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 first 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 and check out pt. 2 HERE.
Chef/Owner of ThinkFoodGroup and minibar by José Andrés
City Farmers´ Markets
We have an amazing farming culture surrounding our city, so the number of famers markets we have around this incredible city is not surprising – did you know there are more than 205 different markets found in and around the city, spread out in different neighborhoods and each as unique and plentiful as the last. Our commitment to these fresh ingredients at my restaurants would not be possible without our friends at FRESHFARM Markets and their locations around DC. I love being able to visit the Penn Quarter market near so many of my restaurants during the week, and bringing my daughters to the Dupont Circle market on Sundays always leads to a great day of cooking and eating!!
Virginia Wine Scene
Virginia is making a name for itself in the wine world, and we are so lucky to have these amazing vineyards such a short distance away! My friend Rutger de Vink at RDV was the first person to really challenge the notion of super premium wines. Now we have places like Blenheim, Early Mountain, Linden and Barboursville Vineyards, and many more producing great wine and getting nationally recognized for it. The wine lists at my restaurants would not be the same without these incredible producers.
I am constantly amazed by all the people and organizations that give back to DC. At the top of my list is my friend Robert Egger and DC Central Kitchen, which I started working with many years ago and helped inspire me to start World Central Kitchen. The work DC Central Kitchen is doing helps so many people, and the organization has lead the way to incredible events, such as Capital Food Fight and Sips & Suppers, which also benefits Martha’s Table. For 35 years they have doing incredible work providing opportunities for those in need in DC. It’s also been a great vehicle for meeting other organizations, like Dog Tag Bakery in Georgetown, which helps veterans get back on their feet when they return home from serving their country. There are so many different ways to get involved in this city and they are all amazing causes that invest in solutions.
Neighborhood Pioneer Chefs
DC today has the best selection of young chefs with more experience than anywhere in the country, and they are re-energizing neighborhoods all over the city. You have people like Mike Friedman, Michael O’Malley and Sebastian Zutant at Red Hen, who helped put Bloomingdale on the map. There is Erik Bruner Yang who helped to grow H Street, Paul Ruppert and Makoto Hamamura in Petworth, Jamie Leeds with Hank’s Oyster Bar, and don’t forget Mike Isabella, Katsuya Fukushima, Marjorie Meek-Bradley, Spike Mendelsohn, George Pagonis, the Voltaggio brothers, Natalie Noto at Frankie’s Pizza, Johnny Spero, and of course everyone on 14th street! Our chefs and restaurants help make up our neighborhoods, so don’t tell me DC isn’t a food city!
Homegrown Artisanal Brands and Boutique Food Markets
Something else that really helps put DC on the food map are the local brands and markets that were born and raised here. The people behind Dolcezza, Chaia Tacos, Gordy’s Pickle Jar, Chups’, Mumbo Sauce, Stachowskis, Glen’s Garden Market, Red Apron Butchery, Seasonal Pantry, Little Red Fox and so many more celebrate some of DC’s best local products and make me proud to be a Washingtonian. The markets especially become gathering places in the city for people to meet and share ideas, and that is why it’s important that we continue to support them.
Host of NPR’s All Things Considered
My college roommate’s desserts at Osteria Morini
When Alex Levin and I lived together at Yale in the late 1990s, he was an economics major headed for a career in investment banking. Luckily for all of us, his life did a 180 and he is now–in my completely unbiased opinion–the best pastry chef in Washington, DC. Go to Osteria Morini and tell me if you disagree.
Car-free weekends in Rock Creek Park
A weekend bike ride up Rock Creek Parkway to Bethesda and back into town along the capital crescent trail rivals any urban ride I’ve taken anywhere. And I’m from Portland, Oregon, so that’s saying something.
Dolcezza & Pitango
I recently moved back to DC after two years in London. And I have to tell you, their ice cream doesn’t hold a candle to ours. If enduring humid summers where the temperature never dips below 90 means we get to enjoy fresh rhubarb sorbet and coconut milk cardamom gelato, I’ll take it.
Where I live in LeDroit, I can go to the 14th and U farmers’ market on Saturday mornings and the Bloomingdale market on Sunday mornings. How lucky (and cliche) am I? Now if we could only get them to stay open year-round.
Andy Shallal introduced DC to the idea of a coffee shop/bar/restaurant/retail space years ago with Busboys and Poets. But nobody picked up the baton until Erik Bruner-Yang and Will Sharp brought their curatorial eye to H Street. Even if I’ll never be cool enough to wear the DURKL gear, I’m happy to window shop with a cocktail while I wait for a table.
They make dance music that sounds like Denise Huxtable after a night at the Hacienda. Watch for their debut LP this summer.
One of the few other places we still love on 14th St. If you ever find yourself running out of random carnival supplies, leftover political memorabilia from JFK’s inauguration, or Nikita Khrushchev buttons, this surreal party store – seemingly frozen in time since the ’68 riots – really should be at the top of your list. For anyone who can’t handle this curious relic of old-school DC, in the immortal words of Phi Phi O’Hara, go back to Party City where you came from.
Nomad Yard Collectiv/Vintage and Charmed/Nubian Hueman
It takes a lot of work to be this devastatingly gorgeous. We can sometimes take months to plan our stage outfits, but we get a little help from these local boutiques that keep us in the finest of sequin gowns and glamorous get-ups. Runner up: Why Not Boutique on U Street and Why Not Boutique Too in the PG Plaza mall.
Reynolds Center/Freer and Sackler Galleries
We love supporting the city’s galleries and DIY art spaces, but when we want even more culture we like to head over to our fave Smithsonian museums for art, Iranian and Korean film fests, music in the Luce Center, and occasional trivia nights in the Kogod Gallery. Runner up: National Museum of Women in the Arts and National Gallery of Art.
We miss pre-gentrification 14th St – before the condo fucks, small plates, and Soul Cycle took over. There’s a lot we don’t love about the “new DC” and we’ve been outspoken critics of the inequitable development and displacement happening across the city. But when it comes to the homemade pop tarts at Ted’s, we’re willing to negotiate our pleasures. Runner up: Grassroots Gourmet in Bloomingdale.
We love DC, but the Haus of Sauvage headquarters are technically across the city line in PG County (where artists can actually find affordable housing, studio space, and a tight-knit creative community). We can’t share all our ward 9 secrets, but one of our go-to spots is the Brentwood Market. It helps fuels our creative process by stocking all of our needs: ramen, Arizona iced tea, and powdered donettes. Runner up: Karaoke at S &J Restaurant in Riverdale.
Meridian Park – great views and great tucked away spots. You can sit back and watch all of the DC converge or you can participate in the convergence. Rock Creek Park – awesome and relaxing and right there!
D.C. is small but packs a punch – unlike Vegas, what happens in DC does not stay in DC – it ripples throughout the country and the world
D.C. has a unique culture that sets it apart.
Love the DC art scene – from great theater to great galleries to great music and poetry – DC rocks!
Love the small town progressive politics
President of Women Photojournalists of Washington
Frederick Douglass House
Former slave and social justice activist Frederick Douglass’ home Cedar Hill boasts amazing views of downtown Washington from the Anacostia hills and tells the story of a history we are still struggling with. http://www.nps.gov/frdo/index.htm
They come and they go. You will pay $15 for a cocktail and substandard slider, but in between all the mediocrity and culinary one-night stands you find places to go to repeatedly, high and low-brow. One of my current regulars? Caribean Citations on Martin Luther King Jr Ave SE just south of Good Hope Road. You can literally turn your parking ticket into a meal ticket (their motto), or at least a discounted jerk chicken non pareil.
Often when I leave D.C. I am reminded by stark comparison of the diverse richness of this city, thanks to the many different people who make this place their home. One of my favorite people is Miss Congress Heights, Elvera Patrick, who hosts Royal-Tea parties from her home and is dedicated to living a life of beauty and community from her base in Congress Heights.
Recreation and outdoors
Everyone knows Rock Creek Park, the nations largest urban park, but across the Anacostia River we have Fort Dupont, the Anacostia Waterfront Park a tennis center, ice and roller rinks. The biking is incredible and I highly recommend the Hills of Anacostia bike ride on Saturdays with bicyclespacedc.
The annual Kingman Island bluegrass festival
We have a huge bluegrass scene in D.C. and every year this fact is celebrated annually in a great outdoor concert at Kingman Island on the Anacostia River near RFK stadium. You can even bike directly there on the new Anacostia Waterfront Trail.
Redeye Menus Sherry Ninja, Literary Cocktail bartender and happy go-lucky wine promoter
D.C. is such an ideal walking city with healthy greenery. From spring till fall I adore walking from AdMo to the ballpark and can do it in under two hours. (I like to take pictures of trees and flowers so this slows me down). Mostly this is the fact that unlike large cities, D.C. is a perfect medium size. We have the ability to traverse it in a manageable time frame. And the trees are everywhere and a highlight. We have a gorgeous Arboretum, a Botanical Gardens and a whole festival for cherry blossoms.
I love that everyday I walk somewhere, I over hear parts of conversations and in all kinds of different languages. We are a fortunate little international hub with embassies and folks living here from all over the world and that provides serious advantages other cities don’t quite manage. One I believe is related in particular, is our capacity by law to procure wine and spirits from all over the world. If a product exists, it is far easier here than anywhere else in the country to get it in distribution. Being a bartender/educator/ industry person, this is something we greatly appreciate. Plus DC drinks more wine per capita than the rest of the country…another plus.
People who live in D.C. are definitely very well educated. I never assume the person I serve across the bar doesn’t have a degree, or speak at least two languages or has read an amazing amount of classic literature. What I’m really getting at here is conversations with total strangers in comfortable settings can be quite thrilling as so many people have so many experiences and have traveled the world over to get them who live here.
Our social media and online journalism are pretty with it, I’d have to say. Even a decade ago I feel that D.C. writers and promoters were publishing and documenting with great vigor. I’m not trying to blow smoke but seriously, I just think our tiny city is well covered and communicative about what we do and love. Perhaps this stems from a base of political journalism and needing to stay ahead of the headlines or perhaps we are just a city that has great motivation and networking skills. Either way, all good things.
Can’t deny the amazing museums. The free admission to some of the world’s greatest art from centuries ago to today on casual whim is an amazing perk never to be dismissed. I love that after a meal at the Source, with time to kill for an appointment, I can just wander in the National Gallery to see a collection of paintings from the Dark Ages. Or that if I’m early to meet a friend at Proof, I can hit the Portrait Gallery and just lose myself for 15 or 30 minutes or longer.
I could go on about all the places I love, but I’ve been caught up in the Ramen craze and can’t get enough of it! Daikaya and Toki Underground are my favorite places to hit up! Pho comes in a close second though, I’ll often hit up Eden Center in Virginia for a top notch bowl of noodles.
Underground dance music scene
My favorite venues include U Street Music Hall, 9:30 Club, and Flash.
Murals along U Street – I recently did a photoshoot with What Do I Wear DC and we went all around U street discovering some beautiful artwork by so many talented artists including Eric Ricks and Jeff Huntington at Jahru Studio.
Although I’m not much of a morning person, this movement brings the night time vibes into the day to promote health and fitness
DC’s Landscapes, monuments, and museums
Current favorite museum is the Renwick Gallery. I can never get enough of the national mall, always a beautiful place to go anytime of the year.
Freelance Conductor & Music Specialist/Concert Producer at the Library of Congress
Photo by Shawn Miller/Library of Congress
Finding amazing bits of history and random awesomeness in the Library of Congress’ collections, such as a letter that Jackie Kennedy wrote to conductor Leonard Bernstein on the night of RFK’s funeral mass, or a boy band software called *NSYNC hotline. Who wouldn’t want to use a game controller “to receive messages from band members”!?
Heading to Logan Circle with my dachshund/terrier rescue puppy (named Dolly Parton Madison, of course) to hang out with motley crew of dogs and dog-lovers that live in the neighborhood.
Marching in the Capital Pride parade with staffers from Library of Congress GLOBE, GLASS Caucus and LGBT Congressional Staff Association.
Kayaking by Nats park with the love of my life Chris (who is a special ed teacher at BRIDGES PCS). Less tourists than in Georgetown, and the Anacostia River is beautiful. And getting selfies with the racing presidents at Nats Park.
Exploring book stores and libraries—Second Story for used books and CDs, Kramerbooks for the latest releases, and Politics & Prose for the best classical CD selection in town (yes I still buy CDs). DC Public Library neighborhood branches, like the Shaw branch, restore my faith in humantiy and local government.
Chief Photography Editor at Smithsonian Magazine
Photo by Peter Lillis
How lucky are we to have a world class group of museums; Art,Photography, History, Science, Culture-with the mission to diffuse knowledge while being seriously amazing and FREE? Check out the little known Dibner Library where a full collection of Wonder Women comics reside, as well as other rare photography books. (full disclosure, I work for Smithsonian Magazine!)
Potomac River and C&O canal
A wild and beautiful place, always an opportunity to chill with nature and see urban wildlife (I’ve spotted owls, heron,deer,turtles and snakes) All season friendly-Hiking, biking, canoeing, dog walking, photography, fishing, birding, and picnics. You are minutes from downtown but all you hear are the soothing sounds of the river.
Library of Congress
For a photography and history geek, a secret pleasure for me is spending time in the prints and photograph collection at LOC. Hours evaporate while I look at images by Marion Post Wolcott, Walker Evans, Margaret Bourke-White, Alexander Gardner- always finding surprises in the collection of 15 million images.
The National Mall
Our nation’s front yard, a fascinating and almost daily spot to see our democracy in action and witness our commitment to free speech being exercised. Every interest group is at some point represented : from Anti-war to racial equality to sexual identity to farmers on tractors. We also celebrate as a group there: presidential inaugurations, grand fireworks displays, rock and roll, free movies and a great place to jog at lunchtime. And the food trucks that now ring the Mall add the much needed sustenance that was missing.
D.C.’s live music scene
Eclectic and energetic, and obstinately it’s own thing. I love the range of music and the wonderful venues, from house parties to the Kennedy Center, recent renovations of the Lincoln and Howard theaters, the longstanding spaces -9:30 club, Black Cat, the Birchmere, Glen Echo Ballroom, Wolf Trap, State Theater, Dietle’s, Iota, Bohemian Caverns, and Wonderland Ballroom and welcome relative newcomers- Comet Ping Pong, the Hamilton, the Fillmore, Gypsy Sally’s, Bethesda’sBlues and Jazz club and Songbyrd. we’ve got it all- bluegrass to shoegaze, zydeco to jazz.
Curates the Film Program at National Gallery of Art
Photo by Women in Film and Video
Lafayette Square Park
A beautiful simple pleasure of D.C. with a sense of history, and on weekends you can usually join a protest; also, loads of ducks in the spring and summer when the fountains are on
Apple pie at Blue Duck Tavern
Oldest still-operating movie house in D.C., saved by grassroots activists when it briefly closed down.
D.C. is one of the great walking towns of the world (except at rush hour)
So many of them offer wonderful cultural programming – at no charge
Don’t forget to leave us your lists in the comments and check here for part 2