2014 DC’s Elite Eight – Cast Your Vote

So some MAJOR upsets in the Sweet Sixteen with some top seeds taking a beating. DC’s “Mayor For Life” was upstaged by Mexican food hangout Lauriol Plaza. Schneider’s took a shellacking from the usually refined and reserved National Gallery of Art. The Hill’s Top 50 and Repeal Day took things down to the final seconds with booze ultimately winning out. Zoolights just did not show up and Ben’s Half Smoke rolled on over them. Our #1 seed – The DC Music Scene – looks strong with Food Trucks and the Annual DC Sports Playoff Collapse still in major play for the Final Four. There are no easy matchups for the Elite Eight, so choose wisely and get your vote in by March 31st.

#1 The DC Music Scene: The 9:30 Club, Black Cat (mainstage and red room), DC9, Rock N’ Hotel, U Street Music Hall, Gypsy Sally’s, Patty Boom Boom, Echo Stage, Flash, DAR, The Hamilton….I could and should go on but there are just WAY too many awesome DC music venues to list. You want an intimate show? You got it. You want a sell out ~20,000 person experience? Done. You want to get your dancing sweat on in a darkish, light parade? Boom! And it’s not just that they’re great places to see music, it’s that they bring in an utterly fantastic array of acts. On any given night, there are nationally known groups, up-and-comers, awesome cover bands and true indie artists showing us their stuff. What. To. Choose?!!!! Did I mention that the venues have awesome food and drink, and that they’re staff are some of the coolest people in DC?


#8 Capital Weather Gang: This gang of weather nerds is the area’s go-to team for (mostly) accurate news and information on the region’s weather. Actually, it’s really one guy surrounded by a bunch of weather-loving people – but to us, they’re the Gang. They do their own forecasts, analyze models, insert physics, and use their own knowledge in formulating forecasts that are more often than not, right on target. They update their blog on WaPo with reader photos and comments, stay on top of updates during big weather events, and are highly interactive. They’re clear without being condescending; they answer all your questions without your even asking. They tell you what they know and what they don’t. They know they’re not perfect and aren’t afraid to admit when they’re wrong. Best of all? They show you how the science is relevant and uncover its beauty for all to enjoy.

#14 Lauriol Plaza: There is better Mexican food and there are better margaritas, but playing hooky from work to go sit on the Lauriol Plaza patio and people watch is a NW DC tradition. When I first moved here in the 90′s my roommate – who grew up in Texas – made sure we went for margaritas and enchiladas on a nice day, while being apologetic that it wasn’t quite the standard to which I was accustomed. New entrants Masa 14, El Chucho, and El Ray may yet unseat it as the pinnacle of outdoor margaritas, but Lauriol Plaza’s longevity means it can never be counted out.


#6 Half Smoke at Ben’s: The half smoke, DC’s own sui generis special hotdog, is a marvel, but cover it in lightly spicy chili, with yellow mustard and white onions and you have this amazing diner classic that has dominated the DC food landscape for decades. Having it at the counter at Ben’s on U Street (there is really only one Ben’s, despite what the marquee says in Arlington and at National), with the happiest staff in DC’s restaurants putting on the best of a show? There are few DC things I love so much as going to see Mo and his cadre of amazing people behind the counter. The best part? they’ve all got perfect pitch, and they’re not afraid to sing along with the classic R&B jukebox there. Sit at the bar. Get some cheese fries to go with. You will regret nothing.

#5 Annual DC Sports Playoff Collapse: An annual classic, the [insert DC sports team name here] playoff collapse is something to be expected these days. No matter the sport, DC teams have turned the playoffs into a perennial exercise in fan keep-away. Will they or won’t they? Can the Caps cobble together a solid defense and take the Stanley Cup? Can the Nats string together consistent play to rise to the World Series? Is it possible the Washington pro football team can brush off the curse of its moniker and find its way back to the Lombardi Trophy? What the hell’s up with DC United, anyway? Someone mentioned the Wizards are on a roll; just wait, they’ll implode at the height of their playoff success, too. It’s inevitable around here. DC pro sports and fan disappointment go hand-in-hand like Metro and escalator breakdowns; we’re used to our bitter tears to the point it’s become a forgone conclusion every single year.


#4 Food Trucks: Long gone are the days when lunch meant the same old deli/buffet or chain sandwich shop offerings day in and day out. Food trucks have taken over. Literally, have you seen Franklin Park at noon? These culinary delights on wheels bring street food fare from all corners of the world, giving us sweet sweet access to arepas, kabobs, lobster rolls, decadent mac n’ cheese, ice cream sandwiches, curries and beyond. Food trucks make lunch an ever changing adventure, as you never quite know what your options are until you roll up to the various food truck congregation points, see the players and make your elections. This is an invaluable source of inspiration and elan during the work week that keep your spirits and/or tastebuds alive. Lunch will never be the same in DC.

#10 Repeal Day Ball: While true credit for the idea goes to Portland’s Jeffrey Morgenthaler, the DC Craft Bartender’s Guild’s annual Repeal Day Ball was the first big party to run with the idea of celebrating the country’s native drinking holiday. DC’s best and brightest bartenders dress up in their finest formal wear and throw a revel to equal the last parties thrown before Prohibition became ill-advised law.


#14 National Gallery of Art: A perennial powerhouse, the National Gallery isn’t just one of the finest museums in DC, it’s one of the finest in the world. It’s easy to lose yourself in the West Wing’s (no, not THAT West Wing) collection of Dutch masters, although my favorite works in the building are the Rodin sculptures. Ride through the tunnel to the East Wing and take in a Matisse and some Calder mobiles and you’ve got yourself a lovely day. This year’s news sees the National Gallery potentially taking over the Corcoran’s collection (subject to approvals, of course) so expect a higher seed next year if that goes well (and if we repeat this idea).

Rebecca Johnson

A born and bred New Yorker, Rebecca made the big trip “down south” to DC in 2006 and hasn’t looked back. She spends her days strategizing/planning/ideating how interactive products can help her clients and change the world. In her free time, she explores DC’s ever expanding bar, restaurant and small business scene, plays a crap ton of soccer, attends concerts that contribute to her sleep deprivation and embarks on local adventures. Read why Rebecca loves DC or follow her on twitter.

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