Washington DC

How to Support the Black Community in DC Right Now

From nonprofits and community organizations to restaurants and bookstores.

Nubian Hueman
Nubian Hueman
Nubian Hueman

Earlier this month, the nation witnessed the historic swearing in of the nation’s first Black female VP Kamala Harris accompanied by  22-year-old poet Amanda Gorman. Her uplifting speech on unity was delivered in the wake of the U.S. Capitol building riots that left five dead just two weeks earlier and seven month after protesters around the country took to the streets after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery in police custody.  

Virginia Ali, who has run the legendary DC institution Ben’s Chili Bowl for 63 years, says the Janunary 6 violence coupled with the pandemic, made the last few months the worst in her lifetime-surpassing even the four days of civil unrest in 1968 after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  “I think about the 1968 riots, which is nothing compared to what we’re going through now,” Ali says. 

Witnessing Harris take office offers some hope. “That’s the thrill of my lifetime. And imagine that-a graduate of Howard University,” Ali says. “Imagine what little young girls can see when they see her now.”

But as the pandemic rages on and the nation’s racial struggles continue, it’s crucial to continue supporting DC’s Black community, especially as we head into Black History Month.  

Being the nation’s capital, DC has dozens of educational resources and nonprofit organizations committed to fighting for change, and the city’s Black-owned restaurants and shops are the lifeblood of this city. From places to donate and resources for becoming a better ally to shops where you can use your cash to support local businesses, here are some of the ways you can make a difference right now.

Donate to nonprofits and community efforts

There are many charitable organizations you can donate to in DC, including the DC branches of Black Lives Matter, the ACLU, and the NAACP

Support protestors by following DC’s chapter of Black Lives Matter and FreedomFightersDC on Twitter to keep up with donation requests and information about where to drop off supplies like masks, medical supplies, and water.

DC eliminated cash bail about three years ago, but you can still donate to local bail funds for protesters like Maryland’s Baltimore Action Legal Team, Virginia’s Richmond Community Bail Fund, or the national Bail Project — which seeks to combat mass incarceration by paying bail for low-income individuals and disrupting the bail system.

Flickr/Brook Ward
Flickr/Brook Ward
Flickr/Brook Ward

Celebrate Black History Month 

As the nation’s premier museum chronicling the history of African Americans, the National Museum of African American History & Culture is always accepting new members and donations. While doors are currently closed, the museum is hosting a dozen online discussions this month with docents who will introduce visitors to key objects in its collection. The museum’s online portal Talking About Race features online exercises, podcasts, videos, and dozens of other resources for all ages to learn about topics like being anti-racist, providing self care, and the history of race.

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History is hosting its first Black History Month Virtual Festival, which will broadcast discussions with authors and thought leaders on YouTube.  For more ways you can celebrate Black History Month, check out Visit Washington.

Ben's Chili Bowl
Ben’s Chili Bowl
Ben’s Chili Bowl

Order takeout and delivery and support restaurant funds

While DC’s indoor dining ban is still in effect due to COVID-19, you can support the city’s many Black-owned bars and restaurants that still offer outdoor dining, takeout and delivery.  

Order half-smokes for takeout and delivery from Ben’s Chili Bowl, and donate to the Ben’s Chili Bowl Foundation, which funds various scholarships, employment support organizations, and more. “I have had the wonderful support of the community from people who donate, which  we’re able to turn into feeding hospital staff or protesters or the National Guard, all those people that are trying to keep us safe,” Ali says. 
 
Another place to get DC’s iconic smoked sausage is from the aptly named HalfSmoke, whose Shaw location has been transformed into a winter oasis with 12 heated igloos. The restaurant also sells wood-fired pizza, salads and sandwiches, and breakfast sandwiches through its popup Butter Me Up. Owner Andre McCain, a former Wall Street investment banker, also just opened a HalfSmoke in Baltimore.

Recently featured in a new Pepsi campaign, Cajun Cray offers catfish, crabcakes and other seafood dishes to go on H Street and in Lanham. Oohhs and Aahhs is a staple of soul food on U Street that has ramped up takeout and delivery from its two locations and DCity Smokehouse has some of the best BBQ in the District.

For healthy to-go options, head to Turning Natural juice bar and Nuvegan and buy calming tea, aromatherapy, and other spices from Calabash Tea and Tonic through its online store. 

Grab takeout cocktails from Service Bar DC and stock your wine rack with bottles from Cork Wine Bar. Purchase organic German vinos from Black-owned winery Edelheiss Wines, which is partnering with Baltimore catering company H3irloom Food Group to pair its sparkling rose with a Valentine’s Day menu available for pre-order.  

These options barely scratch the surface of all the great eateries in DC, so don’t stop there. Here’s a list of more than 80 Black-owned bars and restaurants in the DMV area that are still open for business compiled by Anela Malik, who runs the food blog, Feed the Malik. For more ways to support Black-owned restaurants, download the Eat Okra app to get a map of all the spots in DC and check it the next time you want to order takeout. And when you do order, remember to tip generously so you can support employees, too.

District of Clothing
District of Clothing
District of Clothing

Shop at local Black-owned businesses

Shoppe Black is a great resource for ensuring your everyday purchasing decisions are diverse no matter what city you’re in. But here are some bookstores, boutiques, and other shops right in your backyard where you can use your spending power to support the local community.

If you’re looking to add to your bookshelf, check out Mahogany Books. The store specializes in selling books for all age groups written by, for, or about people of the African Diaspora, and it stocks a great selection of anti-racist reads. You can still order books online to be shipped across the country or call the bookstore at 202-844-2062 to order books you can pick up at its Anacostia location. Sankofa has a similar mission, and you can still shop from its online store or watch videos from a lecture series it previously hosted in-store. Loyalty Bookstore, which sells a number of books from BIPOC authors, offers contactless pickup at its two locations open in Silver Spring and Petworth and online ordering through Bookshop

Brown Beauty Co-Op in DuPont Circle offers hair care, skincare, and makeup services and products designed with people of color in mind. Lettie Gooch is a women’s boutique that sells a mix of emerging designers and more well-known clothing makers, while Nubian Hueman‘s gift collection includes a Kamala Harris pencil pack with the VP’s famous sayings emblazoned on them. And if you want to translate your social activism into your wardrobe, check out District of Clothing for clothing emblazoned with messages like “MVP Kamala aunty” and “trust black women.”

A staple of U Street for 76 years, Lee’s Flower Shop offers online pickup and delivery across the country. And Frères Branchiaux Candle Co. is an artisanal, 100% vegan candle company that sells candles, snuffers, and room sprays through its online store. The company was started by three brothers all under the age of 14 so you’ll be supporting young Black entrepreneurs with every purchase, plus they donate 10% of their profits to area homeless shelters.

More ways to help?

Check out a list of national organizations we’ve compiled here. If you have thoughts on other businesses you’d like to see included in our local stories, please email feedback@thrillist.com.Sign up here for our daily DC email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.

Liz Provencher is an editorial assistant at Thrillist and a former DC resident. You can talk to her at lprovencher@thrillist.com.

Julekha Dash is a Maryland writer who covers food, travel and design with bylines in USA TodayAmerican WayArchitectural DigestEaterFodor’s, and others. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram and check out her Contently portfolio

Washington DC

The Eight Most Exciting Suburbs Outside DC

You could use a little space.

Regine Poirier/Shutterstock
Regine Poirier/Shutterstock
Regine Poirier/Shutterstock

When people say Washington, DC, it’s hard to tell if they’re talking about The District proper, or the sprawling metro area that is sometimes nicknamed the DMV: The District, Maryland, and Virginia. The fact is that DC is made whole by its vibrant suburbs, whether you’re looking for a shopping center dedicated almost entirely to Vietnamese cuisine, a rock climbing wall in-you guessed it-Rockville, or a wetland preserve that’s wide open for hiking and fresh air.

The DC suburbs practically have it all, and you can reach many of these neighborhoods by bike, public transit, or a set of four wheels. Here are eight great suburban destinations that you may find yourself visiting soon. We won’t judge you if you want to stay.

Earth Treks Rockville
Earth Treks Rockville
Earth Treks Rockville

Rockville

Distance from DC: 30 minutes
Many people will inevitably cruise Rockville Pike, aka 355, for all of its big-box delights, since this retail corridor has always been a sprawly place to shop for decades. But more recently, Rockville has become something entirely different. It’s walkable and bikeable, thanks to the Pike & Rose development. And it remains a destination for some of the best Chinese soup dumplings in the DMV at A&J Restaurant and Bob’s Shanghai 66. Rockville is also, fittingly, home to the best rock climbing wall attracting serious spelunkers and climbing newbies alike. And it remains a place for family-run restaurants, many of which are run by immigrants. For a small taste of the magic of this Montgomery County suburb, visit Bombay Bistro for Chef K.N.Vinod and Surfy Rahman’s take on Indian fare from the country’s southern region. Like many of the best eateries in Rockville, this restaurant is tucked away in a shopping strip. When you find it, you’ll be rewarded with mouth-watering dosas, biryani, and vindaloo.

Fresh Baguette
Fresh Baguette
Fresh Baguette

Bethesda

Distance from DC: 20 minutes
Anyone who grew up near Bethesda has probably spent their early teenage years loitering at the Bethesda’s Regal Cinema or by The Barnes & Noble water fountain. Now, both of those legendary spots of yesteryear have been transformed into a suburban-style city with sidewalk cafes, trendy shopping, and an upgraded Capital Crescent Trail-a longtime favorite with joggers and bikers. Bethesda is also home to a world of flavors: Fresh Baguette for Parisian-style pastries, Pesca Deli for Portuguese, Taqueria El Jalapeño for tasty tacos, and Passage to India just to name a few. To reach all of these places, you can hop aboard the Bethesda Circulator, a free shuttle service that picks you up at the Bethesda Metro station and takes you in a loop around town.

Brookside Gardens, Montgomery Parks
Brookside Gardens, Montgomery Parks
Brookside Gardens, Montgomery Parks

Wheaton

Distance from DC: 20 minutes
There is absolutely no beating Wheaton when a food craving hits, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner. This Maryland suburb, just north of DC on Metro’s red line, has one of the best diners in the region, Nick’s Diner, owned and operated by Nick Markopoulos and his Greek family. For lunch, Wheaton is home to a handful of pupuserias that are indicative of this neighborhood’s Salvadoran community. Pupuseria La Familiar, Los Chorros, and Irene’s Pupusas are three great options. Finally, for dinner, Peruvian chicken at El Pollo Rico or Bolivian fare, and specifically the beef silpancho, at Kantuta’s are hearty and tasty offerings. Finish your day of dining on a high note with a cannoli or rainbow cookie from Filippo’s Deli. After a day of eating, you’ll need to walk off all those carbs. Go for a leisurely stroll around the pond at Wheaton Regional Park’s Brookside Gardens. The park is a five-minute drive north of Wheaton’s retail corridor, and it’s free and open to the public year-round.

Streetcar 82 Brewing Co.
Streetcar 82 Brewing Co.
Streetcar 82 Brewing Co.

Hyattsville

Distance from DC: 20 minutes
A brewery tour is a safe bet when visiting Hyattsville, Maryland-a community with a small-town vibe, located in Prince George’s County, just across The District line. A primary reason why beer nerds flock here is Franklins, a brewpub that last year opened a tiki-themed bar in its parking lot to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are more than a dozen beers on tap, plus Franklins makes its own root beer if you prefer some nonalcoholic suds. That’s in addition to a historic hardware shop that’s been converted into a bottle shop, with a wide collection of craft beer and local wine. Nearby on Route 1, find a local brewery that specializes in outdoor drinking. Streetcar 82 Brewing Co. opened two years ago and is named in homage to the 82 Streetcar line which ran by the brewery’s site from 1888 to 1957. This converted auto garage now serves hop-forward beers and has bike rack parking and picnic tables, perfect for a Sunday Funday. For more craft beers from around the country paired with wood-fired pizza, Pizzeria Paradiso is a top-notch eater across the street, and cap off your crawl by swinging by Maryland Meadworks, which serves a range of meads from sweet to semi-sweet to dry.

Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary
Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary
Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary

Upper Marlboro

Distance from DC: 45 minutes
Fulfill your childhood wonder and delight at the greatest playground in the DMV. Watkins Regional Park is great for kids (or the kid at heart) looking to romp around themed playgrounds. The first is a horse-racing-themed playground, part of Maryland’s legacy as a horse racing capital. Meanwhile, the second option is the stuff of fairy tales-a Wizard of Oz-inspired playground, complete with a yellow brick road, a ruby slippers slide, and an Emerald City climbing wall. Grownups and kids alike will also enjoy the hiking options at nearby Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, an expansive preserve that’s part of the tidal reaches of the Patuxent River. There are more than 1,700 acres of unique freshwater marshes, forested wetlands, creeks, meadows, pines and sand barrens, plus fields and park areas for an afternoon picnic. If you’d rather fuel up than bring-your-own food, Upper Marlboro’s Main Street Coffee & Treats is where the community gathers for coffee, pastries, fresh-pressed juices, and vegan cupcakes at all hours of the day.

Photo Courtesy of Ada's on the River
Photo Courtesy of Ada’s on the River
Photo Courtesy of Ada’s on the River

Old Town Alexandria

Distance from DC: 20 minutes
With waterfront views, historic homes along cobblestone streets, and a trolley that goes up and down King Street for free, it’s hard not to imagine why Old Town Alexandria wouldn’t be on our suburban list. You might come for the charm, but there’s a lot more to this city than just Instagram-worthy streetscapes. The Torpedo Factory is a burgeoning artist enclave for purchasing one-of-a-kind sculptures and artwork. Those who prefer a pleasure cruise down the Potomac can take the Potomac River Water Taxi to or from the city. And outdoor eating by the water offers plenty of space and social distance. The food and outdoor surroundings at Ada’s on the River and King & Rye, two of Alexandria’s latest eatery additions, are great places to book a weekend brunch.

Eden Center
Eden Center
Eden Center

Falls Church

Distance from DC: 30 minutes
Most people know Falls Church as the home of Eden Center-a shopping center with dozens of Vietnamese businesses and restaurants. This might be the biggest draw for Falls Church food lovers. However, there are several more reasons to make this Northern Virginia suburb a part of your food bucket list. Start at Takumi, a popular Japanese sushi spot, serving quality grade sashimi, sake, and sushi tastings. Got a craving for cavatelli? Then book it to Thomspon Italian. Chef Gabe Thompson and Pastry Chef Katherine Thompson are a husband and wife team who make this spot feel more like home. While the dining room remains closed, Thompson is offering several of its top dishes, including housemade pasta and gelatos, for pickup.

Wolf Trap
Wolf Trap
Wolf Trap

Tysons Corner

Distance from DC: 30 minutes
When you visit Tysons Corner, you’re probably here to do one thing-shop until you drop. Tysons is home to two malls, sometimes nicknamed Tysons I (Tysons Corner Center) and Tysons II (Tysons Galleria). The former is pretty typical while the latter leans more upscale. Not surprisingly, Tysons II also has good taste in food. Find the Urbanspace Food Hall, home to Donburi DC and Andy’s Pizza, plus an upscale pastry shop called Lady M. Aside from the shopping and dining, another good reason to visit Tysons this summer might be for a concert. The Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts recently announced its outdoor summer concert lineup, which could start as soon as the end of May. We’ll keep our fingers crossed!

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Tim Ebner is a contributor for Thrillist. 

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