A Trip to Washington, D.C.

If you know me, you know I didn't go on our 8th grade trip to Washington DC. I went for the first time in November 2016, and I loved it so much that I'm back again in less than a year! Here are some day-by-day highlights from our FIVE-DAY trip (warning: long post, but lots o' pictures).

SaturdayOur flight arrived at 6pm local time -- 
just enough time for dinner and dessert.

Casual bathroom hallway mirror lewk at Estadio.

Estadio: 1520 14th St NW

After checking in at our hotel, Andrew and I made our way over for tapas at Estadio, a place he had on his list. We ordered the green beans, tortilla espagnola, patatas bravas, hanger steak, and the above pork loin with kale chips and roasted peaches, which was amazing. The kale was cooked perfectly and was so good because it tasted nothing like kale! The pork loin was very tender and I love roasted peaches on just about anything. We had already planned after dinner to get milkbar, but then I saw another waiter bringing another table a plate of churros, and I knew we had to get them. Since it's a Spanish restaurant, they are served with dipping chocolate. They were amazing. Perfectly cooked, not too oily, not too doughy, just enough cinnamon. We could have maybe used a little bit more chocolate for dipping though...

Pronounced "chudos."

Momofuku Milk Bar: 1090 I St NW

On the first of what may be many trips to Milk Bar this vacation, we walked down after a big dinner (and first dessert) in Logan Circle.  The line was a little long, but that gave us time to see that the menu included a lot of new options that we would want to try on our next visits (cereal milk shake, cinnamilk, cinnamilk cereal shake, cereal milk affogato, etc).  Andrew insisted that since we already had a big dinner including churros, we should just get a plain cereal milk softserve (and he was right, as usual).  In hindsight, I can't believe we still came here after we already had churros, but also I can. Because it's that good.

This seems to indicate what is cool to see in D.C. aka the Spy museum

SundayOur only free day with no reservations 
and not-so-hot weather.

Emissary: 2032 P St NW

Since we had a big meal the night before, I didn't want to tire our stomachs out again by having a big brunch.  Fortunately, Andrew's restaurant list included the coffee shop Emissary, close to us in Dupont Circle, and served egg sandwiches and avocado toasts as healthier morning options. The coffee shop was on the ground floor/basement of an apartment building, with cool brick walls and lots of interior and exterior seating. A lot of liberal propaganda everywhere, and I loved it.  From what I could tell, most of the studying patrons were reading books on (very) liberal arts.  The coffee and egg sandwiches were also very good.

United States Botanic Garden: 100 Maryland Ave SW

One of the things on Andrew's must-do list was the botanic garden, so Sunday seemed like a good day to fit it in.  We walked the three miles to the garden from our hotel, which was good because then we were certain for the rest of the trip that the end of the National Mall is very walkable from where we are in Dupont Circle (the botanic garden is across from the Capitol building). The garden is in a big greenhouse, separated by climate. My favorite of course was the tropics, where there were banana and mango trees. In the center of the tropics was a dead "corpse flower" which apparently is a big deal because it only blooms once every 20 years, only is in bloom for 24 hours, and smells like rotting flesh when it is in bloom. So weird. It was "dead" though when we saw it, and it truly looked dead, which I thought was the reason for its name.  Very glad we didn't have to experience the stench.  Also the "medicinal" section of the conservatory was cool, very smelly because of the vanilla and other herbs, but curiously no marijuana leaves.  The current exhibit this fall is a "how to grow" exhibit which had a bunch of house plants and ways to take care of them, which my mom definitely would have loved.

Andrew casually being a woke bae. 

The Hirshhorn had been on my must-do list in D.C., mostly because I recently started following Yoko Ono on twitter and she is currently having an exhibit there. It's also the contemporary art museum out of the Smithsonian Art galleries.  As of Fall 2017, the main level contains Yoko's "My Mommy Is Beautiful" exhibit, which involves the museum's visitors writing things about their moms down on cards and taping them to this wall for everyone to see. It was cool to see how bulbous the display got at about eye-level, as that's where most people were concentrating their posts. The second floor was a very cool Ai Weiwei exhibit, where he used single legos to create images of people he felt were unfairly persecuted like himself. The third floor was the museum's standard collection. The bottom floor, as pictured above, was a Barbara Kruger exhibit all over the floors and walls. It was actually very hard to read once actually down there.  

One of them said "My mom sucks, but despite our beef, she has always been there for me."

After walking from the botanic garden two museums over to the Hirshhorn, we passed probably 15 different ice cream/hot dog trucks, each attracting several tourists, including me.  Just when I was about to cave and get an oreo ice cream bar, I saw the Hirshhorn and a sign that said "DOLCEZZA GELATO & COFFEE POP UP CAFE" and an arrow pointing towards the Hirshhorn. Dolcezza had been on our list of desserts to try, so this was truly meant to be.  We decided to walk around the Hirshhorn first, mostly because we thought that Dolcezza was in the building, and then we discovered it was in a painted storage container outside.  Andrew and I both got our own affogatos, which were the perfect pick-me-up snack after walking through the gardens and the museum.

A beautiful affogato with ugly unpolished nails.

The Hamilton: 600 14th Street NW

The first time I went to D.C., Preethi and I came to The Hamilton TWICE in the three days we were staying there, mostly for the mac bites, but also for the atmosphere. I told Andrew we HAD to come this trip, and threw in the possibility of seeing a live show downstairs. Unfortunately they only had a show on Saturday during the time we were here, and we didn't have time to make it to the R&B show. We did make it for snacks on Sunday after going to the botanic garden and the Hirshhorn on the way back to our hotel.  Our waitress was actually from Oakland and named our bar ticket "Cali Love" lol. Andrew got a black and tan (not a milkshake????), and I got their white peach sangria. We split the mac bites and the truffle frites -- both very good and perfect snacks.

The famous mac bites.

2Amy's Neapolitan Pizza: 3715 Macomb St NW

Not pictured: two missing slices and a bottle of Montepulciano.

This pizza was very very good. Andrew had been stalking the yelp page for this place and constantly showing me photos of the bubbly and perfectly cooked crust. This pizza did not disappoint, and maybe has made it to my Top 5 neapolitan spots in the world (note: I have not yet been to Italy).  The pizza was both doughy yet thin and firm, and the dough was the perfect amount of salty.  The crust was perfectly cooked. The burrata cheese they used on their Margherita DOC was heavenly. The Norcia pizza (salami and grilled peppers) was also surprisingly very good.  The atmosphere of the place was definitely more "local" as the spot was a little farther from the downtown area, but that just added to the appeal.

MondayLabor day, so government buildings are closed 
but shops are open!

Day 'n' Night - Kid Cudi

Hill Country Barbecue Market: 410 7th St NW

Unlimited paper towels. 

The night before, Andrew and I had just watched the most recent episode of Worth It, in which they tried various ribs in LA at varying price points. Safe to say, we were both really craving some bbq ribs. The Federalist Pig is a known bbq place here, but mostly for its name.  The Washington Post declared Hill Country BBQ Market to be the best BBQ in D.C., and the Federalist Pig was closed Monday, so off we went. HC BBQ is just past the Chinatown area of D.C., which, on a side note, is absolutely the weirdest Chinatown I've ever seen.  Not only are there ZERO actual Chinese people there, ZERO Chinese buildings, but every store (chains like Bed Bath and Beyond, Aveda, etc.) have Chinese characters underneath their store names written in plain English. It is comical. Besides the Chinese names of all the American stores being visible, the only other Chinese thing I saw were the painted crosswalks, one containing a red dragon, others containing the Chinese zodiac signs.

In any event, we made it to a little piece of Texas in D.C.  Our host sat us down and didn't explain to us how to order, but gave us these little booklets that looked like we were supposed to fill them out, like at a dim sum place.  Our waiter eventually came and explained to us that we are to walk down to the meat counter, give our booklets to the butchers there, and they will fill it out based on what we order.  We had read on a Yelp review that one woman had ordered one "Cue & 2" combo for each person in her party, and that it was way too much food. Based on this, Andrew and I decided to get the "Cue & 3" which was a selection of 3 meats, 2 sides, and skillet cornbread. When I got up to the butcher, he told me it would be 1/3 pound of each meat, which sounded fine. He collected the meat and showed it to me before wrapping it up. It was NOT going to be enough for both of us. There were just 2 ribs, 4 slices of brisket, and one thigh/drumstick.  I was about to just order an extra 1/2 pound of ribs, since that's what we were really there for, but decided it would be better to try all the meats and then just come back for a second helping of the best one.

With the ribs, you get a choice of "white bread" or "crackers" 

The ribs were SO GOOD. I haven't had good spare ribs like this in a VERY long time. They were tender, moist, and very flavorful even without the sauce. With the house bbq sauce, they were unbelievable. I really kept saying out loud how good I thought the ribs were. So we got an extra 1/2 pound, which only came with 2 ribs again, but these ribs had way more meat on them. The butchers do actually weigh the meat, and price it to you per pound, so I wasn't too worried when I saw there were only another 2 ribs again.  I truly shouldn't have worried anyway, when we finally finished, there was absolutely no room for any banana pudding dessert, and I was actually in so much pain from being stuffed that I had to continually massage my stomach while walking around the NPG to make myself comfortable.

National Portrait Gallery: 8th St NW and F St NW

Pilgrim hair bc pilgrims started this country amirite? Also, miss these guys.

The National Portrait Gallery has been one of the things on my must-do list that I was really excited to return to. I'm honestly still debating whether or not this should be a standalone post because I have so many feelings about this place, and so many photos I want to share.  I had already gone last year, and I was so adamant on going because I had gone to the NPG in London, which was cool, but also I don't really know anything about British History so most of the portraits I saw didn't mean much to me. I knew that if I was seeing portraits of figures and history I actually knew it would be way more interesting. I was also excited for Andrew to see it! My favorite wing when I last visited was "America's Presidents."  I could have stayed in there forever, but I had to get back to meet the group I was with for dinner.  Besides having portraits of every president we've had, there is also a TV playing famous speeches from President FDR all the way to President Obama. Andrew and I sat and watched all of them. I had the same comment for basically every one -- how can this museum seriously ever show a video of our current buffoon after these well-spoken, well-read, intelligent gentlemen? Watching GWB made me incredibly nostalgic, as despite his current reputation, he was the first President I can remember watching in my adolescence, and the first presidential race I remember watching.  Just the thought that Trump will one day be in the same room as these respectable men taints the idea of this wing, just a little bit.

 Another new (and really cool) part of the America's Presidents exhibit: 
a word cloud (essentially) of the most common words used during that president's SOTUs. 
Clockwise from top left: Bush Sr., Carter, Reagan, Clinton.

G. W. B.

The NPG isn't all presidents though. It's essentially a collection of people famous(/rich) enough to have portraits commissioned of them, and the little blurb next to the portrait describes who that person is and any other relevant info about their lives, rather than a description of the art. I like this because it gives a little history lesson, while patrons can still view the art and interpret it how they will.

One of my favorite pieces in the Twentieth Century wing:
Shimomura Crossing the Delaware by Roger Shimomura

Momofuku Milk Bar1090 I St NW

We went back AGAIN, after the NPG, for a snack in the form of a Cinnaswirl shake, which was Very Delicious.

Le Diplomate: 1601 14th St NW

We came to Le Dip at the recommendation of Andrew's sister, who lived in DC for a summer. It's a french bistro, known for creating a french "vibe," just like Balthazar in NY. I wasn't sure what to expect as the exterior is relatively nondescript but the interior really was a vibe. It had moody lighting, a lot of wood paneling, and red leather circular booths.

We were seated next to a window right on the sidewalk, so a lot of people were peering in on us. But we also got to see a lot of dogs walking by which I always love.  We ordered a cheese plate to start (a goat, a sheep, and a cow's milk), got amazing fresh baked bread, and I also got a very delicious martini. I ordered the canard, as usual, which is duck. It was so tender and flavorful. Andrew got the steak frites so I got to eat some of that too and it was also very good. We left the restaurant feeling immensely satisfied and like we had a meal that we would remember for a long time. We didn't get dessert at the restaurant, and  I honestly almost thought we were going to walk down to Milkbar again, but there was a Dolcezza down the street, so we got that instead.

Half-hearted attempt at a flatlay.

Tuesday: Hoping the regular work day cuts 
down the amount of tourists

Supreme Court: 1 First St. NE

I later had a tantrum over these photos.

We walked to the Supreme Court building from our hotel which took an hour. I had gone there during my last visit, but didn't really get a chance to look around. This time, I wanted to attend a courtroom lecture, where you get to sit inside the courtroom chambers and listen to some docent tell you about stuff. After walking around and reading about the exhibits, I couldn't really tell what the lecture was going to be about, and I was getting hungry, so we skipped it and got pizza.

We, The Pizza: 305 Pennsylvania Ave SE

We, The Pizza was on my must-do list, because of the amazing name but also because I watched the owner, Spike Mendelson, on Top Chef. I wasn't sure what to expect, and because we had already had so much good food, I was worried that this meal was going to stand out as the most disappointing. However, it did not disappoint. There is an array of pizzas by the cashier, and you can choose to order a full pizza or a collection of slices, like we did. I was worried that when we ordered 5 different slices, they would be all served on 5 paper plates, but fortunately they came on a pizza round that provided the perfect opportunity for me to instagram.  Photos aside, the pizza was very good and I ate way too much and was in pain for the rest of the day.

Perfect instagram. Clockwise from top: The Butcher's Block, Coletti's Notorious BBQ Pie; 
Simple Cheese Pie; White Pie; Forest Shroomin' Pie

Smithsonian Air & Space Museum: 600 Independence Ave SW

IDK, a spaceship?

Andrew's only request for the day was to visit this museum. I was also interested, as my dad always wanted me to be an astrophysicist when I grew up. Unfortunately, this visit confirmed that I will never harbor a passion for astrophysics (sorry, dad!).  Walking into the museum was a nice respite from the heat, and when you walk in you are greeted by tons of hanging airplanes and space objects. We skipped the "air" stuff for the most part and walked around all of the space exhibits. The first one we went to was straight out of 1995 which I found hilarious.

Interior of the Albert Einstein Planetarium.

There are two theaters inside the A&S museum, one that plays IMAX movies and the planetarium. We decided to watch "Dark Universe" at the planetarium (cost $9 each) because we wanted to see the planetarium and also because Neil DeGrasse Tyson was narrating. The actual display of the film on the half-globe of the planetarium was really cool. At times I felt like I might even get motion sickness because of how realistic it was. Anyway, the film was touted as teaching us about the 95% of the universe that we don't know about, but the answer was basically that there is a bunch of "dark matter" that we can't see and don't know anything about. Also explained the big bang in a new way, which was interesting. All in all pretty worth it, because we got to experience the planetarium and learn new things about space.

Rasika: 1190 New Hampshire Ave NW

Moody lighting doesn't make for great food pics.

Rasika was our last reservation in DC, made at the recommendation of Andrew's parents, and others who have visited DC.  As a girl whose palate is typically too sensitive for the spices of Indian food, I wasn't looking forward to this the most, but I was definitely willing to try! After all, I eat at Badmaash in LA so how different could this be? We ordered the Palak Chaat, which was the thing everyone raved about. It was essentially spinach chips with some sort of chutney drizzle on top. It was really good, it somehow made the spinach taste like actual french fries, but it got a little salty for me after a while. I think I just didn't get enough of the chutney.  We also got chicken tikka masala and lamb biryani, as well as two orders of naan. It was pretty good, although my mouth was on fire for most of it...and this food wasn't even supposed to be spicy!!! My mouth being on fire was partially the reason we got 2 naans instead of just one. Still good though. Especially the lamb.  

Wednesday: Last full day in D.C.
Rainy day wear, also our denim jackets are almost the exact same wash 
so we look like we're matching, much to Andrew's dismay.

Ted's Bulletin: 1818 14th St NE

Old-fashioned-but-nice-diner decor.

Ted's had been high on Andrew's list of brunch places in DC, but we hadn't made it the past few days because we didn't want to get too full before our lunches/dinners. We finally made it on Wednesday, when we knew we would be skipping lunch and having an early dinner in Silver Spring.  We had also passed by Ted's earlier, as it's on 14th, and the sign/font immediately drew me in. The decor was themey-yet-nice, like something you might find at the Grand Californian Hotel.  We ordered two coffees, two poptarts, and two different egg combos. We also almost ordered a coffee-oreo shake, because we are gluttons, but fortunately decided that would be a little extreme with the poptarts, and Andrew also got pancakes.  My scrambled eggs with hash browns and wheat toast were so good I finished literally every last bite. 

Strawberry and Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tarts, 
which also happen to be my favorite boxed kind.

After brunch, we ordered two more pop-tarts to-go for snacks a few hours later.

Kramer's & Afterwords: 1517 Connecticut Ave NW

Those Murakami books are still calling my name.

I am obsessed with books. Since it was raining on Wednesday, we decided to walk the short distance on Dupont Circle to Kramer's and just hang with some books for a while before we had to make our journey to the theater. Since I had brought A Little Life, I didn't want to buy any books because that book takes up so much space, and I did not have any extra space in my luggage. Unfortunately I could not control myself and I bought the 50th Anniversary Edition of Valley of the Dolls because the hot pink page edges entranced me. That book is not small either. This made for very difficult packing, but I can never help myself at independent bookstores.

Lina's: 8402 Georgia Ave; Silver Spring, MD

Note the "strong drinks" section.

To get to the Olney Theatre in the middle of nowhere, we decided to take the metro out to Silver Spring, have dinner, and then catch a Lyft the rest of the (25 minutes) trip to the theater.  There were definitely more drinks than food options on the menu, but fortunately our waitress gave us the heads up on what the best things were. Everything was actually really good!  Andrew got a Miller High Life and I got a Sprite because my stomach was hurting. It was the best Sprite I've ever had in my life, mostly because I never drink soda and I forgot that it could actually taste good.  For food, we started with the burrata with tomatoes, Andrew got a cuban sandwich and I got a double cheeseburger (lol).

In The Heights at Olney Theatre Center: 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Rd; Olney MD

This was free, but I paid 5 Euros for a program from the ITH on the West End.

This production of ITH was the main reason we went to D.C. in the first place.  I had been obsessed with the show since I saw it on the West End in London last summer, Andrew had been forced to listen to it in my car ever since, and now he wanted to see the show for himself. Robin DeJesus, the original Sonny on the Broadway run of ITH was now playing the main character Usnavi, so it seemed like a great production to watch. I bought the tickets the first day possible, after much stalking of the Roundhouse Theatre website.  Unfortunately for us, it wasn't apparent that the production was not actually at the Roundhouse, which is in Silver Spring and accessible by metro, but at the Olney Theatre Center, far from both D.C. and any metro stop.  We figured we would just go and figure out the transportation later. 

Although it was a rainy day in Maryland, after our dinner in Silver Spring we found a Lyft driver that took us to the middle of nowhere theater, just in time to sit amongst all the white 70-somethings that attend Olney Theatre events (there were only a handful of people in the audience, including us, under the age of 65).  The production was great, it was the first time I've seen a musical where I know literally every word of every song (I refuse to listen to musical soundtracks before I've seen the musical). Apparently, this Wednesday night showing was not actually opening night, like I had initially thought when I bought the tickets -- why else would I buy tickets for a WEDNESDAY NIGHT in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE? The cast and director had been posting on social media that the official opening night was Saturday, and that all the shows before were "previews" which irritated me, but nothing I could do about it then! The show was still great, although they were having some issues with the timing of the mics not going on in time, aka a lot of people singing but not being amplified for 2 seconds. Luckily, we were in the second row, so we could still hear everything even if the people in the back couldn't. 

A representative sample of the audience, and the view from the second row.

The Abuela Claudia was the best, and sounded almost exactly like the official Broadway cast recording that I have memorized in my soul. The performance of "Paciencia y Fe" blew me away.  She apparently was the Abuela Claudia on the initial National tour, so it makes sense.  I also loved the Daniela, the Daniela I saw on the West End was about the same age as Vanessa and Nina so it didn't translate to me she was supposed to be an older character in the barrio.  One of my favorite songs, "Carnaval del Barrio" was not as emphatic as I would have hoped, probably because I heard a lot of the older people sitting around us complaining about the volume. That song is supposed to be a loud dance party song though! It ended up being emphatic at the end though. The Piragua Guy was also great -- he was large and flamboyant and changed what I had originally imagined as the Piragua Guy, for the better.  Robin was great, of course, the best performer out of them all.

The audience worried us for a bit, we weren't sure if these old white people from Maryland would be appreciative of this hispanic New York story about gentrification (with a lot of Spanish thrown in), but everyone seemed to love it! The jokes landed well, and I think the only problem they had with the show was the volume.  That was also my only problem with it as well, but for the opposite reason. 

The only other problem was the location - after the show, there were a bunch of Lyft cars that were 10 minutes away (considering we were REALLY in the middle of the middle of nowhere), but they kept cancelling our rides. We had probably gone through at least 10 cancelled rides before one kind soul finally accepted and drove us all the way back to D.C.  I was on the verge of bribing anyone who accepted our ride before they cancelled.  But we made it, and lived to tell the tale.  Going to the show was an adventure but totally worth it, especially for Andrew.  Plus, if we didn't get tickets to the show, we would never have done (and eaten, mostly) all the cool things I just wrote about above!  

No comments