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How Kareem ‘Mr. Bake’ Queeman would spend a perfect day in D.C.

In D.C. Dream Day, we ask our favorite people in the area to tell us how they would spend a perfect day in the District.

Maryland baker Kareem “Mr. Bake” Queeman relishes competing on cooking shows like “Beat Bobby Flay,” “Bake It Like Buddy” and “Sugar Rush Christmas,” even if the pressure gets to him. “Oh, my God, they’re so stressful,” Queeman says. “They are the most stressful thing in the world, don’t let nobody else tell you otherwise.”

Why put himself through the stress? As a Black and queer bakery owner, Queeman recognizes how important representation is. “I intentionally wanted to put myself on a platform to be seen,” he says. “So people who identify with me that are Black, Brown and queer can say, ‘I want to go on this show, and I too can be myself.’ That’s what really pushed me.”

In August, Queeman opened his first Mr. Bake bricks-and-mortar shop at Le Fantome food hall in Riverdale, where he slings cupcakes, doughnuts and banana pudding. He borrowed his “world famous” banana pudding recipe from his Aunt Janet, who was the “most experimental” cook in his family. “People can’t get enough of it,” Queeman says. “I tweaked it over the years, but it still stays true to the core recipe she gave me.”

Baking brought the native New Yorker to the area in 2010 when he was recruited to help open Fluffy Thoughts Cakes in McLean. He’d later assist in opening the first Crumbs Bake Shop in D.C. before starting his own business. During that time, he’s lived all over the DMV: in Alexandria, in Northeast D.C. and around Prince George’s County, ultimately settling in Temple Hills. At first, though, Queeman didn’t love the area.

“I did not like the transportation system coming from New York City,” says Queeman, who didn’t know how to drive and had a grueling two-hour bus-train-bus-walk commute from Alexandria to McLean. “I cursed out the Metro system every day.” Once he got settled — and got his license and a car — he started to build a community here, full of friends and family members, like his cousin, who moved down with him.

He’s also come to appreciate the history of Prince George’s County, where he’s spent much of his time. “Learning a lot more about Prince George’s, and how influential it was to African American culture, it gave me a different lens to look at my culture and people,” he says. Now Queeman feels like he’s become a part of that community, especially with his new bakery. “My childhood dream was to have a neighborhood bakery,” he says. “I love connecting with people.”

But on a dream day in D.C., work is the farthest thing from Queeman’s mind: The agenda is all about food, friends and fun.

What am I doing first? I’ll go and take a walk or a light jog in D.C. I love what they’ve done to the Southwest Waterfront and the Wharf. I like to do outdoorsy things. I do like to walk a lot. I’m from New York — I did a lot of walking. And walking is very therapeutic for me.

I’m going to 19th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, to the original location of Founding Farmers. When I was still the manager at Crumbs, they opened up and my best friend worked there, and I got to eat all the food, so I became a part of the Founding Farmers family. It’s brunch, and I’m probably going to get the chicken and waffles because that comes with a side of macaroni and cheese. I love the history and the story behind Founding Farmers. I like that it holds true to a Southern touch, which is what my background is — even though I’m from New York, my family’s from the South. I love the handcrafted cocktails. Give me the Constitution: a gin-based drink with ginger and chamomile.

I would love to do something artsy. I like to find small art galleries or even a paint-and-sip type of event. My friend owns a company called Artbae, and he does a lot of different art events throughout the D.C. area. He does pop-up gallery events, he’ll curate events at a restaurant with multiple artists. He partnered with the Real Milk & Honey: They have a huge space out in Suitland, and he brought local Black and Brown artisans into the building, and their art is displayed so guests can see it, and if they want, they can purchase the art as well.

I am going to take myself over to Union Market. I like the outdoors, and I love to people watch. My friend used to work at Serenata [inside La Cosecha] and made all my drinks — I don’t know what I got. I just love the openness of the bar, and I’ve met so many great people, literally, just sitting there talking to my friend. And I love that it’s Black- and queer-owned. So I’m definitely going to get another cocktail or two. I have a few friends meeting me, too. I’m still full from brunch, but I’ll probably get a snack at Union Market. I love to explore the pop-up concepts.

Then I’ve got to go to the Dirty Goose. I love the rooftop, especially if Farrah Flosscett is DJing. Oh, my God, she will have me dancing the food that I ate off and get me ready for dinner. My drink now is strictly Hendrick’s gin, tonic and two limes.

So since we’re already in the U Street area, and I’m with my friends, I’m going to do a big dinner at a historical place: Florida Avenue Grill. That’s another Black-owned restaurant with Southern cuisine, and so much history is in that building. I go there sometimes just to truly connect with the people that have been in that building — and to get a really good meal. You’re going to ask me what I’m going to get — it doesn’t matter. You can’t go wrong. If it’s smothered pork chops, the turkey wings, the candied yams, the collard greens, you can’t go wrong with anything that you get at Florida Avenue Grill, but just note that you will not eat all of that in one sitting.

I’m going to take a walk because I like to walk off heavy foods that I ate and I like to end the day where I started out. In New York, that was big for us: When we finished eating anywhere, we always walked a few blocks before we jumped on the next train. So we’re going to end our day with a recap of laughing and joking. And taking a few steps around U Street, people watching.

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