This year, your intrepid Brit About Town and her lovely wife, in between Perfect Liars Club shows, have been reveling in the delights of the brilliant things Washington DC has to offer, and writing about them in the Brit About Town blog to help you enjoy them too. And so, as 2014 comes to an end, we have brought together our very favorite things in the Brit About Town Best of Washington DC 2014 Awards. These are our picks of what has charmed us most in DC out of all the things we've done in 2014. Of course there are other excellent things in Washington that we haven't yet had a chance to enjoy - so bring on 2015! And in the meantime, sit back, and enjoy.
Restaurant of the year: Rasika West End
Rasika is consistently excellent, with great service, ambience and food, with a particular shout out to their palak chaat dish which is unmissable. It's a great mix of occasion-y and relaxed, and even if you can't get a table, you can usually squeeze in at the bar for the same menu. Mmmm.
Rose's Luxury: For their popcorn soup (RIP), their amazing bread, their imaginative menu, and for ensuring nobody can be rude about staid or uninspiring DC dining again.
Cork: Superlative avocado bruschetta, impressive wine list, comfortable and cool.
Sona: All things cheese are unsurprisingly amazing, but then so are their salads. And wine...
Jaleo: Adore their pan cristal con tomate, and their Jose's Choice gin. Relaxed ambience.
Honorable mentions: Ezme, Compass Rose, Iron Gate
Cocktail bar of the year: The Gibson
The Gibson delivers consistently delightful cocktails with skill, finesse, and a relaxing, occasion-ish ambience. Alas it's a bit of a hassle to get a booking. Internet bookings please!
McLellan's Retreat: Newcomer to the cocktail circuit has already proved its worth!
Harold Black: Home of spicy cocktails, cocktail flights, and speakeasy coolness. Fab decor.
Passenger (RIP): Wonderful cocktails, cool ambience, alas that it's closing. We also love the Columbia Room, moving to Blagden Alley in some form in 2015.
Honorable mentions: Slipstream, the Basilica martini at Unum, as prepared by Dmitri
Wine bar of the year: Dicksons wine bar
Dicksons is inexplicably overlooked: it's a delightful wine bar with a nice wine selection, decent food, very classy decor and ambience, and is the loveliest wine bar in which to hang out in the city.
Sona: More of a cheese place but they have some excellent wines, and this is a delight of a restaurant in which to hang out drinking wine and munching on cheese.
Coffeeshop of the year: Filter (Dupont Circle)
What Filter lacks in ample tables, it makes up for in cool ambience and excellent coffee.
Dog tag bakery: Great social mission, handy location, comfortable and relaxing.
Baked and wired: Wish it had more tables, but coolest coffeeshop in town.
La Colombe: Hipster central, with excellent coffee, and a pleasantly pretentious vibe.
Grilled cheese sandwich of the year: Glenn's Garden Market
Have it alone, or as a combo with soup, somehow Glenn's have found the recipe for the perfect grilled cheese sandwich.
Ris at Union Market: best for fancy grilled cheese with things like poblano peppers in it
Righteous Cheese at Union Market: a deliciously simple example of the genre
GCDC: Excellent all round grilled cheese finesse.
Dessert of the year: Central Michel Richard
Central Michel Richard is unsurpassed for desserts in the entire city (though if others wish to contest this, please call me up and offer me free samples to change my mind.) Huge, luxurious, witty, and delicious - these desserts are the best part of going to the nearby Landmark E Street cinema.
Going out in DC app of the year: Sosh
There are lots of DC folk 'curating' the city's coolest things to do and for me, other than of course the wonderful Brit About Town blog, this year it's all about Sosh. They have an uncanny knack for finding cool things that nobody else has, and presenting them beautifully, for your entertainment pleasure.
Goldstar: I buy pretty much all my theatre tickets on this app now, with great discounts.
Cinema of the year: Tie:
Angelika pop-up at Union Market for coolness of venue
Landmark E Street Cinema for best choice of films
West End Cinema for best value (only DC cinema currently using the Dealflix app)
Theatre show of the year: Brief Encounter, Shakespeare Theatre Company
This show, a British import, was part charm, part suspense, part love, and all style.
Little Dancer at the Kennedy Center: best musical of the year
Carrie at Studio Theatre: energetic, compelling, devastating, and fab
Grounded at Studio Theatre: disturbing, fascinating, and very relevant
Honorable mentions: War of the Worlds by Picnic Theatre Company, Sleeping Beauty by Pointless Theatre Company
Book event of the year: Sue Monk Kidd, Invention of Wings at Sixth and I
Politics and Prose put on many amazing events but their top authors usually find their way to Sixth and I. I hadn't even read the book when I went to see Sue Monk Kidd. She was brilliant, the evening was fantastic, and when I bought the book, it's probably the best one I read all year.
Pamela Paul, NYT Review of Books at Politics and Prose
Emma Donoghue, Frog Music at Politics and Prose
Washington City Paper DC Stories at Politics and Prose
Storytelling show of the year: Tie:
Storytelling Showdown, SpeakeasyDC, Dance Place: SpeakeasyDC does great shows all year round but this themed gameshow pulled out all the stops and it was fresh and fun and hilarious.
Story League Presents Presents, Kennedy Center: With storytellers from DC and NYC, the stories were sharp, funny, compelling, and nicely curated: the best Story League show I've ever been to.
Art show of the year: Think with your Hands, Artisphere
Artisphere is potentially closing in 2015 and this would be a terrible loss to Washingtonians, some of whom haven't really noticed how important it is. Think With Your Hands was one of the most innovative art shows I've seen in years. Small, ambitious, free, merging the page with technology to create something truly beautiful. The best use of iPads in art I've ever encountered. I loved this.
Local musician of the year: The Sweater Set
The Sweater Set are all ukulele charm and delight, and they wrote our theme song too!
Comedy show of the year: Second City
Part improv, part scripted, Second City has consistently delighted us this year when they come to town with their intelligent, hilarious skits.
Capital City Showcase second Tuesday 'roasts': I like that they try to come up with clever and original jokes that aren't about sex, a topic that gets very old indeed.
DC Science comedy: They've just started, but the demand is massive! Once they've sorted crowd control, this is intelligent comedy with some real gems. A great comedy experience.
Outdoorsy activity of the year: Paddleboarding at Key Bridge Boathouse
There is possibly nothing nicer in the world than stepping onto a paddleboard and heading upriver, away from DC and into what feels like the forest. My loveliest, happiest DC moments have been on a paddleboard.
Hike Roosevelt Island: Lovely 40 minute walk along the water, through the woods, with beautiful seasonal changes.
Hike Glover Archbold Trail: A surprise delight, feels like you're deep in the forest.
Hike Valley Trail, Rock Creek Park: Long and lovely, with lots of beautiful sections alongside the creek.
Top 10 random great things we are glad exist in DC
Kenilworth Aquatic Garden: Perhaps the coolest, most interesting unpretentious boardwalk and garden to walk through in DC, this place is sufficiently off the beaten track that there's hardly ever a tourist. Entrance is free, so invest in an Uber. Gaze contemplatively across the water. Watch the herons. I like this place so much more than the neighboring Arboretum.
Museum of the Department of the Interior: Winning a special shout out for museums in random places, inside this government office lies a sweet, tiny, quirky museum. I felt like an adventurer. And I liked their park poster exhibition.
DASER: In a town of politics and silos, there is something genuinely heartwarming about participating in art/science mashup events. Plus, they're really interesting and smart and thought provoking. Bravo, National Academy of Sciences.
Smithsonian at 8: The Smithsonian Associates put on lots of really interesting events, with a preponderance of pensioners, but this is their 'young person' arm and they do excellent events in Smithsonian museums. Their Postal Museum one was by far the best
Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW): I have gone to lots of formal art classes in our nation's capital, and wished that I could find a homey local arts center to take arts classes... then I did. The classes are great, they're good value, and you don't need to be a crazy high achiever to take them.
Sixth and I: DC oddly lacks versatile venues, which is why Sixth and I is an unusual gem. Music, comedy, storytelling, literary death matches, book events... we love their enthusiasm for bringing really well curated, eclectic programs to their stage, alongside their religion-focused programs.
Capital Bikeshare: Nothing is more liberating than zooming through the streets of DC, the wind in your hair, the pretty houses flashing by, the knowledge that you're probably going to get to your destination faster than a car, bus or train...
Hillyer Art drop-in life drawing: There's something excellent about knowing you can just drop in, pay $10, and silently draw life models on a Tuesday night. It makes me feel I'm in art school or something.
London's National Theatre Live at Sidney Harman Hall: Our friends rarely know about this, but it's always sold out, so somebody knows! They screen plays from the National Theatre in London and so far, they have all been extremely high quality. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time was better than anything I saw live all year.
TSNY: It feels like the flying trapeze is some crazy thing circus people get to do while we ooh and ah. It seems so unlikely that we can pay $55 and get to do it too, pretty much any day of the week, no matter how incompetent we are. I did it this year. It was terrifying. But also quite brilliant.
10 Things we want to do more of in 2015
1. Check out the new reading series at Kramer Books
2 and 3. Go to more movies at the Angelika Pop-up at Union Market, and the AFI in Silver Spring
4. Go to the upstairs cool whisky bar at Ri Ra Georgetown more, and keep an eye on cool events in their function room (they've had book events and storytelling this year - plus lots of music)
5. Enjoy the lovely and gloriously versatile Slipstream for coffee, lunch, dinner and cocktails
6. Keep a better eye on the Kennedy Center's free Millennium Stage performances and actually go
7. Do more free classes with Knowledge Commons (did collage and medical Spanish this year!)
8. Explore more of DC's cocktail speakeasies
9. Get all-access passes to some of the film festivals and see far more films
10. Fool our lovely audience for an entire year at Perfect Liars Club (the majority of you only guessed the liar twice in all of 2014!