Got Plans?: Bars in Tysons, the American History Museum and mofongo

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The Going Out Gurus
of The Washington Post's Going Out Guide
Thursday, January 21, 2010; 1:00 PM

The Going Out Guide staff doshed about bars in Tysons, the Cereal Bowl, the American History Museum and mofongo on Thursday, Jan. 21, at 1 p.m. ET.

_______________________ Hey all, thanks for joining us for Got Plans? First the bad news: Fritz, the fastest question answerer in all the land, can't make it today. However, we've got superstars Alex Baldinger and Lavanya Ramanathan here along with the rest of the GOGs. So let's get to it.


Tysons: Can you all weigh in on your favorite bars in Tysons, and why? And will you ever have your happy hour out here?

Julia Beizer: Since I grew up as a Tysons mallrat, I don't spend too much time out there these days. The bars I've enjoyed over there have been more like restaurant bars. Inox's bar is really sophisticated. The bar at Morton's makes me think of Mad Men. I've heard fantastic things about the the Tysons Panache, but have never been. None of these strike me as happy hour spots, but they're nice places to drink. Chatters, care to weigh in with others?

A Tysons HH might be hard for some of our readers, given that Tysons isn't the most Metro accessible place in the world. Any more votes for a Tysons HH?


Alexandria, Va.: I thought I heard somewhere (maybe from the GOGs?) that Rustico in Alexandria was showing old Wrestlemania on Sunday evenings. Did I hear that right?

Stephanie Merry: You did indeed hear that right. Here's the scoop.


Matt (D.C.): I am sure you've answered this before, but I haven't seen it: Are there any worthwhile Murder Mystery dinner party options in the area? I've always wanted to do one, but never have taken the time to figure it out.

Thanks, guys.

Rhome Anderson: The Blair Mansion has them but I've never been. Can any chatters provide first hand intel?


Washington, D.C.: Hey GOGs! Purchased my tickets for a late show at the Improv and am wondering if you can recommend a good spot to get some drinks beforehand? I noticed from their menu online that they offer beer and wine -- but I'm guessing no liquor? Having never been there before -- how early would you recommend arriving? Thanks for your help!

Lavanya Ramanathan: You didn't say what night of the week the show is, but I'm going to assume you mean a weekend. You'll want to keep in mind that The Improv has a two-item minimum almost every night, so even though you bought tickets, the pressure is on to buy at a beer or two or some food once you're in. I love the idea of grabbing a quick drink before the show, but I'd probably stick to a place that doesn't have a cover, since you'll be forking out more when you get to the club. If you want some place sophisticated with a lot of ambience, I'm a big fan of Science Club, where there's never a cover (it's just a few blocks away on 19th Street). If you are hoping for something casual, you can't beat Big Hunt or Cafe Citron, literally just up the street from the Improv.


Arlington, Va.: First off, you guys are the best. My weekends are measurably better because of you.

My mom will be in town Monday through Wednesday of next week, and I'm lacking for good ideas on what to do. She's been to D.C. many times, so I'm looking for something more unique than the American history museum (again). And she's hardly the fuddy-duddy mom -- I think she's cooler than me. She likes everything -- interesting museum exhibits? Fun neighborhoods to walk around? Something totally different?

Stephanie Merry: I'm all for exploring a new neighborhood. Maybe mom would like to walk along 14th and U and pop into some of the shops, like Home Rule, Go Mama Go, Nana, etc. And if you're down there Tuesday evening, be sure to catch the chocolate and wine tasting at ACKC. On the exhibit front, there's Elvis at the Portrait Gallery (though be warned, it's kind of small), the very cool Yinka Shonibare work at the Museum of African Art and the Terra Cotta Warriors. I also have to throw out more love for the one-man show The Last Cargo Cult; that would make for an entertaining evening.


Silver Spring, Md.: My parents are old and grumpy. They are in town and complaining that they are bored and hungry. Where should I take them to eat? They will not eat: Sushi, Indian, healthy food, MEAT or Brussels sprouts. They like dogs, but not as a meal. Any ideas?

Julia Beizer: Wow. They are grumpy. I barely even believe this is a real question. What about a good old American place like Woodmont Grill.


Washington, D.C.: Anyone heard of The New Deal? Will they ever be coming to D.C.? What kinda music scenes do we have that get a similar feel?

Julia Beizer: On Tuesday night back when I was in college, I took a road trip from Connecticut to Cleveland to see The New Deal play. I saw them in Toronto, Montreal and California too (but the Cali thing was kind of a fluke). They may be the one band I was ever completely obsessed with. Killer live show.

Anyway, I digress. They come to the State Theater every now and again. They go to Baltimore more often. David might have a better answer than I do about whether there's a similar scene down here. STS9 is coming to 9:30 in March. In my view, they don't even come close to rocking it like tND.


Ballston: I am going to be in the Ballston area on Thursday after work. I only have an hour or two to spare and would like to go somewhere cheap for happy hour & a quick bite. Who has the best happy hour deals in that area?

Stephanie Merry: It's been a while since I've happy houred in Ballston, but my last great experience in the neighborhood was at Caribbean Breeze where the deals are pretty stellar and the mojitos are tasty.


Silver Spring Parents: What do the parents eat? They don't eat healthy food or meat. That rules out vegetarian meals & all meats?

Stephanie Merry: Maybe they just eat a lot of french fries...


Arlington, Va.: The Gurus have always been who I've turned to and pointed people to for advice on what is going on around town. I'm hoping that you guys will help spread the word about this event, an opportunity to go out while doing good!

There will be a fundraiser happy hour to benefit Hands Together Haiti on Friday, January 22 at Fly Lounge. 100% of donations collected at the door (suggested $20) will go to support Hands Together's feeding, hygiene, school, and rebuilding efforts in Haiti. They have consistently received 4 out of 4 stars on Charity Navigator.

Fly Lounge will offer "Pre-Flight" specials on rail drinks and beer: $2 from 6:00 - 7:00, $3 from 7:00 - 8:00, $4 from 8:00 - 9:00, $5 from 9:00 - 10:00.


Julia Beizer: You know we hate plugs, but since I spent a good portion of my day yesterday calling around about Haiti fundraisers (including this one), I'll most certainly post it. I have to say I've been really humbled by a lot of the people in their 20s who have regular jobs and whatever and went out of their way to organize these parties. Some of the events that have landed in our inboxes have sounded shady, like the bars/promoters/restaurants are using the Haiti disaster as a way to promote their own parties/venues. For others, though, I really got the sense that a lot of young people had put aside their own priorities to pull off these events, which we all know is no small feat. It's been really cool to talk to these peeps. Special shout out to tonight's fundraiser at Sticky Rice, tomorrow's event at Local 16 and next week's party at Sign of the Whale. Here's a list of more Haiti events/specials, for those of you who are interested. Rant over.


Cleveland Park: I noticed that there is construction going on in the site fo the former Starbucks on Connecticut Ave in Cleveland Park. The building permit says the new place will be called "The Cereal Bar." Any info on what this place is?

Julia Beizer: I think you mean the Cereal Bowl; it's part of a small chain. Here are the deets! The restaurant comes with a glowing rec from Anne's two-year-old daughter!


Woodley Park: Am there any depressed, sexxxy liberal ladies looking to salve some of their disgust over the recent setbacks to the progressive agenda by making sexxxy time with a dude like me?

Julia Beizer: Any takers?


Alexandria, Va. (22304): Hi,

I have a guest coming in from out of town and need to find something to do that will be somewhat inexpensive and has either easy Metro access or parking (I'd prefer to drive). I avoid D.C. at all costs but would venture into the city if there's a place that's nice enough. I typically don't do clubs and bars. I'll make an exception for a nice bar that's not an inconvenience to get to. I was thinking about National Harbor but I'm sure there's a ton of places that I've never even heard of. We've also never met in person so I need to keep this place 1st-date friendly.

Lavanya Ramanathan: The weather is going to be pretty warm beginning Saturday, so why not do something that's a little outdoorsy? National Harbor is not what I'd consider convenient to get to, and a lot of the businesses are still moving in, so there's not much to do there yet. I'd skip it. Maybe you could drive into the city a little early on a weekend morning, park and take your guest on a walk around the White House, and then over to a museum? A favorite date spot is the National Gallery, which is a) free b) filled with everything from renaissance to modern art, so there's something for all tastes. Then wrap it all up with a dinner or drink around Penn Quarter somewhere (maybe TenPenh, or Fogo de Chao, though both are on the pricey side), or just grab a tea and cookie at Teaism. Wear comfortable shoes.


Alexandria, Va.: Hi Gurus! Do you have any suggestions for family fun with a 3-year-old -- fun places to eat, to watch shows or for indoor play during these cold winter months? The plays at Classika Theater looks good but they suggest 4 years old plus. Thanks a bunch.

Anne Kenderdine: This story (also found in tomorrow's Weekend section) looks perfect for you. In particular, the idea I like best is Sunday's CityDance show of "Jungle Book." I caught a bit of that a few winters back when they did it at the Lansburgh, and the costumes are incredible. Good deal, and an easy venue if your kid gets restless. Imagination Stage sometimes has shows that skew a bit younger, if you want to take a gamble on whether your kid can sit still. Also this weekend, the thing I'm totally excited about is the Elvis family day at Portrait Gallery -- this one could be good for that person looking for an easy-to-get-to, no-stress, first-date-friendly idea. Plenty to do, food available there or nearby, lots of space in the courtyard to sit down or run around, an Elvis costume contest (for all ages, by the way) and tribute act for amuseument, plus, of course, amazing art to view. And it's free.


Bored tonight: Anything fun to do on a Thursday night that's a bit different than your usual "go to a bar and have a drink" thing? Nothing seems to be going on tonight. Inspire me.

Stephanie Merry: You could check out a show at the Black Cat, spend some time with America's favorite C-List celebrity at Borders, relive the now infamous State Dinner at the Bombay Club or get your drink on to benefit Haiti. Are you inspired yet?


Alexandria, Va.: Hi Gurus!

Hoping you're able to help me -- I have a first date on Saturday, and I was thinking I'd take her to go say goodbye to Tai Shan. Do you have any suggestions for a place for brunch/lunch near the Zoo? (We're both mid-20s and both grad students if that helps.)

Thanks for your help!

Julia Beizer: There's Spices for decent pan-Asian and Sorriso for pizza if you wanted to go the lunch route.

For brunch, Open City is the perfect -- albeit crowded -- place. Do that, only if the date is going so well that you're willing to stand together waiting for a table for a *long* time.


Silver Spring, Md.: I have been to a Blair Mansion Murder Theater afternoon. The food was good. the setting was very nice. The play itself? Well, some of the actors were more professional than others. It was really falling kind of flat though and seemed like a very very low budget affair, costume, casting and prop wise. But they were troopers. The saving grace was at the end when the detective comes out and sums it all up, he was very funny and it was quite interactive. That was about 3 yrs ago, and I'm not sure if it's better or the same, but go with reservations, no pun intended, and an open mind. And of course, the food was good!

Rhome Anderson: Maybe it's gotten better in since then. Thanks for the review!


Alexandria, Va.: Mofongo! Where can I try this Puerto Rican dish in the area? Tom chose not to answer yesterday. Thanks

Rhome Anderson: My Puerto Rican office mate was just telling me how she was fiending for some mofongo. Rumba Cafe was the last place I've been that had it on the menu, but I don't know how authentic it is. Our latin population is primarily Central American and scarce on Puerto Ricans and Dominicans so your quest might be an difficult one.


Right, Here: I know this isn't a D.C. related question, but since y'all are "my cool friends in my head" I thought I would ask. I'm headed to NYC tomorrow for the weekend. If you were in NY for a weekend what would be two things that you would definitely do/places you would visit/restaurants you would eat at, etc.? I'm going to see FELA (so excited) on Saturday, but wanted some other ideas on what to do in the Big Apple. Thanks!

Lavanya Ramanathan: "Fela"! You're so lucky! That show makes me want to hop on the next train up, too. /p>

If you haven't been, I can't recommend the Museum of Modern art enough; it's a little steep ($20) but if you get there early on Friday night, the MoMa offers free admission from 4-8 p.m., and there's an exhibition of work by Tim Burton up right now. I have done battle with that line and lost, so be prepared not to get in. But there's still plenty to do; the MoMa is just a few blocks to Rockefeller Center, so you can always do the cheesy tourist thing and go ice-skating. If you're in the shopping mood, SoHo now has several huge new clothing stores we don't have here, namely TopShop (from the UK) and Uniqlo (from Japan); I love those madhouses, since I leave with stuff no one here has. And definitely eat: The Momofuku noodle and dessert joints have really re-invented eating there. And I always, always have brunch at Spitzers in the Lower East Side, so I must give them a shout-out here. For coffee, Abraco is the hottest thing going; for donuts (yes, donuts), Doughnut Plant will make you swoon. If you're a cupcake person, Magnolia Bakery is the place that actually started the nationwide craze for the frosting bombs. Have a great trip.


Washington, D.C.: I was thinking about going to Phillips After 5 for the first time in February. Was wondering if you could give me the scoop on what it's like? The site says "by donation", how much do people usually pay to go? Thanks!

Stephanie Merry: Well normally there's a special exhibition on view (but their next biggie doesn't open until a couple days later), so people would usually pay the special exhibition fee of $12, ($10 for students and seniors) and After 5 is included. The donation is really up to, but I'd personally aim to give about the same as if there were a special exhibit.


Washington, D.C.: Hi GOGs! I'm looking for a place to take my boyfriend for his birthday this Saturday. He's originally from the Baltimore area and I'm trying to show him how much fun D.C. can be. We were thinking about going to the American History Museum because loves history. What else could we do? Where would you recommend to get food and maybe drinks right after in that area?

-Just as Lucky

Also, my boyfriend (Very Lucky Guy from College Park) submitted a question on October 22. We had a great time. Thanks for the recommendation!

Julia Beizer: Oh cute! We loved that guy!

There aren't a ton of places to eat and drink in the vicinity of the museums, sadly. There are a couple of close-ish places to eat and Drink -- the dive bar Harry's, Teaism cafe, clubby Old Ebbitt -- but I would take the time to do a long walk up 7th Street (good people watching!) to a place like Matchbox. Good date atmosphere.


Bethesda, Md.: So -- my sweetie and I love to leave the 'burbs behind and head into the District for an occasional evening of fun. Here's the problem though -- he's a bit of a public figure and we want to be discreet (office romance, you know). Where can we go for drinks and dinner (we don't mind going to multiple places) where it's fun but kind of private? We don't want to be stuck in some corner somewhere -- this is a very rare treat for us to get to go out. We're up for any kind of environment or cuisine.

Julia Beizer: Should we forward this news to The Fix?

I guess I would say that I really like the Tabard Inn for cozy romance. I think Proof is also a romantic spot, but you should know know that the tables are out in the open.

You could always go have a drink on the Appalachian trail. (I kid, I kid...)


Cereal Bowl: Are you frickin' serious? There's a market for this? Either people are frozen in such a Peter Pan complex daze that they want to pay for and eat cereal in a restaurant - or they are too "busy" to take the six seconds it takes to prepare their children a bowl of cereal. Or both.

Julia Beizer: Never underestimate the power of a gimmick.


Cleveland Park: Any suggestions for a place for five women to go dancing? We're 25-30 so preferably a place that's not a college scene.

Lavanya Ramanathan: We just highlighted Sabor Mondays at Lima, which is usually pretty pricey, but on Monday nights, it's free salsa dancing (don't worry, you'll have no problem finding a partner) and an open bar for women. If you're headed out on a weekend night, how about the basement level at Napoleon Bistro? There there are tons of varieties of champagne, a DJ, and it's just plain awesome-looking (makes for great photos with the gals). Plus: No cover. I've never had a bad time dancing there.


Washington, D.C.: My husband and I are expecting a baby in a month and this is the last time we'll be able to go out and really just have a good time for a while. That said, I can't drink! Where is a good place to go hang out and watch the football games this weekend that will soothe his itch for wings and beer but will still have something for an extremely pregnant lady?

Julia Beizer: I like Cleveland Park Bar and Grill, Penn Quarter Sports Tavern and Thirsty Bernie's for this.


Silver Spring, Md.: I have a question about the restaurant closings listed as being closed for violating health codes. I notice that there are often no closings in Maryland and several in Virginia. Is it that the restaurants are more closely regulated in Virginia or do they just have more restaurants altogether? I can't believe that there are so few problematic places in MD and DC, though it would be nice to think so. I really wish we'd have a rating system like I've seen in NC, where the restaurants have to display their ratings in a prominent place. It's both a grading system and a numerical score on a placard. What do you think of our current system?

Stephanie Merry: I don't know about the difference between health codes in Virginia and Maryland, but I can say that I am obsessed with reading those things. It's helpful too because friends will want to eat at restaurant X and I can quickly respond with "no, they had a recent rodent infestation and there was no manager on duty." I think a grading system is a good idea, but I don't know if we have enough inspectors to make it happen.


D.C.: What's the word on Corduroy? I'm thinking about going since it is close to my house, but it doesn't come up a lot in these or Tom's chats.

Julia Beizer: I haven't eaten at the new one (I know, I know), but I know Tom was fond enough of the place to give it a shoutout in the Dining Guide.

Also, for the record, Anne tells me that her daughter does not love the Cereal Bowl. I misunderstood her when she said her daughter "will" love the Cereal Bowl. We regret the error.


Adams Morgan, D.C.: Hey guys love the chat. This is not exactly a going out question, but you do need your shoes to look nice when out? On that idea, I was hoping that you could point me in the direction of a good cobbler in the Adams Morgan area as I need to get some work done on a couple pairs of shoes. Thanks!

Lavanya Ramanathan: Only because I'm worried for you: Sure, girls can and do get away with Uggs/flip-flops/bare feet. But if you're a guy, your shoes need to look good.

Plenty of bars don't make a big deal about it, but plenty do, and why take the chance of getting turned away?

There are plenty of great cobblers in this city; Duke's on 14th is a favorite for a lot of people; Corrective Shoe Repair is where I go, mostly because I heard that Robin Givhan goes there. How could it be wrong?


Best bbq in the city or Arlington?: Got a call on behalf of someone visiting from Germany for the best barbq. They were told Rocklands and I said it's pretty good, but the one on Wisc. Ave. is mostly a carry out place and said they may prefer Old Glory of they want a real sit down restaurant.

Any other (better) places I'm forgetting? thanks

Julia Beizer: There is a Rocklands in Arlington, if it helps. I think your suggestions are pretty good; we don't have great bbq in the are. Levi's Port Cafe is more of a soul-food joint, but I really like the feel of the place, so that's another option.

_______________________ Thanks for playing, guys. Have fun dating mysterious public figures, getting your mofongo fix and pondering the intricacies of the health code system. Until 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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