Sunday, June 30, 2024

Eat, Drink, Sleep in Washington DC

Trip date: September 2023

I'd only been to WA DC once before and it was in 2006! To say I was overdue for a visit is a gross exaggeration. So when I decided to take the entire month of September off last year,  I decided that DC was the first stop on my extended vacation.

I had a $25 coupon on Alaska Air and stacked that with a sale they were having for a one-way Premium Class flight for just $300. At SEA I had a great breakfast in the Alaska Lounge and then it was a 5-hour flight across the United States to Dulles/IAD, landing just in time for dinner.

I still remember the last time in DC having drinks at the bar at The Willard Intercontinental Hotel. The hotel lobby was so grand and stunning! So this time I used some IHG points and stayed at the hotel for free! The Willard is truly a historical place. Every President since Franklin Pierce has slept or attended an event at the hotel. Not to mention all the other famous people who have stayed and historical events that have occured here!

My room was a large King, with a big bathroom and marble shower. I didn't have a view of anything but that was ok as all I had to do was step out the front of the hotel and the White House was to the right while the Capitol was to the left. 

I had dinner that night at Bar Spero, a Basque-inspired seafood restaurant owned by Chef Johnny Spero. It's a beautiful space with soaring ceilings, modern light fixtures, and cozy wooden booths. Everything I had was excellent; hiramasa (amberjack) crudo/black currant yuzu/fig leaf oil/gooseberries, grilled bread/herbs de provence/La Tur butter/chicken liver mousse, fried octopus/squid stock emulsion. 

They are known for their whole or ½ turbot which I would have loved to try but as I was on my own that would have been a bit much! I would recommend but I'd say try to go with a few others so you can enjoy more things!

I was excited to check out Silver Lyan, the first bar in the US by Ryan Chetiyawardana, as I've been a big fan of his bars around London. Silver Lyan originally opened in Feb 2020, which is when I started planning my return to DC! But we all know what happened in 2020, Silver Lyan had to close along with the rest of the country but luckily they reopened in July 2021. 

The bar is in the basement of the Riggs Hotel, a beautiful building built in 1891 as the HQ for Riggs National Bank. I wasn't aware of it being subterranean, which threw me for a minute. But I grabbed a seat at the bar and started reading through the incredibly creative cocktails that Lyan is known for. 

My "Air Bee n Bee" combined tequila, almond blossom, hay-smoked bee larvae, mango vinegar and Mosel riesling. The menu told the story of bees being brought to CA to pollinate the almond trees and the effect that has on the environment. 

My 2nd round was more traditional, a martini with a flight of garnishes included olives, onions, a twist, and an oyster. Both were very good, as was the Lyan gin I was given a sample of. I liked Silver Lyan, I didn't love it but that had to do more with the atmosphere than with the drinks or the staff, both of which were excellent.

I walked back to The Willard and had a lovely nightcap in the Round Robin Bar before heading to my room (which had had turndown service, which I love!)

The next afternoon I had lunch at Central, which was fine. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it but if you are close by and in need of a quick bite and a cool drink, it will do. 

I started my evening at Allegory for cocktails. I was super excited to check out this cool cocktail bar but somehow had missed that it was inside the Eaton Hotel so it took me a minute to locate the entrance! Psst... it's back in the hotel's library. 

Owner Deke Dunne has created such an amazing space! I was seated at the bar, which gave me a great view of the bartenders in action but also of the incredible murals that entirely take up both walls.

This depiction of Alice in Wonderland was painted by DC artist Erik Thor Sandberg and has civil rights activist Ruby Bridges as Alice. You might recall Bridges from your history classes as the first African American to attend the formerly whites-only William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana at the age of 6. It's a powerful and beautiful image.

It's no surprise then that the menu is titled "Down the Rabbit Hole" and is an allegory (with cocktails) of how Ruby may have felt going to that school with illustrations also by Sandberg. I chose Eden as my first drink: gin, supercharged oranges, benzoin, philoncia, orange blossom, clarified whey, served carbonated & bottled. It was light and refreshing and since it was pre bottled it came quick!

It wasn't that I was in a rush, it's just that I hadn't realized that Allegory was also hosting a pop-up with London bartender Andrei Marcu. He was representing Coupette and making some of their drinks and I wanted to make sure I had time to try one before dinner! I chose the Midnight Gimlet with pisco, blackcurrant squash, Dubonnet, cassis, Zirbenz, and acid solution. It was fantastic and so was chatting with Marcu.

Allegory is absolutely not to be missed while in DC.

My dinner choice that evening was Kinship, a lovely small restaurant that had been recommended to me by friends. As soon as I entered I just loved the space. Whitewashed walls, upholstered banquets, a simple set table, and the cute sketch of the exterior of the restaurant on the cover of the menu.

But the servers seemed really surprised that I was dining solo. I mean it's DC, they have solo people in town on business all the time right? They were kind of killing the vibe for me.

The menu at Kinship is arranged by Craft (dishes that celebrate a cooking technique), History (classics), and Ingredients (highlighting a product). I chose the Crab en Feuilles de Brick from Craft and the BBQ Kanagy Farm Pork Jowl from the Ingredients. Both dishes were quite good and had interesting flavors and textures, with my only "complaint" being the portion size on the pork seemed very big. 

After my main the server asked if I was interested in dessert, I said I wasn't sure but wanted to use the restroom and then would decide. When I returned to my table the bill had been delivered. I guess I looked really confused as the server came over and asked if everything was ok to which I said I thought it was odd that the bill was on the table as I hadn't been offered coffee, I hadn't decided on dessert, and I hadn't asked for the bill. Apologies were offered, they said they misunderstood, but it seemed uncomfortable so I left. Not sure if I'd go back or not, it would have been super simple to bring me a small dessert or something as I was signing my bill to show regrets. 

No bother, I was off to the newly opened Death & Co which I was also very excited about! My Uber drove down an alley and asked if I was sure this is where I was going. I got out and found the barely marked door and then made my way upstairs.

I hadn't made a reservation, because they don't seem to take them for one (which is annoying, what does DC have against solo customers?) but when I checked in with the hostess she kindly told me they would have a seat at the bar in just 5 minutes. When she sat me, between a couple obviously on a date and 2 guys on my other side, she checked with me first, asking if that was going to be ok. Very cool move. 

The space is gorgeous, lots of blond wood and marble, and the service was A+. I had a Hanging Gardens with 2 different rums, agua de jamaica, almond & lime peel. It was tart and refreshing and very easy to drink! Before I left the bartender also poured me a taste of a shohu with pineapple, verbena, and chamomile- it was super interesting!

Death & Co also has an outdoor patio with it's own bar. I was so glad that I was able to get in, it's really just a fantastic spot! I'd also highly recommend it.

The next day I decided to walk to nearby Oyamel for lunch, one of José Andrés' restaurants. This one is Mexican and I'm always in the mood for Mexican! 

I completely over ordered as everything sounded so good! Guacamole, esquites, a Baja style fish taco, and a cochinita pibil taco. And a couple of fantastic margaritas. It was all so good! I'd absolutely come here again!

I had a very late flight that evening so I arranged a 4pm checkout (available at no charge with my IHG Platinum status) and then headed to the Hotel Washington for a spritz and some excellent views of the Treasury Building and the White House from their aptly named rooftop bar, VUE.

They were closing for a private event so I moved over to the other section of VUE which faces the Washington Memorial. You're here for the views, order something like bubbles and you'll be fine, leave the cocktails for a better place (like Allegory or Death & Co!)

I headed back to the Willard and The Round Robin Bar for a last cold drink and an order of hot fries before collecting my bags and calling an Uber to the airport.

It had been a great return trip to DC! Now I was off to my next destination on the month long vacation- France- to spend some time in the countryside with the bestie!

All WA DC photos here

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