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Foodie Recs Straight From A Washington, DC Local

Foodie Recs Straight From A Washington, DC Local

​​​​​​Today, I’m beyond excited to share my DC local friend Jenna Brayton’s favorite foodie spots in the capitol. (P.S. if you’re on the hunt for our insider’s guide to DC – look no further!) Hope you’re hungry. Take it away Jenna!

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​So you’ve booked your trip to our nation’s capitol. I can’t even express to you how lucky you are to be in Washington, DC now… instead of in 2012! Since I’ve moved here, the food scene in DC has changed dramatically over the past seven years. Washington has a Michelin guide now… which would have been truly unheard of 7 years ago! ​​​​​​Here are some of my absolute favorite spots around the city.

My Favorite Restaurants Right Now

  • Maketto – Get the fried chicken!
  • All Purpose – Great pizza and amazing garlic bread.
  • The Salt Line – Fantastic oysters and an amazing view of the river. You absolutely must spend time exploring the Wharf area. It’s brand new and such a great addition to DC. I absolutely love it!
  • Elle – The farro salad is wild and so worth it. Come for breakfast or lunch.
  • The Columbia Room – Amazing drinks. Do the drink tasting!
  • The Dabney – Delicious and a great environment.
  • Tiger Fork – This is a really good Chinese food (technically Hong Kong, I think). A word to the wise – sit at the bar. It’s faster and there’s no wait!
  • Maydan – I don’t have words to express how much I love this place. The spreads are all amazing. The fire in the middle of the room is great and really sets the atmosphere.
  • Sfoglina – The cutest place ever! Great vibe and really, really good pastas.
  • Fiola – Great oysters, especially for any seafood lovers.
  • Fiola Mare – Another great seafood option. I love looking at the water (…this is definitely the best Georgetown waterfront restaurant. Don’t bother with the others).
  • The Royal – Great breakfast. Really historic looking interior. Love getting my morning coffees here.
  • Bad Saint – I think they take reservations now which is huge – you used to have to wait in line for hours. Great Filipino food. Not super expensive.
  • Tail Up Goat – The breads are a must. Order their trio of breads as an appetizer you will not regret it. The rest is really good too.
  • Himitsu – This place has a really great Japanese experience. Highly recommend although it’s a bit small. 
Foodie Recs Straight From A Washington, DC Local

Classic Washington, DC Restaurants 

  • Ben’s Chili Bowl – President Obama has visited, Bill Cosby has visited, and it’s a DC staple. 
  • Taylor Gourmet – This sandwich chain is scattered across DC. They have AMAZING sandwiches and amazing sodas – made right on sight. It’s a very popular DC lunch spot.
  • Tortilla Coast on Capitol Hill – Affordable Mexican food, set on a “historic” meeting place… because it’s where Paul Ryan struck a secret budget deal with other members of the Republican caucus. And a lot of Hill folks do the same now today, in their room downstairs.
  • Georgetown Cupcake – Go here for the original Georgetown Cupcakes the TV show was filmed at! It’s in Georgetown on M Street. Worth the wait!
  • Old Ebbit Grill – Notorious DC celebrity spot – lobbyists are here always. It’s right across the street from the White House & the Treasury, so its a neat view!
  • Lauriol Plaza – Delicious Mexican food. Located in Dupont near Florida Avenue. Really neat location – the restaurant is beautiful and has a great patio if its nice out.
  • Ted’s Bulletin – Make sure you get the pop-tarts! They’re homemade. And they have these crazy boozy milkshakes that are perfect.
  • Marvin’s Tavern – This is where JFK proposed to Jackie and they have a booth you can request to sit in. Love Marvin’s! 
Foodie Recs Straight From A Washington, DC Local

Other Things To Do

For things to do, there is literally nothing you can’t do here! Obviously, go see the White House. Go see all the monuments – Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Washington are the best, as is the Reflecting Pond near the Lincoln Memorial. When you’re there, walk across the bridge and go explore Georgetown. Love doing my shopping on M Street & Wisconsin Ave.

There’s also a ton of JFK sights to see in Georgetown, which is neat to track dow!. You can go see the House he lived in when he was a Senator (3307 N Street), and the house Jackie moved into after he was killed (3017 N Street). Also go to Marvin’s, above, because it’s neat to sit in their booth! Go to the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and go see a show there. If you do see a show, make sure and go up to the roof afterwards because you can see across the Potomac River to Virginia… it is so, so beautiful.

Also it’s really worth doing some of the museums and some of the art scene. Go to the National Portrait Gallery and see the Obama’s portraits. Go to the new National Museum of African American History and Culture – it’s incredible. Go to Renwick – it’s got some really great installations. The Smithsonians are all good too, though I’d say they’re good and not great. The biggest upside is that they’re all free! And you can see the Constitution and Declaration of Independence if you go to the National Archives, which is neat.

If you have extra time and want to explore outside of Washington DC boundaries, go to Alexandria, Virginia, especially Old Towne. It’s a 15 minute metro ride outside of DC, across the river. Old Towne is absolutely beautiful. You feel like you’re in another time there – I love the cobblestone streets and all the historic homes. There are so many cute restaurants there it’s hard to pick – basically you just want to walk up and down King Street and you’ll find all of them.

Foodie Recs Straight From A Washington, DC Local

If you go to Alexandria you can turn it into a half day trip where you go see Mt. Vernon too, if you want to check out President Washington’s estate. I’m a big fan of history, so I love doing stuff like that. Also, Bethesda Maryland is a 10 minute metro ride outside of DC up the red line and is also beautiful. It’s a very cute little city center with good shopping.​​​​​​​ Most importantly, have a blast! Exploring Washington DC is sure to fill you with lots of pride in our nation’s history.


How Cooking Keeps Me Inspired To Travel

In between one trip and the next, there’s a down period that can be a bear to overcome. It comes in many forms. In many hours scrolling Instagram in search of that inspiration again, in seeking out guide books at the local library – we’ve all been there. When we get to the mundane, normalcy of “regular life,” we have to turn to something to get us through. How do I cope? Cooking. ​​​​​​​Yep, cooking keeps me inspired to travel.

I’m definitely “a foodie traveler.” I seek out restaurants and local bites just as much (if not more) than historic sights, museums and tourist attractions. I have a whole Instagram board dedicated to the hole-in-the-wall places with dishes I dream of tasting. But, even if you aren’t the biggest food-lover out there… using the kitchen as a source of inspiration between explorations is a great way to get excited and nostalgic too.

To begin, you have to understand that each destination travelers get to experience comes with a rich history of food traditions closely tied to the locals cultural identity. Knowing a little bit about their food culture is as important as knowing their history! It makes the depth of your experiences more rich and profound.

Understanding the relevancy of matcha to ancient Japanese tea rituals elevates that morning iced drink you sip on. Being aware of the intense process of perfecting a buttery croissant makes you appreciate that morning breakfast in France. The more you know, the more you love and appreciate a meal.

When I’m back home, I take it upon myself to learn how to make these dishes in my own kitchen. It makes me feel a deeper kinship towards the places I’ve been lucky to explore. It reminds me of the quiet moments shared with my loved one over a meal. After all, scent is the sense most closely tied to memory! It’s my meal preparations that make me inspired to learn about the world at large too. Suddenly the world is at my fingertips, right at home.

Gather your ingredients and find a taste of the world, Dame Travelers. Be sure to check out @dametravelerfoodie on Instagram and on our blog for more foodie-inspiration around the world.

Food Reviews

Restaurants We Love: Bar Otaku

Restaurants We Love: Bar Otaku

A few weeks ago, I spent a glorious long weekend exploring one of America’s fastest growing cities – Nashville, Tennessee. My expectations for Nashville’s eateries were pretty high. I dreamed of hot chicken, delicious, fall-off-the-bone BBQ… you know the southern comfort food we’re all shown on television and in guide books. But when entering Bar Otaku, all my culinary expectations of what Nashville had to offer shifted.

There are restaurants that make an impact on you as a guest from the moment you walk in their doors. Bar Otaku was one of those places for me. Every detail of the place was deliciously detailed in traditional Japanese izakaya touches with a serious southern flair. No stone was left unturned. And the menu? It left me floored.

Restaurants We Love: Bar Otaku

Needless to say, it didn’t take me long to become obsessed with Bar Otaku. After meeting chef Sarah Gavigan and learning about her love and devotion to Japanese cooking, her devotion to Nashville and her incredible story… I knew I had to share it with all of you. Today, I’m so thrilled to be able to introduce her story and a little sample of what Bar Otaku has to offer.

Hi Sarah! Could you tell us the story of Bar Otaku’s beginnings in Nashville?

I was ready to expand the Otaku brand (originally a ramen shop) and the space was perfect for it. We had a concept we were ready to move on from and the opportunity presented itself in a flash. We jumped on it!

Awesome. What is your personal connection to Japanese cooking?

I lived in Los Angeles for nearly 20 years and in that time I spent 90% of my time eating in the Japanese neighborhood Izakaya’s and Ramen Shops. I fell in love with the food and the spirit of the dining experiences.

Have you visited Japan before? Do you have any memories you’d like to share? 

I traveled to Japan for the first time in 2013 with my husband and then 10 year old. We were mesmerized in every sense. The sheer size of it, but yet the intimacy of the dining experiences is what I loved the most.

I love the respect paid in a Ramen Shop to the dish and the Chef. The Japanese understand that ramen is one person, one bowl. It’s not a social event. I love that. Izakaya, conversely, is all about being with friends.

Restaurants We Love: Bar Otaku

What do you love the most about Japanese izakaya style restaurants?

Eat, Drink, Laugh….repeat. It’s about simple delicious food, great sake and a warm convivial space that makes you want to cut loose and have some laughs.

Bar Otaku’s menu combines southern USA and Japanese classic dishes. What inspired you to create Japanese Soul Food?

My love of the food and the experience itself was sorely missing from my life in Nashville.

I’ve got to ask! What dish do you love the most on Bar Otaku’s menu?

The Taco Rice. Its a funny dish and it satisfies just about anytime. The origins of the dish is Tack King In Okinawa Japan, where a local owner wanted to make a dish that made the U.S Servicemen and women feel at home. Take your 1970’s Ortega Taco dinner (which I had a lot growing up) and the rice of Japan and you have the best taco salad ever. Who doesn’t like Taco salad? My touch was the pimento cheese!

What culinary experiences have you had that have shaped the way you cook?

I cook for flavor. I live for Umami and my dishes are always aimed at achieving that intensity.

Restaurants We Love: Bar Otaku

Delicious. So, what similarities do you see between Nashville and Japan?

Nashville and Central Tokyo are on the same latitude. When I made that discovery I began to look around me and see that many of this vegetation was the same. My mother’s Japanese maple is tremendous. The Japanese love okra as much as Southerners. The list goes on and on!

Could you tell us about your experience as a woman working in the restaurant industry?

I have a mothers intuition and the agility of a cat. I use it to my advantage. I lean into being a women; I don’t fight it.

How do you think travel can inspire cooking?

Simply getting out of my everyday surroundings helps me to be creative.

What would you say is the most meaningful aspect of what you do?

Connecting with people and giving them memories. Nothing beats that part of the job for me.

Restaurants We Love: Bar Otaku

Thank you for taking the time to share your story Sarah! If you ever find yourself in Nashville – a meal at Bar Otaku is a MUST! Thank me later.


Love Wine? Add These Destinations To Your Bucket List

Wine! Who knew fermented grapes could be such an incredible drink, filled with such rich notes, flavors and history? Today we’re sharing some of top destinations wine-lovers should add to their bucket lists!

Bordeaux, France

Wine buffs know that Bordeaux has got it going on! After all, Bordeaux touts some of the world’s biggest wine-tourism experiences and over a quarter million acres of vineyards. With six regions, 10,000 wine-producing (and simply stunning!) châteaux’s, ample wine routes, guided tours, cruises, tasting classes and more… you won’t be lost for experiences to have here.

Duoro Valley, Portugal

The Duoro Valley is magical. It’s not only a great spot for a life-changing solo trip, but incredibly stunning in landscape and delicious in its table and Port wines. The river that flows through the hills and valleys of the nourishes the vineyards on the hillsides is one of the oldest unmarked wine-region in the world. Plus, wine tours throughout the valley typically depart from beautiful Porto. (P.S. we’ll be doing a wine tasting in the Duoro Valley on our Portugal trip this July! Join us!)

Cape Town, South Africa

Situate yourself in Cape Town and you’re in the perfect location to explore South Africa’s bustling wine region. Besides its incredible food scene and coffee culture, Cape Town’s Table Mountain and Atlantic oceanic air provide next level wines. In Cape Town’s restaurants, you’d be hard pressed to find one without a fantastic wine list! Sip on South Africa’s famous sparkling wine Methode Cap Classique or Pinotage, a unique combination of Cinsaut and Pinot Noir.

Thessaloniki, Macedonia

Sure, you’ve probably heard of Santorini’s fantastic grapes… but have you heard of its next door neighbor’s up and coming wines? North of Greece is the world’s best hidden wine destination! In the port city of Thessaloniki, you’ll find rare grapes that have made this country “the next big thing” in affordable, international travelers seeking incredible wine.

Corsica, France

Island wine has a certain appeal to it, doesn’t it? Corsica’s coastal vineyards wrap around the whole island, which is why most wines created there are also consumed by locals. Traveling to Corsica for its delicious wine is a once in a lifetime experience, especially for this reason!

North Coast Of California, USA

Napa and Sonoma are notoriously famous wine destinations for good reason! With over 600 wineries dotting these two north coast counties alone, wine enthusiasts will be overjoyed at the vast selection of tours to choose from! This “wine trail” packs a punch, no matter your preference in wine varieties (and it’s a great place to get your feet wet in the wine tasting scene!). Plus, you can also double it up with a trip to Yellow Stone National Park or San Francisco.

Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand

Hawke’s Bay is the oldest wine region in New Zealand (and also the second largest!)… so why wouldn’t you add this area to your wine destination bucket list? Fun fact: Hawke’s Bay’s climate is very similar to Bordeaux’s! The area is famous for its full-bodied reds and Chardonnays. And it’s warm climate is a great escape for a traveler looking for a relaxing vacation filled with wine festivals and tours around New Zealand’s beautiful countryside.

Moselle Valley, Germany

Riesling lovers rejoice! The Moselle Valley is known as the best place in the world for classic Riseling whites. Its extremely steep hillsides are a treat for the eyes and also for its soil, which produces rich nutrients from the Moselle River below. It’s unlike most vino regions in the world for this reason!

Finger Lakes, New York, USA

Just 200 miles north of New York City is one of United States most underrated wine regions. The Finger Lakes is made up of many scattered, deep lakes that are incredibly relaxing and picturesque… perfect for a wine lover who wants to be treated by the beauty of nature in between exploring the region’s wine trails that are well connected and easy to navigate.

Tasmania, Australia

Tasmania is perfectly situated to produce some of Australia’s most incredible wines! Because of its cooler climate and grape varieties, wine lovers can savor some of the world’s best pinots, chardonnays, sauvignon blancs, rieslings, and more within one area. Tasmania delights visitors with its variety and its rugged parks and forests, so make sure you sign up for a winery tour or visit in between seeing Australia’s island wildlife!

Tuscany, Italy

Rounding out our list of vino destinations is a classic – Tuscany! It’s been said that it’s impossible to find a bad Tuscan wine. Now… it’s up to you to solve that mystery! But in the meantime, Italy’s biggest grape production region is well-loved by tourists and aficionados alike for its magical castles and ancient wineries with grapes dating all the way back to the Estruscans. Get lost in the splendor of Italy’s heartland, its rolling hills and absolutely mouth watering wines.

Have you had an incredible wine experience somewhere not on our list? Tell us where! 

Europe Food

London Theatre Bars Perfect To Grab A Pint Or Cocktail At

A trip to the theatre isn’t complete without a drink in hand. If you find yourself with a few minutes to spare before a show, or if you just need a change of scenery for your post-work pint, check out these awesome, and often underrated theatre bars. These spots welcome all theatre-goers with open arms, but are also open to the public – whether you’re catching a show or not – so grab a mate, grab a drink and start your night.

If you don’t want your evening to end once the curtains are drawn, these bars are open late, making them the ideal place to hang out well into the night!

The Young Vic

An outdoor roof terrace and ample seating on the ground level make The Cut Bar at the Young Vic just the place to sip a cocktail, a glass of wine or a pint of craft beer. This theatre’s award-winning building is a perfect home to the bustling, airy space complete with delicious food and drink and a vibrant atmosphere.

The Bridge Theatre

The Bridge Theatre has possibly one of the most beautiful modern theatre foyers in London, and you just have to spend some time in the large café-bar area. The bar is stocked with local beers, great wines and classic cocktails. If you’re looking for a bite to eat to go with your cold drink, check out the rotating selection of cakes, signature doughnuts, and homemade ice cream.

The Globe 

The iconic Shakespeare’s Globe hosts Swan, a beautiful bar, restaurant and event space set over two floors, with stunning views of the River Thames and St Paul’s Cathedral. Swan is open all day serving coffee to cocktails and everything in between. Be a London tourist for the night by hitting these classic landmarks all while sitting with a drink in hand.

The Soho Theater

The Soho Theater is a vibrant venue that features new theater, cabaret, and comedy. Switch up your typical night out for a less classic stop (less classic than The Globe, that is) at the ever-buzzing Soho Theatre Bar. The bar doubles as a cooperative workspace and café by day and a high energy bar and hang out by night. Stop by for a coffee or a pint and try out some new theater – you may be surprised by the pleasant change of pace.

The Old Vic

In the mood for a coffee or would you rather stick with an alcoholic beverage? The bar above The Old Vic serves up coffee and unique cocktails. Pop in for brunch – hello, mimosas! – or seasonal dishes from the best London suppliers. Head upstairs before your show or pull up a chair and sit for a spell. The best thing: it’s open until 2AM on the weekends!

Tip: Pre-order drinks on The Old Vic Bar app and receive 10% off your first drink. Download the app for free from the App Store and Google Play.

Menier Chocolate Factory

This renovated factory incorporates all of the charm and history it once held with bare brick and timber beams. Grab a pint or try the pre-theatre set menu, which features themed meals that were made for the theatre stars themselves. Don’t skip out on dessert! You can’t visit a chocolate factory without indulging in a chocolate platter.

The National Theatre

The National Theatre is home to many bars, restaurants, tearooms and cafés, but The Understudy comes as the most acclaimed. The space has an outdoor, riverside courtyard and serves a range of draught beers, wines and cocktails. Free board games and a schedule of live music makes you feel like you’re at the theatre without even seeing a show.

No matter how you like to spend your Saturday night – at the theatre or grabbing a pint with your mates – London has plenty of bars and restaurants that will lead your night in the right direction.