THE KIMPTON MASON & ROOK
The hipsters’ home away from home
The Kimpton Mason & Rook is a quiet ambivalence: It is part of the dozens Kimpton boutique hotels and restaurants (the first was launched in San Francisco, California) across the US, boasting an impressive 178 rooms and 18 suites; yet, it rises against the trees, looking every inch like a small contemporary apartment block, stretching its rooms away from the street and the passers-by.
The hotel is right in the middle of Washington DC, steps away from 14th Street Northwest, a long stretch of busy and hip restaurants and smaller boutiques; still, pass the hotel’s entrance doors and the place turns into a retreat, a stark contrast with Capitol Hill’s current political drama.
Built on the foundation of an old residence, the hotel looks verbatim like someone’s stylish home: comfortable and elegant, warm and inviting, complete with snug sofas, carefully selected artworks and rows of bookshelves. The lobby’s interior is an opus of warm tones and elegant fabrics — velvet, leather, light varnished woods. The rooms have character, and draw on the same textures and hues, adding en-suite bathrooms decorated in marble and charcoal wallpaper, large TV screens and enough space to throw a small party.
The effect: you’ll want to extend your stay forever. And since there’s a whole food store that sells home-made peanut butter on tap just two streets away, you might as well unpack your bag (the rooms are small, but practical cupboards will come in handy) and get your mail transferred to 1430 Rhode Island Avenue, Northwest.
- Soundtrack: The Pro Rata podcast with Axios’ Dan Primack.
- Must Read: The Hill https://thehill.com/ and Politico https://www.politico.com/ — You’re in Washington after all.
- Get in bed and watch: All the President’s Men by Alan J Pakula
- What to do: Go to the Smithsonian — with 17 museums and galleries, eleven of which are on the National Mall (where the Lincoln Memorial stands), and the National Zoo, you might soon be sighing: “So many things to see, so little time!”
- What more to do: The Newseum; in a time where the term “fake news” too often steals the spotlight, this extremely well-curated, super-informative and interactive museum promotes “free expression and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution”. It also goes back in history and traces “the evolution of communication around the world”. Truly fascinating — book a whole day if you really want time to enjoy the museum’s offering. Do it while you can as the Newseum has just sold its Washington home and will be closing at the end of 2019.
Price: From R2,600 a night
Located: 1430 Rhode Island Avenue, Northwest
Geometry for the hungry
Pi Pizzeria has two locations in the US, one in DC Metro, the other in St Louis, Missouri. Of course, we could tell you about the pizzeria’s speciality, the cornmeal thin crust, or their whole-wheat option for a healthier feel; we could arouse your taste buds with the Cubano, and the — as per the menu’s description — “slow-cooked pork shoulder, country ham, kosher pickle, yellow mustard and flat-leaf parsley.”
And if that’s not enough to convince you to give the place a go, maybe President Obama will. In 2008, Barack Obama had a slice of Pi Pizzeria during a campaign stop in St Louis. A few hours later, he called the team at Pi to tell them that it was “the best pizza he’d ever had”. A year later, owner and chef behind Pi, Cary McDowell, was invited to the White House to cook for the First Family; QED. You might have to queue to get a table as the place is constantly busy; if that is the case, don’t hesitate to ask them for a seat at the bar: You’ll have a prime position on their crafted beers and you’ll be served quite quickly.
Located: 910 F Street NW
COMET PING PONG PIZZERIA
The other political pizzeria
The good thing is, if you feel that a wood-fired pizza won’t do any good to your fitness levels, then a crusty pie paired with a game of ping pong might save the night. Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria has table tennis tables and punk rock shows all set in a joint with concrete walls and simple wooden benches.
It’s the perfect place for a first date, a friend’s birthday bash or a family gathering. Yet, in 2016, Comet became caught in a hail storm of conspiracy theory dubbed #PizzaGate, dragging the pizza joint into a pseudo-sex-ring scandal following the leak of John Podesta’s emails (Podesta was Clinton’s campaign manager). At the time, Hillary Clinton was still a contestant in the run for presidency (and a great, possibly saner winner) and Trump was… Trump. In an interview with the New York Times, Comet Ping Pong owner James Alefantis, once referred to the conspiracy theory and the violent attacks that followed, including a shooting at his restaurant, as “an insanely complicated, made-up, fictional lie-based story” and a “coordinated political attack”.
#PizzaGate eventually fizzled out, Comet Ping Pong is thankfully still standing and you’d miss out by not paying it a visit and a game of ping pong.
Located: 5037 Connecticut Avenue
CALL YOUR MOTHER DELI
The best bagel in town (literally)
Call Your Mother is worth every step you’ll make in its direction. This Jew-ish deli restaurant is the brainchild of Jeff Zients (aka “Mr Fix-It” – during President Barack Obama’s time in the White House, Zients was tasked with fixing the Healthcare.org issues, also known as website crashes) and the food love affair between founder and chief dough boy and Argentinian chef, Daniela Moreira.
The deli is open for breakfast and lunch with one king item on the menu: Wood-fired bagels, divided into a multitude of combinations. Bagels with sesame seeds, Za’atar, or “everything”, bagels-turned-sandwich, plain with a cup of coffee and latkes, or made into a pizza. Here, the bagel reigns supreme and we all kneel at its crusty sesame seeds and smoked flavour.
Although you will come back for the food (and leave with a paper bag full of extra bagels just in case), you won’t be indifferent to the charm of the place: It has pink walls with pops of light sea green, bright yellow wooden chairs, and Call-Your-Mother coffee cups that might soon be a parental must-have.
Located: 3301 Georgia Ave
KRAMMERBOOKS & AFTERWORD CAFE
The inner circle
Kramerbooks & Afterwords is an independent bookstore and café, founded in 1976 by Bill Kramer, Henry Posner, and David Tenney. That the place managed to stay independent and relevant despite the rise of digital is already an achievement, but Kramerbooks is not just a bookstore: It’s an institution and a ritual (as a proof, this journalist pays a visit to the store every time she travels to DC, filling her bag with more books than the airline will allow her to carry).
It has attracted many influential residents, from Andy Warhol to Barack Obama. But it is Monica Lewinsky who brought sudden (and unwanted) attention to the book shop. In 1998, special counsel and prosecutor Kenneth Starr subpoenaed Kramerbooks to disclose which books Monica Lewinsky had purchased — a subpoena Bill Kramer fought, despite sales dropping and some customers sending angry messages. Respect.
Located: 1517 Connecticut Avenue, Dupont Circle. ML