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Starving students’ guide to Washington, DC

The following is the product of two minds–Mimi’s and my own. It can also be read here, at Mimi’s blog. Though this list by no means offers a comprehensive catalogue of all the awesome things we did in DC, it’s a fair sampling. For those of you considering a visit, short or long, we hope you may find our humble guide to be of some use. Enjoy.

Monuments at night: We had a special attachment to the monuments at night. Vishnu only knows why. No, that’s not true. We liked to go at night and sit at the back of the Lincoln Memorial and watch the cars drive across the Arlington Memorial Bridge. It was usually (read—very rarely) less crowded and we enjoyed having long in-depth chats about our ridiculously fabulous lives. For rizeal. (The only negative was that sometimes there were gross adolescents smoking cigars and spitting. Not apropos.) For us, a week in DC was incomplete without someone saying, “Hey, you wanna go visit Lincoln?”

View of the Arlington Memorial Bridge from the back of the Lincoln Memorial

E Street Cinema (bitches): Landmark Theatres are always better than the average AMC or huge multiplex. Always. And this one is never crowded but offers great food and good movies. They screen lesser-known new releases, like the Czech film The Country Teacher, where Melissa and Chelcie were not only the only women in the audience but also probably the only straight people. But you should also check out their weekend midnight screenings of cult classics. We saw The Princess Bride at midnight after 4th of July fireworks. Score. (Mimi also went to the other Landmark Theatre in the area—up in Bethesda—also good.) Bring your student ID for $2 off, although it won’t do you much good: in 11 weeks, Chelcie spent upwards of $100 on movies at the E Street.

Kramerbooks & Afterwords: Go. That’s pretty much the brunt of it. A bookstore with a café and bar, they have great, huge deserts, as well as an affordable brunch that comes with complimentary coffee, OJ, and yummy little cakes. Nice book selection, that, according to Chelcie makes people “want to read non-fiction.” We tried to persuade Melissa to pick up a copy of Team of Rivals for beach reading; she objected on the basis of weight in her luggage. (P’shaw.) They also have an enviable assortment of poetry, literary fiction, and classy magazines.

CVS & Starbucks: This is less of review of these places and more just a note to say that there are hundreds of CVS pharmacies and Starbucks cafés in the district. Example: Once, Mimi was trying to figure out what corner the Starbees closest to the apartment was on, so she searched locations on their website. There were 52 within a 2-mile radius. Good grief. How much coffee and medication can a city really ingest?

The National Building Museum: Boo. That sums up our opinion. The exhibits were poorly curated and poorly designed. The best part of the museum was the building in which it was housed: the architecture was beautiful. The second best thing was the gift shop. So, yeah. If you’re on the hunt for an underrated museum to visit in DC, try our places of work: the National Postal Museum and the Folger Shakespeare Library. And if you want to walk from one to another, why not stop off for an espresso or a fruit smoothie at…

Ebenezers Coffeehouse: Firstly, hats off for good coffee; Ebenezers certainly accomplishes the primary goal of a coffeehouse. Late in the summer we began to meet there after work to slough off the day with a healthy dose of caffeine. That is, until one day the place was overrun with people who mysteriously all seemed to know one another. It slowly became clear to us (through unavoidable eavesdropping) that they were all members of the same church, in fact the church that owns Ebenezers. Bottom line: a great place to hang out if you’re young, hot, single, and Christian. Not a great place, on the other hand, to bring your militantly atheist or even mildly profane friends. (Mimi, upon seeing a girl hurrying across the room to meet up with an eligible male: “Jesus doesn’t rush.” Chelcie: “Jesus Christ, do you think she heard you?”) Just—know before you go.

Amsterdam Falafel: Great falafel! And cheap! The small is large enough for a meal. The regular is enormous. There’s a whole bar of toppings for the falafel—baba ghanoush, onions, cucumbers, etc. Get a small order of fries to share with the people you’re with. You’ll be stuffed by the end, but it’ll be worth it. Also, it’s located in Adams-Morgan, one of our favorite neighborhoods. While you’re up in that direction, you may as well make an evening of it and stop by Tryst, a coffeehouse turned bar after dark. Grab a seat on one of the many couches, if you can, and sit back and enjoy watching the bachelorette parties prance by outside on 18th Street.

Founding Farmers: THE place to go when your parents (or any other generous visitor) is in town. Chelcie was drawn in by Thomas Jefferson’s recipe for macaroni, which is stenciled on the glass windows that wrap around the restaurant, but it was the fried chicken and waffles (plus syrup! and mac & cheese! and kale!) that made her never want to leave. A must-do, if you can find someone else to foot the bill.

…and the category you’ve all been waiting for: cupcakes!

  1. Georgetown Cupcake: This establishment seated in the heart of Georgetown (—no kidding) has earned the title of our favorite cupcake establishment in the District. Some DC natives will scoff and tell you not to bother waiting in the sometimes lengthy lines. But after the first bite of a perfectly executed red velvet or lemon berry cupcake, if your taste buds aren’t deficient, you’ll come back for more. Like, a half dozen more at a time. I’d like to make an estimate and say I (Mimi) probably ate somewhere around 15 cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake…in 11 weeks.
  2. Cake Love: We are told Cake Love brought the trendy cupcake to this city and monopolized the market for quite some time. As a transient resident, however, Chelcie approached her chocolate cupcake with strawberry frosting with none of an old timer’s nostalgia. Although the cake just wasn’t as moist as at Georgetown Cupcake, the strawberry frosting rivaled our winner’s in taste and texture, thanks to bits of strawberry pulp and pleasantly grainy strawberry seeds.
  3. Red Velvet: Located in Chinatown, not far from the Portrait Gallery, Red Velvet was a pretty decent, though, in our opinion, unremarkable, little bakery. The frosting wasn’t as creamy as GC and, as at Cake Love, the cake was less moist. Nice try—some cool flavors—good if you live downtown.
  4. Hello, Cupcake: If you saw a chocolate cupcake with almond butter cream icing, wouldn’t you want to order it? So did I (Chelcie). Biggest mistake of my life. With the first hearty bite I almost gagged with the sweetness of the icing—which by the way was so airy and insubstantial as to be nonexistent. My tasting partner was somewhat more pleased with her chocolate peanut butter cupcake, though not by much. My advice? There are enough cupcake venues on the DC scene that you may as well go somewhere else.

That’s all for now; I have to get into the groove of a whole new city. Hello, Philadelphia!

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