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The Best of the City

The new year brings with it the promise of glittering ideas, names and faces in the world of art, fashion, health and beauty, design, and food—here are DC’s shining examples of what’s hot right now, as well as the gems that will feed our passions in the year ahead.

Illustrator Elizabeth Graeber at BakeHouse, just one of the spots across the city that displays her canvases and murals  

Refine owner Tanya Semsar, whose business seeks to make shopping easier for customers through by-appointment-only showroom browsing, with her French bulldog, Andouille

Amanda Moran (left) with Joe and Tracey Garcia are revolutionizing on-demand salon service with StyleMeBar.

Designer Kate Zaremba, known for her whimsical printed wallcoverings, in her Park View space

Chef and restaurateur Tim Ma will open Kyirisan, a French-Asian bistro in The Shay on Eighth Street this year.


Picture This
Local illustrator Elizabeth Graeber has quietly and profoundly parlayed her talent into commercial success all over town.

When the world needs a punch of vibrancy and something about which to smile, artist Elizabeth Graeber has an answer. And it’s usually in the form of, as she calls them, “imperfect illustrations of pattern, color, food and plants.” The formula sounds simple enough, but the resulting canvases and murals (Alice + Olivia, BakeHouse and Shinola, among others) splashed in the hues of a Crayola factory are anything but—they are mini epiphanies to be cherished. Graeber also has collaborated on books, including An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails ($17, Gotham) by Orr Shtuhl, and in the year ahead, the DC resident will make patterns from her work for fabrics, wallpapers and 3-D objects. “I enjoy creating images that make people happy,” she says. Looking at the breadth of her work across the city—an eclectic collection of macaws, owls, buffaloes, ostriches and sprawling flora—we know she’s succeeding.

Readers’ Choice: Favorite Venue
In a city blessed with the best museums and galleries on the planet, these stand out with our readers for keeping inspiration alive.

1. Newseum
The most interactive space in DC continues to host big events, lectures and films.

2. National Gallery of Art
The element of surprise is a staple here, especially Celebrating Photography. Through March 13 

3. Phillips Collection
The nation’s first modern-art gallery will thrill patrons this winter with Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks From the Paul G. Allen Family Collection. Feb. 6 

4. National Portrait Gallery
The gallery gives us everyone from Paul Newman to Steven Spielberg during Hollywood and Time: Celebrity Covers. April 1-Oct. 2 

5. Museum of Natural History
Take in exhibits like Nature’s Best Photography Presents: Best of the Best, Windland Smith Rice International Awards on the second floor. Through Aug. 2016

Museum Rising
The National Museum of African American history and culture opens this year. Museum Curator Dr. Tuliza Fleming gives us a sneak peek.

Which artists will be showcased in your inaugural exhibit? The gallery will contain 92 works by artists who have been widely recognized by the arts community as well as those who have regrettably been left out of the American art canon. Among the many influential artists who will be [showcased] are Charles Ethan Porter, Robert S. Duncanson, Lois Mailou Jones, Augusta Savage, Jacob Lawrence and Alma Thomas. What is the curatorial vision for the exhibit? We intend to illustrate the central role that African-American artists have played in shaping the history of American art and visual imagery through various modes of fine-art production. How is the exhibit organized? Thematically, with a focus on concepts and ideas, enabling visitors to see [how] artists have engaged with issues and themes throughout America’s history. 14th St. and Constitution Ave. NW

Number Crunch
1,500: Square feet of exhibit-office space at the recently opened new home for the Washington Projects for the Arts—showcasing more than 50 exhibitions and events, including Other Worlds, Other Stories. Through Feb. 9

Long on Brilliance
Drew Porterfield has taken Long View Gallery to a new state of prominence among smaller dynamic venues.

Long View Gallery director Drew Porterfield has an uncanny way of inspiring artists and collectors alike. More than anything, it comes down to passion for local work—and not conforming to any molds. “Long View Gallery has always done things a bit differently,” says Porterfield. “Our artists create meticulous works with precise detail that expresses intense creative labor.” Following a significant renovation in 2013, the gallery space not only doubled in size, but has continued to be a formidable force in DC’s arts community. This past year proved to be an exciting one for Porterfield and his team with the unveiling of their largest public-art project, “Symphony in DC Major” by local sculptor Zachary Oxman. In 2016, we’ll see more work that showcases art of the moment—and the future. Jan. 14-Feb. 14, Mike Weber, 1234 Ninth St. NW, 202.232.4788

Sound & Fury
We are a city of many sounds­—and many of them touching so many genres it’s hard to keep pace. “Most of the guys that I’d like to learn from are dead,” says one of the most brilliant guitarists in DC, Jonny Grave. Indeed, the Silver Spring native is an unabashed throwback, playing a century-old brand of Mississippi blues. Of his three record releases in 2015, the most unique may have been The Clara Barton Sessions, in which he joined other musicians to record Civil War songs. Other local musical luminaries not to miss: Sara Curtin is best- known as half of the indie duo The Sweater Set, but 2015 saw the release of her first solo album. “I loved the depth of the new sounds I found,” she says of the dreamy, adventurous Michigan Lilium, and fans can expect a new EP this year. Eau Claire approaches her music with the goal of “making it as uplifting as possible.” The Calgary-born, DC-based DJ parlayed dance remixes of feel-good tracks like Stevie Wonder’s “Uptight” into shows at 9:30 Club and the Firefly Festival, and the year ahead promises an EP of more ethereal sounds perfect for cocktail culture. Jonny Grave, Feb. 28, Millennium Stage, The Kennedy Center; Sara Curtin, Feb. 12, Songbyrd Music House; Eau Claire, Jan. 1-30, musical residency, U Street Music Hall


On-the-Fly Couture
For those who love to shop strategically, Refine enters the fray with style.

Tanya Semsar wanted a business where she could help customers one on one. Enter Refine, a new on-demand, appointment-only concept in browsing and buying. In the sunny second-story showroom in Cathedral Heights, Semsar, followed around by her French bulldog, Andouille, works with customers solo or in small groups, helping them navigate her chic-girl stock of items like Lamarque’s Joanna brown leather jacket ($650) and Karina Grimaldi’s maite black and red dress ($398). A smattering of accessories includes Ceri Hoover’s leather bags and Jenny Bird’s rock-star rings ($90). The surroundings resemble L.A. chic, including a pink-curtained fitting room. Most of the two dozen or so brands here are made in the United States, and nearly all are by not-seen-everywhere designers. “I’m stocking some different things to give people a real reason to seek us out,” says Semsar. “Everyone is on the go in DC—you barely have time for an outfit change! So I carry quality pieces that mix well.” Showroom appointments are complimentary, and Semsar also makes house calls. “It’s about making shopping easier. And I can bring my dog on request,” she says with a laugh. 3711 Macomb St. NW, 2nd Floor, 240.476.5917

Readers’ Choice: Favorite Luxe Shopping
These retail heavyweights score big with Washingtonians.

1. Neiman Marcus
Discerning shoppers count on the classic retailer for everything from a glam gala to a day at the office. From its top-notch service and luxury label offerings, Neiman Marcus continues to impress. Tysons Galleria and Mazza Gallerie 

2. Nordstrom
With an array of exclusive offerings, in-store appearances by high-profile designers and best-in-class customer service, it’s a perennial favorite. Tysons Corner and Fashion Centre at Pentagon City

3. Hermès
A newcomer to the DC market, the brand opened at CityCenterDC in 2015 and introduced the classic yet cutting-edge looks to the city’s fashionistas.

4. CityCenterDC
This has quickly become the go-to place for those in search of haute couture from an array of must-have labels. 

5. Tiny Jewel Box
The storied jeweler expanded in the most amazing way in 2015, giving it more room for offering exceptional designer jewelry, Swiss watches and showcasing an impressive bridal salon.

“The DC woman is active, independent, smart and chic.”
Carolina Herrera, CH Carolina Herrera, CityCenterDC

Top Five: Men’s boutiques
1. The Tailored Man
This Tysons shop, which feels more like a hip London bar, is where to go for custom suits, jackets, tuxedos and shirts for the biggest events of your life­—and everyday good looks. Ask for Sanjay; he’s the fashion raconteur.

2. Hugh & Crye
This menswear company has come a long way from selling shirts online out of a tiny Georgetown office. Last year, it moved into an industrial showroom just a stone’s throw from Nats Park while it expanded into popover shirts and vintage accessories.

3. Kit and Ace
Technical cashmere didn’t used to be a thing around here. And then Kit and Ace opened a permanent home in Shaw. Now we love the brand’s eminently comfortable, perfectly fitting cashmere-and-cotton-blend button-ups.

4. The Tie Bar
Yes, Washingtonians still wear ties. So many, in fact, that before this Chicago-based tie-and-accessory shop landed in Shaw with a pop-up this fall, DC was already one of its top markets for online sales. Look for a permanent space this year.

5. Onward Reserve
Just when you thought the Euro looks of brands like Rag & Bone were taking over Georgetown, here came this unabashedly preppy, collegiate-minded retailer out of Georgia. Watch a football game at the bourbon bar in back.

Stateside Chic
DC’s shopping scene got local in 2015 with the arrival of brands dedicated to American-made products.

In 2015, the District’s buzzy 14th Street corridor added even more stores to talk about when Seattle-based Filson and Detroit-based Shinola moved in. Both shops, with their sleek leather goods and casual adventurer clothing, cater to the fashionable—and socially conscious—shopper. “It’s the whole idea of local content,” says Filson’s president, Gray Madden. “People want to know where their consumer goods are coming from.”

Fashion Freedom
Local designer Tala Raassi expands beyond her signature swimsuits with a line of activewear and dresses in her quest to build a fashion empire.

Tala Raassi is the woman who turned wearing a miniskirt into a political statement. At 16, while living in Iran, Raassi’s all-American attire landed her in prison for five days. Her story was picked up by Marie Claire and, after returning to DC, she created her swimwear line, Dar Be Dar. “Having the choice behind what you wear is important,” says Raassi. “I’ve always loved fashion, but I wanted to have a mission behind it.” Last year, Raassi added activewear, beachwear and dresses to her collection, and later this year, she’ll release a memoir, Fashion Is Freedom. Also, look for her first runway show at Miami Swim Week and several fashion events in DC. Swimsuits $80-$200


About Face
DC native Adrienne Shostak left behind a successful beauty business in London to return to her roots with a skincare salon in Georgetown.

When Adrienne Shostak left DC for London, she was a post-collegiate expat with a job cataloging art at a private collection. When she returned to America seven years later, she was a star facialist with a successful beauty business to her name. She got her training at the London School of Beauty and Makeup before opening her British business, but, last year, the blond beauty decided to set up shop in Georgetown. Bespoke Aesthetics is just what the name says—a custom skincare clinic that caters to clients looking for holistic solutions. Shostak offers everything from organic facials to medical-grade chemical peels. “Rather than booking a treatment, you book a block of time,” she explains. After just one year, she’s expanded into a larger space on Wisconsin Avenue and plans to launch her own skincare line. $150-$450 per hour, 1625 Wisconsin Ave. NW, 2nd Floor, 202.817.3949

Just Say Spa
In the past year, we saw the opening of French import Caudalie Spa at CityCenterDC; Sanctuary Cosmetic Center, a medispa offering high-tech skincare treatments, in Tysons; and, most recently, homegrown beauty brand Skincando launching its first long-term pop-up at The Emerald Door Eco Spa in Silver Spring.

Cut Above
Reacting to the demand, Mike Charland and business partner Kelly Gorsuch opened Barber of Hell’s Bottom downstairs at Gorsuch’s Immortal Beloved on 14th Street. The publishers of Milady’s Standard, the barbering bible, tapped Charland as a contributor for the 2016 edition. “I want barbering to be more artful and deliberate,” Charland says. $60-$95

Salon Perfect
Beauty vets Tracey and Joe Garcia, along with Amanda Moran, revolutionize on-demand beauty.

The idea behind last year’s launch of DC-based StyleMeBar is brilliantly simple: on-demand salon service that offers a glam squad at your door with just an hour’s notice. “We wanted to do a full-service salon that comes to you,” says Tracey Garcia, who co-founded the company with her friend and fellow former Fox News hair and makeup artist, Amanda Moran, and husband Joe Garcia. With more than a year under their belt, the Garcias and Moran—who count politicians, TV pundits and on-air personalities among their clients—have already expanded the company to include 25 stylists. In 2016, the trio looks to grow their business model beyond the District to Miami, Atlanta, Nashville and even London. “But before we expand, we want to perfect it in DC,” says Tracey. Salon perfect, indeed. Services from $50, 703.853.7072

Readers’ Choice: Favorite Salon/Stylist
These salons and superstar stylists will have you looking your best all year long.

1. Karma/Erwin Gomez
Gomez has long been a go-to for the gala set, and he has launched a makeup line so ladies can get his signature look even when they can’t score a last-minute appointment. 

2. Peggy Loakim
Loakim caters to a high-profile clientele, including actresses Kate Walsh and Rosario Dawson, who have her on speed dial when in DC. 

3. Salon Bisoux
Krista and Philippe Depeyrot have a love story made in a hair salon. They recently launched their own full-service salon, Salon Bisoux, in Del Ray as a true labor of love. 

4. One80/Fred Hawck
Not many stylists get their start on the stage, but theater major Fred Hawck first worked with the actors at Arena Stage before taking his talent for hair to this K Street salon. 

5. Logan 14
A fan favorite on 14th Street, Logan 14 has been offering salon services from cuts to colors to facials even before the 14th Street Corridor became a hot spot for DC’s trendiest residents.

Rooftop Revelation
The downward dog heads outdoors as DC welcomes two new rooftop yoga studios.

Yoga and its different iterations remain a mainstay for stressed-out Washingtonians. In 2015, yoga studios raised the roof with the opening of two new spaces—East Side Yoga and Bridges Fitness and Yoga—that offer Vinyasa with a view. In summer 2016, look for Bridges to move from its Bethesda pop-up to a permanent space. Namaste! Monthly pass $139; $240 for 10 classes


Ditto That Design
Ditto Residential drives an architectural stake in the ground for the modern aesthetic around town.

Boutique design CEO Martin Ditto has a personal mission statement that is as clear-cut as any in Washington. “My job is to consistently deliver modern design,” he says. “If I do that over and over, at the very least, people can say they like what Ditto is doing.” And in the past few years, we truly like what the developer and his team of visionary architects at Ditto Residential are doing, including his millennial dreamscape known as Oslo at 1734 Sixth Street—a mind-blowing mix of communal and private space one block from the Shaw Metro. “America has focused on building a nation for 200 years—now we have to ask how we want our communities to look. People are much more open to nontraditional design these days,” he says. On tap for the busy year ahead: 45 units at 1326 Florida Avenue boasting two to three bedrooms—a hot commodity in DC—that will likely be scooped up quickly.

“Finally, DC is being recognized internationally as a contemporary city. We’re happy to have been a small part of that.”
Douglas Burton, co-founder, Apartment Zero

Sitting Pretty
At first glance, the tailored sofas and chairs at Merrifield’s Willem Smith FurnitureWorks look similar to other high-end North Carolina upholstery. But flip over a few cushions, and you’ll find a comfy little secret: what founder John Smith calls the ErgoRide, an ingenious device that connects the back and seat cushions. “It keeps things from slipping and supports the lower back,” he says. “It’s just a better way to sit.” The system, which shows up on Smith’s handsome armchairs and loose-cushion couches, is such an innovation, the company sought—and quickly got—a patent last year. “We drove a sofa down to the U.S. Patent Office in a white van,” says Smith with a laugh. “The examiners were poker-faced as they sat on it, but they must’ve felt the benefit.”

Pattern Player
Designer Kate Zaremba is seriously devoted to creating printed wallcoverings and hopes her wallpaper (festooned with avocados) and throw-pillow covers (emblazoned with images of townhouses)produce lighthearted reactions. “I make things that are funny or beautiful,” says Zaremba, sitting in the white-walled Park View studio she shares with two other local designers. “It’s about producing things that are playful and accessible.” After art school in Kansas City, Mo., Zaremba worked with designer Jonathan Adler in New York City. “I definitely loved his philosophy of happy chic,” she says. Now, to create her own joyful pieces, Zaremba starts by hand-cutting paper or sketching images, then uses the resulting forms to puzzle together prints. “I think of logic games to figure out how things fit,” she says. The resulting wallpapers ($108 per full roll) show up in powder rooms or on accent walls in DC and beyond. Zaremba also does custom-cut paper portraits (from $125); send her a favorite photo (your terrier, a vacation selfie), and she’ll craft a colorful one-of-a-kind gift. “People are definitely drawn to things that are made by hand,” she says.

Readers’ Choice: Favorite Interior Design + Designers
Where to go for creating modern spaces in DC

1. Joe Ireland/J.D. Ireland
The Dupont Circle-based interior architecture and design firm continues to transform DC spaces into modern marvels brimming with comfort and style.

2. Urban Country
The luxe retailer in Bethesda, Md., offers furniture, lighting and accessories that walk the fine line of chic and function with great effect. 

3. Room & Board
Outfitting your spaces with Room & Board is a noble statement in the modern aesthetic. From sleek Andover extension tables to Bennet beds, form and function mesh wonderfully.

4. Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
Twenty-five years is a long time to be consistently gorgeous, but that’s exactly what these design masters have pulled off: innovative furniture that inspires a lifestyle of grace and comfort.

5. Maggie O’Neill/Swatch Room
From the new Pennsylvania 6 restaurant design to collaborations with Alan Popovsky’s mini resto empire, O’Neill has managed to give DC’s public spaces a look that signals a new era of color and cool around town.


Shaw is a veritable boomtown-within-a-boomtown, with more than 25 restaurants expected to open there within the next year.

It seems like just yesterday that chef Tim Ma opened Maple Avenue in Vienna, Va.; now his restaurant group includes Water and Wall and Chase the Submarine. He debuts in Washington with Kyirisan, a French-Asian bistro in The Shay on Eighth Street. A block over, on Ninth Street, 25-year-old wunderkind and Eleven Madison Park alum Kwame Onwuachi is opening The Shaw Bijou, a 30-seat restaurant offering 18-course tasting menus. Meanwhile, in Blagden Alley, Charleston transplant (chef de cuisine at James Beard Award-winning chef Sean Brock’s McCrady’s) Jeremiah Langhorne is killing it at hard-to-get-into The Dabney with mid-Atlantic fare. The past year was stellar for two other pedigreed pros: Aaron Silverman and Jamie Leeds. The former, whose Rose’s Luxury on Capitol Hill was named best new restaurant in the country in 2014 by Bon Appetit, will open a 30-seat fine-dining restaurant right next door in 2016. Leeds, of Hank’s Oyster Bar fame, recently debuted a cocktail bar in Petworth called The Twisted Horn. She plans to start 2016 out with her first Italian restaurant, Hank’s Pasta Bar, in Alexandria, Va. That puts her at supernova status.

Readers’ Choice: Favorite Restaurants + Catering
In a city of great tastes, these are some of the big favorites.

1. Goodstone Inn & Restaurant
This Loudoun County gem, led by chef John Leonard, boasts a seasonal menu that includes escargots bourguignonne and duck confit with leek ravioli.

2. Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab
The Miami import has quickly become a hot spot downtown since its opening last year; indulge in the stone crabs, of course, but also don’t miss the bone-in signature prime steaks. 

3. Founding Farmers
With its 2015 expansion into Tysons, the resto with American pedigree offers dishes like glazed cedar-plank salmon and handmade pastas. 

4. Charlie Palmer Steak
Catering to a crowd that appreciates a new regime of steak joints, the downtown resto offers everything from the excellent porterhouse for two to Chesapeake rockfish.

5. Windows Catering
It’s challenging to provide exceptional bites for massive amounts of people—and do it consistently well. But the Alexandria-based caterer continues to make rooftop soirees and elegant weddings tasty affairs.

The Outsiders
DC has produced its own recent superstars, but it’s still thrilling when international talent chooses District turf. When David Chang abruptly opened Momofuku in October, lines formed at CityCenterDC immediately. It was a legitimate scene in a town used to exceptional dining. Milk Bar, Momofuku’s sister bakery, opened next door, and Christina Tosi was once again anointed the queen of simple but heavenly confections. Chang’s 4,500-square-foot eatery, whose disciples adore its pork buns topped with hoisin sauce, features main and private dining rooms as well as a noodle bar. An equal amount of buzz blossomed in September when it was confirmed that legendary sushi maestro Nobuyuki Matsuhisa will open Nobu in the West End in 2016. The 11,600-square-foot Japanese resto will take in views of Rock Creek Park. Expect the master’s yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno, and Tiradito Nobu-style lobster with wasabi-pepper sauce.

Number Crunch
1.3: Yes, $1.3 billion—the price tag on the new MGM National Harbor, set to open in fall 2016. On tap: three signature restaurants featuring powerhouse chefs José Andrés, Marcus Samuelsson and brothers Bryan and Michael Voltaggio. We’d bet on that!

House Calls
DC’s craft bartender renaissance is now so complete that you don’t even have to leave your house to get a great drink.

All hail the Stir Bartending Company, co-founded by a José Andrés barmini vet, which will now bring a full bar to your party, invent custom drinks and even pre-bottle 1-liter cocktails ready to pour for your guests. We also adore that the sips come with fresh produce and hand-carved ice. And the art of customization doesn’t stop at the cocktail shaker; the minds behind Stir also can hold special whiskey tastings, cigar service, and classes and workshops for partygoers who want a little education to complement their sips. $10-$80 per guest

Cider House Rules
ANXO is DC’s first cider bar—slated to open this winter—and it’s poised to take on the spirit world head-on.

ANXO is all about ambition—it’s an urban cider operation that launches on Florida Avenue in February. One of the partners is Sam Fitz, a renowned beer expert (he grows hops in his backyard) who fell in love with Basque cider and now scours the District for fermentable crab apples. “It’s wine, but the business opportunity is to tap into the beer market,” says Fitz. Hence, you can expect spring festivals on the ANXO patio, where the 660-gallon Barolo cask—aging house cider—will be tapped. So far, that cider comes from Millstone Cellars in Maryland, but soon it will be filled with ANXO cider, made from Virginia apples and fermented in a full production facility in Brightwood. “It’ll be the first licensed winery in DC,” Fitz says.