Astro is the brainchild of two childhood friends, Eliot Spaisman and Jeff Halpern, who grew up playing hockey together (one currently plays in the NHL) and would enjoy doughnuts as a post-game treat. An union of two iconic comfort foods, relish in the daily rotation of chef Jason Gehring's doughnut flavors (Maple Bacon and Brooklyn Blackout are served every day), and of his grandma's classic buttermilk fried chicken recipe (but you can kick it up with a spicy garlic blend or a Sriracha blend).
Visit Washington, District Of Columbia, United States
DC, stuffy, dull, sleepy government town? Far from it! Come visit DC to tour its museums and historic landmarks but don’t stop there. Experience daily life in its small neighborhoods; each has its own special character and vibe. There are restaurants, bars and shops galore! Immerse yourself in DC’s vibrant, cosmopolitan side - this is THE city to sample the sights, sounds, and tastes of cultures from all around the world! Come discover the other sides of DC!
Cafe du Parc restaurant is an extraordinary spot for French food. Their menu is traditional French bistro, served on a great outdoor terrace. J'adore this spot—great moules-frites as well!
Aside from fictional spies like James Bond, Jason Bourne and Austin Powers, few of us know much about the world of espionage and that’s probably very deliberate. After all, you can’t expect any good spy to be giving away their trade secrets. If you are intrigued by spies, and want to separate fact from fiction, then the place for you is the International Spy Museum; it is the only museum in the U.S. dedicated to espionage. Here, you can learn all about the gadgets and techniques real spies used, from cameras embedded in everyday objects, to my favorite, the lipstick pistol. Discover the realm of ciphers and codes that spies use to transmit messages, notorious female spies (you’ll likely recognize most of the names but never knew they were spies), and the role of carrier pigeons in espionage. For fun, you can also assume the identity of one of 16 different spies. As you walk through the museum there are displays as well as guards to test how well you remember the details of your spy profile. There is also a GPS guided tour called Spy in the City which involves walking streets around the museum to solve a spy case on your own. It’s a lot of fun, plus you get to see a bit of the Penn Quarter neighborhood at the same time. Though the Spy Museum is small, they cram in the displays and there is a lot of information to read. Give yourself at least four hours to cover it all. The museum does come with a price tag for admission (check Groupon or LivingSocial for deals).
An undulating steel and glass canopy wows visitors who enter the Kogod Courtyard. Inside you'll find diners from the museum's café, tourists soaking their weary feet in the shallow fountain running across the space and students taking advantage of free WiFi in the light and airy setting. The modern roof seals the center of the old Patent Office Building, currently shared by the National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum. Architect Norman Foster designed the roof to have minimal impact on the building by creating a support system that prevents direct contact and weight placement on it. Unlike most of the other Smithsonian Museums that are located on the Mall, this gem is found in the busy Penn Quarter of downtown D.C. It is my favorite place to bring visitors, not only for the impressive courtyard space, but also for the preserved architecture of the patent offices on the top floor. Check the Smithsonian's website for special courtyard workshops, concerts or events. The museum is right by the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro on the green, yellow, and red lines.
Like many people these days, I need a cup of caffeine to get me going in the morning. Most mornings I’m a tea person, but every once in a while, I need a cup of coffee. Luckily for me, M.E. Swing is just a short two blocks away from my office. M.E. Swing is a local D.C. coffeehouse that has been serving coffee since 1916. They not only grind the beans fresh, but they also roast them, so the coffee is just about the best there is in the city—and you can’t beat the prices either. While you can get a latte or espresso or macchiato at Swing’s, the best cup is actually their simple drip coffee, especially the house blends. There really is no better way to savor the flavor and aroma of the freshly roasted and ground beans. Trust me on that, and save the fancy coffee concoctions for another place. In 1994, Swing’s moved to its present location and they brought along a lot of the interior fixtures from their original building on E St. The moment you step inside, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time with antique wooden coffee bins and high round tables with chrome plated stools for customers to sit on. Swing’s is located right across 17th St. from the Old Executive Office Building which sits right next door to the White House. If you’re in the area and need a cup of joe, walk past Starbucks and head to Swing’s. There is no WiFi here so leave the laptop behind! (It's close to the following metro stops: Farragut North on the Red line, and Farragut West on the Orange line.)
If I could have, I would have hugged Robert Wiedmaier for the meal we had at his exceptional restaurant. I would tell anyone traveling to D.C., that if they wanted just one good meal, then this is the place. We started our meal with seasonal oysters that were the freshest and tastiest I think I’ve ever had. Next, we tried the bone marrow with sage and rosemary crusted bread. The main attraction, the mussels with white wine, roasted garlic, parsley, and cream made me sing. They come to your table right in the pot they are cooked in, steaming hot, accompanied with frites and bread for dipping. I love you Robert Wiedmaier. We will be back.
What I love about the Tabard Inn is that most D.C. visitors and transplants have never heard of it, yet this place requires a brunch reservation 2 weeks in advance. The Tabard Inn is historic and creaky. The corridors are lined with quirky rooms and narrow staircases that make the place seem endless. Brunch, lunch, or dinner can be had in the cosy basement restaurant or courtyard patio. Be sure to order a round of their homemade donuts with brunch.
I’ve had a life long love affair with pork so when a friend suggested that we go for dinner at a place called The Pig, how could I say no? The Pig serves up its dishes as small plates, so it’s the perfect place to go with a group of people and sample as much as you can from the menu. All the ingredients are locally sourced, and if you must know where your food comes from, they note down the names of the suppliers on a chalkboard in the waiting area. At The Pig, start your meal off with the charcuterie platter, which comes with a selection of cured meats—the best of which is the Surryano ham, Virginia’s attempt to produce Serrano style ham. Along with the meats, there are pickled vegetables, olives, dates, and two sauces—house made honey mustard and mint. A small tin bucket holds slices of toasted bread. I would then recommend sampling and sharing the rest of the menu. One of my favorite dishes is the Braised Cheek, which is served with sautéed greens and just about the most scrumptious stone grits I have ever had! Each delicious bite transports me to pig nirvana! There are plenty of handcrafted alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks to accompany your meal, and don’t forget to leave room for dessert. (If they have the Sticky Toffee Pudding, go for it!) They do have a few non-pork options and there are enough side dishes to keep a vegetarian happy, but it really is all about The Pig here (and I love it)!
Zaytinya is a trendy restaurant in the heart of Penn Quarter, Washington D.C.'s trendiest neighborhood. Zaytinya serves up a variety of Mediterranean tapas inspired by traditional dishes from Greece, Lebanon, and Turkey. It also has a selection of wines from Eastern Mediterranean countries and seasonally serves a hot tea with a blooming jasmine flower. Falafel, hummus, and roasted cauliflower are among my favorite menu items. Try the Turkish coffee for weekend brunch.
Want a place to grab a great, I mean really great, sandwich instead of a hotdog from a food truck? Then look no further than WTF. The acronym stands for Woodward Takeout Food, not that other phrase you most likely had in mind, you naughty person. Recently opened by local chef, Jeffrey Bueben, Woodward serves up twists on modern sandwich classics with an emphasis on house-made ingredients. It's is a small eatery with an open bakery and kitchen. Glass counters and jars filled with all sorts of delicious desserts will entice you to step forward and peer in. The menu is written on chalkboards that hang above the counters. Order, take a seat and wait for your number to be called. All the sandwiches are made with house-made breads. The best seller is the Chick Chick but the one I go for is the Merguez, a spicy, warm sausage sandwich that also features broccoli rabe, grilled red onions, cilantro, arugula, roasted peppers, and some lip-smacking-good Harissa aïoli. It’s a sizable sandwich, and is so juicy that you end up with sauce all over the outside of your mouth and running down your hands. It’s that kind of sandwich that you just can’t stop eating, and every time you go back, that’s all you want to order. Okay, it’s my favorite! Splurge on the house-made potato chips and go old school with one of the glass-bottled sodas to complete your meal. It's located near the McPherson Square metro stop.
For a truly unique theater experience, catch a show at Ford's Theater in downtown Washington, D.C. The cozy, intimate venue hosts live performances year-round, including "A Christmas Carol" each winter. Most seats come with a view of the balcony where Abraham Lincoln was fatally shot in 1865.
If you're in the northwest area of D.C., and looking for good food with fresh ingredients, or for some unhealthy beignets that are simply excellent, then check out Founding Farmers. I started out eating on the healthy side, with an egg white omelet and hash browns made from shredded leeks. Then I saw beignets, with caramel, chocolate, and raspberry sauces. I'm so weak.
I love museums. When I saw the exhibit, "America I Am," a look into the African Diaspora and its contributions to America, I knew I had to go. (I know, I know, the sponsorship by Walmart isn't all that appealing.) Still, I was glad to see a crowd lined up for a chance to see the exhibit. I saw a young black male complaining to his mother that he thought the whole thing was stupid. I was happy to see that his mother forced him to go. Today's youth (and adults for that matter) are not always able to appreciate the struggles of the past. On another note, there was also an exhibit with excellent photography that I found fascinating.
Though admittedly lacking in the quaint appeal of an Indian Rickshaw or the quiet lull of an inter-island ferry, the Washington, D.C. Metro is nothing if not efficient. Simple to navigate, relatively inexpensive to ride, and convenient to most interesting parts of the city, don't miss the opportunity to ride underground the next time you visit. It's so fast to get from one place to the next, you'll never have to ask, "Are we there yet?"
After a long awaited re-opening, the infamous reflecting pool shared by the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial has been opened to the public once again. Over one year of construction on the new water filtration system that now pulls water from the nearby Potomac River has kept tourists from enjoying one of the Nations most coveted sites. If you visit D.C. you will notice numerous changes. The National Mall has undergone a major re-construction with new sod and walkways to make all of the monuments handicap accessible. Now everyone is able to enjoy some of the Nation's greatest memorials. (This photo was taken in September 2012.)
For decades, this rooftop terrace bar situated on the W Hotel (formerly the Hotel Washington - circa 1918) has provided some of the most stellar views of the White House, monuments, memorials, and beyond. Unlike many other local rooftops, P.O.V. is open year-round. While lounging on a velvet banquette, savor some craft cocktails along with a small plates menu inspired by world renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
Located in the atrium of the Corcoran Gallery of Art is a casual café that is owned and operated by celebrated chef Todd Gray, who is better known for the elegant and composed meals that he serves up at his flagship restaurant, Equinox, than creating earthy health food. Todd Gray’s Muse at the Corcoran is a daily lunch and Sunday brunch café featuring market-sourced produce and local ingredients in soups, salads, sandwiches, and desserts. What’s unusual about the menu is that a lot of it focuses on vegetarian as well as vegan dishes. In fact, once a month, the Sunday brunch is totally vegan. I am a die-hard omnivore, and even I love going to Muse for lunch. My perennial warm-weather favorite is the grilled cheese (pressed to order) sandwich served up with a cup of tomato soup and a salad of baby arugula and carrot. The soup is simple, but delicious—a thick puree of sun ripened tomatoes that is well seasoned with an ever so slight hint of fresh ginger. Though this is café food, it is definitely very upscale—don’t let the recyclable bowls and compostable corn cutlery fool you into believing anything otherwise! You place your order at the counter and they give you a small blackboard plaque to place on your table; your food will be brought to you when it’s ready. The Corcoran Gallery is just around the corner from the White House, so Muse is a convenient spot to grab a healthy bite for lunch.
Last September, Union Market opened as a year-round indoor food hall in Northeast Washington, D.C. The market showcases more than 40 local vendors including Neopol Smokery, Peregrine Espresso, and Righteous Cheese. Photo courtesy of Union Market. This appeared in the March/April 2013 issue.
If you feel visiting the free Smithsonian Museums has saved you the bucks intended for your daily expenditure in your travel plan, head over to the cafe of National Museum of the American Indian, and have one of the best meals of your trip. In the picture are chipotle chicken taco along with a chocolate tart and a fountain coke—a meal that you're sure to remember!
It’s your last day in D.C. and you haven’t picked up a “thank you” gift for your lovely Aunt Julee. After all that she did to help you plan your memorable trip to D.C., she deserves a souvenir. I know your Aunt Julee well, and I can tell you that the White House snow globe that you were hoping to pick up at the airport is not going to do the trick. So what to do? There's only one thing. Head over to Chocolate Moose on L Street, a gift shop full of imaginative, fun and funky kitsch. You are sure to find that last minute gift for that special someone, and you won’t break your pocketbook doing so. For Aunt Julee, get the Elvis cutting board. She’ll love the image of Elvis done with veggies. What can I say? You have a weird aunt. For your favorite cousin, Omar, who’s chronologically a forty year old but acts like he’s seven, I suggest either the MooPopper or the PigPopper. If none of those items are available, there are plenty of other fun things to choose from. And don’t forget to pick up a card when you’re in the store. You need quirky cards to match the funky gifts you’ve just picked out. And for yourself, I vote for one of the impossible puzzles that will keep you busy on that long trip home—well past when your iPad or Kindle has lost all its charge. You can reward yourself for being so thoughtful by treating yourself to some of the chocolates that the store also sells.
If you're a history buff, then you'll want to visit the U.S. National Archives in Washington, D.C. The Archives houses the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence. The Archives also have a large online database, where you can explore U.S. history through documents, photos, and other records.
Poste Brasserie is known for many things, from its Poste Roast and its outdoor garden with weekday happy hours, to its Sunday brunch with a full Bloody Mary bar. We were given the choice of regular or bacon-infused vodka. Of course I chose bacon, then mixed in an assortment of condiments, ranging from pickled carrots, peppers, beets, olives, bacon, cured meats, cheeses, and a variety of hot sauces. One was certainly not enough. Poste Brasserie is an easy walk from the Gallery Place Metro stop.
If you come to D.C., do not skip a visit to the Library of Congress. You will regret it. Don’t be impressed by the statistics. The largest library in the world—a campus of eight buildings, housing nearly 150 plus million items. You'll never see it all, or even a significant portion of it. Be impressed by the interior of the Jefferson Building. It is gorgeous. You don't need a plane ticket to Europe to see stunning architecture. It's right here in D.C. and in, of all places, a library. You can either walk around on your own or join the free guided tour, which lasts about an hour. Visit the Main Reading Room. You can't take pictures there, so memorize every bit of detail that you can about this magnificent room. They have a number of rare, modern first-editions, from authors ranging from Mark Twain to Dr. Seuss, as well as a Gutenberg Bible. Wander through the various reading rooms and before you know it, hours will have passed and you'll have barely scratched the surface. You’ll want to come back. You don't have to be a bookworm to appreciate this institution. The Library does have a multimedia collection—they even offer tips on how to preserve your own digital photos.
If what you’re looking for in a hotel in DC is one that is centrally located - easy access to all the major sights and public transportation and in a part of town where there are lots of shops and restaurants, then the place that you will want to stay at in DC is the Hotel Monaco, a small, luxury boutique hotel in the Kimpton chain. The Monaco is located in the Penn Quarter/Chinatown area of downtown DC. All the major tourist attractions are within easy walking distance of the hotel and the Metro is two blocks away if you want to use the subway to travel to places further afar. The streets around the Monaco are plenty filled with hip, upscale restaurants, shops and theatres. It’s a lively and fun part of town to be in. The Monaco is housed in the original Post Office and its interior is as swanky and chic as can be without being gaudy. The hotel offers all the amenities that you would expect to find in a luxury hotel including an award-winning restaurant, Poste Moderne Brasserie, which I happen to frequent. The menu is seasonal and the best place to dine, but only when the weather is warm, is on their outdoor terrace. The Monaco is also pet friendly so you can bring Pooches along with you on your trip. If you can’t bring Pooches with you, perhaps a goldfish or a guppy will do? The Monaco participates in Kimpton’s Guppy Love Program. All you have to do is ask at the front desk and they will gladly bring a goldfish (yes, a real one and free) to your room!
Chef Dan O’Brien spends his days taking the finest of locally sourced ingredients and transforming them into the most delectable of foods including pantry items like sauces, fruit butters, pickles, and condiments. He then stocks his pantry shelves with all his wonderful creations and offers them up for sale to the public. In the fridge, there are handmade pastas and inventive sauces to top them with. On certain Tuesdays, which he announces via Facebook, he cooks up carryout food for the countless worker bees like me who don’t always have time to whip up a meal but refuse to eat fast food. Wednesday through Saturday nights, he transforms that same long, narrow store space into a dining room with a communal table and cooks a multi-course gourmet meal for up to 12 guests. This is when gets to show off his talented cooking chops by putting out complex, flavorful dishes that are both gorgeous to look at and satisfying to the taste buds. This is the supper club at Seasonal Pantry. The kitchen is only steps away from the table so the three chefs can interact with the guests and they are very happy to chat with you. Want to know the difference between a ballontine and a galantine? Dan will be glad tell you. I felt like I was eating at a friend’s house, except this friend really knows how to make divine food.
Get a FREE trial issue of AFAR Magazine!
Sign up for AFAR newsletters:
Thank you for your interest.
You have been added to AFAR's subscription list for weekly newsletters. ENJOY!