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Best of Gay D.C.: Dining

Favorite food spots in the District and beyond



Rice, Washington Blade, gay news, Best of Gay D.C.

Best Ethnic: Rice (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best Ethnic: Rice
1608 14th Street, NW

Level One, Cobalt, Washington Blade, gay news, Best of Gay D.C.

Best Brunch: Level One Disco Brunch (Washington Blade photo by Pete Exis)

Best Brunch: Level One
1639 R Street, NW

Cork, Washington Blade, gay news, Best of Gay D.C.

Best Wine Bar: Cork (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best Wine Bar: Cork
1720 14th Street, NW

Annie's Paramount Steak House, Washington Blade, gay news, Best of Gay D.C.

Best Late Night: Annie’s Paramount Steak House (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best Late Night: Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse
1609 17th Street, NW

the Pig, gay news, Washington Blade, Best of Gay D.C.

Best New Restaurant: the Pig (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best New Restaurant: The Pig

Logan Tavern, Commissary, The Heights and Grillfish are all neighborhood favorites operated by EatWellDC, which is run by gay business partners, David Winer, Winer’s nephew Josh Hahn and Antonio Oquendo. Now their newest addition, The Pig, joins the list of favorites as the Best New Restaurant in D.C. This pork-centric restaurant focuses on snout-to-tail dishes from locally sourced ingredients and ethically raised animals.

The Pig is still a socially conscious neighborhood restaurant but it is not an American Tavern, “meat-and-potatoes”-type venue. Instead the restaurant specializes in small plates.

“The coursing and rhythm of the meal is different and it is a more service-oriented type of establishment,” Hahn says. This 72-seat establishment has quickly become a favorite in Logan Circle and hopes to become a mainstay like other EatWell restaurants. (JH)

The Pig
1320 14th Street NW

Sticky Fingers, red velvet cupcake, Washington Blade, gay news, Best of Gay D.C.

Best Dessert: Sticky Fingers’ red velvet cupcake (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best Dessert: Sticky Fingers’ Red Velvet Cupcake

Sticky Fingers was born in 1999 in Doran Petersan’s Kitchen. Now her creations are available in her Park Road location and dozens of wholesale locations up and down the East Coast. Petersan, who dubbed herself a “junk-foodie genius”-turned vegan, was determined to create animal-free counterparts of some of her favorite guilt-laden items.

This cupcake is a completely vegan classic Red Velvet cupcake coupled with cream cheese-style frosting. And when Petersan and her team aren’t busy winning Best of Awards, they are competing to win Cupcake Wars on the Food Network for the third time. (JH)

Sticky Fingers Bakery
1370 Park Road, NW

Jamie Leeds, Hank's Oyster Bar, Washington Blade, gay news, Best of Gay D.C.

Best Chef: Jamie Leeds (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best Chef: Jamie Leeds — Hank’s Oyster Bar

Jamie Leeds has been having a good couple of months — opening Hank’s on the Hill, winning her fight to expand her patio in Dupont and winning Best Chef. Hank’s Oyster Bar came to fruition in the spring of 2005. In 2007, she opened a second Hank’s in Old Town Alexandria. This year, Leeds expanded the Alexandria location and opened a third Hank’s on the Hill. Leeds, a lesbian, says opening Hank’s on the Hill while expanding the Alexandria location is her “most exciting accomplishment.”

It is hard to dispute this honor if you have ever had the fried oysters at Hank’s, one of the best things I’ve eaten all year.  Leeds serves up fresh and delicious seafood every day at all of her locations, making this a well-deserved honor. (JH)

Hank’s Oyster Bar
1624 Q Street NW
633 Pennsylvania Ave SE
1026 King Street Alexandria
202-462-HANK (Q Street)
202-733-9171 (Penn)
703-739-HANK (Alexandria)

Logan Tavern, Washington Blade, gay news, Best of Gay D.C.

Best Date Restaurant: Logan Tavern (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best Date Restaurant: Logan Tavern

Logan Tavern is located right in the middle of the Logan Circle neighborhood and is a great location for a date. After all, you can hit the gym before the date and if the date goes well, you can even hit up a bar to extend the date. If it goes poorly, it’s not because of the restaurant but you can hit the bar anyway.

Logan Tavern is owned and operated by EatWell DC and combines friendly prices with a hip, laid-back atmosphere. Logan is a great go-to place for delicious, un-fussy food. It’s a place where you recognize the ingredients, the flavors and the dishes you are being served. There is no need to worry about what the wait staff delivers. The drinks are affordable and the service is excellent with friendly and accommodating staff. Plan ahead so that you can get one of the cozy booths to cuddle up in. The only thing you will need to worry about is connecting with the guy or girl at the table with you. (JH)

Logan Tavern
1423 P Street NW

Tryst, gay news, Washington Blade, Best of Gay D.C.

Best Coffee Shop: Tryst (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key

Best Coffee Shop: Tryst

Tryst has been a part of the Adams Morgan community since 1998 and gives Washingtonians the opportunity to get together over a cup of great coffee, a sweet treat or two or even a cocktail. David Fritzier, beverage manager, says, “Combining coffee and booze comes from a place of inclusion and community.” Tryst aims to be your “third place” — that place that you go after your home and work, the place that balances out your life.  (JH)

2459 18th Street

Best Restaurant Outside of DC: Hard Times Café in Old Town Alexandria

Founders and brothers Jim and Fred Parker opened Hard Times Café in 1980, not really knowing what they were getting into. Now, 30-plus years later they are a successful regional chain, cooking award-winning chili, and winning Best of Awards (in 2005 USA Today named Hard Times as one of the top 10 places to get chili and now they are Best Restaurant Outside of D.C.). The chili has a story all its own that dates back all the way to 1874, to a recipe that comes from their grandfather Ira.

Jim and Fred refer to their food as “all the food you love to eat” like chili, wings, char-grilled burgers, nachos and ribs. There is even a chili taster in case you can’t decide which of the four chilies they offer you want to order. (JH)

Hard Times Café
1404 King Street, Alexandria VA

Best Caterer: Q Caterers

Q Caterers has been serving the Washington area for five years, but its owners have 15 years of experience in the catering industry. They offer traditional as well as creative and innovative cuisine for their clients. Q Caterers, co-owned by Paul Herndon, offers catering for a wide variety of events and does all its baking on site.

Clients rave about the food from Q Caterers and guests are always looking for more. (JH)

Q Caterers
2144 California Street

Best Food Truck: Curbside Cupcake

Food Trucks have been all the rage for several years in D.C. and this year, the best food truck of them all is Curbside Cupcake. It started with one truck in November of 2009 and was D.C.’s first mobile cupcakery. It operates weekdays from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. and some weekends in the spring and summer.

Today Sam and Kristi Whitfield have three trucks bringing “cupcake bliss” to D.C., Arlington and Montgomery County. When Sam was working as a lawyer in 2009 some co-workers wanted cupcakes, but nobody wanted to go out and pick them up. That got Sam thinking that cupcakes should come to people, people shouldn’t have to come to cupcakes. When he got home that night he asked his wife Kristi, and that set the wheels in motion and just a few years later they own and operate D.C.’s favorite food truck. (JH)

Curbside Cupcake

Half-smokes, Ben's Chili Bowl, Washington Blade, gay news, Best of Gay D.C.

Best Local Dish: Half-smokes at Ben’s Chili Bowl (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Best Local Dish: Half Smokes at Ben’s Chili Bowl

The Half Smokes are famous in D.C. and are the most popular item on the menu at Ben’s Chili Bowl. Ben’s widow Virginia Ali, who has retired from the restaurant business, happened to be working the floor of the restaurant the afternoon I stopped in to enjoy a Half Smoke. She “is thrilled to be chosen as the winner of Best Local Dish,” and is “so excited that people still love all the food that they serve everyday.”

The “original chili half smokes” are the signature dish of Ben’s Chili Bowl. It’s a one-quarter pound half-pork and half-beef smoked sausage on a warm bun topped with mustard, onions and spicy homemade chili sauce. It’s served up in a basket with some fries and plenty of napkins. Famous fans include Bill Cosby and the Obamas. (JH)

Ben’s Chili Bowl
1213 U Street NW

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A car fit for a queen

New $342,000 Rolls-Royce SUV will leave you speechless



Rolls-Royce Cullinan

Last month, I was invited to test drive the ultimate SUV: a Rolls-Royce Cullinan. My partner Robert and I—nerdy fans of all things BritBox—decided to take this swanky ride on a two-day outing to Charlottesville. After all, meandering along Virginia’s bucolic backroads was the closest we were going to get to an English countryside. While we were trying to summon forth our inner Mr. Darcy, we discovered quite a few fun surprises in this regal SUV along the way.  

Rolls-Royce Cullinan
Mpg: 12 city/20 highway
0 to 60 mph: 4.5 seconds

The Cullinan has a noble pedigree, named after the largest diamond ever found—a hefty 1.33-pound gem that is now part of the British Crown Jewels. There are other royal connections to Rolls-Royce, of course. Queen Elizabeth—who was trained as a World War II mechanic and, at age 95, still drives herself sometimes—has a vast car collection with many a Rolls. And both Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle arrived at their weddings in a 1950 Phantom IV, made specially for the queen back when she was a mere princess. Yet despite its 114-year lineage, the luxury automaker has worked hard to keep pace with modern tastes and technology. 

Hence the Cullinan, the first-ever SUV in the Rolls-Royce stable. This tony horseless carriage has a $342,000 base price that quickly skyrockets with natty options. My test vehicle, for example, was $450,000—including $20,000 for a trendy detailing package. Other notable extras: lambswool floormats, contrast seat piping, black stained ash wood trim, and an embossed “RR” monogram on the doors and headrests. You also can opt for a cooling bin large enough for two Champagne flutes and a whiskey decanter. The best add-on, though, was the starlight headliner. To create the faux nighttime sky, it takes two craftspeople up to 17 hours to perforate 1,900 holes. Then fiberoptic lights are inset at various angles so that each “star” actually twinkles. And—crikey!—there’s even a shooting star feature. 

Exterior niceties are just as impressive, such as the anti-spin device to ensure the “RR” logo remains upright on each wheel cap at all times. Depending on customization, those fancy wheels can easily cost $4,000—each. The famous Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament is available in silver, gold-plated or illuminated polycarbonate. To prevent theft, the statuette automatically disappears beneath the hood when the engine is off. But perhaps the most impressive feature is also the least obvious, at least until you slip behind the wheel and fire up this high-class colossus. That’s when the finely tuned, twin-turbo V-12 engine roars to life and effortlessly glides you down the road. 

Driving such a sophisticated land yacht—which weighs almost three tons—feels like riding on a cloud. Surprisingly, there’s little body roll when cornering and no shuddering during quick stops. Think sleek Cutty Sark versus lumbering cruise ship. There were several major storms during our time in this vehicle, causing other drivers to pull off the road or frantically try and outrun the rain. But the Cullinan stayed steady, holding the road as we battered our way through heavy winds and torrential downpours. Another nice touch: Hidden in each of the rear coach doors was a full-size umbrella, which popped out at the push of a button. When we put the wet umbrellas back into their secret compartments, air vents quickly dried them out. Mary Poppins should have been so lucky.

The skies cleared the final day of my test ride, so I sped around the Beltway for one last hurrah. Perhaps because a Rolls-Royce is more refined and understated than any in-your-face Ferrari or Lamborghini, no one tried to race me down the road. Instead, there were lots of approving smiles and a big thumbs up or two. No, I didn’t respond with a royal wave. But I doubt anyone would have blamed me if I did. After all, driving a Cullinan makes you feel like queen for a day. 

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Real Estate

A real estate language primer

A few terms to know before you buy a home



Before you start the home buying process, there are a few key terms to know.

When working with first-time buyers, I often hear them say, “I have a stupid question.” I automatically respond that there’s no such thing. 

What they think may be a stupid question almost invariably has been asked before by many other people in the same situation. The answer to a stupid question almost always makes you smarter, so what they really have may be a “smart question.”

Several questions that were recently asked of me have prompted me to take another look at what I discuss in my initial buyer consultations, so let’s start there. 

A Buyer Consultation is an initial meeting with a buyer, whether face-to-face, by telephone, or by Zoom or similar interactive means, where we exchange information about the buyer’s needs and the services I provide and determine whether we shall work together exclusively and for how long.

If we decide to go forward, we sign an Exclusive Buyer Representation Agreement, which allows an agent to be the buyer’s advocate by solely representing the buyer’s interests in a real estate transaction, protecting the buyer’s confidentiality, and providing essential services reserved for a client-based relationship. In the DMV, absent such an agreement, agents must legally represent and owe allegiance to a seller they have never met of a property they have never seen.

In D.C., our real estate contracts consist of 33 paragraphs of boilerplate language vetted by a committee of agents, brokers, and attorneys, updated as needed to comply with legislative changes and regulatory requirements. In other words, they contain a lot of “legalese.” In addition, there are a plethora of addenda that may apply to a real estate transaction.

It is important, therefore, for clients to understand what they are reading before signing and, rather than simply having buyers sign an offer electronically, I believe in providing them with a sample contract package and reviewing both the documents and the process with them to explain terms, market norms, and potential consequences of making certain choices.

The terms below seldom change in any meaningful way and learning them can be a good way to begin to understand the contract process.

Time is of the Essence, which is found at the top of our purchase contract, means that deadlines are fixed. There is no “wait just a minute more” unless both parties agree to an extension of time in writing.

An Earnest Money Deposit, generally an amount in excess of 3% of the offered price, accompanies or follows an offer and is held by a real estate brokerage or settlement firm until needed at closing. 

The terms Settlement and Closing are interchangeable and denote the signing and recording of documents transferring the property from seller to buyer.

A Contingency is a condition that must be met for the contract to proceed to settlement. An example might involve a satisfactory home inspection or appraisal, sale of a prior home, or receipt of financing. Compare it to a situation unrelated to real estate, such as “if you wear a mask, then you may enter the grocery store and shop.”

Home Inspections are typically conducted after a contract is Ratified, meaning all parties have agreed to the price and terms. They may allow for repairs to be negotiated with the sellers or for simple acceptance or rejection of the property based on the findings. Some buyers opt for a Walk-and-Talk inspection, which is conducted prior to submitting an offer. The cost is less, since buyers take their own notes and no report is issued. The offer the buyers make will be well-received by the sellers without the delay of a contingency. 

An Appraisal is ordered by the lender to determine the value of the property and whether that value supports the amount of the loan being made to the buyers. Don’t confuse this with an Assessment conducted by city assessors to determine value for property tax purposes. 

A Title Search is conducted to determine that there is nothing in the chain of ownership that would prevent the sale of the home. Title Insurance insulates the lender from issues such as fraud, forgery, liens, and other items that may not have been discovered in the initial search. The buyers may also purchase title insurance to similarly protect themselves.

In closing, a word about Closing Costs, the amounts paid to lenders, attorneys, brokers, and municipal offices at settlement for expenses incurred in completing the property transfer. The earnest money you have on deposit will be credited to you for these one-time costs or for the remainder of your downpayment. As J. G. Wentworth says, “It’s your money. Use it when you need it.”

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs

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Seven new restaurants to try this fall

D.C. restaurant scene thriving again after rough year



Le Diplomate, dining, food, French cuisine, gay news, Washington Blade
If you like Le Diplomate, you’ll love new concept Bread Alley in Union Market offering, you guessed it, Le Dip’s famous breads. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The fall dining scene is as hot as ever. Here are some of the top tickets to look out for:

RAMMYs: Sept. 19 marks the annual D.C.-area restaurant industry awards, the RAMMYs. Many of the categories this year are unique to the challenges restaurants faced in 2020. Held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, the awards “created timely categories that speak to all the ways the region’s uniquely met those challenges,” according to the RAMMYs. Such categories include “most innovative to-go packaging”, “outstanding COVID-safe redesign,” and “most impressive pivot to provision or market.” 

Jane Jane (1705 14th St. NW): 

Highly anticipated retro-chic cocktail bar Jane Jane quietly opened after more than two years in the making. Co-owned by gay men Drew Porterfield, his partner Ralph Brabham, and friend JP Sabatier, Jane Jane’s mid-century-style throwback offers classic cocktails and upgraded bar snacks. It’s located in the new Liz development on 14th Street.

Thirsty Crow (3400 11th St. NW):

Part sports bar, part cocktail bar, Thirsty Crow opened just last week in Columbia Heights. It sits in the subterranean level of Michelin Bib Gourmand-winning Makan, serving cocktails and bites inspired by Malaysian flavors, like its sister restaurant on the ground level. Chef James Wozniuk of Makan is overseeing the menu of snacks like shrimp chips and larger plates like spicy fried chicken with sambal.

No Goodbyes (1770 Euclid St. NW):

The Line Hotel previously played host to a suite of restaurants: A Rake’s Progress, Brothers and Sisters, and Spoke English. When these restaurants left this Adams Morgan hotel, the spaces sat mostly vacant until No Goodbyes slid into the ground floor. An all-day dining place that “taps the farmers, fishers, and small-time ranchers in DC’s own backyard,” according to its website, the menu sits squarely on a Chesapeake Bay foundation. Mid-Atlantic dishes, from fish to fowl, play large on the menu.

Bread Alley (1250 5th St NE):

The intoxicating tower of carbs that greets diners when they walk into buzzy Le Diplomate is getting its very own dedicated space, aptly named Bread Alley. A tiny location in the Union Market area, the shop just launched selling only the three types of bread that arrive complimentary at the start of any Le Dip meal: thick-crusted classic baguette, multigrain boules, and cranberry-walnut boules. It will eventually also sell pastries, jams, butter, honey, and other accouterments. Bakers begin their craft at 3:30 a.m. and offer their wares starting at 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. or sold out, whichever arrives earlier.

Bistro Du Jour (99 District Square SW) 

Bistro Du Jour will be gay-owned KNEAD Hospitality + Design’s third waterfront venue at the Wharf. A café in the Parisian style, it will lean heavily on croissants and cappuccinos during the day, moving to Champagne and larger savory dishes by night. The bistro will sell current partner Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery’s fresh baked goods and pastries, and will showcase traditional fare like coq au vin, French onion soup, steak frites, and foie gras for lunch and dinner. The bistro will display an extensive bubbly section, as well as a chic espresso bar and an outdoor patio. Brunch is in the works.

SUCCOTASH Prime (915 F St., NW)

After a yearlong hiatus, SUCCOTASH Prime recently reopened at the end of August. SUCCOTASH Prime, also run by gay-owned KNEAD Hospitality + Design, is an updated version of the restaurant, still with Chef Edward Lee at the helm. The refreshed SUCCOTASH opened as a southern steakhouse with an Asian twist, featuring smoked steaks, fried oysters, collard greens, ham, and kimchi side dish. Live music is also planned.

Via Roma (4531 Telfair Blvd #110, Camp Springs, Md.)

Via Roma is a restaurant where you can enjoy the pies, you just can’t call it “pizza.” Just opened a few weeks ago, the restaurant serves pinsas, a pizza-like dish using dough made from a heady mixture of wheat, soy, and rice flours, and then proofed for more than a day. The spot calls itself the first Pinsa-certified restaurant in Maryland, and aims to reflect the laid-back, Mediterranean atmosphere of Naples (the owner also runs an Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana-certified restaurant in Maryland). Beyond Pinsa, it also serves Maryland crab tater tots, panini, pasta, salad, and Aperol spritzes.

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