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Word of Mouth: Georgetown

Lobster rolls, boutique hotels and hidden architectural gems on DC's quiet side

by CH Contributor in Travel on 16 May 2013

by Michael Kucmeroski

Although all of Washington, DC has much to offer in terms of sightseeing and history, there is something enticing about staying in Georgetown. The area around the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (C and O, to the locals) is charming, much less touristy than central DC and is buzzing with new restaurants, shops and cafés.

Founded in 1751, Georgetown is famous for residents including Thomas Jefferson, Francis Scott Key ("The Star-Spangled Banner" anyone?), John F. Kennedy and most recently the current Secretary of State, John Kerry. It is also world-renowned for its namesake university and—perhaps most spectacularly—that famous scene in "The Exorcist" involving a demon-evicting priest and a long flight of stairs. These days, however, the quaint historic district is coming into its own as a hub of understated yet of-the-moment eating and shopping destinations.

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Capella Hotel

Georgetown’s most significant recent addition is the artfully designed Capella Hotel, part of a chain of luxury boutique hotels with outposts in Cabo San Lucas, Singapore and Dusseldorf, with more on the way. The hotel is on a quiet street, which backs up to the C and O Canal. A cocktail on a sunny afternoon along the canal is a great way to spend a late afternoon and also a nice way to stay far from the crowds on M Street. It has only 49 rooms, including 12 suites, and each is individually designed, making for a unique experience during every stay. The common areas of the hotel, including a chic lobby bar, a cozy living room and dining room, are designed to make you feel like you’re staying at a well-to-do relative’s grand townhouse. All of the artwork is original with many pieces commissioned specifically for the hotel. The views from the roof of both downtown DC and Georgetown are equally as stunning as the rooms themselves, while the rooftop infinity pool is a great way to take it all in. Be sure to ask the staff about the 24-hour personal assistants who can help you with just about anything.

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Archer

Not far from the Capella Hotel is the charming Cady’s Alley, a cozy cluster of shops and cafés that houses Georgetown’s Design District. One standout space is Archer, a 20th century modern design and art space. The shop carries their own custom-designed pieces, which range from seating and storage to rugs and lighting, along with a well-curated mix of modernist pieces from the likes of Hans Wegner, Finn Juhl and Paul McCobb. The shop also holds art exhibitions featuring mainly local artists. From 29 May to 16 July is a showing of colorful, large-scale, abstract paintings by Benjamin Abramowitz (1917-2011), a DC artist whose work has appeared at major museums throughout the US.

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Luke's Lobster

For a decadent little snack, cross M Street to indulge in one of the most delicious lobster rolls outside of Maine. The meaty lobster is served on a lightly buttered and toasted bun with a wisp of mayonnaise and a dusting of lemon butter along with some secret salty spices. To avoid compromising the flavor and texture of the crustacean, Luke's skips celery in their recipe. Go with a friend and get the "Noah’s Ark" special for two half lobster rolls, crab rolls and shrimp rolls—along with sodas, chips and pickles—and you've got an upscale but casual feast. Try the Ginger Brew from family-run soda company Maine Root for a spicy and refreshing beverage.

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Philip Johnson Pavilion

From here you can make your way up to Dumbarton Oaks to see the lush and beautiful gardens, at their peak in springtime. For architecture buffs, don’t miss the museum’s Phillip Johnson Pavilion. Commissioned in 1959 by Robert Woods Bliss in order to house his collection of pre-Columbian art, the building is made up of eight domed galleries set within a perfect square. This layout provides both architectural harmony and natural circulation throughout the collection it houses. An unroofed fountain lies at the center, giving the building an open-air feel. Set amongst the gardens of Dumbarton Oaks, the pavilion has a striking organic quality about it. It’s wonderful to wander through the light-filled galleries and become part of this living work of art.

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Baked and Wired

Baked and Wired is a small and cozy café on a tiny side street just south of the C and O Canal. Baked refers to the handmade oven goods (which include a selection of gluten-free items) that are produced in small batches to maintain quality and freshness. They serve everything from bars and biscotti to cupcakes and muffins. Standouts include the cheekily named "Kick Me in the Nuts," a brown sugar shortbread with a chewy peanut nougat and salty peanuts on top. The undeniably Canadian-inspired "Flapjack," a maple and brown butter cupcake with caramel buttercream topped with candied bacon, is a must. True to the latter part of its name, Baked and Wired serves up some of the best coffee from the nation's most beloved roasters including Stumptown, Intelligentsia and Madcap. Try a cortado, an espresso cut with a small amount of warm milk and one of their delicious "Phig Newtons", a great afternoon snack. Be sure not to leave without a bag of "Hippie Crack"—their delicious homemade granola.

Images by Michael Kucmeroski. Philip Johnson Pavilion image courtesy of Dumbarton Oaks.

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