15 DC Things We Can’t Wait to Do When Quarantine is Over
Visit the Hirshhorn, slurp Rappahannock oysters, and bar hop in Adams Morgan.
DC is an international destination. The city draws tourists from all across the country and around the world to see historic landmarks, giant monuments, and world-renowned museums. But most visitors never get to see the best parts because they’re tucked into row houses, miles from the Metro, and, most importantly, nowhere near the White House. With the city closed down from the coronavirus pandemic and tourists no longer flooding the downtown streets, all that’s left is a group of locals that love this city with all of their heart.
And there are a lot of them. From the 86-year-old woman who’s called DC home for decades and runs the iconic home of the half-smoke to the restaurant owners who started national campaigns to save the industry, we tapped dozens of locals to reminisce on all the things that make the District so special. These notable Washingtonians are dreaming up the perfect way to spend their first day back in the capital -- with food and drinks on deck and museums to peruse -- so take a tip from their list and get ready to embrace DC once it’s safe to do so again.
Greet guests with a big hug at Ben’s Chili Bowl“I’ve been at Ben’s Chili Bowl since 1958. I will be 87 years old in December and I lost my husband 10 years ago, so my pastime and my great joy every day has been to get up, take a shower, get dressed, and head into Ben’s Chili Bowl. If I saw something that needed to be done, I’d do it. But I spent most of my time greeting our guests, and I enjoyed meeting people from all over the world and from the neighborhood. I really miss my hugs at the Chili Bowl. People would come in and they’d say, ‘Oh, there’s Mrs. Ben! Can I have a photo?’ And I’d give them a hug. It was absolutely amazing.”
—Virginia Ali, founder of Ben’s Chili Bowl and the Ben’s Chili Bowl Foundation
Grab local snacks and visit a museum“When DC opens, I have a perfect day already planned. I’ll start the day at Seylou with its ancient grain financier and grab a loaf of einkorn bread for later. My daughter and I both miss the museums so much so we will go to the butterfly pavilion at the Natural History Museum. Then it's lunch at CHIKO in Dupont where I would get my favorite kimchi stew and a Korean Hite beer. I will walk off lunch by slowly walking toward downtown. I can't wait for happy hour at my restaurant Succotash in Penn Quarter where I will have a bourbon Old Fashioned and a plate of fried chicken and waffles.”
—Edward Lee, culinary director of Succotash and co-founder of the LEE Initiative
Visit neighborhood shops and restaurants"We have lived in Trinidad for the last 15 years. Our whole life really revolves around our neighborhood. My business Maketto is in the neighborhood and so is my wife's store Shopkeepers. We love the ability to walk everywhere, say hi to the neighbors, and stop by our places for coffee and snacks. I wanted to try Albi before this all happened so hopefully that could happen and my wife has been craving smoothies from Turning Natural."
—Erik Bruner-Yang, chef, restauranteur, and founder of the Power of 10 Initiative
Steal a quiet moment at a monument then enjoy ragu and wine“If you catch DC on an off-day or in the off-season, you can have some of the most beautiful spaces nearly to yourself. Roosevelt Island is a favorite of mine. You definitely feel like you’re someplace different and it’s just this really pretty hike. You finish up at the actual memorial to Teddy Roosevelt and I just find it to be so inspiring. But my favorite single seat in the District is at the bar at Red Hen with bar manager Sam Nellis. I’d love to be enjoying a great evening of chatter with him and eating ragu because it is so, so good. I’d probably be drinking a Boulevardier and then a red wine. But Sam always has something up his sleeve, so I'd try whatever that may be, as well."
—Pia Carusone, co-founder of Republic Restoratives
Party at drag brunch and bar hop“I would start the day at the lovely drag brunch at City Tap House in Dupont. After dinner, I’d meet up with all of my friends and bar hop between Trade and Number Nine. My favorite thing about DC is that it’s not what people expect. A lot of people think that DC is super conservative and serious, but in reality it’s a really vibrant city that knows how to have a lot of fun. We have amazing nightlife and a really strong LGBTQ+ community.”
—Tatianna, drag queen and DC native, RuPaul’s Drag Race
Get a fresh haircut and bop around Adams Morgan“I’d go grab an early haircut and beard trim over at Wise Owl Club. Those guys are great. And I happen to know just about every bartender on 18th Street, so I’d hop around there for a bit. I'd go have a cigar at Jack Rose or stop by the Blaguard to see friends. Or I’d go over to The Green Zone or go on up to Tryst to grab coffee.”
—Zac Hoffman, executive vice president of the DC Bar and Restaurant Workers Alliance and beverage director at Cafe Fili
Get a bundle of fresh flowers and a cup of coffee“I miss our customers! We have a regular bunch of people who come to see us, and I love catching up and seeing what's new in their lives. We’ve pivoted to delivery, so I'm happy we can still provide them with fresh flowers, but it's not the same as having them in the space. And I can’t wait to buy coffee at Elle. I’ve been making my own and it's just not the same.”
—Holley Simmons, owner of She Loves Me
Try all the different food at food halls and outdoor markets“We started at farmers markets, now have a stall in Union Market, and do a lot of catering gigs and events, and we always used to complain about the markets being so hot in the summer. But now that we don’t have it at all, I probably miss that the most. Everyone that I’ve met and most of my close friends in the restaurant business, I met through farmers markets. DC has a lot of outdoor markets for how small the city is, and I miss that vibe now that we’re all trapped inside. Food hall culture is so fun. You get to go around trading food and you can try so many different types of food and share with others.”
—Scott Chung, owner of Bun’d Up and Rice Crook
Spend a day around the city with our dog"We would start the morning by taking our dog to Rock Creek Park. Then, we would get coffee and a little somethin’ somethin’ from The Wydown (their vegan muffin is too good!). Then we would hit the gym! We go to Vida Fitness on U Street, and their rooftop pool is the best. Lunch would be at Amsterdam Falafelshop, where we can sit outside with our pup. After that we would go to the Klingle Estate, which is on a big hill on the edge of Rock Creek Park. We'd let our pup run around and we read on a picnic blanket. Then head to Indigo for dinner! Indigo is our favorite restaurant in the city. Two vegan thalis with samosas for us. The restaurant is the cutest, and when the weather is nice, everybody shares picnic tables."
—Andrew Dana and Daniela Moreira, co-founders of Call Your Mother
Take a music tour of the District’s best venues“It honestly makes me want to cry to think about this. I would do a local venue tour: see a Phantom Planet show and BENT dance party at 9:30 Club and Madeline Albright at the Lincoln Theatre, hit up The Anthem for Nathaniel Rateliff, and I would drive out to Merriweather Post Pavilion for Pet Shop Boys. I would go to Lyman’s Tavern and have a Viet-taco, a shot of bourbon, and play pinball. I would end with a late-night snack at Queen’s English on 14th Street. There is this one dish I dream about -- the soy-braised enoki mushrooms. Of course, I would have my friends and family with me the whole day.”
—Audrey Schaefer, communications director for I.M.P. Concerts and founding member of #SaveOurStages
Explore neighborhood favorites in Columbia Heights"I've lived in Columbia Heights for over a decade, just across 16th street from Mount Pleasant. Margaritas and queso fundido from Mezcalero are my go-to when I need a break or pick-me-up (healthy, I know!), and croissants and pastries from Le Caprice are the best way to start your weekend. I also love the farmers market in Mount Pleasant for a quieter shopping trip, and on weekends walking or bike riding in Rock Creek when it's closed to cars. ANXO helped plant some of the apple trees at Pierce Mill, and my fiancé and I love going to check on the trees to see how they're doing."
—Rachel Fitz, co-founder of ANXO
Enjoy baseball, bubbly, cocktails, and ice cream“I want to go play baseball at a baseball field -- most of which have been closed -- with my son and, after, buy some ice cream from Ice Cream Jubilee. I'm a sucker for cookies and cookie dough. At night, I'll leave the kid behind and have some bubbly and oysters at Rappahannock Oyster Bar at The Wharf. Somehow we made it, that deserves celebration! If I'm up for another, a visit to Ivy & Coney is always on the docket.”
—Derek Brown, owner of Columbia Room and author of Spirits, Sugar, Water, Bitters
See the city from the Perry’s rooftop“I live in Adams Morgan, and I love that it’s right smack in the middle of the city. I love Perry’s. It’s one of our favorites and, whenever we have friends visit us from out of town, we will usually take them to Perry’s where we can sit on the rooftop and overlook the city lights. Of course, it’s fun to see people stumble upon a poetry night or book club at Busboys and Poets and enjoy themselves -- and sometimes these things can be transformative.”
—Andy Shallal, owner of Busboys and Poets
Spend a Saturday perusing the stacks and playing the jukebox“I miss Saturday mornings. I usually grab coffee from Peregrine, and a bagel at Bullfrog Bagels. Then I open up the store and sit at the front desk while our regulars slowly amble in and out. There’s an older woman who comes in every Saturday morning to buy obscure theology and philosophy books. I miss seeing what she chooses. After work, drinks and the jukeboxes at Mr. Henry’s and Tune Inn are also a staple of our lifestyle. If you're ever in either of those places and ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’ comes on, you can be sure I'm there, too.”
—Kyle Burk, co-owner of Capitol Hill Books
Hang at my shops, visit the farmers market, and take my kids to the Hirshhorn“I miss walking into our shops, having them full of life, people, good vibes, the smell of coffee, and the lovely faces of our team members and the neighborhood, which is different for every shop. I can’t wait to be back at the Dupont farmers market, where my daughters set up a stand and sell gelato with my mom, or take my kids to the Hirshhorn Museum where we have a coffee shop. We always stop for a cookie and an iced chai latte and then walk around and look at the exhibits.”
—Violeta Edelman, founder and CEO of Dolcezza
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