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‘Born This Way’

Baltimore’s Black Pride event has bounty of weekend festivities scheduled

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Gay comedian Sampson McCormick will be at Baltimore Black Pride this weekend. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Baltimore Black Pride continues this weekend with an assortment of events all revolving around the theme, “I Was Born This Way: X-pression of Yo-self.”

Tonight there’s the youth event, “Where Is Your Voice?” from 6 to 9 p.m. at GLCCB (241 West Chase St.). This event will focus on educating youth on ways to make safer decisions as well as highlight some talented youth. Hosted by Sampson McCormick, designs by Hyman-Hyman will be featured as well as performances by J. Pope, DDm and a surprise guest.

There’s also the Black Out Party at Club Bunns (606/608 W. Lexington St.) from 7 to 10 p.m. This is the annual meet-and-greet party with Baltimore Black Pride’s Board of Directors. There’s a $10 after 9 p.m.

Saturday is the busiest day of Baltimore Pride with four separate events scheduled.

The day starts with a town hall to recognize 30 years of AIDS from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Metropolitan Community Church (401 W. Monument St.). The meeting will have discussions on how HIV has impacted the community as well as what can be done to take care of those infected and help prevent new infections.

There’s also a youth summit, “Who Runs the World?,” in the Student Center at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (621 W. Lombard St.) from 2 to 4 p.m. that will look at issues facing black LGBT youth including homelessness, HIV prevention and violent in the community.

The first event Saturday evening is the ninth annual Cultural Affair at Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center (847 N. Howard St.). There will be an open bar and music provided by Tona Brown. Tickets for this event are $45 in advance and $50 at the door.

The night ends with the main event, “Batteries Not Included” at Paradox (1310 Russell St.) from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. DJs Angel X and VJuan Allue will be spinning music and Lola Monroe will give a special performance. The Socialite, Damon Rhodes and Leiomy from Vogue Evolution, will be in attendance. Cover is $10 before 1 a.m. then $12 with a flyer and $15 without.

Sunday the Unity Fellowship Church will be giving a service aligned with the theme of Baltimore Black Pride at the Eubie Black National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The fall festival is also Sunday from 4 to 10 p.m. at Club Bunns with music, food and various vendors. A small donation of $3 is requested to help with costs.

Baltimore Black Pride is also sponsoring a couple of events to celebrate National Coming Out Day on Tuesday.

There will be a youth mixer at GLCCB from 6 to 8 p.m. Donations are welcomed and will benefit The Den, Baltimore’s LGBT youth center. There will also be a party at Club Bunns starting at 10 p.m.

For more information and to download the flyer for the main event, visitblackpridebaltimore.org.

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Dining

My Rehoboth Beach culinary tour

Myriad answers to the age-old question: ‘What’s the best restaurant in town?’

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(Photo by Ethan Bean)

I’ve had the privilege of indulging in Rehoboth’s evolving culinary scene for decades — from dining on Chez La Mer’s rooftop to sipping cocktails at the Blue Moon bar before the roof was installed.

The last 30 years have brought almost unthinkable change to the once seasonal small town getaway. New town homes that overlook Route 1 are going for more than $1 million. There’s not much off-season at all these days with food festivals and other events that draw tourists year round. Indeed, hotel occupancy rates for October’s Sea Witch Festival exceed those for July Fourth weekend. 

The upside to all this growth and change? Rehoboth’s culinary scene has exploded with high-quality restaurants and bars proliferating in town and thriving up and down Route 1 from Lewes to Fenwick Island and even Ocean City. In fact, the chef at Fenwick’s One Coastal was just nominated for a prestigious James Beard Award. Matthew Kern will be the first-ever Delaware chef in James Beard Awards’ history to be named a finalist in any culinary category, according to the Delaware News Journal. He will be among five chefs competing for the title of best chef in the Mid-Atlantic region. The awards are announced June 10.

As a part-time Rehoboth resident, I frequently field questions from visitors wondering: “What’s the best restaurant in town?” That usually leads to a prolonged text exchange with me offering endless choices in various categories. In an effort to answer that age-old question in a more organized fashion, I offer this roundup of my favorite haunts in the Rehoboth area in a range of styles and budgets. (And please note: These are just my opinions based on lots of experience. Inclusions/omissions are not intended to slight anyone. These things are subjective so it’s OK if you don’t like my picks.)

HIGH-END DINING

Rehoboth offers a handful of options for a truly high-end experience. For a traditional steakhouse, there’s Houston White Co. (315 Rehoboth Ave.), where an eight-ounce filet runs about $45 and a USDA Prime Porterhouse is $85. Side dishes are priced separately and shared, ranging from a $6 baked potato to $11 onion rings. The setting is probably the most formal in town. A small bar in front is always busy and staffed by friendly, knowledgeable mixologists. 

Eden (23 Baltimore Ave.) has a beach chic vibe and the menu is probably the most reliable in town. The ahi tuna — my go to — is perfectly seared and delicious rare. There’s an extensive wine list and the bar is always lively with entertaining staff. The upstairs dining room is ideal for a large party or special event. 

By far the best new restaurant to open in recent years is Drift (42 1/2 Baltimore Ave.). If you’re looking for an upscale, special occasion seafood indulgence, this is the spot. The lobster French toast gets all the press, but the entire seafood menu is as good as any in D.C., from local oysters to the crispy Atlantic swordfish schnitzel. The coveted bar seats go fast and there are only a handful of them at the unique bar that opens to the outside so go early. And this isn’t the place for a large party; the kitchen is small so take a date here if you really want to impress. The outdoor patio is lovely in good weather but the interior is beautifully decorated so that’s the better bet.

Since 1981, the Blue Moon (35 Baltimore Ave.) has been at the forefront of Rehoboth’s restaurant and bar scene, constantly evolving and working to feed and entertain us all. The restaurant is consistently rated among the best in town. It’s intimate and charming and some of the wait staff have been here for many years making it feel like a homecoming when you arrive. The Sunday brunch remains among the best in town, complete with white tablecloths and welcome scones. In the off-season, you can’t beat Tasting Tuesdays, a three-course dinner with wine pairings for $49. Many of us miss the old days of the Moon as a sometimes-raucous bar and dance club, but happy hour is back with half-price cocktails and appetizers, Monday-Friday, 4-6 p.m. So go for a drink and stay for dinner and enjoy crab cakes, lobster risotto, duck breast, and more.

Ah, the Back Porch (59 Rehoboth Ave.) — a true pioneer in establishing Rehoboth as a culinary destination. So many naive tourists walk past the Back Porch because it’s set back from the street, down an alleyway. But those who make the stroll are rewarded with French-inspired food and a convivial bar that’s vaguely reminiscent of Key West. It’s not fancy and fussy; it’s worn and welcoming with an elevated menu and a spacious two-story outdoor dining room. Rehoboth is inexplicably lacking in outdoor dining spots; there aren’t nearly enough al fresco options for a beach town. If you’re on a budget, give it a try for lunch or brunch. The menu doesn’t seem to change, but that’s OK when the food is this good. A true locals place, there’s always a friendly face at the bar and everyone misses bartender Bee Neild who retired last year after nearly 50 years. The Back Porch is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year; let’s raise a glass to the next 50.  

La Fable (26 Baltimore Ave.) is owned by Megan Kee, a beloved restaurateur in town with an impressive track record (she also owns Houston White and Bramble & Brine in Lewes; more on that later). Kee’s unmistakable style — pairing antique furniture and tableware with modern flourishes — can be seen everywhere from the piano-turned-bar to the mismatched vintage china. She pulled off a remarkable feat, turning the rather unappealing basement setting at La Fable into an authentic and charming French bistro. You’ll find all the French favorites here, from escargot to boeuf bourguignon to steak frites. The space is small so make a reservation. 

I offer these high-end options with two caveats/pet peeves. When paying in excess of $45 for an entree, I do not expect to sit on a plastic chair. Also, I do not appreciate overly familiar service just because the waiter is “gay too!” At those prices, a comfortable chair and formal service should be the norm.

MID-PRICED DINING

The high-end scene may be small but there are a plethora of quality mid-priced restaurants that beckon. 

My favorite in this category is the always-reliable Henlopen Oyster House (50 Wilmington Ave.) with its wide selection of fresh raw oysters and equally impressive draft beer list. Henlopen does the high-low thing so well, for example pairing an indulgent dozen Wellfleet oysters with a pint of cask beer. There are lobster rolls, salads, the best steamed shrimp in town, and much more on the menu. It’s a popular place, usually with a line forming before it opens. So go early and be patient — it’s always worth the wait (they don’t take reservations). No matter how packed the bar gets, the two Amys always offer the best service with a welcoming smile. This is my go-to when asked for seafood recommendations in Rehoboth.

As I mentioned, there are too few places for quality outdoor dining/drinks in Rehoboth Beach. You’ll find a handful of touristy hotel restaurants on the boardwalk along with the requisite fast food and Grotto’s pizza joints but there just aren’t enough places for an elevated bite. Above the Dunes (101 S. Boardwalk, 2nd floor) has the best view in town; sit at the bar and try one of their grain bowls. One of the best outdoor spots is the rooftop at JAM (210 2nd St.). The space has seen multiple concepts come and go in recent years, including the aforementioned classic Chez La Mer, Papa Grande’s, the disappointing Unwined, and before that the much-missed Azzurro. But JAM took over the space last year after relocating from Baltimore Avenue and offers the same quality food (burger specials and the salmon salad are highlights) but with a view. Grab a seat on the second floor outdoor deck and enjoy the breeze.

JAM’s rooftop is one of the few places to enjoy a great meal al fresco in Rehoboth Beach. (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Across the street from JAM is the charming and underappreciated Aroma Mediterranean Cuisine (208 2nd St.). If you like hummus with homemade pita, falafel, kebobs, koftes, and more from the Med, then this is your spot. Try the hummus flight with three samples, including sundried tomato. Delicious.

A Rehoboth stalwart, Café Azafran (18 Baltimore Ave.) never disappoints with its small plates, dinner specials, and, of course, bustling bar featuring Washington Blade three-time Best Rehoboth Bartender winner Holly Lane, who sings (sometimes in French) while pouring drinks. Take a group of friends and order an array of small dishes to share, like the shrimp a la plancha, stuffed arancini, and ratatouille Provencal. There’s no better way to embrace family style dining. 

One of the biggest and happiest surprises in Rehoboth’s dining scene came the night I reluctantly walked into Michy’s (19287 Miller Rd. on Route 1). Reluctantly because the restaurant sits unassuming in a strip mall off Route 1 surrounded by supermarkets and nail salons. You couldn’t find a more unexpected location for one of the area’s best restaurants. But don’t let the location deter you; inside, the décor is warm and eclectic with a small bar and lively dining room. There’s a top-notch menu, including short ribs, sea scallops, and a spicy horseradish crusted salmon, but the daily specials are the stars here so be sure to order whatever special the chef is offering. There’s always a local fish option with a creative preparation. 

AFFORDABLE DINING

Let’s face it: When you’re at the beach, you don’t always want inventive and elevated. Sometimes you just want to wander into a place in your bathing suit and still find a good meal at a fair price. 

For that moment, there’s nothing better than the Starboard (2009 Rt. 1), just down the highway from Rehoboth in Dewey Beach. The Bloody Mary bar is legendary and now comes with a dedicated “sommelier” to assist in choosing from dozens of mixes, hot sauces, pickled vegetables, and more. But the real standout here is the crush — orange, grapefruit, watermelon, lemon, and more — cranked out by the busiest and best bartenders in the area (especially Doug and Shelley). The food is consistent and satisfying, if heavy on the portion size. The crab cakes, burgers, and salads are a good bet. If you’re nursing a hangover, the breakfast skillets will ease your pain. You can design your own omelet or choose from many of their egg creations. Pro tip: Share an entrée as the portions are huge. This used to be dominated by college kids enjoying summer break, but a more mature crowd, including the gays, have discovered Starboard’s many charms, which include a DJ and live bands all weekend.

Back in Rehoboth, the gay-owned Goolee’s Grille (11 S. 1st St.) offers some of the best breakfast dishes in town, including chipped beef, waffles, sandwiches, and more with a mimosa or Bloody to wash it down. There are occasional drag brunches and watch for the popular Greek night dinner specials. If the lines are too long in town for breakfast, venture across the highway to the new Eggcellent (19730 Coastal Highway), a locally owned restaurant that is open seven days 7 a.m.-3 p.m., meaning no dinner. So the focus is breakfast all the time with omelets, avocado toast, pancakes, and more. Don’t let the strip mall vibe fool you; the interior is gorgeous. 

Need a break from pizza and crab cakes? Grab a table on the second floor deck at Mariachi Restaurant (14 Wilmington Ave.) and enjoy some of the best Mexican and Spanish fare in town. You’ll likely be met at the door by Yolanda, the tireless owner who greets locals with a gregarious hug before bringing pitchers of irresistible margaritas to your table. The vast menu offers traditional pollo asado and carne asada along with paellas and assorted seafood dishes. The chips are plentiful and the salsas perfectly spiced. Mariachi opened in 2006 and won over locals by staying open during the off-season so the crowd is always a spirited mix of tourists and residents. 

HONORABLE MENTIONS

For the ideal rustic beach bar, complete with sand, the ever-popular Purple Parrot Biergarten (134 Rehoboth Ave.) beckons. The food is standard bar fare but go for the vibe — beers and cocktails outside served from a bar with a flower-covered roof and bartenders in bathing suits. Aqua Bar & Grill (57 Baltimore Ave.) offers outdoor dining and drinks as well and is always packed with gay revelers all summer long.    

Looking for something new? Check out the Libation Room in the back of Summer House (228 Rehoboth Ave.), a restaurant with a dark, speakeasy vibe or the brand new outdoor garden arranged around a gurgling fountain.

If you’re not counting carbs and are looking for a satisfying lunch to take to the beach, pick up a hulking sandwich at Frank & Louie’s (58 Baltimore Ave.) or the iconic chicken salad at Lori’s Café (39 Baltimore Ave.).

OUTTA TOWN

If you’re an old pro and have already exhausted Rehoboth’s many dining options, venture up or down Route 1 for something different. Ocean City isn’t known as a fine dining destination, but things are changing. Check out Liquid Assets (9301 Coastal Highway) and don’t be deterred by the entrance in a strip mall through the liquor store. The restaurant’s high-end menu includes Maryland crab, blackened rockfish, steamed local oysters, along with steaks and even vegan options. Browse the extensive wine list or, better yet, wander around the shop and pick a bottle from the shelves. Not far away is Ocean View/Millville with its own growing roster of appealing restaurants. One of the best is Melissa’s (35507 Atlantic Ave.), with a small menu featuring a fish of the day, seafood pasta, and shrimp or lobster fried rice. Back north in Lewes is a gem of a new discovery. Located behind Bramble & Brine (102 2nd St., Lewes, the former Buttery) is the Pink Pony, a bar and restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner that pays homage to one of Rehoboth’s first gay bars of the same name. Owner Megan Kee can often be found on her laptop at the bar and seems to know everyone who walks through the door. It’s welcoming, friendly, and the décor a real throwback. Check it out.

Our independent restaurateurs and their dedicated staff need support, so skip the chains and enjoy the diverse array of Rehoboth-area restaurants this summer.

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Real Estate

Summer means time for annual maintenance

‘Gonna turn this house around somehow’

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Spring and summer mean it’s time to freshen up your landscaping and curb appeal.

It’s almost summer! The last days of school are here, people are getting ready to wear their swimsuits again, and suddenly BBQ sauce is front and center on all the aisles at the grocery store. What does that mean for all the homeowners out there? It means a bit of yearly maintenance.  

Summer maintenance checklist:

  • Check gutters and clean downspouts. The summer storms can knock a lot of branches and leaves around.
  • Have the HVAC serviced if you haven’t already.  A good rule of thumb is after winter, and again after summer. 
  • It’s time to trim back bushes and trees away from power lines. 
  • Wash windows and replace the window screens.
  • Reverse the ceiling fans so that it pushes the cool air downward.  You want them to spin counter-clockwise.
  • Clean the garbage disposal and the dishwasher.  You can add a cup or two of vinegar to the dishwasher and run a low wash cycle.  
  • Clean baseboards.
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors – replace batteries as needed.
  • Check outdoor hoses and appliance hoses – refrigerators, dishwashers, etc. for any leaks or cracks.  
  • Freshen up your yard, porch or deck spaces. A quick trip to a hardware or a garden center can help you liven up any outdoor space and get it ready for entertaining.  Don’t forget the citronella candles and bug spray.
  • Power wash decks and driveways.
  • Clean and scrub any grills. Check any hoses and connections for gas grills.  
  • Get a dehumidifier for any musty basement spaces, clean it up and plug it in.
  • Check seals on washers and dryers, and wipe down with an all-purpose cleaner.

Spending a little time and energy on your home – one of the biggest investments you will make, can help you to improve its resale value and optimize the enjoyment of your purchase.  Spring and summer can also be time to tackle those larger projects such as cleaning out a garage, a closet, or a spare bedroom.  

As someone who just moved after 10 years in the same building last year, I can speak to the level of freedom one feels after taking old appliances to Goodwill, finally selling that table or those chairs online, and hauling out bags and bags of trash. Do yourself a favor and clean it all up. You will be so happy you did when it’s finally done, and it can give you a sense of new beginnings.  

How might you use that extra space after you clean it up? Who knows, there’s only one way to find out. Need a little motivation to get all these projects done?  Don’t forget to find your favorite summer playlist, or even put on a Gay Pride Playlist. You could even recreate your favorite scene from “Saltburn” and dance around naked in your newly cleaned home when you are done. 

Joseph Hudson is a referral agent with Metro Referrals. Reach him at [email protected] or 703-587-0597.

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Real Estate

What property should I purchase if I’m not sure how long I’ll be in D.C.?

Row homes, English basements and more options abound

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D.C. offers an array of properties no matter how long you plan to live here.

Great question! If you are looking at real estate as an investment – two great property types to look at would be a smaller row home and also a row home that has an English basement. Some property types that you might want to stay away from would be a condo or a co-op unit. Let’s take a look at why these properties would be good and bad:

Smaller Row Home

Row homes are a great investment for many reasons. You can often find smaller two-bedroom row homes in the same price point as those of a two-bedroom condo, which might be seen as a “condo alternative” and afford you much more freedom. There are no condo associations or home owner associations that you must belong to so this keeps your monthly carrying costs on the lower end and you are allowed to make more independent decisions. For example, if you wanted to paint the house purple – in most cases you would be allowed to. If you wanted to change the color of the front door or put shutters on the windows – you would be allowed to. This is usually not the case with condo or co-ops. 

When it comes to the rental market – similarly renters like the independence of privacy in a home and not being among many other people. The luxury of perhaps direct off-street parking, outdoor space or even just more space at the same rental amount that a two bedroom condo rent would be – this is more appealing for a renter and would likely rent faster than that of a condo or co-op. For this model – you would obviously need to move out before you could take advantage of the investment of this type of real estate.

A row home with an English basement 

With this type of real estate you can immediately begin receiving income after your purchase. You can occupy the upstairs of the row home, which is usually the larger portion of the home, or you could even occupy the basement, which is usually the 1-2 bedroom smaller portion of the home and receive rental income for the other half of the home. This can be in the way of a yearly traditional tenant or in the manner of short-term rentals (check with the most recent STR policies within the District). With this model, you stand to make even more of a return on your investment upon your move out of the home as you can rent the entire home or you can rent the top unit and basement unit independently to gross a larger amount of income. It is important to note that it is never advised to purchase a row home unless you can fully afford it WITHOUT the idea of accepting additional rental income to offset the mortgage cost.

These two options listed above are the most typical found within the District because they are fee simple, standalone pieces of real estate and are not within a condo association, HOA, or a co-op with governing documents that tell you what you can and cannot do which makes row homes an attractive type of real estate for a long-term hold.

When looking at types of properties that you might want to stay away from – condos and co-ops come to mind and I say this with a caveat. You can surely purchase these types of real estate but must first understand the in’s and out’s of their governing documents. Condos are bound by the governing condominium documents which will tell you for how long your lease must be, a minimum of lease days, you can only rent after you have lived in the residence for a number of years, likely will stipulate no transient housing – which means no short term rentals. It could also quite possibly say that you can only rent for a specific amount of time and lastly it will also stipulate that only a specific amount of people can rent at one time in order to stay below the regulated lending requirements set forth by Fannie and Freddie Mac. Similarly, Co-ops are even more strict – they can tell you that you are just not able to rent at all or if you can you can only do so for a specific number of years and then you are required to sell or return back to the unit as your primary residence. 

As you can see, when it comes to condos and co-ops there are more specific and stringent bylaws that owners must agree to and follow that limit or even outlaw your ability to rent your piece of real estate. When you purchase a row home – there are no regulations on what you can and cannot do regarding rentals (outside of the short-term regulations within the District).

When looking for a piece of real estate in the District it is important to think through how long you could possibly wish to hold onto this property and what the future holds. If you think this is a long-term hold then you might consider a row home option – again, you can find a smaller two-bedroom row home that amounts to that price similar to a two-bedroom condo and would afford you a more flexible lifestyle. It’s important to work with a real estate agent to ensure that they guide you in this process and help answer any questions you might have. It’s also always advised to speak directly to a short-term rental specialist should you wish to go down that route as they will truly understand the in’s and out’s of that marketplace.

All in all, there are specific property types that work for everyone and within the District we have a plethora of options for everyone.

Justin Noble is a Realtor with Sotheby’s International Realty licensed in D.C., Maryland, and Delaware for your DMV and Delaware beach needs. Specializing in first-time homebuyers, development and new construction as well as estate sales, Justin provides white glove service at every price point. Reach him at 202-503-4243,  [email protected] or BurnsandNoble.com.

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