By: Jill Reilly
Photos by: Sam Lee
Just adjacent to Georgetown sits Dupont Circle, one of D.C.’s historic and bustling business districts. While Dupont Circle itself serves as prime real estate for major chains like Starbucks, CVS, and Bank of America, the surrounding area is home to niche boutiques, cafes, bookstores, and more. Easily accessible by car, metro, and GUTS bus, Dupont is the perfect place for a quick getaway, whether it be for shopping, eating, studying, or otherwise. In this issue’s neighborhood guide, we highlight some of Dupont’s well-known spots as well as its hidden gems.
Where to eat:
Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe
There is a reason that this place is so highly regarded; if you like reading and eating, you will inevitably like Kramerbooks. The juxtaposition of traditional meals like malted waffles and corned beef hash with unique takes on dishes like avocado toast served on garlic naan and veggie huevos rancheros makes Afterwords Cafe a great option for weekend brunch with friends. Variety is certainly the theme of Kramerbooks. When you finish (or even before you eat) your meal, take a stroll through the bookstore and browse the extensive collection of titles – political, incredibly apolitical, and everything in between. And for those of you who aren’t looking for additional reading, find some comic relief in the greeting card section, where you will be exposed to high-level tongue-in-cheek humor.
Two words: Spanish tapas. Don’t be fooled by the small portions at Boqueria; you will find yourself ordering and eating your weight in pan con tomate, patatas bravas, paella, jamón Ibérico, and a plethora of twists on traditional Spanish fare. And it doesn’t stop there. Even if you forgot to save room for dessert, you will be tempted by the extensive churro dessert list featuring traditional churros, nutella stuffed churros, the churro ice cream sandwich, churro s’mores, and the churro ice cream sundae. Though I recommend Boqueria as a special occasion dinner restaurant, they do serve brunch with bottomless mimosas, so…do with that what you will.
Specializing in mezzes, Iron Gate sources from local farmers to produce artful dishes that will make you wonder: should I even be eating this? Per my warning for Boqueria, don’t be fooled by the smaller portions. My advice? Order lots and share! For lunch, dip your crispy, seasoned russet potatoes in the accompanying yogurt sauce or opt for the feta and roasted chili dip served with veggies and fennel seed crackers. Then move onto lamb keftedes and pecorino chicken cutlets or caramelized ricotta gnocchi. If you’re in the mood for a bigger meal all to yourself, take advantage of Iron Gate’s shaved pork gyro or oak grilled burger. With their condensed, flavorful menu, there is really no way to go wrong. Since Iron Gate is on the pricier side, it may become one of your “when the parents are in town” go-tos.
The Dupont location of this small DC chain serves up fresh tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and more twenty four hours a day, seven days a week – what more could we ask for? This place even offers breakfast specials like the “Mackinac” – their take on a breakfast burritos in a warm flour tortilla with scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns, and jack and cheddar cheese – from 11pm-11am. If that doesn’t sell you, I don’t know what will.
Where to shop:
Second Story Books
If you’ve done Kramerbooks and are on the lookout for something a little off the beaten path, look no further than Second Story Books on P Street, NW. Home to a large selection of rare and out-of-print books, Second Story is not your conventional bookstore. Also on display for purchase are posters, prints, and maps that could make great additions to that white cinderblock wall you’ve been meaning to cover.
Calling all bullet journalists! Jenni Bick is your one-stop shop for pens, handcrafted notebooks, stationery, and more. Specializing in custom leather journals, Jenni Bick is a must for Paper Source regulars. The walls lined with colorful, simplistic leather-bound journals will instantly brighten any dreary D.C. day. Whether you are on the search for something sleek and modern or old-fashioned and worn, you are sure to find what you looking for among Jenni Bick’s myriad products. Their custom embossed journals also make great gifts (maybe for your wonderful parents who take you out to Iron Gate?)!
Want designer clothes on a budget? Look no further than Secondi, Dupont’s premier consignment store. Housed on the upper floor of 1702 Connecticut Avenue, Secondi is worth the trip. As is the case with many thrift shops, finding what you are looking for may take a bit of searching, but I promise there are some gems lying in the racks if you are willing to put in the time. Secondi even carries some vintage items dating back to the 1920s that are always fun to try on (maybe they’ll even come back into style?). As an added bonus, you can simply head downstairs to Dolcezza on the first floor for some coffee and gelato after you’ve worked up an appetite from all that thrifting.
Shop Made in D.C.
If you only have time to check out one place in Dupont, make it Shop Made in D.C.. This part-store-part-cafe reimagines the concept of a traditional marketplace. A collaboration between local makers and the D.C. Department of Small Business, Shop Made in D.C. houses local pop-up designers and food vendors. Depending on when you go, you may be greeted by displays of handmade jewelry, succulents, hand-painted posters, or candles. And you should plan to stay awhile because you will surely be enticed by the rotating menu featuring local coffee roasters, breweries, juice bars, and dumpling vendors, to name just a few. Needless to say, you will not run out of things to do at Shop Made in D.C..
Where to study:
Emissary is my favorite cafe in D.C., and that is saying a lot. With its exposed brick and industrial lighting (the “rustic toast aesthetic”, as my roommate and I fondly call it), this subterrarium spot somehow makes you feel like you are working away in a cozy basement study. You simply can’t go wrong with a cup of coffee and literally anything on their menu (although I am a major proponent of the kale farro bowl and smashed avocado toasts) to fuel your studying. Though I highly recommend this place in the morning or afternoon (because their food options are out of this world and the lighting streaming in from the windows is best during the day), if you finish your work and are looking to stay, Emissary transforms into a bar at night, serving drinks and a slightly different menu featuring bar snacks like herb truffle popcorn and white bean hummus. (*They also have free wifi)
Un je ne sais Quoi
Specializing in merveilleux – which literally means “marvelous” in French and consists of two meringues sandwiched together with whipped cream, often dipped in chocolate, and topped with chocolate shavings – this small French bakery is perfect for studiers with a sweet tooth. In addition to several different takes on the traditional merveilleux, Un je ne sais Quoi serves up croissants, chouquettes (French cream puffs), and illy coffee to keep you going during long study sessions. The quiet atmosphere, window seating, and sweet scent of pastry dough wafting through the bakery makes for an incredibly pleasant experience all-around. Beware, you may even forget you traveled here to study.
Now that you know there is more to Dupont than the circle, hop on the GUTS bus and get yourself to one or more of these locations! Whether you’re looking to shop, eat, study, or all of the above, I guarantee you will not regret making the short trip out of Georgetown.