Got Plans?: U Street restaurants, birthday celebrations and ticket surcharges

The Going Out Gurus
of The Washington Post's Going Out Guide
Thursday, November 5, 2009; 1:00 PM

The Going Out Guide staff discussed U Street restaurants, first dates and ticket surcharges on Thursday, Nov. 5 at 1 p.m. ET.

____________________ This may be a nutty chat today, because we're all hepped up on a sugar rush from leftover Halloween candy and the pumpkin bars Jen just made today. But we'll try to focus -- do you want to talk about Fotoweek DC, who's going to Le Loup or how to say farewell to "Mad Men"? Let's hear it.


Washington, D.C.: GoG's,

Do you know if Masa 14 will allow big birthday parties in their space? Say like 100 or so people filing in after dinner (10:30 - 11) and making it semi-private (ie birthday guests get in no prob, others wait if there is a line?). Thanks!

Fritz: Considering how crowded the place is most of the time -- and that they have DJs booked every weekend -- I'd say you'd have to lay out a pretty big per-person minimum to book the space.


Bubbles in McLean: Hi gurus, I'm going to the PB&J show Sat night at the 9:30 club, am trying to find a good place for dinner beforehand. I was thinking Penn Quarter may be best option, but that's because I don't know of much else food-wise roundabouts where the 9:30 club is located.



Julia: There are definitely food options near 9:30, and my advice would be to hit up one of those. I'm thinking of places like Cork (build in time for the wait for a table), Bar Pilar, 1905 (love the atmosphere here) or Rice. They won't be as swanky as what you might find in PQ, but each of those places has a cool neighborhood vibe. And the food in some cases may not be as "chefy," but it's also cheaper.


FotoWeek: I've never been and would like to check out FotoWeek DC, but am not sure where to start or which spot, if I only had to choose one, is best to go to. Recommendations? Thank you!

Stephanie: You can check out tomorrow's Weekend section for all kinds of FotoWeek suggestions. And to add one more event into the mix, I'd also recommend NightVisions, which sounds pretty sweet. If you're a photographer, you can participate in the all-night search for the perfect picture and then bring submissions back to the gallery where photo editors will select one image from each photog. If you're more into spectating, well the whole editing process will be projected for all to see, and there will be snacks, music and a cash bar.


Washington, D.C.: For the person looking to book Masa 14 for a birthday party, Policy will rent out the top floor. A friend of mine did it and it was great.

Fritz: Policy got so much positive buzz when it opened earlier this year -- including from me -- but man, I have not heard anyone saying anything good about it in ages.


Logan Circle, D.C.: Hi Gurus,

So a friend and I tried to check out Birch and Barley last night and the line was still out the door, with at least a 40 minute wait. FOR A BAR! Any guesstimates on how long this will go on for? Was there just a special event going on last night? I'd like to check it out, but it seemed silly to wait that long on a Wednesday night.


Fritz: I have passed up Birch and Barley a couple of times recently due to the lines, but then I've also had no trouble getting in on recent Monday or Wednesday evenings. It's really popular and getting really crowded, so they're hitting (and strictly enforcing) capacity.

Then again, some in the crowd don't help -- the other night I watched a group of five take up four barstools while only one of them was still drinking a beer. The rest had finished and paid, and they still took up all that room in a crowded bar. (I already had a seat, so this wasn't about me -- it was about all the other people standing and shooting the group dirty looks.)


Vienna, Va.: So I'm going up to NYC this weekend (Sat/Sun/Mon) with a small group. Other than catching the Lion King on Broadway, we don't have any other plans. We've done all the "touristy" areas of NYC, so what are some good recommendations?

Stephanie: Well I love to hit up the Met when I'm up there, and right now they have Robert Frank's "Americans" exhibition (in case you missed it when it was here). If the weather is nice, I'd recommend heading to Governor's Island. I just went there for the first time, and it is this amazingly peaceful place that's only a ten-minute ferry ride from Manhattan. If you go that direction, hit up the farmer's market in Union Square beforehand for picnic supplies (and don't forget the apple cider doughnuts).


Falls Church, Va.: Looking for someplace in Alexandria for after-dinner drinks. Have done PX before, wondering if there is someplace new or different? Group of 30-somethings who are getting too old for club scenes are looking for quieter places to enjoy drinks. Thanks!

Fritz: The Majestic and Vermilion have pretty interesting cocktail lists. I also like the Evening Star in Del Ray.


Shirlington, Va.: Hi Gurus,

My friends and I are excited for the craptacular event that will be 2012. It opens next week and while Gallery Place and Georgetown have midnight showings, the Uptown isn't showing anything. Do you know if they are going to be showing 2012 at all? Seems like a shame if they aren't.

Thanks for the answer!

Jen: I love a question that calls a movie craptacular, but simultaneously notes that it's a shame if the Uptown doesn't show it. Especially when, as in this case, it's totally true.

I suspect Uptown isn't showing "2012" because they've got "Twilight: New Moon" booked to start on the 20th. So you may be out of epic-disaster-movie luck. If I hear otherwise, you'll be the first to know.


Mad Men Birthday Party: Hi Gurus! My two friends and I are hosting a birthday party the first Friday of Dec (the 4th) and we're thinking the theme will be Mad Men. Where would be a good place to host? I'd love a place with a little Mad Men vibe, but also won't break the bank of my recent college grad friends. Looking at 50 guests or so -- from 9 -- midnight thereabouts and hopefully in D.C. Thanks!

Julia: Fritz has accused me of planting this question because my shiny new Best Bets list of Bars with a "Mad Men" vibe comes out this Sunday in the Post Magazine (and we've got it here early for your reading pleasure). Anyway, I swear I did not plant this question, but there ya go. Take a look at my suggestions and see what you think. Not sure these'll work for your specific group given the "break the bank" constraint and 50+ people. I mean, the Gibson or 1905 (which did not make the final cut) would be decent places to go to keep your costs down a little, but they're too small. Maybe Town and Country at the Mayflower hotel? The TVs are a bit of an anachronism and it's a little bright (the two reasons why this bar didn't make my list), but the place feels pretty close. (And for the chatter who was asking last week, this is the other list of places where I met lots and lots of strangers:)


Alexandria, Va.: I have a question about PX. I know reservations are recommended (if not required), but is there a minimum on how much you have to spend? Or can I just have a pre-dinner drink and then split?

Fritz: No minimums. You can have one drink or three. (Though after trying the cocktails, you may blow off dinner. I've done that before...)


For NYC visitor: Just back from my own weekend visit to New York, where I visited the Highline, the new park there. Highly recommended if it's a nice day!

Stephanie: Such a good call. The High Line is a great place to spend a Saturday.


D.C.: So going on first date tonight, and planning to go to a French restaurant. I've short-listed 4 that seem nice, but since I've never been to any of them, I was wondering if you could give me some advice on which is better in terms of food, drinks, atmosphere,...: Bistrot du Coin; Bistro Bistro; 1905; La Chaumiere. Thanks

Julia: The food can be hit or miss at 1905, but I like the atmosphere a lot. It's got this salon feeling that's really nice for a date. Bistrot du Coin is great -- boisterous and fun -- but it's so loud that it may not be right for a first meeting. Never been to La Chaumiere. I assume you're talking about the Bistro Bistro in D.C. and if you are, well, just read Tom Sietsema's review.

So, my vote is for 1905. Let me add another one to your short list: the wine bar at Bistrot Lepic is great for a date. Good luck!


Digital age dating etiquette: This is not a going out question but I want to hear the gurus and readers' thoughts on this: If you are seeing someone you met on a dating website, at what point would you stop checking the site and take down your profile? After two months of dating? After you've been intimate? Met each other's parents? Had the "exclusive talk"? Or at the other person's request?

Stephanie: I'm thinking once you have the "let's be exclusive" talk, it might be time to take down the profile.

Fritz: Stephanie's right. If you're not exclusive, keep the profile up. I mean, you never know what will happen.


Crystal City, Va.: Gurus, I hope you can help me make a drunken dream come true! While discussing everyone's costumes on Halloween night, I made the statement that I couldn't reuse my shiny American Apparel shorts for anything other than some sort of roller disco party when it hit me: have a roller disco themed party for my birthday coming up! Is there anywhere in the area (closer to DC/the Metro, the better) my friends and I can go to drink, dress up, rollerskate, and pretend we were even alive in the 1970s?

Jen: Crystal City, I have had the same dream for many years. I even was alive in the '70s (though not at all old enough to drink), so I realize how awesome this would be based on actual life experience.

Sadly, as far as I know, there isn't a roller rink/bar anywhere in the remote vicinity. There are a few rinks here and there, but they are mostly kids-and-family-oriented places and don't serve alcohol.

I also suspect there's probably some liability involved in serving people cocktails while allowing them to speed around on skates. But we've been letting people booze it up while chucking heavy bowling balls down skinny, little lanes for years, so I am not sure why there's a distinction.

Anyhoo. If any of our readers know otherwise, please, for the love of all things reto, speak up. Otherwise, some of us -- with perhaps the help of Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly and a little thing called "magic" -- will just have to open up our own Xanadu and make this dream come true.


Washington, D.C.: I'd like to attend a Supreme Court oral argument, since it's one of the unique features of this city but few people take the time to experience it. However, the Supreme Court website isn't very helpful for planning; it just says seating starts at 9:30 and that lines may form before the building opens. How early should I plan to get in line to have a pretty good chance of getting a seat?

Fritz: Honestly, it depends on what's being heard that day. Bigger issues mean more people (and lawyers and lobbyists) are interested in attending. On my first visit, there was not much of a wait even though I got there a few minutes before the doors opened.

You can also do the three-minute visit, where you get shuttled in and out of the courtroom pretty quickly, though I think watching a full argument is much more fascinating, and I don't know much about the whole legal process.


Silver Spring, Md.: There is a place opening up on Colesville in DTSS called Flippin' Pizza. Is this supposed to be any good? I promise this isn't a plant, just a former NYer/NJer desperate for good pizza in what is a pizza wasteland.

Julia: It's a chain, but one that a former food section staffer loved when she visited a branch in Reston. Those Flippin' Pizzas are popping up everywhere now. I see a new sign like every few days.


15th and L: I'm going to the Black Cat on Friday night and want to get some vegan grub before the show. Do you know what their vegan food is like at their cafe? We may just end up at Vegetate, although their vegan selection has been dwindling. Any other suggestions are appreciated, thanks!!

Fritz: The Black Cat's vegan food is serviceable but not anything I'd really recommend. I'd think you'd do better down the block at Bar Pilar -- they have a lot of veggie/vegan small plates on the menu.

Julia: I'm with Fritz.


The District: Hey gurus -- Odd question, but I'm looking for a good spot to view a sunrise on Sunday morning. Preferably on a mountain top, not too far (say less than two hours) from the city. Shenandoah and Blue Ridge of course come to mind, but any off-the-beaten-path suggestions?

Stephanie: My first reaction was the Netherlands Carillon, which is an awesome place to take in a sunrise overlooking the city. But that was before I read "mountain top." Chatters, a little help with lesser-known sunrise spots?


Not exactly a going out question, but....: Any suggestions on where to get my wedding dress cleaned? I don't want it preserved or anything fancy, I just want the grass stains off the hem. I've been quoted between 85.00 and 140.00, and my new husband about had a heart attack. Thanks.

Julia: I just went to my local dry cleaner -- Mount Pleasant Cleaners or something, the one south of Kenyon St. -- and it was $40. Wasn't the best job ever, but it did the trick. If you have a drycleaner you trust, I'd start there.


Pretend we were even alive in the 1970's?: Ouch.

Jen: I know, right?

At least that reader wants to pretend to have lived in the '70s or '80s. So I give her credit for that.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'll go back to resting on my cane while I reminisce about Pong and feathered hair...


Washington, D.C.: Oh my God, I'm turning 40 soon! Any ideas for a bar or restaurant where I can get my friends together to celebrate/commiserate with me? Someplace a little more upscale, with interesting cocktails and good atmosphere, but where we won't feel like cougars surrounded by 20-somethings. :)

Julia: Check out the Mad Men list. I'd go for something like Bourbon Steak if your friends don't mind shelling out a bit of cash. The Gibson for a cool undercover vibe. The newly opened Birch and Barley and Masa 14 could also work. Happy birthday!


Washingon, D.C.: My parents are coming to town next weekend (weekend of 11/14). My dad is a big jazz fan and I'd like him to take him to see some live jazz but I don't know the scene at all. Do you have any suggestions for where to take him?

Fritz: I'd take him to HR-57, the cozy little BYOB jazz club on 14th Street. Chuchito Valdes, the great Cuban jazz pianist, is performing all weekend. Only problem is that there are no advance ticket sales, so if you're not there around 9 when doors open, you might get shut out. But that's *easily* the best show in town next week. You might also consider just popping in to Utopia and listening to whomever is playing that night -- usually a solid bet without a cover charge.


Washington, D.C.: I'm sure people ask this all the time, but I have a friend coming to town next Tues and Wed, and I want to take her to unique, fun nighttime places with crowds, and a DC vibe. But where should I go on a Tues night? (Vets Day is the next day, so I'm hoping people will go out if they don't have to work on Wed.)

Also, she likes bars more than lounges or clubs. Thanks!

Fritz: Funny -- I recently wrote a story for the paper about the joys of going out on weeknights. Fewer hassles, still great music. My favorite Tuesday destination is See You Next Tuesday at Wonderland, which features rotating guest DJs and people who are willing to party hard on a school night.


D.C. Birthday Budget: My boyfriend's birthday is coming up. I was hoping to take him to Bourbon Steak because of all of the great things I have heard and the fact that they give you frites (fries whatever) instead of bread. However, I am on a tighter budget than normal (usually don't mind spending 250+ on a wonderful birthday meal). Is it possible to go and not feel too frugal if I'm trying to keep it closer to 150-200 tops? I also believe you shouldn't do something unless you can do it if I cant do it right at Bourbon for that price range, do you have any other suggestions?

Fritz: Honestly, I don't think you can -- most of the entrees are around $40 not including sides, and when you add appetizers, wine, tip and a pre-dinner cocktail, you're easily going to be over $100 each.

Julia: Co-sign with Fritz. What about Corduroy, Eventide or Proof?


Reston, Va.: I've got friends coming in to visit from Salt Lake City, Utah, never been to D.C. I have a one day to show them the best of D.C. -- start with museums, lunch at a great place and followed up by some great shopping, any suggestions? For me the shopping is most important, looking for locally owned shops, walkable neighborhood and I love to hunt for bargains! Thanks for any help!

Stephanie: If shopping is the most important part, then I'd say hit either Georgetown, where you'll find bigger stores with a few smaller boutiques thrown in, or walk along 14th and U Streets for a more local vibe with lots of fun, funky stores. If you go with the latter, you could grab brunch at Marvin, do some shopping, then hop on Metro for the requisite Mall overview. If you prefer Georgetown, hit up Leopold's first.


Bethesda by way of Greenbelt, MD: Hey GOGs Heading up to Philly next weekend for 1-night girls (okay, 40ish ladies) weekend. Fritz, since you have beverage experience worldwide, any recs for a good place to grab a cocktail before or after dinner? And speaking of dinner, any restaurant recs as well? Some places I've read about are Mercato, Alma de Cuba, Bistro 7, Chloe and Fork. Thanks ... and love the chats!

Fritz: True confession: I generally don't drink cocktails in Philadelphia. Too many fantastic beer bars. I have enjoyed drinks at Snack Bar, the Rum Bar on Rittenhouse and Cuba Libre in the past, though.

Snack Bar is actually a very cool place for dinner. Very interesting small plates.


Washington, D.C.: I am looking for an 80s night to celebrate a friend's birthday. Any suggestions on clubs/bars?

Fritz: Tattoo's weekly Wednesday night can be lots of fun, though there's not a ton of room to dance. But it's currently the best option in D.C. -- The '80s night in Adams Morgan is on hiatus after leaving 18th and Red.


17 & R: Gurus, I just moved to 17 & R-ish and wanted to ask what kind of good, cheap food there is around there. Not looking for Sushi Taro but more for a good restaurant if I don't feel like cooking a night. Thanks!!

Julia: The neighborhood's kinda hurtin' food-wise. Hank's is expensive for what it is, but that's my fave even semi-casual place along that strip. Your best bets are a few blocks over. A few places come to mind: Stoney's for grilled cheese/bar eats, Great Wall for spicy Chinese, Bar Pilar for cool small plates, etc. Oh -- actually, over on 18th, I love Regent Thai. Great neighborhood spot.


Falls Church nit picker: So I know this did not happen overnight, but I am a little put off by the search function on the Web site. Now it's all bars and restaurants - I used to be able to look up spas and salons. So I turned to the Washingtonian Web site instead. Also, today I search for restaurants in Arlington. I swear to you, 1 place came up. One. Uno. Not cool. So I left WaPo and took my clicks to Opentable.

Anne: That is really weird, because we have way over a hundred restaurants in Arlington. True, we stopped focusing on spas in the Going Out Guide, but you can still find tips on them from our go-to fashion expert Janet. I'd love to figure out what made your search turn up wacky, so if you e-mail us at goingoutguide at and tell us how you got that weird search, we can get on the case. Thanks for joining in the chat.


Washington, D.C.: I'm hoping you can help me out. I'm a Hill staffer here in town, but have wanted to possibly teach part time at night. With the economy the way it is, and community colleges beat off PhD's with a stick, I figured I could use this time to get some sort of volunteer teaching experience so I have at least some teaching on my resume. My first thought was to see if there is a way to help prep people taking citizenship exams. I've looked everywhere and opportunities do not seem to exist, at least from what I've seen. Do you have any ideas on an org. to contact about this, or other volunteer teaching opportunities? Thanks!

Stephanie: I used to volunteer teaching English as a second language up in Dupont through a program called Language ETC. It was a lot of fun, but if you have your heart set on citizenship prep programs, I bet they could steer you in the right direction.


Sign of the Whale, RIP: The M street area around dupont will be a little less friendly now. Vito, the great manager of Sign of the Whale, passed away unexpectedly over the weekend. I don't know how many people here go there as its not a trendy place, but I will miss seeing his friendly face outside as I come in.

There was already a little memorial event for him Tuesday, but I don't have any other information.

Fritz: Sad news.


Washington, D.C.: interesting developments at 9:30 club:

....seems some people are upset by a new ticketing agency. On poster had an additional 43% added on to his/her ticket price. 43%? That's a bit messed up, no?

David: I noticed the new ticketing agency when I got my 9:30 club blast e-mail last night. I thought it might be an improvement over the charges, but it seems like it's just sideways movement. Service charges are here to stay, that's just the way it is. The most frustrating part is that used to have a $4 charge even if you picked up at will call. This new system says there is no charge for will call pick up ... but then there's a $4 order processing fee in addition to the $4.75 service charge. So a $20 ticket does indeed become a $28.75 ticket. Lame. Buy tickets at the box office whenever you can...


Arlington, Va.: What are the concerts at the Mansion on O Street on Sunday nights like? Is it stuffy or pretty cool? Is it worth the extra $$ for 'VIP' or are SRO sufficient? (Am interested in Mary McBride's December show.)

Fritz: I haven't been to the concerts, but if the "VIP" includes dinner and drinks, it might not be worth it. I've always thought the Mansion was more notable for its drinks and hidden doors than its food.


Trying again...: What would you recommend for new Ethiopian in the 9th/U streets area? I've been to Dukem, Etete and Little Ethiopia. Also for drinks beforehand?

Fingers crossed you'll answer!

Julia: As regular chatters know, I'm not as wild about Ethiopian as I should be having a) grown up here and b) being the food chick, but here goes I'm and Etete girl. Fritz likes the kitfo and the doro watt at Madjet but notes that the service can be "weird." Drinks beforehand? Go for cocktails/wine at Cork or absinthe drinks at 1905 (places I've been breathlessly repping all day -- apologies for the broken record, folks. Lots of U street ??s).


Volunteer teaching: I used to teach GED prep classes at Catholic Charities downtown. It was an amazingly fulfilling experience. Again, not citizenship prep, but way important and you can pick your subject. I taught writing and grammar.

Stephanie: Another idea for the aspiring teacher...


Ethiopian Question: Hi GOGs,

I know this is probably more a "Tom" question, but since he skipped it, I'm hoping you can help.

I'll be in the 9th/U Sts area Friday night, and I'm craving Ethiopian. I've tried Etete, Dukem and Little Ethiopia. Any place else that should be on the radar? Madjet? Others? There seem to be a ton on 9th street - but I'm not sure which are good.

Also, any reasonably mellow places to go for drinks beforehand? I like the Gibson, but I don't want to jump through all their hoops.

Thanks so much - you are a great resource!

Rhome: The red lentils at Madjet are not a game. Sometimes I just order those alone. You can imbibe at Ulah, Cafe Nema, 1905. There are many options.


Philly Recommendation: Alma de Cuba is fantastic for dinner and/or drinks

Fritz: Ah, yes. Forgot to mention Alma de Cuba, the wonderful organ meats at Ansill, the mussels at Monk's, any number of awesome BYOBs like the frankly fantastic Marigold Kitchen ...


Fairfax, Va.: Hi Gurus! I'm interested in checking out Eastern Market. When is the best day and time to go? Should I drive or take the metro?

Rhome: Do not drive. Go on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Hot apple cider tastes much better in early crisp autumn air.


Likes Variety: Hey Gurus, besides Bar Pilar and Dino, what other city hotspots are good for a featured weekly tasting of beer, wine, and/or cocktails? Looking for a great date activity along those lines or a fun night out with the guys. Thanks!

Fritz: Bar Pilar's weekly Cocktail Sessions ended earlier this year when bartender Adam Bernbach split for Proof. Enology bartender Chris Cunningham (formerly of Dino) was doing a similar weekly cocktail session on Thursdays dubbed Macomb Mixology, but I haven't made it there.

For wine, I'm a big fan of Tuesday nights at Bistrot Lepic's wine bar -- free tastes of two or three wines every week. (Two days ago was champagnes from Heidsieck.)


Washington, D.C.: Hi GOG's. I'm looking for a coffee shop near a Metro stop for a first date. And one that is good for people-watching. Only thing I can come up with is the Starbucks on Dupont Circle. Thanks!

Julia: I know we have a lot of coffee date haters in the audience, but please, keep it to yourselves. It's a three-block hike from the Metro, but try DC Bread and Brew -- a little bit cooler than the 'Bucks. There's also the brand new Tynan Coffee and Tea in my 'hood.


Centreville, Va.: Hey gurus! I'd like to check out Arlington National Cemetery. I've never been. Is that an appropriate tourist spot to check out? Can you recommend the best day/time to visit? I'd like to visit and show my respect for our fallen soldier, but I definitely don't want to offend anyone by taking pictures. What is appropriate?

Fritz: It's definitely an appropriate tourist attraction, if more solemn than the nearby Lincoln Memorial. There's plenty to see -- the Kennedy graves, the Challenger and Maine memorials, the grave of William Howard Taft ...

You probably won't offend anyone if you don't take pictures of ceremonies in progress.


Fellow teacher: For the person looking to teach -- I have taught ESL at Northern Virginia Community College for several semesters, and I do it part-time. They require a Master's degree, so if you have that, you could do it there. For volunteer, CARACEN, I believe, has citizenship test prep classes, Carlos Rosario probably has them, Hogar Hispano in Arlington probably does, and I'd bet Catholic Charities of DC probably does as well. You could also call those same places, plus any others that assist immigrants (AYUDA, comes to mind), and they could point you in the right direction.

Stephanie: Jackpot! Thanks for the intel, FT.


Alexandria, Va.: I got on the computer this morning hoping to order tickets for the CAPITAL FOOD FIGHT 2009. I saw they were sold out and I was super-bummed! Then...I saw some were being given away there! PLEASE tell me what I've got to do to get my hands on those tickets!!!

Julia: Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings. Just spoke with a representative from DC Central Kitchen -- and sadly, we were the last people with tickets to give away. We gave ours away in last week's chat.


First Date French Restaurant: I love Le Chat Noir -- on Wisconsin about halfway between Tenley and Friendship Heights. Good food. Nice nighborhood bistro feel. And the upstairs lounge is a nice vibe.

Stephanie: I also have to throw a vote in for Montmartre, which is a little pricier, but oh so delicious.


Anonymous: Any recommendations for outside activities this weekend, good for kids (3 and 1) and adults?

Anne: You may be all pumpkin-ed out, but on the off-chance, like me, you annoyed by the rainy weekends in October and didn't adequately get enough fall farm time, this is your last chance weekend. And it's supposed to be sunny! These places are still open this weekend: Clark's Elioak Farm, the Corn Maze in the Plains, Cox Farms, Great Country Farms and Leesburg Animal Park. If you want to try to find one closer to you, check our map, then call first to see the farm's open.


Dupont Circle South: I don't know how you walk, but Bread and Brew should not be called "a 3 block hike" from the metro. It's less than 2 blocks and it's a very quick walk (say 1 min 45 secs). It is quite lovely and has an outdoor deck to sit on if the weather is nice. However, not sure how many people you can watch from there, as it's on 20th St, not a busy walking corridor.

Julia: My bad on the number of blocks -- and excellent point about the people watching. I was thinking more about the people watching inside as opposed to the people watching on 20th.


3rd date, D.C.: Hi, gurus. Read you ALL the time. Hope you can help me. Possible 3rd date next Tuesday. Looking for something casual to do in DC around 6-7 pm (Metro accessible) along the lines or a gallery talk/lecture/exhibit, etc. The only thing that comes to mind is Portrait Art gallery, but I'm sure you will have other options.

Preferrably free or inexpensive with a casual quick bite to eat afterwards.

Fritz: Can I throw the most ridiculous pairing ever out there?

Tuesday night, the National Museum of Women in the Arts is hosting "The Sort-of-Jane Austen Reading Series: Voices of Liberty: English Women Poets from 1649-1750" which was organized by the Washington Shakespeare Company, among others. Love that Anne Bradstreet. It's free and from 7 to 9.

Then you can head across the street to Cafe Mozart for the extended German beer happy hour, with discounted liters of beer and great sausage sampler platters.

_______________________ charges: My husband and I did NOT go to a show at the Warner last weekend because it said that there was an service charge for buying tickets at the box office! That is, they added a charge for tickets they sold to someone who walked up to the ticket office. We originaly had planned to order online, but got very unhappy with those surcharges. Since the show didn't appear to be sold out, we thought we would just buy at the box office. WHY DON'T THEY JUST RAISE THE TICKET PRICE AND BE DONE WITH IT!

David: Most venues do have some sort of extra charge even if you buy at the box office, but usually it's much less than what you'll pay online. At the 9:30 club, for example, it's only $1 per ticket. (This money goes towards staffing during off hours, so they say.) But the full service charges for buying in person? That seems very wrong. Don't hold your breath for advertising "real" price any time soon...


Arlington, Va.: I'm looking for suggestions for a group of 10-12 people in their mid-30s for a Saturday night. We are looking for a place in Va. or D.C. which has a good vibe, music, maybe dancing and could accomodate us without having to reserve a table. One idea has been Lucky Strike and then hitting one of the bars in the area. Any other suggestions? Thanks!

Fritz: There are dozens of places in the D.C. area that could fit this situation, though I admit I never would have considered Lucky Strike. What kind of music and price range are you looking for? That would really narrow it down. (And this Saturday or a night in the future?)


Beg to differ: I just ate at Bourbon Steak for my birthday. It was three of us and we didn't have alcohol but it was just under $200 for the total. So ya, it's doable, just not a free for all.

Julia: I see what you're saying. It's possible to go anywhere and keep costs down -- order two apps instead of an entree, split dessert, skip dessert, etc. I think our responses were tailored to this particular chatter's question in which s/he implied that s/he wanted to "do it right." In our (admittedly, booze-focused) minds, that meant avec drinks.


Dupont Circle: Hey Gurus!

Love the chats--read them each week! I'm looking for coffee shops that aren't Starbucks around the Dupont/U Street/Adams Morgan area that have WiFi, where I can grab a coffee and work on my laptop for hours on the weekends. I've tried Tryst, but it's always super crowded when I get there with no place to sit...any other ideas?

Julia: Running out of time, but . . . Bread & Brew, Bourbon Coffee and Jolt N Bolt come to mind. I'm 99 percent sure they all have wifi (and don't have time to check before we sign off, so . . . . I hope you will!)


Bethesda: My boyfriend and I are celebrating a big anniversary this weekend and we're looking for a fun, different activity to do together, maybe something that involves making something? Can you give some suggestions?

Fritz: CulinAerie's calendar is pretty empty this weekend (unless you want to learn how to make bread on Sunday, which Steph thinks sounds like fun). Things to Do D.C. is offering a cool-sounding class that will teach you how to make meals with recipes from the Inn at Little Washington, Jaleo, Citronelle, and Restaurant Nora; I like the sound of it but don't know anything about who's teaching it, which is important when it's $80 a person. And then there's the awesome sounding "Crazy Cocktails" class at Enology, where you'll learn how to make a half-dozen "experimental" drinks. I like playing mad scientist with alcohol, which explains its appeal.

_______________________ ....And we have to split for today. Good luck with your visitors, travels, teaching dreams and D.C. adventures -- we'll see you next week.


The Going Out Gurus write about restaurants, bars, movies, the arts, special events and visitor attractions, and they're out every night to keep you on top of the D.C. entertainment scene. Check in with them throughout the week on the GOG Blog or join their live Q&A every Thursday at 1 p.m.

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