WASHINGTON — So you’re coming to DC for President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. You’ve got your warm mittens, your map of the relevant museums and historical sites and enough cash to get back and forth your hotel and the National Mall or Georgetown.
After all, that’s the only place you’d want to go since the rest of the city is a wasteland of boring Ann Taylor pants suits or crack addled zombies murdering their way through the day, right?
Not so! Regardless of what certain people may have you believe, Washington is a wonderful, vibrant city full of great food, music, people, and more history than you can shake an upper east side ego at. Trust me, I’d know. This is my hometown.
So forget Ben’s Chili Bowl (which is delicious) and Café Milano (which is not), forget the Lincoln Memorial and the Kennedy Center, and come see what Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton lovingly refers to as “Hometown Washington.”
Florida Ave Grill
1100 Florida Avenue NW Washington, DC 20009
Before there was Avon Barksdale and the crew from The Wire, there was Rayful Edmond.
For Washingtonians who grew up in the region in the 1980s, Edmond continues to be a mythical, larger-than-life figure. In the minds of many residents, Edmund is equal parts ruthless gangster, pop icon, drug dealer, and Robin Hood-type hero.
As the old families who controlled the drug trade in Washington began to collapse, Edmond and his crew stepped in, flooding the streets with cheap crack and cheaper bullets.
According to legend, Edmond would regularly hold court at the Florida Ave. Grill, located just a few blocks off the historic U St. corridor.
Established in 1944, the Florida Ave Grill is one of the best soul food joints in D.C., and it’s a perfect spot to fill up before heading down to the mall for the festivities — or get over that banging post-inaugural hangover.
815 V Street NW Washington, DC 20001
The 930 club is a legendary institution in Washington. Originally located at 930 F St. NW — now home to a criminally sited J Crew store — the club was one of the homes for Washington’s hardcore punk scene in the 1980s. Minor Threat, Bad Brains, Government Issue, Scream and other influential acts cut their teeth in the clostrophobic former gentlemen’s club, as hundreds of sweaty, angry, awkward teens danced and drank away their aggressions.
In 1996, the club moved into another local punk rock venue, the WUST Radio Music Hall.
And while the 930 doesn’t normally put on hardcore shows in its new home on V St. in the U St. Shaw area, they’ve become one of the best music venues in the world with top bands playing almost nightly.
An added bonus for inaugural weekend? Thievery Corporation, one of Washington’s most successful musical acts ever, will be wrapping up a three-night run at the club Saturday.
Horace and Dickie’s
809 12th Street NE Washington, DC 20002
Located on the H St. cooridor, Horace and Dickie’s has been a staple for locals for decades in Washington, as the long, long, LONG lines out the door will attest. The draw? Perfectly fried fish filets the size of your face, served up on a couple slices of white bread with greens and mac ‘n cheese. Late night, lunch time or third breakfast, it doesn’t matter, Horace and Dickie’s is the bomb.
Obama Inaugural Ball
Featuring Rare Essence, Bel’a Donna, Suga Bear and EU, Damixx
Capital Beltway Best Western
5910 Princess Garden Parkway Lanham, MD 20706
The stripped down, syncopated beats, call-and-response vocals, and nonstop energy of gogo music is the heartbeat of Hometown Washington.
Created by the late Chuck Godfather Brown, gogo is Washington’s indigenous musical form, combining funk, soul and latin influences into an infectous, nonstop party.
Long associated with the worst of the drug violence of the 1980s and 1990s and banished from respectable venues, over the last decade gogo bands like Rare Essence, Junk Yard Band, Bel’a Donna, EU and Backyard Band have seen a resurgence in the area while local rapper Wale has taken the form international.
The swearing-in is over, the parade is done, and you’ve got a couple of hours to kill before the big inaugural ball really starts popping. What to do? Well, you could hit the hotel bar or one of the city’s many, generally horrible “power spots” on K St. or in Georgetown.
Or you could head out into the city, grab a barstool and get to know a few locals. Whether you’re hunkering down at Madam’s Organ in the Adams Morgan neighborhood, The Pug on H St or DC9 Dodge City in the U Street Corridor, the drink of choice for many is as simple as it is amazing: the classic beer and a shot. Preferably a Natty Bo, the official beer of nearby Baltimore, and a Jameson. It’s cheap, it’s delicious, and it’ll gird your loins for the long night ahead.
Holy Rood Cemetery
2126 Wisconsin Ave NW
Located in the Glover Park neighborhood, the Holy Rood Cemetery offers sweeping views of the nation’s capitol from one of the highest points in the city. But perhaps more importantly, it is one of several locations in Washington that are home to the graves of freed slaves. Washington had, for much of its history, been home to large numbers of black Americans before becoming a majority black city, earning it the nickname of Chocolate City from Parliament Funkadelic frontman George Clinton.
United House of Prayer for All People
Founded in 1919 by Bishop Charles “daddy” Grace, the United House of Prayer for All People is the District’s one homegrown religion. The church has hundreds of places of worship across the country, with a number of them scattered across the city.
Although similar to black Baptist churches throughout the South, The United House of Prayer for All People over the years have developed church bands and choirs that are part gospel group and part New Orleans brass band. The church is also known for its periodic mass baptisms using a firehose.
The church doesn’t just feed your soul: the headquarters at 6th and M St NW also boasts one of the city’s finest kitchens. For a few dollars anyone who walks through the door is served up some of the country’s best soul food.
If you MUST head down to the monuments on the mall, might I suggest one that, while far less known than the Lincoln Memorial, is no less striking.
Built in 1931 and opened to the public on Armistice Day, the District of Columbia War Memorial is located off the National Mall and is the only of it’s kind to celebrate the life and deeds of citizens of the District of Columbia.
It’s a beautiful, quiet spot for reflection, and a fitting tribute to the thousands of District residents who gave their lives for their country in World War I.
Upshur St at Rock Creek Church Rd, NW
Washington, DC 20011
Located in northern Washington, Lincoln’s Cottage is where President Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation, and is one of the hidden historic gems in the nation’s Capitol — even most locals haven’t been there.
The cottage offers a number of exhibits on Lincoln, the civil war and slavery, and has regular tours.
The Howard Theatre
620, T St NW
Washington, DC 20001
Oh, New York has the Apollo, does it? Well, that’s very nice. No really, it is. But if you want to visit the first great house of black music, where people of all races were able to come together, have a drink, and move to groove, you need to be on U St.
Opened in 1910, the Howard Theatre was billed as the largest black theater in the country, and it became the center of Washington’s music scene as U St. became, as Pearl Bailey would call it, the “Black Broadway.”
Booker T. Washington spoke from it’s stage, D.C.’s first favorite son Duke Ellington made it famous and for decades the Howard became a must play venue for musicians and comedians alike. And if Chuck Brown is the Godfather of GoGo, then the Howard was it’s midwife, hosting regular shows throughout the 1970s as Washington’s heart beat found its soul.
While the theater survived the riots that ravaged the neighborhood after the death of Martin Luther King Jr., it couldn’t weather the coming storm of the crack epidemic, and in 1980 it was shuttered, the last beacon of hope and culture on the U St. corridor’s eastern edge.
It would take more than two decades before the Howard would reopen, but when they opened the doors in 2012, it was immediately clear it was worth it. Developers had restored the venue’s original façade while transforming the interior into one of the finest live music venues in the country.
Since its opening, the Howard has seen acts like the Bad Brains, Taj Mahal, Rare Essence, and Chuck Berry grace it’s stage, and it’s retaken it’s rightful place as one of the District’s premiere venues.