Tips from some D.C. tastemakers


Thrillist: D.C. editor Leo Schmid creates a daily e-mail of local happenings, from zombie runs to beer academies. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)
March 22, 2012

You may not know them all, but you’ve probably benefited from their work. When it comes to getting juicy tidbits about an amazing upcoming roof deck or a quirky art opening, you can count on these experts (along with the Going Out Gurus, of course) to spread the news. Through blogs, Web sites, e-mails and a radio show, they share the insights and recommendations that keep their followers plugged in, too. Read on to find insider tips from these tastemakers: the restaurants, events and deals they count among their personal favorites.

Dan Silverman, 37

Editor and founder of Prince of Petworth

Google a new restaurant/store/bar opening, and you’ll likely find a post from Dan Silverman’s Web site (www.princeofpetworth.com). The neighborhood blog he began in November 2006 became his full-time gig last September. Silverman is known for being first to announce news — such as the upcoming Tryst Diner in Columbia Heights — and he does it by walking five miles a day checking out the D.C. streets.

On his calendar for months: Trampled by Turtles at the 9:30 Club (April 20 at 8 p.m., 815 V St. NW, 202-265-0930, www.930.com. Sold out). “I just recently came across them, and I’m totally addicted. Don’t let the name throw you off. . . . It’s a very upbeat, folky, country, bluegrass [style].”

Debut he’s looking forward to: The restaurant Izakaya Seki (1117 V St. NW). “It’s coming into a small rowhouse space that used to be a barber shop. They’re having an extensive renovation, and the chef is this old-school Japanese chef. I have a feeling it’s going to be a small intimate space. I’m dying to see how it turns out.”

Avoiding the tourist hordes: “This new bar that opened up in Bloomingdale called Boundary Stone (116 Rhode Island Ave. NW, 202-621-6635, www.boundarystonedc.com). You go there, and it’s the real-deal, authentic bar with a jukebox. [There are] just very laid-back, very friendly people. [A] real neighborhood spot.”

People-watching perch: The U.S. Botanic Garden’s Bartholdi Park (Independence and Washington avenues and First Street SW, www.usbg.gov/gardens/barthodli-park.cfm). “It’s just incredible. You see everything from politicians to tourists to regular folks.”

When he has amorous aspirations: “If you’re looking for a newer place — it’s a little bit louder — try Mintwood Place (1813 Columbia Rd. NW, 202-234-6732, www.mintwoodplace.com). It is just terrific. Maybe better for a first date. Going to Little Fountain Cafe (2339 18th St. NW, 202-462-8100, www.littlefountaincafe.com) on a first date is like a little like saying ‘I love you’ on a first date. If you don’t want somebody to be overwhelmed, if you just want to say, ‘You’re good looking,’ you can have a good time there.”

Leo Schmid, 28

Editor of Thrillist: D.C.

Since joining the Thrillist team (www.thrillist.com/dc) in August 2010, Leo Schmid has been making his readers come off as hip dudes, thanks to his daily e-mail of local happenings from zombie runs to beer academies.

On his calendar for months: Baltimore Rock Opera Society’s “Valhella: The Ragnarokkoperetta” (May 11-20, Autograph Playhouse, 9W 25th St., Baltimore, www.baltimorerockopera.org, $12-$17). “They came through at the H Street Festival last year, and they were GWAR meets Italian opera. They were awesome: completely decked out in heavy metal gear. They reminded me of the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie ‘The Running Man.’ ”

Happy-hour haven: The outdoor space at the Standard (1801 14th St. NW, www.
standarddc.com
). “It’s all picnic tables and giant handles of beer. [Grill master Tad Curtz has] got short ribs, too, that are really tasty. He also got this doughnut-making machine [from] eBay. It’s hilarious.”

A splurge-worthy spot: Marcel’s (2401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 202-296-1166, www.marcelsdc.com). “They’re extremely knowledgeable in terms of their wine list and food. I think the last time I was there I had duck, and it was stupid good. It’s French that’s expensive. I don’t splurge that often.”

Not-quite classified information: Skip the 9:30 Club’s main entrance and go to the basement BackBar (it’s down the steps off the alley on the left side of the club). If you show your ticket to that night’s performance, you’ll save 25 percent on drinks before the show. If you order food, you can be first in line when doors open. (815 V St. NW, 202-265-0930, www.930.com)

Debut he’s looking to: 3 Stars Brewing Co. (6400 Chillum Pl. NW, 202-670-0333, www.3starsbrewing.com). “Those guys seem to have their [expletive] together. . . . I met them at the DC Beer Week cruise.”

Joi-Marie McKenzie, 26

Editor and founder, the Fab Empire

After graduating from the University of Maryland, Joi-Marie McKenzie launched the blog Fab University to document D.C. night life. It wasn’t long before she realized the site had tremendous opportunity for growth. She launched a new blog, D.C. Fab, in August 2007. Today, she heads up a network of blogs (www.thefabempire.com) with hubs in New York, Boston, Baltimore and Washington. Despite the fact that she now divides her time between the District and New York — she recently landed a gig as an entertainment producer at ABC News — she still writes and edits D.C. Fab, providing readers with the latest night life news, happy-hour happenings and celebrity sightings.

On her calendar for months: Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference (Sept. 19-22, www.cbcfinc.org). “It’s a week of seminars, but really the receptions and the after-parties really get me going. I’ve met Stevie Wonder and Tyler Perry. You also have Jesse Jackson [and] politicians you won’t have access to if you’re not in those halls or a staffer. Every year at D.C. Fab, we do an insiders’ guide where we list the receptions for young professionals who want to rub shoulders and pass out a business card.”

Debuts she’s looking forward to: The upcoming Trump Hotel at the Old Post Office Pavilion (1100 Pennsylvania Ave. NW). “All his hotels are beautiful: They’re a landmark in their cities. I’m excited to see what restaurants and bars he’ll have in that old [building].”

Also, the April 9 opening of Howard Theatre (620 T St. NW, 202-588-5595, www.thehowardtheatre.com). “They’re having Boyz II Men (Sept. 6-7 at 8 p.m., $59.50-$64) and Wale (April 9 at 9 p.m., $35) [and] a lot of great acts. I’m curious to see if they’ll bring more competition to the 9:30 Club and the Fillmore.”

Finger-lickin’ good food: The Salvadoran seafood soup at El Rinconcito Cafe (1129 11th St. NW, 202-789-4110). “It’s as big as your head. It literally has a full crab in there. I’m from Baltimore, Maryland, so I’m a seafood girl. [There is] crab, mussels, clams, lobster in there. It’s amazing and huge. I’m obsessed.”

Getting the gang together: Smith Commons (1245 H St. NE, 202-396-0038, www.smithcommonsdc.com). “The second level is a big room, and it’s great for groups. It’s also a great beer spot. It’s not a dive bar at all; you can dress up to go there. The second level has this great atmosphere. You can sit on these couches and eat and drink there.”

Marissa Payne, 32

Editor, Scoutmob D.C.

Ever since the D.C. version of the quirky deals site (www.scoutmob.com) launched last July, Marissa Payne has devoted her days to providing amusing and of-the-moment city happenings to those who subscribe to her daily e-mail.

Avoiding the tourist hordes: The Westover Beer Garden & Haus (5863 N. Washington Blvd., Arlington, 703-536-5040, www.westovermarket.com/_BEER_GARDEN.html). “It’s attached to a grocery store in Arlington. I love it. It’s a low-key spot. Their patio is . . . going to have live music.” (Starting April 4: Live music on Wednesdays from 6 to 8 p.m., Fridays from 6 to 10 p.m. and Saturdays from 5 to 9 p.m.)

Food truck fave: Pleasant Pops (202-596-8440, www.pleasantpops.com). “I’ll make a special trip on a hot day to go to Pleasant Pops. . . . Right now, they just operate out of a truck. I really like the pineapple-basil flavor. ”

Art worth anticipating: Upcoming exhibits at Contemporary Wing gallery (1412 14th St. NW, 202-730-5037, www.contemporarywing.com). “They’re going to have a solo exhibition of this artist named Hedieh Javanshir Ilchi that will be starting in May. She paints on nontraditional materials, [and] they’re very intricate paintings that blend Eastern and Western culture. There’s a lot of bright colors; they’re really appealing to the eye. I would love to own one.”

Happy-hour haven: Panache Restaurant (1725 Desales St. NW, 202-293-7760, www.panacherestaurant.com). “They have a really good drink called the sangria-tini, which is basically sangria with more liquor in it. They have really good prices for happy hour.

Finger-lickin’ good food: The tuna sandwich at Fast Gourmet (1400 W St. NW, 202-448-9217, www.fast-gourmet.com). “If there was something I’d be forced to eat every day, I would choose that. For brunch there’s this dish called torrijas at Estadio (1520 14th St. NW, 202-319-1404, www.estadio-dc.com) — it’s so good. It’s like french toast, but 100 times better.”

Theatrical gig that’s just the ticket: Synetic Theater’s silent “Taming of the Shrew.” (March 31-April 22, 1800 S. Bell St., Arlington, 703-824-8061, www.synetictheater.org, $45-$55). “I like Synetic Theater because it actually made me love Shakespeare again. I hated him a long time after having gotten my lowest grade in college in a Shakespeare class. Weirdly, I think his stories are far more epic without words and told through movement like Synetic’s silent Shakespeare does.”

Kojo Nnamdi, 67

Host, “The Kojo Nnamdi Show” on WAMU (88.5 FM)

As the host of his own show (thekojonnamdishow.org) since 2002 and “Public Interest” for four years before that, Kojo Nnamdi keeps area listeners engaged in topics from local political scandals to food science. His one-hour “Tech Tuesday” show is dedicated to the latest gadgets and new media, and his Wednesday food-focused broadcast earned the host and his production team a James Beard Award in 2010.

On his calendar for months: The Robert Glasper Experiment at Warner Theatre (April 3 at 8 p.m., 513 13th St. NW, 202-783-4000, www.warnertheatredc.com, $50-$60). “He evolved into a jazz pianist, but then he started sampling people like Erykah Badu and Mos Def and so then started this interesting blend of jazz and hip-hop. What I find most interesting about him is what jazz purists would say is the nerve, the unmitigated gall, to say he’d gotten bored with jazz. He wanted to wake up jazz.”

Food truck fave: “Right now, I haven’t seen any food trucks that can beat the Red Hook Lobster Pound (www.redhooklobsterdc.com). That for me is the best food truck around D.C. right now. I like the buns that they bring from New England, but just the lobster sandwich is my New England favorite.”

An adventure he’d like to attempt: Trapeze School D.C. (Fourth and Tingey streets SE, 410-459-6839, www.washingtondc.trapezeschool.com). “I’d always hang around there for half an hour before I went to the [Washington] Kastles games just fantasizing about trying a trapeze lesson . . . because when you try things that really scare you a lot, you feel like you’ve accomplished something. ”

Art worth anticipating: The Bethesda Urban Partnership and the Bethesda Arts and Entertainment District’s “Tunnel Vision” project (late May, 301-215-6660, www.bethesda.org/bethesda/tunnel-vision). “I like seeing art in unconventional and unexpected places. I recently read Bethesda had a competition to post public art in the Metro tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue.”

Finger-lickin’ good food: Full Kee (509 H St. NW, 202-371-2233, www.fullkeedc.com). “It’s one of the few great Chinese places left in Chinatown. They have got the greatest shrimp dumpling noodle soup. It’s to-die-for.”

Sommer Mathis, 32

Editor, Atlantic Cities

Sommer Mathis already seems a D.C. news veteran. Before landing her current gig — as an editor of the Atlantic company’s new site that focuses on cities and urbanization (www.theatlanticcities.com) — the Shaw resident made her mark in the local media scene as the editor in chief of DCist, an editor-reporter at TBD and Web editor at Washingtonian.

Art worth anticipating: Artomatic (May 18-June 24, 2511 S. Clark St., Arlington, 202-569-3175, www.artomatic.org). “Say what you will, but I think it’s a really fun event. It’s a massive show. So many people get involved with it, and people end up going because it runs so long. The odds that you have a friend with a piece in the show are so good. It’s like a big community event, and I’m glad it’s coming back.”

Gratis and great: The Fort Reno summer concert series (typically late June through early August on Monday and Thursday evenings, Fort Reno Park, Chesapeake Street NW between 40th Street and Nebraska Avenue, www.fortreno.com). “I try to go to at least a couple shows there every year. It’s a great tradition that brings the local music scene together with kids and families. You bring a picnic or buy an ice cream cone, and it’s a big, happy outdoor evening party all summer.”

Happy-hour haven: Dino (3435 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-686-2966, www.dino-dc.com). “You have to get there on the early side if you actually want to try to sit at the bar; there are not that many seats. They put out all of these pickled olives, [and] it’s different every time. Sometimes there’s charcuterie. . . . Their bartender is super talented, so you can get a real craft cocktail with all of these delicious bar snacks. It feels like a real treat being there.”

When she has amorous aspirations: The Gibson (2009 14th St. NW, 202-232-2156, www.thegibsondc.com). “You have to make some effort to get in there. You often have to have a reservation, even though it’s mostly a bar. [It’s great] for people looking to have a special date night. . . . There’s a sense of ceremony. All the folks who work there are dressed up. It feels like not a regular night out when you’re there.”

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