Got Plans?: Free and Cheap, hot wings, Thanksgiving dinner, bars near the Verizon Center

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The Going Out Gurus
of The Washington Post's Going Out Guide
Thursday, November 12, 2009; 1:00 PM

The Going Out Guide and Weekend section staffs dished about the new Free & Cheap page, hot wings, options for Thanksgiving dinner and bars near Verizon Center on Thursday, Nov. 12 at 1 p.m. ET.

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washingtonpost.com: We're not going to let the depressing weather get us down, we've got a lot we're excited about today. First up is On the Cheap, the cover story in tomorrow's Weekend section which we've also turned into a handy online package that you can check out now. This was a collaboration with our buddies at Weekend -- Lavanya Ramanathan, Alex Baldinger, Michael O'Sullivan, Justin Rude -- and they'll be joining us for today's chat, so feel free to ask about the best ways pinch pennies around town. And later tonight is our monthly Going Out Gurus Happy Hour, which is from 6-8 p.m. at Russia House. There will be drink specials and ticket giveaways, so come and hang out with us and drink some of those Russian drinks that Fritz is always talking about. And we'll talk about whatever else is on your mind, of course, so let's begin...

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D-to-the-C: Totally bored, bored, bored with the eating scene in D.C. What's new and great out there? Also, I hear there's a Dangerously Delicious Pies opening on H -- any idea when?

Julia: Great question. Last time I was in the Baltimore store (for a sadly disappointing sweet potato pie, I must say) the word was November 2009. I just called the Federal Hill shop a minute ago and they tell me that the H Street shop is shooting to open during Thanksgiving week. But, we all know how that goes. Call over to Baltimore (410-522-7437) before you show up on H Street.

As for new and great . . . I'm really digging ChurchKey. The grilled cheese there is really superb. (Shameless plug note: I've got a round-up of great grilled cheeses coming out in next week's Weekend section. Once I, you know, finish it.)

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Washington, D.C.: This holiday season, I'm interested in seeing a live performance of Handel's Messiah but I don't want to pay Kennedy Center prices. Do you know of any organizations that are performing it for a lower cost (e.g. churches, youth orchestras, etc)? Thanks!

Stephanie: Indeed. There will be plenty of cheaper options, and keep an eye out on the Going Out Guide and in Weekend, as we'll be featuring plenty o' holiday events over the coming days and weeks. In the meantime though, might I suggest that you still head to the Kennedy Center? The center hosts a Messiah sing-along every year with the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra and tickets are free. Of course, there will be plenty of people hoping for a seat, so this would most likely involve lining up early to secure your spot.

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Courthouse: Any thoughts on the attempts to bring Dremo's back to Clarendon? Do you think they'll be able to find investors? Has Clarendon gone too up-scale recently to support a Dremos?

Fritz: Andrew Stewart -- son of Bardo/Dremo founder Bill Stewart -- has been sending out e-mails looking for investors since before the old Dremo's closed, and he hasn't gathered a group yet. Maybe this time will be different. They're talking about a very large space, so they'll need a lot of cash to make it happen.

Honestly, I think they'd do better in the Route 7 corridor, over by Lost Dog or Cowboy Cafe, but those places don't have Metro access.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Gurus!

I know that this is a fairly ambiguous question, but I am very open to suggestions! My friend and I are going to hang out for the day on Saturday but don't really know what to do! We were thinking about going to some wineries, but I am not sure if I want to make the drive, especially if it's still going to be rainy! Any suggestions for something different that we can do this Saturday that will get us out of the house and possibly involve some food and drink? Thanks!

Stephanie: That is a bit ambiguous, but no worries, I'll just throw out some ideas. First up, Arena Stage is hosting a scavenger hunt ahead of its opening for "The Fantasticks," and the prizes are pretty sweet -- free tickets to the show and restaurant gift certificates. So that would do it for a daytime activity. At night, there's Bastani & Branding at the Fridge, which includes Persian ice cream (that's the bastani part) and demonstrations from artist Pooneh Maghazehe (that's the branding). If doing the wine thing still sounds appealing, but you don't want to leave town, why not consider making a few stops at wine shops around town that do tastings? If memory serves, there are at least a few along P Street and in Dupont that do this on saturday afternoons, so you could do sort of a wine shop crawl.

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D.C.: Gurus, in these tough financial times going out is sometimes a bit of a downer when it comes to spending money -- at least for me in my mid-20's and not being totally financially set yet.

Gurus and readers, how much do you think the -average- person (in the "just getting established" age range) spends (or plans to spend) on drinks for a weekend night out with friends in one of the main going-out areas? Just purchasing drinks -- not dinner. (I know there is a huge range of price points in D.C. nightlife, from fancy hotel bars/wine bars down to dives.) How much is enough so that you don't have to feel like a cheapie all night holding a glass of water but not so much that you will drain yourself financially?

Also, as a side question but somewhat related, do you think it is standard for a bartender to comp one drink or shot from your tab if you have been ordering a lot from them throughout the night? I have had some bartenders do this - has anyone else?

Lavanya: It's weird these days, particularly when some people are without work or worried about work, their friends aren't. So you'll see folks ordering bottle service, and others who are totally sipping water in a corner, hoping no one notices. I make a point of taking a limited amount of cash -- $30 or $40 -- when I go to a bar. And that's got to cover my drinks, tips, cab home, everything. That helps me not wake up with a ridiculous receipt in my purse the next day.

But I also totally do soda water between drinks, for various reasons.

In answer to your side question, it does happen sometimes that the bartender will buy you a drink, sometimes because you're nice, or a regular, or because they're just nice. You should never expect it, but the expectation is that you tip generously for it.

Fritz: I don' think there's any one answer, but I think the $30-$40 range Lavanya suggested is around the right amount for a mid-range bar (say the Reef, Big Hunt, etc.).

For me, it depends where you're heading. If you're going to Gibson, that's going to cover maybe two or three drinks and a tip. If you're heading for Solly's, you don't have to bring as much. And at the Josephine, the Park at 14th or, in a pinch, Eighteenth Street Lounge, the cover could eat up half your funds. I could blow through $30 in an hour at Russia House or the W without blinking, because that's the kind of places they are. But I had three beers over 90 minutes at ChurchKey the other night and left with change from a $20 after tipping.

As far as bartenders -- some (but not all) bars provide their staff with what's known as the comp tab, which is a set amount that the bartender can use to buy drinks for regulars and friends. If you've been hanging out at the same bar when the same bartender's working, it's not unusual for them to buy you a round, or if they think you're an especially good tipper, or they think you're attractive. (No, not kidding.) The response is generally that you tip them a little more when they do this. But don't expect them to give away the store.

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Washington, D.C.: Gurus, I need help. Date tonight. We're stuck in the dinner out or video and pizza rut. Need something fun, relatively cheap, and indoors (obviously). And it has to be Metro accessible. Any inspiration?

Michael: There's an opening reception tonight for what sounds like a cool FotoWeek DC exhibition at Pyramid Atlantic in Silver Spring. It's called "Portrait 2.0," and the party is from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at 8230 Georgia Avenue (a short walk from the subway station). The show includes work by Victoria Gaitan, Nicholas and Sheila Pye, Chan Chao, Matt Dunn, Joshua Yospyn and Paul Vinet. Plenty of places to eat in Silver Spring afterwards. It's totally free. Well, the show and the, ahem, refreshments are. You'll have to spring for the meal.

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Washington: Ideas for Thanksgiving dinner? My folks are coming from N.Y. and requested a restaurant that is very nice and expensive. My budget is normally very limited so... I need your help! (Tom didn't answer my question). I was thinking the Oval Room for that kind of unique Washington experience. Any other suggestions? We might even be willing to venture out out of the city (which I normally can't do without a car). Someplace that's kind of a destination, kind of unique, with good food and something I could never afford on my own?

Julia: Hi there, Washington. I'm the "washingtonpost.com" in Tom's chat -- so I saw you in there yesterday! I'd check out Corduroy. I've never done Thanksgiving there, but have heard lots of good things from readers who have.

The restaurant may be booked at this stage, and if it is, perhaps you could look into J&G Steakhouse or Bourbon Steak. 2941 is another nice option outside the city. The Inn at Little Washington is one of those destination places. Just called -- they have availability. That's a really expensive option, but perhaps one worth exploring.

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Washington, D.C.: How much do you think a bar should charge for non-alcoholic drinks, e.g. soft drinks? My friend was charged $4 for a diet coke the other night at Midtown Loft. We all thought it was strange that a diet coke cost more than a beer (they were running a $3 beer special).

David: For real? That's absurd. Should be $2 for a soft drink, case closed. Don't need to be price-gouging people who are possibly designated drivers.

Rhome: David, those blasphemous prices on bubbles and syrup are not uncommon. If you're lucky, you'll get a dismissive scoff too! Call me petty, but I've been known not to come back to spots like that after having that experience. And I've also seen smart bartenders giving out free soda to designated drivers or folks who've imbibed too much.

Fritz: Rhome, You do know that soda costs ... something, right? Bars gotta make money somewhere. When I was on my last three-week abstention, I paid for a lot of soda. And got some club-soda-and-lime free. I think the thing is that you should always tip on sodas and water, too, which I don't think a lot of people do.

And it never hurts to mention that you're not drinking because you're a designated driver.

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U Street: Any info on The Scene? I would love to see Goodie Mob on Saturday, but don't know anything about this place or how to get there sans car.

Rhome: The Scene is in the cut in that industrial area bordered by Bladensburg Rd and New York Ave. You're going to want to Zipcar or call a cab coming and going. Nothing else of note is close by.

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Germantown, Md.: My wife and I are in our mid 30s and have an opportunity to go out in D.C. about once a month. I aways like hit up Dan's cafe in Adams Morgan cause I am a liquor guy and you can get a nice bang for your buck there. My wife has said that we cannot return to Adams Morgan because she is sick of being the oldest girl in the bar. I have heard great things about the U Street area but have not been there in about ten years. Any recommendations for an inexpensive dinner and late night hangout. My wife loves 80s music, semi-dives, and places where you can dance if you so choose (not a "club" per say)

Thanks, Josh

Fritz: There are other bars in Adams Morgan with better booze and older crowds, but few that will offer, as you put it, as much "bang for your buck" as Dan's. The problem is, Josh, that the combination of cheap drinks and '80s music is a siren song for Washington 20-somethings that can't afford to drink at Bourbon or the Gibson.

U Street doesn't have much in the way of '80s music, but there are some fun spots worth checking out. For dinner, I like the Saloon, which is great for pub food -- steak and cheese, BLTs, subs, burgers. Not fancy, but very tasty. Also, the crowd ranges from the 20s up through the 50s. Just beware of the owner's "quirky" rules, which include not ordering food and drinks at the same time.

Cafe Nema, a dark little not-quite-dive with DJs, live jazz, Eritrean food and a diverse clientele, isn't a bad place to hang out for a few hours. Same goes for Solly's, one of the city's better neighborhood bars, where rugby players rub shoulders with hipsters and off-duty cops. (And PBR is $3.)

Down by the 9:30 club is the underrated Duffy's Irish Pub, where the beers are cheap and on special, the food is solidly pubby (fish and chips, etc) and the crowd is fun. Don't know if I'd spend the whole night there, but it's an enjoyable visit.

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Fairfax, VA: Hi Gurus! If you could pick one place in the DMV area that has the best chicken wings -- where would it be? My go to spot used to be Buffalo Wing University in Fairfax, but their wings haven't been up to par lately. I also enjoy the wings at Glory Days. Any better options out there? Thanks.

Alex: I strongly recommend Urban Bar-B-Que in Rockville. It's a bit hard to find, tucked into a small shopping center behind Rockville Pike, but it's worth the trip. Their Urban Wings are crisp on the outside and juicy inside, and the sauce is smoky and flavorful without being overly hot. An order of eight wings is $6.59.

Rhome: I'm a straight up waings [sic] and mumbo man myself. If you don't know, you haven't explored DC enough yet. Yes, I like expensive, fancy beer but the most proletariat of wingery. I'm a complex person.

Julia: Wow -- Glory Days! Haven't been to that place in ages. For traditional, I like the fiery wings at Cleveland Park Bar & Grill. Penn Quarter Sports Tavern isn't bad either. At that 701 happy hour I just mentioned, they have these really good lemongrass-scented Thai wings, but I doubt that's what you're looking for.

Fritz: The Devil Dog wings at Kitchen are currently rocking my world. So spicy and delicious when I need a change from the fried pickles or cheese grits.

I'll also put in a good word for the sweet Thai wings at the Reef (only offered during football games) and the wings at Velocity Five in Falls Church, which taste better to me than the ones in Court House.

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Bored of my own meals in Arlington, Va.: Any suggestions on where to take a cheap one-time cooking class, or if there's a really good series of cooking classes for the beginner? I'm not interested in any one type of cuisine, but something a little different like Indian, Ethiopian, a Chinese class, or perhaps a really good dessert class? Just looking for something different to try my hand at.

Thanks!

Julia: Look at the classes at CulinAerie and I'm sure you'll find something that interests you. They're one-time-only classes and have great instructors. I think the Sur La Table in Pentagon Row does classes as well.

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$4 for a soda?: Yes, soda does cost money but $4 is out of control. I would have questioned it just to see if it really is that price or if they hit a wrong button on the machine.

Rhome: Fritz had some good points. Making nice with your bartender and tipping is paramount and was assumed in my response. But I don't ever see any excuse for $4 soda. I think $2 makes sense.

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Capitol Hill: Gurus,

My mother is coming to visit the second week of December and I'd like to show her the highlights of D.C. during the Christmas season. She has been here several times before and we have done the museums, monuments, etc., but she has never visited during the holidays. What are the can't-miss places, activities and restaurants to hit to get into the holiday mood? Thanks!

Stephanie: I vote for checking out the National Christmas Tree and ice skating at the Sculpture Garden.

Michael: It isn't holiday themed, but I'd suggest taking her to the "Terra Cotta Warriors" show at the National Geographic Museum. It's the first time this many (15!) of the life-size clay soldier figures from China have been to the U.S. I've just come back from a preview of the show, and it's very, very cool. The figures are 2,000 years old, and were buried with China's first emperor, as an army to protect him in the afterlife. Not discovered until 1974. It's going to be THE blockbuster show over the holidays. They're on view through March 31. Tip: Get your tickets now, because they're going fast.

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Re: Fritz and Churchkey: Seriously, Fritz, you got out of Chuchkey having purchased 3 beers (including tip) with change from your 20USD? Either that was not a 20USD or you were drinking 3 of the 2oz tastes, no?

Fritz: Uh, no. You must be looking at the really expensive imports if you think Church Key is *that* expensive. I had the Harpoon Glacier Harvest Wet Hop Ale ($5.50 for a 16-ounce pour) and two cask ales: The Bells Two-Hearted and the dry-hopped Avery IPA, both of which were $5.50 for 16 ounces. Add a buck tip on each round and it was $19.50.

Oh, and all three were SERIOUSLY good beers.

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Cocktail Ball?: Hi GOGs! Thanks for making this rainy day a little more sunny!

I read somewhere, and now can not seem to remember where, about a cocktail ball being held by some of the mixologists in D.C. I can not seem to find info anywhere. Please tell me you have some details!

Fritz: The annual Repeal Day Ball, which the D.C. Craft Bartender's Guild threw at the City Tavern Club last year, is moving to PS7's this year. (It's on Dec. 5, which is the anniversary of the end of Prohibition.) Tickets are $100, which is pretty steep, but it includes heavy hors d'oeuvres and an open bar all night, dancing to a 1920s/30s band and possibly an outdoor cigar bar. It's especially awesome because bartending legend Dale DeGroff is going to be in the house.

Get tickets here: https://repealday.eventfarm.com/

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Arlington, Va.: Good happy hour prices, with food, on a Friday before a Solas nua show.

Thanks!

Julia: Hi there, you can check out my portion of this big old group story -- click on dining and then the Happy Hour piece. My favorite happy hour options are in the area, actually. Awesome $7 specials at 701 between 5 and 7 p.m. $4 for two tacos at Oyamel. And OMG, if you can get to the Source before 6 p.m., do so. The trio of apps + a trio of wines is really fun.

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Dancing?: Any suggestions for where to go for dancing if (1) over 35; (2) like to dance to "Twist & Shout" type music (i.e., rockabilly, roots r&b) or pre-Motown r&b; and (3) live in the city and don't feel like schlepping to the far suburbs (i.e., close ones ok)?

I used to go to the Twist & Shout and the 9:30 Club in the early days (Wednesday's so-called Motown Night was fabulous - whatever happened to Dale Williams?) but am at a loss re: where to go now and I miss dancing. Help!

Fritz: You'll see plenty of couples grooving to rockabilly and early rock and roll when J.P. McDermott and Western Bop take the stage at Silver Spring's Quarry House Tavern, as they are on Saturday night. Such a fine honky tonk band.

A few weeks ago, I went to a friend's birthday party at New Vegas Lounge and I'm happy to report that the Outta Town Blues Band is still fantastic -- all the Stax and Motown and Chicago Blues you can handle, and a crowd that is ready to dance along. $10 cover charge, but so worth it.

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Bristow, Va.: We're getting together a group of 10 adults for a dinner/informal birthday celebration this weekend. Given the residential locations of all the people in the group, we figure that Centreville is our best bet. Sweetwater Tavern can't accommodate a group of our size at a single table, and Alto Plaza got savaged by Sietsema in a review last year. Any other suggestions you might have to offer in this vicinity (Chantilly might be ok as well)?

Julia: Wow, I'm surprised Sweetwater declined to work something out for your group! Sadly, my Centreville recs aren't that strong. What about Artie's in Fairfax? If Thai food works for your group, Thai Basil in Chantilly is supposed to be good.

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Club Soda: As a bartender ordering non-alcoholic drinks is clearly part of the job and we are actually hurt the most by it because:

A. 80% of customers don't tip on non-alcoholic drinks B. The bars/clubs charge double what they should ($4 on average) C. 80% of the customer don't tip!

So yeah it takes 10 seconds less to pour your soda and lime but we still are working to do it - so please tip! Once you tip us once (or say you are the DD) you won't pay again the rest of the night...as long as you leave a tip everytime!

David: It goes without saying that people should tip on non-alcoholic drinks. That's why I didn't say it the first time! Even if I'm just getting water (as long as it's not a help yourself from this pitcher thing), I'll toss a dollar. The effort is the same on their end, so why not tip? So let's come to an agreement -- you charge us $2 for a soda, we promise to tip $1 every time. Deal?

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Football (the proper kind) fan: Where can one watch Saturday's (& next Wed) France vs Ireland WC Qualifier Match?

Alex: Lucky Bar has always been my go-to for big matches, and they'll be showing both the Saturday and Wednesday fixtures, albeit with a $20 cover.

Ditto for Summers in Arlington. Flanagan's Harp & Fiddle in Bethesda has Saturday's fixture on their schedule, but no word on Wednesday.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi GOGs, I know you've covered this before, but I can't find it in your archives anywhere. What is the best way to get to the bars on H Street, NE on public transportation? Thanks!

Fritz: The X2 bus leaves every 15-20 minutes from the Gallery Place station (and McPherson Square if you don't mind walking a block.) Only $1.35 with some of the most interesting people-watching in the city thrown in for free!

There's also the free H Street Shuttle, which also leaves from Gallery Place, but it only runs about once an hour these days.

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Washington, D.C.: For the chatter who wants to put her mom in the holiday spirit: the Botanic Gardens always have a really lovely Christmas display. Also, the Mormon Temple in Kensington has something like 30,000 Christmas lights. Won't take you long, but it's something to see.

Stephanie: Great suggestions! Oh, how I love the Botanic Garden.

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Washington, D.C.: Quick help please gurus! I have a big date tomorrow night: Caps game at 7 followed by Clyde's for food afterward, and then drinks of course. Problem is Ten oclock-ish is late, so where can I take the lucky lady for something small in a relatively brief period of time before the game. I'm talking thirty minutes tops prior to puck drop due to work and travel schedule. Gallery Place is the only requirement since we'll be short on time. Thanks a ton!

Alex: Bars and restaurants near Verizon Center are packed at that hour, so I'd head to one of the roomier spots down there. Gordon Biersch has an advantage in that it has a spacious bar area and it might have more date-night ambiance than, say, Rocket Bar. They've got $4.95 appetizers until 6:30 if you can get there in time. Otherwise, try Bar Louie, where you can find beer specials and half-price appetizers until 7, right when you should be heading into the arena.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm trying to find a restaurant for my birthday dinner. I'm looking for great ambiance, in a place where even the foodies will be happy, where we can get out the door for $25 or so per person. But we'll have some dietary restrictions (a few vegetarians, some assorted food allergies, and a few lactose intolerant). I'm afraid we're priced out of the options that occur to me (Marrakesh, Mie n Yu), and I'm out of inspiration. Suggestions?

Stephanie: What about Zaytinya? I've definitely made it out of there for under $25, and there are plenty of options for vegetarians. Though, since it's tapas, I guess the cost will really depend on how big your appetites are...

Lavanya: It may be a little out of the way if you're downtown, but I really like Indique Heights near Friendship Heights for small street-snacky foods for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. They also have lots of room, in case the size of your party gets unwieldy.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Gurus! Cocktail question for you. My fiance and I are in search of a signature cocktail for our wedding reception. Neither of us are liquor drinkers, but we want something fun, delicious and unique for our wedding. Do you recommend a bar/bartender we could visit in the area to do some taste-testing? Or can you recommend a delicious cocktail? THANKS!

Michael: It sort of depends on when the wedding is, but I recommend the caipirinha, from Brazil. Simple enough to make (cachaca, sugar and lime) that many of them can be made fairly quickly. And trust me, people will line up! But "fun" enough to watch (the bartender mashes the lime and sugar together in a mortar-and-pestle-like thing called a muddler). And they're delicious.

Fritz: What I'd do is book yourself a date with a mixologist like ... oh, one list might include Gina Chersevani (of PS7's), Derek Brown of the soon-to-open Passenger, Tiffany Short or Jon Harris of the Gibson, Scott Palmer of Dino, Rico Wisner of Poste or Dan Searing of Room 11. Call the bars to find out when they're there, and then take time to chat with the bartender and explain to them that this is for a wedding, so it can't be TOO complicated to make, since you'll have to do a lot of them, but it should also contain some of your favorite flavors or foods. I'd feel pretty confident that anyone I suggest suggested could do something for you -- and probably wouldn't charge too much.

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GloverPark: Hey GOGs! Looking to venture out of the Glover Park bubble this Saturday for a girls night on the town. There's four of us - late twenties and all are more or less married. I'm thinking U Street but am clueless where to go. Can you recommend a couple of spots?

Lavanya: The Gibson is a great spot to check out, especially because they've added really awesome new rooms on their second level. If you haven't been, it's got an speakeasy feel, specialty cocktails, great decor. I'm always looking for a place I can dress up and not feel like the most overdressed person in the room, and this is always it. Just remember that you have to make reservations in advance, because they do limit the number of people admitted.

Julia: I like Cork for this kind of thing, as well. If you can wiggle your way up to the bar, you can score great wines and good cocktails. Bar Pilar is also good for small plates.

Stephanie: I do love me some Bar Pilar for a chiller vibe, and I'd also throw Masa 14 in there, since it's the new kid on the block.

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Columbia, Md.: Did you forget the tax at Churchkey? Or were you paying cash per beer? I find that when I run a tab at a place (in general, haven't made it to Churchkey yet) that tax shows up in addition to the beer price.

Fritz: Actually, I'm finding that lots of places include tax in the price of beers these days, but not in the price of food.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi GOGs,

Grabbing drinks with a girlfriend after work on Monday in the Metro Center/McPherson Square area. Looking for something slightly upscale - maybe the Sofitel or Bobby Van's. Would you suggest one of these, or somewhere else in that area?

Thanks!

Fritz: Le Bar in the Sofitel is a fairly reliable choice. Ceiba's bar, too.

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Washington, D.C.: Hello, I read your chats each week, but this is my first time posting. My in-laws are visiting this weekend, and the group includes two (well-behaved) children, ages 6 and 9. We have plans for Saturday, but on Sunday it is supposed to be 70, and we'd like to take advantage of it. Have you heard of any fun kid-friendly outdoor activities for this Sunday? (We can drive or Metro, and anywhere in the D.C. metro area is fine.) Thanks so much for your help!

Anne: Now that we're in this part of the season, a lot of events are going indoors. If you want to get some air though, how about some hiking (maybe a trip to Sugarloaf Mountain or Great Falls). Or, you could take advantage of the weather in a counter-intuitive way and go ice-skating. Lots of seasonal rinks are open now, and the one at the Sculpture Garden opens Saturday.

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Washington D.C. : I have recently moved here from Phoenix, Ariz., and for the past few weekends I have wanted to watch my Arizona Wildcats. But all the bars I go to in D.C. proper only show ACC, SEC, Big East and Big Ten games. I am wondering where in D.C. proper is a bar where I can watch Pac 10 football games?

Fritz: Penn Quarter Sports Tavern would be my first guess. Cleveland Park Bar and Grill and Buffalo Billiards, too.

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No More Fluorescent Lights: Hey guys- - The bf and I usually enjoy outdoor activity during the warmer months (hiking, laying out by the pool, walking the monuments), but are lacking ideas for outdoor fun this winter. I'm sure we'll probably go skiing at some point, but any ideas for just an afternoon activity? Thanks!

Stephanie: Since it's not quite snowball fight season yet, how about the aforementioned ice skating at the Sculpture Garden?

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Arlington, Va.: Dear Gurus,

My husband and I have our parents coming in town and want to take them to dinner. They are not foodies at all, and in fact, my dad purports to be "allergic" to fancy food. We've done Carlyle, Evening Star, they even liked DC Coast a lot. Any help with simple, American style food with a quiet atmosphere would be of help.

Julia: Hey there, I'd think Eventide would fit right in with these folks, but on second thought, maybe some of the upscale twists would be too much for your 'rents. Other options? Look into Vermilion or Addie's.

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Dinner for 10 in Centreville: How about PF Changs at Fairfax Corner...a little bit further down the road?

Julia: We're sort of anti-PF Chang's here at GOG Central, but....throwing it out there for the benefit of the birthday party planners.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Gurus,

My friends and I have been looking to sharpen our indoor bar game skills. We've been to Atomic for pool/shuffleboard and Comet for Ping Pong. Now we're looking for a bar that has foosball tables in D.C. Can you recommend any?

Thanks!

Fritz: My favorite foosball table in D.C. remains the one on the mezzanine level of Bistrot du Coin. Only costs a quarter, if they haven't fixed it yet. (It's a French machine that was designed to take Euros.)

There's a shuffleboard table at Midtown Loft, which is free to play at happy hour (can't beat that, especially with free beers between 5 and 6).

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D.C. - Oyster riot: Is anyone going to Oyster Riot this year? I've been in the past, but have been kinda "meh" about it recently. And with the cost -- is it worth my feeling like I'm missing out if I don't go?

Julia: Well, your problem may be solved for you, as tickets have been sold out for a while. I'm not going this year -- and kinda bummed about it -- but if you've been "meh" no need to worry about wasting a night out on an event you've already been to in the past!

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H Street, X2 Bus: "Only $1.35 with some of the most interesting people-watching in the city thrown in for free!" Yeah, and just yesterday a guy was shot on the X2 bus on H St. while he was "on" the bus. Safe travels!

Fritz: That's a tragedy to be sure, but I've ridden the X2 to H Street dozens of times over the last few years, both after work and very late at night, and I've never been shot/robbed/fought/etc.

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Washington, D.C.: My boyfriend and I would like to go and hear live music this weekend, do you have any reccomendations? We like most music with the exception of hip hop and electronica. Love the chat and thanks for your help

Lavanya: If you're into Americana, local band Shortstack are pros at old-timey rock, and they're playing IOTA in Arlington tomorrow night. That should be a great time. And maybe it's just me, but Devo at the 9:30 club sounds like it'll be awesome. Sunday's show just sold out, but Monday's show is still available.

Rhome: I bigged up Nneka in the column this week but since she keeps coming up in my shuffle playlist, I'll mention her again. I think she might blow up and there are a number of huge stars that I've missed when they played small rooms in D.C. early in their careers.

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Club Soda: Well the price on sodas is not determined by the bartender. The owner of the bar/club determines that price. Customers have to understand that the cost of soda in many case is the same as domestic draft beer. Maybe $2 is too low and $4 is too high but it depends on the venue, their volume (lower volume of of soda = higher cost = higher prices), and customer need to understand it is a business - and a profit needs to be made.

Fritz: Yeah, I think people get sticker shock from soda in bars as much as they do with beer. It's the same as the people who say "Why should I pay $5 for a bottle of Bud when a six-pack costs that much?"

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Washington D.C.: On a Thursday night, about how long in advance do you think you'd have to make a reservation for Gibson? Hour beforehand maybe?

Fritz: I'd try a couple of days, honestly, especially with more than two people. I haven't seen how the addition of the upstairs has made in impact on the lines outside the bar, and I'm not sure I'd want to wait in the rain. But you could try calling an hour ahead and see what they can do for you.

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Hatin' NYE: I know it's early, but I had to throw this out there. I hate New Year's Eve. It is always SUCH a bust! I've tried for a decade to make it fun but am about to give up. I want to think of something, anything to do this year that will change my mind on this holiday. Any ideas? Disclaimer: Hate overcrowded bars, hate paying $100 cover for a sip of champagne, hate not being able to find a cab home, hate walking long distances in heels and a shiny dress. Is my only choice to stay home and watch the ball drop? Looking for any unique ideas anyone might have...

Rhome: It's too early for the procrastination prone promoters to hit us up, although a few things have trickled in. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings is the forerunner so far. NYE is the biggest money maker of the year for the nightlife industry and also a night when everyone that doesn't usually party has outsized expectations. While I maintain that house parties are the best NYE options, I'm a Going Out Guru and we have a job to do. Just like in past years, you will find on this site many options without cover charges and overblown pageantry as well as the major blowouts. You'll just have to wait a bit.

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Fairfax, Va.: Hey gurus! I've never been to a "real" club before, but I love to dance! Any recommendations for a first timer? I'm trying to plan a girls night out sometime soon. We are all 22-24.

Fritz: By "real," do you mean giant nightclubs with lights, dress codes and huge soundsystems as opposed to just dancing in bars? I bet you'd like Ultrabar, which is a compact little four-story club near 9th and F. Lots of open bar/free admission specials, too. (See ultrabardc.com for night-by-night printable passes and guest list info.

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Cube Farm, Md.: With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching, I am trying to think of a good place to take my parents for dinner (it is just the three of us). Any recommendations for the Fairfax/Arlington/Alexandria area? Otherwise I'm afraid it's going to be PB&J again . . .

Julia: PBJ! No! Look into 2941 -- I know, I know, technically in Falls Church. I'm sure Dennis Marron, chef at The Grille at Morrison House and Jackson 20, will have something special planned for his restaurants as well.

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Herndon, Va.: Going to the National to see "Jersey Boys" next Thursday. Need a suggestion for pre theater dinner or dessert afterwards. Thanks.

Michael: You could do a heck of a lot worse than Bistro D'Oc (French cuisine from Languedoc), at 518 Tenth St. NW. Just a few blocks walk from the theater.

Lavanya: For dessert, Co Co. Sala just a few blocks away has carved out a niche in the dessert/dessert cocktail department. A little pricey, but there is a nice post-theater ambiance.

Julia: I really like Cafe du Parc, just steps away from the theater. They don't have a pre-set pre-theater menu, but the food is really stupendous. (Oddly, they also make a really good Manhattan.) Oceanaire is nearby for baked Alaska after the show. Also, as Tom Sietsema reported earlier this week, the Fourth Estate has a cool new chef.

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Potomac, Md.: This is my 1st Thanksgiving in the WDC area and I'd really like to volunteer on Thanksgiving day; I've checked out the websites of the Capitol Area Food bank and other soup kitchens in the area and have yet to find anything. Got any tips on where & how a person could volunteer? Thanks in advance for the info!

Lavanya: Welcome to Washington. It's good that you're asking early, because a lot of people volunteer Thanksgiving Day, and slots fill up quickly. A popular one around the District that allows you to volunteer ahead of time (so you can still have Thanksgiving with family or watch football, etc.) is Everything ... but the Turkey at the Washington DCJCC. You don't have to be Jewish, and even vegetarians will feel comfortable, because they do all the side dishes, not the turkey (hence the name.) It's Nov. 23 and Nov. 25.

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PAC 10 Football: GOGs- Oh please answer my coworker's question about where he can watch PAC 10 football in DC. Not only will you make him happy, then all his coworkers will be happy that he's not crabbing about not being able to watch the PAC 10 on the east coast.

Fritz: Tell him to go to Crystal City Sports Pub, where USC, Oregon State and Arizona State all have their alumni viewing parties. It's like a big-ol' PAC 10 reunion.

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Taxes with beer prices: The taxes are included in the price. I worked at a bar in G'town and when people asked, the beers were $5.75, $6, etc., but in reality, they were $5 and change + tax to make them a round number - this was done on purpose to make things easier for the bar.

Fritz: Yep. That's pretty much the way it works -- math becomes simpler for customer and bartender alike.

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Arlington, Va.: I'm newly single in my early 30s, and am looking for some good bars near Rosslyn to meet other single ladies after work. If it helps, I work in Rosslyn, so something somewhat close would be preferable. Any decent places out there that cater to the 25-35 age range for happy hour?

Stephanie: There aren't too many places in Rosslyn, though you could try Piola or Cafe Asia. I think you might have better luck if you head up Wilson to Liberty Tavern or Whitlow's.

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Taxing and tipping on alcohol: Dear Gurus,

Can you please help me to understand something that I simply fail to understand otherwise. I have been privy to the knowledge that some people do not tip on the alcohol portion of a check when dining out? I don't understand how one could possibly even conceive of doing such a thing other than to justify not leaving a larger (and appropriate tip). Is there some protocol that I have missed or etiquette that says not to tip on alcohol when dining out? My thinking is two-fold: If you go to a bar, you tip on each drink. Also, whether you order a bottle or glass, the wait staff is "serving you" by bringing whichever you order. Oh, two more things: They are taxing you for the alcohol (just as they are for the food). It strikes me as simply wrong, period.

Any wisdom to send my way?

Thanks

Fritz: I have NEVER heard that. I've heard of not tipping on the after-tax portion of a check, which makes sense, but alcohol is part of the meal. You pay for it. Someone pours it. Ergo, you tip.

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H Street: Ultra importante! My BFs birthday is next week and we need to know a good H St. bar that we can just tell people to meet up at. Any that allows us to hook up an ipod to the speakers, even better.

The Argonaut -- how's the crowd on a Fri/Sat? Thick? You recommend up or downstairs for a birthday/going out shindig?

Other recs on H st for a group meeting up and crawling?

Thanks!

Fritz: Argo = go to for this kind of thing. Spacious but not in the middle of the strip. I'd say upstairs (Foosball table!) would be ideal, but nothing wrong with the downstairs. Backup would be Little Miss Whiskey's, where a friend of mine had his birthday last week. Plenty of room, and the upstairs nook with the Christmas tree would be ideal.

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washingtonpost.com: OK, that's it for us, thanks for stopping by. Make sure to check out that On the Cheap package linked in the intro and in the Weekend section tomorrow, lots of good info in there. And we'll see you all in a few hours at Russia House for our happy hour!

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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.

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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