Washington DC

DC Muralist Trap Bob Shares Her Favorite Spots in the Historic U Street Neighborhood

The historically Black neighborhood boasts bold art, diverse restaurants, and music on every corner.

Photo by Shaughn Cooper.
Photo by Shaughn Cooper.
Photo by Shaughn Cooper.

If you’ve ever taken a walk around downtown DC, public art practically jumps out at you from the walls. That’s certainly the case with the bold and beautiful work of Tenbeete Solomon, aka Trap Bob, whose art can be seen in U Street, NOMA, and Takoma Park, just to name a few spots. Her vibrant, stylized art usually comes with a message whether it’s obvious-like “Fight The Power” or “Know Your Rights”-or merely symbolized in the powerful Black figures she depicts.

As the daughter of Ethiopian immigrants, Solomon has long been surrounded by art. Her dad was an accomplished artist who went to Parsons on a full ride. Ironically, it was something she never considered for herself until the end of her college career studying marketing at University of Maryland. “Art was in my life before I knew I was an artist and then marketing came in before I knew I needed that,” she says. “If you’re creative, having a business education is really important.”

Soon, she put that education and skill to good use when she started getting her work into DC galleries. “When I started out, I was obsessed with painting hands, so I was able to have a series with some consistency,” she says, adding that she was influenced early on by the bright and whimsical images of Lisa Frank. “My first year I was showing in DC, I did about 50 shows. Yeah, a show like every weekend.”

Photo Courtesy of Trap Bob
Photo Courtesy of Trap Bob
Photo Courtesy of Trap Bob

DC businesses small and large came calling and she was commissioned to paint a mural for BET promoting Lena Waithe’s show Twenties outside of Cloak & Dagger. Plus, her work can be found in Alethia Tanner Park in NOMA, outside U Street shop &pizza, on Takoma Park picnic tables, and on the exterior wall of Hotel Zena on 14th Street.

This ever-present public art is one of the reasons Solomon loves DC, which she says is vastly different from its tourist reputation. “The cultural and creative scene doesn’t have anything to do with Capitol Hill and politics,” she says. “It’s very colorful, bold, and loud. Everyone is doing art, hosting live shows, and Go-Go is playing somewhere multiple times a day.”

The U Street area specifically speaks to Solomon-not only because some of her work can be found there, but because of its historical significance and feeling of community. Known in the 1920s as “Black Broadway,” U Street was the center of DC’s cultural, artistic, and activist scenes.

“It feels like a gathering hub for people in the city,” she says, mentioning iconic spots like Ben’s Chili Bowl and the T-Mobile store, famous for blasting Go-Go beats. “Everyone seems to end up at U Street and Shaw and there’s just always something to do no matter the time of day.”

Next time you visit U Street, be sure to pop by some of Solomon’s favorite places for live music and vegan eats, snap a photo with one of her murals, and appreciate the significant role the neighborhood has played in shaping DC.

Photo Courtesy of Trap Bob
Photo Courtesy of Trap Bob
Photo Courtesy of Trap Bob

Calabash Tea

“This small tea and coffee shop is very eclectic, colorful, and has really unique artwork. The ambiance and decor is a moment. The staff is super knowledgeable and has an endless list of different teas, tonics, herbal remedies, and mixtures. You get an education when you go there and it’s just one of my favorite chill spots.”

Busboys and Poets
Busboys and Poets
Busboys and Poets

Busboys & Poets

“This spot is great any time of day. It’s great for an afternoon coffee break with lounge chairs that people can sit in and work on their laptop. But it also has more of a nightlife feel to it, with performances in a room at night, live poetry, and it’s a guaranteed good place to eat. I’ve gone to so many birthday dinners here.”

Oohhs & Aahhs Soul Food
Oohhs & Aahhs Soul Food
Oohhs & Aahhs Soul Food

Oohs and Aahs

Some of the best fried chicken and collard greens in DC can be found in this no-frills spot, where lines frequently snake out the door. “This place has great soul food. Normally, when the parties get out, it’s the only thing that’s open.”

Dukem
Dukem
Dukem

Dukem Ethiopian Restaurant

“I’m Ethiopian Orthodox and we do a fast every year where we don’t eat animal byproducts. I realized it was such a benefit that I just stayed vegan. My favorite dishes are yemisir, a lentil soup you eat with injera, and a chickpea-based dish called shiro.”

Turning Natural
Turning Natural
Turning Natural

Turning Natural

“This juice shop has a really great smoothie called Nipsey Blue, named after Nipsey Hussle, and it’s this gorgeous color because it’s made with blue spirulina. They have another called Chuck Brown, the Go-Go musicians. A lot of their drink names are related to music.”

Tacos El Chilango
Tacos El Chilango
Tacos El Chilango

Tacos El Chilango

“This is a taco place right behind Ben’s. “The tacos are so, so good and it was a go-to before I went vegan. Seriously, the best guacamole I’ve ever had.”

U Street Music Hall
U Street Music Hall
U Street Music Hall

U Street Music Hall

“Even though it’s closed now, I can’t count how many parties, concerts, and DJ sets I went to at U Street. I was working with a party called Jungle Fever that a couple of my DJ friends hosted every other month. It was a very community-oriented, underground, chill spot.”

El Rey DC
El Rey DC
El Rey DC

El Rey

“The tacos are amazing. They almost closed, too, then everyone banded together and brought them back. They’ve got an open rooftop once you go into the back part of the bar in the spring and summer. Their drinks are lethal and amazing! The frozen margaritas, man. I know when I go there, I don’t need more than one.”

The Velvet Lounge
The Velvet Lounge
The Velvet Lounge

The Velvet Lounge

“This place is right next door, I’ve been there way too many times. The party Jungle Fever, we also were at Velvet a lot. It’s a cramped space, but it makes it cool. It’s this dark, city-like, very cool backyard area. It’s great when it’s crowded, but it’s also great when it’s just a summer night and a DJ is on.”

The Howard Theatre
The Howard Theatre
The Howard Theatre

The Howard Theatre

“This, of course, is the most historic music venue. They have a really versatile event lineup. I’ve been to concerts, matinees, showcases, and fundraisers. They have a gorgeous interior. There are a lot of music venues in DC that get a lot of traffic, but they all feel different.”

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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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