I grew up on the East Coast and have frequented D.C. on many occasions- for 8th grade class trips, family vacations, volunteer work in college, and even my best friend’s graduation from Johns Hopkins. They all had a purpose and mainly those purposes were to take in the history and the culture. In these first few trips, that’s what you do. You take in the National Mall, the Archives, and the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. As somewhat of a celestial dork, I would do the latter again. If you scratch and dig a little deeper, it’s not just a tourist destination with a plethora of sightseeing, it has a thriving food and drink culture with bartenders who are knowledgeable and excited about everything from cider to brandy to mezcal without a touch of pretension.
At Anxo, they remind us that cider is wine and they happen to be the first legalized winery in Washington, D.C. since Prohibition. Their cider list is split into categories from floral and bright to funky and structured and then they help guide you to the right cider, most of them being on their huge draft wall. My fiancé, Francisco and I tried many from floral Vermont ciders to the savory Basque-type, all served in the proper glassware, which included either a porron or an 11oz bottle with the proper escanciador (see: Google images). The bartenders couldn’t be more thrilled to talk to us about the extensive options. There’s also Txakoli a-plenty, a frizzante white or rosé originating from the Basque country and a superior Calvados flight. This place loves their pomaceous fruits.
The food to accompany deserves its own platform but it definitely serves as a complete package offering tiny pintxo bites with smaller, more traditional plates of croquettes, albondigas, and beans ramada. The owners and chefs have traveled around the world and settled in on this type of cuisine as home. They also have another location coming soon with a larger focus on production.
A long-time favorite in the Dupont area of DC, a comfortable and traditional brasserie with almost any French fare you could possibly ask for. It was a celebratory birthday dinner for me so it was martinis, sparkling French wine, moules frites, and raw fish. It was a loud and joyful space with thoughtful service, and the space steeped in deep burgundies, brass, and wood that made you feel truly in Paris. The welcoming bread basket with traditional baguettes to sourdough grain is enough to tell anyone to go here.
This was one of the loveliest experiences I had in DC and as the future wife of a mezcal connoisseur, this was a given. They have an envious selection of mezcal and a list of fun, thirst-quenching and floral spritzes. They can also rock out a dealer’s choice and any and all of the bartenders are friendly and geeky about agave. We had some snacks here but they serve traditional Oaxacan specialties like tlayuda and torta but ask them for their heirloom corn tortillas (They have it shipped in!) while admiring the Southern Mexican-inspired murals on the walls.
This is the candlelit lounge that delivers the experience of being political royalty without actually having to be. Sparkling wines from Jura, cocktails with elegant ingredients, and a focus on wine and food pairing. They have a few experiences to choose from an upstairs lounge to the garden patio, and a self-proclaiming focus on service where I can confirm they took care of a birthday girl with small-bite macaroons and paired spirits.
A smaller art museum located in Dupont Circle so away from its more famous counterparts at the Smithsonian so that It may be hard to convince your friends that this is the place to go. I’m telling you it’s worth it. I had the pleasure of seeing a special exhibit on Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and more specifically, his printing during the Belle Époque but I was able to marathon around the permanent collection. The Left Wing is set in the old Phillips house and he decided to place his artwork in more a mish-mash style based on how the paintings fit each room and the way they fit around the other works. It’s definitely worth a stroll and the house itself paints its own awe-inducing backstory.
This is also the site of the Rothko room with four paintings on each wall meant to invoke a sense of tranquility and it’s the only site like this outside of the Rothko Chapel in Houston. There’s much to see in the permanent collection including a room made entirely of wax but the coup de gras is Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boat Party and it is definitely worth the hype and the time spent in any Art History class. The colors and the characters can leave you sitting in front of this painting until they tell you it’s time to close. (Whoops..)