Cafe 227

Friday, August 25, 2006

The NY Times takes on DC

Hey look! The NY Times has an "Escapes" feature about Washington, DC today! I'm terribly busy, but I just had to give it a read...

And as expected, the author of this piece, Adam Nagourney, examines DC with a sense of smugness and contempt similar to the way European colonist may have looked upon the simple yet savage natives they encountered in the New World. Also, some of his suggestions are just bad.

Let's take it paragraph by paragraph:

WASHINGTON, in many ways, is an unsurprising place to visit — an expanse of monuments, symbols and sites familiar to any American who watches the evening news (or, at least, “West Wing”).

So far, so good. Nobody watches the evening news anymore.

So, yes, any 36 hours in Washington should include trips to all those famous buildings and memorials, but it should also include excursions to places that perhaps if less famous, are all the more interesting.

OK, so tell me about the less famous, more interesting places...

It’s your first night, so head for Hotel Washington (515 15th Street NW, 202-638-5900;, take the elevator to the top floor for drinks on the roof and walk out to a sweeping view.

Seriously? That's your hidden gem? Bro, that's so 1988. How exactly did you travel here from New York? By DeLorean? These days, EVERYONE knows about the Hotel Washington's rooftop. It's right here, plain as day, wedged between the FDR Memorial and the Air and Space Museum on the Post's "Best Places to Take Out-of-Towners" list. Lame.

Before you arrive, find out who is playing at the 9:30 Club (815 V Street NW, 202-265-0930; This is an out-of-the-way music club in a dicey neighborhood. It has great sound and heaps of personality and is arguably one of the best places in the country to see a show. The club attracts an eclectic roster of bands — think Wilco and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. These shows sell out fast, and it’s standing only for a good two hours — be warned, Baby Boomers.

Whoa - you're sending the Baby Boomers to the 9:30 Club? I think every single hipster in DC just had a collective conniption fit. Plus, your Baby Boomer target audience could potentially get mugged. In fact, I'd say it's likely.

If the 9:30 Club isn’t your thing...

Trust me - for your target audience, it's not.

...make a night of dinner. Go to Penn Quarter, a vibrant Washington neighborhood, for Zaytinya (701 Ninth Street NW, 202-638-0800) a Mediterranean tapas restaurant, that serves fresh Middle Eastern plates in a bustling setting of candles and soaring ceilings. “It feels like New York,” a friend said at dinner one recent night.

Oh really? Zaytinya feels just like the entire 300 square mile land mass of New York? Your friend's an idiot. Stated more correctly, it feels like the overpriced, pretentious restuarants in certain neighborhoods of Manhattan. I've covered this subject before - Zaytinya is a "[p]erpetual shit-show, constantly inhabited by people from Virginia who want to show out-of-town guests how cool DC is." You end up waiting for an hour at the bar with a bunch of scenesters for the privilege of overpaying for small portions of mediocre Lebanese food. You're better off going to Ben's and housing some half-smokes. (Maybe your readers can stop there on their way back from the 9:30 Club, if they have any money left after getting mugged.)

If the weather is nice, explore Georgetown, a historic neighborhood of narrow tree-lined streets, some still with cobblestones, and historic homes and churches. And the best way to see Georgetown is to get lost there. Wander the streets randomly, notice the pleasing details of the Federal houses and, if the need arises, spot what passes for a celebrity in Washington. (Emphasis added.)

Come on, Adam. That's a cheap shot. We might not have the famous actors and entertainers that New York has, but trust me - you haven't lived until you've nearly stepped on George Stephanopoulos at Two Amy's or spotted Tony Kornheiser gruffly wandering down L Street oblivious to the world around him.

Keep an eye out for “Open House” signs: it’s a great way to see the hidden Georgetown. Just walk right in for a completely authorized inside look at Washington parlors and excesses. Some friends and I could hardly contain ourselves when we visited a $2.5 million, one-bedroom town house that had a mahogany paneled bathroom and a jungle-canopy bed.

Do you and your friends routinely get your jollies by gaping at other people's furniture? You should probably take up a hobby. I hear that Kakuro is the next Sudoku.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Maya Lin’s senior thesis project, looks best late in the day, when the sunlight doesn’t shine as fiercely on the harsh, black granite. The memorial is hauntingly moving and easily overwhelming.

But go there quickly, before the federal government transforms it into a video arcade.

The Cafe Milano (3251 Prospect Street NW, 202-333-6183), in Georgetown, is as much theater as food. It is a swirl of young and old, Georgetown and Capitol Hill, Europe and Washington, and the closest thing you’ll get to a celebrity palace in Washington. (Was that really John Kerry having dinner on the patio? Why, yes!) It is not at all that unusual to find Vice President Dick Cheney having dinner in one corner of the restaurant, while Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and a friend of the Clintons, holds court from his regular table in the front right corner of the dining room.

First, Adam, it's time to quit with the "famous for DC" jokes. It's lazy and it's trite. And besides, it's not even true. When I lived across the street from Cafe Milano as a student, I routinely saw Michael Jordan there. Routinely. So how's that for a celebrity, Adam?

Second, are you seriously recommending Cafe Milano? Only two types of people generally go there: (1) Old, rich, sketchy European men looking for young, hot women of easy virtue, and (2) young, hot women of easy virtue looking for old, rich, sketchy European. My guess is that neither of these cohorts reads the NY Times.

The food here is quite good (if often staggeringly expensive).

Oh come on, I once paid $30 for a spring roll in Midtown...

Ask a cabdriver (or, if you have a car, do it yourself) for a nighttime tour of the monuments. It’s a great time to walk up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, then turn around and let the reflecting pool guide your gaze to the Washington Monument. The city is not as safe as it once was, so if you decide to walk around here, which is tempting in the moonlight, keep an eye out around you. (Emphasis added.)

Adam, how old are you? 16? 17? Because the only acceptable excuse for making such a dumb statement is that you simply weren’t alive or sentient during the late 1980s-early 1990s when DC was known as the “murder capital” of the United States. According to Wikipedia (keeper of all web-enabled knowledge): "Crime rates in Washington have been dropping consistently for over ten years... In the past ten years, the number of homicides has been halved — from 399 in 1994 to 195 in 2005."

On Lafayette Square, you will find St. John’s Church, where, as the placard on the outside wall will tell you, every president since James Madison has come to pray. If President Bush is in town, the chances are pretty good that you will see him and his wife, Laura, show up for services at this small Episcopal church.

You know, other demographic groups besides white anglo-saxon protestants read the NY Times, Adam. From my limited knowledge of New York, my understanding is that a lot of Catholics, Jews, and Muslims live there too. And some of them, in fact, enjoy reading the NY Times and may be in DC soon for work, for pleasure, for pseudo-celebrity navel-gazing, or what have you. I'm sure these other non-protestant groups don't want to go to an Episcopal church and would've appreciated some alternative places of worship.

The National Gallery of Art opened a sculpture garden, above, in 1999 next to its West Wing, a splendid expanse of art, flora and fountains (202-737-4215; There is much to soak up here, in particular a characteristically playful work of painted aluminum by Roy Lichtenstein. After touring the grounds, stop by the cafe for paninis and salads that can be eaten beside the cool fountain that anchors this garden.

"Paninis." Us plebeians call them "sandwiches."

Hotel Monaco (700 F Street NW, 202-628-7177; is a spiffy luxury boutique hotel right in Penn Quarter across from the National Portrait Gallery. Rates range from $169 to $429.

Wait a minute, Adam, I thought you were from New York? Don't you mean PeQua?


  • Wow. Your snark is a killer today! But I do loves me some snark.

    By Blogger Velvet, at 3:29 PM  

  • well done, aziz.

    By Anonymous alayne, at 5:37 PM  

  • Great post! And that's coming from someone born and raised in New York, all 300 square miles of it. (Surely NY state is much larger than that though). I always love NY to DC comparos. They are cluelessness traps. But I would quibble with you over Zaytinya. I like the place, am not from VA, and have never been able to run up a large bill there, not even close to the ones I have gotten at mediocre sushi restaurants. By the way, how does one get to be old, sketchy and European?

    By Anonymous Media Concepts, at 7:02 PM  

  • You want to know the truth, MC? I really like Zaytinya too. I am annoyed at the waits, and I do realize that it's a bit of a scene. But it's a really cool spot and the food's both good and reasonably price. That darn NY Times article got me so angry though that I was in slash and burn mode. As for your question, I think if you actually spend enough time at Cafe Milano, you're automatically admitted to the old sketchy European guy club, regardless of your age or citizenship.

    By Blogger Johnny Shades, at 12:15 AM  

  • I'd just like to point out that I am the 10,000th visitor to this site. excellent.

    By Blogger Phillippe, at 7:11 PM  

  • P - I can't believe 10,000 people have visited this silly little blog of ours. It's amazing what a couple of shout-outs from Wonkette will do for your stats.

    By Blogger Johnny Shades, at 7:25 PM  

  • remember when penn quarter was gallery place/chinatown? see what happens when the yuppies flock to fill the million dollar studio condos near a movie theater and urban outfitters? they not only change the makeup of a neighborhood, but change its name. guess we'll have to wait a while for adam to write about that...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:49 PM  

  • And just like the parts of NYC I love the best, Zaytinya has rats. Big ones. That run across the floor from the kitchen to the bar. But a few twelve-dollar-martinis should take the edge off of that fright...

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