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Keys to the City: Washington D.C.
Working with Cigar Rights of America for the past several years, I’ve been able to spend a lot of time in one of my favorite cities, Washington, DC. What I love about Washington, besides its rich history, diverse architecture, and grand-scale memorials, is how the city has drawn people from all over the world, creating a wonderful melting pot of cultures. You almost can’t avoid meeting people from all walks of life. Regardless of which party is in power, there never seems to be a recession in Washington, so it’s always vibrant and full of energy. Washingtonians tend to dine out regularly, or relax over cocktails at the end of the day, often at some of the world’s finest hotels, restaurants and bars. It’s also a great city for cigar smokers. This month, I’ll be sharing some of those places with you. Here are my keys to the city:
Hotel Sofitel Washington DC Lafayette Square
806 15th Street NW, WashingtonDC, 20005
For reservations, contact: 202-730-8800
When in Washington, DC, one of my favorite places to stay is The Hotel Sofitel on Lafayette Square. Just a stone’s throw to The White House, the Sofitel is a four-star hotel built inside a beautifully renovated structure originally built in 1880. The design is art deco meets modern chic contemporary, and the service is among the best anywhere.
If you like traditional French Cuisine or fusion, the ICI Urban Bistro is for you. The Bistro also has an outside patio where you can smoke cigars. If you want to stray outside the walls of the Sofitel, you’re only a short walk from several other eateries in the neighborhood with open air terraces.
The W Washington D.C.
515 15th Street NW
F St. Between 14th & 15th Street, Washington, D.C.20004
Contact: (202) 661-2400
One of the other hotels I frequent when in Washington is the W, right next to the White House. The W is the oldest hotel in Washington, and where a lot of “power players” like senators, congressmen and lobbyists stay and meet.
The style is Italian Renaissance meets hip contemporary. Besides spacious rooms, extra-comfy beds and first-class service, the W also has breathtaking rooftop views of The White House and other landmarks, especially at night. One of the places from which you can enjoy those views is the P.O.V. rooftop bar. The P.O.V. also has a beautiful outdoor terrace where you can soak in the sights and sounds of the city. Note, however, that smoking is not permitted on the terrace or anywhere inside the hotel.
2121 P Street, NW, Washington DC 20037
Reservations: (877) 866-3070
If you’re into artsy and hip, I recommend the Palomar in Dupont Circle. The Palomar is a new boutique luxury hotel that encapsulates the multicultural and cosmopolitan nature of the city. It’s close to Washington’s best cultural and historic sites, as well as the restaurants, art galleries, museums, and night spots in Dupont Circle. You’re also within walking distance of the GeorgetownUniversity scene, where you’ll find plenty of great clubs, restaurants, and boutiques.
Staying at the Palomar is like living in an art museum. Wherever you go in the hotel, you’re surrounded by contemporary art and sculpture. The rooms are ornate with European detail, and they have the most comfortable beds.
The sundeck and pool are absolutely gorgeous. Bar service is available, plus you’ll find cabanas, plenty of comfortable lounge chairs, and a heated pool. The fitness center is also located on the sundeck and has just about every type of exercise equipment imaginable. Since the sundeck is outside, you can relax by the pool with a cigar and a drink.
Moby Dick House of Kabob (Georgetown)
1070 31st St NW (between N Canal St & Blues Aly)
Washington, DC 20007
Call for reservations: 202-333-4400
I love this little hole-in-the-wall place that serves amazing Persian and other Middle Eastern food. Since kabobs are their specialty, I suggest the Kabob-E Kubideh, made with ground sirloin, grated onion, and Moby’s exotic seasonings over rice. Add some fresh-squeezed lime, and it’s awesome. Make sure you also order some Moostakhiar, a delicious yogurt and shallots sauce. It goes great with the rice and is simply phenomenal.
Another favorite of mine is the Khoresht Gheymeh Bademjan. Made with sautéed eggplant, yellow peas, chunks of beef, onion, tomato sauce, and exotic spices, the mixture is then braised and served with basmati rice.
I also suggest the Ghormeh Sabzi, which is a variety of greens that are stewed for a day and a half with chunks of veal and beef. Fresh cilantro, parsley, leeks and exotic spices are added, then it’s braised and served with steamed basmati rice. You will be stuffed!
Everything at Moby Dick is cooked to order, the portions are big, and the prices are very reasonable. I highly recommend it for lunch. Absolutely a must-go when in D.C.
Café Milano (Georgetown)
3251 Prospect Street, NW
(between N Potomac St & N Wisconsin Ave)
For reservations: (202) 333-6183
Café Milano serves absolutely fantastic Italian food in the heart of Georgetown. It’s also a hotspot for celebrities. You’ll see everyone from foreign dignitaries, to TV news people, to actors, congressmen and senators, even cabinet members. The last time I was at Milano, I saw former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, hanging out smoking a cigar with some congressmen.
When the weather is good, you can dine outside on one of two patios and enjoy a cigar. They have a great bar in the main dining room, too, well-stocked and spacious. The walls are covered with a variety of artwork, and the ceiling is painted with a giant map of the Washington Metro subway route.
As for the menu, I highly recommend the Veal Milanese for dinner. The veal chop is pounded and breaded in the Milanese tradition, and served with baby arugula and cherry tomato salad.
The best thing about Milano is you can sit back, relax and enjoy some of the finest Italian food anywhere. Every customer is given equal attention and service. So, even if you’re not a celebrity, you’ll be treated like one.
3206 N. Street NW
For reservations call: 202-333.6353
For some of the most excellent Mediterranean food, check out Neyla, another “hot spot” in Georgetown for foodies. The decor is inspired by Romanesque Mediterranean villas–you’ll feel like you’re dining as the guest of a great Arab Sheik. There is also a beautiful outdoor seating area.
The beauty of Neyla is that they serve everything from Shawarma and Falafel to a great selection of mixed-grill offerings. What makes Neyla’s menu so unique is its fusion of Arab, Turkish, Egyptian, Greek and French Mediterranean cultures. Everything is perfectly marinated, charcoal grilled, filled with tons of flavor, and exquisitely presented. The portions are ample and the prices, reasonable.
Rasika (Penn Quarter)
633 D Street, NWWashington, DC20004
For reservations call: 202.637.1222
If there’s one type of cuisine I know, it’s Indian. So, when I’m in Washington, I always try to get in at least one meal at Rasika, in the Penn Quarter district. It’s one of the best Modern Fusion Indian restaurants in the country; maybe even the best. Rasika has an open kitchen where you can watch the chefs prepare and grill their specialties. For dining, you have a choice of their main dining room, a community table, or a private room. Rasika also has a very comfortable bar and lounge area.
The name Rasika comes from a Sanskrit word that means, “flavors.” If I could sum up Rasika in one word it would be, “fabulous!” You’ll find everything from Lobster Patia to Chicken Tikka Masala, to a marvelous selection of vegetarian dishes, homemade chutneys, breads and more. There’s a must-do dish called Palak Chaat. Chaat is the most popular street food in Delhi and Bombay. Rasika takes a very novel approach, using crispy baby spinach, sweet yogurt, tamarind sauce and date sauce served over little crispy fried noodles. It’s one of their signature dishes, and it will blow your mind with all of the different flavors.
Another favorite of mine are the Tandoori Lamb Chops. They’re marinated in yogurt with 18 different spices including mace, cardamom, cashews, (cashews aren’t a spice) and ginger for 27 hours, then grilled. They melt in your mouth like butter. If lamb isn’t your thing, order the Chicken Makhani, which is first broiled, then marinated, grilled, and simmered in a tomato sauce with fenugreek. Try it with their Naan bread. It’s absolutely fantastic.
If you want to dine at Rasika you absolutely must make a reservation; otherwise it will be almost impossible to get in. That’s how hot this restaurant is.
Shelly’s Back Room
1331 F Street NW, Washington, DC20004
Phone: (202) 737- 3003
There are cigar bars, and then there are cigar bars. Shelly’s Back Room (just a short walk from Rasika) is the only true cigar bar in Washington, D.C. Unlike other “cigar-friendly” bars in D.C., where they have a space cordoned-off for smoking, you can smoke anywhere in Shelly’s.
Shelly’s Back Room has a very traditional “old world” feel about it. There’s plenty of wood, murals of Cuban life, low-key lighting, soft, comfortable couches and chairs that you can sink into, a fully-stocked bar and humidor, eight HD TVs, plus a state-of-the-art air filtration system. Lockers are also available for club members.
The menu at Shelly’s offers a wide variety of reasonably-priced “bar food” such as burgers, wings, sausages, nachos, soups, salads and similar fare, plus pricier entrees like Angus NY Strip, Bacon-wrapped Shrimp, and Blackened Chicken Pasta.
If you’re looking for the perfect atmosphere to relax and enjoy cigars, Shelly’s Back Room is a must-do experience.
Jack Rose Dining Saloon
2007 18th St NW, Washington, DC20009
Jack Rose Dining Saloon is located in the Adams Morgan district. You’ll find a great menu and a number of rooms for dining and/or private events. Nicknamed “The Temple of Whiskey,” the Dining Saloon bar stocks 1,400 different types of liquor. Among their 500 single malt scotches are rarities like Bruichladdich 1984 and Tullibardine 1993. You’ll also find practically every variety of whiskey, vodka, gin, rum, and tequila imaginable. Add their extensive wine list, plus dozens of draft beers, and you’ve got a virtual wonderland of booze.
Jack Rose also has a Tiki Bar and two cigar-friendly areas: an Open-Air Terrace and “The Prohibition Room,” which is located in the basement of the Saloon. The Prohibition Room’s décor evokes the old prohibition-era speakeasies, and even has its own back-alley entrance.
The food is primarily American Contemporary with a reasonably-priced menu that ranges from Roasted Quail, to House Smoked Trout, to Pepper NY Strip steak, Pennsylvania Pork Chop, Roasted Chicken and more.
Old Ebbitt Grill
675 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C.20005
http://www.ebbitt.com (can’t open this link)
The Old Ebbitt Grill is located near the White House, and is one of the most unique bars in the city, especially if you want to soak up some Washington history. Founded in 1856, it’s one of the oldest bars in the country with the look and feel of an old library. Among its more notable guests over the years are past presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland, John Harding and Teddy Roosevelt. Like the Café Milano, it’s not unusual to see politicians, Washington insiders, news people, and celebrities in the Old Ebbitt.
In 1983, it was moved to what was once the old B.F. Keith’s Theatre. The décor is Victorian with old, dark mahogany and velvet booths, while the bars are marble, brass and beveled glass. Some of the artifacts from the original location are still in place, like antique beer steins, a walrus head that allegedly was one of Teddy Roosevelt’s hunting trophies, and wooden bears imported by Alexander Hamilton for his private bar.
In addition to the 19th century atmosphere, Old Ebbitt is also famous for its annual Oyster Riot, always held on the Friday and Saturday before Thanksgiving. It’s so popular you have to buy tickets to get in.
The dress is casual and the food is classic American with a difference. All of the produce used is grown locally, so everything–including the meats–is extremely fresh and very high in quality.
Washington DC is great year round, but the best time to visit is in the sspring when the cherry blossoms begin to bloom. The weather is warm enough to hop around many of the bars and restaurants that have outdoor seating, and you can smoke cigars while strolling past such landmarks at the Capital, the White House, the Smithsonian, and the beautiful memorials. I also find Washington;s mix of old-meets-new refreshing. If you’ve never had a chance to see our nation’s capitol in-person, add it to your “must visit,” vacation list.