D.C.-area nightlife, events and dining

Got Plans?: First-date ideas and six-hour Washington tours

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The Going Out Gurus
of The Washington Post's Going Out Guide
Thursday, May 6, 2010; 1:00 PM

The Going Out Guide staff discussed first-date ideas and six-hour Washington tours on Thursday, May 6, at 1 p.m. ET.


washingtonpost.com: Welcome folks, it's time for another edition of Got Plans? with your hosts, the Going Out Gurus. Today we'll be taking your questions on fun things to do in honor of Mother's Day and whatever else is on your minds. Have at us.


Dupont: Hey,

It's definitely Dark'n'Stormy time as the weather is excellent. But I don't need/want the calories of 3 or 4. Any place locally that sells DIET Ginger Beer, preferably downtown/NW area. Thanks.

Fritz Hahn: A Dark and Stormy is probably my favorite summertime drink. I've had them all over D.C., Maryland and Va., and I've never seen one made with diet ginger beer. So I'll throw that out to the more calorie-conscious chatters.

(For the record, my favorites for a full-calorie D&S would be the Islander on U, Level in Annapolis, and Ceiba.)


Re: Post-Race for the Cure Dining: Last week a poster asked about places to go to eat after the Race for the Cure. Last year my group met at My Brother's Place. It was the perfect spot, especially since most of us lost each other in the crowds during the race...and with their outdoor seating area it was good for sweaty runners who just wanted a cold beer and a good burger!

Stephanie Merry: If last week's Race for the Cure runner is reading, here's a suggestion for post-race brunch. Although, I believe the runner was looking for a restaurant that opened earlier...


Washington, D.C.: Looking for a good cocktails/fun bar near 24th and N for co-workers to celebrate -- starting at 4 p.m.

Fritz Hahn: For good cocktails in that neighborhood, I like Firefly (New Hampshire and N) or Urbana (22nd and P).


19th and M: What happened to Porter's?

Fritz Hahn: My understanding is that there was a disagreement between partners, and it closed. The stories that the bar has had run-ins with D.C. over unpaid taxes in the past is in the back of my mind, though.


Nationals: Saturday: Maybe this is better for Hax, but you guys respond much quicker. First date at Nats Park, he doesn't drink much (maybe two beers a month), I don't tend to go to a game without having a beer. Do I forgo having a drink (or two) or stick to my typical game day behavior. Don't think it matters, but in case it changes the decision: I'm female, we're both around 30, I picked going to the baseball game to not have to struggle through dinner and a movie.

Julia Beizer: Get the beer. I would only get one, just so it's not super awkward, but if that's what you would usually do, do it. I wouldn't get super bombed or anything, just out of courtesy to your non-drinking date, but I think a beer is fine.


Last minute, Va.: This is really last minute, but I'm looking for a spot in the U street corridor to spend my birthday Friday. I love Lounge of 3 but am also looking for a more upscale spot with good hip-hop music. Any ideas?

Rhome Anderson: Not since Bar Nun became Pure has such an option existed on U Street. "Good" hip-hop is pretty much non-existent in any place that aspires to being upscale. If you're willing to bend a bit and hang with the spoken word folks, Def Poetry alum Bassey Ikpi is doing a show and afterparty at Liv and Station 9 is also hosting its popular monthly set called The Attic, with DJ Huck Fin spinning a hip-hop afterparty. If you're willing to venture away from U Street, DJ Oz is playing at Recess. He's what I consider a real DJ (i.e. well-versed in many styles of music beyond the current microwave hits) who can make the pop palatable.


Metro Center, D.C.: What are the food options like at the Cathedral Flower Market?

Alex Baldinger: Oh, it's a good lineup. It's a very long list and writing it out is only going to make us more hungry than we already are, but here goes: Armand's Pizza; chicken teriyaki, fried rice and other Asian delights; beef and chicken kabobs; cinnamon-roasted almonds and pecans; fruit smoothies by Robek's; pork and chicken barbeque by Rocklands; grilled flatbread sandwiches and Belgian-style waffles by Sauca; and -- saving the best for last here -- lobster rolls. This is all in addition to the requisite festival food staples: your burgers, hot dogs, funnel cakes, etc. Plan the rest of your week's caloric intake accordingly.


Brentwood, D.C.: Hi, gurus. Tom Sietsema didn't get to my question yesterday, so I hope you can help me out. I'm looking for a restaurant suggestion for Mother's Day. Actually, we'll be celebrating on Saturday instead of Sunday. My elderly parents tend to go to the same restaurants all the time, where they can get a lot of food and take some home (Depression-era mindset). Since my sister and I are paying, we'd like to go somewhere classier than Ruby Tuesday's or IHOP, while keeping the bill under $40pp without alcohol. Do you have any suggestions for an American (steak or seafood) restaurant in D.C. or Md.?

Julia Beizer: What about Addie's?


McLean, Va: My bf would like to celebrate his birthday by going to Preakness next weekend. I've heard mixed reviews about this event. I was told it was nothing like Gold Cup or Foxfield. The infield tickets feature some pretty cool bands (Mr. Greengenes/O.A.R.). We're all around 28 and while we'd like to have a few drinks we don't want people falling all over us and dodging puddles of puke. Is this event a disaster? If it's not, do you know of anyone hosting charter buses out to Pimilco? Please help! I don't want his birthday to be a bust!

Fritz Hahn: Preakness is NOT Gold Cup. Preakness is drunken mayhem without dressing up in your finest sundress/khakis/croakleys. It's not as bad as it was back in the day, when you could carry your own case of Natty Boh into the infield with you, but it's still pretty rowdy. (Watch the running of the urinals videos on YouTube, which feature young men racing atop the rows of portable bathrooms.)

You don't have to be a part of that, though. There are plenty of places that *won't* have piles of puke.

As for buses ... the couple that I knew about, including the Boomerang Buses, seem to be sold out.


Idiot Interns - Can't Take 'Em: I work near 17th and G...where can I go after work to hang out, have a beer or two and not be surrounded by blithering idiots? Seriously, every bar around there is chock full of 20ish ding dongs with thin ties talking about how much work they didn't do that day. Going postal not an option.

Fritz Hahn: Now, now.

Didn't see too many interns at Bottom Line yesterday when I was there for the free taco happy hour (now every Wednesday from 4-6). I'm guessing you'll find the same thing at Cafe Asia, maybe BlackFinn (which seems mostly mid/late-20s), even the 19th, the "golf-themed" bar at 19th and I that seems to be popular with a World Bankish crowd.


Arlington, Va.: Hi Gurus:

You've never steered me wrong, so I'm hoping you all can help with this. We're hoping to be travelling to Williamsburg over an upcoming long weekend, and I was wondering whether you could recommend both some place to stay that's not spendy but is clean (above all), comfortable, and not creepy, as well as give me any suggestions as to what we might do while we're there. Neither of us have been to Williamsburg -- we'll be visiting with good friends who just moved there, but they have two small children, so we won't be overimposing ourselves on their space or their time. So we're pretty much starting from scratch!

Thanks SO MUCH in advance!

(FWIW, we're in our 30s, like long walks/gentle hikes -no mountain peaks], good food and wine, photographing what's around us, and -specifically my husband] napping -- yes, we are THAT exciting!)

Justin Rude: I don't have a lot to say about lodging in the Williamsburg area since my experience there is limited to 4 years in a college dorm. Not recommended.

Food wise you can't go wrong with dessert at the Trellis. I also recommend getting a sandwich and a bottle of wine from the Cheese Shop, though I do so with reservations. Since I lived there it has moved onto Duke of Gloucester street (the central tourist drag in the colonial area) and gets pretty overrun.

Pierce's Pitt Bar-B-Que which is just a bit outside of town will give you a sense of the non-touristy 'Burg. Having been a poor and overstressed student in my time their my favorite activities usually involved just getting out and taking a drive on the Colonial parkway or heading down to the James River. It is a really beautiful area.


Arlington, Va.: More Hax, but, if you don't want to struggle through dinner and a movie, why have the date in the first place?

Julia Beizer: Oh I LOVE when the chat gets all Hax-y! I think baseball is a great low-key first date. It gives you something to watch and talk about, whereas dinner on a first date can seem like an interview and a movie on a first date doesn't give you any sense of your date's personality.


Cleveland Park: Hey guys, I'm going out for a drink later tonight and am trying to decide between the rooftop of Marvin and Tabaq (looking for somewhere kinda romancy). Any idea on which will be less packed? Also can I head up to the roof of Tabaq without getting food? Thanks!

Fritz Hahn: You can do the rooftop of Tabaq without food, but it's small and (in the past) they haven't been cool with the bar getting too crowded with stand-ees. Marvin will be more crowded as the night goes on. Honestly, for romance on U, I really like the back patio of the Gibson, especially at dusk when it's lit by candles on the tables.


D.C. in 6 hours or less: Hi GOGs and chit chatters,

I'm playing hooky on Monday because my friend will be in town. We're taking the metro into D.C. from Pentagon City and we're going to play tourists for half the day. So my questions are: If you landed into D.C. around 11:00 am, at which metro stop would you begin, where would you eat, and from there on foot what museum(s) is a must-do? Looking for a fun-packed 5 or 6 hours before he drives off to Baltimore in the evening.


Stephanie Merry: It would be great to know if this is his first time in D.C. and also what his interests are (Art? Science? History?), but going on this information alone, here's the itinerary I'd recommend: Metro to Gallery Place and head to the American Art Museum and Portrait Gallery. If he's not into art, he can at least appreciate the building and the awesome courtyard inside. If the weather is nice, grab some food to go and wander down to the Mall for a picnic. If it's on the chilly side, have lunch at Zaytinya or Matchbox. Down on the Mall, wander around a bit before checking out the new exhibit about the Apollo Theater at the American History Museum, the recently opened Hall of Human Origins at Natural History and Allen Ginsberg's photos at the National Gallery of Art.


Amish Bars: Are there any bars in the area that cater to the Amish?

Julia Beizer: Tons of them.

Fritz Hahn: Especially CommonWealth, which recently had a whole flight of beers from Lancaster County.


Washington, D.C.: Charlottesville question. I've been begging my boyfriend to take me to Monticello for my birthday in a few weeks. Where could we go for awesome food in a nice atmosphere (like, kind-of dressed up, but not stuffy)?


Julia Beizer: I haven't been to Charlottesville since I went to mid-summers back when I was in college, but Jane Black did a not-too-old story on the food destinations there. You might want to check out the article.


Aroma, D.C.: Back in the heyday, Aroma used to be my favorite bar. Haven't set foot in it since they got a smoking exemption. So, will the "new" Aroma still allow smoking? Smoke completely ruins the favor of a nice wine, and if that's the case, I'll just mosey down to Bardeo.

Fritz Hahn: The smoking exemption wasn't what turned me off Aroma -- it was the outflux of staff that I liked.

But I hear the new Aroma will not have a smoking exemption.


Washington, D.C.: Are there any good diner-type places in the Capitol Hill/Eastern Market area? Im looking for a place to go for brunch that has big omlettes, free refills of coffee and overall greasy food to help fight off the effects of the previous night. The more divey the better, but I would like to hear any options. Thanks!

Fritz Hahn: Our Anne Kenderdine has always been a big supporter of the cute little Le Bon Cafe on Second St. SE (just south of Penn), and I love that you can get waffles and other breakfast foods all day.

For me, my Eastern Market hangover remedy of choice is brunch at Tunnicliffs, with one of their pint-sized bloody marys.


Arlington, Va.: Is there any charge to climb to the top of National Cathedral? I recall a fee in the past.

Fritz Hahn: It's $10, but totally worth it for a view that not many people get to experience.


Rosslyn, Va.: Was planning on heading to the EU Embassies this Saturday. The website is not too helpful. I know it's free to get in and some seem to be serving refreshments. Is that free too? And will, say, Ireland and Belgium be serving/selling beer?

Fritz Hahn: I did 7 or 8 embassies last year. Most of the refreshments are free -- there were beer tastings at Belgium and the Czech Republic, for example, though there wasn't anything there I hadn't had before. (Think Leffe, Pilsner Urquell, etc. But it's hard to complain when it's free.)

Hungary was charging for some excellent goulash and less-than-excellent Hungarian wines, but that was optional; the Hungarian dance lessons were free.

My advice is to go early; by the end of the day, embassies were running out of food and gift bags.


Washington, D.C.: What do you suggest for a good first date spot for drinks in or around Dupont Circle? Something low key and not overly crowded but not too dead.

Julia Beizer: Depends on the day, I guess. I rather like the Cantina at Darlington House for this sort of thing, but it can get busy on weekends.

Fritz Hahn: I'd say the bar at Kramerbooks (or a table on the patio), the bar at Firefly, the bar at Tabard Inn (there's disagreement in the office about whether it's too romantic).


Prepster Pool Parties: So I know that BYT/Hipsters have their pool party starting this weekend at Cap Skyline. Then the Club Rats have theirs starting in a few weeks at Liason Hotel. Is the international crowd doing Donovan House again and when are the LNS/Prepsters going to start a pool party (that doesn't include an inflatable swimming pool and flip cup in someones backyard)????

Fritz Hahn: Donovan pool parties started last week, but the invites/RSVP lists are mostly on Facebook at this point.

As for other pool parties -- the LNS pool party is called Volta Park on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.


Arlington, Va.: Hi,

Entering early... I swear this is not a joke. My just-turned-18-yr-old daughter would like to go to an 18 + dance club, and wants me to go with her and some of her friends. We are looking for a place that is not too strict on dress code and has good dancing. If it were possible for a 36 year old woman to not feel completely stupid there, that would be great too, but I'm fine with sitting at the bar and feeling like a moron as long as she has fun. We can do D.C. or Va. Any ideas?

Rhome Anderson: I'm guessing that for an 18 year old, going to U Street Music Hall for the first time would be like when I first went to Tracks or Capitol Ballroom/Nation (dating myself with those). Check their schedule and take your pick of techno, deep house or club and electro. All the kids love Nadastrom. The all-ages, all the time Black Cat has a lot of dance nights that take place in the main room and the backstage if your daughter is into indie, Brit pop, new wave and vintage hip-hop. Same goes for the dance parties at Rock and Roll Hotel.


Great Mexican food in D.C.: Hey Gurus,

I hear that Oyamel is the choice of foodies for good Mexican food in the District. Do you agree? I would love to know that it is authentic and amazing. Also, do you know if it's more of a tapas/small plates type of place -- being that it is one of Jose Andres's restaurants -- or is it actually like a full plate, traditional meal? Is it a really expensive place or is it good prices for good, satisfying, filling Mexican fare? If you're not fans of Oyamel, do you have any other recs in D.C.?


Julia Beizer: Oyamel's one of my (and Michelle Obama's!) favorite spots in town. That being said, I'd love to hear more about exactly what your looking for. Oyamel is authentic, no doubt. Chef Joe Raffa oozes enthusiasm for the cuisine and beyond that, they have brought in famous Mexican chefs to work with them in the kitchen. But this is chef-driven cuisine -- lots of small plates, delicious guac, the famous grasshopper taco. If you're looking for more of a full-plate experience, I'd choose another restaurant. We hear a lot from Southern California transplants who are looking for the same kind of Mexican fare they got back home. I haven't found much that's close -- our Latin-American fare is mostly Salvadoran. I like Taqueria Distrito Federal.


Alexandria, Va.: Hey Gurus. I have been in D.C. for three weeks on business and haven't had a chance to really get out. My partner is coming this weekend and I would love a recommendation for a great place to go for fun drinks. We love trying new things, like unique cosmopolitans with original sugar rim jobs, and stuff like that. Thanks!

Fritz Hahn: In Alexandria, you're not going to do better than the PX (or the bar at its sister spot, Restaurant Eve, but PX's bartenders tend to be more willing to experiment).

In D.C., for Cosmo variations and the like, you want to try Gina at PS 7's.


Bethesda, Md.: OK. I get it that this Sunday is Mother's Day. But what about those of us who won't be celebrating Mother's Day (for whatever reason). Are there any interesting things to do, especially during the day, that are NOT heavily into Mother's Day?

Stephanie Merry: Sure. Here are some options (though all of these could also work as fun Mom's Day outings): Get free ice cream in Dupont, check out an all-female cabaret at Warehouse, take advantage of extended hours at the Phillips for the final day of the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibition or take in some punk and hardcore music on U Street. Okay, maybe you shouldn't take mom to that last one.


Sausage Fest: When's the Capital BBQ thing happen this year?

Julia Beizer: You mean the Barbecue Battle? June 26 and 27, it appears.


Paradiso: I love the vegan pizza at the Pizzeria Paradiso in Dupont, but every time I've been there (3) the service has been incredibly, almost laughably bad. Is the Georgetown one any better, or should I still to carryout?

Fritz Hahn: Honestly, I generally eat/drink at the bar, because I got for beer and snack on pizza, not the other way around. I have had good service at the Georgetown branch, though.


re: DC in 6 hours: Planning your tour would help if there was a theme. My theme would revolve around food and shopping. So I'd stop by Chinatown (red line, Gallery Pl.) to grab some sandwiches and snacks from Cowgirl Creamery, a sweet from Red Velvet Cupcakery. Then I'd take my goodies and walk over to the nearby National Building Museum where I'd sit, eat, and chat with my friend at the courtyard inside the museum. Check the museum's gift shop. And from there, get on the Orange Line's Judiciary Sq to head over to the Mall (Smithsonian) where anything goes.

Stephanie Merry: Some other options for an afternoon in D.C...


Jared from Fairfax: So seriously, where do all the awesome bar crawls happen? Is there a company that sponsors them somewhere? There are 8 million clubs-bars in D.C. and if someone were smart they would have themed bar crawls EVERY weekend!



Fritz Hahn: There are not a lot of awesome bar crawls in D.C., because a large number of bars (including most of Adams Morgan, for example) have fine print in their "voluntary" neighborhood agreements that stipulate that they will not participate.

Hence why most organized D.C. bar crawls tend to feature the same bars (Sign of the Whale, Rumors, Public Bar, Mackey's, etc.) that are nowhere near residential areas.

Speaking of bar crawls, though, there's a cool one this Saturday called D.C. Bar Golf that involves putting greens at nine downtown bars. All the details are in your handy Nightlife Agenda.


Washington, D.C.: One of my dearest friends is coming back to D.C. after spending three months volunteering in Tanzania. As a welcome home, my boyfriend and I are going to take her to dinner tonight. Do you have any recommendations of a few possible places in the District (metro accessible) that have an extensive beer menu (she loves good beer), and won't be hard to get in this late? Thanks

Julia Beizer: Actually, yeah. Bistro La Bonne on U Street and Cedar Crossing Tavern, a cozy bistro in Takoma D.C., are both really casual bar/restaurants that offer wide beer selections. The former more than the latter.


Arlington, Va.: So... here it is again.. H st. beer garden opening date? Hoping for this weekend for a friends birthday gathering Saturday afternoon!

Fritz Hahn: Next weekend.


First Date: I would love for a guy to take me to a ball game as a first date. You have something to talk about vs the dreaded "first date interview" and I don't have to stare in my closet debating what pair of high heels to wear. Other things I'd love to do and have suggested (and been shot down one for some reason) -- go karting, trapeze class, kayaking, the opening of an art show, see a band, and hiking the Billy Goat. Which - to get Hax-y - why are these guys clinging to the first date dinner/drinks/movie format? Tend to have more fun, am more relaxed, and second date always happens after those -- dinner/movie - not so much.

Rhome Anderson: Guys that cling to the dinner-movie-drinks-interview format are LAME. All of your suggestions are awesome. If someone shoots those down, they are lame. They're doing you a favor by not wasting your time hiding their lameness until after a few dates. Step your collective dating game up, folks. A little creativity and imagination always trumps spending money.

Fritz Hahn: I would NOT go to trapeze class on a first date. Possibly not kayaking, either. (Do you know if your date is a strong swimmer?)

Rhome Anderson: Ok Fritz, I'm amending my statement to include a bit of common sense, which I shouldn't have to emphasize. Tailor your date to interests and abilities. You should be able to size someone up and determine whether they're suited to a really athletic adventure.


Arlington, Va.: Counting calories and boozing your face off are diametrically opposed activities.

Considering a D&S only has about a half-can of ginger beer anyway, then 4 of them is still only going to be about 2 cans - what's the big deal? Go for an extra walk that week or spend an extra half hour in the gym and forget about it. Or maybe don't drink so much if you're on such a rigid diet...

Fritz Hahn: I like the way you think. True story: A bartender once used some friends and me as guinea pigs to see if we could tell the difference between drinks made with diet tonic, club soda, etc. We guessed right every time -- I just didn't like the taste as much.


Fledgling "cruise director" in Alexandria: Hi GOGs! For lack of a better description I am the cruise director for a local young adult civic association. So far I've been successful in planning bar outings that can also engage the non-drinker but now I am struggling. I need a bar that can accommodate 8-10 people on a week night after normal happy hour (T-TH work best) that is metro accessible but also has near by parking and some kind of activity. We've done trivia, board games, karaoke, drag queen bingo, doggy happy hour, jazz in the sculpture garden, cosmic bowling. It can be Alexandria or DC. Please help!

Fritz Hahn: Free pool for ladies on Tuesdays at Continental? (Rosslyn, but still close!) Skeeball tourneys at Big Hunt or Iron Horse Tap Room? Shuffleboard at Bedrock or Rocket Bar?


Preppy Pool Parties: Just a warning to my fellow GOG readers before jumping in that pool. Make sure you have all your shots!!!

Fritz Hahn: See, the thing about afternoon weekends at Volta is that all the action is on the deck around the pool, not in the water.


Washington, D.C.: Gurus,

Can you suggest a venue for a low-key mid-to-late 20s birthday party in a few weeks-- ideally somewhere in DC with an outdoor space where a large group of friends can stop by, have a drink or two, hang out, and hopefully enjoy nice weather? I realize it's difficult to find an outdoor space that won't be too crowded, but if anyone can come up with a suggestion or two, it's you!

Fritz Hahn: You don't say what night, but I think the outdoor patio at Elephant and Castle (on Penn) is one of the most underutilized spaces downtown. I'd throw the side bar at 19th and the back patio at Social in there, too. (A friend recently had her birthday at Social, and they reserved a space for her for free.)


washingtonpost.com: Alright folks, that just about wraps it up for another week. Join us next Thursday at 1 p.m. for more. And gentlemen, if you're taking your mother out for brunch on Sunday, make sure to at least iron that shirt, cool?


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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