The weather is warming up and patio tables at local restaurants are sure to be packed when the sun is shining. With plenty of sidewalk seats, roof decks and hidden patios in the region, there are many spots to enjoy a meal or happy hour outside. But scoring a table isn’t always easy. We talk about the tactics, etiquette and pleasures of eating outside.

Guests

  • Amanda McClements founder and editor, Metrocurean
  • Fritz Hahn Bars and Clubs Editor, Washingtonpost.com

Transcript

  • 12:26:47

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIWelcome back. There's a brief but glorious weather window in the D.C. region. A few all too short weeks when the weather is so perfect, we want to spend every possible second outside. What better way to achieve that goal than enjoying a great meal or a happy hour outside instead of in with roof decks, sidewalks cafes and patios aplenty. There's no shortage of places to grab a bite or a pint with a friend or tan under the sun or stars. But where to go, and how to get a table once you're there?

  • 12:27:17

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIHere to inform us about all of this is Amanda McClements, founder and editor of "Metrocurean," a D.C.-based food blog. Amanda, thank you so much for joining us.

  • 12:27:26

    MS. AMANDA MCCLEMENTSThank you for having me.

  • 12:27:27

    NNAMDIAlso with us is Fritz Hahn. He is the bars and clubs editor for The Washington Post weekend section and one of the paper's resident going out gurus. Fritz, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:27:36

    MR. FRITZ HAHNThank you for having me.

  • 12:27:37

    NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments, better call now, 800-433-8850, or send email to kojo@wamu.org. What's your favorite outdoor restaurant or happy hour spot? 800-433-8850. Fritz, you've been covering the D.C. patio scene for a while now. How has it change since you first started?

  • 12:27:57

    HAHNWell, I think the emphasis have actually moved away from what we used to call sidewalk cafes, basically being on the street out in front of the front door of the restaurant or bar, to people have put an increasing focus on having courtyards, having off-street options and, the last couple years, more and more roof decks, much more than patios. It seems that people get excited when a bar or a restaurant adds a roof deck now. And when a place announces, oh, we're going to have sidewalk seating, there's a little less enthusiasm.

  • 12:28:29

    NNAMDIAmanda, how does D.C.'s outdoor dining options compare with what we see in other U.S. cities?

  • 12:28:34

    MCCLEMENTSI think D.C. actually has a unique patio and outdoor dining scene because we have sort of wider streets because of the way the city is laid out. I think if you go up to New York or Philly, you're really cramming in a lot of seats in very small tight spaces, whereas D.C. kind of has the luxury of bigger sidewalks, bigger corners that you see downtown.

  • 12:28:56

    NNAMDIFritz, as they look to expand outside, restaurant and clubs have to be considerate and follow a fair number of rules and regulations -- this is, after all, Washington -- to stay on everyone's good sight. How tough can that be to do?

  • 12:29:10

    HAHNVery tough. I know of places that have been trying for years to open a rooftop deck or open a sidewalk. But there's so much worry from neighbors who may be behind the place or a block away because noise carries -- let's be honest -- especially at night when there's not a lot going on otherwise, the noise from a patio. And not -- maybe live music, maybe not a DJ, but just the sound of people outside drinking, laughing, having a good time carries in the humid summer nights. And I think that more bars are trying to be proactive.

  • 12:29:39

    HAHNLittle Miss Whiskey's on H Street, for example, voluntarily closes its patio three or four hours before the bar closes just to stay on their neighbors good side, which, I think, if more bars took that kind of view, that kind of long view, you'd see happier residents.

  • 12:29:53

    NNAMDITwo examples, the Black Cat. Black Cat has been trying to get this for a long time.

  • 12:29:58

    HAHNYeah. They have been trying to get a roof deck for a while, and I think that isn't a thing where you have neighbors who just aren't exactly enthusiastic about it. And, you know, Masa 14 down the block just added a new rooftop deck. And when that huge condo building that's going in across the street from the Black Cat, Masa, everything else, when that opens, those residents are going to look at a block that, by my account, already has two rooftop decks and say, hmm, this is kind of wild. But we'll see what happens.

  • 12:30:28

    NNAMDIAnd over in Virginia, it's my understanding the Virginia Supreme Court is considering a battle right now to use an alley between -- the battle is between Virtue Feed & Grain and -- which is allied with the city of Alexandria on this -- and the Old Dominion Boat Club. It's my understanding.

  • 12:30:44

    HAHNYeah. The Boat Club -- the alley that basically runs outside of Virtue has been for years a right of way for people who are trying to get their boats down to the Boat Club. And when Virtue moved into the space where it is now, the owners cut a deal -- the Armstrongs cut a deal with the city where they'd be able to close the alley several days a year in order to have, I think, it was on Oktoberfest and a pig roast, and, you know, these kind of events that will draw people to the neighborhood that'll be good for the city but...

  • 12:31:11

    NNAMDIOld Dominion is not having that.

  • 12:31:12

    HAHNThey're not having that, so...

  • 12:31:14

    NNAMDIThey said, no, we're going to court on this. 800-433-8850. Have you eaten al fresco during the winter? We'd like to hear about it. If so, 800-433-8850. Amanda, in front of some places, full tables make for a bustling sidewalk, but other's outdoor space is hidden away. What's the upside to a roof deck or a back patio?

  • 12:31:36

    MCCLEMENTSI think there are some huge benefits. I mean, you're -- in an urban environment, you're obviously going to have buses flying by, if you're eating right on the sidewalk, and cars and bikes and dogs and kids and, you know, all the kinds of things that make city life great. But the patio can be, you know, if you're talking about, like, a hidden patio or a courtyard or a roof deck, you're kind of removing yourself from a lot of that hustle and bustle that's going on in the sidewalks, which I think is a big plus.

  • 12:32:01

    NNAMDISo that becomes an advantage for you. Fritz, this time of the year when everyone wants to be outside, is outdoor space -- can it be a make or break for a place?

  • 12:32:10

    HAHNA make or break definitely. I think it also -- it's make or break for customers too. There are lot of people who might, for example, think, oh, today would be a great day to go to the Standard, the grill or the barbecue place on 14th. And they get there, and there's already a line outside. And one of the things I try to tell people is that when you wake up in the morning or you're leaving work and you think, oh, today would be a great day for a rooftop deck, remember that there are probably 2,000 people who've had the same idea as you in the last five minutes.

  • 12:32:33

    NNAMDIWell, do you have any tips for those people who want to be able to enjoy a nice meal outside on a beautiful day trying to snag a table?

  • 12:32:40

    HAHNMy advice to people is always to go out earlier in the week. And I know everybody has this mindset where they're going to go out for happy hour with their colleagues on Friday, or they're going to get together with their friends on a Thursday night to kind of blow off steam after a long work week. But the thing is, like I said, everybody has else has that idea. And so my tip is to go early in the week.

  • 12:32:58

    HAHNIf you go on -- oh, there's no difference between going on a lovely Tuesday night and a lovely Friday night, except the lovely Tuesday night, your server is going to be in a better mood. There's going to be fewer crowds. You're going to have a better time. You'll be able to linger, and -- plus, it's just a general, I think, a better all around feeling.

  • 12:33:13

    NNAMDIAny tricks that you have, Amanda?

  • 12:33:14

    MCCLEMENTSI agree with Fritz. I think Mondays and Tuesdays are such great nights to go out. Everything is less crowded, and, like you said, you know, everyone is kind of piling in. Or, you know, blow off work early and beat the crowds. If you can get there by 5 o'clock, you're probably going to grab a seat.

  • 12:33:28

    HAHNThat's -- I had to do that for standard a couple of times last year. It's -- there's -- if you -- they open at 5:00, and there's usually a line by 5:45. And if you want to get there, you sneak out of work maybe 10 minutes early, five minutes early. We're not saying leave work at three, but if you can leave, like, maybe 10, 15 minutes early.

  • 12:33:44

    MCCLEMENTSNo. We're not saying that at all.

  • 12:33:45

    NNAMDIOf course, if you have a show that ends at 2:00, you might be able to leave work at 3:00.

  • 12:33:49

    NNAMDIIf you have any tricks for landing a table outside even when it's crowded, we'd love to hear them. Call us at 800-433-8850. Share your tricks. We're talking with Amanda McClements, founder and editor of Metrocurean, which is a D.C.-based food blog, and Fritz Hahn, he is the Bars and Clubs editor for The Washington Post weekend section. He's also one of the paper's resident going out gurus. Again, the number 800-433-8850, but you can join the conversation at our website, kojoshow.org. Send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or email to kojo@wamu.org.

  • 12:34:22

    NNAMDIFritz, if I went to a restaurant I love in the dead of winter, notice they had some tables outside, and I'd like to go check out now, should I expect to have the same experience outside that I had indoors?

  • 12:34:34

    HAHNIt's funny. Some places are completely different animals when you look at their rooftop deck versus their inside. The Rock N Roll Hotel, for example, on H Street, known for being kind of a little bit of gritty, little bit of grimy place to see bands, but they have these huge rooftop deck now with -- it's actually got a shaded, tinted bar area. They have draft beer up there when they don't have inside, and it is such a great experience.

  • 12:34:59

    HAHNAnd if you're only used to, oh, OK, this place is the kind where you go for a cheap canned beer, all of a sudden, going up there -- and they open at noon on Saturdays and Sundays. It's just such 180 degrees from what you'd expect.

  • 12:35:12

    NNAMDIIs the allure of access to the open air sometimes a bigger drawing card than either the food or the drinks?

  • 12:35:19

    HAHNNo, I think that -- I mean...

  • 12:35:21

    NNAMDI'Cause I have always -- I've always had a hypothesis that if I just put some chairs outside on the sidewalk and just put some table, some plates and -- oh, I didn't have to serve anything. People would just come and sit there because the space is available.

  • 12:35:33

    HAHNI think that that's definitely true, and I think we both know a lot of places. I'm going to look at the Georgetown waterfront...

  • 12:35:38

    MCCLEMENTSRight.

  • 12:35:38

    HAHN...as example A where it's never really been good for food or drink or had anything other than a view really going for it, and yet you -- in the recent years, you may able to go down there and the place that's just been packed all the time. And Lauriol Plaza, I think, would be exhibit B for me.

  • 12:35:54

    MCCLEMENTSYeah.

  • 12:35:55

    HAHNTwo hour waits for a table on the roof for OK.

  • 12:35:59

    MCCLEMENTSRight.

  • 12:35:59

    HAHNMexican food and this frozen (word?) -- well, frozen margaritas are draw.

  • 12:36:02

    MCCLEMENTSYeah. There seems to be sometimes sort of an inverse relationship between the good view and the good spaces and good food, which is a strange thing that I don't know why that happens, but...

  • 12:36:12

    NNAMDIAmanda, don your headphones because we're about to speak with Stephanie in Leesburg, Va. Stephanie, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:36:20

    STEPHANIEHi. I just wanted to ask what the etiquette is for communal dining. Can we say please? Is that OK?

  • 12:36:27

    NNAMDIAmanda, when space is a premium, sometimes people lose track of their manners. Is there any etiquette, as Stephanie asked, that we should keep in mind when it comes to taking up tables outside?

  • 12:36:39

    MCCLEMENTSI think it's important to sort of read the crowd, and if people seem amenable to it and you're polite and you ask your tablemates down a communal table, you know, do you mind? We're going to have a couple of friends coming. You know, it's all about respecting people around you and communicating in a polite way, I think.

  • 12:36:54

    HAHNYeah. I'm thinking of places like Biergarten Haus, for example. Well, you know, it's set up like a German beer garden. There are just long communal tables outside, and you really can't say no to somebody. It's kind of the etiquette. It's if somebody comes and there are seats available at your table or they have fewer people than there are seats, you let them share. That's kind of the way it is.

  • 12:37:11

    NNAMDIHow about patio camping? One person shows up, order a beer -- orders a beer. Two friends show up later, they order some beer. They're waiting for five more to show up, order some more. We're never going to order food here, OK? We're just here. Oh, how acceptable is that?

  • 12:37:26

    MCCLEMENTSSome restaurants actually have policies against exactly that, so they will kind of give you the third degree when you ask for a table on the patio. They'll want to know exactly what your plans are and if you're going to eat or not. I know there are some patios where you're not allowed to just sit and drink. They want you to have -- be having dinner or having a meal. So, you know, I think it's all about just being respectful of, you know, wait staff and tip well if you're going to be sitting there, drinking a couple of beers for the whole afternoon.

  • 12:37:51

    HAHNYeah, there are places that ask upfront how many -- are you a whole party yet? And if you say no, then they ask you to wait at the bar until you're a whole party, and it's exactly for reasons like that.

  • 12:38:02

    NNAMDIWell, a lot of spaces with outdoor space seem to operate on a first-come-first-serve basis. Do any take reservations for outside tables?

  • 12:38:10

    HAHNThe big secret, I think, in terms of patio rooftop things in D.C. is that POV atop the W. You can actually reserve for groups of five or less, I believe it is, on open table, and you can reserve patio seats. And it used to be a case where the only way you could do that was to wait in the long line in the lobby until something opened up, and you'd be ushered upstairs. And that has the best of views of any rooftop in D.C.

  • 12:38:34

    NNAMDIIt really does.

  • 12:38:35

    HAHNI mean, you're a block from the White House. You're just on a street from the Washington Monument. If you've got family in town, I mean, that's one of the places I always think is the best, show off, hey, mom, check out how awesome the city is.

  • 12:38:45

    NNAMDIWell, I had the experience of having family in town who called me from POV and told me to join them...

  • 12:38:49

    NNAMDI...join them there before I even knew they were in town. Stephanie, thank you very much for your call. Here is Andrew in Washington D.C. Andrew, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:38:58

    ANDREWHi, Kojo. You asked earlier if anybody had eaten outside during the winter.

  • 12:39:03

    NNAMDIYes.

  • 12:39:05

    ANDREWAnd that's actually -- I'm not sure if it's a huge thing, but it's a pretty big thing up in Milwaukee. I've got some relatives up there, and one of my cousins took me out. And there's a big place that had a huge rooftop patio. It was very clearly used in the summertime. But during the winter time, they open it up, snow or whatever, you bundled yourself up, and beers and other alcoholic beverages were half off if you were willing to sit at the tables outside.

  • 12:39:39

    NNAMDIWell, Fritz can tell you that there are some places here in Washington that are trying to make their outdoor space inviting even when it's cold outside.

  • 12:39:46

    HAHNYeah.

  • 12:39:45

    NNAMDIHow well does that work?

  • 12:39:47

    HAHNSee, I like that idea. No, I was going to say -- I mean, I like the idea of your own patios. You know, you saw it with DC9 and Rock N Roll Hotel. A lot of places just put up heat lamps, and they go year-round that way and everybody gets huddled up. I was at a place in 14th Street, and everyone was just huddled around these heaters. And it was kind of like you had an invitation to talk to people because we were all standing next to each other.

  • 12:40:13

    HAHNThe flipside of that is places like The Reef on 18th Street which was -- used to be the one of my favorite bars in D.C., one of my favorite rooftops in D.C. But they decided to try to make it all weather because they had this problem where it would start raining, everyone would dash inside. And then all of a sudden, the downstairs bar would become incredibly crowded.

  • 12:40:31

    HAHNOr people would then rush back up as soon as rain stopped and the staff was trying to reopen it, so they tented it. And they decided to put plastic sheeting around so the wind and the rain wouldn't bother people. And it went from being this great open-air rooftop to feeling like you were inside a wedding tent...

  • 12:40:45

    MCCLEMENTSYeah.

  • 12:40:45

    HAHN...which is not really the experience that I'm looking for when I'm trying to go to a rooftop deck. I think Jack Rose, though, has those -- which is the great whisky bar in Adams Morgan -- has these panels that move depending -- they can move depending on whether it's sunny or rainy, which I think it's kind of the optimum solution.

  • 12:41:04

    MCCLEMENTSMm hmm.

  • 12:41:05

    NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation on al fresco dining in the Washington area and invite your calls at 800-433-8850. On a gorgeous night, does the food or the real state dictate where you go to eat? 800-433-8850, or send email to kojo@wamu.org. It's Food Wednesday. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:43:17

    NNAMDIWelcome back. It's a Food Wednesday conversation on al fresco dining in the Washington area with Fritz Hahn. He is the bars and club editor for The Washington Post weekend section. He's also one of the paper's resident going-out gurus. And Amanda McClements is the founder and editor of "Metrocurean," which is a D.C.-based food blog.

  • 12:43:35

    NNAMDIIf you'd like to join the conversation, call us at 800-433-8850. What's your favorite season for eating outside? Amanda, dog owners love outdoor patios because they can stop for a bite or drink while they're walking Fido. Should you find out that dogs are welcome before you go, or is it generally assumed to be OK?

  • 12:43:55

    MCCLEMENTSI definitely think you should check with the restaurant before you assume. Never assume. I am a dog owner and a dog lover, but, you know, I think that's a big mistake that people make is this sort of sense of entitlement that I can bring my pooch wherever I go. And I think you really have to be, again, respectful to the restaurant, the people are going to be around you. So check before -- some places have dog happy hours.

  • 12:44:15

    NNAMDIThis is my companion. Can I bring my companion for dinner? The owner says yes. Do I have to say that my companion is a dog?

  • 12:44:22

    HAHNI think they -- no, you see -- you've actually seen more places that are calling themselves dog friendly, too, which I think is the big boon like the Blue Banana in Petworth. Their patio -- they host fundraisers back there for dog-related organizations, and they invite people to bring their -- bring their dog to the patio. Cantina Marina on the Southwest waterfront, you know, as long as you keep track of your dog and doesn't accidentally jump in the Washington Channel.

  • 12:44:46

    NNAMDIHow about if we tend to assume that a patio can accommodate, well, a larger number of people than it really can? I'm pretty sure that's an assumption that a lot of people make.

  • 12:44:56

    MCCLEMENTSYeah. I think that, you know, again, if they're places that take reservations, you know, check online. Some of the nicer restaurants will take reservations for outdoor dining, and then you can tell, you know, kind of what the max number that they're willing to see it will be.

  • 12:45:10

    NNAMDISpeaking of pets, we spoke with Mary Kong of Girl Meets Food. She pointed out that some places encourage that there's a doggie patio happy hour at Arkansas where she says your dog will eat better than you do. I'm not sure that's what I'm looking for, but here is Rebecca in Falls Church, Va. Rebecca, you're on the air. Go ahead please.

  • 12:45:29

    REBECCAHi, Kojo. I just wanted to share with you and your panel that I own a restaurant called Clare and Don's Beach Shack in Falls Church, and we have an outdoor patio that fits about 100 people. And we do live music outside, and we have a full bar outside. And we are open all year round. We do have heaters. We also have a retractable awnings that deal with the rain problem. But then we can get rid of that when we want the sun back.

  • 12:45:54

    NNAMDIDo you know anybody called Mike, Rebecca? Because Mike tweeted to tell us, "Clare and Don's Beach Shack in Falls Church is a great place to enjoy the fine food and drink on the patio."

  • 12:46:06

    REBECCAWell, I do have a good customer and friend named Mike, who is a huge fan of yours, so, yes.

  • 12:46:12

    NNAMDIThat's probably the Mike who tweeted. Thank you very much for your call, Rebecca. Here is Ryan in Fairfax, Va. Ryan, your turn.

  • 12:46:20

    RYANHi. Thank you for having me. I just wanted to speak in regards to the pleasure of outdoor seating for smokers. In an area where smoking is more and more shunned upon, it's nice when there's a business that caters to or at least invites the demographic. One spot not quite in D.C. but in Reston, Va., there's the wine bar at Reston Town Center. And I had an experience there once where I was out on the patio, enjoying a glass of wine.

  • 12:46:51

    RYANAnd a patron walked up, or a new patron, and they inquired if they're allowed to finish their cigar on the patio with a glass. And the waitress responded, of course, we're a wine bar. By all means, please, come. And it just kind of made me giggle inside a little bit because it was a very welcoming environment, which, as a smoker, you don't always get.

  • 12:47:14

    NNAMDIAre there establishments, Fritz Hahn, that even ban smoking on the outside patios?

  • 12:47:18

    HAHNThere are, and that's one of the things that -- it's up to the -- again, it's at the owner's discretion whether or not. And since we're actually on rooftops and also places where it's possible that the doors are wide open and smoke might drift inside -- but, no, I understand fully what the caller is talking about. I mean, you do see a lot of places that put out ashtrays kind of subtly just to remind people that you can smoke up there.

  • 12:47:42

    HAHNAnd then you also get people who seem kind of shocked by the idea that there are going to be smokers in a bar. And they forget that they're outside, and they expect everything is going to be like the indoors.

  • 12:47:51

    MCCLEMENTSRight.

  • 12:47:52

    NNAMDIIt doesn't work that way. Ryan, thank you very much for your call. Here is Pamela in Falls Church, Va. Pamela, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:47:59

    PAMELAHello. Hello, Kojo. This is really a privilege to be on your show. And my call is about my husband and I love to go into D.C. and would really love to stop in at a rooftop bar and have a beer. But we are more mature. I'm in my 50s. He's in his 60s. And what we've seem to run into is the rooftop bars are really for 20-year-olds. Is there one that you could steer us to that kind of caters to an older crowd other than POV?

  • 12:48:33

    NNAMDIFritz Hahn.

  • 12:48:35

    HAHNActually, you know, this is funny. We were talking about this. We get a lot of questions like this in the summer because people assume that the pool party -- there are rooftop pool parties at the Donovan House, for example, too, which tend to get also a very 20-something crowd. Places that, I think, have more kind of diverse mix with a rooftop bar, you have the Biergarten Haus on H Street, which actually people just think of it having a big patio.

  • 12:48:57

    HAHNBut the problem is that patio catered so much to groups that they started -- they put in a rooftop deck with little whiskey barrels that you can sit around for groups of two and four rather than those big, long tables for 20-somethings. That's a really nice place to get a mix of ages. And I think Jack Rose also because they are a bar that focuses on cocktails and nice Scotches, nice bourbons, nice whiskeys. They also tend to get a crowd that's a little older because you don't see very many 20-year-olds wandering in to order a $14 cocktail or a really rare 18-year-old sherry or something like that.

  • 12:49:33

    NNAMDIPamela, well, there are a couple of places to start.

  • 12:49:35

    PAMELAThank you. I will try them this weekend.

  • 12:49:37

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. You, too, can call us. 800-433-8850 is the number to call. On a gorgeous night, does the food or the real estate dictate where you go to eat? Call us, 800-433-8850. Amanda, the size range of these places is incredible, with some able to seat as few as four or as many as 100 outside. How does size -- the size of a patio or a roof deck -- affect the experience?

  • 12:50:04

    MCCLEMENTSWell, I think, again, you're talking about sort of a barrier from some of the outdoor elements, the sidewalk traffic, and a bigger patio -- Zaytinya's pops to mind. It's set back off of the street. You still have a view of the sidewalks and what's going on down in Penn Quarter, but there are so many seats. You really feel like you're part of a, you know, sort of an environment, an atmosphere in and of itself.

  • 12:50:25

    MCCLEMENTSAnd some of these, you know, from a kitchen standpoint for the restaurants, you know, it can double the seating capacity of a restaurant. So, you know, some of the more popular places that are tough to get into, if they have a patio that's open, your chance of getting reservation might be a little bit better in the summer months.

  • 12:50:40

    NNAMDIFritz, care to comment?

  • 12:50:41

    HAHNWell, I was going to say the same thing. I think that, you know, there are people who assume that, hey, I want to meet up with my friends, so where can we go? And they think that, oh, we'll go to this place, not realizing your group of five -- some places, their patios only seat 40 people. And when your group of five shows up, all of a sudden you're taking up one-eighth of the entire patio. And that math doesn't get across a lot of people.

  • 12:51:02

    HAHNSo I was saying -- just actually the other day, we were putting together the list of our favorite rooftops on washingtonpost.com in advance of this lovely weather. We were talking about the Clarendon Ballroom and how it's not really as trendy as it used to be -- I mean, that was like the hot spot a decade ago, when it was brand-new -- and how that was the go-to place after work for a lot of young Arlingtonians.

  • 12:51:25

    HAHNBut now because it's not as hot, not as trendy anymore, you can show up there with a group of six, seven people on a Friday night and not have to wait in line for an extraordinary amount of time. And you all get in at once, which -- I know we were at Masa 14 a few weeks ago, and it was one-in-one-out to get to the patio. So when a group of three left, three people could go in. And if you had a group of five, that meant three of your group could go in and two would keep waiting outside.

  • 12:51:50

    MCCLEMENTSYou have to vote the others off the island.

  • 12:51:52

    NNAMDIOn the alleyway. Here's Lynne (sp?) in Fairfax, Va. Lynne, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:51:58

    LYNNEYes. Hi. Thanks for taking my call. I have a critique of a lot of restaurants in the District, including outdoor restaurants, and that is that I think they could use a really great sound designer to come and figure out how to make it so that you can hear the person who's sitting across the table from you and you don't have to say, what? What? And even in an outdoor restaurant, that can be a problem.

  • 12:52:25

    LYNNEI remember years ago I went to a rooftop restaurant in the District, and it was open all around. You could get the breezes. It was beautiful, and it had just a little canvas awning over it. And yet somehow that canvas awning just caught all of the sound and just blasted it down right back on people. So you really couldn't hear the person across from you. And I'm just wondering if that is something that restaurants in general put much emphasis on and if rooftop or patio restaurants do also.

  • 12:53:01

    NNAMDIFritz Hahn.

  • 12:53:02

    HAHNWell, I think that is something that a lot of places now that -- they're just so loud. They're really loud. They're buzzy. And restaurant owners tend to equate really loud with really popular and happening, and I think that's what people want. And at the same time, I find myself at some bars ducking out to the patio when I want to talk to people because I can't hear them inside.

  • 12:53:21

    HAHNI think Marvin comes to mind as one of those. You hang out at the upstairs bar there, and you just have to scream at each others ears. And then you wander up to the patio, and even though there's a sound system out there that's playing the same music, you can actually have a conversation on a tolerable level.

  • 12:53:35

    MCCLEMENTSMm hmm.

  • 12:53:36

    NNAMDIWe got an email - thank you very much for your call, Lynne. We got an email from Peter, who says, "A sadly unnoticed but wonderful venue in downtown D.C. is Harry's Saloon at 11th and E Street in the Hotel Harrington. I've been going there for 30 years now, and it's the closest thing to a Cheers bar in downtown D.C. All the food is great, best chili in D.C., blows Bens out of the water." You didn't hear that, Ben or Ben's children. "Plenty of outdoor seating on E Street, and it is surprisingly quiet. The staff isn't just friendly, they're family."

  • 12:54:07

    NNAMDII've been noticing that place for years but have never actually been in. Thanks for telling us that, Peter. And Larry in Shepherd Park says, "I've been lunching al fresco pretty much all winter. I stop by the food trucks at L'Enfant Plaza and then walk over to the hop garden at the Smithsonian and sit at one of the tables or benches in the sun. It beats the cafeteria food I would otherwise have to put up with." Food trucks offer what may be the ultimate al fresco dining experience, but they often run afoul of their brick-and-mortar brethren. Is it even a contest, Amanda?

  • 12:54:41

    MCCLEMENTSI mean, I think there's something completely different about sitting down at a table on a patio with, you know, a glass of wine and enjoying a full meal. The food truck scene, though, is such a great alternative to that if that's not what you're looking for. You know, Farragut Square and some of the parks downtown, you know, are full of food truck diners sprawled out in the sun on a nice day, which I think is a great alternative.

  • 12:55:03

    HAHNYeah. I mean, I just -- there used to be more places that -- or places that we're talking about, having some sort of deal where you could buy food, especially late night and take it -- and eat it on a bar's patio or an outdoor patio. It's just kind of a win-win situation. You come in and you drink beer or you drink wine or whatever while the bar's kitchen is closed. I haven't really heard too much of that this year, though.

  • 12:55:25

    MCCLEMENTSYeah.

  • 12:55:26

    NNAMDIWell, talk a little bit about a District Taco. District Taco, (unintelligible).

  • 12:55:31

    HAHNYeah. We were talking about this. This is the transition from, you know, the restaurants complaining about food trucks stealing their business, and then all of those food trucks are turning into restaurants because...

  • 12:55:41

    HAHNI think it's kind of -- there are a ton of them that are opening. I think Amanda might know better than I do, but...

  • 12:55:46

    MCCLEMENTSYeah. There are -- it's an interesting trend.

  • 12:55:47

    NNAMDIDistrict Taco will soon be opening on F Street in Northwest and D.C. soon, even though it has so far been operating out of Virginia only. Amanda?

  • 12:55:55

    MCCLEMENTSRight. I think it's like a reverse of the trend that people, you know, again, the food truck is a great entry point for people who aren't going to put the financial or have the backing to maybe get a brick-and-mortar place to start. But now, they're capitalizing on their success and their popularity and their brand and moving into traditional restaurant spaces.

  • 12:56:14

    HAHNYeah, I think the PORC guys are opening Kangaroo Boxing Club right? Is that the -- it's the PORC truck, I think.

  • 12:56:19

    MCCLEMENTSYeah, that sounds right.

  • 12:56:21

    NNAMDIHere's Sharon in Seattle, Wash. Sharon, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:56:27

    SHARONHi. I just was listening to your show, and I'm -- I live in Seattle, although I used to live in Virginia. And what they do at sunset at any outdoor seating, most of the restaurants seem to come around with a pile of fleece blankets. And they give you a blanket to wrap up in so that you can continue to sit outside. It's really wonderful.

  • 12:56:49

    NNAMDIA blanket when you're dining outside.

  • 12:56:52

    MCCLEMENTSYeah.

  • 12:56:53

    NNAMDIOK. I would expect that will happen in Seattle, though. Thank you very much for your call, Sharon.

  • 12:56:58

    SHARONSure.

  • 12:56:59

    NNAMDIThanks to the locavore movements, some restaurants and even bars are growing some of their own produce and herbs. How common is it to find a part of your dinner growing right alongside your seat, Amanda?

  • 12:57:11

    MCCLEMENTSIt's an exciting trend. You're seeing it more and more often. Post courtyard jumps to mind at the Hotel Monaco. They've had a really extensive garden where, you know, there's tons of tomato plants and herbs. Again, some restaurants are using their rooftops as a place to grow herbs or to even keep bees. There's a couple of places that are keeping bees...

  • 12:57:29

    HAHNThat's -- yeah, I just love the idea of this.

  • 12:57:32

    NNAMDIThe PORC truck people are opening the Kangaroo Boxing Club. Well, they're opening the Kangaroo Boxing Club later this year...

  • 12:57:37

    MCCLEMENTSYou got it right.

  • 12:57:39

    LYNNEOh, good, I got it right. I was...

  • 12:57:39

    NNAMDIIt's going to be at 3412 11th Street Northwest.

  • 12:57:43

    HAHNRight next to Meridian Pint in Columbia Heights.

  • 12:57:46

    NNAMDIAnd we got Seth -- a tweet from Seth, who says, "Perry's in Adams Morgan has a great rooftop deck, comfy seats, plants and string lights above. Food is pretty good, too. "Here in Ward 5, we're serving in the garden at Colonel Brook's Tavern," says Jim. Hey, Jim, good to hear from you. But I'm afraid were just about out of time. Amanda McClements, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:58:04

    MCCLEMENTSThanks for having me.

  • 12:58:05

    NNAMDIAmanda is the founder and editor of "Metrocurean," a D.C.-based food blog. Fritz Hahn, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:58:09

    HAHNThank you.

  • 12:58:10

    NNAMDIFritz is the bars and clubs editor for The Washington Post's weekend section and one of the paper's resident going out gurus. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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