The alarm on my phone forgot to go off Saturday morning, so we got a later start than intended. (The extra sleep was nice, though.) We got on the metro around 10:30 and rode to L’Enfant Plaza. Our intention was to see as much of the National Mall as possible, until our feet fell off.
(Spoiler alert: our feet almost fell off.)
The thing we noticed first was the incredible number of food trucks lining the streets that crossed the mall.
I decided on falafel, and Matt got a Philly cheesesteak. We took our food to a good viewpoint on the mall, and sat in the grass to eat. It was fantastically nice outside.
After our early lunch, we walked toward the Capitol. The mall was crowded with tourists, as always, including massive groups of teenagers on school trips.
Bally loves America, obviously.
Even after that mile or so, I was starting to realize that my choice of shoes wasn’t the best for walking. Since I’d only brought a backpack, I didn’t want to carry two extra pairs of shoes, and as we had dressy plans later that night, I took a pair of sandals that I’d never walked any distance in. It was too warm to wear sneakers, so that was my choice. DUMB.
We walked down the other side of the mall, skipping most of the museums. Since it was really nice that day and was supposed to rain Monday, we figured we’d cover some of them later. We did decide to go into the Air & Space Museum: initially it was because I had to go to the bathroom, but it was a good excuse to wander around and see things. It’s still my favorite (the annex in Virginia is even better… why don’t they have shuttles there?).
We stopped into the castle, because I hadn’t been there in years. We picked up a few souvenirs (which I got a discount on, since we get Smithsonian Magazine), then went to check out the rest of the building. They have a fascinating array of totally random artifacts in there.
From there we headed toward the Washington Monument. My feet were trying to kill me, but that wasn’t going to stop the walking. The monument was still covered in scaffolding because of earthquake repairs.
We had a deadline for our tourist activities that day, because we had cocktail and dinner reservations later. That meant we had to be on the Metro by 4pm, in order to go back to the hotel, change clothes, and ride back. (That made me regret having a hotel so far away just a little bit, but it was so much cheaper than the district hotels, it was worth the effort.)
We figured we didn’t have time to walk all the way down to the Lincoln Memorial, since we’d only covered half the mall in that amount of time. Also, my feet were killing me. We headed toward the White House instead, because it was only half a mile or so.
The side streets to the White House are all completely blocked off by security gates and guards; I feel like that wasn’t always the case, but I’m not positive. You can’t get anywhere near it except at the usual spot, directly in front. We followed the crowds, passing by a group of anti-abortion protesters with huge grotesque photos all over the sidewalk. I was diplomatic and didn’t curse at them, though I did thank the gun control protesters for being there.
The plaza in front of the White House was full of police, tourists on Segways, and random protesters. We took our photos, and Bally snuck inside the fence. We then headed toward a much-needed break at the Old Ebbitt Grill, one of the ten oldest bars in America, and haunt of many a corrupt politician.
I asked at the server stand if we could sit at the bar, and they told me there were FOUR of them to choose from. We went into the back room and found an awesome old bar with nautical decor, and exactly the kind of bartender you hope to see: a loud, sarcastic old guy in suspenders.
I ordered a Manhattan, and took his recommendation for whiskey: WhistlePig Rye. I was not disappointed.
We hung out there for a while, resting our feet and enjoying listening to the people around us. There was a very loud, tipsy group of older ladies from the east coast at the end of the bar who were flirting with the bartender. We shared a Negroni, then got our check and headed to the Metro station to ride back to the hotel.
We had to walk from the station to the hotel, but we’d walked so much at that point we really didn’t notice the soreness much anymore. I knew I had blisters, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. We changed quickly, and decided to request the shuttle so we didn’t have to walk back. The driver was there quickly, and we were soon back on the train heading downtown.
Our destination was Jose Andres’ Minibar, the cocktail-focused side of the new Barmini (where the president and first lady had dined recently.)
We love Jose Andres from his TV appearances and his restaurants in Las Vegas. Since DC is his home, we were very excited to visit his new cocktail bar. We made reservations far in advance to be sure to get in, and the rules were intimidating: there’s a $50 fee for no-shows, you can only have your seats for 2 hours, and you have to press the doorbell at a nondescript door 5 times to get in.
We arrived a little early and found the door. We stood there for a very long time before the hostess came to get us. She was a tall, gorgeous lady dressed perfectly, and I was instantly glad we’d made the effort to dress up. She took us through another door, and we walked into a small room with a bar that sat 8 people, and several other creative seating areas. One of them had a wicker hanging chair, and another had a couch made of tufts painted to look like cactus. Everything was shiny white and modern, and there was a two-way mirror into the restaurant portion. The bar was totally open, so that we could see everything that was going on. It was amazing.
I wanted to be a tourist and take pictures of everything, but stuck to just the one, subtly. We ordered cocktails off the extensive menu, and watched the bartender make them in very elaborate fashion. (Their mixing technique was very Toby Maloney-esque.) They had a massive variety of glasses in vintage styles, seemingly for every style of drink. And they had fancy gold mixing tins and jiggers! We were impressed.
We had three drinks apiece over the couple hours we were there, and they were uniformly great. We also ordered a couple appetizers: Matt had a foie gras banh mi slider (which was delivered in a tiny cardboard take out box a la McDonalds), and we shared a truffle grilled cheese. SO GOOD. We learned some new things from the bartender, too.
While we were sitting there, the awesome hostess was quietly telling the staff that someone important was coming in (I couldn’t catch the name), and they were to be treated as if they were anonymous. EXCITING! Every time the light flashed over the door to indicate a new visitor, we subtly peered at them to see if we recognized them. As far as we could tell, nobody famous showed up while we were there, but we’re also pretty bad at recognizing celebrities.
Finally it was time to head to dinner, so we got our check and went to use the bathrooms before we left. The hostess led us out, and asked me about my Gemini tattoo, since she was one, too. Her birthday is a day before mine on June 7th, so I asked if she knew that that was also Prince’s birthday. She was pretty excited that we knew that fact.
This is the wall in the bathroom, by the way. You never, ever have to worry about running out of toilet paper there.
We walked a few blocks up the street to Zaytinya, another Jose Andres joint, where we had reservations at 8. There was a crowd out front, in the lobby, and the place was absolutely monstrous. It had the look of one of those fancy downtown chain restaurants that we generally avoid, but we quickly found out that was a misconception.
Our table wasn’t quite ready, so we went to the bar for cocktails. Again, I was glad we were dressed up… most of the crowd there was fairly fancy. After 20 minutes or so our table was ready, and we were hungry enough that we already had plans for the bread basket. The menu was an innovative mix of Lebanese, Greek, and Turkish food, and it all looked delicious. Plus there were plenty of vegetarian options (including an entire vegetarian mezze page). On our server’s recommendation we ordered three mezze apiece, including a cheese plate. One of my very important life rules: always order the cheese plate when you’re out for a nice dinner.
We ate the flatbread and they brought more, so we used that for cheese. There was still a piece in the basket, but they brought another one. We had to put it far away from us so we didn’t risk a bread basket avalanche. The small plates started arriving, and everything was excellent. We had a glass of Raki to celebrate, too.
We were getting full and still had one dish left on the way, but it was starting to look like it wasn’t going to appear. At that point, we were hoping it didn’t, since we couldn’t have eaten it anyway. Finally the server brought our check, and we breathed a sigh of relief, especially since we weren’t charged for it. Our entire fancy meal was only a bit over $100, too… we were shocked.
Leaving, we found the streets crowded with Capitals fans celebrating the team clinching a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs. I felt like I was amongst my people! We decided to walk a bit and see what was nearby for cocktails, since my blisters were killing me. Only a few blocks away, we saw a marquee that beckoned us: Cuba Libre. A tropical-themed rum bar? I don’t even know why that would appeal to us.
The place was pretty full and we didn’t want to ask for a table, so we went to stand by the bar near an empty seat next to a questionably-taken seat. The lady there said her friend had left, so we scored the last two seats at the bar. Their menu was primarily mojitos, as expected, and they boasted a giant rum list. We got mojitos, which were good but waaaay too sweet.
After a while, they started clearing tables from the dance floor, which was surrounded by a low fence. Then they cleared the tables outside the dance floor, from the rest of the restaurant. Finally, they started taking bar stools. The guy who took ours told us that the entire floor was for dancing (and he did so in such a joyful way, it was awesome). We stood there waiting for the music to start, and decided to enjoy a rum flight in the meantime. We of course made the bartender climb a ladder to get them, which made the other bartender declare us big spenders. (The rum wasn’t even that expensive, they just seemed to be a mostly-mojito crowd.)
By the time the first song was over, the dance floor was full. It was fantastic, and unlike anything that ever happens in Minnesota. Plus there were some dancers there who really knew what they were doing.
We hung out there for a while watching the dancing, and finally decided to go elsewhere to be able to sit down again, since my feet hurt. We walked over to a Belgian place several blocks away called Brasserie Beck, but walked in just as they were closing. We used their bathrooms and then decided to head back to the hotel, since we had beer there, and it was midnight.
As much as I wanted to see what the Metro was like at 3am, I didn’t really want to experience it in person. Our train was fairly empty, and everyone riding out to the Alexandria area seemed to be asleep. I limped back to the hotel, and we enjoyed a DC Brau on the couch before bed.