Dupont Circle, The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Dupont Circle

Photo courtesy of
‘a hug on Riggs’
courtesy of ‘NCinDC’

Welcome to Where We Live: Dupont! Dupont Circle is one of the District’s best-known neighborhoods, and there’s so much history and beautiful architecture to love here.  Dupont is home to everyone from recent grads in group houses to young professionals in condos to well-off diplomats with kids, and yes, even some new stars.  I know I’m probably supposed to be unbiased in my descriptions of all these neighborhoods, but to be honest, Dupont’s my favorite.  Read on to find out why.

History: Not much was really going on in the Dupont area until the Civil War.  Up until then it was a rural backwater, but a massive modernization program built streets and sewers in the 1870s, making the area a fashionable new residential district.  In 1871, the circle itself (then known as Pacific Circle) was constructed, and in 1882 Congress decided to use the circle to honor Civil War admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont.  A statue of Du Pont was erected in 1884, and replaced in 1921 with the fountain that we all know and love today.  The traffic signals in the circle were added in 1948 to make it easier for pedestrians to cross, and in 1949 the Connecticut Avenue tunnel was built to separate thru traffic and build a streetcar station.

By the 1870s and 1880s, impressive mansions were built along Massachusetts Avenue, and Connecticut Avenue had more shops and offices.  Much of the area was developed with rowhouses, many of which remain today.  The neighborhood began to decline after the 1968 riots, but in the 1970s some urban pioneersmoved in.  Dupont Circle took on more of a Bohemian character, and the area became a gay enclave.   It is considered the historic center of the gay communityin DC, though many of those original urban pioneers later moved on to Logan Circle or Shaw.  The 1980s and 1990s saw more reinvestment in the neighborhood, and today Dupont Circle is again one of DC’s most desired neighborhoods.

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Comedy in DC

Comedy in DC: Hot, Steamy, Humid Standup

Photo courtesy of
‘Seaton Smith’
courtesy of ‘NikolasCo’

I know you’re all coming to the We Love DC 1st Anniversary Party tonight, but once that’s over, you’ll need some other entertainment to distract you from humidity, hordes of tourists, Metro problems, dognappers, and all the other stuff that goes along with the height of summer in DC. So here’s what’s happening in comedy:

Erin Jackson is headlining the Improv Thursday and Friday this week. Jackson is a particular success story for DC Comedy, as she took the first-ever DC Improv Comedy School standup class, and went on to appear on Last Comic Standing, and now she’s returning to the Improv as a headliner.

Last week I mentioned 3 Chord Comedy at the Velvet Lounge on Friday, July 10th. I still think you should check that out, as it’s a pretty outstanding lineup for a mere $2.

On Saturday, July 11th (and several dates thereafter), SpeakeasyDC will be putting on The Sin Show as part of the Capital Fringe Festival. The performers will tell stories themed around the seven deadly sins. Speakeasy specializes in storytelling rather than standup, but this show in particular caught my eye as it features Seaton Smith, who is certainly one of the most artistically versatile comics in the area. You can hear a sample of his (still very funny) storytelling stylings in SpeakeasyDC’s StoryCast.

We Love Food

We Love Food: Firefly

Photo courtesy of Me

Firefly, courtesy of Me

Firefly‘s gotten a lot of mention around here but we’ve never done a comprehensive review. When I had to pick a place to meet an out-of-town friend who was staying off Scott Circle, Firefly seemed like a no-brainer selection. My darling wife and I met her and another dining companion on a Thursday night expecting a highly enjoyable experience.

We did not get exactly what we expected.

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Dupont Circle, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: The Seagull on 16th Street

Naomi Jacobson and Jerry Whiddon in "The Seagull" at Theater J. Photo credit: Stan Barouh

Naomi Jacobson and Jerry Whiddon in "The Seagull" at Theater J. Photo: Stan Barouh

Most people don’t associate Chekhov with comedy. We think Russia in all caps, passion with a punch, alcoholics, suicides, depressives. And yes, there’s a lot of that. Except it can all be pretty hysterical stuff, as Theater J’s adaptation of “The Seagull” proves. It’s a thin line between tragedy and comedy, and Chekhov certainly meant us to see the absurdity in our own hyperbolic neuroses. Or put more simply – when a guy presents a dead seagull to his girlfriend, it’s ok to laugh.

Theater J’s mandate is to explore the Jewish cultural heritage and they usually tackle bold new plays. To pull Chekhov into this mandate involved a new translation by Carol Rocamora and an adaptation by Artistic Director Ari Roth that weaves in Jewish cultural references, mostly at the top of the play. If you aren’t familiar with “The Seagull,” these changes will barely register. If you are, they are easily accepted, unless you’re a hardcore Chekhovian scholar. And so we have “The Seagull on 16th Street,” a reference to 16th Street’s Jewish history and a nod to “Uncle Vanya on 42nd Street.”

The core of “The Seagull” is the idea of faith – in oneself, in one’s work and talent – and the terrible capacity to do both good and evil, on a whim. Director John Vreeke delicately pulls this out in a production that makes an excellent introduction to Chekhov. And an ensemble cast of Washingtonian theater regulars is admirably up to the task. Continue reading

News, The Daily Feed

Hero of the Day: Jared Cohen


I’ve watched over the last six days how an election in Iran was wholesale hijacked, how the people revolted, how they circumvented their government’s heavy-handed filtering of the Internet, and how they used social media tools to keep right on going. So, I present to you, a guy who may well have saved lives and continued a nascent revolution. His name’s Jared Cohen, and he works for the State Department. No, he’s not a new hire, not a product of the Obama Revolution, he’s someone that Secretary Condi Rice hired in 2006 to look at the Middle East, how to talk about the Middle East youth movements, and how to engage with a part of the world that we have a hostile relationship with.

But Cohen’s achievement was picking up the phone over at Foggy Bottom and asking Twitter and NTT to postpone the maintenance window to a time when it wouldn’t have such a drastic consequence on the unfolding of history. Well done, Mr. Cohen. Well done.

The Daily Feed

New Green Meetup Tonight

Photo courtesy of
‘Leaf after the Rain’
courtesy of ‘nightmareguitars’
This just in: a fun idea for escaping tonight’s spring showers.

There’s an inaugural networking event tonight for The DC Green Connection at DC Bread & Brew near Dupont Circle, 1247 20th St. NW, from 7:30-9:30 p.m.

It’ll feature a short talk on Mayor Fenty’s new Green DC agenda, thoughts on what being a green restaurant means, and the chance to try a new organic vodka line. Appetizers and drink specials are part of it too, all for $10 worth of green.

Essential DC, Foggy Bottom, Life in the Capital, The District, The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: West End

Photo courtesy of
‘Schneider Triangle’
courtesy of ‘NCinDC’

Welcome to another installation of Where We Live. This time we’re focusing on the area between Dupont and Georgetown. Some call it Foggy Bottom, others call it GW, but the neighborhood most recently has been calling itself West End.  Read on to hear why this area is among the city’s oldest, but also one of the most rapidly changing, neighborhoods.

History: The area is known as West End because it literally was the west end of Pierre L’Enfant’s original plan for Washington.  It was also known as Foggy Bottom because of the marshy, humid conditions and the concentration of smoke-emitting businesses in the area along the waterfront (so really, it’s more like Smoggy Bottom).  The rowhouses in the neighborhood housed these industrial workers, so the area was home to many Irish and German immigrants back in the 1850s, along with their breweries.

Then the area started changing rapidly.  Columbian College (what we now know as George Washington University) was established near Meridian Hill in 1821, moved to the Foggy Bottom area in 1912, and expanded significantly in the 1920s and 1930s.  The decline of river-oriented industries led to the closing of many waterfront employers, and the area lost a lot of ethnic diversity as industrial workers left the neighborhood.   By the mid-twentieth century, rowhouses were being torn down in favor of high-density apartment buildings, and much of the character of the neighborhood was lost.  We can thank the Foggy Bottom Restoration Association and the DC Restoration Office for preserving the rowhouses that still exist in the area today.  (If you’re interested in more history of the neighborhood, check out this PDF brochure put out by the DC Office of Planning.)

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Food and Drink, We Love Food

We Love Food: Brunch @ Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe

Photo courtesy of
‘Kramerbooks Glass House’
courtesy of ‘Wahig’

There are days in DC that I forget we are in a recession. Last Sunday’s brunch at Kramerbooks & Afterwords was one of them. The book shop was stuffed full with people, and every table was filled, the air abuzz with excitement for spring. I was worried that the wait for two would be at least an hour when we walked in, but we actually only waited for 15 minutes! Afterwords Cafe has lots of little parts, the glass house, the outdoor patio, the upstairs – they take advantage of not a lot of space, and stuff it full with people.

Kramerbooks is definitely a DC institution, ranking up there with Ben’s Chili Bowl and the Brickskeller as a place everyone has been at some point while living in the city.  I actually had not, but was eagerly awaiting checking out both the bookstore and the cafe – I had heard mixed reviews, from horrible to mediocre, to a favorite.  I was ready to decide for myself. So… the food? Well… you’ll find out after the break.

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Food and Drink, We Love Drinks

We Love Drinks: Tea at The Mayflower Hotel

Afternoon Tea

"Afternoon Tea" by Jenn Larsen, on Flickr

I’ve done my fair share of tea in this town. Afternoon tea has been a serious obsession of mine since I had the luck of spending several summers in England during college, basically living on tea as a poor student. It’s also a favorite way of my girlfriends to get together. Over the years in Washington I’ve had afternoon tea everywhere – Henley Park Hotel, Four Seasons Hotel (sadly no longer serving), The Jefferson Hotel, etc. Noticing a trend? Afternoon tea here is mainly a hotel thing, with Teaism being the notable exception (or Ching Ching Cha if you want an Asian tea experience). 

With my absolute favorite afternoon tea spot being closed for renovations (that would be the venerable Jefferson, where the scones came out warm and fragrant at the perfect time), I thought I would try The Mayflower Hotel. They serve afternoon tea daily from 3pm-5pm in Cafe Promenade, a soaring orchid and mirror filled room. 

There are many ways to enjoy teatime, and if your tastes run to the gleaming china and sparkling silver variety, The Mayflower delivers on the upscale. If you require attentive and charming service, you’ll definitely find it here. The tea selection itself is quite nice, all served loose in individual pots with lovely silver strainers on the side. The usual suspects are featured such as Earl Grey, darjeeling, and some great greens like sencha or oolong. They even have an enchanting wild blackberry tea that’s a black caffeinated blend, as opposed to the usual herbal tisane. The aroma drove me into a dreamy state, longing for spring…

So where does The Mayflower fall short? Well, frankly, the goodies.  Continue reading

Entertainment, Food and Drink, Night Life, We Love Drinks

We Love Drinks: Tabard Inn

Tabard Inn Cocktail

"Tabard Inn Cocktail" with lemon zest and thyme leaves...

When the weather gets frigid, I begin my never-ending quest for a drinks spot with “hygge.” This is one of those totally untranslatable Danish words – encompassing a feeling of warmth, cosiness, and social cheer, hopefully accented by music and free of pretension – the feeling you get on a cold night, halfway through a mulled cider or a hot toddy, sinking into a soft divan before a fireplace, surrounded by jazz aficionados – wait a minute, here’s a much easier translation:

“Hygge” = Tabard Inn.

Tabard Inn is a classic small hotel, neither swank nor modern nor cold, with an antique-filled, lived-in look, like a grandmother with a twinkle in her eye. It’s hard to go wrong with drinks in the firelit front room, but you can also snuggle up in one of the many nooks upstairs or at the bar in the dining room.  It’s the sort of place my girlfriends and I go when we want “proper cocktails” in a quiet comfortable corner – reminding me of my favorite place for drinks in NYC, the Algonquin Hotel.

Last Sunday was one of those nights, with a brisk wind driving us to thoughts of mulled cider before the fireplace.

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Comedy in DC, WTF?!

Comedy in DC: Poonanza 6: Electric Poonaloo


Poonanza 6 at the DC Improv

Poonanza 6 at the DC Improv

When I mentioned to Tom that this week’s Comedy in DC feature was going to be on the sixth-ever Poonanza, he looked at me skeptically and said, “That doesn’t sound like a comedy show, hon.” Yeah, I know. 

The brainchild of local comedy icon Larry Poon, Poonanza is a largely sketch-based show written by the Pooninator himself as well as co-performers Ryan Conner, Jay Hastings, Justin Schlegel, Danny Rouhier, the apparently controversial Aparna Nancherla, and Jon Mumma.  (While I was checking all these comedian URLs, I noticed how many of them are referred to as either “outrageous” or “one of the hottest young comics in [geographical area].” Time to come up with some new promotional copy, kids.)  Poonanza attendees will also enjoy some standup comedy from David Angelo, who is the top Google result for a search on his name but still managed to get stuck with a .info domain, and Erin Conroy.  The show will be on Saturday, December 13th. There will be two shows, 8 and 10:30, and tickets are $10. All the previous Poonanzas have sold out, so you’d better act quick.

Having seen many of these comics at a number of standup shows around the area (three of them at Chief Ike’s the night of the infamous Olive Oil Incident), I’m interested to see how they translate to sketch.  And as if the above photo of Larry Poon doesn’t tell you enough, there’s video behind the cut. Continue reading

Food and Drink, We Love Food

We Love Food: I Ricchi / Sesto Senso

Photo courtesy of daquellamanera
Vela, courtesy of daquella manera

Back during Restaurant Week, my lovely wife hit two dining spots in Dupont Circle. Due to me first losing her review, then forgetting about it, it’s only now just appearing for your reviewing pleasure. I suspect I’ll be taking her out again this weekend to make up for my faux pas

So, here it is – better late than never!

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Food and Drink, The Daily Feed, The District, WTF?!

Penang Burns Again

Penang at 19th & M caught fire on Saturday afternoon, damaging the Chipotle downstairs, and Porters and Starbucks right next door. As I drove by this afternoon, Several of the upstairs windows had been knocked out and covered by plywood.

The fire started in the kitchen, and spread through the ventilation ducts, causing over 100 firefighters to rush to the scene.

Both Chipotle & Penang are closed, and will be for a bit, but Starbucks had people outside this afternoon, and the doors were open at Porters.