America’s capital is naturally a bustling metropolis, but hardly top of mind for most tourists. Unlike New York and LA’s more fashionable reputations, Washington D.C. is the more serious-minded of cities: politics, museums, and not much else. But there’s a lot more to D.C. than the White House (and its wily occupant); it’s a city rich in culture, history, and the occasional gastronomic revelation. Even a brief, two-day itinerary will yield a pretty rich experience. One that, we dare say, may just change your opinion about this underrated city.
If you catch Barcelona in good weather, the best seats are definitely al fresco. This wine bar offers an excellent selection of tapas. Take note that the smaller portions means having to wait for the next dish once you finish everything on the table; if you must, order everything in one go. Our favorites include their smoked pork belly in red chimichurri, albondigas in ham-tomato sauce, and churros. Wait, churros for brunch? Of course.
Barcelona is located at 1622 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009. Open for brunch at 11 a.m. on weekends.
Visit: National Gallery of Art
Washington D.C. is a of museums, and finishing up the Smithsonian is a daunting task at the least. Among the many free museums to visit, the National Gallery of Art is a notable visit. Beyond the gallery’s original neoclassical West Building, the modern East Building features a gorgeous facade by I.M. Pei and a six-acre Sculpture Garden. Inside, work by 20th century artists Georgia O’Keefe, Jackson Pollock, and Ed Ruscha can be found, among many others.
The National Gallery of Art is located at 6th & Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20565. Open everyday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Dinner: Tico DC
Sitting in an area where great food can be conveniently located, Tico DC stands out. Their small plates menu feature a mix of American cuisine with Latin American influences. Their local crab tostada is wonderfully smoky, with avocado, scallions, and gazpacho sauce; but the real winner is the Tico’s Mac and Cheese: serrano ham, manchego, and crunchy bread crumbs. Yep, just as dreamy on paper as it is in real life. Dinner gets busy on the weekend, so best to make reservations.
Tico DC located at 1926 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009. Open from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. on weekdays, with brunch hours starting at 10 a.m. on weekends.
Drinks: Café Saint-Ex
A full dinner at Tico warrants a nice walk, and right nearby is Café Saint-Ex. While they have a crowded speakeasy at the back, the storefront offers a pretty relaxed atmosphere. Saint-Ex’s huge windows are perfect for people-watching, and the music is actually pretty good. The perfect post-dinner drink? The Mahi Mahi: rum, allspice, hibiscus, lime, and ginger beer.
Café Saint Ex is located at 1847 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009. Open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Mondays to Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. on Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Sundays.
Late Night Visit: The Jefferson Memorial
After a nightcap, the last thing on most people’s minds is visiting a D.C. memorial. But it is perhaps one of the most quintessential of D.C. haunts, and not as touristy as one would expect. Dedicated to one of America’s Founding Fathers — and the drafter of the Declaration of Independence — the Jefferson Memorial looks best at night. Not only are the crowds wonderfully absent, but the weather can be a lot more forgiving in the summer. The view of the Tidal Basin is not bad either.
The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is located at 701 E Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242. Open 24 hours every day.
Breakfast: A Baked Joint
There’s something about the energy at A Baked Joint that you feed off from; frenetic, almost, even on a weekend. Tall ceilings and wide seating spaces greet you, while the menu features an unfussy breakfast selection. The yogurt-granola bowl (which includes their own Hippie Crack granola) is ideal for anyone rearing to get started with their day, while their morning Sammies add a little more punch in the morning. For an early day treat, the Crème Brûlée French Toast might be just the thing, with fresh fruit and thick applewood smoked bacon. (Available only on weekends, and gets sold out pretty quickly.)
A Baked Joint is located at 440 K St NW, Washington, DC 20001. Open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays (except for Tuesdays and Fridays, where they close at 9 p.m.), and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends.
Lunch: Momofuku CCDC
Momofuku needs very little introduction; the only thing you must know is that it happens to be right in D.C. Best to start with their small plates (the brisket buns, with horseradish, pickled red onion, and cucumber, are petite but hefty) then move on to their famed ramen selection. Take note that the bowls are big enough for sharing. But if you must order for yourself, you can never go wrong with the classic Pork Ramen or the more adventurous Chilled Spicy noodles (Sichuan sausage, Thai basil, and cashew). Of course, no Momofuku trip is complete without dessert from Milk Bar, and it’s stocked with crowd favorites such as cereal milk soft serve, crack pie, and cookies. Definitely come with an appetite.
Momofuku CCDC is located at 1090 I St. NW, Washington, DC 20001. Open from 11 a.m. to 3 pm. for lunch, and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. for dinner. On weekends, they’re open from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. for dinner.
Visit: The Renwick Gallery
What is perhaps one of the smaller of Smithsonian art museums is one not to miss on a D.C. trek. Just a stone’s throw away from The White House and the Eisenhower Building, the Renwick focuses on American craft and decorative arts form the 19th to the 21st century. One of the gallery’s more immersive work is a piece by Janet Echelman that spans a whole room, and uses topographic data from a tsunami that hit Japan in 2011.
The Renwick Gallery is located at 1661 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20006. Open every day from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Snack: Sprinkles Cupcakes
The cupcake is a surprising D.C. icon, and Sprinkles is one of the most well-known in town. While not a homegrown brand (it started in Beverly Hills) Sprinkles is nonetheless worth hitting up for its freshly baked treats and enticing brand identity. Not only do they deliver, they also have ice cream and cookies besides their cupcakes. Best to take a box of six and have them as a snack by the waterfront, just five minutes away from the store.
Sprinkles Cupcakes 3015 M St NW, Washington, DC 20007. Open everyday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. —Marga Buenaventura