The new year is right around the corner, and we’re looking back at all that 2018 had to offer here in the DMV. What new restaurant did you discover this year? What show blew your mind? And what have you resolved to do — no matter what — in the new year?

We’ll hear the best of our region’s food and culture scene from DCist’s Lori McCue.

Produced by Julie Depenbrock


  • Lori McCue Arts and Food Editor; DCist; @lorimccue


  • 12:00:02

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIYou're tuned in to The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU 88.5. Welcome. Later in the broadcast a deep dive into doing good. What does it really take to be a Good Samaritan and who made news this year for their acts of selflessness? But first, our regions own year in review. We're talking the best restaurants, the best shows, and the best things that you did in 2018. Joining me in studio is Lori McCue, arts and food editor at DCist. Lori, good to see you.

  • 12:00:30

    MS. LORI MCCUEHi, Kojo.

  • 12:00:31

    NNAMDIYou oversee DCist coverage of the food and culture scene in Washington. Let's start with food. As you look back on 2018, what local restaurants in particular stood out to you and why?

  • 12:00:43

    MCCUEIt's funny. I think about neighborhoods that really sort of popped up this year in terms of more development there, more restaurants opening, and just more, more traffic in the area. I think Union Market is a very obvious example of where so many things opened this year in a very short amount of time. You know, over the summer in particular a new Politics and Prose popped up there and right in front is the Village Cafe, which is a tiny little cafe that's created by three native Washingtonians. There's O-Ku, which is a new sushi place. Le Petit Lulu is a creperie and inside Union Market there's St. Anselm, which is a new steakhouse opening in the corner.

  • 12:01:26

    MCCUEThere a new location -- I believe it's the second of Shouk, the plant based spot. There's a Trader Joe's over there. And at the beginning of this year none of that was there. So it's incredible to see this sort of new neighborhood that has completely emerged where there kind of wasn't before.

  • 12:01:46

    NNAMDIAnd then there's Park View.

  • 12:01:47

    MCCUEThere's Park View as well where, you know, I think the restaurant -- it's the new food spot that I think a lot of people are talking -- is Call Your Mother -- and we've talked about it before -- that I think still has lines out the door for people excited to eat some bagels. Who's not, you know. And, you know, there's another spot opening across the street called Sonny's, a new pizza spot. I think that that corridor in particular is going to be one that in 2019 we're going to be hearing a lot from. So I'm excited for that.

  • 12:02:17

    NNAMDIWhat was the best thing you ate this year or maybe the best three things you ate this year?

  • 12:02:21

    MCCUEI don't know if I have three. I have about 100. I -- so my mom is a vegan. So -- and I am a proud meat eater. But so because of that we explore a lot of vegan spots in the city. And one of the ones I enjoyed so much was Fancy Radish this year. It's from a Philadelphia based team that opened on the H Street corridor and they -- I think the dishes are inventive.

  • 12:02:50

    MCCUEI had a really incredible fondue, which is not something I thought I'd ever say from -- vegan fondue feels like an oxymoron, but here we are. Just like an amazing cheese, air quotes, fondue. It was really stellar. A really amazing mushroom dish. They have great noodles. I think it's just fun from start to finish. They have weird flavored ice creams as well, which I think is always exciting. They have -- they had carrot ice cream. I think those dishes were really exciting.

  • 12:03:21

    NNAMDIWas this an effort on your mother's part to transform you into veganism?

  • 12:03:26

    MCCUEI'll tell you what. It's not working. But if it -- it's unsuccessful. But I mean I'm an adventurist eater. So I'll eat vegan food. I think plant-based is probably what they would prefer as well. But she enjoyed it as well. So it got the vegan stamp of approval. I should say.

  • 12:03:44

    NNAMDIOnto music, what are the some of the up and coming pubs and music venues in our region?

  • 12:03:49

    MCCUEI think there are a lot of new smaller spots that are opening. That's very exciting. I think, you know, the big story of last year was The Anthem, which, you know, has really expanded. Has really been an anchor for the Wharf, which is incredible and a huge draw to the neighborhood and to huge local -- huge acts nationwide, which is great.

  • 12:04:08

    MCCUEBut it's also been exciting to see so many smaller shops open. The Pie Shop is the really tiny music venue above Dangerously Delicious Pies and, you know, every time I think about it, I get hungry, which is fun. And their big plan is they want to house local acts, which is very exciting. I think that's their main -- you know, it has to be somewhat local. It can be any genre. But it has to be pretty local. And it's cozy. It's intimate. You can get a slice of pie afterwards, hard to argue with that.

  • 12:04:39

    MCCUEI think City Winery has been sort of a surprising new -- not new anymore -- I guess it opened late last year, but I think it really hit its stride this year and has been more than anything really consistent with, you know, some sort of midrange -- midsize rather acts and has been a great draw to that neighborhood in Northeast. I think people are really excited about Fado.

  • 12:05:04

    NNAMDISo it's great that we have The Anthem and the 930 Club. But you're talking about slightly smaller neighborhood venues.

  • 12:05:09

    MCCUEYeah. I think those are very exciting to have in any neighborhood. And it's nice to see them spread out as well. You know, they're not all on 14th Street. They're not all, you know, on the U Street corridor. They're all over the city, which is very exciting.

  • 12:05:21

    NNAMDIAnother of installments, exhibits and museums opened this year in the Washington region. What caught your and other people's attention?

  • 12:05:30

    MCCUEI think a lot of people remain excited about Artechouse. Who knows? But they specialize in immersive exhibits, which I think every exhibit claims to be now, right? I think that's the word on everybody's lips. But sort of virtual reality adjacent type things, you know, they have weird things where you're -- you take a photo and it shows up in your cocktail or something. You lounge around on these, you know, bean bags chairs and you view some virtual reality art that way. I think a lot of people are excited about those kinds of projects. Anything, you know, that's not just look at painting on wall. Though, those have been doing well as well. I think I -- people are very excited for -- they consistently come up with new and exciting things.

  • 12:06:19

    NNAMDIWhat was the best show you saw this year here in the Washington region and what are you looking forward to most in 2019? Elizabeth tweeted us her New Year's resolution, "I only make fun resolutions. This coming year I will learn to box. Check back later to see if I have any aptitude for it at all." Well, being good at it is not the point.

  • 12:06:41

    MCCUEDon't cross Elizabeth, I guess, in the next year.

  • 12:06:43

    NNAMDIAnd I don't think she's talking about boxing up gifts. I think she's talking about trying to become a boxer, which is fascinating.

  • 12:06:51

    MCCUEThat is a good -- that's a good skill to have.

  • 12:06:53

    NNAMDIElizabeth, please check back with us later in 2019 to let us know how that went. Lynn commented on our Facebook page, "I went to see Moke, the baby gorilla at the Smithsonian Zoo. So what do you plan on doing in 2019?" Lynn, there's another gorilla there that you might want to see named Kojo, but that's a whole other story. (laugh) What was the biggest story the DCist covered on the local art's scene?

  • 12:07:19

    MCCUEI think we covered a lot of, you know, smaller bits of, you know, keeping track of what's going on. One thing that I'm particularly excited about that, you know, I hope continues into 2019 and is my big prediction, I think, is -- like I said about, you know, virtual reality and immersive exhibits, you know. The American Art Museum actually experimented with offering some of its -- its Big Burning Man exhibit that they did this year that kind of spread all over the city, but they had a huge exhibit of art from Burning Man.

  • 12:07:48

    MCCUEAnd they partnered with a virtual reality company and made it so that you could explore the exhibit in virtual reality on your computer, you know, if you want or on your phone maybe. But if you have -- if you're lucky enough to have one of those VR headsets, you know, you can walk around as though you're walking through the exhibit. So, you know, it's one thing to talk about Artechouse and the sort of newer houses for art and exploring, you know, weird things in DC.

  • 12:08:19

    MCCUEBut it's also really exciting to see a Smithsonian institution really embrace something like that and expanding access to it as well. You know, not everybody can come in to see the exhibit. You know, if you live in Alaska and you have your -- just pull out your virtual headset and you can too, but I think it's -- those kinds of experiments are what I'm really excited for museums and artists and creators and curators to really lean into in 2019.

  • 12:08:48

    NNAMDISpeaking of restaurants, that's what David in Washington wants to comment on. David, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:08:53

    DAVIDFirst, it was a pleasure reading about you in the city paper.

  • 12:08:56

    NNAMDIOh, I appreciate that. Thank you.

  • 12:08:58

    DAVIDSecondly, the best thing I ate last year would have been prepared by my wife. However, the best restaurant in Washington D.C. thankfully, we now have a kosher restaurant. It's called Char Bar. It's over at 22nd and 21st on L Street. As regards to museums, the best museums that have opened up in the last two years in my opinion, though, I haven't seen all them. I've seen two out of three: The Museum of the Bible, the Native American Museum, and the African American Museum.

  • 12:09:23

    NNAMDIThat's quite a list.

  • 12:09:24

    MCCUEIt is.

  • 12:09:24

    NNAMDIYou get around a lot, David, but, obviously, you enjoy it. So thank you very much for calling. We can't neglect "Hamilton" coming to the Kennedy Center. But what plays and musicals got your attention in 2018?

  • 12:09:38

    MCCUEYou're right. We can't neglect "Hamilton." It's a -- it was sort of the sensation of the summer. Wasn't it? And I saw "Hamilton." I loved "Hamilton." Who doesn't? I will say, though, my favorite show that I saw in 2018 that I can't stop thinking about is a production of "The Wiz" at Ford's Theater. I think it was -- you know, I see a lot of theater and I see a lot of musical theater. But this, honestly, was probably the best production that I've seen in years in DC.

  • 12:10:05

    MCCUEI thought it was technically inventive. It, you know, the sets were incredible. I thought some really great rising stars, some stellar performances, and just truly joyful throughout. You know, it was clever. It wasn't hokey. It was smart. It was -- but without being, you know, laden with, you know, modern cultural references that won't make sense in five years. You know, it was -- it felt modern, but it wasn't, you know, trying too hard. And it was so fun from start to finish and so technically creative. I'm still thinking about it months later. What about you? What was your favorite thing you saw this year?

  • 12:10:43

    NNAMDII think it might have been "Jefferson's Garden."

  • 12:10:46

    MCCUEAlso Ford's, Yeah.

  • 12:10:47

    NNAMDIAt Ford's Theater, but I also saw "Hamilton," so...

  • 12:10:51

    MCCUEOh, yeah. See that's the thing, you got to start with the caveat of "Hamilton," I feel like, which is a shame.

  • 12:10:55

    NNAMDIYeah, you have to start with that. If you were nominating the best actors and actresses of our local theater scene, what names would you put on that list?

  • 12:11:03

    MCCUESpeaking of "Jefferson's Garden," one that I think about a lot, who pops up all over the city is Kimberley Gilbert. I think she was the star of Willie's "Maria Antoinette" several years ago and got a lot of praise for that. And she's since, I think, just -- she's very smart, I think, about picking roles, curating, you know, a good mix of lead performances and also just really scene stealing side performances.

  • 12:11:26

    MCCUEShe has developed a really strong relationship with Aaron Posner, the local director. She was in his production of "Winter's Tale" earlier this year where she was sort of a side character, but really stole the show in an incredible way. She stared in "Born Yesterday," to speak of Ford's again. But she was -- she's been in -- she was in Studio Theater's "No Sisters" last year, which was an incredible show I saw last year. I think she consistently steals the show in everything she's in.

  • 12:11:56

    MCCUEAnother one -- another actress I think a lot about is Nova Payton, who was in a well-reviewed production last year of "Carolina or Change" at Round House. And I saw this year. She was in -- Kennedy does a sort of center stage performances where they bring in actors from all over. And this year they did "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," which is a goofy one -- and to speak of -- you know, it's a goofy sort of old fashioned musical.

  • 12:12:22

    MCCUEBut she was up there with John Michael Higgins and Michael Urie and a ton of, you know, national TV and film stars, but she, like, brought the house down. She held her own and stole every scene she was in and it was fun to see a local actor there. So she's one that I definitely have my eye on in the next couple of years.

  • 12:12:40

    NNAMDISpeaking of best shows, here's Kara. Kara in Washington, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:12:46

    KARAHi. I wanted to talk about the story telling scene in DC, which I don't hear much about on WAMU. Even though, I think it's such an exciting part of the art fabric here. And there's really a lot going on. I know WAMU plays "The Moth" on Friday nights, which is great. But DC has their own storytelling powerhouse, which is Story District, which has been in business just as long as "The Moth" and puts on shows that are just as good.

  • 12:13:13

    KARAAnd then there are other ones. For instance, along with my partner Pierce, we run Perfect Liars Club. The first Wednesday of every month is a Bier Baron, which is a kind of three truths and a lie thing. But storytelling is popping up all over the place. It's a big buzz word in business right now. There are millions of storytelling shows people can take part of in DC, in northern Virginia, in Montgomery County. And it's a great thing to participate in as both a teller and an audience member. And I think there's really exciting things happening right now.

  • 12:13:44

    NNAMDIYep, storytelling is huge every place these days. Thank you very much for your call. Here's Heather in Mount Pleasant. Heather, you're turn.

  • 12:13:54

    HEATHERHi, Kojo. I just wanted to share an accomplishment this year. I joined the DC roller girls -- the local roller derby league.

  • 12:14:03


  • 12:14:04

    HEATHERIn April and I was able in first bout in December against the Southern Maryland Rollergirls. And I was really excited about that.

  • 12:14:14

    NNAMDII haven't seen the roller derby lately. Have you Lori?

  • 12:14:17

    MCCUEI want to know, what is your roller derby name?

  • 12:14:20

    HEATHERMy roller derby name is Hard Vine, number eight.

  • 12:14:23

    MCCUENice. That's my favorite part. The names.

  • 12:14:26

    NNAMDIAnd did you have to take boxing lessons to participate in the roller derby?

  • 12:14:29

    HEATHERI'm sorry?

  • 12:14:32

    NNAMDIDid you have to take boxing lessons to participate in the roller derby?

  • 12:14:35

    HEATHERJust about. There are very hard hits and while on skates so it is very difficult. I'm sure boxing would help.

  • 12:14:42

    NNAMDIWell, good luck to you and thank you for following your dream. Jeannie emails us, "The best place for sandwiches in Park View is Heat Da Spot, down to earth family owned, I believe. And I'll be devastated if all the changes in the neighborhood force them to leave. Support Heat Da Spot. Get an Ethiopian coffee and a chicken salad." We don't have a great deal of time left. But, Lori, what are you looking forward to in 2019? What are you most excited about on the food and culture beat?

  • 12:15:10

    MCCUELike I said, I'm excited to see, you know, I've talked to a lot of curators this year who kind of dread hearing the word "Instagramable," but I think it's one that you can't avoid talking about when you're talking about arts and even food sometimes and culture and exhibits. So I think that more artists and creators will sort of expanding what it means to have an experiential exhibit or, you know, ticket that is not just about Instagram.

  • 12:15:42

    MCCUEI'm thinking about TBD immersive, which is our immersive theater company, a very small immersive theater company, which is doing really cool work. They were just in Slim's Diner. They were in Dupont Underground. And they're creating, you know, some really fun art that you can see all around you, but is not really for Instagramming, Artechouse, I'm thinking about the Glenstone Museum, which is sort of explicitly not built for Instagramming. So I think I'm excited to see how museums and curators expand the idea of what an experiential museum experience is.

  • 12:16:16

    NNAMDIAnd what could you do without in 2019 as far as pop culture trends in DC? I know there was something that everyone went crazy for that had you wondering what all the hype was about.

  • 12:16:28

    MCCUE(laugh) I got to say I was very surprised this year to see the unlikely rise of cookie dough shops, which is exactly what it sounds like. It's a -- this came out of nowhere for me, you know, maybe everybody else knows about it, but it's you know, it's exactly what it sounds like. You can get a scoop of cookie dough, lots of different flavors. You can get it in a sandwich. You can get it, you know, on a cone like an ice cream cone. And five, you know, new shops opened this summer in the DC area where you could get, you know, instead of ice cream or candy or something, you could get a -- and you could get toppings on it or what have you.

  • 12:17:07

    NNAMDISomething that you can get in your parent's kitchen just about any time.

  • 12:17:10

    MCCUEAnd, you know what? But you can carry it around the city and it won't melt like an ice cream cone.

  • 12:17:14

    NNAMDIThere you go. We have to talk about New Year's resolutions. What have you resolved to do no matter what? In the New Year, will you be taking up boxing or the roller derby?

  • 12:17:23

    MCCUEOh man. I wish I had something as impressive as that. No. My resolutions this year are twofold. One is to really invest more in local musicians and the local music scene. It's one that I'm excited to learn more about always. My second one is a little more personal and broad, which is to document more of my life, which sounds a little silly. But I'm very -- but whenever I'm thinking on my year, I wish that I could look back on more photos.

  • 12:17:53

    NNAMDIYou got to take photos of your meals and all the places you go to, and you don't do that.

  • 12:17:56

    MCCUEAnd all the places you go. If you don't do it, did you even go? I don't know.

  • 12:18:00


  • 12:18:01

    MCCUEBut, you know, that's something that I'd like to get better at. I think future Lori will be happy that past Lori did that. What about you, Kojo? Do you have any resolutions?

  • 12:18:08

    NNAMDIThe music thing, I want to check out more of the local music scene, because it's expanding so much and I find myself no longer in the know about the local music scene. So I got to bone up and go see a few more of our local artists.

  • 12:18:20

    MCCUEIt's changing so fast all the time.

  • 12:18:22

    NNAMDIVery fast. Lori McCue is arts and food editor at DCist. Lori, thank you so much for joining us.

  • 12:18:28

    MCCUEThank you, Kojo. It's a pleasure.

  • 12:18:30

    NNAMDIAre you a Federal worker? We want to hear from you. How has the shutdown affected you? Are you furloughed? Will you be paid? Email us at subject line "government shutdown" and tell us about your experience. Going to take a short break. When we come back, a deep dive into doing good. What does it really take to be a Good Samaritan and who made news this year for their acts of selflessness? I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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