Monday, January 5, 2009

One (Monument) Free Saturday In DC

My fun friend Winona recently received an inquiry which she feels I'm better suited to answer since it's about DC and that's where I live. Ooh! A chance to run with the cool girls in the blog world! The question goes:

So in January my family is going to DC for the burial services of my grandpa at Arlington. While it is a sad occasion, my brother, sister and I never get to be together in the same place and we want to make the best of the one free day we have while there. I have visited DC before and saw some of the sites but was wondering if you had any advice...if you had one Saturday in the city, what would you do? Let me know when you get a chance!
Cal of Sidenote

Dear Cal,

When I first started writing this I was at least 500 words in before I even got to lunch, so I'm scrapping the idea of giving you fourteen different ways to spend your day, and just giving you one itinerary--the one I tend to follow on free Saturdays with visiting friends. To minimize stress and maximize entertainment, I've left monuments off the list. Feel free to email me if you have questions, or if you hate museums or are offended by my high-calorie and potentially spendy dining suggestions. Now then...

Start with breakfast at Teaism. There are several locations in DC, and I'm pretty sure that all of them have the same basic menu. Order cilantro scrambled eggs, smoked chicken and apple sausage, ginger scones, and buy some salty oat cookies for later. Drink whatever tea floats your boat, and go to Starbucks afterward if you're like me and can't begin a day without some smack...I mean, coffee.

After breakfast, take the metro (or walk, if you're close enough) to Gallery Place/Chinatown and go to the National Portrait Gallery. Admission is free, as is the case with most of our city's awesome museums, and I think it's pretty much the coolest place ever. Go. Wander. You'll see what I mean.

Other cool options in this part of town (which is called Penn Quarter, by the way): The National Museum of Crime and Punishment, the International Spy Museum, the US Navy Memorial, Ford's Theatre, and the Shakespeare Theatre. And FYI, there's a certain humongous sports bar-type place nearby, so make sure your brother doesn't see it.

When you're done getting your culture on, you'll need food and and you must not go someplace stupid like Subway or eat something gross from a street vendor. There are tons* of restaurants I want to suggest, but since I don't know what time it will be, how tired you'll feel, or how many salty oat cookies you'll have consumed, there's really only one course of action I can recommend without hesitation: the glorious small plate. Happily, there are two spots nearby that do a good-to-terrific job of making them.

1) Jaleo There are a few Jaleos in the DC area, but the one in this 'hood is the flagship, and it's my favorite. If you like fried seafood, you're in luck because the calamari and cod fritters are always on the menu, and always done well. Also delicious are the fried potatoes and pretty much everything that comes with cheese. ORDER ANYTHING INVOLVING PORK, and do not miss the tomato bread or the Catalan spinach. Oh, and get a carafe of sangria if you're of age and enjoy adult beverages.

2) Zaytinya Yes, I suppose I'm touting Jose Andres (the chef behind both of these restaurants) but come on! He makes good food and understands the importance of atmosphere. Zaytinya (which is Turkish for olive oil) is another small-plates kind of restaurant and it is wildly popular, so you might get a buzzer slapped in your hand. Don't worry, though, because you can hang out at the bar and order some hummus to tide you over, and the rest of your meal will be worth waiting for. The food is Mediterranean, so think grape leaves, spiced kebabs, crunchy falafel, vegetable and cheese salads, and pita bread so warm and pillowy you'll kind of wish you could take some home and snuggle with it.

After your repast, you should hightail it to National Geographic. I know it's museum-y, but you can't come to DC and not go there! It's free, it's famous, and your friends will be jelly (jellie?) when you show them the picture you had taken in the seriously one-of-a-kind photo booth. Also, the store is a great place to buy stuff, and I mean more than just maps and bug books.

Now you'll be tired (and possibly chilled--this is January, after all). But take heart, because a warm respite is just two blocks away. The Tabard Inn is arguably the coziest game in town, complete with French-accented ladies at the desk and a sitting room with a real fireplace to warm your toes by while you sip a hot drink. There's a restaurant if you're in the mood for a full dinner, and a bar menu if you only want a snack. Or, you can just order a scrumptious dessert, and have that be the denouement to your day of freedom in Washington, DC. If you decide to go that way, please get the creme brulee. It's ever so lovely and luscious.

At this point, you guys will probably be full and happy, and getting on the metro could be a major buzz kill. So I say hail a cab. And on the way back to your hotel, should you suddenly feel like something's missing, just take a look out the window. You'll see a monument eventually.

*More DC restaurants I love:
Bar Pilar
Belga Cafe
Black Squirrel
Brasserie Beck
Cafe Saint-Ex
Cashion's Eat Place
Creme Cafe
Good Stuff Eatery
Granville Moore's
Hank's Oyster Bar


Cal said...

Oh my gosh, THANK YOU SO MUCH! Perfect timing too since our big weekend in DC starts tomorrow! I'm going to print this entire post along with pages from the links and it is going to be great. I'll try to take lots of pictures and send them to you after the trip. I seriously can't thank you enough.
You're the best :)
-Cal of Sidenote: (

Catherine said...

You are so welcome! And seriously, use that metro map and don't be afraid to ask for help if you get turned around--people here are pretty friendly. I can't wait to see pictures!


AD said...

Zaytina -- One of My Favorite Date Spots and right by my new office.
Might get some good use out of the office locale... No more taking girls to fuddruckers for this guy....

But seriously...
Cath if you had to choose between Nanny O'Briens and Ireland's Four Provinces in Cleveland Park Which would you Pick Please let your boy know


Whit said...

Love this list B!

Have you ever done the water taxi between G'town and Alexandria? Its a little spendy for the round trip, but there really is no better way to see the monuments at night than from the river.

And I think they sell beer by the can too, if memory serves ...

Catherine said...

Thanks, Whit! I've not taken the water taxi but we should do it when the weather warms! It sounds like something I obviously need to experience, and I know you'd be into drinking canned beer with me. Fun!

daddylikeyblog said...

Perfect post, my young blogging intern! Seriously, this is so great and makes me miss DC times infinity!

Catherine said...

Dear AD,

Based on my last experience at Four P's in Cleveland Park (which involved a lot of loud frat boys singing badly along with a not-so-good Irish band), I'd have to go with Nanny's. It just seems a bit more mature, though you can never be to sure with an Irish bar. But you already know that...


Catherine said...

Thanks, Winona! I love being able to help!

I miss you, too. Sigh...