Food is (a whole lot more than a convenience on the National Mall)

I’m trying to cut across the Red Sea in my own way, and so until that whole mess is figured out and I’m able to carve my own staff out of a olive branch, I can’t think of a better time to start talking about Washington, DC. 

Last time I had talked about it, I had hailed Auntie Anne’s and the hammocks at the back of the hotel that swayed me to a midsummer afternoon’s slumber with crumbs of chocolate chip cookie on my stomach and a cortado milk-stache smeared on my lips.  

Now’s down for some day one recap of one of the best weekends of my life. 

Smithsonian National Zoo
Haydee’s Restaurant, 3102 Mount Pleasant St NW, Washington, DC. 
DC Brau 
The Red Palace, 1212 H Street, NE, Washington, DC. 

Before going to the hammocks and Open City cafe for some chocolate chip divinity and some cortado-wanna-be-cubano-Chic excuse of a beverage, we were up in at the Smithsonian National Zoo. 

How I never knew about this place is absolutely insulting on my part. I should know everything about every place, after all. If I’m going to be in debt for the next thirty years of my life I should at least pretend to be a cultured snob who knows where all the free zoos and hand-made parkas are. 

So okay, the zoo is big and open and free and descends a giant mountain. We check out the Asian Trail exhibit where we find ourselves cackling at river otters prancing through a manmade meadow and through some manmade logs to their manmade river where they practice ballistic acrobats to either impress us or try to forget about us altogether. I really hope it isn’t the latter. 

By the way, the giant pandas? Hiding and being little wimps. It’s like, just take a damn picture and go back to chomping on some bamboo salad or whatever the hell you think is more important than impressing us. 

It’s okay. I understand. I never really cared for pandas. They’re cute and all, but they’re also messy as hell, and those blotches of dirt and bamboo mush on their paws and fur is really disorientating. 

We eventually leave and mosey on over to Mount Pleasant, which seems like a conglomeration of the West New York feel you’d find around Bergenline Avenue and 80th Street and Hialeah, Miami. Here, the skies are cut through by stoney church steeples and knots of electrical cords criss-crossing across the streets. The street corners and all the rows in between reek of the most glorious Colombian, El Salvadorian, and Mexican food one can only fathom to be the most scrumptious thing anyone has ever masticated and rubbed onto their tongues. Nearby, the shallow cliffs diving into Rock Creek Park tempt the breeze to carry fractured specs of pine and dirt and squirrel feces. 

And all the people. It’s intimidating to see people actually relaxed and still doing what they gotta do (even if that means doing nothing), especially when six hours before, I was pushing and shoving old ladies and their granddaughters out of the way so I could outrun the nut trolley and cross the street before the light turned red.

Tired and hungry and weak in the knees, we go into a local mexican joint called Haydee’s. It’s kinda like the ultimate Mexican-Americana Gift Shop sneezed all over Christmas, or maybe the other way around. Dark wood on the floor stained with tortilla grease. Christmas lights and tinsel speckled all over the walls like it was nothing short of appropriate. Neon Beer Bottles. The sounds of oil boiling on a hot pan. Men and women hollering as they slam their glasses at the bar nearby. 

They serve us tortilla chips on a plate which I don’t really understand, and my guy suggests that we order a  couple of ‘Fiesta Margaritas’. 

– ‘They’re rully good.’ He murmurs. He’s from Philadelphia. 

Turns out, it’s only really good (EXTRA GOOD!) because it’s carrying %50 more tequila. As I’m sipping I’m pretending it’s really well mixed, and then I start thinking about my family back at home and our adventures with tequila once every few Christmas Eves. I’m just imagining all of us taking a li’l sip after nibbling on some pork skin and blurting out something along the lines of ‘is like, super good!’

I ordered the Burrito Especial because it was cheap and had ‘Especial’ attached to it. For $7.99, I felt like a champ for taking down a burrito that must’ve weighed a near pound, served with guacamole and sour cream, some pre-frozen vegetable rice. The tortilla was stuffed with some cheese and shredded beef that was all good and all, but deserved a couple spoonfuls of Chulula on top of it to send it off the charts. 

Full and rested and ready for the night, we departed and picked up a couple beers from the local liquor store. 

We picked up some DC Brau that my boyf appreciated more than I did.

We packed some down and had our designated driver, Named Bruno (who also happened to be one of the smartest and genuine guys, probably ever), take us over to H Street. One of the emerging bar districts in DC. Here, the street is wide and long and leads all the way to Union Station. Built-in Trolley Tracks mark an era when the mayor thought it would be a great idea to connect the community with free transportation up until his time ran out and the new mayor figured there was no need to do that at all. 

We went down to a great bar called ‘The Red Palace’ that used to be two bars until one filed for something or other and was bought out by the original Red Palace. The second floor of the two now boasts a really great concert venue. There is also a great patio with plenty of nooks and crannies to hide and sip an extra whiskey before returning to your crappy-ass date. Inside, the interior reminds me of a Coney Island Freak Show- island bamboo organ pipes, those pseudo artisan/carny amber lights in flourishing patterns, dark and rich mahogany on the walls accompanied comfortably with crumbling brick and exposed wood. They sport DC Brau and Pilsner Tallboys for $5. Can’t be beat. 

So, we have our fun, and then Bruno drives us home and we all talk about kittens and the corruption of Washington politics. The City, not the governmental epicenter, just to be clear. 

We get home and climb into bed. In my buzz I’m feeling like I’m back on the hammock. I’m also really wanting another cookie or another burrito especial. 

It was a great day. Greater than yesterday.

Part two to come. We walked 15 miles the next day. 

 

 

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