HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY! To get in a romantic mood we decided to round-things up with the ultimate love letter: the one to Washington, D.C. And since the city has been so good to us, not just any letter would do. So-we asked for some pro-D.C.-lovin’ help.
We rounded up artists, musicians, architects, designers, gallery owners, non-profit folk, musicians, local heroes, chefs and more, all of whom make D.C., in their own way, a city we’re pretty jazzed about right now. We 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 hey-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 come back tomorrow for part 2!
David Ross, Managing Director of Dupont Underground
- Diversity: It’s part of the reason I haven’t left the area. No city is perfect but I do feel like we have a diverse format that is FAR better working than in many other cities.
- Rock Creek Park: It continues to amaze me. Driving through Rock Creek Park on an early sunny day or in the late night hours can be a beautiful thing.
- Downtown/monuments: This may sound kind of corny but I’m still a fan of them. Things look so pretty down there. I’ve also always liked the idea of having clandestine meetings on the hill in front of the Washington Monument at 6 a.m. Like some secret agent but instead of talking about top-secret government stuff we’re discussing whether or not we should buy a particular projector lens.
- Oohhs and Aahhs: The mac and cheese. Late night there’s always a line. I’m always getting into an argument with someone behind the counter. The owner once said, “You’re in here every week. Just arguing. Always arguing. But you keep coming back.” Sigh. She’s so right.
- Howard University: The fact that we have that institution in town and it continues to thrive and adapt says everything to me. Even if I haven’t stepped foot on that campus in quite some time, I just like knowing that it’s up on that hill.
- Politics/City Gov/Federal Gov: Regardless of what the rest of the nation says, things do get done here. Everyday people go into work and address issues against insurmountable odds. The jobs are often thankless. They work you to death. But there are individuals who sincerely go to work to try to improve the quality of life for district residents, people in the U.S. and the globe.
- The avocados at Best World in Mt. Pleasant. They’re always ripe and cheap as hell.
- The Botanical Gardens. It’s a great place for 1. drawing from nature 2. taking a short snooze and 3. second dates.
- Late nights at Compass Rose. The crowd is always so diverse and makes you feel like you’ve left the country.
- The energy. The energy people bring to D.C. is the best. From the people who are here because they’re passionate about a cause to those who were born and raised in this city – there’s a palpable sense of engagement.
- The Park View Neighborhood. Being apart of the history of this old deli (Lemon Bowl was a deli!) and part of this diverse community has been rad.
Andy Myers, Master Sommelier and Wine Director at ThinkFoodGroup
- Washington Nationals/Nationals Park: I’m a bit of a baseball nerd and not only getting a team back in D.C., but getting one as awesome as the Nats has been a huge joy for me. They are a great ball club and going to Nats park for 20 or so games each season brings a silly grin to my face every time. Plus, the fact that the stadium is so easy to get to, easy to navigate and devoid of bad seats doesn’t hurt either. Go Nats!!
- 9:30 Club: Is there a better sounding room anywhere in the world? Seriously. The sound, the sight lines and the killer beer selection alone would make 9:30 brilliant, but when you interact with anyone on staff there you really begin to understand what makes this such a gem in our city. From owner Seth Hurwitz to GM Ed Stack all the way down to the magnificent bartending and door staff – this is one class act. From my first show (The Exploited) in the old days at F street through seeing Clutch just a few weeks ago at V street I have seen almost all of my best and most memorable shows at 9:30. They need to book more Metal shows, but otherwise untouchable. \m/\m/
- And then there are the Sommeliers…: 10 years ago there were only about 5 of us slinging wine seriously in DC. Now you can’t throw a bottle of orange wine without hitting someone with some level of Court of Master Sommeliers certification or some other serious wine knowledge under their belt. As part of the old guard of Sommeliers, it has been such a tremendous joy to watch this new generation take their studies seriously and really hone the craft of truly well-informed hospitality. The next time you find yourself sipping from a thoughtfully curated wine list in town be sure to thank Elli Benchimol (Joe’s Stone Crab), Winn Roberton (Bourbon Steak) and David Metz (Plume at the Jefferson Hotel) for all they are doing to mentor and inspire this oenological revolution. Ps-Don’t forget the great wine nerds like Max Kuhler (Proof, Estadio, Doi Moi), Sebastian Zutant (soon to be opening a swanky wine joint in Brookland), Brent Kroll (soon to be opening his fancy new wine joint too) and those wacky kids Erik Segelbaum and Jeffrey Barrientos at Le Diplomate. What can I say, D.C. loves its wine and we love it right back.
- Bucket Drummers with that Go-Go Swing: I’ve been around the world and have seen street performers from Morocco to Bourbon Street and from Beale street to Bali, but nothing makes me shake my booty like the indigenous sway and swagger of our homegrown music. And as much as I love seeing Trouble Funk and delighted in Chuck Brown (RIP) shows, it’s the ubiquitous tak-tak-a-fwap-a-tak beat coming from buckets, trash cans, traffic cones and shopping carts around the city that sound like home to me.
- Chesapeake Bay Watershed: We are so lucky to live so close to one of the most amazing and bountiful areas on earth. Through my uncle I learned to love and appreciate the diversity in flora and fauna that we are so blessed with here and through my chefs I have fallen in love with all the tasty treats the Bay provides us. From magnificent oysters and the tasty Rockfish to the sweet mother of them all…..Crabs. Blue Crabs that is. Callinectes sapidus. I get all kinds of cranky when I travel and folks speak to me of other crabs. Nope. Don’t want ‘em. Take your Dungeness and Stone and Alaskan Kings and go in peace. I want good old-fashioned Chesapeake Blue crabs with Old Bay and a bucket of icy cold beer. That is my jam. Most recently, I’ve had the pleasure of working on Fish by José Andrés at the new MGM National Harbor. The inspiration from the flavors of the Chesapeake you’ll find here are like no other. I know, I know, National Harbor isn’t technically DC but I’m telling you – get there now!
Susan Fisher Sterling, Director of the National Museum of Women in the Arts
- Best Spring Getaway in DC: U.S. National Arboretum
- Best Oysters: Pearl Dive
- Best Up-and-Coming Restaurant: Ten Tigers Parlour
- Best Thrift/Consignment Store: Crossroads Trading Company on 14th
- Best Hole-in-the-Wall: Fast Gourmet (The BEST Cuban sandwich you will ever be able to order from a gas station restaurant.)
Ryan Hunter Mitchell and David Cabrera, Co-Owners of Suns Cinema
- Pho Viet.
- Pho Viet.
- Pho Viet.
- Pho Viet.
- Pho Viet.
Lisa Marie Thalhammer, Muralist
- Art, Activism & the Women’s March on Washington: As a visual artist living and working in the District of Columbia, I believe that it is more important now then ever to use our talents and skills to move the world towards a more just society. Art has the power to change the heARTs of people. Making art in DC and using my talents as a tool for progressive social change is a daily honor. For example, the recent collective effort to infuse the Women’s March on Washington with art was an credibly inspirational experience! Opportunities like these are why I live in DC and make me proud to call myself a Washingtonian artist! View more of my artwork here. Watch an awesome video about our Women’s March art making by my art school friend Joel Woodman here.
- DC Alley Museum in Blagden Alley: I love public art murals and we have been painting a bunch of them in Blagden Alley located between 9th/10th and M/N streets in NW Washington DC. Grab a coffee at La Colombe and check out the artworks painted by myself, Bill Warrell, Rozeal, Aniekan Udofia, Cita Sadeli Chelove, Stephen E Lewis, Craig Nelson and Kelly Towels. This project, funded by DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities Public Art Building Communities grants, will continue this summer. Stay tuned, more murals are coming!
- Comet Ping Pong: I love this place!! It is such hub for the creative and queer communities of D.C. I might have never stayed in D.C. without the support of Comet’s owner James Alefantis. I’m so grateful that he took me under his wing and hired me to work at his art gallery back in the day. I remember when he first purchased Comet. It was an honor to help bring his vision for Comet to life! Now there is a thriving music scene there curated by Sasha Lord and hot queers bartenders, like Cori Bryant & Joshua Ryan Vogelsong. The pizza is an absolute delicious work of art. Support Comet Ping Pong! LOVE Comet Ping Pong!
- O Street Artist Studios: My artist studio located at 52 O Street NW is so fabulous. I can’t imagine living and working anywhere else in DC. There currently are approximately 40 artist studios here where creatives live and work. I’m so grateful for this space and for the D.C. rent control that keeps me here! We open our doors to the public occasionally throughout the year for Open Studios events where you can visit the artists, buy our work and get a special look into the creative process. Save the date for June 3 weekend! I’m also planing to paint a large new mural on O Street across from my studio at the Open Arms housing for women this spring/summer.
- Local 16: This place is a D.C. staple that I have been hanging out at for years! Located at 16 & U streets NW you’ll find me here chilling with my artist friends quite often. Serving up yummy Afghan and American food, it is an excellent place for dinner outside on the roof deck, a boozy brunch, or late night dance! My Women in Politics mural also lives here along with one of my favorite Girls and Guns artworks which hangs in the stairwell.
- Whitman Walker: After a tumble off a ladder I spent a lot of time in recovery and feel so grateful for the care I experienced at Whitman Walker Health! It’s a blessing to have such excelent doctors, therapists and dentists all under one roof. The clientele is fabulous the new facility is gorgeous.
- Transformer: I love this non-profit visual art program who’s mission is support emerging artists! These are the type of programs that keep young artists here in the District. They host a dynamic exhibition program at 1404 P Street where you can find my artwork in their flat files program. But they are so much more! From hosting artist residencies, to leading protests again censorship, to throwing the hippest parties, to sponsoring my Pride Parade float… I got a ton of LOVE Transformer!
- Yoga: D.C. is home to some of the best yoga teachers, training and studios with access to exploring the theoretical and spiritual sides to the practice in addition to the physical asana. You’ll find me teaching and practicing most often at FLOW located on 14th and P streets NW. For that full mind, body, spirit connection with an activist awareness I love Hari-Kirtans Das Cosmic Flow classes at Blue Bird Sky in Brookland NE. I also love Stonewall yoga group to flow with the queer community or With Love DC classes at the Botanical Gardens.
Ajay Kori & Jeff Sheely, Co-founders of UrbanStems
- Our Tech Scene: Wait, what tech scene, you ask? That’s right, we’re here and it’s awesome. Most people are surprised to hear that this area was actually the center of the tech universe well before Silicon Valley, back when Steve Case founded AOL in Reston. Since then much of the excitement and press has shifted to on our colleagues out west, but D.C. is home to a growing consumer and B2B ecosystem that, beyond being filled with incredibly talented people, really cares about bringing each other up. We wouldn’t be where we are today without that immense support, and we’re always looking to pay it forward.
- Our Creative Scene: D.C. isn’t LA, it might be better. The most sought after photographer on the east coast? Yeah, she lives in D.C. Have you seen the work No Kings Collective has done recently? And our food….we are actually ranked as the #1 city to launch a new restaurant concept because the great people of D.C. love exploring something new.
- Our Floral Scene: Even for those of us who can’t score an invite to the famed rose garden at the White House, there are countless parks and gardens around the city that burst into bloom every spring and give the District a whole new vibe. And we all know the hazards of navigating the hordes of tourists that descend on the Tidal Basin for the Cherry Blossom Festival, but there are plenty of lesser-trafficked destinations that more than hold their own, including the Botanic Garden and the National Arboretum. Just a few more weeks…
- Our Dining Scene: Last fall, the Michelin Guide brought the country’s attention to what everyone here already knew: DC has an amazing dining scene. We’re not just a city of steakhouses and power lunches anymore, but the hometown of culinary innovators and entrepreneurs. From the artistry of José Andrés and Aaron Silverman to the ever-expanding fast casual empires of Sweetgreen and Cava Grill to BBQ that finally measures up for this native Texan (thanks, Federalist Pig!), the D.C. food scene has never been better.
Ajay and Jeff
- The people: We’d never move UrbanStems to Silicon Valley or New York – we love the people here too much. There’s an incredible number of talented people in the DMV, and we’re so lucky to get to meet and work with people who don’t just care about being ambitious or successful, but about doing good along the way.
Rhea Combs, Curator of Film & Photography at NMAAHC
- Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens: This oasis in the urban landscape is a real crown jewel in the city. The lotus flowers that bloom in the summer are just beautiful. But the space is wonderful to visit anytime of the year. It is a wonderful place to commune with nature. This site is so peaceful. The nature trails are fantastic.
- Reagan National Airport: I have to travel a lot and am often running late. It’s super close to get to and I can always get out of dodge without too much hassle. For the size of this city, there are always enough flights that flight directly out of DCA and can get me from Oregon to Maine without hassle – yet the crowd is never too huge and I can make it through the airport without a lot of inconvenience.
- John Eaton Elementary School: It’s an amazing DC public school committed to diversity. It’s motto is it is a ‘world cultures school.’ It’s one of DC’s top public schools. The school’s community is close-knit, and the teachers and school are great. My daughter is thriving as a student there.
- Ice skating at the Sculpture Garden: What a great place to get out, be active – all in a gorgeous environment.
- Museums – especially the National Museum of African American History and Culture: I love that many of the museums are free and open to the public in DC. The exhibitions are top notch and there is something for everyone.
Joel Daly, Host of CreativeMornings/DC, Partner at Artemis Ward
- High Culture: I think the longer you live in D.C. the more you take the city’s cultural offerings for granted. Sure that tourist is standing on left side of the escalator and is on his way to Hard Rock Cafe for dinner, but unlike you or me he spent the entire day taking in history and art in our museums. Few cities offer the world-class theatre, performance, music and other cultural gems that D.C. does, but my first love is our art museums big and small. And the fact that so many are free means that if you’re not popping in to look at even a single, priceless work of art on your way to your next meeting or happy hour, you’re wasting an opportunity that few people elsewhere have.
- Grassroots Culture: D.C. is going through a creative renaissance right now and it’s not just the domain of the institutions I mention above, but of hard-working people who want to share their craft and give a platform to other artists and creators. With a little bit of effort you can find amazing art shows, performances, concerts and murals, as well as creative events like the always impressive Little Salon that bring them all together.
- Coffee: I know having a strong coffee fixation isn’t something that makes DCespecially unique these days, but I am continually impressed (and dependent upon) the embarrassment of riches we have in this arena. While we have so many great coffee businesses here, some of my favorites are Vigilante Coffee, who have been great partners to the creative community since way back when they were roasting beans in a basement in Trinidad, and my go-to stop every morning, The Coffee Bar on 12th and S NW.
- All Souls Bar: My other selections are so broad, I feel the need to call out a very specific spot for at least one item on this list. This literal corner bar in Shaw has great drinks and neighborhood bar vibe, very cool people, good jukebox and if you are lucky enough to work around the corner—which I am—you can time your arrival to get one of the coveted tables before it gets packed.
- A walking commute: I love a good road trip but am very thankful that I live in a place that I don’t need to be stuck behind the wheel of a car every day. I actually try to lengthen my commute by walking across a good stretch of the city to start and end each day. It’s so great to live in a place that you actually want to be out experiencing first hand every chance you get—taking in the neighborhoods, people, architecture and checking in on what’s new at the Barbie Pond every morning (currently super decked-out for Valentine’s Day).
Kathleen Kulikowski, SoulCycle Instructor
- SoulCycle: D.C. has such an amazing fitness hub that is starting to really blossom. SoulCycle not only allows you to just be yourself and let go for 45 minutes but it gives you a huge community of really incredible people.
- Busboys and Poets: My go to favorite restaurant. Not only does the menu cater to my gluten free/ dairy free lifestyle but I love to know that I am surrounded by history and culture and am participating in a restaurant that not only shares my own values, but preaches them. The sweet potato hash and the pear salad with salmon are my absolute favorites!
- Parks: My favorite thing to do in the summer is hang out at Meridian Hill park. From yoga, reading, puppy play dates, picnics, and drum circles it’s one of my favorite places to be on the warmer days.
- D.C. monuments and landscapes: It’s a pretty incredible feeling to know that we are surrounded around so much history and beauty.
- Community, Community, Community.: D.C. is unlike any other city I have lived in. The community feel of a small town in a big city is what steals my heart every time.
Don’t forget to leave us your lists in the comments and come back tomorrow for part 2!