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Happy (almost) Valentine’s Day! In honor of our favorite love-based holiday, we decided to reach out to some of our favorite people and ask them to spill their guts about our favorite place. (The place is D.C.)

We reached out to artists, chefs, musicians, photographers, writers, and more interesting people and had them list 5 people / places / things / restaurants / drinks / anything that they really love about D.C. Their responses will make you feel warm and sunny about Washington, D.C., no matter what the weather is doing today.

Click here to read part 2!

Maria O’Keefe – BYT Reader

Hi! My name is Maria and I’m a contract attorney working for the government. I love walking around this city, trying all the food, drinking all the coffee, saying hello to every dog that passes, and spending thoughtful time with friends.

The 5 things I love most about D.C. include the history, the food, the incredible free museums, the art, and all the dogs!!

  • I was born in D.C. but spent majority of my life in Virginia and Alabama. I was born in the same hospital as Duke Ellington, Marion Christopher Barry, Al Gore, Katherine Heigl, and Julie Nixon Eisenhower. This same hospital is now a luxury condominium center with a Trader Joe’s, doesn’t get more D.C. than that! This city has some of our country’s oldest and most important history. It is so exciting to walk down streets and read the historical markers realizing all that has happened on this ground. While the people and buildings may change, what D.C. has witnessed and experienced molds our country on a daily basis.
  • Whatever food you are craving, you will find it in D.C. Whatever food you never thought you wanted, you’ll find it in D.C. We are getting national/ worldwide attention for some of our fanciest new food spots but I have to say even if you aren’t looking for a Michelin meal you will find the most creative and fulfilling dishes. I live off of 14th which is overwhelming with choices. Last weekend me and a fellow Aquarius got to experience a Lao and Indonesian ‘pop up experience’ when Thip Khao and Dua partnered up. It was so delicious and also a learning opportunity as I got to enjoy food cultures I had never encountered before moving to D.C. I also have to give a shout out to our farmers markets in the DMV, not only do we have wide ranging selection but we have some of the friendliest vendors who make it exciting to try that new cheese or funny looking vegetable.
  • Museums in D.C. are the best. Period. We are spoiled with so many Smithsonian’s, but also with the other museums that cover the city. Even some of the embassies feature incredible exhibits. Every chance I get I will pop into one of the museums off the mall, even if just to check out a certain exhibit. There are weekly free events and tours provided at these museums. Why live here if you’re not taking advantage of these incredible museums?
  • Just as you can’t walk through this city without walking into a historical marker, the same can be said about art. Art on the walls, art on the ground, architectural gifts if you just look up, galleries all over the city, artist pop ups, concerts, events on the Mall, music in metro stations, art in churches and cathedrals, and even on the walls of government buildings (everyone go check out the murals in the Department of the Interior). It is easy to be inspired in this city.
  • D.C. is a dog city! I sadly am not able to have a dog where I live but luckily you walk out anywhere in the city and you will find a fur friend to brighten your day! One of my favorite dog spots is Logan Circle, which is essentially a dog haven, where you are guaranteed to see dogs of all sizes hanging out and making friends.

Johanna Hellrigl – Executive Chef at Mercy Me

Photo credit: Raisa Aziz

  • My neighborhood and how much there is to explore. I live between Noma/ H Street Corridor so whether it’s walking down to Cane or Fancy Radish on H ST or walking up to the Union Market area- there is a lot to do (eat!). In the Union Market area, beyond the actual market: I love early mornings at Pluma by Bluebird Bakery, picking up last-minute tools at Best Kitchen Supply, visiting my favorite guys and all the best Italian imports at A.Litteri or sitting at the bar and having a bite at St. Anselm. There is so much to explore and everyone makes it really feel like a neighborhood.
  • How supportive of a community the hospitality industry in DC- and the individuals in it- are of one another. I don’t think there is another city quite like it. So many different heritages and cuisines to celebrate, ideas translated on a plate or in a glass and everyone tries to lift one another up to make those dreams a reality. Chaplin’s and Service Bar are great go-to’s for a nightcap to see friendly faces. While we are getting ready to open up Mercy Me, it’s great to have amazing friends around that are supportive and are able to share best practices or lessons they have learned with us.
  • I love getting out of “D.C.”, but in D.C.! Micah [Wilder] and I have two boxer dogs [Bruno & Luna] that love to get outside, so I am grateful for hikes in Rock Creek Park or walks in Theodore Roosevelt Island or the National Arboretum. When you have a busy couple of days, it’s nice to have multiple oases to escape to in the city.
  • Free museums! We live in a city full of rich history, take advantage of it and go explore. We even signed our marriage certificate at the National Gallery of Art.
  • Urban gardening efforts in the city. I love gardening at home and grew over 100 costoluto tomatoes this summer! It’s great to see, support, and pull inspiration from the community gardens in the neighborhoods around the city and from the people who care so much about it that they made it their business like Little Wild Things Farm, Love & Carrots, Up Top Acres, and DC UrbanGreens. Also, you can reserve a gardening plot in your neighborhood garden if you don’t have room or enough sunlight to grow at home!

Trap Bob – Visual Artist and Animator

  • The food!
  • The creative scene consistently putting on events and breaking barriers
  • The drive and competitiveness – you can smell it in the air
  • The variety of things to do
  • The people working hard everyday to create a better community

Farrah Skeiky – Creative/Culture Director at The LINE Hotel, Photographer

  • Resilience. DC natives and long-time residents are quick to shut down your “well, no one’s really from DC” and your unapproved neighborhood abbreviations. They fight for lasting change in a place that’s a short stay for so many. We see it with Don’t Mute DC, we see it in the fight to uphold cultural institutions in neighborhoods that are filling up with chain boutiques. Every transient should be required to hear someone’s personal history of Chocolate City before they move into to a soulless condo.
  • 730DC. I have loved this newsletter since I first laid eyes on it. It is the perfect combination of social justice de-briefs and the answer to the age old “what should I do tonight?” I point to it any time someone deigns to say that this place is boring. You’re so wrong.
  • Skateboarders at Freedom Plaza. Please never stop filming videos here.
  • DC Public Library and the DC Punk Archive. I’ve never lived anywhere with a library that’s so invested in all ages community programming that goes far beyond checking out books – and the efforts that the library makes to preserve DC culture and storytelling are really second to none. Drag Queen Story Hour? Check. Basement shows? Check. Photo exhibitions? You got it.
  • Meats & Foods. The place we need, even when we don’t really deserve it. The place that sees us in leggings and sans sweatpants, and doesn’t judge when we order a sandwich and a frito pie. I love you more than words can convey.

Nikhil Rao – Composer & Multimedia Artist for Bottled Up & Tuff Lover, Music Director at 7DrumCity

  • Showtime Bar (Bloomingdale) – Best bar in DC, honestly I don’t really go to a bars to hang out anymore except for Showtime. It’s one of the few places where I feel like I won’t feel alienated for being myself. Safe space for good peoples.
  • Heat Da Spot Cafe (Parkview) – This place has some of the most comforting breakfast food, along with yummy Ethiopian staples. It’s the kind of spot where you walk in and you’re not a customer, you’re family. It’s a really great change of pace from the instagram hungry crowds at all these other food spots in DC, I don’t know about everyone else but I’m not here for the gram. I’m here to EAT!
  • Sister Polygon Records & Dischord Records – If you’re an artist of any sort, I’m sure you’ll eventually run into people who will ask you why you don’t move to Los Angeles, NYC, or a bigger city. As someone who’s lived in these places and experienced what it’s like to try to do something with your art, I don’t think that’s necessary. Placing yourself in an oversaturated scene can often lead to a lack of discipline and a hindering of creativity. Empowering yourself in a white America is the most important thing you can do right now as an artist with racial & gender inequality being so prevalent even as we go into 2020. There is a great ecosystem here if you choose to see it, which you can use to build a platform for your message. Sister Polygon just released records by Too Free & Knife Wife, two phenomenal local groups that are pushing boundaries musically, more so than anyone I know in LA or NYC. Dischord Records also has their own in-house distribution network called “Dischord Direct” that can help artists get their music into everyone’s ears.
  • Tonal Park (Takoma Park) – As an audio engineer myself, I’ve worked in a large variety of recording studios. Out of all these, Tonal Park is by far my favorite studio. I love the location, staff, and gear they have for use there. It’s so easy to get distracted, but at Tonal Park I find myself focused and creatively liberated. At a studio as great as this, the only obstacles are yourself. I love it so much, I’ve started helping there as an assistant engineer, and will be renting out time soon to start recording artists on my own!
  • Rhizome DC (Takoma Park) – I saw a lady that looked like she took a time machine from the 60’s playing a flute through a loop pedal here, it was dope. This isn’t your typical venue, go see for yourself!

Desiree Dik – Alternative Drag Artist and Show Producer

(photo by Katherine Gaines / AmbientEye.com)

  • Red Bear Brewing Company is a new, but quickly growing local gay-owned brewery in Noma. They have welcomed me, the LGBTQ and Deaf community with opened arms. They have drag bingos, drag shows, trivia nights, hundreds of board games, and an outstanding kitchen. They provide ASL interpreters at their events and all the staff are friendly. I love their huge selection of craft beers, and uniquely designed cocktails.
  • Slash Run is a dive bar in the Petworth area, run by a small business owner Christine. They have movie brunches with amazing food, live bands, movie nights, trivia, and many more events, including ones for the whole family. They also have an alternative drag show hosted by me, called Oddball, once a month. This is definitely a place you should check out.
  • The Mansion on O Street is a luxury hotel located near Dupont Circle. It has over 100 rooms and 70 secret doors on four maze-like floors. I went there 2 years ago on valentines day with my fiance and I had a blast. There was food and drinks, puzzles, mysteries, and if something catches your eye you can even buy it as a token of the visit.
  • Trade is a bar on 14th street that has a diverse line-up of events hosted by many different queer drag artists from all over the city. The bartenders make a power house drink each time I’m there. It has an accepting atmosphere and a cute patio in the back. I can’t wait for summer (although it is open all year round)!
  • Casa Ruby is a non-profit bilingual LGBT Community center on Georgia Ave. in Northwest DC. The center does a lot for the community such as providing housing, social, health, and immigration services, work with homeless lgbtq+ youth, and so much more. Casa Ruby was founded and is run by wonderful and powerful trans woman of color and this place is exactly what our community needs.

Becca Rea-Holloway – Creator of The Sweet Feminist

  • The giant herb garden at the Arboretum
  • Eating ribs + carolina vinegar BBQ sauce at Federalist Pig, especially on the picnic tables in the summertime.
  • The bus system (really)! I love how walkable DC is, but I also love being able to get wherever I need to go on the bus.
  • The Adams Morgan Apple Festival / Apple Pie Contest
  • Mary Cassatt’s painting Little Girl in a Blue Armchair @ The National Gallery of Art

Pierre Edwards AKA District Dodger – Director and Visual Artist

  • The Art Scene – Despite what people may be aware of D.C. has a very bubbling underground art and music scene with an array of extremely talented individuals.
  • The Fried Chicken and Mumbo Sauce – Cause stamp moe…
  • The Rich Black Heritage – D.C.’s history is a rich history of black excellence from “Black Broadway on U” to Duke Ellington to Langston Hughes to the “March on Washington” to Go-Go music. There is no shortage of inspiration when you truly have an understanding of the history of our city.
  • The Hirshhorn – One of the institutions that truly exposed me to the possibilities of what art could be.
  • The Future – I am seeing a change in perception when it comes to D.C. We are no longer only know as a “political town” and I am excited to see how we keep evolving!

Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili – Founders of Synetic Theatre

Photo credit: Koko Lanham

  • We love going to the monuments at night!
  • We love the Georgian restaurant Supra to give us a taste of home.
  • We love visiting hiking trails with our dogs – especially anywhere along the water.
  • We love checking out amazing theater around town.
  • We love a following up a day enjoying DC with a visit to Luna Pizza in Dupont Circle.

Psalmayene 24 – Studio Theatre Artist-In-Residence and Director of Pass Over

Photo credit: Clinton Brandhagen

  • National Museum of African American History and Culture. I’ve been there eight or nine times. I see something new every time I go that illuminates the stunning creativity, resilience, and beauty of the African-American community.
  • Bourbon Steak. I love going there with my wife to celebrate special occasions. The truffle rolls and the lobster pot pie are divine. And the service is fit for a king.
  • Busboys & Poets. A chill restaurant with a bookstore and performance space. You can grab some tasty food and also sate your social and intellectual appetites. There are multiple locations in the DMV—though I’m partial to the original at 14th & V street Northwest.
  • 9:30 Club. This legendary DC institution is arguably the coolest place to experience live music in the region. Prince, KRS-One, Gogol Bordello, Balkan Beat Box, Fish Bone, and Chuck Brown are just a few transcendent concert experiences I’ve had there.
  • The DC theatre scene. An eclectic and captivating variety of storytelling can be seen onstage just about every night of the week. Some of my favorite theaters in DC to catch a play or musical are Theatre Alliance, Mosaic Theater, Pointless Theatre, We Happy Few, Arena Stage, The Kennedy Center, Woolly Mammoth, and, of course, Studio Theatre.

Kriston Capps – Staff Writer at CityLab and Art Critic at Washington City Paper

Photo credit: Eli Meir Kaplan

  • Elena Delle Donne’s Instagram – I want to live in Elena Delle Donne’s world. Get in line, right? The Mystics brought home the WNBA championship for D.C. last year thanks in no small to Delle Donne powering past her injuries. I want to throw out the first pitch in a pennant race game. I would like to be an MVP in anything! Specifically, though, I want to live in @e11edonne’s world. Her IG features clean style (custom Lion King sneakers!), tons of Christmas (I bet her tree is still up), and nonstop pranks by her wife.
  • The Chilito – Is it your birthday? Is it Christmas? Did you just win a WNBA championship? Go to Meats & Foods in Northwest and order a chilito—a snack so delicious that it should be the city’s mascot—for yourself, your partner, or your entire team.
  • Labyrinth Games – Winter means jigsaw puzzle season (for people with more patience than me). Recently I needed to pick up a challenging puzzle for a special person. So I skipped Target and Amazon and headed to Labyrinth Games in Capitol Hill. This place is like a Room of Requirement for hard-ass puzzles but also a citadel for collectible card games, board games, strategy games, and more. It’s great to find a sprawling space filled with people enjoying good games; it’s really something else to find a shop hiring an expert in Magic: The Gathering. Maybe I can earn that MVP nod after all.
  • Washington Color School – Sam Gilliam, one of the best-known artists in the District, will enjoy a retrospective at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in 2022, his first survey in years. Who can wait that long?? Fortunately, artists associated with the Washington Color School are represented in nearly every art museum in the city. The National Museum of Women in the Arts, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum are all places to find D.C.’s finest fine artists.
  • The Fishscale Building – On a gray day in February, one building downtown stands out. The office building at 1099 New York Avenue NW is wrapped in gigantic overlapping glass panels, a distinctive curtainwall that gives the building its nickname. Ol’ Fishscale was designed by Thomas Phifer, the same architect who made the Pavilions addition at the Glenstone museum in Potomac. The District doesn’t have a skyline, so its office buildings are easy to overlook, but the lack of glass skyscrapers doesn’t mean a lack of winning architecture.