Washington, D.C. Tour: Dupont
The quirky and the classic co-mingle in this vibrant neighborhood that suits myriad tastes and lifestyles.
More than a century ago, Dupont was the “It” address of Washington’s socialites, scions and politicians, including a newspaper heiress, a German brewer and a president named Calvin Coolidge. The privileged class is long gone, yet vestiges of their tony lifestyle appear in mansions now occupied by embassies, museums, and quirky attractions. The main artery, Connecticut Avenue, is door-to-door shops and restaurants that yield only for Dupont Circle, a green space adorned with a marble fountain, benches and chess tables. The commercial diversions thin out along the side streets, which are lined with stately row houses, but kick up again on 17th Street to the east of the circle and P Street to the west. The neighborhood is historically gay-friendly but welcomes all—art- and kitsch-lovers, gourmands, beer aficionados, chocoholics, etc.—who come explore its diverse haunts.
Hotel Tabard Inn
The Hotel Tabard Inn is located five blocks from the White House in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. The hotel, opened in 1922 by Marie Willoughby Rogers, is made up of three 19th-century townhouses and boasts 40 individually decorated guest rooms. Each room has period décor, including artwork, rugs, and furnishings, as well as wireless Internet, but in order to maintain a historic feel, the rooms are not equipped with televisions. The hotel also has an on-site restaurant, run by chef Paul Pelt, that features seasonal cuisine and a lounge that offers live jazz on Sunday evenings.
Located in Dupont Circle, Tabletop is a housewares and lifestyle store. Founded by three friends and opened in 2003, the store carries a collection of modern housewares, such as furniture, mirrors, wall décor, barware, and food and drink books. The store also carries handbags, jewelry, and accessories, as well as kids’ toys and room décor. Tabletop’s inventory includes items from such well-known designers as Jonathan Adler, Daphne Olive, and Dwell Studio. Special events, including book signings, are held throughout the year.
The Phillips Collection
The nearly 100-year-old Phillips Collection showcases modern art and impressionist paintings. The permanent collection here includes Renoir’s famous Luncheon of the Boating Party, plus works by Matisse, Van Gogh, and O’Keeffe. One of the biggest draws, though, is the Rothko Room, an intimate and reflective space with one of the artist’s paintings on each wall.
Perfect for a special night out, Komi sits in a traditional DC rowhouse and offers a unique fine dining experience. Friendly servers are at the top of their game, and help foster a casual atmosphere. Meanwhile, James Beard Award-winning chef Johnny Monis provides delicious Greek-American fare with a tasting menu of both small plates and sharing-style dishes, such as roasted goat or lamb neck. Reservations required.
Heurich House Museum
The Brewmaster’s Castle, open for guided tours, captures the elegance and opulence of the Gilded Age. However, the 31-room home of German brewer Christian Heurich was also ahead of its era with indoor plumbing and a pneumatic communications system, among other innovations.
Bier Baron Tavern
Beer is king at this upstairs-downstairs bar. The assortment of brews is epic, with more than 500 types of bottled beer from around the world and 50 different drafts on tap. To be sure, the drink menu itself is longer than a Raymond Carver short story.
The Mansion on O Street
The mansion, designed by U.S. Capitol architect Edward Clark, is a study in eclecticism and eccentricity. The museum collection can only be described as pack rat with a trust fund, and its tours are equally wild and unconventional. For example, search for 32 hidden portals in 100-plus rooms on the Secret Door Treasure Hunt, wade through 20,000 titles on the Book Tour, or have your life divined on the Numerology Tour.
The snug shop sells artisanal confections from all over the map, including designer bonbons from Arlington, Virginia, and pure cocoa bars from Madagascar. The purveyor of treats also hands out samples, holds a free monthly tasting and runs workshops (for a fee), such as truffle-making and a “beginner palate” class.