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    Washington, DC

    A friend told me the other day that they wanted to go to DC to catch the end of the cherry blossom season (this weekend, basically) and asked if I knew of a new hotel to try. It has been so long since I had been in our nation's beautiful capital (see below) that it was time to find out. So we gooped it! Time for a trip.

    Love,
    gp

    The Scene

    Locals say the vibe in DC, from popularity of neighborhoods to the real estate market, changes depending on the administration. While we can’t tell for sure, we do notice a palpable shift in fashionable areas of town as this term comes to a close. A previously hot Georgetown seems to now have more cupcake shops than restaurants, while an edgier U Street and the urban Chinatown/Penn Quarter area boom. Check out the best of DC’s most happening neighborhoods plus our new and classic favorites from all around the nation’s capital.

    U Street Area

    ben’s chili bowl
    1213 u st. nw
    202.667.0909

    Famously frequented by protestors and police alike during the 1968 race riots, Ben’s has since seen the neighborhood change all around it, while remaining delightfully the same and now iconic. Everyone from locals, to hipsters, politicians with ties thrown over their shoulders and even the president himself have been found chowing down on the tasty chili dogs, milkshakes and their signature, the half-smoke: half-pork, half-beef sausage smoked and served with onion and chili sauce. Dig in.

    marvin dc
    2007 14th st. nw
    202.797.7171

    With a soundtrack of funk, ska and jazz created by a member of Thievery Corporation, a menu that blends Belgian classics with the flavors of the neighborhood (think fried chicken with Belgian waffles) and a very happening year-round rooftop beer garden, Marvin is one of the coolest places on the block. Go upstairs on the weekend to party or downstairs for a relaxed meal during the week.

    muléh
    1831 14th st. nw
    202.667.3440

    Modern, organic-feeling furniture and very cool women’s clothes from designers like Phillip Lim and Ter et Bantine make Muléh, like many of its pieces, one-of-a-kind in this town. Though the goods featured in the gallery-like interior don’t come cheap, they’re the type of investment pieces that can make a wardrobe, or a living room. A second store recently opened in New York’s Meatpacking District, after this location’s success.

    the gibson
    2009 14th st. nw
    202.232.2156

    Behind a nondescript entrance on the 14th Street stretch is the bar that began the mixology craze in DC: The Gibson. Serving expertly-made cocktails in a sexy, low-lit seating-room only, this place is great for a date. Make a reservation to avoid the lines and enjoy one of the many house concoctions in the calming, elegant space. For a rowdier time, the outdoor patio opens in nice weather.

    taylor gourmet
    1908 14th st. nw
    202.588.7117

    Yes, it’s just a sandwich, but these Philly-inspired hoagies are seriously good. If you're a meat eater, the roast pork is a standout, as is the Italian hoagie, which like many others are topped in a simple yet crucial combination of salt, pepper, oil, vinegar, shredded lettuce and tomato. Eat in the industrial-chic space or take-away.

    Chinatown/Penn Quarter

    central michel richard
    1001 pennsylvania ave. nw
    202.626.0015

    From one of DC’s most celebrated chefs comes this French-American bistro offering a more casual experience than his formal flagship without compromising craft or quality. Central serves everything from French classics like frog’s legs to playful takes on American comfort foods to whimsical creations like the “faux gras,” made of chicken livers. The upscale bistro features lots of wood, pale leather and exposed wine racks, and is almost always bustling. Perfect for a fun lunch or celebration dinner.

    jaleo
    480 seventh st. nw
    202.628.7949

    José Andrés laid the foundation for the Chinatown/Penn Quarter dining scene, with a number of unique restaurants within just a few blocks. (In addition to the two in this issue, Mediterranean Zaytinya and Mexican-inspired Oyamel have also become neighborhood favorites.) Jaleo, which just reopened after an intense renovation, introduced authentic Spanish tapas to the city when it originally opened in 1993. The impressive menu remains, with a slight revamp including new Iberico pork dishes, the famous black footed pigs of Western Spain, and six new types of gin and tonics (one of Andrés' favorite drinks). Barcelona-based designer and architect Juli Capella’s goal was to express the meaning of Jaleo (translation: merrymaking and revelry) and he succeeds. From the bright pops of color to copious beaded curtains, all that’s missing is Almodóvar.

    minibar
    405 eighth st. nw
    202.393.0812

    A study in avant-garde cooking and molecular gastronomy, Minibar highlights Andrés' time with Ferran Adrià of famed (and now former) El Bulli in Spain. Meals here are a delightful combination of imagination, science and technique (and perhaps a bit of magic). Over the 27 courses you may try anything from cotton candy eel to popcorn blasted with liquid nitrogen. As weird as the dishes may sound, the inventiveness does not compromise taste. It’s not easy reservation to get and is pricey, but it’s more than a meal here – it’s one of the most exciting dining experiences out there.

    columbia room
    1021 seventh st. nw
    202.393.0336

    Behind an unmarked door at the back of another great Chinatown bar The Passenger is this intimate reservation-only cocktail den. Though à la carte drinking is an option, the meticulously-crafted cocktail tasting menu is the raison d'être. Each party gets their own personal mixologist, each of whom are extremely knowledgeable and take their craft very seriously (they chop their own ice, for example). Expect to spend two hours in this artful drinking experience, with a small plate in between.

    hotel monaco, a kimpton hotel
    700 f st. nw
    800.649.1202

    Across from The National Portrait Gallery , another must-see, is this luxury boutique hotel set in an old post office that’s now a national landmark. The eclectic décor is inviting and vibrant. Though the rooms can run a bit small due to the historic nature of the building, they are not lacking in comfort or amenity, and each is distinct from the next.

    More places around town that we love.
    Eat

    bourbon steak
    four seasons georgetown
    2800 pennsylvania ave. nw
    202.944.2026

    Bourbon serves some of the best steak in the city, from a 50-day dry-aged ribeye to a wagyu flat iron and more. But what makes this Michael Mina restaurant a standout is also the incredible seafood, from local oysters to his signature lobster pot pie, and impressive new American dishes. The trio of duck fat fries and black truffle rolls, compliments of the chef, foreshadow the decadence to follow. Cocktails are particularly well-made using small batch cordials and homemade bitters, making the bar and lounge great for an evening drink and small bites if you don’t have the expense account for a full meal.

    kaz sushi bistro
    1915 i st. nw
    202.530.5500

    It’s all about the incredible sushi here, a fact that the business-heavy lunch crowd appreciates. The best seat in the house is the sushi bar, where you can watch the chefs preparing the excellent and inventive nigiri like the outrageously good seared salmon belly with sweet soy lemon or tuna with foie gras miso, and many more. They even blend their own low-sodium soy sauce, mixing in mirin and dashi. For what you get, the prices are great, and it manages keep a pretty low profile.

    little serow
    1511 17th st. nw
    no phone

    From the owners of Dupont Circle’s acclaimed Komi, also very much worth the visit if you have the budget, comes its ambitious and more affordable little sister right next door. It’s a teeny place, and super hip, offering a set $45 Isaan-style dinner, which is less of a tasting menu than it is a family-style meal. The menu changes weekly.

    makoto
    4822 macarthur blvd. nw
    202.298.6866

    Makoto is some of the best and most authentic Japanese in DC and perhaps the country. The multi-course tasting menu is a relative bargain for the gastronomy that arrives before you, course after course, in this shoebox of a space. The no-shoe rule means you can get a good look what socks the senator next to you is wearing. This is a true experience.

    montmartre
    327 seventh st. se
    202.544.1244

    Though the eponymous neighborhood is in Paris, the hearty French comfort food at this cozy bistro tucked away in Capitol Hill is decidedly from the South: succulent braised rabbit leg to classic cassoulet and more. The atmosphere is true bistro -- intimate, inviting and casual, which also describes the prices. The excellent brunch features mussels done four ways and a killer Eggs Benedict. For a perfect DC outing, pair with a pre-or-post stroll through nearby Eastern Market, which is full of famer’s market stalls and local artisans on weekends.

    nora
    2132 florida ave. nw
    202.462.5143

    Organic dining pioneer Nora Pouillon opened Restaurant Nora in 1999 as America’s first certified organic restaurant. The fantastic seasonal menu, that remains unflinchingly devoted to organic and biodynamic practices, attracts politicians and environmentalists alike, who dine with a clear conscious. Nora remains one of DC’s best restaurants, with a soul. Get the four-course tasting menu (vegetarian option also) and let chef decide for you. You won’t be disappointed.

    rasika
    1177 22nd st. nw
    202.466.2500

    The second location to the popular Penn Quarter original, this brand new West End space is stunning, from the teal booth pods to the giant glass walls and 3-D wooden ceilings, while remaining elegant and understated, quite like the excellent modern Indian menu. Don’t miss the super tasty Palak Chaat, crispy baby spinach or the Dal Dhungaree, smoked lentils, which you’ll need a lot of buttery nann to soak up.

    the tabard inn
    1739 n st. nw
    202.331.8528

    Perhaps the most romantic dinner setting in town is the brick-walled garden patio at The Tabard Inn, located in a historic hotel in Dupont Circle. The New American menu features local and seasonal ingredients, with a focus on fresh seafood and meats. Brunch in the garden on a sunny day is particularly pleasant, including the waffles and homemade donuts to the crab cakes and oysters.

    Drink

    jack rose
    2007 18th st. nw
    202.588.7388

    A three-story saloon located in nightlife-heavy Adams Morgan, Jack Rose is usually as stocked as the shelves, which boast over 1,500 bottles, including over 100 rare Kentucky whiskey varieties and some pretty great Scotch (think Bruichladdich and Glen Grant). There’s no shortage of well-crafted cocktails, like the eponymous blend of applejack and grenadine, which are best enjoyed on the fantastic and spacious rooftop in warmer months.

    off the record
    the hay adams hotel
    800 16th st. nw
    202.638.6600

    Tucked away in the basement of The Hay Adams hotel is this grown-up lounge that offers a taste of old Washington. Everything seems like a little secret down here amidst the alcove seating and sinful red velvet hues. We’re sure the staff, who make some pretty killer cocktails, have overheard an important story or two.

    Stay

    the hay adams
    800 16th st. nw
    202.638.6600

    Located across the street from The White House, this is perhaps the most iconic hotel in DC. Managing to be both quaint and opulent at the same time, the hotel retains touches of Tudor, Elizabethan and Italian motifs from its early days as a private residence to the likes of President Lincoln’s Secretary of State. Rooms are top-notch, as are the hotel’s bars and restaurants, including “The Top of the Hay,” the roof terrace with stunning views. The charming, yellow church across the street, where the President is said to frequent, completes the almost unreasonably idyllic DC setting.

    the four seasons
    2800 pennsylvania ave. nw
    202.342.0444

    Beneath a brick and plant laden façade, looming over the Georgetown canal, the Four Seasons offers a bit of luxurious refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city. The impeccable standard of the rooms and amenities go without saying, and the location, right on M Street, is supremely pleasant. Don't miss the lobby's impressive art collection.

    the palomar
    2121 p st. nw
    202.448.1800

    This chic Kimpton hotel offers modern, unique design with spacious, meticulous guest rooms. The location right off Dupont Circle offers prime access to the best of the city’s dining, shopping and nightlife, within walking distance.

    w washington, dc
    515 15th st. nw
    202.661.2400

    Converted from the historic Hotel Washington, this now modern meets Renaissance hotel has one of the best views in the city, so even if you can’t stay, go for a drink on the P.O.V. rooftop bar. Known for their flash factor, this particular W includes a Jean Georges steakhouse, J & G, and DC’s very first Bliss Spa.

    See

    Monuments

    OK, it’s pretty obvious to say “go sightseeing” in any city but we wanted to emphasize the DC monuments because of their particular significance and beauty. Also, and very conveniently, many of them are clustered quite close together, either on or around the National Mall. So, set aside a morning or day, slap on some sneakers and join the throng of tourists from all around the world traversing the grassy paths to admire the landmarks that characterize our nation’s capital.

    Dupont Circle

    Dupont Circle offers a myriad of places to eat, drink, shop and hang out. Catch up on reading at Kramerbooks, grab dinner at Nora or Little Serrow, stop in for a vodka at The Russia House or simply relax by the fountain in the circle and enjoy the aspiring musicians and prime people-watching.

    Georgetown and the Canal

    Don’t let the crowds on shop-laden M Street deter you from this picturesque area. Hop off the beaten path and head north towards Prospect Street for a stroll along the beautiful townhouse-lined, cobblestone streets, stopping for a sandwich at the charming university deli Booeymonger. Or head south for a walk along the canal, taking a break in Cady’s Alley, for a peek into DC’s design district.

    National Mall

    Aside from being a great place to stroll, the National Mall is lined with the amazing (and free) Smithsonian museums. We particularly love the National Gallery, chock full of contemporary and Modern art, and the National Air and Space Museum, a fun and interactive place for kids and families.

    Rock Creek Park

    This large urban natural area bisects the city and features public park facilities, including a golf course, a tennis stadium, an outdoor concert venue, a planetarium, playgrounds and more.

    Mingling in the Capital

    This is how I used to roll in DC...

    The goop collection

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