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Best of Gay D.C.: Dining

Favorite food spots in the District and beyond

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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
202-234-2400

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
202-745-0025

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
202-265-CORK

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
202-232-0395

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
202-290-2821

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
202-299-9700

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
202-332-3710

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)

Tryst
2459 18th Street
202-232-5500

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
703-837-0050

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
202-640-4828

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
202-667-0909

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Real Estate

Boosting your rental property’s curb appeal

Affordable upgrades to attract and keep tenants happy

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Spruce up your curb appeal with new plants and trees.

In the District of Columbia, the rental market tends to open up significantly during the springtime for several reasons. First, spring brings about a sense of renewal and change, prompting many individuals and families to seek new living arrangements or embark on relocations. Additionally, the warmer weather and longer daylight hours make it more conducive for people to explore housing options, attend viewings, and make decisions about moving. Furthermore, spring often coincides with the end of academic terms, leading to an influx of students and young professionals entering the rental market. 

Landlords and property managers also tend to schedule lease renewals or list new vacancies during this time, capitalizing on the increased demand and ensuring a steady turnover of tenants. In the competitive world of rental properties, attracting and retaining quality tenants can be challenging. However, with some strategic upgrades, property owners can significantly enhance their units’ appeal without breaking the bank. From enhancing curb appeal to interior upgrades, here are some practical and cost-effective ideas to make your rental property stand out in the market.

Curb appeal

First impressions matter, and curb appeal plays a crucial role in attracting potential tenants. Simple enhancements like freshening up the exterior paint, adding potted plants or flowers, and ensuring a well-maintained lawn can instantly elevate the property’s appearance. Installing outdoor lighting not only adds charm but also enhances safety and security.

Interior upgrades

Upgrade the kitchen and bathroom fixtures to modern, energy-efficient options. Consider replacing outdated appliances with newer models, which not only appeal to tenants but also contribute to energy savings. Fresh paint and updated flooring can transform the look of a space without a hefty investment. Additionally, replacing worn-out carpets with hardwood or laminate flooring can make the unit more attractive and easier to maintain.

Enhance storage

Maximize storage options by installing built-in shelves, cabinets, or closet organizers. Tenants appreciate ample storage space to keep their belongings organized, contributing to a clutter-free living environment.

Improve lighting

Brighten up the interiors by adding more lighting fixtures or replacing old bulbs with energy-efficient LED lights. Well-lit spaces appear more inviting and spacious, enhancing the overall ambiance of the rental unit.

Upgrade window treatments

Replace outdated curtains or blinds with modern window treatments that allow natural light to filter in while offering privacy. Opt for neutral colors and versatile styles that appeal to a wide range of tastes.

Focus on security

Invest in security features such as deadbolts, window locks, and a reliable alarm system to ensure the safety of your tenants. Feeling secure in their home is a top priority for renters, and these upgrades can provide meaningful, genuine peace of mind.

Enhance outdoor spaces

If your rental property includes outdoor areas like a patio or balcony, consider sprucing them up with comfortable seating, outdoor rugs, and potted plants. Creating inviting outdoor spaces expands the living area and adds value to the rental property.

As landlords, investing in the enhancement of your rental properties is not merely about improving aesthetics; it’s about investing in the satisfaction and well-being of your tenants, and ultimately, in the success of your investment. By implementing these practical and affordable upgrades, you’re not only increasing the desirability of your units but also demonstrating your commitment to providing a high-quality living experience. 

These efforts translate into higher tenant retention rates, reduced vacancy periods, and ultimately, a healthier bottom line. Moreover, by prioritizing the comfort, safety, and happiness of your tenants, you’re fostering a sense of community and trust that can lead to long-term relationships and positive referrals. So, let’s embark on this journey of transformation together, turning rental properties into cherished homes and landlords into valued partners in creating exceptional living spaces.

Scott Bloom is owner and Senior Property Manager of Columbia Property Management. For more information and resources, visit ColumbiaPM.com.

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Real Estate

Real estate agents work hard for that commission

Despite recent headlines, buyers and sellers benefit from our expertise

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Realtors work hard for that rare six percent commission.

With there being a lot of noise in the media lately as I am sure you have read and heard headlines like “Gone are the days of the 6% commission” and “End of the good days of Realtors,” etc., I wanted to re-run a very short article of the long laundry list of things that well versed real estate agents bring to the table to earn that seldom 6% commission. It’s typically split in half and it has always been negotiable).

As a real estate professional you will go on listing appointments and buyer meetings to not only attempt to gain business but in doing so you also educate the general public on what it is that we as real estate professionals do. I know what you’re thinking – and if you’ve seen my photo before you wouldn’t be wrong to assume that I am cast in “Selling DC” as the lead villain. I am just waiting for that phone call! But in all seriousness, when I sit down to come up with a list of things to prove to prospective clients the value in working with me as their real estate professional, I am pretty blown away at the items and qualities that a trusted professional representing you in a real estate transaction is responsible for managing a myriad of tasks, including but not limiting to the following:

• Have a pulse on the marketplace to truly understand exactly what is happening from a buying and selling standpoint while also understanding the economic side of things – not just looking at interest rates. Why are rates where they are? What employers are laying off and could cause an influx of inventory? What are the trends for individuals moving IN or OUT of an area looking like? Forecasting the marketplace of all things that truly affect real estate is vital.

• Soft Skills – these are the skills often considered as customer service skills. The ability to be approachable by all types of people and ensure that you are open to receive information. Also – when telling you bad news – it’s important to ensure that it is done in a manner in which you, the receiver, will be pleasantly receptive.

• Pre-market vendors – not only are real estate professionals expected to market your home for sale or locate a home for you to purchase, we are also expected to have a list of pre-market vendors to which you can use for your lending needs, home inspection, title work, any fluffing and buffing needed pre market for the sale of your home such as a contractor, painter, landscaper etc. We have a book of extremely well vetted vendors that either I personally have used or past clients have used that can assist with your needs. This beats Googling for hours and accidentally choosing the wrong contractor. Section A of the pre-market vendor list includes those in which we real estate professionals use for marketing materials for your property – we will use the best photographers, have floor plans drawn for your property, video, staging, catering for brokers opens and the list goes on. Again – this is a well vetted list that we have worked on for years and done all of the heavy lifting and had those uncomfortable conversations when things are not properly executed – so you don’t have to.

• On Market Tasks – these are the tasks that most clients are unaware that we do. Oftentimes when a listing is on market – folks think that I am just cruising around in my convertible buying nice things. However I am in fact going around checking each listing on market to ensure that they are clean, the booties are replaced, marketing materials are stocked, light bulbs are all working, staging looks crisp and the list truly goes on. That of course, doesn’t include the tasks we do to properly market the property such as weekly email blasts, reaching out several times to follow up with showing agents to get their feedback, check the market to see what our competition looks like, what’s under contract and why, and again…..I could go on. Needless to say the most important and time consuming tasks are those that are done when the property is on market.

• “Contract to close” management – the term contract to close is pretty much what it sounds like – it’s what happens from the time we go under contract until we reach the closing finish line and you have those keys. Once a trusted real estate professional has fiercely negotiated on your behalf as a buyer, the fun starts. Again pops up this vendor list – helping guide you though selection of a home inspector, termite inspector, etc. for the inspections. A title attorney is needed (depending on your jurisdiction) and any other vendors for quotes like renovations, etc., that you might want done to the property. Once the inspection is completed and we go through possible re-negotiations then we must ensure that the lender has the documents needed from you completed in order to have the appraisal done to prove the value of the home you are under contract for. Now we are getting into the weeds – but once we are on the other side of things and the appraisal comes back at value and the loan is clear to close then we are at the finish line to your new home.

A similar story can be told if you are selling your home. The appraisal is a very important part of the checklist as that is the value in which your home is worth. The appraiser is a third party that neither the buyer, seller, lender or myself have any allegiance to. I do, however, have the duty to educate said appraiser on why I chose the listing price and how I came up with that value. 

• Post-market vendors. As mentioned before, a real estate professional should have a book of well vetted vendors from which to choose. Looking at the list of vendors now that we are on the other side of the table – I can provide a cleaning person, HVAC contractor, someone to repair the sprinkler system, a dog walker, the best caterers and bakery in town. Further down the road I am able to provide a wonderful wealth manager who can tell you what to do with that piece of real estate you purchased some time ago and we could go on for days.

While you are fully entitled to not use a real estate agent during your real estate transaction, I do believe that it is well within the realm of possibilities to say that without one there would be loose ends not completely tied up, things mismanaged and possible delays that could cost real cash. All of that aside, it is also such a truly wonderful experience to work alongside a trusted professional that at the end of the transaction becomes a new friend and family member. Real estate professionals love what they do, they love real estate and people and sheepherding you through the home buying or selling process is what it’s all about to us.

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 is a well-versed agent, highly regarded, and provides white glove service at every price point. Reach him at 202-503-4243,  [email protected] or BurnsandNoble.com.

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Real Estate

Do you need title insurance?

Facilitating smoother and more efficient real estate transactions

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A title search is an important part of the home buying process.

A title search is an examination of public records to determine the legal ownership of a property and identify any claims or liens against it. This comprehensive investigation delves into deeds, mortgages, court records, tax records, and other documents related to the property’s history. The objective is to verify that the seller has the legal right to transfer ownership of the property and that there are no undisclosed issues that could cloud the title.

I would surmise that most buyers have never read their title report or policy and I confess that I was one of them until 2005, when I bought a house in San Diego. While I was “in escrow,” my agent presented me with a title report. My first reaction was, “What do I do with this?” He replied, “review it and sign indicating that it is acceptable.” I had no idea what to look for, since I had always had title companies to rely on for interpreting the results. Thankfully, it was a clean report with no liens on it other than the mortgage the seller would be paying off at settlement. 

Here, only if anything is amiss will the title attorney notify the agents and advise what the parties need to do to satisfy any conditions that could prevent them from closing. Otherwise, you won’t see the report up front.

Why are title searches important?

  • They verify the seller’s legal right to transfer ownership of the property, providing assurance to the buyer that they are purchasing a legitimate asset. 
  • They identify any outstanding liens, mortgages, or other encumbrances that could affect the property’s value or the buyer’s ability to obtain financing. 
  • A title insurance policy provides coverage for losses arising from title defects such as disputes, undisclosed easements, forgery, or fraud, offering peace of mind to both buyers and lenders.

The process starts with the retrieval of documents from various sources, including county clerk offices, tax assessor’s offices, and court records. 

The records are then inspected to trace the chain of ownership and identify any potential issues. The title examiner verifies the accuracy of legal descriptions, checks for inconsistencies or errors, and identifies any red flags that may indicate title defects.

If found, resolution of issues or discrepancies, such as unpaid taxes, outstanding liens, or boundary disputes must be addressed before the transaction can proceed. This may involve negotiating with creditors to satisfy outstanding debts, requesting more information from sellers, and resolving legal disputes.

Once complete, the firm will issue a title report on which to base a title policy. The buyers will receive a copy at settlement. The report provides a detailed summary of the property’s ownership history, any encumbrances or defects found during the search, and recommendations for mitigating risks.

Title insurance for the lender is required, but buyers often ask whether they need owner’s title insurance coverage too. I always recommend buying an owner’s policy. If a buyer chooses not to, then only the lender is protected from any claims revealed after the issuance of the title report. For a one-time fee, an owner’s policy protects your interest in the property and that of any heirs from future claims until the house is ultimately sold. 

For example, I attended a settlement with a buyer who was purchasing a rowhouse. A woman who had power of attorney to sign for the seller was also there and, because he was overseas, the actual seller was on speaker phone to address his concerns or ask any questions. 

The closing agent began reading the settlement statement aloud to indicate what was being deducted from the seller’s proceeds. The seller was fine with the amount shown for the remainder of his first mortgage, but when she read out the amount of the second mortgage, the seller, now agitated, asked, “What second mortgage?”

It then became clear that the woman, the owner’s former fiancée, had used her power of attorney to obtain a second mortgage after the title search had been done. Thanks to the title companies’ involvement, the seller was able to post a bond for the missing funds to allow settlement to proceed while he took on a legal battle with his former fiancée. Don’t try this at home, kids.

By uncovering potential issues early in the process, title searches help facilitate smoother and more efficient real estate transactions by resolving issues upfront, ensuring a seamless transfer of property ownership. But nobody knows when great Uncle Bob or your former tenant may show up with a claim to the house. You’ll need your owner’s title policy to have someone on your side.

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

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