Got Plans?: Bottomless brunches, wine shops, smoking in Virginia and coffee houses with board games

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The Going Out Gurus
of The Washington Post's Going Out Guide
Thursday, December 10, 2009; 1:00 PM

The Going Out Guide staff discussed bottomless brunches, wine shops, smoking in Virginia and coffee houses with board games on Thursday, Dec. 10 at 1 p.m.

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washingtonpost.com: Hello, everyone. Before we get the usual Got Plans ball rolling, we have one formality to deal with: a reminder that tonight is the Gurus' monthly happy hour, at Buffalo Billiards starting at 6 p.m. How hot is this happy hour going to be? Um, hello, Santa is going to be there. That dude's kinda busy at this time of year, but he's taking the time to stop by and have his picture taken with happy hour attendees. We've also got drink specials and some cool prizes to give away, so you will definitely want to be there. (P.S. I also hear Santa might need seasonal help, for those of you who are unemployed. Networking time!) All right, now that that's out of the way, let the chatting commence.

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Birthday dinner: In Northern Virginia -- I sure could use your expert decision making. If you could pick the one place to go, not too expensive, not a bar scene but not upscale, not many adventurous eaters, where would you want to go? Thanks!

Julia Beizer: I guess it kind of could be called upscale, but I'd go with Eventide. I like Tallula as well. And yeah, I know that's two places, but I'm terribly indecisive.

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Ballston Dude: GOGS,

Suggestions for a Georgetown dinner spot for 4-6 people for next Thurs night 830-9ish?

Someplace with a warm, cozy feel on a cold night where we won't feel out of place coming from a business attire xmas party. Entrees in the < $20 range.

Fritz Hahn: Georgetown. Warm. Cozy.

Two things come to mind.

First is Martin's Tavern, all dark wood and pubby touches and lights that are slightly brighter than "dim." If you skip the delmonico steak, you can get entrees for under $20.

Then there's the downstairs of Pizzeria Paradiso, which has a fireplace and low ceilings. It's always felt cozy to me, but that could be the crowds and the terrific beers.

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Sterling, Va.: Love, love, love you all! My week would not be complete without reading your chat, great job! Looking for a unique photo setting downtown. I'm a semi-pro photog and will be shooting an engagement session on Saturday. Any thoughts? If not can you put this out to the viewers? Thanks!

Stephanie Merry: We love you too, Sterling. I wrote this blog post about wedding photo locations ages ago, but I think it's still pretty current. Hopefully that will give you some ideas of places to start.

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Capitol Hill NE: I appreciate Fritz's list of bars with board games that was posted in October. This weekend I want to get my game on a little earlier in the day and was wondering whether you could do a similar list for coffee shops that have games available for patrons.

Fritz Hahn: I'm happy to put together such a list -- but I need suggestions from y'all, since I'm not a huge coffeeshop goer (other than M.E. Swing).

So, chatters, can you help Capitol Hell get their game on?

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D.C.: Howdy GOGs, How early should I get to Matchbox for dinner before a Caps game? Thanks.

Julia Beizer: Short answer: early. Just chatted with Lewis, one of the managers of the Chinatown location. He advises getting to the restaurant one-and-a-half to two hours early. Like 5 to 5:30 for a 7 p.m. game. "After that, there's a bit of a wait," he says.

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Arlington, Va.: Hey Gurus! I have a question for Fritz. Where can I buy the delicious Schneider Aventinus that I've enjoyed at Pizzeria Paradiso and ChurchKey? I'd love to stock up on some to enjoy at home? Thanks a lot!

Fritz Hahn: I'd imagine it won't be too hard to find -- I've gotten Schneider beers from Chevy Chase Wine and Spirits (best beer store in the area), Cleveland Park Liquors and D'Vine's in the past.

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Xmas Night: Anything going on where me and my friends can go out? A good group of us are in town for the different holidays and that's the one night everyone is free. Are most bars and clubs open or closed?

Fritz Hahn: I will have a big list of bars open on Christmas closer to the actual day, much like I did for Thanksgiving.

Personally, I'm really looking forward to the James Brown-themed dance party at the Black Cat.

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Repeal Day Ball: Fritz, just wanted to say thanks for the suggestion for the Repeal Day Ball. It was awesome!! So thanks!

Fritz Hahn: Glad you liked it. I had a blast going around and trying all the different cocktails and dancing to the hot jazz.

Did you have a preferred drink? Have to say the milkshake-esque Scottish punch was one of my favorites of the night.

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Beer Store: Fritz -

So you call Chevy Chase Wine and Spirits the best beer store in the area; what is the best beer store in Arlington?

Fritz Hahn: Lost Dog Cafe has a large selection, so I'd probably go with that. And I always find something worth picking up at the Curious Grape in Shirlington.

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Capitol Hill, D.C.: To the chatter who wants games on the Hill: Trusty's and SOVA

Fritz Hahn: Good call on Sova, but Trusty's is a bar -- the chatter said they were looking for coffeehouses.

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Arlington, Va.: Happy Holidays Gurus! I'm headed to NYC on Saturday and am hoping to catch a matinee performance of the Nutcracker. Any suggestion on appropriate attire? Since it's a matinee will it be more casual than an evening performance? Just trying to keep it classy (yet relatively comfy!) Thanks!

Stephanie Merry: Based on my ballet-going experience last night, I'd reiterate that you can get away with just about anything. I saw jeans and t-shirts as well as nice dresses. I usually try to aim for somewhere in the middle, though: nice pants or a skirt. So that would mean a button-down shirt for guys.

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Metro Center: Hi Gurus!

I'm planning a date night tmw and am thinking we'll go to Masa 14 for dinner (haven't tried it yet) and then go to HR57. I haven't been to HR57 yet either - how early do you think we'd probably have to show up? Do doors open at 9? Also, I know its BYOB, but do they also serve alcohol?

Thanks!!

Fritz Hahn: Doors for HR-57 are at 9.

And yes, it's BYOB -- a practice dating to the time when HR-57 didn't have a liquor license -- but they also sell drinks, too.

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Lionel Hutz: No ping-pong at Ping Pong Dim Sum?! This is the most blatant case of false advertising since my suit against the movie The Neverending Story.

Jen Chaney: Stellar Simpsons quote, one of my favorites. I miss Lionel Hutz. RIP, Phil Hartman.

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RIP Mayorga Coffee in Silver Spring: http://silverspringpenguin.com/2009/12/10/south-silver-spring-coffee-house-to-close/

Sad but true, this was a good coffee shop for a few years before the service became absolutely horrible. Could be a good location for a bar/restaurant.

Some good news though: The owner of Jackies in Silver Spring on GA Ave. is opening a bar, perhaps she can tell more bar owners how to get around the fascists who run MoCo liquor licensing. That along with soon to open (I'm naively hoping for Spring) Hook and Ladder bar/restaurant and Pacci's pizza joint might make that end of downtown Silver Spring a decent place to check out.

Fritz Hahn: Sad news. I'm a really big fan of Mayorga's coffee and tried to make a point to stop in when I was in Silver Spring.

Jackie's already does a good job running Quarry House Tavern -- great jukebox, solid beer list, good live music -- and that's a good model to follow.

As far as Hook and Ladder goes ... well, I think we've found the new ChurchKey, as in "Wasn't that place supposed to be open two years ago?"

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ISO Best Wine Store, Va.: So you mentioned Chevy Chase for the best beer store in the area, but what about wine? Just came back from Argentina and am looking to stock up from some places I visited. I know about Total Wine, but also curious about other locations. Live in NoVA and work in D.C., so flexible on location.

Julia Beizer: I like Planet Wine and the Curious Grape in Va. In D.C., I like D'Vines, mainly because it's close to my house. And better than the bodega on the corner.

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Alexandria, Va.: Hey - looking for a fun but not crazy-crowded bar to get together w/10-15 friends next week to celebrate the holidays (and all that crap)..... What's a fun & festive place in Ballston/Clarendon/Arlington area??? Thanks!

Fritz Hahn: Upstairs at Gua-Rapo did come to mind, but I should note that they've just received a license to allow hookah smoking there. (If you're anti-smoking, leave that out. And Whitlow's.)

What about the new second-story bar at Hard Times Cafe in Clarendon? Maybe Eleventh Street Lounge?

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HR-57: Thanks Fritz! So if we showed up around 8:45 do you think we'd get in? Just wondering how populalr the shows are..

Fritz Hahn: Depends on how popular the act is. This weekend is the Ron Sutton Quartet, so I think you'd be fine. Next weekend is Chuchito Valdes, though, and I expect tickets for that will be a little more in demand.

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Repeal Day Ball: How did people dress for this? Costumey? Formal? Cocktail dresses and suits?

Fritz Hahn: Lots of tuxes, but plenty of suits and some people who looked like they just came in from the Tweed Ride. (Note: That is a complement.)

I always wonder about dress codes for black-tie-optional holiday parties. Like for the House of Sweden's Santa Lucia Ball on Saturday, I'm probably going dark suit and dark tie instead of tux, just because ... well, I don't know why.

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Arlington: In case anyone wants to get away from the shopping this weekend, Arlington National Cemetery needs volunteers for the wreath laying for the headstones. (Edit: Click here for details.)

Fritz Hahn: Thanks for reminding us, Arlington.

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Washington, D.C.: Any thoughts on where to take out-of-town guests familiar with D.C. this Saturday? This would involve some in their 20s and some in their 50s, so broad appeal is needed...

Stephanie Merry: Are you looking for something holiday-themed or not? If so, then I'd probably start with the Botanic Garden for Holiday Magic, which is pretty spectacular. Then I might take the fam over to the Sculpture Garden for some ice skating, since the rink is finally open. To add a few laughs to the weekend's quality time, you all should head over to Woolly Mammoth for the crazy/funny "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind."

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Rockville, Md.: Dear Gurus, my husband and I have a rare opportunity to have lunch together tomorrow. Due to our active two-year-old, and my current pregnancy with twins, we don't find a lot of time for ourselves. Any suggestions for a nice, child-free place to grab lunch? We're hoping to stay in the Rockville/Bethesda/Gaithersburg area. We've done Addie's before, and enjoyed it. And we enjoy all types of cuisines. Thanks for any suggestions!

Jen Chaney: If you liked Addie's, you might try Black Market in Garrett Park, also owned by Black's. Good food and should be relatively child-free on a Friday afternoon. Another option: the Clyde's at Tower Oaks.

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Hard Times Bar: What's the upstairs bar at the Hard Times in Clarendon all about? Is it just an extension of the pre-existing place, or is it something different?

Fritz Hahn: It's a sports bar -- ton of seats, ton of TVs. And they allow smoking. Which I feel like I'm going to have to mention every time lest we have another situation like the time I sent someone to Aroma for cocktails and they e-mailed to say "YOU DIDN'T TELL ME THEY ALLOWED SMOKING!"

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Fave drink repeal day: I loved Todd Thrasher's. The foam and everything really came together when you drank it. The food was also delicious.

Fritz Hahn: Todd's drink was delicious. I also liked the drinks by Owen Thomson from Bourbon (the Punch), Adam Bernbach from Proof and Rachel Sergi from Againnnnnnnnnnn.

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Re: Matchbox: Speaking from experience, I would recommend getting there -just before- 5:00 (everyone says "let's meet at 5") on a Caps game night, especially if it is a Friday or Saturday night. Otherwise you might end up waiting long enough that you miss the opening faceoff, and really, who wants to miss a second of the team currently in first place in the NHL??? Go Caps!

Julia Beizer: C-A-P-S!

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Dupont: Love that you have added the last names of the gurus to the chat!

Fritz Hahn: I've always thought I was more of the "Prince" type than "Prince Rogers Nelson" type.

Rhome Anderson: It doesn't help the gender ambiguity of my name.

Stephanie Merry: Well it is holiday appropriate, at least.

Julia: These days when I see the word "merry," I think of Steph, not Christmas. Awwwwwww.

Anne Kenderdine: Okay, I admit it. Kind of rhymes with Federline.

Fritz Hahn: Apparently Julia is our Cher.

David Malitz: If we're using our full names the least you can do is write out Dupont CIRCLE. We're getting formal up in here.

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Washington, D.C.: Gurus: if you were online penpals with a woman for a few months, then finally planned to meet for the first time, what quiet romantic place in D.C. would you meet for drinks?

Julia Beizer: Not to be a spoilsport, but if I were meeting an online penpal, I'd probably want to try a brightly lit, well populated place to make sure she was actually who she claimed to be!

That being said, Bistrot Lepic's wine bar is a great spot for a date.

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Holiday Drinks in DC: My boyfriend and I do an annual holiday drink tour, along with the National tree and the market in Penn Quarter. In past years we've hit Round Robin Bar (great, but at the holidays it is so crowded), Poste had yummy eggnog last year and we always love stopping into Off the Record. Are there some others with great and creative holiday cocktails that we shouldn't miss for this year's tour?

Fritz Hahn: At Proof Poste, head mixologist Rico has traded in the eggnog for hot mulled apple cider and rum.

And I bet I can make you drool by typing out the menu description for one of Firefly's new cocktails:

Naughty Hotty

Maker's Mark bourbon in warm butterscotch and housemade cranberry cocktail, spiced with orange zest and pink peppercorns.

Yeah.

My favorite holiday warm drink thus far, just in terms of pure deliciousness, is the hot buttered rum at Bourbon, which uses house-made *spiced butter* with spiced Jamaican rum and hot water. I could have had like three of them.

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Washington, D.C.: Tomorrow (Friday) is my cousin's 23rd birthday party. We're having a family party for him: several aunts and uncles (in their 50s and 60s), me (mid-thirties).

Can you suggest some places/events/ideas for this motley group? Fun and adventuresome enough for a 23 year old, but not -too- noisy or otherwise too uncomfortable for the others.

Restaurant? concerts? outings? Thanks!!!

Stephanie Merry: I answered a similar question above, but wanted to also throw out the possibility of heading to the Terra Cotta Warriors show. Yes, this weekend's shows currently appear to be sold out. However, there's exciting new: National Geographic is extending their weekend hours for the month of December, meaning an additional 300 tickets every Saturday and Sunday. The additional tickets haven't been made available on the museum's site just yet, so you can either resort to obsessively refreshing their site or call 202.857.7700 to order.

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In Need of Coffee: I'm trying to remember the name of the coffee shop proposed for Murky Coffee's old location in Arlington. I'm sure the knowing guru team can help me out! Also, do you guys know if it will offer free wifi? Will the upstairs be open in this new incarnation?

Julia: Here are the details on the new place: Northside Social. No idea about the upstairs, but I'm nearly positive they'll have wifi. What place doesn't these days?

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Arlington, Va.: Fritz, do you mean Hard Times and the other places you're mentioning STILL allow smoking now that the ban has gone into effect? Does a 2nd floor really count as a separate area?

Fritz: Not just a second floor -- Whitlow's is all one floor. The law is that the designated smoking area has to have a separate door and a separate ventilation system so that second-hand smoke doesn't recirculate into the "pure" air that the non-smokers are breathing.

They're following the law. Whitlow's told me they had the health department come in and do a walk-through to make sure everything is on the up-and-up. Seems to me this is a good compromise for the people who still want to smoke while they're poisoning their livers.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Hi Gurus! I'm running in the Jingle Bell 10K this Sunday with some friends and we'd like to do brunch afterwords, but need some ideas. Since we have a mixed MD/NoVA group, somewhere central would be ideal (the race starts/ends near the Lincoln memorial). I was considering Tonic or Founding Farmers, but as I've never been to either I don't know a) whether they are the kind of places you could show up in running clothes, or b) whether we'd need a reservation. Any recommendations? Heck, even a hole-in-the-wall diner would suffice if the food is yummy- where do all the GWU students go for a post-hangover breakfast? :)

Fritz Hahn: Tonic. They're used to students wandering in wearing shorts and sweatpants. And the brunch isn't spectacular, but they have delicious bloody marys, lots of eggs benedict variations, etc. Go for the super-spicy house Bloody Maria with jalepenos.

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Smoke gets in your eyes (and hair and clothing): What? There's a smoking ban. Can we please have a representative list of places to avoid?

Fritz Hahn: Look, there's a ban, but the legislature made sure there were loopholes. If you don't like it, call your representative.

So far, my list of still-smoky places includes: Whitlow's on Wilson, Gua-Rapo (upstairs only), Hard Times Cafe (upstairs only) and Bailey's in Ballston Common Mall. There are other options, like Clarendon Grill's tented-and-heated patio, but they've been doing that for at least a year.

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Best wine store follow up question: I always thought Calvert Woodley was a good wine store. Did they not make the list of suggestions because they sell more than just wine or is D'Vine just that good that Calvert Woodley pales in comparison? I love wine so I ask out of a genuine interest. Since I live in D.C. I want to go to a local place, hence why I left those other suggestions off the comment.

Julia Beizer: Proximity mainly. I just happen to live near D'Vines and I like the friendly staff. I'm sure Fritz would sing the praises of Calvert Woodley had I left him answer the original question.

Another local place worth mentioning? Schneider's on Capitol Hill. Those dudes know their wine!

Fritz Hahn: Love Schnider's. I think Calvert Woodley can be a little overpriced. Would rather go to Wine Specialist or have a chat with Tony at Cleveland Park Liquors.

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Upstairs bar at the Hard Times in Clarendon: "It's a sports bar -- ton of seats, ton of TVs. And they allow smoking."

Tru dat, but it is a separate room, with sep ventilation system

Fritz Hahn: Yep. Sorry if that wasn't clear.

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D.C.: Quick question - PLEASE - Girls' day out on Saturday - Hitting Georgia Brown's for dinner at 6 PM - then walking to the White House Tree and looking for a place for drinks after....Thought about W Hotel but will probably be packed on the roof (along with long lines - slow service etc.) - also thought about the Round Robin - do you have any thoughts? Thanks for all your hard work!

Fritz Hahn: Would definitely say the Round Robin for Christmas cocktails. It's like that's in my DNA after something. It's very festive this time of year, with over-the-top decorations and caroling in the lobby.

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Washington, D.C.: Is it worth the trek and $18 to visit Mount Vernon this weekend for the cider and caroling and stuff?

Stephanie Merry: Mount Vernon by Candlelight is pretty special and a good recipe for getting into the holiday spirit.

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Arlington, Va.: But even at the places that have a separate smoking area, their regular bars are now non-smoking, right? The smoking bar at Whitlows must be in one of the back rooms. The main/front bar is now non-smoking, right?

Fritz Hahn: That's correct. Only the Sandbar -- the part with pool tables and the patio -- allows smoking.

Here's my blog post from last week that goes into much more detail about Whitlow's and the accommodations some bars are making for smokers.

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With the birthday cousin: Party -just- changed to Saturday night... same question.

Stephanie Merry: I must have read your mind because I gave you a Saturday outing idea instead of Friday. And turning this over to Julia for restaurant ideas.

Julia Beizer: Near the show, the Tabard Inn is a good bet for something fancy. Pizza Paradiso is a more rowdy option.

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Smokey2: Oh, thanks--so, no place that with decent food. That's a relief.

Fritz Hahn: Don't front on the Frito pie at Hard Times.

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Hard Times: Sorry if this is beating a dead horse - but just to clarify - the 2nd floor of Hard Times is smoking, but only in a separate room. Not the whole 2nd floor, right?

Fritz Hahn: No, the whole second floor of Hard Times allows smoking. It has its own door and ventilation system.

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D.C.: Hey guys I just moved to the city and am in dire need of 2 things. 1. a butcher where I can get some quality meats that wont break the bank 2. a local bar that has a mixed young happy hour crowd.

Julia Beizer: 1. Check out this place, this place or this guy.

2. What part of the city do you live/work in? Check out our Happy Hour by Day feature on this page (about halfway down).

Welcome to town.

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17th St. NW, D.C.: Hi gurus/readers,

A friend asked me to pick a spot for us to eat on the 17th street strip in Dupont. Out of curiosity, I chose Level One, because it seems budget-friendly and I haven't heard anything bad about it. But I wanted to run it by you guys -- have you ever been there to eat (for non-brunch?) I couldn't find a Web site for them which is a huge pet peeve of mine!

Also, what restaurants along that strip would you recommend or red flag? I want to be a good restaurant chooser, and I find myself in that area a lot.

Julia Beizer: Never eaten at Level One, but I don't really think of that place as a food destination. Chatters, chime in if you think Level One's a good place to eat.

Aside from Komi and Sushi Taro, the 17th Street strip is known for its mediocre restaurants. I'm fond of Hank's , but it may be pricier than you're looking for. 18th Street is sort of an overlooked option nearby. I love Regent Thai for affordable weeknight meals.

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Arlington, Va.: What is the name of the jazz place on 14th St. (HR ??) and what side street is it near?

Julia Beizer: HR-57. Near Corcoran Street (here's a map). You'll spot it from the huge light sculpture outside.

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Dupont: For wine stores in D.C., I would also highly recommend Bassin's on MacArthur and Bell's at 19th and M.

Julia Beizer: Thanks!

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State College, Pa.: "Love that you have added the last names of the gurus to the chat!"

I don't--it makes the chat seem much more formal to me, for some reason.

But I'll still read it!

Stephanie Merry: Well you can just read Julia's responses then. She's so low-key, her last name refuses to show up.

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Arlington, Va.: Hey Fritz. Question about the best beer bars list on Sunday. I think you talk about a lot of beer bars on here (like Galaxy Hut) that didn't make the list. Not arguing with any that did make the list in the paper, but curious about why you left off some favorites like the Reef and Galaxy Hut.

Fritz Hahn: Oh, good question. Huge mea culpa here -- Galaxy Hut was SUPPOSED to be in the paper, but somehow it didn't make it in. Big mistake on my part, because the beer list right now is simply sick. Unibroue Terrible dark abbey ale. St. Bernardus Christmas Ale. Blue Mountain Double IPA. Green Flash. Hoffmann Helles Lager. Legend Brown Ale. (You can see the whole menu here.

As for the Reef -- I took them off my best beer bar list earlier in the year because the beer program went on autopilot for a while and it just wasn't very interesting. But in the last six weeks or so, they've stepped up their game with the reintroduction of the Firkin night, beer dinners, drafts like the Sierra Nevada 22 Bines, the Brother Theolonious abbey ale and Great Divide's St. Bridget's Porter, they're certainly on my radar again.

This list wasn't easy to do, especially when you have to cover all the counties that touch D.C., plus Howard, Anne Arundel, Loudoun and P.W. I was thisclose to including Tuskie's, whose beer list would be the envy of most places in D.C., Black Squirrel, Quarry House and a couple of others.

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Bethesda, Md.: Fritz, you have mentioned several bars allow smoking (Hard Times, Whitlows?) --- why is that? I thought the smoking ban went into effect on December 1 for VA. What gives?

Fritz Hahn: Read the blog post linked above.

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Clifton, Va.: For the last 30 years or so I have purchased my wines by the case from Calvert or Pearson's. Back about two months ago I decided on my way back from the Clifton P.O. to try the wine shop in Clifton. They are now my go-to wine store. Best selection of Va. wines in the area and they can get you anything else you need at the best prices in the D.C. area. They have great prices on Pol Roger Winston Churchill and Tattinger Vintage.

Julia Beizer: Thanks, Clifton!

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Ellipse visit: Can you recommend a place within a few blocks of the Ellipse to stop in for a warm non-alcoholic drink and maybe a small snack? Will have well-behaved 9-10 yo's and it will be nighttime -- probably a Friday or Saturday night.

Thanks - I enjoy the chats very much!

Julia Beizer: I'd go with Chef Geoff's. The bar area doesn't get too overrun on weekend nights.

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Contradicting yourself, Fritz!: upstairs bar at the Hard Times in Clarendon: "It's a sports bar -- ton of seats, ton of TVs. And they allow smoking."

tru dat, but it is a separate room, with sep ventilation system

Fritz Hahn: Yep. Sorry if that wasn't clear.

Fritz Hahn: No, the whole second floor of Hard Times allows smoking. It has its own door and ventilation system.

I go almost every Sunday - there are two rooms upstairs at Hard Times in Clarendon - smoking in back room only.

Fritz Hahn: Okay, sorry. You're right. I'm contradicting myself. My first answer (and you, again) are correct that it's only in the back room of the upstairs. I must have been thinking of Gua-Rapo or having a brain freeze or something.

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Verizonville: Not a sermon, just a thought:

In all the excitement of the item about BLT bringing a "Carmine's style" restaurant to D.C., I guess it got lost that Carmine's itself is coming to D.C.:

Julia Beizer: Touche, chatter. Touche.

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Washington, D.C.: FYI- I always recommend the Round Robin room when I have the chance. So much so that I suggested it as a spot for after dinner drinks on a date last weekend. When we arrived, I asked to see the holiday menu, and the bartender informed me that it wouldn't be available until the following week. I was in the mood for something Christmas-y and chocolatey, so I asked if they could make something with chocolate in it. The same bartender sneered, informing me that they "don't have anything chocolate behind the bar," and walked away to serve another customer.

He then tried to tell my date that it was too late to order dessert (the kitchen closes at 11 and it was 20 til), and ignored us when we were ready for the check. It made me look incredibly foolish for recommending it, and we couldn't leave fast enough. How would you have dealt with this?

Fritz Hahn: I would have complained and complained, honestly. Nothing with chocolate in it behind the bar? That can't be right. I'm sure I've seen a Godiva bottle there. And as for food, I would have said, "Are you sure? It's 10:40, and I thought the kitchen was open until 11. Can you check?"

Sometimes you have to be a pain about things like this.

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Old Town: Hello Gurus!

My Fiance and I are going to see Young Frankenstein next Tuesday at the Kennedy Center. We want to do dinner before the show, and wanted to go to Marcel's, but it is a little pricey for us. Do you recommend any thing else near the Kennedy Center that isn't crazy expensive?

Thank you!!

Stephanie Merry: Julia and I were just discussing this yesterday, in fact, although we were thinking more in the after theater, late-night realm. Her verdict was heading to Bangkok Joe's, and I was thinking either Bistro Francais or Afterwords (though those are farther away).

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washingtonpost.com: Hey, it's Fritz. I'm typing waaaay too fast today because above when I was talking about awesome hot drinks, I mentioned Rico's hot apple cider and rum drink. It's available at Poste. Not Proof. Pardon my error.

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Washington, D.C.: I just had a great gift idea for the boyfriend who always gets me the perfect present, but I need some help with execution, gurus. He has a tux that he's only gotten to wear once and is aching to put it on again, so I'd love to take him to a black tie event somewhere in DC. Are there any such events coming up in the semi-near future that are fancy, fun and less than 150 dollars a ticket?

Fritz Hahn: Want to start with this weekend? There will be people in tuxes at the House of Sweden's black-tie-optional Santa Lucia After Dark on Saturday night, with an open bar, DJs, gorgeous rooftop with a view, Swedish culture and desserts.

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Eastern Market: Saw your recommendations for a bottomless mimosa brunch in last week's transcript. My friend's birthday is next Sunday and she is all over this idea. Creme looks amazing but if you could suggest somewhere where we could also watch football it would be a perfect birthday celebration! Thank you!

Julia Beizer: Creme is amazing, but I wouldn't go there for Football. I think Social might be your next best bet. You can eat brunch (and drink bottomless drinks) in the downstairs lounge are.

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Quintessential D.C. Activities: Hi Gurus,

My friend is moving to the area after living in Africa for 3 years. I am making her a "Living in D.C." Guide (and of course, guru recs feature prominently).

I am trying to list events/activities she really should do for the year or two that she lives here. I have a range thus far -- International film festival, Restaurant Week, drag queen race, Screen on the Green. I was hoping you -- or the chatters - might have any other ideas to add? What is your favorite annual activity in the D.C. metro area?

Thank you!!!

Julia Beizer: Oooh, love this question. Wish I had seen it sooner! First on the list: Arts on Foot in September. I wasn't as wild about this year's festival as I usually am, but I enjoyed it all the same. Ditto Crafty Bastards. If she's into running, I think the Cherry Blossom 10-miler (registration this week!) is a fun race to run.

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Reston: My husband and I are off to D.C. Saturday evening to visit the holiday display at Union Station and the National Christmas tree. Anything else we shouldn't miss and definitely squeeze in to the evening that will put us in the spirit of the season? Anywhere good to eat in/near Union Station or the Nat'l tree? We're open to all cuisines and budget is reasonable. Some of our faves include Zaytinya, Matchbox and Rasika.

Julia Beizer: Johnny's Half Shell and Bistro Bis are right nearby. If you're willing to travel. I like Cava over on 8th Street SE. Fantastic mezze.

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Alexandria, Va.: Any good suggestions for New Year's Eve festivities for late 20-somethings who don't drink (but want to avoid being lame on New Year's)?

Fritz Hahn: This is an excellent question. I wish more places offered some sort of designated driver option on New Year's Eve, because why would you pay $100 to go out with your friends if you don't get any booze for you hard-earned cash? So far, the only one I've seen is the Brightest Young Things party at the Capitol Skyline, which is only charging $30 for a night of DJs, roller skating and other madness if you're (a) under 21 or (b) not drinking.

There are, of course, all those First Night options, which I always think are a little too family friendly, but they're worth a look. And swing dancing at Glen Echo is dry, and a lot of fun.

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H ST NE: For the coffeehouse hunter: SOVA is a killer suggestion. S/he should also check out Sidamo, Ebeneezer's, and Peregrine.

Fritz Hahn: You rock. Great call on Peregrine. Thanks.

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Arlington: Decent place to grab a quick bite to eat before seeing "Jersey Boys" tonight at the National?

Julia Beizer: Happy hour at Ceiba? Cafe du Parc?

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washingtonpost.com: That about does it for this week. Hope to see some of you at the happy hour tonight, where you should feel free to refer to all Gurus by their full names. (Middle initials? Optional.)Chat with you next week.

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