Love is in the air, even in DC

Valentine’s Day is the quintessential Great Evening Out, and we plan to take advantage of the holiday and spend some quality time together this weekend, enjoying the great dining and entertainment that Washington DC has to offer. In fact we’re doubling down on romantic dates this Valentine’s weekend, inspired by Great Evenings out # 5 and #12 from Just the Ticket: An Insider’s Guide to Great Evenings Out in Washington, DC.

We’ll cross town to Capitol Hill for Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Folger, followed by drinks at the Hawk and Dove afterwards. People we know who have already seen the Folger Theater’s production of this Shakespeare classic love story, have been raving about it.  Peter Marks, the leading theatre critic for the Washington Post, reports that this production renewed his romance with the play .

The next night it’s up to Silver Spring for dinner at a place we’ve not tried before, Urban Butcher, from Great Evening Out #11.  Then it’s on to see You, or Whatever I Can Get, a flirty comedy-musical about dating in the twenty-first century. For an established couple like us, this one represents a terrific date night opportunity partly because it shines such a bright and funny light on the process of seeking a relationship that it reinforces how wonderful it is to already be in a good one.  Insiders have been enjoying the tongue-in-cheek dating advice and character videos put out by Flying V, the company producing the show — check them out at and

We’re also geeking out that this Valentine’s Day weekend represents the highest variety of available Great Evenings Out from our e-book for this quarter — 10 of the 12 entertainment options we’ve raved about are on offer right now. You’re sure to find something you would enjoy!


What are your date-night plans for Valentine’s?  Have you seen and enjoyed any of the Great Night Out Shows?

The Details

Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Folger – 201 E Capitol St SE, Washington, DC 20003 202-544-7077 Web: Performs Tuesdays through Sundays through Mar 6. Top Ticket Price $75.

Hawk and Dove – 329 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington, DC 20003.

Urban Butcher – 8226 Georgia Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20910 301-585-5800 (We have our eyes on their 48 hour ox brisket which must already be over the coals.)

You, or Whatever I Can Get by Flying V at the Silver Spring Black Box – 8641 Colesville Road Silver Spring, MD 20910

It’s been a busy week for Just the Ticket team

In a whirlwind few days, we’ve seen the plays and eaten and drunk at most of the restuarants from Great Evenings Out # 1, 6, and 7 from Just the Ticket: An Insider’s Guide to Great Evenings Out in Washington, DC. What a great time! We have to admit to feeling just a little smug about what a great roster of choices we’ve made.

On Tuesday, we spent the evening in the Gallery Place/Chinatown area.  Starting with China Chilcano, which was sleek and bustling at 6 PM. Bright neon sculptures echoing the giant drawings at Nazca, Peru, shone down on the crowd. House-filtered sparkling and still water are always complimentary here, so we started with some bubbles. We shared three appetizer-sized items — a Chinese-influenced shrimp dish, a salad of thinly sliced octopus in a scrumptious sauce with nice greens, and braised bok choi and oyster mushrooms. Pisco cocktails with a sour cherry liqueur set it all off nicely.   Two servers looked after us attentively and helped us wrap up on time. None of this was special treatment – you’ll have to tell a lot more of your friends about the book before there’s any danger of that.

Walking a few hundred feet up 7th St NW took us to the Lansburgh lobby where we met our friends to see the show.  A 90% full house was ready to laugh as the curtain drew up. This, by the way, is one of those rare shows where the term “Curtain” isn’t just a leftover bit of language. A beautiful screen of red and gold fabric hid the stage from view. We were especially surprised at this because Father Comes Home From The War from Great Evening Out #6, which we’d seen the night before, also had a real live curtain. Coincidence or trend? Only time will tell. Shortly, that curtain opened on The Critic and The Real Inspector Hound.

We’re not going to give a review of the plays, but there are some fun things we have to point out from The Critic. First, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, from beyond the grave, was poking fun at your Insiders. One of his characters, Mr Puff, makes his living by writing glowing reviews of plays he has not seen, and getting paid for it. At intermission, we had to admit that we are, in a way, Mr and Mrs Puff, but as we are paid directly by the people who seek our advice rather than by the producers of the shows or restaurants, we can live with ourselves.

Puffers we may be, but we are your puffers.

Second, there is a delightful set piece with lovely 19th century style moving ocean waves on the stage within the stage that is a joy to see and is such a spectacle it would redeem a worse play. It is simply lovely, and also a welcome upgrade from a popular recent stage trick of having actors ruffle lengths of blue silk to indicate the sea. Proof that if you leave an idea to age for a century or so, it can graduate back to novelty when you pull it off the shelf.

Post-show drinks at Oyamel were lovely, and on our Facebook feed we drew the envious comments of our friends for having such a full night out on a weeknight. We sat at the quieter side of the bar and picked a couple of Mezcal based cocktails. Both were smoky and well balanced on the sweet / tart scale. This isn’t a beverage world we know much about, so we chatted with the bartender and figured out that Mezcal is to Tequila more or less as Scotch is to Bourbon. They both use the same base ingredients, but those ingredients are more heavily roasted in the case of Mezcal, so you get a smoky flavor.

Learning this much stimulated our curiosity, so we wrapped up with a well curated and documented flight of three different Mezcals accompanied by a tart red fruit drink that was presented as a palate cleanser between tastings. We shared many tiny toasts to this now verifiably Great Evening Out and to all of you who are on this adventure with us.

The Details

China Chilcano  418 7th St NW, Washington, DC 20004. (202) 783-0941

The Critic / The Real Inspector Hound perform Tuesdays- Sundays through Feb 14. Top ticket price is $110. 450 7th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20004 . Box office 202-547-1122. Web:

450 7th St. NW
Washington, DC

401 7th St NW
Washington, DC

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

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  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.  

Holiday evenings out in DC — a quick year end guide

UPDATED:  Check it out, though as of Jan. 8th most of these shows have closed, the super-popular engine-that-could BAD JEWS has extended AGAIN until Jan. 17th through Jan. 31st.  Strongly recommended, this show makes for a sarcastic-fun night out!

We’ve had a chance to see some of the year-end shows, most of them holiday-themed, that will make for a great night out.

In town to visit your relatives, or still stuck in town to finish work on the budget bill?  We’ve got you covered for some evening entertainment.

A Very Pointless Holiday Spectacular.  Mead Theatre Lab in Gallery Place.  We’ll let them tell you about it: “It’s Christmas eve at the North Pole, and Santa’s elves are off the clock and ready to cut loose! Pointless Theatre presents a winter cabaret for adults; an irreverent celebration of the holidays featuring puppetry, improv, and a funky reindeer band.”  We saw the show, it matches the description.  Playing most nights through Jan. 3rd and the top ticket price is only twenty-seven bucks. Buy tix at their website.  While you’re going, you might try dinner beforehand at Zaytinya and a drink afterwards at Proof, all within one block of the theater.

Bad Jews.  Studio Theatre in 14th Street Corridor.  We saw this show last year; it was so popular that it has returned.  A biting and uproarious look at the family ties of some twentysomethings in New York, thrown together after their grandfather’s funeral.  Funny in a very savage way — only those with a sarcastic sense of humor will love this.  Playing most nights, and afternoon weekends, through Jan. 3rd.  EXTENDED THROUGH Jan. 17th 31st, so tickets are still available! Buy tix at their website.  I think these characters would LOVE 14th Street, and might likely begin and end the evening at Churchkey.

An Irish Carol.  The Keegan Theatre in Dupont Circle.  This show is a perennial for this company, so expect a high quality production.  We love Keegan for using an intimate space to explore popular theatre conventions, this show is right in that line.  We haven’t seen this one yet, and we’ll update this post if we have a chance to get over to Keegan this weekend [EDIT:  we made it to the Sunday evening show, would definitely recommend it for tonight!].  Four performances left, Dec. 26-31 (Sat-Sun-Wed-Thu).  Buy tix at their website.  Stay Irish with dinner at James Hoban’s, a few blocks away and south of Dupont Circle, or skip continents to Asia with nearby Bua Thai on P Street.  Head over to Dupont afterwards for a beer or cocktail at Kramer Books & Afterwords, open all night.

Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.  Woolly Mammoth in Gallery Place.  A high-octane and high-concept show with lots of guilty and straightforward laughs.  In just over 60 minutes the spirited cast runs through roughly 30 skits, from 15 seconds to four minutes long.  They’ll explain the rest to you as the show gets rolling.  Lots of audience participation.  The audience when we saw it were particularly enamored of the God skit, though I liked the ramen-sumo bit best.  Wed-Sun through Jan. 3rd; special NYE performance and post-show party.  Buy tix at their website.  I’d do pizza or a burger at Matchbox, and try to get to the theater early for some people-watching from the catwalk.  Wrap up with drinks at Oyamel next door!

Got more shows to recommend?  Think we’re crazy?  Just want to chat?  Let us know in the comments below or send email to