Dates. Those awkward, exciting, beautiful things we all go on at some point. I am by no means an expert in this field- quite far from it- and I don’t have a magical solution for how to make your next date the best you ever had, so unfortunately you won’t be finding the next We Love DC dating service here (sigh). The inspiration for this post really came from a conversation with a friend of mine the other day. He asked me where he should take a girl out, wanting to strike the right balance between serious young professional, trendy and casual. I realized many of us have gone through this mental exercise before. The exhausting over-planning and over- analyzing we do: choosing the right spot for that first interaction (or second or third), focusing on every detail from time, to dress code, to the big goodbye, mulling over tiny logistics as a method of defense to shift our thoughts away from the weirdness that could ensue. But enough of that.
I think a shared meal is the perfect way to break the ice, a way to bond over something simple that brings anyone, no matter what level of culinary expertise you may have, together. We all share stories around a dinner table, have memories of a favorite meal, and can reveal oneself through a dish. So for me, sharing a meal is a perfect way of getting to know someone, whether it be a sit down dinner or a casual picnic. I decided to write some recommendations for where you can break bread and the ice along the way, in case you need to outsource thinking on the next time your big date is lined up. I polled some of the We Love DC crew for their suggestions as well, as not all of us are food focused daters.
Big Bear Cafe is everything I could ever want and more. A coffee shop that takes its coffee culture seriously in a space that is simple and inviting; a restaurant that serves breakfast until noon, uses good-for-you, farm fresh ingredients, and offers daily, seasonal items; a neighborhood gathering place that brings together musicians and comedians for weekly events. What more could you ask for? Killer craft cocktails? They’ve got them. A patio for the unexpected spring winter? Done. Supper to beat the Sunday blues? They have that too. Get over here Big Bear and give me a hug.
Big Bear’s story is as charming as the place itself. Formerly a Jewish Italian market/deli, it went through some hard times in the 80’s and 90’s. The space was boarded up with bulletproof glass inside and out, evidence of a different, more turbulent time in Bloomingdale. But in 2006, Stuart Davenport, a general contractor who lived in the area, saw a need for a decent cup of coffee and grub, so he gave up his day job and in a little over a year built a neighborhood gem. Struggling times just live in memories now, as Big Bear has become a sought-after destination, and is surrounded by equally great places and spaces.
Now that the weather is starting to turn for the better (don’t mind that pesky rain), all I can think about is eating and drinking outside. And in Washington, where the appropriate outdoor dining season is about two weeks long, it pays to be organized. That is why we’ve put together our favorite spots to sip a beer or have a bite on a patio, deck or sidewalk. Enjoy them, but if you take the last table at one of our favorites, we’re going to be seriously mad.
"espresso at m.e. swing coffee roasters" by tvol, on Flickr
For many of us, it’s coffee, not liquor, that’s our “water of life.” I’m quite certain I could survive without alcohol. But I know I could never live without caffeine. I’ve tried really really hard to give it up, especially when I was diagnosed with a heart murmur and began to notice every jitter and flutter. I fell off that wagon so many times I have a permanent head bump. Inevitably I’ve given up giving up, rationalizing that I’m just a much better person on caffeine.
But DC has a bit of a coffee culture problem. It’s hard for little independent cafes to survive (witness the deaths of Sparky’s, 14U, Mocha Hut, Mayorga, Murky Coffee…). Sometimes it seems we’ve given over to the Great Dairy Mermaid and her bitter rival the Loose Moose (wait, it’s the mermaid’s grinds that are really bitter, but I digress) that populate every corner plying milky sugary bastardized versions of the classics.
I know, I know, you can’t give up your vanilla syrup. It’s ok. I’m not going to repeat my last rant about the decline of the perfect cappuccino. I’m not going to wax poetical about espresso in Venice or cafe au lait in Paris. Everybody has their particular coffee fixation – drip, press, etc. The uniting point is that there are some fine places to get your fix, ah, enjoy your coffee, here in DC, beyond the glut of mass market methadone. And with the news that Murky’s being reinvented in Chinatown, and a new coffeehouse called Mid-City Cafe will hit 14th Street, things could be looking up. So here’s a sampling of java joints to get your joy jitters on – and please leave your favorites in the comments.
If you love black & white photography as much as I do, you won’t want to miss the opening of Looking Sideways at Big Bear Cafe. This exhibit features the beautiful work of Cesar Lujan, a local DC photographer who has an eye for minimalism, unique camera angles and use of space. When it comes to his photos, the phrase “less is more” definitely comes into play.
Presented by Ten Miles Square, this exhibit gets a jump start on FotoWeek, which for some of us won’t come soon enough. Here’s more on the exhibit:
“Cesar Lujan takes images that present a bit of a role reversal. Rather than landscapes and settings merely providing context for people and their actions, Lujan sees the idle presence of people creating the context for what becomes the real main characters here: impressive architecture and unusual urban scenes.”
The opening is this Saturday, November 8th from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Big Bear Cafe is located on the corner of 1st & R Street NW in Bloomingdale and looks to be a promising supporter of the local art scene.