Happy 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.
Kwame Onwuachi – Executive Chef of Kith/Kin
- Ethiopian food scene
- Free museums
- Deep history
- Mumbo sauce
Edward Gero – Actor
- The Sport Scene: The Nats, The Caps, The Mystics. We are a championship city in all sports. Being on the Metro on opening day of Nationals Park and seeing nothing but red transformed DC into a city for me, not just the glorified county seat it felt like before. I grew up a Yankees fan, (nobody’s perfect) and transformed into a Nationals fan once they arrived. It was amazing to be here and take part as a fan for the World Series championship run last year. I’ve dubbed my red VW Beetle “The Gnat,” and I drive through town with curly W’s on the doors, wearing my red #11 Zimmerman jersey, blasting John Sousa marches. To be World Champions in baseball, on top of the Caps and Mystics victories was incredible. For Sports, DC is no longer a one-trick pony town.
- The Open Spaces: From The National Mall to Rock Creek, the C&O Canal towpath to the National Arboretum, DC offers sky, trees, water, hiking, birding: so many places to get together with yourself in nature.
- The Architecture: The Monuments, especially at night! Even having lived here for 35 years, the sight of those buildings and installations still hold sway. They inspire, even if some of those who inhabit them don’t. They remind us of what we are capable of, what we have accomplished, what we have sacrificed, and what we need to live up to and fulfill.
- The Food: Such a range of unique tastes and atmosphere, from the greasy-spoons like Jimmy T’s on the Hill to Bistro Aracosia, the Afghani Grille on the Palisades and everything in between. You can find any kind of food from around the world prepared by world class chefs, to local tastes provided by local farms and produce. It’s a foodie paradise that reflects the great cultural diversity and international character of the town.
- The Arts: I’ve seen this town grow from a small “weak-sister” of New York City theater town with a handful of theaters to one of the most influential theater communities in America with 80+ companies producing a range of offerings from Shakespeare to world premieres, musicals, to the avant-garde. I have profited from being here and proud to be a part of this thriving community. It’s one of the best kept secrets in Chicago, LA, and New York.
Simone Jacobson – Co-owner & Director of Operations at Thamee
- Community & Collaboration Among Women of Color (WOC) Food Entrepreneurs: One of the best parts of having our first pop-up bodega, Toli Moli, at Union Market for three years was being able to lean on WOC bosses like Gaby Febres (Arepa Zone), Toyin Ali (Puddin), and Priya Ammu (DC Dosa) for advice and opportunities. Other WOC food entrepreneurs who have supported, inspired, and impressed us include Daniella Senior (Colada Shop), Seng Luangrath (Thip Khao), Danielle Moreno and Stacey Khoury Diaz (DIO Wine Bar), Tanya Maynigo-Loucks (Craft Kombucha), Amanda Carpenter and Genevieve Villamora (Bad Saint), Patrice Cleary (Purple Patch), Vivien Bang (Lei Musubi), and Gem Lewis (previously at Rappahannock Oyster Bar; now at Thamee!), to name just a few who help hold up our sky and then some.
- My neighborhood (Columbia Heights): I’ve lived in Columbia Heights for 10 years now, so I know almost every small business owner within a 5-10 block radius of my house, including Mount Pleasant, Georgia Avenue, and Adams Morgan. Having been a teacher at a local school, a nonprofit worker, and a hospitality professional living and working in and around this special neighborhood, I’m so proud to be a resident here. We have top restaurants worthy of a special visit, a hidden “religious goods store”, some of the best coffee in the whole city, multiple international markets and bodegas, hands down the best pho and tacos … I could write a very long love letter about Columbia Heights, and in several languages, which is one of the most beautiful characteristics of our ‘hood. You can walk around for hours without even hearing English spoken, thanks to unparalleled diversity on every corner.
- Arts & Culture and the Bada** Women Who Are Running It: We are the only city in America I know of to have a dedicated Hip-Hop performing arts program of such high caliber at one of the nation’s most legendary institutions, which is headed by Simone Eccleston, Director of Hip-Hop Culture at the Kennedy Center. Meanwhile, Maria Manuela Goyanes is turning heads at Woolly Mammoth for her anti-racist artistic direction, and both the Kennedy Center, Hirshhorn, and Phillips Collection are all led by women. As role models, curators, cultural legacy makers and bearers, these incredible women are ushering in a new era for Washington, DC in unprecedented ways.
- One-of-a-kind adventures are just a short ride away: We can spend 24 hours at Spa World, eat great seafood and shop at indie bookstores in Baltimore, hike around some of the nation’s most breathtaking parks, or even travel to NY or Philly all in just one free day (or several). I love that I can be rooted in my love of this city and also easily and cheaply explore neighboring cities without sacrificing too much time or effort. Our proximity to other great places is unique and easily overlooked as a major plus of living here.
- Dance Partners Abound: I used to go salsa dancing at Lucky Bar almost every Monday when I was college. House Night on Sundays at Eighteenth Street Lounge is another favorite of mine. We have truly loving, supportive, creative and continuously dedicated dance communities here, from organized companies like Culture Shock, Urban Artistry, and DC Casineros to inclusive spaces where anyone can feel welcome to try a new dance style. I’m not a professional dancer anymore, but I still like to shake off stress and remember that liberating feeling of moving like no one (or everyone!) is watching.
Lemz – DJ, Producer, Promoter
- The Music Scene – We’re so lucky to have what we have. Between the surprising amount of venues we’ve got, the national and international tours that stop here, and the sheer amount of talent our local scenes have – we’ve got it good.
- Trees – Is it weird to say trees? All the greenery is so lovely every time I walk to work or wherever else. Brightens my day no matter what’s going on.
- Hana Grocery – This quaint little Japanese grocery on 17th and U NW is one of my favorite businesses to support in the city. The fresh Onigiri is my hands down favorite to-go lunch. (Heads up, no Onigiri on Wednesdays though!)
- Queer Community – I love our Queer community with all of my heart, and I love watching it grow and thrive. We’re taking over venues not originally meant for us, creating spaces for us where they didn’t exist before. We’ve got tons of work to do, loads more barriers both socially and within ourselves to keep thriving, but I’m optimistic.
- The 96% of it that didn’t vote for Trump <3
Fanna Gebreyesus – Curatorial Associate at Glenstone Museum
- The Ethiopian and Eritrean food—No other city in the US has a selection like the DMV. Whenever I have a craving and don’t have a chance to go home for my mom’s cooking, I can always count on Habesha on 9th; Tsehay in Petworth; Abyssinia in Silver Spring… among others!
- The coffee shops—No doubt the city has changed a lot in the past few years, but DC still has a solid number of small cafés. I love Tynan in Columbia Heights; they have great coffee, a diverse staff, the salmon BLT is amazing. They also have evening pop-ups ranging from spoken word to local vendors—a great way to meet people in the community.
- El Greco’s Laocoön at the NGA—For years I’ve been popping-in to see this painting whenever I’m downtown, even if it’s for five minutes. Painted in the early 1600s and depicting the impending doom of the mythical priest from Troy, the work is strange even for El Greco… every time I see it I think of aliens!
- Raphael Saadiq at the 9:30 Club—I’ve been going here since I was a teenager, and the shows are still amazing. I recently saw Saadiq perform and you couldn’t have picked a better venue—great crowd, great vibes.
- Free spaces for EVERYONE—with the cost of living skyrocketing and people being forced out, the free parks and museums are some of the only spaces where folks from all walks of life interact. Having grown up here, it’s something I often take for granted, but it’s the thing I miss most whenever I’m in another city.
Emily Friedberg – Co-founder and Strategic Director of Each Peach Market and Pear Plum Cafe
- Rock Creek Park. I’m sure it’s been said before, but Rock Creek Park is one of DC’s shining stars. I spend time in the park every single week whether it’s with my kids in the nearby play areas, hiking or running solo, or just driving through from one place to another. The amount of nature so close to the urban center is amazing. I once saw an owl and a badger on a run in the park. I especially love taking my kids to the area where the Park Police horses hang out off Oregon Avenue. I love Rock Creek Park so much we named one of our most amazing Each Peach sandwiches after it (The Rock Creek Pork)!
- Diversity of people, culture and FOOD! When I first moved to DC almost 20 years ago, I loved how global a city DC is. I love all the cultures, the different languages, and of course, because I’m a professional foodie, the amazing and vibrant restaurant scene. From amazing Chinese food in the burbs that have been there forever to the new hot chef opening a restaurant you have to eat in at 11pm, I love them ALL!
- A green city. As a New York City native, I’m always appreciate how green and open our city is. The open spaces are varied and many with such beautiful trees and plants at every turn. The Arboretum, the Hillwood museum, and all the parks around the city, and my own garden (which I am able to have!) each serve as a private oasis within a large urban environment. In spring (DC’s best season by far), the blooming trees all over the city are spectacular.
- (My) Neighborhoods. All DC neighborhoods really great, but I am partial to Mt. Pleasant which is the home of our two businesses, Each Peach Market and Pear Plum Cafe and Petworth, where I live. Mt. Pleasant is a village in the city. I just love the small town vibe nestled in next to Rock Creek Park. And, of course, I love Petworth, especially all the activity on Sherman Circle in front of my house. The Halloween parade is not to be missed!
- Proximity to Shenandoah. My family spends a lot of time in the area around Shenandoah national park in Rappahannock County, hiking, visiting vineyards and breweries, and checking out food producers. It is ONLY 1.5 hours away and the area is among the most beautiful parts of the country I have ever seen. And its home to so many top quality food and drink producers and makers that supply DC every day. Early Mountain Vineyard makes delicious natural wines in an idyllic setting (I took co-founder/business wife Jeanlouise there for her pre-wedding luncheon). Pen Druid brewery outside of Sperryville is one of our favorite places to visit, they use wild fermentation methods and native yeasts. You can sip their latest concoctions at the convergence of the Thorton River and the Rush River, it’s lovely.
Carl Cephas – Founder of the Washington Psychotronic Film Society
- The Circulator bus routes. You can travel around DC for a dollar.
- The secret landmarks.
- The downtown parks.
- The Uptown Theater.
- The squirrels. Especially the ones that talk.
Caitlin Teal Price, Tim Doud and linn meyers – Artists and Co-founders of STABLE
- Gigantically Supportive arts community
- Free Museums and Programs
- Trees, Trees, Trees
- It’s a great city in which to be physically active
- I love the food! There is always an opportunity to try something new and delicious here in the District.
- The supportive community. D.C. locals represent their own to the fullest. I was welcomed immediately when my family and I moved down here from New York — that type of support is rare.
- The murals. The murals on most street corners bring so much vibrancy to D.C. They make the city look absolutely beautiful.
- Opportunity. There’s always so much going on within my industry that new opportunities constantly pop up.
- D.C. summers.
Ruth Noack – Executive Director and Curator of The Corner at Whitman-Walker
- Walking by Metro PCS in the morning and getting just the energy kick I need to start the day. Fabulous taste in music!
- Visiting the Shaw Library, where everybody is welcome and books are still on open shelves.
- The raw talent of performers at Floetic Uptown and Floetic Fridays – which also provide free HIV/STI testing.
- The staff at the African American Museum: Super friendly and super knowledgeable.
- The fact that a LGBTQ centered health care provider like Whitman-Walker is supported by community to do its work in supporting community.
Chazmen Sonique – Mother of House of Sonique
- Trade – I stumbled into them gem the first day I moved into DC, three years ago. Out of all of the chaos: interviewing for jobs, looking for housing & finding friends. Trade was my constant. It was the first place I felt safe, seen and heard. There is an intention to why many people call Trade home and we call each other Fam.
- O Street Mansion – Literally one of the coolest places in DC. My previous partner and I went there a few times for some really amazing dates. The multiple townhouses are converted into one big mansion with hidden rooms & doors. You could stumble upon an ornate bathroom with an antique chess set, play billiards in another room. I always recommend getting the champagne tour also!
- Moxy – Literally one of the coolest bars/hotels this city has to offer. The micro hotel functions mostly as a bar/hangout space. The front desk is a bar, so when you get your room ket you also get a drink. There’s plenty of activities (jumbo jenga, chess, board games & a motorized white pony to ride. Fun thing also: House of Sonique had The Garden Ball: Level Up at Moxy a month after their grand opening. Still one of our most talked about balls to this date!
- National Portrait Gallery – A gem!!! I fell in love with this museum as an artist because producing timeless portraits is a huge passion of mine. I admire all of the different people who have made an impact in our society. The courtyard is a place where you can often find me for lunch, working or finding some peace. Nonetheless, how could I not fall in love with it even more when the House of Sonique a got to perform during BYT’s Kickoff Party last year in that beautiful space! That night will forever be a highlight.
- The District – The District in general is pretty fucking amazing. The energy, intelligence and vibrancy that DC has to offer is unmatched. I have only ever lived in one other state (Florida) and moving to the Capitol was a complete 180 degrees turnaround. You don’t need a car. Happy Hour is every hour if you know where to be & when lol. The icing on the cake though has to be the people. They bring this historical city to life with their complete and utter determination to live out their truest self. That freedom sparked a fire within me that now rages three years later.
Kelly Carnes – CEO of Trove
- There’s plenty of yummy reasons to dress up in costume and play, feat. the brilliant Drag Queens of the High Heel Race, to the monsters of the Krampus crawl on H Street, to the sexy smart nerd-corps of the cosplay convention scene: Magfest, Katsucon, Otakon, and of course Awesome Con where we first announced the birth of my peer-to-peer costume rental company, Trove!
- There’s tons of art-eye-candy at every turn, in large part thanks to the tireless work of No Kings Collective and Kelly Towles‘ Pow wow mural power.
- If you look hard enough there are weird and wonderful spaces tucked in between the muggle stuff, like the quirky O Street Mansion, the lively Historic Congressional Cemetery, and the ever-entertaining Barbie Pond on Avenue Q!
- Date night at bustling Union Market is the best! My husband and I look forward to downing oysters, wine, glorious carbs and cheese every Friday night at Rappahannock and La Jambe, before sometimes catching a flick at the drive-in, or Angelika’s pop-up movie theater.
- It’s cool to be smart. You can geek out at Nerd Nites, NPR Tiny Desk Concerts, Museum programs, protests – events where history is actually happening IRL and in real time – and everyone around you is interesting and interested in learning more about the world around them. The fact that this city offers themed drink specials every time someone leaves the White House, and Porn Hub activity drops to 0 when there is Congressional Testimony slays me every single time. Washingtonians are my kind of weirdos!
Amy Morse – Environmental Communicator, Events Producer at The Cheshire, and Co-Founder of PAKKE
- Maker Night at The Cheshire. We host this on the first Monday of every month from 6-9pm. Make or fix nearly anything for free with the Make Fix Anything Project. We have tools and super creative people.
- Bikecamping. Escape the city with a group of outdoor adventurers for midweek trips to a local campground. So fun. Bikes req.
- Daybreaker. Check out this yoga dance party at sunrise with the morning people. They take place every month in places as diverse as the Kennedy Center to Flash. It’s where I’ve met some of the most interesting people in the city in purpose-driven organizations like Up Top Acres and activists from the Sunrise Movement. Dance here or at any and all Meso Creso parties.
- “Art church.” Every weekend I visit global art for free and read books that I can’t afford. We are especially fortunate to have easy access to art treasures. I love visiting Joan Mitchell, Mark Bradford, Julian Rosefeldt, Turner, Whistler, Sargent, Vermeer, Cassatt. Simply remembering the joy of Ragnar Kjartansson’s Visitor’s installation or the Days of Endless Time exhibit at the Hirshhorn. Thank you, thank you Hirshhorn Museum. Also watch the Smithsonian American programming – the Kronos Quartet performance with Trevor Paglen rivaled anything I’ve seen at the Kennedy Center.
- Non-serious running in Rock Creek Park while listening to the Philosophize This! podcast. And of course visiting the a hidden gem of the Peirce Mill heirloom garden in Rock Creek Park maintained by volunteers who love to teach everyone about biodiversity and pollinators (namely artist, builder and orchardist Tim Makepeace).
- TAQUERIA HABANERO – The best tacos are from the streets of Mexico City. Second best are made in DC on 14th street at this gem of a restaurant.
- NATURE – I love biking and running through Rock Creek Park and I’m always happiest when the sun can shine though since DC has a height limit!
- A LEAGUE OF HER OWN – It’s the best lesbian bar in DC. Even when there are more than one, I’ll still say that 😉
- PEOPLE ARE FROM EVERYWHERE – I’ve met people quite literally from all over the world and I love that. I can be transient but once you find your people, it makes for endless knowledge gain and constant growth in culture.
- PETWORTH FITNESS – I feel strong when a I am strong and they keep me that way!
Joseph Orzal – Creative Director of NoMüNoMü
- Activism – Since they tried to Mute DC it’s been an overwhelming joy to see a surge in activism and outspokenness against gentrification, being able to work with Yaddiya & Kelsey Adams and the #LongLiveGOGO #Moechella Movement has been refreshing and invigorating. There are so many important activist groups that are doing necessary and difficult work right now in preserving and protecting communities from the harms of Gentrification and speaking up against any other oppressive bullshit that comes their way. Activists like NeeNee Taylor, Katie Petitt, OK Ukah, Chris Otten, and Emmelia Talarico are doing inspiring work and you should give them and their organizations all of your money. All of it! You don’t need it! What are you gonna spend that shit on? Some new fucking Lululemon pants!? Give it to the people!!!
- Food – Here’s a list of unpretentious places I love to eat at – Sakina, Panda Gourmet, NuVegan, Brookland Grill, Breadline, Vace, Ercillias, Keren, Horace & Dickies, Full Kee, Tonys Place, Pho Viet, and A Litteri. For tea and other healthy shit – Blue Nile, Calabash, Ching Ching Cha, Da Hsin Trading. Coffee – Swings and Sankofa. Drinks – Suns.
- Artists – Curatorially, I never feel like the options are limited when working on NoMuNoMu projects, DC is home to so many remarkable artists. Rene Stout, Nekisha Durett, Adrienne Gaither, Yacine Fall, Lionel Frazier White, and Samera Paz, just to name a few favorites. I am presently working with LongLive Go-Go on a book featuring some of the documentation from all the Moechella events featuring the photography of Dee Dwyer, Akil Ransome, Kyna Uwaeme, and Viva Ventura. And the photography is phenomenal! They really capture the electricity and joy of Moechella and I am so excited for it to be ready for the public.
- “Nature” – Kenilworth Gardens & The Arboretum & Rock Creek Park
- Bernie – Sanders 2020
Chad Spangler – Co-Owner of Service Bar
- It’s not NYC – when I was younger aspirations of the big city were definitely present but as time goes on I can’t stand the traffic or the crowds. DC remains a major city but if you are savvy you can navigate well with avoiding jam ups on the road and cruise around traffic free often.
- You can feel free to talk shit about the President- you’ll never escape politics in DC, but I am always confident that whomever I’m speaking with is as disgusted with Trump as I am, so hoping for the next political cycle is always a shared endeavor.
- Service Industry – a LOT of out of towners compliment DC on the tight knit community of bar/restaurant employees. Not sure if it’s just the small ish size of the city- but everyone supports one another and has a very collaborative attitude rather than trying to go at the fight alone.
- Travel – getting almost anywhere in the world is facilitated by having 3 major airports. You are crazy if DCA isn’t an option and you take Dulles or BWI…. each of which is equally awful for so many reasons, BUT if DCA doesn’t have the direct flight it isn’t terrible to have to use one of the others.
- Space – rent is outrageous and real estate is outrageous in DC and many other cities in the world. Here, you may have to pay the price but at least you don’t need to live in a closet. Typically houses/condos/apartments have a decent amount of square footage.