Going Out Guide

Eight D.C. tastemakers show us the way forward

(Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Washington is a hungry city, always on the lookout for the buzziest new dining room, the coolest new artist, the next star-in-the-making. No one wants to be the 35th person to tell their friends about the new hotspot on U Street or the thought-provoking exhibition in Adams Morgan — they want to be first.

And the easiest way to get ahead is to follow the people at the very front of the curve. We asked the people behind some of our favorite local cocktails, theater and radio to predict the trends that will sweep the city in 2020 and beyond.

It seems that we have a lot to look forward to.

(Shannon Sturgis)

Lauren Paylor

Silver Lyan at the Riggs

Lauren Paylor, 27, is one of the area’s most engaging and creative bartenders. She has served in a number of roles around D.C., including as the head bartender for Derek Brown’s pre-pop-up Seventh Street NW bars (Mockingbird Hill, Eat the Rich and Southern Efficiency) and, most recently, as the general manager at Petworth’s Dos Mamis, which The Washington Post named the best new bar of 2019. She was the winner of the 2018 DC Black Restaurant Week Cocktail competition, and a finalist in the 2019 U.S. Bartenders’ Guild’s World Class National Competition. She has now joined the team at Silver Lyan, from award-winning British bartender Ryan Chetiyawardana, in the new Riggs Hotel in Penn Quarter.

I think we’re going to see a lot of amazing bar programs in D.C. in 2020. Take Eaton and the Allegory: The display they had in the lobby that highlights and educates people on the history of black bartenders in the United States — something that’s as simplistic as that has so much value.

Sherry is making a comeback in cocktails. I think it’s something that bartenders in general are establishing a better appreciation for, and I’ve seen it pop up a lot more than I have in the past, which excites me because I love sherry, having worked at Mockingbird Hill. I think what I’d like to see moving forward are more sober venues and/or low-ABV cocktails, such as at Coconut Club, Service Bar and Compass Rose. I went a couple of months without drinking, and although the options may not be listed on their menus, they are all able to execute delicious and unique low-ABV and nonalcoholic beverages.

Also, I’d like to see a little bit more simplicity. The classic cocktails really allow us to establish great foundations when we’re learning the basics. That’s something I think can often get lost when we’re really focused on this craft cocktail-oriented scene that we have, but simplicity goes a lot of the way as well.

[At the same time,] I think that we’ll be a lot more careful at every step that goes into producing a product. That can be something as simple as being a little bit more conscious of sustainability and anti-waste, and the importance of integrating that into our programs.

The D.C. cocktail scene is interesting, in comparison with other markets I’ve seen. I think that we are very conscious and aware of, “How do you cater to the larger audience?” That might just be because you have so many tourists visiting our city.

I think that we have an opportunity to really think outside the box and integrate culinary aspects into our drinks, and really create an experience. When people go out for food, there’s a story that accompanies [each dish]. That’s something that we’ve lost a little bit with beverages, and it’s something that’s definitely going to make a comeback.

In five years, I hope to be distilling some spirit. I’m really excited for the opportunities coming my way, and sustainability and anti-waste has been something that’s been very important to me, so I want to integrate that into my craft. I hope to compete in the World Class again, and then I hope to take those skills and translate them to what goes into the products that bartenders utilize. — as told to Fritz Hahn

(Laura Chase de Formigny for The Washington Post)

Kevin Tien

Emilie’s

Kevin Tien hails from Louisiana, but the 32-year-old chef made a name for himself in D.C. He’s been a line cook at Pineapple and Pearls, and he can make a mean hot chicken sandwich, as anyone who’s visited Hot Lola’s in Ballston can attest. Tien’s dazzling and playful cooking at Petworth’s Himitsu earned him James Beard nominations and a 2018 best new chef nod from Food & Wine, and Eater named Himitsu one of the best new restaurants in America in 2017. But last year, Tien struck out on his own, opening Emilie’s at the eastern edge of Capitol Hill.

We did an event called Indie Chefs Week recently, and we had a lot of chefs at the restaurant from out of town. One chef was like, “Oh, I have to eat at Centrolina and visit Amy Brandwein. We hear her pastas are amazing.” There were Filipino chefs that came from Seattle, and they’re like, “Oh, we have to go to Bad Saint.” Other chefs were like, “Oh, man, we heard that D.C. has some of the best Lao food, so we have to go to Thip Khao.”

I moved to D.C. nine years ago, and there definitely weren’t as many restaurants here. I’d say right now, more than ever, there are a lot of restaurants that tell a story.

D.C.’s on the culinary map now. It leaves us more open to critiques, and it’s a lot of pressure. And especially if you’re like someone like Chef JoJo [Law-Yone] and Simone Jacobson from Thamee — there’s not many Burmese restaurants, and they want to be able to represent their food in the correct way. Same thing with Tom Cunanan. Before Bad Saint, there wasn’t much like [Philippine] food to be heard of. I remember talking to Tom, and he wanted to do food that he was proud of, that made his family proud, and that also represented and made everyone in the Philippines proud. I think that’s the biggest pressure for everyone: making other people proud.

It was definitely a schlep to get to Himitsu. We were really far north of a lot of dining neighborhoods, so it’s definitely a neighborhood restaurant. But also it became this thing where we had guests drive in from Baltimore, or people that would get off the plane and come straight to the restaurant. It’s the same thing as the Inn at Little Washington. The food and the service are so good, everyone’s willing to make that drive.

I think the demographics of the city are changing. It’s a lot younger families between the 30s and 40s. And for them, [choosing a restaurant] depends on your stage in life. If you get off work and you want to do a happy hour, that’s great. You could stay downtown and you could probably go to Centrolina or Nina May and have an amazing meal. But for those who have to run home, they get a nice luxury of, “Oh, man, we have these awesome neighborhood restaurants.” You can go to east Capitol Hill and come to Emilie’s, or if you live on H Street you can go to Thamee, or if you live in [Adams Morgan], you get to go to Reveler’s Hour. You know, every neighborhood is kind of special at this point. — as told to Fritz Hahn

(Andre Chung for The Washington Post)

Amy Morse

Pakke Social

Amy Morse, 38, co-founded the event production company Pakke Social in 2018 with a clear vision: to highlight emerging D.C. visual artists and musicians while calling attention to political and social issues. Regardless of how imaginative these events may be — past Pakke productions have included climate-change-themed exhibitions and a dance party to promote health equity — every one inevitably ties back to the larger mission of activism. The highly curated events have taken place at such cauldrons of creativity as the Cheshire, a multipurpose, DIY space in Adams Morgan where Morse holds the title of senior events producer, and 52 O Street Artist Studios.

A trend to note is the future of the experience economy. In looking closer at the stats, 72 percent of millennials would rather spend money on experiences than materials. Traditionally, this has been at bars and restaurants, and that’s still the case. But I think it’s also fun to think about new ways to activate spaces.

There are several event collectives in the D.C. area that are building community around global culture: Meso Creso is one of my favorite communities; they are a group that celebrates global music and culture, and they have a festival coming up this July called Nomadico that’s in Gore, Va. I’m also excited about Catharsis on the Mall (May 1-3), too. There are a great group of creatives who support the festival, which is a lot about culture change and culture shift.

Suns Cinema is not a collective, but a theater in Mount Pleasant that’s really digging into a lot of awesome global films and exploring film history. They also have great music there.

Also, when you look at trends and the future of D.C., we’ve got these weird gaps in commercial real estate. I feel like Pakke is taking advantage of these little gaps to activate spaces that are underutilized. Hole in the Sky is an independent living space in Northeast for artists that’s amazing, and they use its space for artists-in-residence. Besides the collectives, you can expect to see more collaboration between artists and activists, who are coming together to come up with compelling events and campaigns.

Years ago, when I first moved to D.C., people were still using fax machines and direct mail campaigns. And while that still can be effective for certain age groups, the future is really engaging with people in new ways. Extinction Rebellion, [a global activist group that has a strong D.C. presence,] is the best example that I can think of a group that does this well. Rose Jaffe is an artist who does a great job with creating thoughtful campaigns and working with different activists on big events. I found her on Instagram because she started this wheat-pasting campaign called Feminists F--- With the Facts, focused on wage inequality, and it was so smart and compelling and factual. It wasn’t since the Guerrilla Girls that I had seen something so thoughtful about an issue. — as told to Stephanie Williams

(Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Tenbeete Solomon

Artist known as Trap Bob

Tenbeete Solomon, a Washington-based artist, illustrator and animator who goes by the moniker Trap Bob, sees the world in neon colors. Known for bright, cheeky images that highlight strong female figures from entertainment and black culture, the 27-year-old has received commissions from such companies as Pabst Blue Ribbon, Apple and Refinery 29. And she does this all while serving as the creative director of GIRLAAA, a women-focused event collective that has evolved into a blossoming creative agency.

I foresee the future of art being more inclusive and diverse.

Hen House is a woman-centric art collective. I love the way they celebrate different artists in the community. They don’t make it a thing where it’s like: “This is the best artist” or “This is the best show you need to go to.” It’s more like: “This is a community show, and this is who we’re going to be supporting.”

This mentality that it’s about all of us, vs. just one of us, is exciting for me. I think what’s also really exciting is the spotlight on D.C. history, even as we’re moving forward. And I think in that excitement and creativity that’s gone behind it, it’s not making people stay in the past. It’s more so helping us figure out what we want for the future.

Even things like go-go, which has been really celebrated in the past year, wasn’t as celebrated or at the forefront as it was before. I think a lot of artists and collectives bring the themes of go-go into their work. An example is Chris Pyrate, who’s an artist that has been putting on events for Pabst Blue Ribbon. They had their first festival here in D.C. [last year] at Dupont Underground, and he had me make a go-go backdrop design and make it an integral part of what I’m doing. He had Uncalled 4 Band perform and other go-go bands.

I think another trend we’ll see is more spaces that are opening up their doors for kids to learn about creative fields. The Hirshhorn has ARTLAB for their students and the kids in the community. They do different educational things where they’ll have someone who was in a go-go band come and speak on the history of it, or where the kids get to create their own art.

As much as we’re putting on parties and festivals and panels, it needs to all come back to the people that we’re trying to prepare and pass the torch onto, [to] keep the movement going. — as told to Stephanie Williams

(Jennifer S. Altman for The Washington Post)

Maria Manuela Goyanes

Woolly Mammoth Theatre

Maria Manuela Goyanes is one of the fresher faces in D.C. theater, having departed New York’s Public Theater (where she helped produce “Hamilton”) in 2018 to take over the job of artistic director of Woolly Mammoth. Since then, the 40-year-old has put her own stamp on Woolly’s tradition of boundary-pushing productions, championing the work of female and minority voices during a 2019-2020 season that opened with Pulitzer Prize-winner “Fairview” and features the timely sociopolitical drama “Shipwreck.”

I never thought that the impeachment would be happening at the same time as us doing Anne Washburn’s U.S. premiere of “Shipwreck,” which imagines what happened at the dinner with James B. Comey and [President] Trump, so it can’t get more prescient than that. Another project here I’m insanely excited about is “Teenage Dick,” by Mike Lew, June 1-28, which is “Richard III” set in high school.

In terms of trends, what I’m seeing in the scene right now is more of these out-of-the-box partnerships. Woolly for the first time is collaborating with the Shakespeare Theatre Company, right around the corner from us, to present “The Jungle” next fall. The Folger is under construction, so that means they’re going to be doing stuff out in the community, and they just announced that they’re taking over the National Building Museum to do “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” this summer. I’m going to be the first one in line for that ticket.

Reginald L. Douglas just joined the team at Studio Theatre as associate artistic director, and I think that is an inspired hire. The new Welders 3.0 were recently announced — that’s the theater company that reinvents itself every three years with a new set of playwrights — and I think that Catherine Frost, Farah Lawal Harris, Sisi Reid, JR Russ, Teshonne Nicole Powell and Jared Shamberger are tremendously exciting.

Rep Stage announced that they are going to do a world premiere by Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi, called “Ghost/Writer,” opening a year from now, and I’ll follow her to the end of the Earth. I also wanted to shout out Nicole A. Watson. She’s the associate artistic director at Round House Theatre, and I just want to see all of her work. Another project on my radar is “The Till Trilogy,” by Ifa Bayeza, with Talvin Wilks directing at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in April. I just think the Mosaic Theater Company is doing great work, and people should know about it.

Finally, I know that I’m talking mostly about local theater, but I also wanted to say that I’m so inspired by Stable, that group of visual artists who came together to create that gallery space in those artist studios in Northeast. I’m so inspired by the annual By the People festival that Halcyon puts on, and the community activations that the Eaton Workshop does. I’m super inspired by Christopher K. Morgan, and what he’s up to at Dance Place. For me, the theater is so vibrant and exciting because the ecology of arts in D.C. is so vibrant and exciting. — as told to Thomas Floyd

(Andre Chung for The Washington Post)

Sean Joyce

Underground Comedy

Stand-up comic Sean Joyce started staging comedy showcases as part of Underground Comedy in 2013 as a way to spotlight local talent and national up-and-comers. Since then the 39-year-old has put on more shows — and given more opportunities to emerging D.C. stand-ups — than anyone else in Washington, booking 680 shows last year alone and drawing such big names as Michael Che and Patton Oswalt. Though Joyce no longer performs regularly, he plans to produce even more in 2020, with shows every night of the week at such venues as the Big Hunt, Wonderland Ballroom, Drafthouse Comedy Theater and Reliable Tavern.

I think [D.C.’s comedy scene] is going to be stronger from top to bottom — from the lowest level up to the biggest headliner. People are starting to gain a following and get entertainment opportunities in D.C. People are getting managers and TV credits while they live here. But they can’t stay forever.

There are going to be more podcasts and videos coming out of D.C. Ross Benoit’s podcast “Smiley Frown” has helped him build a local following. He’s a mixture of smart and dumb at the same time, which is a great comedy combination.

Denise Taylor is developing as a performer. She’s writing intelligent and interesting jokes that are a little different from what you’ve heard before. She has a podcast with Benjy Himmelfarb, who just moved to New York, called “Sixty Minute Hate” where they hate everything and complain.

Lafayette Wright has been the backbone of Underground Comedy shows for several years. He’s recording an album at Big Hunt this year, and he’s been doing a lot of colleges. I’m hopeful that he can break out. He’s good enough that he could have a half-hour special on Comedy Central.

The DC Improv is always going to have a huge role because they’re the biggest club and they’ve been around the longest. Being booked there and learning how to perform in a club like that is important. The Kennedy Center is great for the local scene because it’s such a huge name.

D.C. has a specific style of comedy: It’s smart and it’s about connecting with the audience. It filters out dated comedy. You can still talk about tricky topics that make people uncomfortable, but if you’re coming at it from a perspective from 10 years ago, you won’t succeed. If you’re talking about politics, in terms of the government and the election, I don’t think it plays a big role. Comedy shows in D.C. have been about getting away from that. With the election, there will probably be a slight increase, but it’s not going to change the overall feeling.

I think the state of comedy is great right now in D.C. It’s probably never been better. I’m hopeful that, like the economy, it’ll just keep going and we’ll just get more and more exciting things. — as told to Rudi Greenberg

(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Matt Jackson and Avery Showell

thfctry

Matt Jackson, 29, and Avery Showell, 25, have their ears tuned to the beating pulse of the District’s music scene. From the lobby of the Line hotel, the Bowie natives co-host “the Factory” (styled thfctry), a radio show they created as students at Salisbury University. Since then, the two have become a resource for local fans wanting to hear the best that the city has to offer in hip-hop and R&B. Their recent interview with Mavi, a rising rapper — and Howard University student — is a fine example of the knowledge and curiosity they bring to what it means to be a musician today and in the future. For the purpose of this article, Jackson and Showell were interviewed together and chose to spoke as a unit.

We always want to be discovering new artists because we not only enjoy the music but take pride in being those people who gave them their big break. You have so many people across D.C., Maryland and Virginia doing their own special thing.

For the more classic sounds, you have Rahiem Supreme and Ankhlejohn holding it down. But if you’re looking for a more abstract sound, Sir E.U is that weird science teacher you had that you had no clue what he was talking about, but by the end of the year, you realize he’s that cool dude who made school go by quicker and that you actually learned something from him.

For people who are going to blow up and the whole country might hear about them soon, that’s got to be Uno Hype and Black Fortune. And we’re only starting to see what Opal can do, even though she’s already been heralded and was on the soundtrack to “Insecure.”

What’s coming up, too, is house music. We’ve got to throw some shout-outs to DJs Mista Selecta, Filet Mignon, Trilla Kay and Domo. Even an artist like Dreamcast uses house, R&B, among others to really create a unique sound. The house scene is still growing in D.C., but it’s on the rise.

The city is changing all the time and we just have to roll with it. As fans and promoters of shows, we’re lucky to have some new spots turn into places that want to put on shows. Songbyrd and Pie Shop are great for that, because they’re willing to try things out. One of our favorite R&B artists in the city, Alex Vaughn, has a monthly open mic night, AV Sessions at Pie Shop, where people can test out new things they’re working on.

We’re lucky to have mainstays in the heart of the city. We probably hang out and find artists the most at Velvet Lounge. It’s that staple, and comfortable even if it’s a human gumball machine. But if you can roll and perform with a mic or speaker going in and out, then that’s a great way to get yourself ready for a bigger stage. And of course, U Street Music Hall has been that bigger leap for artists we like.

The future is going to be great as long as we don’t chase after some homogenization of sound. We’re always going to have go-go, but having that base allows the city to be more versatile in producing and consuming music. We can infuse what was hip-hop with what was go-go, into what is now. — as told to Hau Chu

Design by Joanne Lee; Copy editing by Missy Khamvongsa; Photo editing by Mark Gail.

Read more:

The 10 best pizzas in D.C., Maryland and Virginia

The must-sees on the National Mall

D.C. has places to see and be seen. These are 14 spots where you can escape.

We noticed you’re blocking ads!

Keep supporting great journalism by turning off your ad blocker. Or purchase a subscription for unlimited access to real news you can count on.
Unblock ads
Questions about why you are seeing this? Contact us