Illustration by Molly Jaques for Oh So Beautiful Paper
Every now and then I receive emails from new DC residents asking about art classes in the area. So I thought I’d wrap up my little DC guide with a quick post about art and letterpress workshops in the DC area. For this particular subject I’m expanding my boundaries to include options in Baltimore and Alexandria; it might be a bit farther for some DC residents to travel – but it’s worth it!
Pyramid Atlantic Art Center (Silver Spring): Pyramid Atlantic recently celebrated its 31st anniversary, making it one of the longest-running art centers in the area. With a long list of experienced artists and instructors, Pyramid offers both studio rentals and art classes in a range of subjects, from letterpress printing and book arts to paper making and screen printing. For more experienced enthusiasts, you can also rent printing equipment after 5 hours of one-on-one instruction.
Typecase Industries (DC): Located in the O Street Studios in Northwest DC, this new letterpress, screen printing, and graphic design studio (run by three graduates of the Corcoran College of Art + Design) offers a limited number of workshops.
Baltimore Print Studios (Baltimore): I had the pleasure of meeting BPS founders Kyle Van Horn and Kim Bentley at the Ladies of Letterpress Conference last year, and you might also remember them from their guest post on letterpress printing. Needless to say, these two know their stuff and are happy to impart their knowledge on anyone interested in learning about letterpress and screen printing. They offer both classes, workshops, as well as the opportunity to rent presses for your own special projects.
Fifteen-Eleven (Old Town Alexandria): A stationery store by day, Fifteen Eleven offers a number of creative workshops from calligraphy (taught by one of my favorite calligraphers!) to letterpress printing.
Corcoran College of Art + Design (DC): The Corcoran College of Art + Design is the only art school (that I know of!) located in downtown DC. The Corcoran offers accredited BFA and MFA programs, along with a number of continuing education courses in everything from digital media design to illustration.
Maryland Institute College of Art (Baltimore): The Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is a full-fledged art school with both BFA and MFA programs. But like the Corcoran College of Art + Design, MICA offers a number of continuing education courses, from fine arts to photography to ceramics.
p.s. For DC-based artists and designers, did you know that you can rent studio space at the O Street Studios? Fun!
Illustration by Molly Jacques for Oh So Beautiful Paper
Confession: I’m actually not a big shopper! Sure, I make semi-regular visits to our DC-area Anthropologies and J. Crews, but you’re far more likely to find me browsing the garden section of my neighborhood hardware store (Go Frager’s!) than anywhere else. At first I wasn’t sure what to include in a mini shopping guide for DC, but I figured I’ll just include some of the shops that I love and hope that you enjoy them, too!
Photo Credit: Trohv
Trohv With locations in Baltimore and DC’s Takoma Park neighborhood, Trohv is pretty much my definition of the perfect store. Trohv manages to be well curated and still offer a wide selection of beautiful goods, from furniture and home decor to kitchen goods to stationery and gifts (not to mention a ridiculously cute baby + kids section).
Nana A super-cute boutique in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood, Nana carries clothing lines from independent designers along with jewelry and a small selection of vintage clothes. I love the cute dresses and necklaces!
Crooked Beat Records I love music and, like handwritten stationery, vinyl has a very special place in my heart. Crooked Beat in Adams Morgan is my favorite local source for new releases from indie artists and vintage records.
Consignment Shops DC is sadly lacking in the thrift store department, so I turn to our local consignment shops when I’m looking for a great deal or for something vintage but still chic. My two favorite consignment stores are Secondi in Dupont Circle (you can find great deals and adorable party dresses!) and Urban Chic on 14th Street.
Furniture Shops I generally prefer antiques to new furniture, and if you know where to look you can often find a great deal on a fantastic piece. My favorites include Modern Mobler (specializing in midcentury modern furniture) and Miss Pixie’s Furnishings and Whatnot. We’re also big fans of the DC Big Flea, which takes place five times a year at the Dulles Expo Center. You can find anything there, from furniture to antique prints to clothing (it’s also where we get most of our cocktail glasses!).
p.s. If you love to cook, you’ll love a new shop in Capitol Hill called Sapore. The entire store is dedicated to specialty oils and vinegars!
Illustration by Molly Jacques for Oh So Beautiful Paper
So now you know where we like to go out to dinner and have a great cocktail, but there are still two very important food-related topics to cover – brunch and sweets! These are two things very near and dear to my heart; brunch is my favorite meal of the week (along with what seems like most of DC) and I have a ridiculous sweet tooth. There are tons of great brunch spots in DC and more cupcakeries than you can shake a stick at, but today I thought I’d highlight just a few personal favorites…
Photo Credits: Ted’s Bulletin
Belga Cafe A Belgian restaurant in the middle of Capitol Hill, Belga offers a super-yummy European-inspired brunch with everything from thick Belgian waffles (of course) to crepes to omelettes. It’s one of the most popular brunch spots on the Hill, so be prepared to wait (even if you have a reservation), but it’s so worth it.
Ted’s Bulletin Located right across the street from Belga Cafe on Capitol Hill’s Barracks Row, Ted’s Bulletin really couldn’t be much different in terms of style and menu. Ted’s is all about old school diner food – greasy burgers, delicious sandwiches, seriously amazing milkshakes, not to mention the homemade pop tarts – and they serve breakfast all day long! We love the pancakes and omelettes, but T.U.B.S. – Ted’s Ultimate Breakfast Sammy – really should be experienced at least once.
Rosemary’s Thyme Tucked away between Dupont Circle and Adam’s Morgan, Rosemary’s Thyme is such a little hidden gem of a restaurant, particularly when it comes to brunch. The restaurant describes itself as a “Mediterranean kitchen” and there are lots of Turkish culinary influences on the menu. With plenty of both indoor and outdoor seating (at least on nice days) and a family-friendly vibe, it’s one of my favorite brunch spots in all of DC.
Founding Farmers Founding Farmers is all about quality ingredients sourced from sustainable family-owned farms. Brunch at Founding Farmers is still actually on our must-try list, but I’ve heard such good things that I had to include it here. I was lucky enough to eat lunch here a while back and can’t wait to see what they offer for my favorite meal of the week. I’ll come back with my report once we’ve had a chance to visit!
Baked + Wired cupcakes (left) and Sweet Lobby macarons (right), both via my Instagram
The Sweet Lobby I could not have been more thrilled when this adorable shop opened up on Barracks Row last year. The Sweet Lobby offers cupcakes, macarons, and a variety of cookies. Everything is fantastic, but I’m stuck on the macarons, which come in a rotating variety of amazing flavors (rose, orange cardamom, chocolate passionfruit, salted praline!) that change on a daily basis.
Baked + Wired With some, ahem, rather famous cupcakeries in town, it’s almost controversial to ask a DC resident who makes the best cupcakes – I’ve personally been involved in heated discussions that mirror political debates! With that said, no one else in DC comes close to the cupcakes at Baked + Wired. Dense, sweet but not too sweet, with just the right balance between cake and frosting, and some seriously awesome flavor options. My favorite (so far) is the carrot cake cupcake with cream cheese frosting!
Dolcezza Gelato With multiple locations around DC, Dolcezza is hands down our favorite gelateria in the District. The gelato and sorbetto are made fresh every morning using high quality (and mostly local) ingredients, and we love some of the more exotic flavors, like quince, lime-cilantro, thai coconut, and orange-honey-cardamom.
Illustration by Molly Jacques for Oh So Beautiful Paper
DC is a very boozy city. Together we work hard and we… drink a lot. We’ve got some great beer joints and wine bars (DC tops the nation in per capita wine consumption), but it’s increasingly easy to find amazing cocktails here too. This is in large part to DC’s cocktail renaissance, something that’s been unfolding over the last few years, led by such luminaries as Derek Brown and Katie Nelson of the Columbia Room, Todd Thrasher of PX, or Jeff Faile of Fiola. I’m sure we’re leaving a few really great places off this list, but that’s not a slight against them – there are too many to list in one post. – Andrew
The Passenger & Columbia Room
The Passenger – the creation of Derek Brown, DC’s King of the Cocktail, and his brother Tom – is one of our favorite bars with a very casual vibe. Don’t limit yourself to a glass of wine or a beer, the Passenger employs some of the most talented bartenders I’ve ever met who can whip up just about any cocktail you can think of, from classic pre-Prohibition cocktails with obscure, hard-to-find ingredients to something created on the spot to suit your tastes. There’s literally no menu; it’s up to you and your bartender to figure out what you’re having tonight.
Inside the Passenger is a bar-within-a-bar, the Columbia Room. Entering the Columbia Room is like being inducted into a secret order of bartenders – through an unmarked door in the often boisterously noisy Passenger, you enter a serene and elegantly styled speakeasy where Derek and some of his top bartenders will ply you with some of the best and most lovingly-crafted drinks you’ll ever taste. You can order a la carte or enjoy their three-course tasting menu, but either way the drinks will be great. Just as importantly, the bartenders will walk you through each drink – its origins, its ingredients, the best way to make it, and more. The Columbia Room also offers classes on Saturdays; these are musts for cocktail enthusiasts. Make reservations or sign up for classes early, as these fill up quickly.
In addition to serving amazing food, Fiola has one of the best bars in DC. Head bartender Jeff Faile has put together a cocktail menu that features many classic cocktails, but along with new drinks and variations on old ones that incorporate Amari, or Italian bitters. Trust me on this one: even if you don’t like Amari, or have never tried them, these drinks are great and will broaden your taste horizons in surprising ways. Jeff has a great team of bartenders who love a challenge and are happy to whip something up for you on the spot to suit your tastes or ply you with some of their newest experiments and homemade liqueurs.
The first time I walked into Biergarten Haus, one of H Street’s best spots, I felt like I had been transported straight to Bavaria in southern Germany. This is definitely the closest I’ve ever come to recapturing the spirit of that amazing land. Biergarten Haus serves up an array of fantastic German beers on tap, which you can order in a manageable half-liter glass or a gargantuan, German style liter stein (I recommend the latter). There are no reservations, so be prepared to swoop in to grab a seat at one of the barrels that serves as a table (or better, a section at one of the long, communal tables) outside as soon as someone gets up to leave.
PX is, like the Columbia Room, something of a modern speakeasy. Located just outside of DC in Old Town Alexandria, PX lays behind an unmarked door with only a tiny blue light to indicate when it’s open. Once inside, you’re treated to a vibe of 1920s decadence and some really fantastic cocktails invented by our local mad scientist of mixology, Todd Thrasher. One of the best things to do here is watch the cocktails being made as Todd or one of his bartenders adds, drop by drop, homemade bitters and other ingredients to made some really fantastic and inventive drinks. This is one of the first places I went that helped me fall in love with cocktails, and I still remember some amazing drinks that I don’t think I could replicate at home, like an Old Fashioned flavored with pecan water. Reservations are a must.
Photo Credit: ChurchKey (right); William Couch (left)
Upstairs from Birch & Barley, ChurchKey is probably the best beer bar in DC. It has an amazing rotating selection of bottles and beers on tap, most of which you will never have heard of before. You might even want to bring a notebook to write down the names of your favorites if you hope to remember them the next day and order them again sometime. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll understand why Beer Director Greg Engert has won pretty much every beer award that has ever been invented. (Also: why don’t high school guidance counselors ever tell you about careers like “Beer Director”?) Check out their website before you visit, because ChurchKey often hosts special events and tastings for rare brews and cask-aged beers.
One reviewer called The Gibson a temple to cocktails. Another of DC’s speakeasies, the Gibson is a reservations-only bar hidden behind an unmarked door in DC’s U Street neighborhood. Here you’ll find, as with PX or the Columbia Room, some fantastic and lovingly made drinks, old and new. The inside is dimly lit, decorated in dark woods and embossed leather, a fantastic atmosphere to savor a cocktail or three.
Illustration by Molly Jacques for Oh So Beautiful Paper
We really, really love to go out to eat, and over the past few years DC has become quite the foodie town! There are a gazillion amazing restaurants and it seems like a new restaurant opens every other week. There’s no way I could cover everything, but here is a quick list (in no particular order) of our favorite restaurants in DC:
Birch & Barley (14th Street/Logan Circle) Truly fantastic German-inspired nouveau cuisine, and one of our long-time favorite restaurants in DC. If it were just about the food, Birch & Barley would still be one of our favorite spots, but they also have a wonderful beer director who really knows his stuff and a huge beer list with amazing rotation on tap. I took my husband here for his first nice dinner after returning from a 6-month deployment in Iraq, and for special occasions we love to order the tasting menu – which comes with beer pairings selected by the beer director that truly enhance each course.
Photo Credit: Standard via Leo Schmidt
Standard (14th Street) With outdoor-only dining, Standard is a perfect way to spend a warm summer evening with a group of friends. Somewhere between a BBQ joint and a beer garden, Standard has fantastic sandwiches, hot dogs and bratwurst (my husband had a fabulous mustard currywurst), and a plethora of battered and fried sides, along with a long list of American and German craft beers. A quick head’s up: they run out of the brisket really early, particularly on busy nights – so plan ahead!
Photo Credits: Eater DC
Fiola (Penn Quarter) Fiola has quickly become one of our favorite places to both eat and drink in DC. Everything is amazing, from the antipasti (we love the charcuterie and cheese plate) to the secondi. We’re huge fans of the gnocchi and pappardelle, and definitely don’t forget to save room for dessert!
Toki Underground (H Street) They serve the most amazing Taiwanese-style ramen noodle bowls – and it’s the best ramen you’ll ever have. Seriously. The restaurant is very small, so expect a wait even on weekday evenings, but you won’t be disappointed.
Photo Credit: Smith Commons
Smith Commons (H Street) A fun bistro-style restaurant, we’re big fans of both the food and cocktails at Smith Commons – and the dessert menu is simply amazing. They offer outdoor dining in nice weather and a cozy indoor dining room that is perfect for date nights or larger functions – we brought our in-laws here with us during their last visit and they loved it!
Photo Credits: Washington Post
Seventh Hill (Eastern Market) For a casual Friday night out, we love the terrific Neapolitan-style pizza made with super-fresh ingredients. I also love that the pizzas are named for Capitol Hill locales, like the Navy Yard, Potomac Ave, and Lincoln Park.
Photo Credit: Washingtonian
DC-3 (Barracks Row) I’m probably the only person who would count an aviation-inspired casual restaurant dedicated to gourmet hot dogs as one of my favorite spots, but it really just is that good. From traditional Coney Island hot dogs with mustard and chili to a California-inspired falafel dog with avocado and tzatziki sauce, you really just can’t go wrong here. Also, BEST FRIED PICKLES in all of DC. Sooo good…
Read below for more a few more restaurant recommendations!