D.C. The District. The Nation’s Capital. Federal City. Chocolate City. DMV.
Washington, D.C.’s many monikers represent the various things that may come mind when someone thinks of it. Growing up, I envisioned D.C. as a conservative city full of suits, perfect etiquette, and wealth. Many folks who have not visited tend to have a similar mental picture, which is understandable with the District being synonymous with government, monuments, museums, the White House, and of course the POTUS. Through multiple work trips and personal visits, my view of the District has changed. Now I think of the city – including the entire D.C. Metro Area composed of surrounding Virginia and Maryland suburbs – as a progressive thinking and culturally and socioeconomically diverse conglomeration of proud people sharing a heightened sense of ambition, sophistication, and confidence.
Spending my fair share of time on the D.C. Metro – the nation’s most efficient public transportation system, in my opinion – navigating through the city’s grid of unique neighborhoods, I am able to distinguish D.C. Metro Area residents from visitors. The residents conditioned to the District’s daily grind are laser-focused on handling their business of the day and intentional with the way they move. Outsiders are preoccupied with people-watching, move with indifference, and are generally distracted by their surroundings. Those with the D.C. “look” extend beyond commuting businesspersons, lobbyists, federal workers, and other worker bees. They also include hundreds of students from one of more than a dozen area colleges and universities. Even transplants from other areas (D.C. has one of the highest transient populations in America) are quick to adopt the look after a couple months in D.C.
Everybody in D.C. has a master plan.
This mentality is reflected in the city’s restaurant scene, which features numerous James Beard Award winners, Michelin-starred restaurants, and other nationally renowned eateries. In case you have not noticed, D.C. has long arrived as a true foodie destination. Local restaurants that have created buzz outside of the DMV include Bad Saint, Pupatella, and Call Your Mother, each of which I have reviewed and are featured on this site. As a business traveler, you will have no problem finding a local, one-of-a-kind restaurant more than worthy of your and your colleagues’ time and organization’s per diem.
You can choose from every possible type of cuisine you can imagine and at every price point, which is reflective of the impressively diverse composition of its residents. For example, the D.C. Metro Area has the largest Ethiopian population of any city in the United States. If you want to try some of the best Ethiopian food in the nation, I recommend hitting one of many D.C. staples to get your injera-scooping fix, including but not limited to Zenebach, Ethiopic, and Chercher. The D.C. area provides endless material for local food bloggers, including those that I follow such as the Hungry Lobbyist, who graciously provided us with his top three most memorable bites in D.C.
Ask a Local: My 3 Most Memorable Bites in D.C.
- Pimento cheese and buttermilk biscuits, St. Anselm. These are both made in-house. St. Anselm is a Stephen Starr restaurant that doesn’t feel like a typical stuffy D.C. steakhouse.
- Off-the-menu sliders, The Dabney. The sliders change between fried catfish or pork belly with Dukes mayonnaise and pickled veggies inside house made potato rolls. The restaurant serves Mid-Atlantic farm-to-table cuisine, and they have a Michelin Star for a reason.
- ANY seasonal pasta, Centrolina or San Lorenzo. Any pasta made by multiple James Beard nominated chef Amy at Centrolina and Sous Chef Andy at San Lorenzo are both a must try!
Once Initiative 71 went into effect in February 2015, legalizing recreational marijuana in D.C., there was a ton of D.C. residents ready to partake in the crop and a line of resident opportunists ready to make money off this pent up demand. Recreational cannabis has since been available in the city via delivery, scheduled pick-up, and at brick-and-mortar “gifting” operations. The path to cannabis in D.C. is a bit convoluted, with the rules being less straightforward than in other green cities. Based on the confusion around the process, travelers visiting the District often deem the pursuit as “juice not worth the squeeze.” I was one of them.
As detailed in my interview with Lonny Bramzon, founder and owner of Street Lawyer Services, obtaining cannabis legally in the District is simple as long as you understand the rules. In fact, as long as you have a valid ID card (from any State), you are eligible to obtain and hold up to two ounces of cannabis while in the city. While it is true that the D.C. outfits have not yet evolved into offering the more eye-opening, consumer-inviting experiences that remind you of Best Buy, Apple, or high-end jewelry stores as their counterparts on the West Coast, the gifters I met with make up for flashy appearance with elite customer service and deep knowledge of their product. To me, the more intimate interaction with the staff gives it a charm you do not get from the larger cannabis superstores. Within five minutes of engaging with them, you can tell these are genuinely good people. I have yet to try others in D.C., but my positive experiences with The Street Laywer Services and Green Kings D.C. will likely result in repeat visits.