Best Day Ever

Two Cool Chicks Spin Through a D.C. Weekend

by Karine Bailly and Beth Silverman
Girls Buds on bikes. Photo courtesy of Beth Silverman.

There's more happening in our nation's capital than what's on the Hill. Fathom contributors and friends Karine Bailly and Beth Silverman are in D.C. after years living in Paris, NYC, and beyond. They do their city right with a weekend of art, exercise, caffeine, books, bike rides, and music.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two dear friends find themselves living in D.C. after many years running through the mean streets of New York City. Given misaligned work, travel, and social schedules, Beth and Karine reserve a weekend for a mega catch-up session set against a backdrop of their favorite forays.

SATURDAY, PLANNED BY KARINE

Up and At It: I hate running, but Beth loves to drag my ass around town and always has an arsenal of good stories to distract me from the shin splints. We start the weekend right with an early morning scramble through Rock Creek Park. With easy access points from the city, it is a great escape for outdoor enthusiasts and urban dwellers looking for various levels of trails and terrains.

Morning Cravings: One of my favorite things about this city is its bike-ability — there are tree-lined streets and historic houses everywhere. Since our ideal weekend is a sunny one, we bike to Union Market for coffee and brunch. A contemporary cousin to the historic Center Market, Union re-opened in 2012 in a once dilapidated industrial Northeast neighborhood, bringing with it a well-curated assortment of entrepreneurial artisans, established restauranteurs, and a solid mix of locals and out-of-towners.

Inside the market, we bee-line for Peregrine and then, espressos in-hand, continue to peruse food options. I go for the meaty ways of Takorean while Beth wanders to DC Dosa. For those who feel brunch should involve eggs or lox, Bidwell offers both, along with traditional table service. DC Fishwife is another favorite.

This is about the time when my cravings turn into curiosity, so we head over to Salt and Sundry to check out their ever-changing collection of home goods, handmade furniture, and enviable linens and dishware. I'm especially tempted to purchase beautiful and simple stem vases but I hold back knowing I can spin-up some of my own at a weekly Hinkley Pottery class. We meander to Nomad Collective, an eclectic space with fun vintage finds for men, women, and the home. Since we're nearby, we head to the Angelika pop-up to see what's playing, as I often get the itch for indie films on Saturday nights.

Still Hungry: Feeling peckish once again, we go to Mintwood Place in the Adams Morgan neighborhood for bar snacks — duck rillettes and forager's salad. Those looking for a boozier afternoon should go to Bar Charley's for hard-hitting Bloody Marys and chicken and waffles.

We cruise over to nearby Dupont Circle to see what's new at Hillyer Art Space and Foundry Gallery, two bite-size spots showcasing local and international artists. The immersive Phillips Collection is home to modern art in an intimate setting, away from the throngs of tourists that flock to the many wonderful Smithsonian museums on the weekend.

Dessert at The Red Hen

Dessert at The Red Hen. Photo courtesy of The Red Hen.

Petworth or Bust: I'm ready for a negroni and Beth is craving a predictable glass of sauvignon blanc, so we venture to Petworth for bar stools and early-eve cocktails at Petworth Citizen. Their happy hour menu also has hush puppies, chicken wings, spring rolls, and other delicious nibbles (clearly they believe D.C. is indeed south of the Maison Dixon line), served amid old-timey tin ceilings and booth seating. They also have a back library room — the scene of my birthday for three-years running because I love it that much. The library features weekly events and readings, a nice way to round out a long week.

Feeling quite literary, we decide to visit Upshur Books, just down the block from delicious Domku, known for hearty Slavic and Scandinavian cuisine (try their vegetarian Swedish meatballs), and the once-loved Crane And Turtle, which now features pop-up chefs and sake artists until a new, permanent chef takes the reins.

As the sun fades out of view, we walk down Georgia Avenue to Chez Billy, a Parisian bistro rooted in history. With beautiful balcony seating and a downstairs bar and dining area — not to mention a fireplace to cozy up next to during those less balmy D.C. months — we tuck into mussels, confits, and burgers.

We're in Petworth and it's Saturday night, so we walk to Colony Club for digestives (bourbon and espresso) and a friendly game of ping pong, ending a full day with a win.

SUNDAY, PLANNED BY BETH

Soak up the Sunday Streets (and some of Shaw): Karine and I share a love of coffee. There are many spots to choose from in my neighborhood, but today I want to venture further into Shaw. La Colombe in the historic Blagden Alley (also home to two notable eateries:Dabney and Lost & Found), is worth the extra ten minutes. We grab our kryptonite and a little table outside to sip and soak up the sun. The city reveals itself in a rare and beautiful way when no one else is awake, especially in this neighborhood, which seems to be in a constant cycle of re-emergence.

I'm in charge of our running route this morning, so I drag Karine into doing a U Street jog. The large neighborhood is known to many as "Black Broadway," where Duke Ellington grew up and other jazz legends like Cab Calloway, Pearl Bailey, and Jelly Roll Morton used to play. It's littered with gems, some secret and some not. History lovers can take a self-guided tour on the Greater U Street Heritage Trail. (Here's the audio.)

We peek into the always overflowing Ben's Chili Bowl (one of the few local businesses to remain untouched during the 1968 riots); the former Whitelaw Hotel (the segregated capital's first luxury hotel for African Americans); and various jazz fixtures new and old, like Twins, Lincoln Theatre, and Howard Theatre. (Can you tell I'm an urban planner?) We also weave through the many awesome murals stitched throughout the neighborhood's alleys.

Ben's Chili Bowl

Ben's Chili Bowl. Photo courtesy of Ben's Chili Bowl.

Hunger Pangs: Four-and-a-half miles later and my stomach is howling. We finish our run in Columbia Heights and stop at an old favorite, Room 11, where we dine on savory sandwiches and incredibly delicious four barrel coffee. Also in the area are El Chucho (simple tacos and stellar margaritas) and Red Rocks (all I need to say is breakfast pizza).

After breakfast, we make a quick pit stop to grab books and blankets for an afternoon laze at Meridian Hill Park, which, when I was growing up, was better known as Malcolm X Park. The park is a cross section of D.C., not too big, not too small, with a dozen cascading fountains, green spaces galore, and a late afternoon drum circle on Sundays.

In the Evening Hour: I love Sunday nights. Especially for the the inimitable funk and soul set by Granny and the Boys at Show Time in Bloomingdale. I owe big thanks to my old work bestie who introduced me to this Sunday night ritual.

We ride bikes to Boundary Stone, a solid spot with a great homemade veggie burger and even greater neighborhood vibe. Another favorite is The Red Hen, an Italian spot known for its homemade pasta and seasonal fare.

We cross the street to Show Time to make sure we secure a spot before the place fills up — Granny (83-year-old Alice Donahue) has a steady following after holding court every Sunday night for the past three years. The band's story is quirky and sweet and worth knowing, but watching a funk band led by a grandmother at a hip dive bar in D.C. is remarkable all by itself.

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