bar food.

Fritz: Glad you liked the beer dinner list. I'm a fan of the Alsace-style chucrute (sausage and sauerkraut) platter with a big mug of German beer.

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First Date Ideas: Utopia for drinks and/or dinner, depending on how well or poorly the date goes. Dim lighting, nice art, great atmosphere.

Julia: I'll actually throw in a plug here for U Street neighbor Coppi's. A friend of a friend runs the place and I hadn't been in in ages until last summer. That's a cute spot for a date.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm always a little too nervous to eat a big meal for first dates, so I really liked it when J. suggested Room 11 as a first date. They have great wine, a cosy atmosphere, and savory snacks. It's best on warmish fall nights, though.

Fritz: Or on off-nights when the two dozen indoor seats aren't snapped up. But yeah. Good wine-by-the-glass list and inventive (if short) cocktail menu. Drinks advice: Ask Dan (the bartender with the mustache) what's new and interesting.

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Washington, D.C.: My favorite recommendation for a first date is Ray's Hell Burgers. No matter what time of day you go, it's always busy, which makes for a generally communal, festive atmosphere. It's relatively inexpensive (even for the foie gras burger), mind blowingly delicious, and casual enough to squelch anticipation anxiety. I can't think of a better way to end a date than a cup of that amazing (and gratis) hot chocolate.

Julia: I love me some Ray's and I like your reasoning here, but there's also the chance that you'll get some, um, not so friendly massaging from the staff that you need to eat up and get out. That's kind of a date buzzkill.

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Washington: I'll make one last push for Sequoia as a great first date location -- the views are amazing, the bar is great, and the food is always solid. Plus capping it off with a walk in Georgetown is a nice way to end the night.

Julia: Another one!

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Washington, D.C.: For the person still looking for costumes, there's a great (year round) costume place on 8th Street (Barracks Row) that has much better options than some of those junky seasonal stores.

Fritz: Backstage Costumes is generally my go-to, whether I need accessories for an El Kabong costume or am looking for a basic mask. Helpful staff, too.

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Dupont Circle, D.C.: It's not in the city, but I love Olazzo for a first date because it's comforting, hearty, pretty easy on the budget without being cheap, has food that everyone enjoys served at reasonable pace (not to fast, not too slow) in a dimly lit, cozy environment that isn't overtly romantic.

And also because that's where I had my first date with my partner (Awwwwwwww).

Julia: Another love story.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I recommend Utopia on U Street or Jackie's in Silver Spring for a first date. Trendy but comfortable.

Anne: Nice. I like this vibe you're going for.

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First Date, D.C.: Teaism at Penn Quarter... salty oats, cocktails (or tea) and koi fish. Plenty of restaurant options, or walking view options (Mall, navy memorial), and even bowling at Strike if things are going really well... a 3 pronged date for those that you just don't want to end...

Stephanie: You had me at salty oat cookie...

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My office: You guys going to the Guster show this weekend?

David: Won't be there, bro. If you ask me (which you sorta did, I guess), it's like the sixth best show in D.C. tonight, with the best one being Future of the Left at Rock and Roll Hotel. (Check Nightlife Agenda for a complete rundown.) And tomorrow I gotta be watching my Wizards take care of business in Atlanta... But enjoy. It's one of those "play an entire album" shows, which kind of bug me, too.

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Dupont late night: Hi there -- I am hoping you can help! We are geeting married on Saturday night near Dupont Circle and wanted to find a place to go once the wedding ends around midnight. We're worried that it might be hard to get in to places given its Halloween. Any ideas for a fun place that we can get in to? Thanks!

Fritz: Lots of places will be hosting Halloween parties, especially with the Nightmare on M Street bar crawl hitting everywhere from Public Bar to Steve's Bar Room. I'd say Maddie's could be a good bet -- so new that it's still kind of quiet, good laidback vibe. Russia House is a standby. Veritas, too, for a celebratory glass of champagne. (Actually, I might get some bubbly at Bistrot du Coin. If you're still in the dress, I could see you getting great service.)

For dancing, try Fly or the Spot. Both kind of small, but shouldn't be TOO crazy.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Gurus! Wanted to let you and all the fans know that there is a great event going on tonight at the Women's National Democratic Club by Dupont Circle. ViniVegas is the New Vintage's first event of the Fall season, and it is a wine tasting event to support the American Heart Association. Open wine bar from 6 to 8 - tickets are $50 and all the proceeds go to charity. See http://hdthenewvintage.org/for more details!

Fritz: Mmmmm. Open wine bar.

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Phils/Yanks: Ventnor is not neutral. I read on a blog this morning that it is the Philly party in the area. (http://www.philliesnation.com/archives/2009/10/game-1-and-game-2-watching-parties/)

Rhome: My sources are trying to sabotage me! Just call me Switzerland. No shade to Yankees fans.

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Dupont Circle: Best first date: It's kind of a summer date, but I vote for Cantina Marina. It's low-key and not too pricey. The waterviews can be romantic if you want that vibe or very casual if it's not going well. It's Metro- and Circulator-accessible, but also in a part of town that many D.C.ers don't regularly venture toward, so it shows off city smarts.

Anne: And way to show off the city smarts of your own. Some thorough reasoning here.

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Date, Va.: This is sort of not answering your question, but I think it is better to assemble a picnic together at a great store (WF, MOM's, deli, whatever...) and then go somewhere with great people watching or a nice view. This provides interaction and discussion while picking food, and reveals things about other person; and the location gives you instant conversation topics. Too often, people go to a fancy restaurant and are nervous about ordering "right" or ordering the "right wine" and/or distracted by great food, or food that isn't as great as promised, or a crappy waiter, etc etc. Buy a wonderful picnic basket, some wine, and then go get the food together.

Rhome: I endorse this.

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C'm, ON: This: Columbia Heights: Have you heard anything about the opening date of the new bars, The Passenger and the Columbia Club, from the fantastic Brown Brothers, Derek and Tom? I've been itching to check it out.

has got to be a plug!

Fritz: Actually, I don't think either of the Brown brothers would do that. The place has some buzz in the local cocktail community, and my friends have been pestering me about it -- only natural someone else would. (Now, if the place had opened yesterday, this question would trip my radar.)

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Arlington, Va.: A Sunday night date at EatBar in Arlington would be great. The food is adventurous enough, and you can bond over the fun movie or animated film that is playing. It would help keep the banter light and allow for a distraction if the conversation struggles at all.

Anne: Now there's a new take on dinner and a movie. Good thinking!

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Moving on halloween!: Gurus I'm moving on Halloween and will be in Dupont. Any suggestions for something to do in the area that I can swing by and have fun at but don't have to commit to in advance if I'm too exhausted?

Stephanie: I had a super low-key Halloween last year (which started with a goodbye drink at Biddy Mulligans -- sob!), but it was really fun. A big group of us just snagged some outdoor seats at a bar along 17th Street -- next to heaters, of course -- and watched the revelers go by. Costume watching is quite entertaining! After that, we headed to the cantina at Darlington House, which wasn't overly packed at all.

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My Cube, My Cube: First date: Brunch at Tabaq Bistro. A few bloody marys could get me through a horrible date or the lazy attitude of brunch could help a great connection go longer. It frees up my crazy schedule during the week and is simply a great affordable place to eat.

Julia: Love this one.

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Great First Date: My vote would go for Eventide for the following reasons:

-if its in the nicer months, its a great spot to have a few drinks and some light food on the roofdeck. -The main dining room is a great conversation piece which I think is pretty important on a first date. -The lounge is a great spot to grab a small table and some great drinks with the knowledge that the place won't get jammed b/c they limit the number of folks in the lounge.

So basically, I think all 3 areas of the place would be good first date spots.

Julia: A vote for the Arlington spot.

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First date place: my husband and I went to good guys on our first date. no joke. we've been together over six years, so I guess it was a good first date place...

Stephanie: Disclaimer: The Going Out Gurus do not encourage going to Good Guys on a first date. Except maybe Fritz.

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NoVa: Another day-ish thing to do in D.C. on Halloween is the roller derby. It starts at 4 (I think). Some of my friends and I are going, before heading out to H St for Halloween fun.

Rhome: At the Armory this Saturday. Yup. Doors open at 3 p.m.

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Bethesda, Md.: Best place for a first date: Mansion on O Street. Secret passageways and odd tchotchkes always go well with martinis, dinner, and a new person to get to know.

Fritz: So true. Important to note, though, that it's only really open to the public on Sunday, Monday and various holidays (like this weekend). Love the secret rooms and false doors. (Monday's $40 dinner-and-martinis combo might be a fun get-to-know-you night, especially if you go off and explore the 100 rooms together.)

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Best First Date: Hi GOGs,

Here's what I would put together. I'd start out with a great cocktail place, such as the Gibson. It would be early in the evening, so still pretty low-key.

To answer your specific question -- for the restaurant area, I would go to Zaytinya. I like this because since it's small plates, you can try a variety and get a good sense of what you date does/does not like. In addition, it might lend itself to sharing plates and tasting each others, further widening your dining/dating experience. I also think sometimes people are nervous, so small bites/plates might be just the right thing. In addition, the atmosphere is lively, sexy, fun--so it's good for people-watching, but not too much of course!

I'd cap off the night with another low-key kind of place with a great beer selection, cozy atmosphere and maybe some wines (in case your date is more wine than beer). It should be a place that doesn't get crazy so you can still talk, providing that the date is going well...I'm thinking PX lounge or Bar Pilar or the Saloon or Axis. I know that this jumps around in terms of locations but that change-of scenery (locations) might not be a bad thing if the date is going well.

Thanks

Fritz: I do like your idea -- it's all the jumping around/time in taxis or Metro that makes it hard. My ideal date would only have one neighborhood change: meet and dinner, then go somewhere else for a show, or dinner and a show then get a cab for a nightcap.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm planning a bachelorette party and I am trying to find a fun bar to go to with a group of 15 girls after dinner. We're having dinner at Founding Farmers in D.C. After dinner I'd like to go somewhere nearby that has a relaxed and "loungey" feel where we can relax and enjoy some girly drinks and other fruity cocktails. Any suggestions??

Fritz: There's not much that's loungey with good cocktails right around there. Maybe the bar at Bourbon Steak? I'd say you'd be better off heading for the basement of Napoleon (tons of Champagne cocktails, couches, good DJs), or, if it's not too late, PS7's. (Call ahead and I bet they could make a themed cocktail for you.)

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Georgetown, D.C.: Best Phils bar to catch the World Series? (D.C. or NoVA)

Fritz: Ventnor is a quasi-official Phillies bar. Enjoy.

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Dupont: Hi there Gurus -- I recently received an email about the 75th Anniversary of the Bloody Mary next Wednesday at the St. Regis. As a huge fan of the bloody mary, this has my interest. However, I'm only 25 and feel like these events skew older. Plus, I have no idea on pricing -- the email just has an RSVP. Do you know anything about this event and if its worth my time/money? Thanks!

Fritz: I have no idea. (It probably won't be like the annual bloody mary contest at the Starboard in Dewey, though.) I'm guessing this one is going to skew into the 30s, but bloody mary variations from some top chefs like Todd Gray of Equinox -- and legendary NYC bartender Dale de Groff! -- has me interested. I'm told there's no charge but each drink is $15. (Hey, it is for the charity Share our Strength, which fights childhood hunger.) Anyway, I'd say check it out, and if you don't like it, you can always bail.

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washingtonpost.com: Wow, so many great answers here. This is one of the hardest contests we've had. We're talking about turning this into a list for you, but remember, those of you with awesome ideas, you can always do that yourselves, too. In the end, it was all about the "why" so we pick two winners with really well thought-out answers: the formerly Old Sushi Taro and now Palena/Palena Cafe response, and the one with the multi-possibility itinerary of Poste happy hour/Portrait Gallery/Nando's/Rocket Bar. First date winners, e-mail us at events [at] washingtonpost.com and we'll get you on the list for the Capital Food Fight. And to all, a happy Halloween.

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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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