As the nation's capitol, Washington, D.C. tends to have a politically motivated reputation than being a fun city full of culture and diversity. I moved out of the city over a decade ago because I was tired of people asking me what I did for a living before asking me what my name was. This year, I made a decision to move back to D.C. for a few months. I will admit I was a little reluctant at first, but since I have been here I have noticed an amazing transformation that transcends beyond museums and monuments. Not only has Washington, D.C. been named The Restaurant City of the Year by Bon Appetit Magazine, but each neighborhood that I have explored has established its own distinct personality.
For those of you who are looking for some inspiration, I have picked seven areas that are worth checking out.
Shaw - This area is historic and hip. Weather permitting, check out one of the four rooftop bars/gastropubs that boast beautiful scenery and delectable food. Brixton, 801 Shaw, Takoda Restaurant and Beer Garden, and Nellie's Sports Bar are all within walking distance of each other between 9th on 7th streets NW. If you are in the mood to shop, browse through Kit and Ace, Frank + Oak, Ministry of Supply (for men), Bonobos (for men), Chrome, and Warby Parker. They are all within walking distance of each other and also between 9th and 7th streets. If you are in the mood to see a show, The Howard Theatre have a wide variety of engaging performances.
Columbia Heights - Many people go Columbia Heights because the neighborhood Target and Bed Bath and Beyond are located right near the Metro. But if you are searching for truly authentic ethnic restaurants, it's worth visiting Columbia Heights. If you love Laotian food: Thip Khao offers steamed fish cooked in banana leaves, goat curry, and tamarind/lemongrass infused, spicy dishes. Mi Cuba Cafe offers much more than traditional Cuban delicacies like Ropa Vieja or a Cuban sandwich. Visit this cafe for breakfast, lunch, or dinner if you want to try Cuban coffee, grilled meats, plantains or rice and black beans but with a Cuban flare. Bad Saint, is a Filipino restaurant awarded as the number two best restaurant in the U.S. by Bon Appetit Magazine. But be prepared to stand in line to get into their 24 seated restaurant space. It will be well worth the wait.
Union Market - Find an oasis of culinary delights in the warehouse district on 5th St NE near the Gallaudet NOMA Metro stop. You are guaranteed to find a craving here. Over 40 vendors offer endless food and drink options. If you love salmon, Neopol Savory Smokey offers fresh salmon lox on bagels or a Salmon BLT sandwich which will leave you always wanting more. For dessert, stop by Toli Moli to try falooda popular in the Asian subcontinent. I grew up drinking falooda, and was personally excited to try this stand, and I was not disappointed. Falooda is a healthy alternative to ice cream; it is a refreshing drink full of superfoods, rose water, and basil seeds the tastes and textures will leave you wanting to try more flavors. And, if you love hosting guests and are looking for some inspiration stop by Salt & Sundry to find small-batch foods and craft cocktail ingredients.
Monument Walk at Sunset/Nighttime - There is something so special about walking through monuments during or after sunset. The crowds are light, the atmosphere is serene, and there is a sense of reverence in the air. Depending on the time of night, take a taxi to the Jefferson Memorial. Take time to sit on the steps of the monument and watch planes fly by. From the Jefferson Memorial, walk to the FDR and MLK Memorials. Cross the street toward the WWII Memorial to see a beautiful view of the Washington and Lincoln Memorials. If you have time, walk beside the reflecting pool to the Lincoln Memorial. Bring your camera; you will want to preserve these precious memories.
The Kennedy Center- You don't have to buy tickets to a show just to visit The Kennedy Center. Tours of the center are offered, free concerts take place every night at the Millennium Stage, or dine in one of the two restaurants that overlook the Potomac River. The outdoor area boasts shimmering views of the Georgetown Harbor.
U Street Corridor (Includes 14th St)- This neighborhood is full of restaurants, bars, clubs, and yoga studios. Some of my favorite selections include Barcelona, Le Diplomate, Compass Rose, Cork Wine Bar, Pearl Dive Oyster Bar, Lost Society, and Yoga District (I had to include at least one yoga studio), but there are so many options to choose from. If you are a music lover, the Lincoln Theater and 9:30 Club are historic venues where you can listen to legendary classics as well as budding artists.
Chinatown- This part of the city is well known for Asian cuisine and entertainment via the Verizon Center. I have discovered a few favorites that are worth tasting: Reren Lamen and Bar for fresh noodles and organic ingredients, and Graffiato by Mike Isabella for artisanal pizzas and Italian inspired small plates. If you are in the mood to for a little retail therapy, City Center is where you need to be.