It was slightly ironic that a recent trip we took to DC coincided with the Oscars, as it reminded us of the obviously insulting line ascribed to a number of political pundits, including Joe Scarborough: “Washington is Hollywood for ugly people.” Seeing Charlize, Brad, et al, on the small screen, did again prove that still nothing can compete with Tinseltown in the (manufactured) glamour department—yet HWood be dammed, we were on your way to what was surely the capital’s most glamorous new hotel.
Opened in early January, the brand-new Thompson Washington DC, the Beltway outpost of the brand whose roots go back 20 years to Manhattan’s actual Thompson Street, where 60 Thompson (now SIXTY Soho) was one of the first destination hotels for the post 9/11 prosperity generation. Twenty years on and the vibe at this Thompson was just as cool, with a huge, light-filled lobby and bar dominating the ground floor space. The reception desk was tucked away in a corner.
Our room was pure class—no flimsy or overly cheeky design elements—with elegant, dark wood and brass furniture and fixtures, a very well stocked mini bar (we’re fine with in-room yoga mats and wellness options, but not at the expense of vodka and prosecco), and a spacious terrace overlooking DC’s hot new hood, The Yards, in the old Navy Yard.
On our first evening, we were thrilled to check out the outpost of one of our NYC faves, Danny Meyer’s Maialino Mare, an offshoot of Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Park celeb magnet, which focuses on Roman trattoria fare; we indulged in their specialty fried baby artichokes, cremini mushrooms with white wine and anchovy, fettuccine with ruby red shrimp, with each dish building to an encore of lemon custard with toasted pine nuts and an almond crust.
Up and out the next day, we were determined to take advantage of as much as we could in a town with increasingly interesting diversions—even some that aren’t affiliated with the Smithsonian. The Navy Yard itself is on the southeast side of downtown, on the banks of the Anacostia River; Nationals Park is two blocks west, and amidst the numerous older nautical buildings are rising shiny apartments and stores to accommodate the latest wave of policy wonks/wonkettes. We started with a bracing stroll along the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, stretching 20 miles on both sides of the river; we only made it about a quarter mile before getting distracted, realizing we should have probably grabbed a bike from Capital Bikeshare, as the Thompson provides them gratis.
After a day of cultural pursuits, including stopping to awe at a few monuments (while we still have a democracy), and a tour of the inspiring Freer Gallery of Art (The Peacock Room is James Whistler’s opulent masterpiece of mural art, and a must see) we headed back to the Yards for dinner at District Winery, an awesome space that includes said winemaking operation, a wine related boutique, and the restaurant Ana, where we were impressed to discover some of the tastiest vegetarian options on any menu we’ve yet come across.
The Peacock Room at Freer Gallery of Art
Not that there wasn’t plenty for carnivores, from roasted scallops to a NY strip, but we ordered the excellent market vegetable “Shawarma” with roasted vegetables, beet falafel, pink lentil hummus, creamy tahini sauce, and lavash cracker, and Meadow Creek Grayson cappelletti with pickled pear, cultured butter, onion petals, and basil oil; the sourdough spelt bread was a particularly special treat.
We retired to catch the last half of the Oscars (still too long), congratulating ourselves on how much we saved not bothering to deck out like Scarlett and Leo, while still enjoying a lavish dinner. And flopping down in our thrift store loungewear, we were contented with the luxury of catching the awards show on a state of the art, 55″ flat screen.
The next day, before heading back north, we took a walk around some of the Yard’s shops, stopping in Steadfast Supply, a creative retail shop and curated events hub featuring goods from local small businesses and independent brands…and Somewhere, a sleek space dedicated to bringing the global fashion conversation to the capital. Both boutiques gleamed with newness of a new kind of DC.
Sadly, the one thing we didn’t get a chance to try was Trapeze School NY, located just a couple of blocks from the hotel. Merely a good excuse for us to already be planning a springtime return to the Thompson.