Customers can record the stories behind their framed pieces in this vintage-inspired recording booth. All photographs courtesy of Framebridge.

The 14th Street strip is getting even more millennial-friendly thanks to Framebridge’s first brick-and-mortar flagship store, which opens today. A satellite location of the store will open in Bethesda Row in April.

The gallery wall mecca has made a name for itself by streamlining the framing process, offering handcrafted frames at a reasonable price (options start at $39 and shipping is free) and an online process that walks customers step-by-step through choosing a custom layout.

The idea for a store came about when customers started to stop by the company’s Georgetown headquarters, says Framebridge founder and CEO Susan Tynan, who started the company in 2014. They wanted to inquire about seeing a frame in-person or get customer service help, seeking “that human interaction” beyond just a website, says Tynan.

The gallery wall includes objects significant to the Washington area.

That being said, the Framebridge team wanted to be sure that by opting to stop by a physical storefront, customers weren’t losing any of the ease and efficiency they’d come to associate with the site.

“Our goal is if you want to get in and out in five minutes, you could,” says Tynan. “We have built the store design and the technology to support that. We want people to think it’s fun and easy, not an errand you keep putting off.”

In the store, customers can place their art or mementos against layouts that show the pricing and look of various mat and framing combinations. They can also upload photos or artwork via phones to in-store iPads, where an employee will show them what their pieces would look like when framed. At every step, transparency is key: As you choose different frames and mats, the price is updated to reflect your selections. (Of course, if you’d rather do everything online from home and then come in to pick up the frame at the store, you can do that, too.)

Customers can join employees at tables to walk through their custom framing options. Mat and frame choices are clearly outlined with prices.

Need inspiration? Walk up to a cupboard that contains drawers of already-framed pieces or check out the framed gallery wall in-store, which features District mementos such as tickets from the National Museum of African American History and Culture, a waiter’s bow tie from the Tombs, and a DC license plate from the 1970s. A section of work by local artists will be available for purchase, too. 

And, because the company caters to a lot of millennials (50 percent of Framebridge’s clientele is of that age group, says Tynan), of course the mid-century design vibes abound. Think brass light fixtures, a seating area with low-slung furniture, and lots of bright, clean lines. In a corner sits a 1960s-inspired recording booth, where customers can record the stories and memories associated with whatever object they’re there to frame.

“This is something we really learned about Framebridge—how important the things people framing really are,” says Tynan, who is a champion of being intentional about the things you walk past everyday. “We want people to celebrate what they’re framing, not just how we’re framing it.”

Susan Tynan, Framebridge founder and CEO.

While Tynan wanted the first Framebridge stores to be in the Washington area so that folks from headquarters could stop by as needed, she anticipates more stores will eventually open in new markets. Already, Framebridge has raised over $67 million in funding and has 450 employees between its headquarters and manufacturing facility in Kentucky. 

In the meantime, the 14th Street location will be busy. There will be a grand opening party March 28 with food and drink, a DJ, in-store letterpress printing, and poets penning haikus for customers (which, of course, you can have framed). Local decluttering expert Jenny Albertini will give a talk April 11 on living intentionally in a small space, and celebrity designer Nate Berkus will be in the store April 30.

And Tynan hopes to host events with new neighbors like Salt & Sundry, she says, and to become a big part of the 14th Street community.

“We believe the brand stands for having really interesting experiences,” she says. “So inviting people in Washington to celebrate what they’ve done and making sure the space is celebrating that—we think we can do some cool things.”

Framebridge; 1919 14th St. NW

Assistant Editor

Mimi Montgomery joined Washingtonian in 2018. She previously was the editorial assistant at Walter Magazine in Raleigh, North Carolina, and freelanced for PoPVille and DCist. Originally from North Carolina, she now lives in Adams Morgan.

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Happy Tuesday. Remember to look up at the sky tonight and tomorrow—we’ll see a supermoon during the spring equinox. I wonder what my Co-Star chart has to say about this.

Ball is life: March Madness, aka the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, starts today. The University of Maryland is the only local team with a presence in the men’s matchups—a number of Virginia schools also made it—while the DMV is represented in the women’s tournament by UMD and Towson. Barack Obama has shared his brackets since 2009, but we have yet to see a March Madness prediction from Donald Trump. Maybe we should create a bracket for what fast food spots will be featured at the President’s winner’s dinner? (I’m pulling for Wendy’s—have you had those spicy nuggets?) That is, if it happens at all: last year’s victors, the Villanova Wildcats, were not extended a White House invite. Quell game time nerves during the unpredictable tournament with drink deals, courtesy of nightlife blog Barred in DC.

In news that will please the new urbanist memes for the transit-oriented teens: DC Mayor Muriel Bowser gave her annual State of the District address last night at the University of the District of Columbia. In her speech, Bowser declared the DC Circulator would eliminate its $1 fare. The bus has been offering free rides since January 28 for “Fair Shot February.” Now we can all channel our inner bus raccoon and ride fare-free.

Affordable housing was also at the center of Bowser’s speech, with a pledge to increase funding for the DC Housing Production Trust Fund. Bowser proposed guiding $130 million a year into the fund that supports affordable housing in the city, an increase from her first term’s $100 million a year. Bowser faced controversy for shuttering the DC General shelter in October and homelessness activists had a presence at last night’s address. Outside the venue, protesters held signs saying “keep DC for me.” Inside, attendees chanting “this is our home” were escorted out.

Highlights from the night also included a proposal to move the 2020 presidential primary from June to April and a plan to buy RFK stadium. No word on her current stance on Mumbo sauce.

A “perfect Washington story”: Former DNC chair Donna Brazile will join Fox News as a commentator. “Listen more, talk less. Be civil to one another,” she wrote yesterday. “These are the lessons and the attitude I will bring to Fox News.” Brazile’s new job is a “perfect Washington story,” Erik Wemple writes, “in which both parties set aside their principled objections in favor of their unprincipled interests.”

I’m your author, Brittany Shepherd. Email me at bshepherd@washingtonian.com and follow me on Twitter. Daniella Byck (dbyck@washingtonian.com) contributed to reporting today. Please subscribe to this newsletter.

Look, I’m all about online growth. That’s why I agree with Anna Fitzpatrick—we shouldn’t judge politicians on their nerdy and lame tweets from 2009. But everything else should be fair game, right? I can’t get enough of Cory Booker‘s “I’m breaking up with sleep” joke that he keeps making in what feels like a dad joke Groundhog Day. Example one of many:

Where do you think Booker likes to stock up on his best friend: java? The US Senator from New Jersey calls H Street corridor home in DC, so my bet’s on the Wydown.

What’s on my mind: Is DC a safe space for celebrities? Actress Minnie Driver tweeted that she had a drink alone here last night without being recognized. May we all embody her “drinking alone and feeling French” energy.

What we have cooking at Washingtonian:

Our pick for things to do around town:

DANCE Choreographer Akiko Kitamura’s work Cross Transit transforms Kim Hak‘s photographs of Cambodian culture into movement. A collaboration between Cambodian history and Japanese art, the work includes dance, film, and photography in a single show at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theatre. $29-$39, 7:30 PM.

Good reads:

Reparations have been a hot topic for 2020 candidates, and Ta-Nehisi Coates shares his thoughts on the conversation. Spoiler alert: he is feeling optimistic. (New York)

Is being a “foodie” more than understanding orange wine and uni toast? Josephine Livingstone argues taking on the title now requires thinking critically about the controversies and biases that mire the food industry (The New Republic).

Big events from Washingtonian:

Do you really love the drip coffee from Swings? Adore the sweets at District Doughnut? Our annual readers poll is now live–take it and let us know your favorite things in Washington. You could win two tickets to our fabulous Best of Washington party in June.

Staff Writer

Brittany Shepherd covers the societal and cultural scene in political Washington. Before joining Washingtonian as a staff writer in 2018, Brittany was a White House Correspondent for Independent Journal Review. While she has lived in DC for a number of years now, she still yearns for the fresh Long Island bagels of home. Find her on Twitter, often prattling on about Frasier.

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Food

Nicos chef Gerardo Vázquez Lugo transformed the three-story Buena Vida/TTT

Buena Vida/TTT opens in Arlington with one of Mexico City’s top chefs at the helm (pictured: “Mexican diner” TTT). Photography by Evy Mages.

You won’t find cheesy enchilada platters and bottomless brunch at Buena Vida/Tacos Tortas Tequila (TTT) in Arlington, a massive three-story Mexican eatery and rooftop bar that opens Monday. Though its name and dueling restaurant/cafe concept are similar to the flagship in Silver Spring, Ambar restaurateur Ivan Iricanin tapped one of Mexico City’s top chefs, Gerardo Vázquez Lugo, to design the food and train the team. The result, at least on paper, is more interesting and complex than much of what Washington’s recent taco boom has yielded.

Chef Gerardo Vázquez Lugo of lauded Mexico City restaurant Nicos, a 62 year-old institution. Photograph courtesy of Buena Vida.

Lugo’s parents opened Nicos, a traditional Mexico City cafe in an industrial neighborhood, over 60 years ago. He took over the restaurant kitchen in 1996, working alongside his mother to serve refined Mexican fare that borrows from both a Slow Food philosophy—Lugo helped spearhead the movement in Mexico—and modern techniques. (The restaurant currently ranks among Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants on the annual San Pellegrino hot list). A local food guide led Iricanin there for lunch when he was researching menus for the second Buena Vida/TTT. The new location was initially intended to be another small plates concept with all-you-can-eat menus. But having Lugo sign on to the project—after much wooing—changed everything.

“So many restaurants are going back to the roots of Mexican cooking,” says Lugo of the thriving dining scene in his hometown. Buena Vida/TTT is his first project outside Mexico, though he says he isn’t altering his cooking philosophy or style. “We’re not changing the food for the American taste.”

Buena Vida TTT Arlington Mexican Restaurant Breakfast Diner Rooftop Bar Yucatan-style duck in red pumpkin sauce that’s wrapped in shaved zucchini.

Many of the a la carte dishes on the dinner menu are rarely found around DC—think tequila-marinated, slow-cooked rabbit barbacoa, Yucatan-style duck wrapped in zucchini, or smoky vegetables mextlapique grilled in corn husks. The dishes are annotated with information about their origins and meaning (i.e. “bear soup,” actually a bear-free seafood stew nicknamed by workers building a dam).

Buena Vida TTT Arlington Mexican Restaurant Breakfast Diner Rooftop Bar The second-floor bar at Buena Vida.

A few Lugo family specialties have also migrated from Nicos, such as octopus in its ink with pickled yellow chilies or sopa di seco (“dry soup”) where Spanish vermicelli noodles soak up a chili-rich broth for a pasta-like dish. Similar to the Mexico City restaurant, roving carts will deliver made-to-order salsas, Caesar salad—the original kind from Caesar’s hotel in Tijuana—and tequilas and mezcals. In addition to ample agave drinks from beverage consultant Esteban Ordonez, the team is working on a tepache recipe (a fermented pineapple drink). Iricanin says they hope to build the largest Mexican wine list in the US. 

Buena Vida TTT Arlington Mexican Restaurant Breakfast Diner Rooftop Bar Buena Vida’s dining room.

TTT, located below Buena Vida on the sidewalk-level, is what Iricanin calls a “Mexican diner” inspired by fondas, beloved mom-and-pop cafes of Mexico City. The casual 157-seat space—which includes a separate bar and roomy patio—will eventually open for breakfast through dinner (and possibly later with a taco takeout window). Lugo takes a from-scratch approach across kitchens, so you’ll find homemade corn and flour tortillas; fresh-baked torta rolls; and breakfast pastries. Crowd-pleasers join lesser-seen street eats such as tacos de guisados filled with homey stews and rice for soaking up the juices, as well as torta sandwiches stuffed with chile relleno or braised octopus.

Buena Vida TTT Arlington Mexican Restaurant Breakfast Diner Rooftop Bar A raw bar menu at Buena Vida includes several styles of ceviche (pictured: tuna with fresh herbs).

Both restaurants will be joined by a huge 150-seat rooftop in the coming weeks.  The design inspiration was 1950s Acapulco for a retro-tropical vibe. Menus are still in the works, but Lugo is thinking toward the ocean—maybe a build-your-own-ceviche bar or whole grilled fish. Definitely lots of margaritas and Mexican beers. And, Iricanin says, an outdoor hookah lounge. So is hookah big in Mexico City?

“No,” says Iricanin, “but we’re still about surprises and having fun.”

Buena Vida/TTT Clarendon. 2900 Wilson Blvd.., Arlington; 703-888-1259.

Buena Vida TTT Arlington Mexican Restaurant Breakfast Diner Rooftop Bar A cocktail cart loaded with tequilas and mezcals will roll around the dining room for table-side drinks.

Anna Spiegel

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.

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Washington, DC, was not the only city in which the designers of  Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 considered setting the new hit game. Lead environmental artist Chad Chatterton tells Washingtonian the team mulled over Seattle and New Orleans—but something about the District pushed it to the top of their list. For Chatterton, the game’s narrative—which follows special agents and individual soldiers whose HQ is in the White House after a pandemic precedes a civil war—fit naturally with the physical space of DC. Compared to the first game’s New York cityscape, Washington provided lower-rise buildings and a more spacious skyline.

“Washington offered us wide open spaces,” says Chatterton. “The low rooftops [offer] a grand sky that you don’t quite get in New York. You’ve got environments like Roosevelt Island and around the Potomac which are completely natural.” He explained that such variance in landscape anchors the “very tight metrics and dimensions that our gameplay relies on.”

But how did they replicate the city’s open world environments with such precision? Chatterton credits extensive research and multiple trips to the city. Three years ago, Chatterton joined a research trip that made sure to visit the District during the swampy summertime (the atmosphere captured in the game). Staff were given tours of the Capitol and the White House (provided during the Obama administration). Developers chatted with dozens of experts and locals, including street artists and were led on tours by architects and historians to sites deemed “interesting and suitable for the post-collapse DC narrative we’re pushing.” Some of those experts included a disaster specialist from FEMA who had firsthand knowledge with Hurricane Katrina relief. A priority of the research team, Chatterton stressed, was learning from experts how Washington would respond to a disaster of the scale portrayed in the game.

“We have actual evacuation and likely supply routes. We spent time with the US Coast Guard to learn about the significance of the Potomac and the Tidal Basin to Washington as as a site to receive supplies in case of crisis but also as a potential weak point for threats.”

Can you visit your favorite Starbucks in the game? Not exactly. Popular sights like the Lincoln Memorial, the National Air and Space Museum, Dupont Circle Metro Station, George Washington University’s “U Yard”, the Capitol, and the National Mall are all depicted in detail, but Division 2’s world is not endless. Players can travel as west as Roosevelt Island and as north as Washington Circle (I don’t think Burger Tap & Shake makes it through the pandemic) with a couple of edits (Dupont Underground, for example, has moved several blocks south). Those stops aren’t arbitrary—Chatterton’s team consulted data from floods that took place in 2006 to create science-based boundaries.

Interior of Dupont Metro Station.

Designers  give a nod to the long-time residents of Washington, too; look close enough you can find custom street art created by local artist Kelly Towles on walls around the faux-city. “It’s in its own way a kind of exhibition platform,” Chatterton says.

Custom art by Kelly Towles. More art by Towles.

Chatterton believes one of the game’s most striking images matches one of the first vistas he experienced landing in Washington. “My first views were coming across the bridge from Arlington, passing Roosevelt Island and seeing the JFK performing arts center on the left, Lincoln Memorial on the right, and the Washington Monument straight ahead.” Now, that scene has been reimagined to account for chaos, with damage to most monuments and smoke billowing from the Kennedy Center, which has been overtaken by an enemy faction.

That reimagining of DC from that perspective, I think, is really strong and I’m really proud of that.”

Staff Writer

Brittany Shepherd covers the societal and cultural scene in political Washington. Before joining Washingtonian as a staff writer in 2018, Brittany was a White House Correspondent for Independent Journal Review. While she has lived in DC for a number of years now, she still yearns for the fresh Long Island bagels of home. Find her on Twitter, often prattling on about Frasier.

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Weddings

Kimcuong Dang and Andrew Mahan wed in June of 2018 in Washington, DC.

Four years before they officially started dating, Kimcuoung(KC) Dang and Andrew Mahan first laid eyes on one another at a college party. Neither one of them introduced themselves to the other, but when their friend groups merged it became harder to ignore their connection. “I just remember seeing such a soft kindness in his eyes that I hadn’t seen on anyone before, and from then on I was determined to be his best friend,” says KC. “I’d say I was pretty successful.”

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Four years after meeting, their new careers brought them to the same city. It didn’t take long for their friendship to blossom into more, and the couple dated for another four years before getting engaged.

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On the night of the proposal, KC noticed something was different when her sister declined the dessert menu during their routine sister dinner date, instead boasting about the pints of ice cream she had back at her apartment. And then when her sister prompted a location change to the rooftop, KC reluctantly agreed. “As soon as I stepped out onto the roof deck, I saw Andrew,” says KC. “He was all dressed up in his nicest sport coat, surrounded by a bunch of candles and roses.” After the proposal, the couple’s family and friends appeared on the roof, before they all headed to a local bar to celebrate the engagement together. 

Taking inspiration from their recent European travels together, KC and Andrew designed their wedding to mirror the features of European art and architecture. For the ceremony, the couple chose the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle for its stunning Romanesque appearance. The couple adored the Cathedral so much that even their invitation suite bore a customized sketch, crafted by the groom, of the building.

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Blue hydrangeas and golden hues tied together the elegance of the couple’s European-infused nuptials in the reception space. As another nod to the couple’s history, guests found their seats with miniature vespa escort cards.

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“One of my favorite details were our Vespa escort card holders. We have a Vespa of our own, and it was our first big purchase together,” says KC. “We used our Vespa in our engagement pictures, and throughout the wedding planning tried to incorporate it any way that we could.”

Paired with the vespa escort card holders, guests took home ChouQuette Chocolates as wedding favors. Following the celebration, the newlyweds honeymooned throughout Italy.

The Details:

Photographer: Alicia Lacey Photography | Venue: Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle(ceremony), National Museum of Women in the Arts(reception) | Event Coordinator: A. Griffin Events | Florist: Edge Floral Design | Caterers: Spilled Milk Catering | Cake: It Takes the Cake | Hair & Makeup Stylist: JKW Beauty | Bride’s Attire: Watters from Kleinfeld Bridal | Groom’s Attire: Hugo Boss | Music/Entertainment: Free Spirit Band | Transportation: RMA | Videographer: Rising Virgo | Bridal Party Attire: Jenny Yoo, Dessy | Lighting: A2Z Music Factory | Alcohol: Ace Beverage

Natalie Colonna

Natalie is an Editorial Fellow at Washingtonian Weddings. She is a senior Media Studies student at The Catholic University of America in DC.

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News

The DC government isn’t known for great architecture. But its effort to revamp local libraries is creating some exciting spaces.

Clockwise from upper left, the Francis A. Gregory, Bellevue, Cleveland Park, and Tenley/Friendship libraries. Photograph of Gregory by Eric Taylor Photography; of Bellevue by Jeff Sauers; bottom photographs by Evy Mages.

I recently spent a Saturday afternoon checking out a swanky new building in Cleveland Park. Its sleek exterior—all glass, brick, and limestone—strikes a bold profile in a neighborhood not exactly known for contemporary architecture. Inside, light pours into the lobby, which is lined with white marble and rich wood panels. A row of plush armchairs is arranged below hanging lights, recalling a third-wave coffee shop more than a public institution. A graceful staircase leads to a roof deck overlooking a plaza, where rain gardens are filled with lush plants.

Did I mention there are books, too? This luxurious space is actually the new Cleveland Park Library, which opened on Connecticut Avenue last summer. It’s one of a slew of new libraries that have cropped up in the District over the past decade, as the city has undertaken a project to renovate or rebuild each of its 24 branches.

The initiative has already paid off with a series of striking designs that have added to the character of their neighborhoods. The Tenley-Friendship Library, with its distinctive rust-orange fins, offers upper Wisconsin Avenue a shot of color. The Woodridge Library, on Hamlin Street, Northeast, has a white-webbed roof deck that doubles as an unlikely concert venue. The West End Library, at 23rd and L, Northwest, has a vast street-side reading room that feels like an indoor town square. And the Francis A. Gregory and Bellevue branches have given local architecture a shot of star power, as they were designed by David Adjaye, who also oversaw the National Museum of African American History & Culture. Public buildings, Adjaye once said, “should offer places for people to see beautiful things.”


That was the idea when industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie built five lavish libraries in the District during the early 20th century, calling them “palaces for the people.” But 25 years ago, Washington’s libraries were in freefall. By the 1990s, several branches had closed due to a lack of heat, broken plumbing, or vermin infestations. Those that remained still had rotary phones and were forced to reduce their hours. At one point, DC Public Library’s website was taken offline because the system couldn’t afford to pay its webmaster.

Bellevue. Photograph by Edmund Sumner.Bellevue. Photograph by Edmund Sumner.
West End Library. Photograph courtesy of CORE Architecture & Design.West End Library. Photograph courtesy of CORE Architecture & Design.

Then in 2004, mayor Anthony Williams decided to turn things around. The problem went beyond crumbling infrastructure. Libraries had once been key hangout spots—for kids after school, for freelancers needing to get out of the house, and for people who just didn’t have anywhere else to go. But in the 1990s, new spaces were supplanting that traditional role. Williams’s expert panel recommended ways to make libraries centerpieces of their communities, such as wi-fi, flexible meeting spaces, and even access to job training. Since then, the city has spent $500 million on its ongoing effort, starting with the Benning branch in 2008. “It is about books,” said task-force member Richard Levy at one point, “but it’s also about the vitality of the city.”

It’s also an irony. By and large, the city’s private-sector-led 21st-century boom has rarely been marked by memorable architecture. A significant number of the exceptions have come from the poky old source of local development that the new, dynamic DC was supposed to have moved beyond: government. And not just any government. The dramatically designed new libraries—like the city’s rebuilt schoolhouses and reimagined rec centers—were built by the District government, the organization blamed for so many of the prior era’s ills.


The centerpiece of Washington’s library transformation will be the 2020 reopening of the system’s flagship Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. The overhaul is being helmed by the renowned Dutch architecture firm Mecanoo, working with the original 1960s design by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Like the branch libraries, it will offer spaces that residents will want to seek out, just on a grander scale: a two-story reading room, facilities for music recording and 3-D printing, and a breathtaking roof terrace. It’s the kind of showy space that seeks to bring people together not just from the neighborhood but from across the city.

Francis A. Gregory Library. Photograph by Eric Taylor Photography.Francis A. Gregory Library. Photograph by Eric Taylor Photography.

Still, I find myself drawn to the more modest local outposts, with their individual personalities, small but thoughtful design flourishes, and local-character patrons. For anyone who loves to spend hours flipping through old books, libraries are always comforting spaces. No matter what the environs, you can grab something off of a shelf and—for free!—fly off to a different world.

But DC’s new libraries offer something more than those familiar pleasures. They’re great spaces in and of themselves—places to spend time in, not escape.

This article appears in the March 2019 issue of Washingtonian.

Dan is a writer, urban planner, and real-estate agent. He’s also on the board of Action Committee for Transit, an advocacy group in Montgomery County. He blogs at Just Up the Pike. On Twitter, he’s @justupthepike.

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Interior designer Will Joyner’s Southwest Waterfront studio is the ultimate bachelor pad.

When the 53-year-old bought the place in 2006, he was drawn to it for its proximity to the Metro and some of his favorite spots like the National Gallery of Art, the Air and Space Museum, and the Hirshhorn. Now, of course, it’s also a few minutes’ walk away from the Wharf, with all of its restaurants, bars, and shops. “I’ve watched the neighborhood blossom over the years to become one of the District’s most sought-after places to live,” he says.

Joyner packs a lot of glam into the 485-square-foot home—a bonus of living in a small space. “You can spend a little more on things that you love and really want,” he says, “as opposed to compromising on the quality of a piece by stretching the budget to furnish a four- or five-room house.”

Inside, portraits of James Bond and Diana Ross line the walls, and Joyner often invites friends over for what he calls his “famous” cocktails. “I like to think of my space as a sexy hotel suite that I just happen to spend every night in.”

Who lives there: Will Joyner, 53.
Approximate square-feet: 485 square feet.
Number of beds: Zero (studio).
Number of bathrooms: One.
Favorite piece of furniture: It’s a three-way tie: The pair of stainless steel-and-cream vinyl director chairs, the vintage 1970s chrome-and-glass cocktail table (found at the Chelsea Flea Market), and the pair of black leather Nico swivel chairs.
Favorite home interior store: Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, For Your Eyes Only, GoodWood, and Miss Pixie’s. “I love mixing the old with the new!”
Favorite DIY: “I’m a huge fan of the works of the artist Franz Kline, so I created my own, which proudly hangs in my dressing area. I also created the large piece of art that hangs on the wall beside my desk.”
Splurge: The zebra skin rug (yes, it’s real).
Steal: The 1970s vintage coffee table. He paid $150 for it in 2000, and has recently seen similar versions going for $1,000-plus on eBay.
Design advice: “Try to make sure there’s something interesting to see from every vantage point in your space,” says Joyner. “Don’t be afraid to experiment, especially with things that are inexpensive to change, like painting the walls a dark or bold color or changing up the furniture layout.”

Assistant Editor

Mimi Montgomery joined Washingtonian in 2018. She previously was the editorial assistant at Walter Magazine in Raleigh, North Carolina, and freelanced for PoPVille and DCist. Originally from North Carolina, she now lives in Adams Morgan.

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Illustration by Jonathan Bartlett.

Two years into Donald Trump’s term, the President has yet to eat at a single Washington restaurant beyond BLT Prime, the steakhouse in his own downtown hotel.

In a different time, this record would have upset the city’s culinary boosters: DC tends to love it when the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue behaves like a resident of the city beyond the White House gates.

Of course, this isn’t a normal era. Given the politics of the moment, plenty of Washingtonians don’t want him anywhere near their neighborhoods. Trump would risk hostility from patrons and staff wherever he went; restaurants would confront death threats, boycotts, and an angry online mob whether they welcomed him or turned him away.

Look closer, though, and it becomes clear that even if Trump weren’t so di­visive—even if he ordered his steak a respectable medium-rare—his eating expeditions wouldn’t matter much. Our dining landscape has matured to the point that it doesn’t need a presidential spotlight. When Bill and Hillary Clinton visited Red Sage in the ’90s, it made national news—and the political-celeb quotient was one of Washington’s only playing cards in the larger food scene. Not anymore.

The Obama era happened to coincide with a dining boom here and around the country. Barack and Michelle’s regular date nights at hot spots like Rasika and Minibar, along with the infusion of young White House staffers, helped bring national attention to area restaurants at a time when the landscape needed something to be proud of. Things have changed immensely since 2009, with hundreds more bars and restaurants, entire new dining neighborhoods, and the first breweries and distilleries. The Michelin Guide has arrived, and Bon Appétit named DC “Restaurant City of the Year.”

Trump’s local unpopularity masks the fact that any President would be hard-pressed to replicate the influence the Obamas had at a very specific moment in time. If Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders were elected and eating their way across town right now, they’d surely still generate more excitement than Trump. (This is liberal Washington, after all.) But it’s hard to imagine they’d have any resonant impact on the city’s dining reputation. What makes our food and drink worth paying attention to has nothing to do with who lives in the White House.

So if Trump wants to stick to his own restaurant? Let him eat steak.

This article appears in the March 2019 issue of Washingtonian.

Jessica Sidman

Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.

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Food

Sister bar, No Kisses, will debut by the end of the week

Sonny’s Pizza’s whole pie with salami and arugula on one side and anchovies, olives, and capers on the other. Photo by Jessica Sidman.

DC has lots of Neapolitan pies. It’s also home to plenty of jumbo slices. Sonny’s Pizza, now open in Park View, is hoping to bring some attention to the underrepresented grandma-style rectangular.

The restaurant comes from Max Zuckerman and Ben Heller, who also run coffee shop/bar Colony Club next door. The two DC-area natives grew up on classic slice places, like Vace, and wanted to create a casual place where a family could gather after soccer practice or a couple could come for a date.

Sonny’s pizzas have focaccia-like crusts with pan-crisped bottoms, but Zuckerman notes they’re not quite as thick and bread-y as Sicilian-style pizza. The whole tray pizzas, sliced into eight pieces, feed three to four for $28 to $34. Among the options: the “Pesky Mario” with mozzarella, mushrooms, rapini, and Calabrian chilis, as well as the “Pizza Don” showered in arugula and salami. You can also get pizza by the slice ($3.75 to $4.50).

Sonny's PizzaMeatballs with ricotta and a large mixed greens salad. Photo by Jessica Sidman.

The slim menu also includes five sandwiches, including chicken parm and Italian options, served on house-made sesame seed focaccia. You’ll also find garlic knots, beef-pork meatballs with ricotta, and heaping salads for a crowd. To drink, there’s wine on tap and a handful of beers in cans.

The new spot has somewhat of an old-school feel thanks to tables made out of school desks—complete with student etchings like “jocks suck”— and benches from a former bowling alley. A postcard with an image of the FC Barcelona soccer team that Zuckerman picked up on a trip to Italy two summers ago is blown up to cover an old billboard that spans one wall.

By the end of the week, the Sonny’s team is aiming to open an adjoining bar called No Kisses. The sister space has a moodier vibe with velvety green banquettes, floral jungle wallpaper, and a ceiling made of light panels that change colors. Cody Hochheiser, an alum of Pineapple and Pearls and 2Amys, is behind the drink menu (stay tuned).

A huge patio in the back is shared with Colony Club. A vintage milk truck that the owners had initially hoped to turn into a mobile coffee stand will instead serve as a stationary bar with a few beers, wines, and batch cocktails. And in case you’re hungry, a window from the patio to the kitchen will serve Sonny’s pizzas.

Sonny’s Pizza. 3120 Georgia Ave., NW; 202-601-7701. 

Jessica Sidman

Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.

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The impending release of the long-awaited report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidintial election has caused no small amount of excitement in Washington and Moscow. It’s also become the subject of a different kind of anticipation in the town of Tonawanda, New York, in the headquarters of a home-inspection firm called Mueller Reports.

The Mueller report, as consumers of political news know, will be the product of two years of work by special counsel Robert Mueller III. Mueller Reports—as most people in home appraisal business well know—is a 35-year old nationwide firm that deploys inspectors to examine houses for fire-safety and other issues that underwriters tend to care about.

The namesake of the Special Counsel’s report was probably inevitable; the home-investigating firm’s name, however, was less obvious. It dates to September 15, 1983, when Robert Mueller was completing his first year at the Boston US Attorney’s Office. That’s when Irene Mueller (no relation) drove four hours from Williamsville, in upstate New York, to the Department of State, in Albany. Mueller was a personal secretary to Leo Noe, the owner of a new home appraisal business, who dispatched Mueller, then 55, to incorporate the enterprise. He handed over a list of potential company names, and sent her off.

Mueller arrived in Albany to discover her boss’s preferences were taken. With the office closing soon, and unable to reach Noe, she decided to incorporate the company under an improvised eponym—hers—and Mueller Reports was quietly born. “It took awhile for folks to get used to the name,” Carlton Chamberlain, an Executive Vice President of Mueller Reports, said recently. (Mueller died in 2007.) Of course, he added, “she would have been unlikely to have heard of Robert Mueller at that time.”

Over the next thirty years, the company expanded into all fifty states, while Robert Swan Mueller III climbed the ranks of law enforcement. Since Mueller’s appointment as Special Counsel in 2017, the family-owned appraisal company, which is located on Tonawanda’s Main Street, has sensed little apparent need to allay confusion on the part of potential customers. “If you need reports quickly,” boasts its website, “you need Mueller.”

Management is aware of, if a bit vexed by, the homographic accident. (Employees, reportedly, are more amused.) “We do get a chuckle out of it,” said Chamberlain. He gently disputed the notion of producing the lesser of two Mueller reports: “The type of work we do is very specific. Very nuanced.”

In ministering to their duties, the New York company and the Special Counsel’s Office diverge in key respects. Mueller’s report will investigate potential wrongdoing at the highest level of executive office; Mueller Reports will investigate residential property for details such as bathroom count, flooring or cabinet type, and shingle compliance. At its zenith, Mueller’s probe marshaled the efforts of 15 government lawyers; today, Mueller Reports employs roughly 2,000 staff across the country. Most of these are field inspectors, rooting around in kitchens and basements, who later set about documenting their findings in an appraisal—called, affectionately, a Mueller Report—which is prepared specially for insurance companies and lenders.

Occasionally, there is overlap. In cases where Robert Mueller has uncovered extraneous criminal activity, such as alleged tax fraud by Michael Cohen, his office has turned matters over to prosecutors. Inspectors from Mueller Reports, too, periodically stumble upon behavior that homeowners might prefer to conceal—an unfenced pool, the occasional marijuana grow facility, or, as in one case, a lion pacing its cage in the backyard. Just as the fate of Mueller’s report lies in the hands of Attorney General William Barr, Mueller Reports is sometimes torn between the desire of a homeowner—who desperately wants to see the report—and the underwriters who legally own it and who usually prefer to keep the Mueller Report confidential.

In fact, Mueller Reports’ experience writing up home inspections holds some lessons that, Chamberlain says, could be of practical use when it comes to writing up investigations into Russian electoral interference. For instance, brevity. In past years, a typical Mueller Report could run as many as 60 pages; improvements in word processors and photo quality have shortened it to five, a development he suggested offered a salutary benefit to potential readers. Then there’s speed: From inception to completion, the time it takes to publish a report is ten days. Chamberlain worried, gingerly, whether the company’s occupational claim to agility might be tarnished by the Special Counsel, even if inadvertently. “Can you believe this Mueller report is taking so long to be published?” Chamberlain asked, describing sentiments in the office. “We’re pumping out Mueller Reports within 24 hours.”

At Mueller Reports headquarters, staff is eagerly awaiting the supposedly imminent report—and not simply because it may well cause traffic to the corporate website to spike dangerously (or, alternatively, relegate the firm to also-ran status when people Google its name.)

“It won’t be nothing,” Chamberlain speculated of the report. “Still, I don’t think it’ll be the full story.” He wondered aloud whether the probe might gain from the conventions of home inspection. “We don’t have the experience,” he conceded, but quickly added, “You’re an inspector, you’re provided all the details. Everything’s right in front of you. How hard is it to correct the information, put it in a report, and publish it? We do it every day, to the tune of 1.5 million a year.”

Robert Mueller, Chamberlain clarified, is probably doing a fine job. Still, just in case, he said, “He should give us a call.”

Benjamin Wofford

Staff Writer

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