The plane banked as we made the final turn on our descent into Reagan International Airport, and I glanced out the window. There, in the heart of the metropolis, sat the National Mall, glowing in the late afternoon light. The open green space stretches between the U.S. Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial, pierced through the center by the Washington Monument. That’s the moment my excitement to explore amped up.
The cherry trees were just starting to bud, which meant the city was full of tourists just like me looking to maximize their trip with all the sights D.C. has to offer. Fortunately for me, I had a friend who would be showing me around.
Alison is a D.C.-local and still had work to attend to, so we agreed to hang out before and after business hours, and I’d see all the tourist hot spots during the day on my own.
My Uber driver had never dropped anyone off at the POD Hotel. It was one of the newer features in Chinatown, but it was quickly gaining popularity with visitors. The front desk found my reservation quickly, gave me an overview of the hotel’s amenities, and I was off to my room.
The room was sleek, designed with Danish simplicity and Japanese modernity. As the name would suggest, POD’s rooms are tiny. But, the Japan-based company optimized the small footprint. I never spend much time in my hotel room on trips, so I gladly accepted the lack of a faux-living room or desk area for the cheaper rate and prime location. Though I was traveling alone, the room would have easily accommodated another like-minded occupant.
I assumed I’d have an extra hour or so to burn before Alison was done working, so I walked down to the Mall, passing through Chinatown on my way.
I could see why Alison told me to stay in Chinatown. There were dozens of fantastic-looking restaurants. From Chinese restaurants proudly displaying peking duck in their windows and trendy wine bars designed for D.C.’s young talent pool to every Asian fusion or specialty theme imaginable—all of this was within walking distance of just about every site I was planning on seeing.
George Washington University area
I met up with Alison, and we were off to dinner. She had a spot picked out that she couldn’t wait to show me, Founding Farmers. It isn’t often that I go to restaurants with punny names, but she insisted I’d love it. The restaurant was situated just north of the Mall and west of the White House, near George Washington University. In contrast to Chinatown, this area felt significantly more historic, with buildings and its selection of pubs and taverns reminiscent of a colonial design and lifestyle.
With a menu ranging from modern Southern classics to must-try East Coast favorites, Founding Farmers was an amazing experience. The place was packed even for a Thursday (they recommend making reservations). The popularity is well-earned. Not only is it farmer-owned, but their food is scratch-made with ingredients from family farms across the US. I had their signature Chicken & Waffles, which came with mac ‘n’ cheese and green beans on the side: to die for!
After a long day of museum tours and national monument sightseeing, I was looking forward to finding out what Alison had in mind for our Friday evening. She decided to introduce me to Capitol Hill.
When she first told me that was where she was taking me for dinner, I assumed she meant a café in the actual Capitol. But, it turned out to be a neighborhood adjacent to the Capitol.
Alison had apparently called ahead to our dinner spot—and maybe called in a favor—because she secured a reservation at one of the city’s newest hot spots, Rose’s Luxury. The Italian-focused restaurant looked like an Anthropologie-inspired Brooklyn loft. In other words: industrial chic, cool, classy. There were quiet corners and large tables filled with smiling patrons.
Everything about Rose’s Luxury seemed well-thought-out and intentionally placed to help the hustle and bustle of D.C. life fade away and create a space for retreat.
The D.C. in between
Washington, D.C., is filled with dozens of museums, hundreds of memorials and monuments, and countless tours. While it is tempting to zip from attraction to attraction on your educational trek across our nation’s capital, remember that there’s a vibrant destination in between those points of interest.