—by Andrew Brawley
I’ve been to DC a couple times. I was 11 years old the first time I went. It was part of a pilgrimage to the Boy Scouts Jamboree many summers ago. I remember all kinds of historical monuments, unique architecture, and people willing to take everything in for what it is: history overload. I’ve been meaning to go back and spend some free time there, but we all know that’s easier said than done.
Thankfully we have a very active TA member to serve as this entry’s voice of authority. Ben Anderson, who some of you may know better by his Twitter handle @DCExiled, returned to PDX from DC just as the 2011 season got under way, and I cannot imagine a better resource for this particular travel guide. Here’s Ben’s take on how to do DC right.
PS - Minor Threat and Bad Brains are from DC. Respect!
So, you're headed to DC. It's not a very big city but there are a number of things to do and see while you're there. I make the following suggestions based on my 2 years living in DC. I'll warn you: DC is a coffee and beer desert. Follow these directions to find the spots that took me over a year to discover.
This is perhaps the area that DC lacks the most. If you're not interested in drinking Starbucks all weekend, here's where you should go.
- Mid-City Caffe: 1626 14th St NW (U St.). Small cafe located above a vintage/antique shop. Currently serving Counter Culture.
- Baked & Wired: 1052 Thomas Jefferson St. NW (Georgetown). Busy coffee shop in Georgetown. Currently serving Stumptown and Intelligentsia. Decent baked goods but unfortunately a major player in the DC designer cupcake fad. Nice staff and a decent atmosphere.
- Chinatown Coffee Co.: Located at the corner of 5th and H NW (Chinatown). Small private roaster. Busy spot but the coffee is good.
There are a number of good restaurants in the DC area but you end up paying handsomely. Here are a few spots that are good and (mostly) affordable.
- Mitsitam Cafe: National Museum of the American Indian (National Mall/Smithsonian). It's a museum cafe, but please don't write it off too quickly. Contemporary creations based on traditional native foods, Mitsitam is arguably one of the best eats in town.
- Kaz Sushi Bistro: 1915 I St NW (Midtown). A bit pricey but one of the few places in DC where you will find high quality sushi.
- Open City: 2331 Calvert St. NW (Woodley Park). One of the best breakfasts in town. Coffee is home roasted. Staff is friendly and sporting a number of tattoos.
- Lalibela: 1415 14th St NW (Logan Circle). If you don't eat Ethiopian food while in DC you have let yourself down. Lalibela is a great little family-owned restaurant. Get the combo platter and split it several ways.
- Dukem: 1114-1118 U St NW (U St.). Dukem is considered by many to be the best Ethiopian food in town.
- El Rinconcito II: 1326 Park Rd (Columbia Heights). Salvadoran with Mexican influences. Tiny restaurant but the food is great. There will be football on the TV - guarantee it.
- Kramer's Books and Afterwords Cafe: 1517 Connecticut Ave. NW (Dupont). The beer selection is decent, the food pretty great. Go in, grab a book, have a bite. Warning: new books only, don't expect any great deals.
There are a lot of bars in DC. That said most don't serve much that is worth writing home about. The following bars and pubs are listed more for the atmosphere than the selection.
- Lucky Bar: 1221 Connecticut Ave NW (Dupont). The beer is pretty bad, be warned. That said, if you'll be in town for the weekend EPL matches, this is a good place to watch. Primarily an Arsenal spot, you're still sure to find supporters of your EPL club if there is a match on. Decent breakfast on match days.
- The Pug: 1234 H Street NE (H St.). This is probably the closest thing you'll find to a dive bar in DC. Small and decently cheap. Also a good place to catch a match.
- The Big Hunt: 1345 Connecticut Ave. NE (Dupont). Pretty decent beer at affordable prices. Huge place but usually pretty busy. Don't bother with the food.
- Bier Baron Tavern: 1523 22nd St NW (Dupont). Formerly the Brickskellar. This pub boasts 50 drafts and over 500 bottles. The new owners have kept the same beer list as the old ones. Expect to pay a little more, but in DC good beer is tough to find.
- The Tombs: 1226 36th St NW (Georgetown). Kind of a khaki pants and polo shirt scene due to its proximity to Georgetown University, The Tombs is a quality place with cheap drinks and late night snacks. Legend has it that Charlie Davies was drinking here before getting in a car he probably shouldn't have.
Things to do/see
DC isn't too hard to figure out. There is an historic site or a museum on every corner. You'll see some great stuff no matter what, but here are some places that you might not know about. Don't miss them.
- National Museum of the American Indian: National Mall. NMAI is a fantastic museum and one that doesn't get visited as often as it should. The docents are incredible and are available to chat and answer questions any time, not just during guided tours. If you're doing the Smithsonian thing, don't skip this museum. (Free)
- National Zoo: Woodley Park. It's free and bigger than the Oregon Zoo.
- The Newseum: 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW (Midtown/Capitol). One of the few museums you'll have to pay for, The Newseum is worth every penny. See pieces of the Berlin Wall, the Unibomber's cabin, and read newspapers dating back to the birth of the US. Don't miss it.
- Take the Metro everywhere, especially on your way to RFK for the match.
- Wear the lightest clothing you can manage - it'll be hot.
- Watch the107IST board for pre-match tailgate plans and post-match pub plans.
- Buy a pupusa at RFK, they're actually quite good.
- Don't wait in line for a White House tour unless you have arranged it in advance (you need a background check a couple weeks in advance).
- Go into the Library of Congress. You're welcome in advance.
- Bring a zip-lock bag to RFK. DC has freak rainstorms and you should be prepared to get your cell phone and wallet out of harm’s way.
- For tailgate: buy beer in Virginia (better selection).
- If you fly into Dulles, go to the Air and Space Museum there.