Tasty and stylish Washington DC
July 18, 2016 10:04 AM   Subscribe

Mr Tav is unexpectedly going on a work trip to Washington DC in the US on Friday. He'll hvae a couple of free days during the trip. What should he eat and where should he shop for cool clothes?

He knows roughly where he wants to go and what he wants to see, since he and I have both visited the city many times. Our last trip was nearly ten years ago, though, so we are pretty out of date about things like restaurants, cafes and shops.

Crucial information:
- He is from London and currently lives in Malaysia. So Malaysian/ Chinese/ Indian food and London brands will not be of interest to him.
- He will be based in Friendship Heights and will probably not be able to venture far into the suburbs, though DC itself is probably fair game.

What he's after:

- What are the current super trendy stylish shopping areas/ streets in DC? Think small boutique stores rather than international brands. He is particularly interested in menswear. (A cafe or restaurant recommendation in the area recommended would not go astray.)
- One specific item he'll be looking for is a pair of casual but well-cut linen trousers for men, which are difficult to find in London and virtually impossible in Malaysia. Any recommendations appreciated.
- Price range: flexible.
- General preferences: high-quality natural materials, comfortable but well-cut and stylish. Recommendations of US brands fitting his preferences would also be good. Examples of brands he's liked in the past: James Perse, Sunspel, Nicole Farhi.

- Best places for Ethiopian and Salvadoran food? Any other great non-US cuisines he should try?
- Anywhere he can try fantastic US food, eg diners or more local cuisine?
- Great cafes especially in Friendship Heights itself? Good coffee is always good, but excellent cakes and pastries are even better.
- Fantastic delis?
- Tasty food, and especially of the seasonal, local ingredient variety (rather than greasy post-drinks fare) is the priority.

- Any recommendations, generally, for the Friendship Heights area?
- He's a huge US politics and American political history buff. He's done all the usual sightseeing, but if there is something under the usual radar that you would recommend, that would be great.
posted by tavegyl to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (22 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Has he been to the Eastern Market lunch counter? Soft-shells are in season, and the crab cakes are always great.

Adams Morgan is the traditional destination for Salvadoran and Ethiopian food, although I have no current specific restaurants to suggest.
posted by jgirl at 10:31 AM on July 18, 2016

Do you know how he'll be getting around? This might have an impact on the practicality of certain responses, given the fact he'll be based in Friendship Heights (and due to, say, Metro's current safetrack closures).
posted by duffell at 10:38 AM on July 18, 2016

If it's summer menswear he's after I suggest he head to Brooks Brothers in Foggy Bottom which is magnificent and expensive. Prince George's Plaza has a range of menswear stores aimed at African American men and they do great clothes especially for big and tall men. He might also look at Macy's.
The best Salvadoran food is in West Hyattsville, MD, station is on the Green line. Walk out of the station up to where the Aldi (Yes) is and it's across the street next to the bowling supply shop. There are also a large number of people who sell homemade Salvadoran and Guatemalan food from coolers in the city and if seen are worth it.
Ethiopian. If you don't care for ambience, there is a great Ethiopian place on upper 14th street off Decatur. It's a hike but worth it. On the next street there is a restaurant started by the former head chef of the St Regis hotel and breakfasts there are outstanding. Friendship heights is pretty isolated so he's going to need to Uber or take the trains. Buses are easy in DC.
posted by parmanparman at 10:38 AM on July 18, 2016

Ethiopian food: I'm a fan of Queen of Sheba and it's Metro-proximal (between Shaw/Howard and Mt Vernon stops, both on Yellow/Green lines).

Shopping: If he's based in Friendship Heights he can hopefully get to the Shops at Wisconsin Place, which is literally in the same place as the Friendship Heights metro station. Directory: http://shopwisconsinplace.com/

Perhaps more promisingly, right across from the Shops (in the same plaza) is a Bloomingdale's, which will go all the way up to Chanel, etc. Certainly it is likely to stock some James Perse and other brands that will appeal.
posted by aperturescientist at 10:41 AM on July 18, 2016

He might be interested in the Congressional Cemetery. It's a historic cemetery (notable internments) way off the beaten path. They have a movie night this Friday, if watching Singin' in the Rain surrounded by cool old graves sounds appealing to him.

Zenebach Injera
in Shaw has very good Ethiopian food.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 10:43 AM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Any person who likes menswear needs to hit the J. Press store, which is about two blocks south of Brooks Brothers, at L and 19th. I could never afford anything from there, but the salespeople were very kind about letting me grope the fabrics.

Cigar shop catty-corner from there, too.
posted by radicalawyer at 11:13 AM on July 18, 2016

The Newseum might be good to check out, if he hasn't been before. Lots of good current politics stuff, from a journalism angle.
posted by backwards compatible at 11:28 AM on July 18, 2016

With the disclaimer that I am female and don't personally shop for menswear, Proper Topper in Dupont Circle is an excellent boutique with men's, women's, and children's clothing and accessories. Whiskey Ginger in the U St corridor is menswear only and is a little more casual. If he's at all interested in thrift/secondhand shops, I would highly recommend Crossroads Exchange and Joint Custody which are near Whiskey Ginger; also Meeps in Adams Morgan for more funky/retro stuff. Popular/upscale shopping districts are Georgetown's M St, CityCenterDC, and, indeed, Friendship Heights itself.

I have tons of restaurant recommendations but would specifically call out the aforementioned Queen of Sheba for Ethiopian. For VERY authentic American/diner style food, Osman & Joe's is just one stop down the red line in Tenleytown but if he wants to completely avoid the "greasy spoon" aesthetic then Open City is a few more stops down in Woodley Park and is a little more upscale but still makes solid diner classics. For more upscale, farm-to-table type stuff and other assorted new/trendy things, the Eater DC 38 list is pretty on point - can't go wrong with any of these recommendations. I haven't yet found a good deli in dc; DGS is a fancied-up version and based on a google search the internet seems to like Stachowski's in Georgetown (not too far from the Dupont red line stop) but I can't personally vouch for it. Well, wait - if an Italian deli fits the bill and he's willing to go somewhere weird, then A. Litteri in NoMa is amazing and then he could stop by Union Market for trendy shopping.

For cafes near Friendship Heights the adorable Little Red Fox is a short walk away in Chevy Chase Circle.
posted by capricorn at 11:31 AM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure that any place in DC would count as super trendy and stylish. But the closest thing these days, I think, is in the rapidly-gentrifying Shaw area. Here, for instance, is an article highlighting some menswear shops and some places to eat etc.

If he wants a really good bookstore with lots of politics/history stuff, Politics and Prose
posted by sheldman at 11:33 AM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Definitely Zenebach Injera in Shaw or Lalibela in Logan for Ethiopian.

Best deli I can think of is Parkway in Silver Spring. Best roast beef sandwiches at MGM. Best Italian sub is Mangialardo's ("G" Man), although they're only open weekdays for lunch.

In terms of a thing to see: The Star Spangled Banner is at the Smithsonian now. It's...a lot bigger than I thought.
posted by General Malaise at 11:43 AM on July 18, 2016

If he's at all into tea in its various forms, Calabash Tea & Tonic on 7th NW (in Shaw) is my go-to spot, and I highly recommend it. They have good snacks too (and very vegan-friendly, FWIW). Very hip, much tasty.
posted by duffell at 11:45 AM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

If money is flexible, he could take a bus or Uber to Georgetown for some shopping. Also there is Das Ethiopian and Fiola Mare, both pretty tasty. And Baked and Wired or Kafe Leopold for pastries.
posted by inevitability at 11:47 AM on July 18, 2016

For menswear, I'd suggest taking a look at the shops in the new CityCenter development (all global brands, but it does have one of the few Arcteryx retail outlets in the US). Elsewhere, there's Hugh & Crye, REDEEM, Commonwealth - For The Greater Good, Kit and Ace, and Maketto.
posted by evoque at 11:50 AM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

In Shaw, I'd highly recommend Kit and Ace, Steven Allen (might be a good spot for linen trousers), Read Wall (also a good possibility of linen - EXCELLENT tailors of menswear) and Frank & Oak. They're all right next to each other. You can pop by Kyrisan next door, or Hazel (about a block away).
posted by torietorie at 12:35 PM on July 18, 2016

There's lot of stuff that fits his bill in Georgetown. For food, Das is Ethiopian (and is really good, which you wouldn't necessarily expect), Baked & Wired are the best cupcakes ever, Leopold's is a very popular cafe with the best coffee and wonderful desserts and tea sandwiches, Rocklands BBQ is REALLY GOOD and a little bit further back than Georgetown in Glover Park...

He'll find lots of overpriced boutiques to shop in, I don't have suggestions off the top of my head though because I'm more food focused.

I live in Gtown and would love to grab a bite to eat sometime if he'd like.

Best of luck to him!
posted by cacao at 1:49 PM on July 18, 2016

Deli: So's Your Mom in Adams Morgan is great, especially for bagels (silly name, good food). DGS in Dupont is good for more upscale Jewish-American food.

Salvadoran: He wants Mount Pleasant. It's been a while since I was there, but there used to be a really good pupusa place there. There's also Pollo Sabroso. These are both take-out type places.

US food: he has to go to Ben's Chili Bowl - ideally after 10:00 on a weekend night. I know you said no greasy post-drinks places, but Ben's on a weekend night is an institution.

A really nice place for a good meal is Le Diplomate. That may be less interesting to him because it's French, but the food is really excellent - the salade verte is the best salad I have ever eaten. The wait can be crazy though. A friend and I went for an early brunch around 10:30 and didn't have to wait at all.

If he's not into that, he can't go wrong with any of Jose Andres' restaurants. My favorites are Zaytinya (Mediterranean) and Oyamel (Mexican), but they are all excellent.
posted by lunasol at 3:36 PM on July 18, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks for the great answers, everyone! In response to questions - he'll be using the metro /bus and uber.
posted by tavegyl at 5:14 PM on July 18, 2016

I can only help with half this question, because I am a schlub who eats and drinks very well.

Salvadoran: our go-to is Ercilia's, in Mt. Pleasant (Columbia Heights Metro). It is … super … slow. Also it helps if you can speak Spanish when you order.

Ethiopian: the place on upper 14th that parmanparman mentioned is, I think, the creatively named Ethiopia Restaurant, which used to be our delivery place until we had an online ordering fiasco. Two hours after we ordered, and an hour after our first contact with the responsible online ordering service we were, in fact, told that the restaurant had closed, but now I guess I have to blame that on Foodler. Anyway: we used to love, love, love Etete (U Street Metro, 9th & U St NW) but I don't think it's as good as it used to be; I've had an excellent meal and a couple not-so-excellent ones at the former standard-bearer, Dukem (same Metro, 12th & U St NW). So, one of those? Maybe? My wife works across the street from Lalibela and I've never been despite having hundreds of opportunities over the years, so I'll have to ask her why she's never wanted to go. There must be a story.

Delicious, local, etc: Rose's Luxury (Eastern Market) would be my number one pick. It famously doesn't take reservations, and even the bar seats are controlled by the hostess, but if you're willing to line up before the doors open at 5 PM, you can usually get right in (some of the people in line are putting their names down for a later seating, so it's not as bad as it looks).

There's even more of a local foodshed focus at the Dabney (technically Shaw, but closer to Mt. Vernon Square Metro). Good news: they take reservations. Bad news: he might not be able to get one at this point.

Honestly the biggest problem I have with recommending either Rose's or the Dabney is that if you're alone at either one, you can't possibly eat enough to justify ordering all the delicious things. My wife and I usually end up ordering enough food for three people at places like that.

Also, if he's in a pinch (for time or travel reasons), Top Chef contestant Bryan Voltaggio has a couple places in the shopping center in Friendship Heights. Range is his nicer, sit-down restaurant. It can be great or underwhelming, but even at its worst it's probably still better than alternatives in the neighborhood. Voltaggio also has Lunchbox (lower level of the same mall), which would be decent for a quick lunch or early dinner.
posted by fedward at 5:17 PM on July 18, 2016

For menswear, local brand Hugh & Crye in Navy Yard. No trousers, though—they’re shirt and blazer specialists. If a hat fancier, stop by Goorin Bros. in Georgetown.

For breakfast and some of the best coffee in DC, Slipstream on 14th St.

For Ethiopian and Salvadoran, Enat and La Union, respectively—sorry, both in the Arlington suburbs. There are other great choices for both in the District, but those are my personal favorites.

Avoid Dukem, which is sub-par these days. Agreed that Ben’s Chili Bowl is an institution, but don’t expect great food there.
posted by musicinmybrain at 5:37 PM on July 18, 2016

DC is pretty close to the Chesapeake bay, so there are numerous places with great mussels.
posted by nickggully at 7:32 PM on July 18, 2016

Best Ethiopian food in the area is in Silver Spring, MD. You can take the metro (red line) or bus (up 16th st) right there. My favorite is Langano (map), which is super close to the metro station.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 8:05 PM on July 18, 2016

For a remember-for-a-lifetime food experience I recommend Little Serow, if you are willing to wait on line in front of a nondescript door. The food is Northern Thai, and it is always a fixed menu, no choices. Also, if you do not eat seafood or peanuts then this is not the place for you. Otherwise it is a meal not to be forgotten.

Article from Bon Apetit
posted by mbarryf at 5:59 AM on July 19, 2016

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