As a D.C.-area native, I don’t think about going on D.C.-area tours like, ever. If you want me to laugh in your face, invite my on a Segway tour. Get on one of those open-top tour bus things? Not happening. But, like many area residents, I have an astonishing lack of knowledge about the history of this city (except in regards to, like, the 80s punk rock scene, thanks Salad Days). Not only do I have a dearth of historical knowledge, but also there are many well known restaurants and cafes that I haven’t experienced, and that is something I feel very bad about. Well, felt bad about, until I went on the Carpe DC Food Tour and carped the heck out of D.C.
Mary Collins founded Carpe DC Food Tours with her husband, Stefan Woehlke, in 2014. She has been featured on Foxnews.com as one of the “Hottest and Best Tour Guides for Hire” (though the picture is outdated. She’s blonde now and even hotter). And, more importantly, she knows her stuff. She passed the crazy difficult tour guide exam on her first try back when it was required. Stefan also gives tours; he’s hot too but I guess not hot enough for Fox.
The tour takes place in the U Street/14th Street and Shaw areas, starting at Ben’s Chili Bowl. Arguably D.C.’s most famous culinary establishment, yet I’d never been. Thus started my day of D.C. eats, sans Segway.
You have a choice between food only or food and booze tickets. I’d spring for the food and booze because then you can start drinking D.C. beers bright and early with your half-smoke and chili fries breakfast of champions (the tours start at 11:30am). Every ticket purchase gets you a link to a D.C.-related Spotify playlist. While you eat and imbibe, Mary will give you the run-down on the history of Ben’s (smartly omitting Cosby controversy, but she’ll fill you in later if you ask). Our group was also greeted by Ben’s youngest son, Nizam Ali, which doesn’t happen every time.
From there, the tour strolls toward 14th, pausing at historical landmarks and to talk about D.C.’s murals. The next food stop is Eatonville for fried green tomatoes and more D.C. beer, as well as more neighborhood history and a little bit about Zora Neale Hurston. Then you’ll head up 14th a block or so to get your hands on some gas station empanadas at Fast Gourmet. I won’t give away too much about what you’ll learn on the tour, but for more details about the famous people who go there and what they order, get yourself a ticket for any of Carpe DC’s Thursday through Sunday walking tours (a portion of the ticket proceeds goes to feeding a resident in need through their partnership with Bread for the City).
Ethiopan at Etete, iced nitro brew at Compass Coffee, and kombucha at Calabash Tea round out your 6-stop trip. All places that I’m supposed to have been before but never have. Plus more info about Shaw, like the story behind the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA, the Carter G. Woodson statue, and which politicians live/lived where. If you live in/around D.C., go on this tour and become a more well-rounded resident. If you live in/around D.C. and you have family visiting and you want to make sure they have a good experience but you can’t handle that pressure, take them on this tour. If you are a tourist visiting D.C. for giggles, go on a Segway tour and I will laugh at you. But if you are a tourist visiting D.C. and want to check a whole bunch of things off your list in about 3 hours while eating and being educated and having a super fun time, Carpe DC is your answer.
BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE! Carpe DC also offers a 14th Street Happy Hour Tour because you haven’t had the true D.C. experience until you’ve happy houred.