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Each year around Valentine’s Day we ask some of our favorite D.C. residents what they love about D.C. We round up artists, musicians, architects, designers, gallery owners, non-profit folk, musicians, local heroes, chefs and more that make D.C. a city we love.

We’ve asked them to submit a list of 5 things/people/places/food plates/drinks/anything really that they LOVE (all caps, boldnened) about Washington and they kindly obliged.

Below, you will find our second batch, courtesy of some very hard working men and women. Read, feel the butterflies in your stomach and don’t forget to comment with your lists.

Here are our 2016 Reasons to Love D.C. part 1, 2015 Reasons to Love D.C. part 1 and 2, 2014 Reasons to Love D.C. part 1 and 2, 2012 Reasons to Love D.C.

Eric Deggans

NPR TV Critic


First, an admission. I don’t live in the district. Or anywhere near Washington D.C.
Because my 11-year-old daughter lives in Florida, NPR was nice enough to let me stay there when it hired me to be its TV critic. So my impression of the nation’s capitol is more like that of an enlightened tourist; every few months, when I visit NPR’s shimmering headquarters on North Capitol St., I get a chance to sample a little of life in one of the nation’s most unique cities.

I wasn’t sure how much I’d dig Asian-Latin fusion before I tried it, but this restaurant in Chinatown is one of my early faves. I’m addicted to the lemongrass adobo chicken and the ribeye tacos.

Friend of mine took me to see Lydia Loveless here and I fell in love with the joint. Reminded me of the cramped rock clubs I covered in New Jersey as a music critic; hot, crowded and packed with great bands.

International Spy Museum
My most touristy indulgence. But as a stone geek for Bond and Bourne, I couldn’t resist a place that had KGB lipstick pistols and invisible ink.

Had a karaoke showdown with friends from NPR in this cozy place, which bills itself as having the largest collection of absinthe in D.C. Raised seating area above the bar was the perfect stage. And yes, we sang E.U.’s “Da Butt,” complete with backup dancing.

Busboys and Poets
It’s so NPR to name check a restaurant that also doubles as a bookstore with a political edge named for Langston Hughes. Maybe that’s why I felt at home from my very first visit to the flagship location of this local restaurant chain that pays such homage to the arts and the civil rights movement. And I’m a sucker for the collards and crab grits.

Shizu Okusa

Palate Pleaser at JRINK Juicery


  • D.C. is a transient city, making it more diverse and also “communal”. Everyone wants to help each other out + develop relationships outside of work (the main reason people end up here in the first place).
  • Farmer’s markets! I definitely make it a Sunday tradition to visit the Dupont one. It’s awesome to bump into familiar faces, see and eat what’s in-season and have freshly made items in my fridge, from local businesses. We’re all about that #locallife.
  • D.C. has experienced explosive growth through innovation and creativity in the last 5 years. It’s going through so much great change, yet the city is still very much rooted in its longstanding history and continues to celebrate that spirit.
  • Autumn. DC is hands down one of the most gorgeous metropolitan cities during the Fall.
  • The rise of artisanal coffee shops: I love spending my afternoons at a coffee shop, whether I’m working, reading, or browsing the interwebs. I have so many options to choose from, and they each have their own personality and vibe.

Gerard Burley

Owner of Coach G Fitness


Tights are acceptable
I mean the city is so fit that I can rock my tights anywhere and people are mostly down for it.

Politics at bars
I swear its the only city I can have a drag queen on my left and be watching the GOP debate on my right talk about ying and yang.

Mumbo Sauce
I hang around enough “real DC folk” that I know about mambo sauce and though I don’t know what’s in it. I love it.

The loud Go-Go store
If you’ve been by the corner of 7th and Florida NW then you know what I’m talking about. If not, shame on you.

Going to Virginia
I love the concept of going to Virgina like its a long lost land or requires a flight when its actually a 15 minute drive or 6 stops on the yellow line.

Allyson Jaffe

Manager/Owner of DC Improv

allyson on stage

  • I love that D.C. is a city with a small-town feel. You’re always running into someone you know (whether you want to or not).
  • I love my neighborhood and the many names it falls under, depending on who you ask. Is it Mt. Vernon Square? Penn Quarter Light? Shawish? NoMa-esque? Gallery Place North? Old City 2.5?
  • I love Old Ebbitt Grill. It was fun getting married there in 2010, the same day as Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally. That was so D.C. Old Ebbitt is right in the middle of the action, and there should be plenty of action this election year.
  • I love that there are tons of restaurants with small plates. It’s like an acceptable adult version of a kids meal. Zaytinya and Cava on Capitol Hill are at the top of my list.
  • I love the people of D.C. and their willingness to laugh. Because of them, I have had the opportunity to work almost two decades in a field I adore.

Desiree Venn Frederic

Insight + Strategy + Innovation, Nomad Yard Collectiv


Photo by Tony Gyepi-Garbrah

The Music
D.C. is blessed to have world class DJ’s at it’s fingertips – literally: afro-futurism, jazz, hip hop, classical, afrobeats, go-go geniuses: Underdog the DJ + DJ Native Sun + Ayescold + DJ Tomi Yayo + DJ Txnykill + Nag Champa and Flash Frequency of cmpvtr club. Huge thanks to Songbyrd, Mousai House and 9:30 Club for bringing the funk, constantly and feverishly. Oh and loving the smooth sounds of Sweet Earl Greene and Coup Sauvage.

Oh, I’d be remiss to forget “This is reggae music” heard on sunday nights on WPFW 89.3 FM, tune in and wine down. A fav!

​The Food
Chef Joseph Paire III at Mulebone​, his smoked beet salad is amaze. Huge thanks to the team at Tryst DC and Sidamo on H st. And Khao Poon DC is another gem, can’t wait for their new restaurant.

​The Experience Engineers
Sheldon Scott, no words just all the feels.

No Kings Collective’s Brandon Hill and Peter Chang – their latest installation “premium dry cleaning and laundry service” was fresh – no pun intended.

And artist centered activists’ Phillippa Hughes of pinkline project – eagerly awaiting the magic she’ll create at dupont underground and Victoria Reis of Transformers – they are my sheroes! oh and Micheal Berman at Eastern Market whose fight for the common public spaces inspires me greatly!

Oh and A Creative DC for galvanizing the creative community. Morgan + Courtney + Ayana et all: you rock!

The Collaborators
Smithsonian​’s Asian Pacific American Center, and their amazing director Jeanny Kim and curators Adriel Luis and Masum Momaya. The Ford Foundation Art for Change event at Impact Hub was an example of what all arts institutions should/can do to engage the active community.​

The artists who find D.C. to be deserving enough to stick around​ and ​create in less than desirable conditions, they deserve a shout out: Luke Stewart at Union Arts, Steven M. Cummings and his Chocolate City RIP project, the writers, the designers, the makeup artists, the painters, the dancers, the singers, the photographers and makers… big up yourselves!!!! WE NEED YOU!!!

The City Workers
The blue collar folks people who clear the snow, drive the buses and trains, clear the trash, files the forms, make the wheels turn – thank you. A huge shout out to the City Council and Mayor Muriel Bowser who are tasked with developing greater infrastructure that reflects it’s valuation of the people who make up D.C.’s creative community and contribute over 5 billion dollars in revenue. It’s our belief that a successful city invites its creatives and artists to the table while forming private–public partnerships that are essential elements of smart growth, delivering lower-cost, higher-quality infrastructure and services for all. Thanks to Councilmember Charles Allen for championing the Made in DC bill – now let’s create SPACE for makers to make.

Robert Kinsler

Founder & CEO of United Social Sports


  • A Diego’s Haircut (from the man himself): This gent is a D.C. institution. One visit to his shop in Dupont and a look at the signed photos on the wall and you know you are in very good hands. I mean… the renamed the street after him!
  • A Toasted Salmon Roll from Teak Wood: This is unequivocally the best sushi roll in the city. period.
  • The National Mall: There is no place quite like it in the country (and I’ve lived all over) from taking a run around the memorials or playing in a social sport league there is no way to experience the vibe of DC without getting out on the mall
  • The communities: From the crowd along H Street that makes the Country Club its home or the community around Grand Central in Adams Morgan, to the group of entrepreneurs I have the privilege of working with at Netcito, to the LGBT cohorts along 17th, to the amazing fitness community formed around Balance Gym, DC has an amazing collection of communities that bring passionate people together in amazing ways. These group inspire the activity and vibrancy we see around the city. Its amazing.
  • My Family: This might not be fair… since theoretically where-ever I go, there they are, but my beautiful wife Victoria and my amazing children Edith and Clark, rock my world every single day and help me to slow down enough to appreciate the other items on my list.

BONUS: picks from Edith Kinsler (pictured above with her Dad)

  • My dad and mom of course
  • My first feeding of the day
  • All the cute photos my parents are taking of me and posting on facebook
  • The baby Panda Bei Bei at the National Zoo and our doggy Delta!

Cory Bernat

@1goodpotato, Helping that local business you love look spiffy


  • The concentration of “Type A” personalities in D.C. means I get to enjoy a high density of good coffee shops, yoga studios, fast walkers and escalator rulz…
  • The Corcoran’s art + design students I teach have enriched my life and added some much needed color to that stretch of 17th Street NW.
  • VEEP. On HBO. If there was no D.C. there would be no VEEP.
  • Quality foliage. Have you noticed how it changes throughout the year?
  •  The tendency to save and catalog stuff. Some gems: The Show Flyers of the Fugazi Live Series, The USDA Pomological Watercolor Collection, Mingering Mike , and The Eleven Types of Metro Station Architecture.

Meagan Miller

Soprano Meagan Miller will star as Sieglinde in Washington National Opera’s The Valkyrie, the second opera in Richard Wagner’s 4-part The Ring of the Nibelung, April 30-May 22, 2016 at the Kennedy Center Opera House

Meagan Miller photo by Kristin Hoebermann. high res

Photo by Kristin Hoebermann

  • When I need inspiration or perspective, I love walking along Massachusetts Avenue, N.W. on a Sunday morning from Dupont Circle to the National Cathedral – you pass the Gandhi statue, Embassy Row, Rock Creek, the beautiful Islamic Center, and the Kahlil Gibran Memorial along the way to the soaring cathedral. I always feel refreshed after that walk.
  • How much free culture there is in D.C.!!! Where else can you experience so many museums and concerts without paying anything?
  • The Metro. I sang a production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle in Berlin, Germany and the set was inspired by the architecture of the Metro – iconic!
  • Dumbarton Oaks Gardens – another way to experience Cherry Blossoms in D.C. without such big crowds, also for free.
  • I never tire of the National Mall and the Kennedy Center — so many important people have walked, spoken, and performed there.

Dainty Dandridge

Showgirl and co-producer of Chocolate City Burlesque and Cabaret


D.C. Theatres
Sure, the Kennedy Center is everything (Generation O is the only reason I’ve been able to affordably continue my love affair with the opera), but my favorites are Howard Theatre, GALA Hispanic Theatre, and Studio Theatre. I have had a full on conversation about acoustics with some impeccably dressed spirits roaming the halls of Howard Theatre, my favorite shawl still has the blood splatter stain from seeing an epic musical viewing at Studio Theatre (Carrie The Musical-epic!), and I literally cannot imagine Chocolate City Burlesque and Cabaret without GALA Hispanic Theatre’s stage.

The Queers
Once, on a visit I took my mom to a drug store and as we’re checking out she asks, “Is this…a lesbian CVS?” Yes, mom. The answer is YES. From DJ Mim’s Friday night turnup at Vita to Where the Girls Go’s Overeasy day parties, D.C. is a wonderful city to be an out-and-about lezzie. The vocal competition at Dupont Italian Kitchen karaoke is stiff, as are the drinks at any Makers Lab event. I’ve poured my heart out at Spit Dat Open Mic. I may have also pulled a Reverse Coyote Ugly at Hanks Oyster Bar Ladies’ Tea which is when you have approximately three cocktails, stumble into Miss Pixie’s Furnishings and Whatnot, and the next day, you wake up next to a beautiful set of vintage cocktail coupes. SCORE.

D.C. is rife with people who are so passionate about certain things that we must not only organize for that thing, but we must know everything about that thing, including the post-cold war theories affecting the ways in which we create neo-revivalist definitions of that thing! If the Smithsonian and Library of Congress being at our fingertips wasn’t enough, a person could sit down next to an elder on a bus and disembark with a degree in D.C. History.

One hyphenated word: Go-Go
I can remember doing Da-Butt at every family gathering as a child but nothing prepared me for the booty shaking that awaited me here (except maybe the amazing Detroit House Music scene from my hometown!) I broke the heel straight off my shoe the last time I went to #capitalethursdays with Backyard Band and I have happily busted loose to more Chuck Brown than the good lord should allow. Go-go is proof the lord loves D.C.!

I am basic AF. As such, brunch is my favorite meal of the day and in D.C. that means I’m eating GOOD. Florida Ave Grill, Station 4, Red Derby, I could go on and on. I plan my outfits a full three weeks in advance for Black Femme Brunch and I have lost my top at La Boum Brunch more times than I could count (even when I wasn’t being paid to do so!)

Karen Jane Foote

Girls Rock! DC Volunteer & Communications Committee


  • Of course have to begin with Girls Rock! DC! Not just because I’m a volunteer but because it’s one of the coolest things about this city. “With a base in music education, Girls Rock! DC aims to create a supportive, inclusive and creative space for girls to develop their self-confidence, build community, stand up and rock out!” With a mission like that, how could you not love GR!DC? We now have year-round programming for kids and adults! In a couple weeks we start our We Rock! Camp. It’s a rock camp for women, trans*-identified and genderqueer grown folk. And don’t forget about our summer camp for girls aged 8-18.
  • I love Arcuri in Glover Park. Wednesday nights their pizzas are half off…HALF OFF! I recommend the Gorgnozola.
  • I’m always craving Taqueria Habanero on 14th street in Petworth. Their chicken enchiladas are my happy place.
  • Muzette Karaoke on 18th street in Adams Morgan. Get the right group together and go sing your heart out while standing in front of sometimes bizarre music videos. Also their bip and bap ain’t too shabby.
  • Last but not least is Black Cat. I know it’s probably been mentioned here before but this D.C. club holds a special place in my heart. It’s where I cut my teeth when I first moved to the city. The Backstage is my favorite small venue. It’s where I met friends who introduced me to Girls Rock! D.C. It’s also home to my favorite vegetarian lasagna in Food for Thought. Also honorable mention to the slanted pool table. Oh yeah, happy memories running that table.

Courtney Smith

Marketing Coordinator, Friends of the National Zoo

Zoo Pic, Courtney

Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ)
I consider myself lucky to be a part of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo family, and even luckier to be a part of the great marketing and social media team at FONZ, the dedicated non-profit that supports National Zoo. The perks aren’t too bad either, like enjoying a stress relieving visit with Bonnie, a southern three-banded armadillo, and small mammal biologist Kenton Kerns.

Any vegetarian dish at Beau Thai Mt. Pleasant
I eat here two to three times a week. It’s an obsession.

Walking my dogs in Rock Creek Park
It’s amazing to have a place right in the city that feels like it is a million miles away. The park is truly a national treasure.

Movies at the Uptown in Cleveland Park
The seats are not that comfortable, but the screen is huge!

Unified Sports with Special Olympics DC
I play basketball and bocce, both of which I’m terrible at, but I make a fool of myself anyway, because SODC is such a great organization


 Don’t forget to leave us your lists in the comments and click here for this year’s pt.1