A Great Afternoon Out at the National Zoo

A great afternoon at one of Washington’s biggest attractions — the National Zoo — has recently become much more popular with the addition of Bei Bei, the newborn panda.  We’re also glad to report on another reason to enjoy a visit to the zoo coming soon: One of our bar picks is branching out!

Duke’s Grocery – our after show bar for Great Evening Out #4 in the Dupont Circle and 14th St area from Just the Ticket: An Insider’s Guide to Great Evenings Out in Washington, DC – will open a new location right by the Zoo entrance later this year. We’re very excited about this, because the National Zoo is a favorite place to take people who are visiting; but there hasn’t previously been a satisfying food source so close to the zoo. Duke’s Counter (3000 Connecticut Ave NW) will be a welcome oasis for zoo visitors who have worked up an appetite walking Olmstead Walk, the America Trail, and the Asia Trail.

Because Duke’s isn’t open yet, and we feel sure many of you will include a National Zoo visit during your time in DC between now and then, let us offer a few Insider thoughts about dining around the zoo in the interim.

First, here’s a very insider tip for getting to the zoo. If you’re traveling there by Metro, DON’T be fooled into getting out at the Red Line stop called Woodley Park / Zoo. Instead, ride to Cleveland Park, just one stop away. Both stops are about equal distance from the zoo entrance, but it’s uphill from Woodley and downhill from Cleveland. So travel like an Insider: take the train to Cleveland Park, walk down Connecticut Avenue to the zoo, have a lovely visit, then carry on downhill along Connecticut again to Woodley Park, and take the train on to your next destination.

With that in mind, if you’re looking for a bite before the zoo, consider Alero (3500 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008), a fun tasty Mexican place steps from the Metro station in Cleveland Park. High quality and friendly service have kept it serving in this spot for decades in a neighborhood where restaurants usually come and go like clouds.

If instead you’ve made a morning visit to the zoo and want your lunch afterwards, walk downhill along Connecticut Ave NW and grab your lunch at the recently renovated Lebanese Taverna (2641 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008.) This restaurant is part of a regional chain, every outlet of which offers tasty affordable Mediterranean food in comfortable spaces. They can serve you anything from a snack to a banquet. When you’re done, there’s a rare mid-block controlled cross walk to get you across busy Connecticut Avenue, over to the Woodley Park Metro stop, and on to the rest of your adventure.

In either instance, we recommend a light lunch to save space for dinner during one of our Great Evenings Out! As ever, please let us know if this advice is useful to you and how we might make it better.

Test-driving a Great Evening Out

This weekend, we took our own medicine and took Great Evening Out #4 in the Dupont Circle & 14th Street area from Just the Ticket: An Insider’s Guide to Great Evenings Out in Washington, DC to the test.

We had family visiting from out of town and, after a trip to the National Zoo, we had a big sushi lunch at Tono Sushi. We skipped the dinner recommendation, but we went on to see Picasso at the Lapin Agile at Keegan Theatre on Saturday evening, followed by drinks and small plates afterwards at Duke’s Grocery. On Sunday morning, a stop at Le Diplomate for drinks at the bar filled in the last part of this remixed Great Evening Out.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile is a lot of fun. As expected, the actors, especially those in the key roles of Einstein (Bradley Foster Smith, in the picture above, opposite Amanda Forstrom) and Picasso, are gripping. There are clever projections that enliven the set with illustrations for some of the dialog about art and physics. Though we’d seen the play once before, we had forgotten how full-on funny the script is. It also gives you some interesting things to think about: Do individuals, or groups and movements, have more significant long-term impact? What were the major themes of the twentieth century? Is art more moving than science? A lot of laughs with something to talk about after make for a worthwhile play any night.

Duke’s took great care of us. Imaginative cocktails, a sparkly crowd around us, good food for members of our party who had suddenly remembered skipping dinner, and it wasn’t hard to get a table. Several of our group were theatre makers themselves, so the production got chewed over along with the meal.

“Le Dip” was pleasantly abustle with brunch eaters when we wandered in around 11 am on Sunday. Our party of eight held a corner of the bar and sipped hot chocolate, wine, and cocktails while planning the rest of the day in this amazing neighborhood. Seeing, and smelling, other people’s meals as they were delivered by the super-competent wait-staff reassured us that the kitchen remains excellent.

We were glad to discover that even in our mixed-up order, these three events went well together for locals and visitors alike. Anybody else out there mixing these Great Evenings Out in different ways?


Picasso at the Lapin Agile performs Thursdays-Saturdays, Jan 16 – Feb 13. Top ticket price is $40. 1742 Church Street, NW Washington, DC 20036. Box Office: 202-265-3767. Theater web site

Le Diplomate, 1601 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 202-332-3333 lediplomatedc.com

Duke’s Grocery, 1513 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20036

How we eat out in Washington, DC

Earlier this week we called out The Washington City Paper list of 52 great things to do in Washington, D.C.

Their restaurant recommendations didn’t overlap with any of the ones we included in the first edition of our quarterly ebook Just the Ticket, but as we pored over the list it reminded us of one of Washington’s heated debates, so we’re bringing the question to you.

A few of the best places they put on their list are restaurants that don’t take reservations. Hopeful patrons show up early and wait in line, either to be seated immediately or to sign up to get a text when there’s a free table.  It’s driving many of DC’s foodies crazy, as the time commitment and uncertainty can be pretty steep, particularly on a weekend night out.

We’ve eaten at a couple of these restaurants, and give an enthusiastic thumbs-up to Rose’s Luxury, in the Eastern Market neighborhood.  We’ll brave the line up to 45 minutes before the restaurant opens, and have our friends meet us once we have a better idea of what time we can get a table. However, despite our enthusiasm for the form, we’ve been shying away from no-reservation restaurants for Just the Ticket for two reasons:

  1. visitors don’t have the patience and/or enough advance info to go through that kind of rigmarole.
  2. an evening at one of these restaurants, which tend to serve multi-course meals and encourage a slow-dining, food-and-drink savoring approach, is usually the entirety of the great evening, leaving no time for other entertainment.

So we’re looking for your thoughts.  On the one hand: exceptional food and service at a relatively affordable price for such high-quality meals and the experience of a truly “hot” dining venues.  On the other: there’s that pesky 20-45 minutes or so in line, outdoors, while you fret that you might not make it in. (The modest consolation is that most of these restaurants are in neighborhoods with other good places to eat that are easier to get a table at.)

What do you think? Is no-reservations dining something that would fit into your future DC visits or not?

Great things to do in DC

The New York Times recently published their list of 52 places to go in 2016. Washington, DC made the list (#26) along with other great cities like Mexico City and Dublin.

It’s always nice to have some light shine on our beloved city! … However, DC’s local free weekly, The Washington City Paper, threw some shade on the Gray Lady’s recommendations. We’re all excited for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, but it doesn’t open until late in the year, and the only restaurant the Times mentioned, Momofuku, is one that has its main branch in New York. City Paper, which is a great source for what’s going on in DC while you’re visiting, graciously published their own list of 52 things to check out while in town, which we think is spot on.

They call out several of our favorite theaters, including Studio and Folger, both of whom have terrific shows featured in the Jan-Mar 16 release of our quarterly ebook Just the Ticket: An Insider’s Guide to Great Evenings Out in Washington DC, and Woolly Mammoth which is another of our favorites that I’m sure we’ll give space to in future releases of the ebook.

Did you see either of the lists, Times or City Paper?  What did you think?

Kicking off with Great Evening #1

critichoundPerformances have started for The Critic / The Real Inspector Hound at Shakespeare Theatre.  That means Great Evening #1 from our quarterly ebook Just the Ticket: An Insider’s Guide to Great Evenings Out in Washington DC is yours to enjoy, most evenings now through the show’s closing on Feb. 14th.

The show hasn’t been reviewed in the press yet, but there’s a great Washington Post feature about the show and about director Michael Kahn’s stormy, lifelong relationship with critics to get you excited for the show.  A picture caption in the story also let us know that the talented Hugh Nees will be in the cast, which is great news for the audience.  We’ve laughed at him in many roles over the years, including a gangster and an infant – those may have been in the same show.  We look forward to how he is used in this show.

 To save money when you see the show, there are some specific discounts on offer at Shakespeare Theatre:

  • Military members with ID: 25% off.
  • Seniors 60 and older: 10% off. 
  • Young ‘uns 35 and under: $25 tickets at select performances. 
  • Last-minute seats: Two hours before curtain for every performance, any remaining seat is only $25 (in person at the box office only). 

Take advantage of any of these to marshal your money for the bar after!

We are now looking forward to Just the Ticket Great Evening #3, featuring Sisters Rosensweig at Theatre J in the Dupont Circle neighborhood.  There are now early-bird half-price tickets available to many performances at ticketplace.org.  That show debuts on January 13th

Please have a great evening out while you’re in DC, let us know what it’s like for you, and tell us where you had a bite or a drink before or after the show.

We’d love it if you’d leave a review for our ebook, Just the Ticket, in the Amazon store to help other people discover the book!  Thanks.