Great Evenings Now, and Coming Soon

Fall has come to the DC area. Kids are back in school. Air conditioners are looking forward to a few months of rest. And we are pleased to trumpet the release of the latest edition of our free guide: Just the Ticket: An Insider’s Guide to Great Evenings Out in Washington, DC. In this time of transition let’s take a look at great shows still on stage from the last edition and a couple that are just popping onto the scene from the new book.

With seven shows in five neighborhoods, we’ve got fun things all over DC.

From the June – September edition, a few shows are still going strong and making these great evenings for you to check out:

Hand to God at Studio Theatre has been a big hit for the theater and the run has been extended several times, so it’s still onstage for at least another week or two. This story of a foul mouthed puppet in a church basement has been packing them in for months now. Insiders show up early for the best seat and a drink from the bar, and then get a genuinely fun arts-and-crafts project for the audience: make a sock puppet of your own to take and keep. Pro tip: Tuck the toe of the sock inward to make the articulated mouth. (1501 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20005 202.332.3300 https://www.studiotheatre.org/plays/play-detail/hand-to-god)

Urinetown at Constellation Theatre will keep rocking audiences with laughter through October 9th. It has been playing to sold out houses most nights, so jump on it quickly or you’ll miss it. (1835 14th Street NW Washington D.C. 20009 202.204.7741 http://www.constellationtheatre.org/urinetown.html)

Angels in America at Round House Theatre continues through October 30th. We haven’t seen this yet ourselves, but have heard great reports from friends who have. (4545 East-West Highway Bethesda, MD (240) 644-1100 http://www.roundhousetheatre.org/performances/angels-in-america/)

We thoroughly enjoyed Be Awesome: A Theatrical Mix Tape at Flying V Theatre, which will be on stage through October 9th. It includes 16 songs from the 1990’s, 3 performed live, all with interpretive performances which tie together into the story of a mix tape made by a parent for a newborn child. (4508 Walsh St, Bethesda, MD 20815 No box office phone http://www.flyingvtheatre.com/2016-season/be-awesome-a-theatrical-mixtape-of-the-90s/)

Sense and Sensibility at the Folger Theatre on Capitol Hill. It will continue through November 9th. We’ll be seeing it in about two weeks ourselves. This promises to be spectacular, oh, and the museum exhibit at the Folger Library comparing the literary fame of Shakespeare and Austen is a lot of fun. (201 E Capitol St SE, Washington, DC 20003 202-544-7077 http://www.folger.edu/events/sense-and-sensibility)

And already open or spinning up soon from the October-December edition:

Romeo and Juliet has broken from yon window at The Shakespeare Theatre.

Love’s LaBeers Lost by LiveArtDC clinks glasses for the first time this Thursday night.

Tap the download icon on this page to pull down the latest number and get all the details on these and the rest of the upcoming quarter’s greatest evenings out!

It’s time for more great evenings out

Just in time for the fall season and with some time to plan your holiday-season fun, Just the Ticket: The Insider’s Guide to Great Evenings Out in Washington DC, Oct-Dec 2016 edition, has been released.  At 42 pages, it’s a quick, easy read and an excellent resource for fun lovers, foodies and culture vultures who have some free time in the Nation’s Capital this fall and want to spend it well.

Get your copy today!  Only $0.99 on Kindle, and free to download as a PDF.

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A great evening by design

As post-modern Americans, we live largely in a built environment. Because of that, appreciation of design has become a big part of our life. We notice and care about the design of our mobile phones, our clothing, our gardens. An evening from Just the Ticket: An Insider’s Guide to Great Evenings Out in Washington, DC provides many opportunities to evaluate and discuss different disciplines of design.

  • The décor of your restaurant, both outside and in, gives you a chance to think about and talk about the visual and audio design of the place.
  • Mixology or cocktail crafting is its own realm of design.
  • The chef designs the dishes for flavor, aroma, and visual appeal.

It can be fun to consider how these different disciplines of design articulate with one another during your meal. Do the sound and sight of your surroundings support or distract from the culinary design elements? Are the general themes of the design around you saying anything to you? Are you and your companions picking up on the same things?

If you stay for dessert, pastry chefs do some of the most elaborate and playful design, with bold graphics in sauces, jewel like colors, and intentional contrasts of sweet and sharp. Did this final course remain in conversation with the rest of the meal or did it make its own separate statement?

When you get over to the theater, there are many recognized disciplines of design all working to craft your experience.

  • The architect who designed the lobby and auditorium probably hits you first.
  • Your playbill is the work of several authors and a graphic designer who probably also had a hand in any posters you saw in the lobby.
  • If there is music or other soundscape playing in the auditorium, the sound designer for the show probably chose it – the same person responsible for sound effects and incidental music in a non-musical play.
  • Curtains being rare, you’re probably able to glance over what the set designer has done to help create the world of the play.
  • Eventually, the lights will go down and come up again, as chosen by the lighting designer whose job it is to color emotional tones and direct your attention where the play wants it from moment to moment.
  • When actors enter the stage they will be wearing things chosen for them by the costume designer and carrying things picked by a props designer.
  • With greater frequency, live plays are supported by projected images or videos which are assembled by a projection designer.
  • A playwright has designed the words to be spoken and much of the action to be carried out.
  • The director designs the whole experience much in the way that the executive chef did for you earlier in the evening.

Most of the same questions we brought up for your dining experience also apply to the play. Are the elements of design working together to enhance your experience of the play? If things stand out or clash, is that an error, or is there content in the clash? Do elements of the design draw your attention to specific places or moments? Are those the places and moments you wanted to pay attention to? In what ways did you feel a unified experience of design, experience, and story? Delivering that whole package, or thwarting the whole package to make some kind of point, is the primary work of the director.

In the bar after the show, you can both appreciate most of the same elements we talked about for the restaurant and have some great conversation about how the different disciplines of design throughout the evening have contributed to your enjoyment. Do you see yourself as a connoisseur of design in daily life? What kinds of design interest you the most? Please let us know with comments below or a note to peteandsara@greateveningsout.com.

Fast Casual Dining – Choice or Chore?

Are you familiar with the restaurant concept of “Fast Casual”?  It’s the kind of place like Chipotle or Panera –– no table service, but the ingredients are fresher and the menu a little more diverse than a fast food place.  Often, as at Chipotle, the customer gets to assemble a dish cafeteria-style, asking for things to be tailored to their preferences.

We have mixed feelings about this sort of “Fast Casual” restaurant. This is the kind of place that we also think of as an assembly-line or car-wash restaurant. You order the basic structure of your meal from the first person you see, then you follow your food along from person after person at station after station making more decisions and pretty much supervising everything that happens to your meal. At the end, you have exercised extreme creative control over what you’re eating, but you also had to make a pile of quick decisions and interact briefly with four or five different people.

Sometimes we really like this. Eating exactly what we want. Trying out combinations or ingredients we might not previously have thought of. Other times, we just want to order a dish off a menu and get on with our day. How about you — what’s your take on assembly-line cuisine?

We want to know because in every evening in Just the Ticket: An Insider’s Guide to Great Evenings Out in Washington, DC we include a more affordable dining option along with the fancy place. And one thing we REALLY like about these Fast Casual places is that the diversity and quality of the menu usually adds up to great food value for your money. The clientele and staff tend to be young, lively and friendly, giving a really nice vibe for kicking off a great evening.

We’ve included Shophouse, which is Chipotle’s Asian side project, and Merzi, an Indian Fast Casual spot, as dining options in several evenings. Some of our friends and family are crazy about &Pizza which, you’ve probably already figured out, applies this model to personal pizzas. The whole category is growing rapidly; but should we let it grow in our evenings out?

Please share your thoughts either with comments below or by dropping us a line at peteandsara@greateveningsout.com.

Neighborhood restaurants – do they make the “Great” grade?

Do you know the category “Great Neighborhood Restaurant”? These are the places that rarely act as destinations for people from far away, but they’re faultlessly comfortable and welcoming. The food is always good enough that dinner there sounds like a plan if you live down the block. Maybe they sponsor an adult kickball team or something like that. When you go to yours, you’re likely to see someone you know almost any time. The whole menu looks tempting, but there’s this one dish you’re probably going to get every time. These are, in their own way, great places; and they add a lot to the texture of a neighborhood.

So far, we’ve mostly steered clear of this when pulling together plans for Just the Ticket: An Insider’s Guide to Great Evenings Out in Washington, DC. They just struck us as a little mundane for the kind of elevated date night we’re hoping to send you on.

But a few weeks ago, we tried to take ourselves to dinner before a show in Bethesda and learned that Food, Wine, and Co, which had been our preferred dinner place in that area, and we found out that it had closed its doors for good. As we cast around for a replacement (which was critical not just to feed ourselves but because we had recommended Food, Wine, and Co for great evening #9 in the just released edition) friends directed us to Persimmon (7003 Wisconsin Ave, Bethesda, MD 20815 301-654-9860 persimmonrestaurant.com) which turned out to be very much a Great Neighborhood Restaurant, with super-tasty seafood and friendly service, and definitely a good locals vibe.

We had a very nice meal, and decided we could use it for the evening in the July – September edition, particularly since it was right around the corner from the play. (Sara has updated the Kindle and PDF versions of that edition, so please update yours if you’ve already pulled it down.)

Our question still is, as a matter of general policy, should Neighborhood Restaurants like this be part of a great evening out? They don’t offer the kind of stand-out qualities we’re usually looking for (and which we’ve written about before). Persimmon, for example, has acoustic tile ceilings and absolutely generic booths and tables.   But the service was great, the food was better than fine, and the atmosphere was so much that of a gathering of friends, it was special in its own way.

So we’re putting this out as a question that I hope you’ll help us answer in the comments to this post below. Why should we or shouldn’t we include comfortable neighborhood restaurants in the book? How do they fit or fail to fit into your concept of a great evening out? If you’d like to send a private answer, you can also send it to peteandsara@greateveningsout.com. Thanks!

Open Table App

As we’ve written before, your smartphone can be a key traveling companion, helping you get around and find cheap theatre tickets. Today, we want to share a useful app for assuring your table will be ready at a restaurant from Just the Ticket: An Insider’s Guide to Great Evenings Out in Washington, DC.

OpenTable is a phone app with associated website that more and more restaurants use to allow diners to reserve a table without a pile of phone calls.  When you open the app, the first thing you see is the reservation form — expecting you to search for a table for two at 7 PM nearby.  All you have to do is hit the button, and a list of restaurants that are available then, usually sorted by how close they are to you. There are also ratings and reviews from other users of the app.

We like the impulsive, last-minute nature of Open Table’s system and do use it when on vacation.  However, as is true in many places, the best restaurants favored by locals in DC do tend to get busy at dinnertime.*

When used in tandem with our  suggested Great Evening Out, the OpenTable App shines as your own personal secretary, making your restaurant reservation and keeping the details handy for you.

When you open the App, enter a restaurant name, date and time (generally speaking, we recommend 6 pm dinner reservations if you’ve got a 7:30 pm or 8:00 pm showtime), and you’re off.  Even if you’re planning your visit from far away, the App should be able to find the restaurant in DC just from the name, but if not, click on the button that has the name of your location, and type in “Was” — the form will auto-fill to “Washington, DC” so pick that.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to do plan ahead or the restaurant is really one of the hottest spots in town, your first choice might not be available; OpenTable will also give you suggestions for other places nearby with availability, basic price and cuisine info, and diner reviews so you can make a good second choice.

Once you’re happy with the time you’ve chosen, pick Complete Reservation and you know your table will be waiting for you.  The App will keep track of the details, and will include a map and link to Google Maps handy, so you can wait until the day of your reservation to sort yourself out.

You’ll need to set up an account with OpenTable which is free and which only wants your name, phone number, and email, so it isn’t much trouble. If you’re a Facebook user, you can also log in that way. You accrue some kind of points for dining out with the app, but we confess, we’ve never figured out what those points are good for. If you learn, please let us know at peteandsara@greateveningsout.com.

Whether at one of our suggested restaurants or anyplace else, your smartphone can help make sure you don’t go hungry or wait a long time for a table when you’re away from home.


*We’d estimate that about half of the “nice” table-service restaurants we’ve listed require reservations many nights of the year; almost all of them in Penn Quarter/Gallery Place do, as this entertainment hub draws the biggest nightlife crowd in DC.  So if you’re considering making a nice restaurant a part of your Great Evening Out here, our Insider Tip is to get a reservation beforehand if you can’t take advantage of another route to the most in-demand restaurants, like eating very early or fairly late, and/or on a Tuesday or Wednesday.

14th Street Neighborhood Overview

During the day time, the 14th St NW neighborhood is sleepy, with local secondhand stores, doggie daycare establishments, boutique grocers and the like open for business, but few reasons for visitors to stop in. Around 4 PM, though, this starts to change as some of Washington’s hardest-to-book restaurants and most-hopping-at-happy-hour bars warm their ovens and chill their cocktail shakers. By pre-theatre dinner time, the sidewalks fill up with a youthful and energetic crowd ready to shed workday attitudes and cruise into an evening of fun.

You will also spot the sadly numerous DC workaholics dodging along the sidewalks, a loosened tie or perhaps athletic shoes in place of heels the only concession to departure from the office. They stop in Trader Joe’s or takeout restaurants to collect sustenance for their second shifts on their kitchen tables or couches. Pity them, pity them. A better evening awaits you here.

14th St NW runs through several entertainment zones, but the one that bears its name runs from Thomas Circle NW at its southern border up to U St NW where it overlaps for a bit with the U St NW Corridor. Logan Circle bounds it on the east, while 16th St NW to the west marks the transition into the Dupont Circle neighborhood. The whole area is liberally supplied with nightlife, shops, restaurants, and bars. The best Metro stop for the northern end of the neighborhood is the 13th St exit from U St/Cardozo (Green and Yellow lines). For the southern reaches of the neighborhood, either this station or Dupont Circle (Red line) are equally good.

Just the Ticket: An Insider’s Guide to Great Evenings Out in Washington, DC will frequently send you here for three theaters. At the corner with P St NW Studio Theatre Company rises with large photo murals of DC acting greats and dynamic posters for their current or upcoming work in all the ground floor windows. Studio has three similar auditoriums with 200 seats each plus one smaller flexible space that usually accommodates about 100 audience members. At 16th St and Q St NW, Theater J has a beautiful 200 seat auditorium inside the DC Jewish Community Center Building. Since it sits on the border, we’ll either call it a 14th St evening or a Dupont Circle evening depending on where we recommend dinner. Just south of the corner with T St NW, the Source Theater, which is home to Constellation Theatre Company and a few other arts groups, has a 100 seat auditorium and the most crowded lobby in town.

Music and burlesque acts perform at The Black Cat just a few doors south from Source. Many people eating and drinking on 14th St NW will also be heading to other nightlife spots in the U St NW and Shaw neighborhoods.

Interesting shops are scattered around the neighborhood. Here are a few good samples. Salt and Sundry offers household related gifts in case someone at home would like a tea towel or some fancy bitters. Filson offers hipster fashion from Seattle.   Batch 13 is the spot for exotic liquor. Miss Pixies, a neighborhood institution where we’ve furnished about a fifth of our home over the years, offers quirky domestic goods from all the best estate sales. Monarch Novelties, towards the southern end of the strip, looks more like a haunted property or a crime scene than an operating business. It’s a fun window to look in.

Restaurants are the big drivers of traffic to the area. Scanning roughly from south to north, we’ll highlight a few of the gems. The Pig serves satisfying meals enriched with porcine products. Birch and Barley is an elegant destination with the option of a tasting menu with beer pairings. Etto with its crisp pizza and succulent antipasti feels Roman enough we half expect our bill to come in euros. Le Diplomat has a stellar raw bar and great French entrees, and prime time tables book up weeks in advance. Barcelona is as Spanish as its name with marvelous charcuterie and tapas. El Centro D F is an excellent Mexican restaurant, specializing in a different Mexican city or state every 6 months. Busboys and Poets in all honesty is about a block north of the neighborhood, but we can’t walk this close to it without mentioning this next-wave bohemian diner powerhouse with a lefty bookstore and a dynamic little stage.

There are also a few exceptional spots for more casual, less expensive dining. The Whole Foods Grocery on P St NW has an extensive prepared foods section, draft beer, and a mezzanine full of seating. Amsterdam Flafalshop serves up those yummy lumps of chickpea with a culinary rainbow of accompaniments. Taylor Gourmet offers high tone sandwiches and salads alongside a funky soda machine that lets you mix your own flavors.

If you’re looking for a more dedicated bar experience: Church Key, upstairs from Birch and Barley, is a beer lover’s wonderland. Stoneys, across the street from Wholefoods, is the place to go if you’re just looking for an American neighborhood bar. 2 Birds 1 Stone is the hippest dive in DC. Bar Pilar greets the drinker with cozy charm.

Satisfy your sweet tooth with gelato from Dolcezza or fancy coffee and biscotti at Peregrine Espresso.

Between these businesses, and many more, sit some of the city’s best located loft apartments – most of them purpose built since DC never really had heavy industrial buildings. If you look closely, though, you’ll see the neighborhood’s heritage as Auto Row in the unusually tall and wide shop windows and the giant elevator at Studio. Enjoy your wander around 14th St NW. Whether you’re on one of our Great Evenings Out or exploring on your own, there’s plenty here to keep you happy.

Gallery Place Neighborhood Overview

Business suits stride by cargo pants to the rhythm of bucket drums amidst a swirl of activity.  Daytimes bring tourists, office workers, shoppers and neighborhood residents, while evenings bring sports fans, culture vultures and gourmands.  Whether day or night, come to the Gallery Place neighborhood to be at the nexus of local, national and international Washington. You’ll be joining the fun and people-watching all of the visitors, residents and workers buzz up and down the sidewalk.

“Gallery Place” is named for the three art museums that are part of the neighborhood, with the primary axis running along 7th St NW.

If you’re headed to Gallery Place for a Great Evening, you can ease the transition from a day of touring by putting one of the museums here on your late afternoon to-do list and therefore have only a short walk to supper and the rest of your fun.

To the north, between F & G Sts NW, sits the stately building that houses two museums: the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, both full of fascinating stuff with lots of timely, of-the-moment exhibits.  The marvelous interior courtyard is a wonderful rest stop for the active visitor, with its year-round fountains and covered atrium. Four blocks to the south at Constitution Ave NW is the National Gallery of Art with its companion sculpture garden. A world class art collection shelters in two buildings, one neo-classical and the other post-modern, while giant sculptures grace a fenced enclosure around either a fountain or an ice rink depending on the season. Well worth a few hours browsing during daytime hours.  And, like most museums in Washington, all three of these are entirely free.

The National Archives is the other major national museum in the neighborhood, at Pennsylvania Ave and 7th Streets NW. In addition to serving as the almost sacred home for important documents in our nation’s founding, a small exhibition space usually has some engaging show on about a facet of American history.

Other similar attractions in this museum-rich neighborhood charge a fee:  the Newseum and the Spy Museum.  We would recommend either one, with the Spy Museum being particularly worth the cost of admission for families and lovers of Disney-type attractions; the Newseum is more hit-or-miss especially given the steep price tag.

In between all of these museums are three major theaters – Woolly Mammoth’s below-ground ground jewel box and the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s two stages, the Harman and the Lansburgh – which often figure in editions of Just the Ticket: An Insider’s Guide to Great Evenings Out in Washington, DC. and in evening-out info on this website.

Celebrity chef Jose Andres holds a lot of territory in these blocks with Jaleo, China Chilcano, Zaytinya and Oyamel all dishing up delicious meals. We would point you to any of these for a lively, tasty dining experience, along with Graffiato or Rasika.  Any of these places will require both a reasonable-sized wallet and probably an advance reservation:  save a lot of cash and time at fast-casual choices Protein Bar, Teaism or Merzi.  Sweet teeth can be satisfied with the counter service at Pitango Gelato, Bakers and Baristas, or Red Velvet Cupcake. Thirsty travelers can hydrate at the District Chophouse, a brew pub whose bourbon barrel aged stout is a special treat, or Proof, an above-average (if perhaps too loud) wine bar.

If you’re surrounded by Capitols or Wizards jerseys, you can feel sure there’s a game on at the expansive Verizon Center. If you’re surrounded by families with kids in tow, then there’s probably a circus or Disney on Ice filling the enormous arena.

Two Metro stations serve the neighborhood, Archives/Navy Memorial to the south has Green and Yellow line trains while Gallery Place/Chinatown, with entrances in several spots in the neighborhood, has Green, Yellow and Red Line service.

Oh, and don’t be fooled by the “Chinatown” moniker — though there is a substantial and attractive Chinese-style “Friendship Archway” at 7th and H Streets NW, locals dismissively refer to this area as “China Block” (since it is hardly large enough to merit “town”), and pretty much none of the Chinese restaurants here are better or more interesting than what you’ll find in a strip mall closer to home.

Insider tip: If you’re yearning for some quiet moments, there are benches along a pretty pedestrian area just north of the Navy Memorial proper that are a great place to take a load off for a while and watch the passing scene, perhaps with a cup of tea from nearby Teaism or a pastry from Paul’s French patisserie.

This is the first in a series of posts in which we’ll provide a little more detail and context about the neighborhoods we send you to for Great Evenings Out. Please let us know if you’ve discovered anything in Gallery Place we should have mentioned either by commenting below or writing to us at peteandsara@greateveningsout.com.

Have a Great Evening Out this Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day Weekend marks the unofficial start of summer for the DC region. In these waning days of May, it finally seems safe to pack away coats and sweaters for the season, and for locals we are beyond delighted that the weather, which has been wet for weeks, promises to be balmy and dry. Will you be visiting our city for the long weekend, or looking for new ways to explore Washington as a local?  Here we highlight the opportunities for some delight-filled Great Evenings Out this weekend.

Looking back at our ebook, Just the Ticket: An Insider’s Guide to Great Evenings Out in Washington, DC , we found four great evenings that will be on offer this weekend.

Derring-do Below Ground can stimulate you with sangria and swordplay on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights in Crystal City, just outside the Nation’s Capital. Nelson Pressley of the Washington Post says of The Man in the Iron Mask , the very physical play at the center of the evening:

“The always-superb fights are accompanied by unexpectedly gripping scenes of high melodrama and even flickers of camp; as much as anything yet from Synetic, this has the texture of a good old-fashioned movie.”

A Playful Evening challenges your team to free a captive actor Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. Happy Hour performs at 7 or 9 PM each of these evenings, giving you and your friends plenty of dining-time options. The roof deck is open for the season at El Centro DF, a taste of one capital city, Mexico City, in another. Specialty tacos include lamb skirt steak and squash blossom. As for the show: Team work is everything as you race against both the clock and the opposing team. Insider tip, as we’ve had a chance to see and enjoy this show now: work out a system around your table of fellow interactive audience members to choose ideas to and agree on them. Err quickly and learn from your errors rather than debating till you think you have the perfect solution. Success is sweet, but you will also enjoy watching your less effective ideas fail in this fun video-game-brought-to-life. [And the photo accompanying this article is of Stephanie Tomiko and Robert Bowen Smith in the show. (Photo: Tony Hitchcock)]

Drink, Drink, and Be Merry will make you laugh, sing, choke up, and dodge fight scenes happening inches from you on Thursday and Saturday nights, and take you into one of DC’s truly local-flavor neighborhoods, Petworth. Merry Death of Robin Hood performs at 9 PM, so plenty of time for a delicious meal beforehand. We shared this evening with friends last Thursday and it is an excellent chance to hang out as well as enjoy some silly, and also moving, theater. Chez Billy is in fine form for your French-bistro dinner. DC Reynolds has some great craft beers on draft. Get your reservation and tickets right now if you’re shooting for Thursday!

French Bistro and Pakistani-American Drama, the final Great Evening of our Spring edition, is new to the round-up as the show at Round House is just opening this weekend. It is yours to discover on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday evening. Here is the video teaser:

Any one of these would be a memorable addition to your Memorial Day Weekend. As ever, please let us know what you get up to by commenting on this post or writing to us at peteandsara@greateveningsout.com.

The Details

Great Evening in Crystal City, Va.: Derring-do below ground

Dinner: Jaleo 2250 Crystal Dr, Arlington, VA 22202 (703) 413-8181 jaleo.com

Show: Synetic Theater’s The Man in the Iron Mask plays Wed-Sat, May 11 – Jun 19. Top ticket price $50. 1800 South Bell Street, Crystal City, VA 22202. Box office: 866-811-4111, synetictheater.org

Drinks: Bell 20 Tavern 1999 Jefferson Davis Hwy, Arlington, VA 22202

Great Evening in the U St Corridor: A playful evening

Dinner: El Centro 1819 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 (202) 328-3131 richardsandoval.com/elcentrodf/

Show: Spooky Action Theatre’s Happy Hour 1810 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 [yes, it is in a church]. Box office: 202-248-0301, spookyaction.org

Drinks: Tico 1926 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009 ticodc.com

Great Evening in Petworth: Drink, Drink and be merry

Dinner: Chez Billy 3815 Georgia Ave NW, Washington, DC 20011. (202) 506-2080 chezbilly.com

Show: LIVEartDC’s The Merry Death of Robin Hood performs Thurs and Sat, May 19 – June 11. Top ticket price $20. LIVEartDC at DC Reynolds 3628 Georgia Ave NW, Washington, DC 20010 Box office: liveartdc.com

Drinks: Stay at DC Reynolds for drinks after.

Great Evening in Bethesda: French Bistro and Pakistani-American Drama

Dinner: Mon Ami Gabi Bethesda Row, 7239 Woodmont Ave, Bethesda, MD 20814 (301) 654-1234 monamigabi.com

Show: Round House Theatre’s The Who and The What 4545 East-West Highway Bethesda, MD. Box office 240.644.1100. Web: roundhousetheatre.org

Drinks: The Barking Dog 4723 Elm St, Bethesda, MD 20814 barkingdogbar.com

 

New Dining Options for Your Great Evening Out

The Washington Post has one of the country’s best restaurant critics in Tom Sietsema, and a city with as many great restaurants as we have keeps him active.

Sietsema has recently released his spring 2016 dining guide. Our mouths are watering as we read it over, looking for treasures to bring you the best dining options for your great evenings out. Reflecting all the exciting dining action here in the nation’s capital, he both picks 10 new favorites and goes on to revisit and reevaluate some stalwarts of the dining scene. Here are some highlights that are likely to show up in future editions of Just the Ticket: An Insider’s Guide to Great Evenings Out in Washington, DC. We have tended to find his reviews pretty accurate.

Three of the newcomers look promising both from Sietsema’s review, and the location in great, accessible DC neighborhoods. We look forward to the field work of checking them out for you.

Kinship (1015 Seventh St. NW kinshipdc.com) is a pleasant walk very close to the Gallery Place entertainment district. The food is reportedly inventive and delicious. The menu is organized creatively by what inspired the chef to include a particular dish, whether something from personal history, a technique he was eager explore, or an ingredient that was particularly good while the menu was being assembled. Tom says dining here feels like attending a wonderful dinner party in the home of a friend.

A few blocks away and most convenient for a show by Washington Stage Guild, The Dabney (122 Blagden Alley NW thedabney.com) anchors a recent outburst of dining and drinking establishments in this location. This luxurious courtyard in the middle of a block was full of crumbling former industrial buildings just a few years ago, and still hides away from most visitors, but you’ll have no problem finding it with our Insider tip and your Google Map app. Now it sparkles, and according to Tom nowhere more so than inside The Dabney. The menu here is dedicated to regional food. The short, new-every-day menu for last night was rich with ingredients we saw at our farmer’s market last Sunday. There’s also a charming cocktail bar next door, The Columbia Room, for which we can already vouch — great service and atmosphere, and inventive drinks.  Your only issue in Blagden Alley is going to be getting a table, so if you’re visiting town, book your table now.

Nazca Mochica (1633 P St. NW nazcamochica.com) in Dupont Circle is really two Peruvian restaurants in one, a full menu restaurant above and a Pisco and Cebiche bar below. Tom praises the tastiness of the food, the appealing nature of the interior design, and the sense of occasion created as your server adds the last touches to your dishes before your eyes at the table. That’s it, we’re checking this place out tonight!

Fiola (601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW fioladc.com) in Gallery Place isn’t new, and being reminded of it in Tom’s revisit made us smack our heads that we hadn’t recommended it to you until now. It’s a short stroll to Woolly Mammoth Theatre and the Lansburgh, and we have had delightful pre-show meals here ourselves. Tom reports it as improved even from its previously high standards. The cuisine is elevated Italian. The service makes you feel like a visiting dignitary. Check it out!

To our fellow locals – please share in the comments below your impressions of any of these restaurants or anything else from the guide we should have our sights on or write to us at peteandsara@greateveningsout.com.