9 things to do in the D.C. area on the weekend of Dec. 6-8
The weekend’s best in nightlife, music and art. For even more, check out Nightlife Agenda.
Friday-Saturday: No seasonal beer is more fetishized than the pumpkin beer, which dominates store shelves and bar taps in dozens of varieties each fall. Christmas beer, unlike its autumnal cousin, is beholden to no single flavor. Sample a dozen holiday ales this weekend, when the Black Squirrel in Adams Morgan devotes 12 taps to the season's bold, spicy and flavorful warmers, from Hardywood Brewery's gingerbread stout to the Scaldis Bush de Noel strong dark ale during its 12 Beers of Christmas celebration. Bonus: Everyone gets free Christmas cookies beginning Friday at 5 p.m. and Saturday at 11 a.m.
Friday-Saturday: Outdoor Christmas markets, or Christkindlmarkts, are fixtures in German towns at this time of year. The historic Heurich House in Dupont Circle is trying to capture the seasonal atmosphere at its first Christkindlmarkt , held in the Victorian mansion's large private garden. Local artisans will sell jewelry, clothing and housewares while musicians perform German carols, and Cafe Berlin sells traditional food and gluhwein. After you've finished shopping, you can take an optional tour of the house, which will be decorated for the holidays.
Saturday: Trust us, it's a glorious thing to celebrate Repeal Day, the annual observation of the repeal of the 18th Amendment -- that nasty bugger that launched Prohibition. In the District, the Repeal Day Ball raises the roof and money for the Museum of the American Cocktail with a black-tie soiree featuring drinks made by an army of D.C.'s best bartenders and live swing music from the Red Hot Rhythm Chiefs. Black tie or Roaring '20s attire is required. Get tickets ($100-$150) here.
Saturday: This week's Weekend explores the new Baltimore, from its art scene to its best bars. On Saturday, be one of the first to hop the new weekend MARC train to Pratt Street Ale House , where you can get a taste of Charm City's brewing scene. Longtime tap fixtures Heavy Seas, the Brewer's Art and Oliver Ales have been joined in recent years by Union Craft Brewing and Full Tilt. You can sample offerings from those five breweries, plus 15 others from across the region, at 14th annual Mid-Atlantic Holiday Beer Tasting. Expect a mix of seasonal brews as well as some one-offs; the Brewer's Art, for example, is leaving its gorgeously malty St. Festivus at home in favor of a special cask-conditioned version of its Bagman Porter made with smoky Lapsang Souchong tea. The $35 admission fee includes tastes from each brewery between noon and 4 p.m. Tickets traditionally sell out, so buy tickets in advance online instead of taking your chances at the door.
Saturday: Dolcezza's new gelato factory at 500 Penn St. NE (just behind Union Market) will swing open its doors Saturday from 2 to 6 p.m. to offer free freshly made samples of smoked bacon gelato and Stumptown coffees produced with posh Chemex coffeemakers. If you're in the neighborhood, stop in to check out the cool, industrial space; but after you've marveled at it, prepare to wait. Dolcezza's staff will lock up the doors until its actual spring opening.
Sunday: A fan of Pearl Dive or Black's? Make room in your hearts for Republic , the latest venture from restaurateur Jeff Black. The restaurant, at 6939 Laurel Ave. in Takoma Park, will feature live music and options for vegans and vegetarians. Read: Jeff Black’s Republic to open Sunday in Takoma Park.
Sunday: The more you can do to keep yourself out of the shopping mall during the month of December, the better. Here's how to do so in face-melting style: Hit the Black Cat's beloved
, where you can fill your stockings with rare LPs, band T-shirts and other rock-and-roll paraphernalia while shopping to the sounds of a DJ at 8 p.m.
Sunday: There's no avoiding the fact that you're going to put away a full sleigh's worth of excess calories this month, in the form of shortbread cookies, egg nog, ham and the sweets that keep showing up at work. Might as well try to be proactive by signing up for the Jingle All the Way 8K , the festive race that takes runners through downtown, around the Capitol and across the Mall, in costumes - think bells on shoes, reindeer antlers and Santa beards. The event kicks off at Freedom Plaza; register at www.runpacers.com.
Sunday: Logan Circle is the epicenter of the city's condo boom, but beyond the shiny new glass exteriors are heritage houses that are among the city's most fabulous residences. Explore 10 of them during the 35th annual Logan Circle House Tour . The tour ($30) begins at Studio Theatre, where there will be a wassail reception and snacks, with the houses open from 1 to 5 p.m.
A side of Baltimore you’ve never seen: where to eat, sip and see art now
For the past five years, my visits to Baltimore have stirred up a kind of geographic jealousy.
I'm in love with Washington, with its provincial sightlines and burgeoning restaurant scene. But I'm always reminded that Charm City's transformation hasn't been as beige as our own.
As lofts are carved out of old warehouses, and picklers, cheesemakers and craft bartenders set up shop, Baltimore has managed to remain a town of little subcultures, of ethnic neighborhoods and quirky artists -- a microcosm some like to call "Smalltimore." For an outsider visiting from the District, there's plenty to envy: An indie music scene rich enough to propel acts onto the national stage; a grass-roots arts community thriving in part because of the city's industrial past; gorgeous cocktail bars without reservation policies; the way a tab at the end of the night never seems to climb above $30.
"Baltimore had existed in a kind of state of unrealized potential," particularly when it came to dining, says chef Spike Gjerde, who owns a budding empire of Baltimore eateries, including the acclaimed Woodberry Kitchen. But in the past two years, Gjerde says, the city has changed in ways he's never experienced in his two decades there. "If I could distill it down to one thing that's cool," he says, "it's that people are taking little tiny niches that turn out to have incredibly rich opportunity and making it into something."
On Dec. 7, MARC's Penn Line will begin making the hourlong trip between Union Station and downtown Baltimore a handful of times on weekends and holidays, opening the floodgates for day-trippers to marvel over the antiquities at the Walters Art Museum, nosh at the izakaya Pabu or take the kids to the National Aquarium. Look at it as your chance, too, to venture farther afield. (If you decide to hit the bars or catch a concert, hop on the slightly pricier Amtrak home. It runs later.)
Cocktail culture is shaking up Charm City, from Wit & Wisdom at the Harbor to W.C. Harlan in Remington to the ever-moving Forgotten Cocktail Club. (Don't worry, we're talking Baltimore; it's still possible to get a dirt-cheap Natty Boh.) Here's where you should drink now:
400 West 23rd St. Open daily from 4 p.m. to close. No phone or Web site.
This winsome cocktail bar, opened this year on a desolate corner in the still gritty Remington neighborhood, doesn't bother with reservations, suspendered bartenders or any other pretensions that can make a speakeasy insufferable. Instead, Harlan, the brainchild of musician Matt Pierce and writer Lane Harlan, is dim and inviting, vintage but not quite precious, welcoming of everyone from tattooed art students to the 50-plus set. And the best part? The cocktail du jour (anything from floral gin and raspberry cooler to a steaming bourbon and mulled cider concoction scented with a thicket of rosemary) runs a more-than-reasonable $8.
The Other Corner Charcuterie Bar
850-B W. 36th St. (entrance on Elm Street). Open daily from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. No phone or Web site.
A modern wind is blowing through Hampden, the working-class neighborhood whose stuck-in-time quirkiness is the stuff of John Waters films. At the center of the change is Hampden's Main Street -- 36th Street. The deceptively named Corner BYOB, a swanky restaurant where entrees hover at $30, opened in 2011. This fall, its owner and executive chef, Bernard Dehaene, added a hipster sibling next door -- a moody, windowless joint called the Other Corner Charcuterie Bar. The blistering sounds of Jimi Hendrix blasting from the speakers, the graffiti splashed on the back wall, charcuterie chef Andrew Cole torching soft cheeses in a flashy tableside show -- it all serves as a reminder that you're not at Cafe Hon. The cocktails (a wallet-sparing $7 to $9) are classic, such as sazeracs and corpse revivers. The hearty snacks, including garlicky escargot and blood sausage, are a steal at less than $10. "We are satisfied from people enjoying the experience," Cole says. "We don't need to upcharge for that."
Baltimore's faded industries - which range from textile production and canning to shipbuilding - have left behind thousands of vacant buildings that, along with the Maryland Institute College of Art, form the heart of the city's creative boom. Street artists have transformed the old brick walls into canvases: In Station North, Graffiti Alley and the Open Walls Project have provided some color into a developing neighborhood. Other artists have moved in and made homes and studios, music venues and salon spaces in warehouses with such names as H&H Building and Copy Cat. For a peek at Baltimore's arts scene, look here:
Station North Arts District
North Avenue and N. Howard Street to Greenmount Street. For a map of murals, visit www.openwallsbaltimore.com.
Baltimore street artist Gaia enlisted more than 20 international and local artists to splash paint and big ideas across the brick facades of the blighted Station North neighborhood in 2012, flagging its up-and-coming status. Now the nearly two dozen roof-to-sidewalk murals serve as an Instagram-ready art tour that's a must for Baltimore day-trippers. "In a neighborhood that doesn't generally get the kind of resources that other more affluent areas of the city do, it can potentially be something colorful and bright and promising. It can feel like some attention is being given back," says Gaia, who plans to revive the project, with new murals and artists, in the spring.
Current Space gallery
421 N. Howard St. Open Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. www.currentspace.com.
Current Space is one of the oldest artist-run white-box galleries in Baltimore. It's also where you can snag a well-priced piece of the local art market and, on occasion, catch live music. Head to the Current Space Art Market on Dec. 14 and 15 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. to pick up wares from local artists.
Baltimore, Gaia says, is "the worst place to live if you don't have your finger on the pulse of the music scene or arts scene." But once you're enmeshed in it, it's impossible to pass a weekend without hitting a warehouse show or dance party. There's a good reason to seek them out: Among the bands that have emerged from Baltimore's neighborhoods are Animal Collective, Beach House, Future Islands and blip-and-bleep guru Dan Deacon. Here's where to hear Baltimore's sound:
2549 N. Howard St. Hours vary. 410-662-0069. www.theottobar.com.
This bastion of "sub-mainstream music" might be the capital of Smalltimore, where the insular community of artists and scenesters flock to hear the best touring bands, from rocker Kurt Vile to Dinosaur Jr. to such local acts as Ed Schrader's Music Beat. Like many of Baltimore's music venues, Ottobar wears a few hats, hosting dance parties and the occasional burlesque show.
1910 N. Charles St., Second Floor. Open daily from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. 410-625-4848. www.thecrownbaltimore.tumblr.com.
On your way to the buzziest club in Station North, there are moments you'll be convinced you're in the wrong place: When you walk through a seedy, vacant retail building; when you notice the Asian-inspired dinner specials scrawled on a whiteboard; when your feet touch the carpeted dance floor. To say that the Crown is unassuming may be the greatest understatement, but that's how locals like it. It's where you might spy that member of Animal Collective or the local concert photographer and dance to that bounce-pause-bounce of the music known as Baltimore club one night and settle in for a "Star Trek" marathon the next.
12 W. North Ave. Open Tuesday-Saturday from 5 p.m. to close. 410-244-8855. www.thewindupspace.com.
The city's most eclectic gallery/music venue/bar, a mainstay of the Station North neighborhood, is at its loosest and most thrilling on the third Friday of the month, when crowds move in for 4 Hours of Funk. The dance night brings out Charm City's assorted crew of literal movers and shakers who stomp, sweat and vogue till the wee hours. (The next 4 Hours of Funk is Dec. 20.)
Across Baltimore, there are markers of the city's legacy as a bustling port and industrial hub. Recent development has focused on reviving those dilapidated spaces, particularly along the winding "mill corridor," an area teeming with old textile mills near the Hampden and Woodberry neighborhoods. A handful have been transformed into vital parts of the city's dining scene. Woodberry Kitchen, which opened in one of the old mills in 2007, was the first to shine a spotlight on these gorgeous bits of architecture as dining destinations. Here's where to eat:
1520 Clipper Rd. Open Monday-Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m.; Friday from 5 to 11 p.m.; Saturday from noon to 11 p.m.; Sunday from noon to 10 p.m. 443-708-1934. www.bmorebirroteca.com.
In the mill corridor is a sprawling, casual beer mecca that devotes its most prominent taps to beer from Maryland's Evolution Craft Brewing, based in Salisbury, with other offerings from Lagunitas and Brewer's Art. The food and decor are gastropubby in the best way. Snack on beet-and-butternut-squash-covered pizza and crunchy, fried Brussels sprouts or order one of the restaurant's favorites, duck confit pizza topped with a duck egg, for the table.
1500 Union Ave. Open Monday-Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Wednesday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. 410-235-1881. www.artifactcoffee.com.
There may be no better place in Baltimore to sip a coffee and rest your weary feet than this sanctuary-like cafe launched by Woodberry executive chef Gjerde. It was conceived as a pop-up within Woodberry, but last year moved into its own stunning mill on the edge of Hampden. An ideal day? Stop at nearby boutique the Hunting Ground for books, woodsy soaps and vintage sweaters, then lunch here on a vegetarian version of the Vietnamese banh mi sandwich or a refined egg salad on spelt bread. Wash it down, naturally, with a very serious Spike-i-atto, a machiatto with an espresso on the side, made with Counter Culture Coffee beans.
Belvedere Square Market
529 E. Belvedere Ave. Open Monday-Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Atwater's opens at 8 a.m.) www.belvederesquare.com.
Belvedere Square has been a North Baltimore gathering place since the 1940s. Efforts since 2011 have lured new vendors, and the market is now drawing food-loving neighbors like a homier version of the growing Union Market in Northeast Washington. Start at Greg's Bagels, and don't leave without that Baltimore staple - potato pancakes ($4). Then dip into by-way-of-New York Italian market Ceriello Fine Foods for mozzarella made in-house every few hours. On weekends, stop at Neopol's Smokery to score a smoked salmon crepe and omelets, which you can't get at Neopol's outpost at Union Market. Finally, be sure to stop at the counter at Atwater's, which turns out espresso drinks, crusty breads and tasty soups. New to the neighborhood is the kid-friendly Shoo-fly Diner, which serves crunchy, brined fried chicken, meatloaf, macaroni and cheese and chiffon pie in a high-end homage to old Baltimore, from Gjerde and wife Amy.
The Emerald Isle comes to the big screen during the Capital Irish Film Festival
Sometimes it seems like Ireland just can't catch a break. But if there's one upside to a history rife with famine, violence and the recent debilitating recession, it's that adversity can pave the way to impressive art. Here's your chance to see some of it. The theme of this year's Capital Irish Film Festival, put on by local arts organization Solas Nua, is life in Ireland. So the movies, which screen tonight through Sunday, aren't just made by Irish filmmakers; they're about the day-to-day on the Emerald Isle.
While some of the movies were born of bleak times, they aren't all cinematic stormclouds. (And probably aren't nearly as depressing as some of the dramas in theaters right now.) Case in point: The opening night film, which screens tonight at E Street Cinema, is "Life's a Breeze." It follows a family battered by hard times that finds itself with a lot of unlikely allies. When they toss out a mattress filled with the family matriarch's impressive stash of secret riches, the family members must search every nearby dump for the thing. And as the news spreads, the whole country seems to join in the search (with miraculously charitable intentions).
Closing night festivities include a screening of "Bernadette: Notes on a Political Journey," plus a visit from filmmaker Lelia Doolan. The documentary revisits the extraordinary life of Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, who in 1969 became the youngest member of British Parliament. At just 21, she was the voice for Catholics from Northern Ireland and even on one occasion slapped another MP defending her people. But after an assassination attempt on her life, she retreated from public view.
Other highlights include a documentary about Muhammad Ali's visit to Dublin, a free kid-friendly program of shorts on Saturday morning and "Tapestry of Colours," which looks at the increasingly eclectic make-up of Northern Ireland's populace.
Most screenings take place at Goethe-Institut. Tickets are $15.
The Wydown pop-up on U Street ends Sunday
The Wydown, the McCracken brothers' specialty coffee shop, will come to an end on Sunday after an eight-month residency in the former Aroma Bakery and Market space on U Street. The siblings had hoped to remain open until their permanent space in the Louis at 14th was available, but the Development Gods were not on their side. The Louis is still under construction, and the owner of their pop-up space has plans to raze the structure.
"This building is going to be torn down," says Alex McCracken, who co-owns the Wydown with brother, Chad. "We were originally supposed to get our space in the Louis building in May. Like, they'd give us our space, and we'd have a month or two to build it out. Then that was pushed back to June, and then July, and then October, and then November. And now we're supposed to start construction any day."
For the "developmentally challenged" among us, what that means is that Louis crews should start building out the McCrackens' space soon, then deliver a basic shell to the brothers, who will need another month or so to construct the interior necessary for a permanent Wydown. Alex McCracken is hesitant to suggest an opening date, but he suspects the Wydown will not find its second life until February or March.
Given the many weeks between the closing of the pop-up (which, to be honest, looked and operated more like a full-fledged business) and the Wydown's relaunch at the Louis, the brothers are hoping to host another temporary coffee shop in the U Street area. It's not just a matter of revenue, Alex McCracken says.
"I'm worried about employees," he says. "We have a unique situation ... We have two or three employees who have other jobs, so it's not the end of the world. But we have two main employees, so this is their full-time gig."
The McCrackens have had tentative discussions with nearby proprietors, but nothing is finalized on a mini-Wydown pop-up. The brothers hope to have a decision on a second pop-up in the next few days; Alex McCracken suggests keeping an eye on the Wydown's Facebook and Twitter pages for updates.
"I really hope to" host another pop-up, Alex McCracken says. "But I'm a little concerned that that would ... keep us so busy that we wouldn't focus enough on the new place."
The Wydown will open at 8 a.m. on Sunday, its last day at its current location.
Further reading: Brothers McCracken test coffee program with Wydown pop-up on U Street.
El Rey, U Street’s new shipping container taqueria, will open this month
El Rey, a taqueria and beer garden on U Street constructed largely from shipping containers, is weeks away from opening.
Shocked? So are we. It's been just shy of two years since we first heard rumbles of the restaurant helmed by Eric and Ian Hilton. After releasing an initial design in March 2012, the duo instead opened the Brixton and Satellite Room. After a couple of summers came and went, we'd lost hope that we'd be drinking margaritas under the stars anytime soon.
Suddenly, construction is cranking at 919 U St. NW. A trio of brightly hued shipping containers that seem to have sprung up overnight now mark the future home of El Rey, which is set to open sometime between Christmas and New Year's Eve, Ian Hilton says.
Shipping container restaurants are popping up around the world, and like its forerunners, El Rey will be something of an architectural wonder. The approximately 3,600-square-foot restaurant and bar is going up in what was a paved lot adjacent to Dodge City, with two brick walls and nearly all of its interior architecture (with the capacity for 200) carved out of 11 shipping containers.
"Anything that's under cover is containers," Hilton says. "The dining seating is inside a container. The bathrooms are a container. The kitchen is a container. The outside bar is a container." The design, he says, can be described as "a rustic Mexican feel with all recycled materials." (Paxton Van Lines, the Washington-area moving firm, sourced and delivered the shipping containers, which were then dropped into place using cranes.)
About 1,200 square feet of the restaurant is covered under a fixed roof. But the sight to see is a glass-like retractable roof, which will pull back onto a summer garden when the weather is amenable, or close in bad weather, leaving diners dry but with an outdoor view. Gas heaters will keep it all toasty, even in the dead of winter.
The menu, he says, will be taco- and tequila-focused. Brendan Murphy is crafting a menu of not only margaritas, but other tequila cocktails. Expect eight beers on tap, most hailing from Mexican brewers, with a few lesser-known South American beers as well. Chef Jorge Pimentel will move over from the nearby Satellite Room, where he has been testing tacos for El Rey since the diner-esque restaurant opened last year. "Tacos are his thing," Hilton says.
El Rey, 919 U St. NW. Opening late December.