The Blogger Beat: We Love DC

This week, We Love DC bloggers show DC some . . . er, love.

By: Emily Leaman

We Love DC was born in 2008 after ten bloggers from Metroblogging DC decided to start a new site. They wanted independence from the city-blog network—declaring it on July 4, naturally—and have since nearly doubled their volunteer writing team and, in the past six months, tripled their monthly readers.

Don Whiteside and Jenn Larsen were two of We Love DC’s founders; Shannon, who likes to keep her last name under wraps, joined the blog in April. It runs the gamut on coverage—everything from urban culture to food to breaking news—and includes short, digestible items as well as long-form features. Don covers technology news—and uses his background as a software engineer to keep the site running—while Jenn covers nightlife and the arts, and Shannon writes on urban development, transit, and neighborhood news.

We caught up with the three Washingtonophiles to find out exactly what they love about our city. And because we couldn’t resist, we got the scoop on a few things they could do without, too.

Five words to sum up why you love DC:
Don: “Is half-smoke one word or two? How about: food, variety, seasons, mass transit, nature.”
Jenn: “U Street on Election Day.”
Shannon: “Growing, vibrant city of neighborhoods.”

One thing about DC that needs improving:
Don: “We’ve got to get our transportation situation ironed out. I still love Metro, but this has been a painful year. It’s hard to decide what’s worst: the mistakes and infrastructure or the lackluster response and communication.”
Jenn: “Our eternal battle against potholes now seems like a joke compared with Metro’s woes. I can’t even get on a train anymore without thinking, ‘Hmm . . . is this the end?’ ”
Shannon: “The school system. It’s holding DC back from attracting a broad range of residents. If parents keep moving out to the suburbs when their children reach school age, the city will continue to miss out on a vital part of the community.”

Best and worst qualities of Washington residents:
Don: “The best quality has to be their variety. I’ve heard people describe DC as two cities: the folks who are a part of the federal government and everyone else. The thing is, everything the 24/7 residents do doesn’t just get paused when Congress is in session, and a lot of the government contingent love the city and participate in its culture. As for the worst quality, it’s the way those groups look at each other. DC has residents who view commuters as folks who just come in and mess up their place then go home. But what makes a city is community, not geography.”
Jenn: “We may moan about tourists, but we still stop and give them directions. There’s remnants of courtliness here. I love that people still say ‘good morning’ in my neighborhood. But then there’s the rise of road rage and what I call Self-Importance Syndrome. Why are you talking on your cell phone when your dinner companion is right in front of you?”
Shannon: “Best: It’s a city of well-educated go-getters who are trying to get things done and make the world a better place. But that goes along with the worst quality: stress. Just walking around the city, you see so many people rushing around, frazzled and stressed out. I think we all need to relax a little.”

Best and most overrated neighborhoods:
Don: “This is like asking someone to rank their kids. Different regions have different things to offer depending on my mood, but when I think of best and worst, I think of the difference between Logan Circle and Chinatown: Logan has so far avoided turning into chain-store hell, and Chinatown has that stretch of Seventh Street that is so depressingly neon and gaudy.”
Jenn: “I tend to stay in my neighborhood—Logan Circle, U Street, Shaw—because of the vibrancy and architecture. Restaurants, bars, shopping—why would I need to go elsewhere? Downtown’s a different story; some days it’s like nails on a chalkboard, and I just can’t take how boring and homogeneous it is.”
Shannon: “I’m biased, but I think my Logan Circle neighborhood takes the cake—it has beautiful historic architecture, a revitalizing economic corridor on 14th Street, and it’s so close to downtown that there’s no reason to own a car. The most overrated neighborhood has got to be Georgetown. I lived there for a summer and hated the lack of transit access, the constant flood of tourists on M Street, and the college-frat-party atmosphere on weekends.”

Best and most overrated restaurants:
Don: “Again with the Sophie’s Choice! The only disappointment I can think of has to be Sticky Rice, which I had been hearing raves about since it opened. My darling wife and I finally went there a month ago and were just completely underwhelmed. It wasn’t bad, but the best thing was the tater tots—I think that’s a bad sign.”
Jenn: “It’s not so much overrated restaurants as overused concepts. The next time someone says, ‘Have you ever dined with us before? Let me explain our menu!’ I’ll scream. And with a thriving cocktail culture, why are places still making candy drinks? Please, let the -tinis die. But there’s a lot to love, too. My favorites are small, reliable places where you can relax and be well fed. Creaky, cozy Tabard Inn gives you some of the best cocktails in the city, and Bar Pilar and Hank’s Oyster Bar always cheer me up.”
Shannon: “I absolutely love Dino in Cleveland Park for great Italian food and their year-round Restaurant Week special. The city’s most overrated restaurant might be Sushi Taro on 17th Street since the renovation—overpriced and underwhelming.”

Local elected official who deserves a raise:
Don: “I think the salaries for all DC’s officials are pretty fair, but maybe my perspective is skewed: I’m a former Miami boy, where we paid our council members $6,000 a year and then were surprised when they engaged in corruption.”
Jenn: “I can’t think of a single one who’s working above and beyond.”
Shannon: “Jim Graham for the Adams Morgan-McPherson Square Circulator. That route has made it so easy to get to Columbia Heights and Adams Morgan, and the limited stops mean that it runs pretty regularly.”

Elected official you most wish you could fire:
Don: “This changes by the day, but at the moment it’s ANC commissioner India Henderson because of this absolutely obnoxious proposal 5B10 is pitching to the Alcohol Board to lock independent restaurants out of selling alcohol.”
Jenn: “The problem isn’t really elected officials; I can fire them by voting. It’s the unelected, the long-term bureaucrats who resist change at all levels in the DC government. Witness the Harriette Walters scandal. Sure she got caught, but how much undiscovered corruption still exists?”
Shannon: “Marion Barry. He’s been an embarrassment to the city over and over, his constant reelection makes DC government seem like a joke, and yet the hero worship for him continues in parts of Ward 8.”

Best local sports team:
Don: “Since the only two sports I really care to watch are hockey and baseball, I’d say that’s pretty easy: the Capitals. Though it’s hard to imagine a team being better than the Nationals as a subject to complain about.”
Jenn: “DC United—or so I’m told. I’m sadly a bit of a sports loser.”
Shannon: “I haven’t really gotten into the professional sports scene here in DC, but I love college football. So if we expand the definition of ‘local,’ I’m always happy to root for my alma mater, the University of Virginia, or for Maryland—really for any team that’s playing Virginia Tech.”

Hometown team not worth the hype:
Don: “We have hype? Where? Do you mean bitching and whining?”
Jenn: “Is there hype? Again, I’m kinda oblivious. I mean, I haven’t followed basketball since the Bullets became the Wizards.”
Shannon: “I think the only good thing about the Nationals is UVa alum Ryan Zimmerman.”

Three places you take out-of-towners:
Don: “The World War II Memorial at night, because it’s beautiful even if I find it tacky in the daytime. Palace of Wonders, because it doesn’t fit most people’s perceptions of DC. And Roosevelt Island, because I think it’s one of the unknown treasures here. Plus, it’s where I got engaged.”
Jenn: “Just three? Proper cocktails at Quill, a subversive play at Woolly Mammoth, and a late-night concert at Black Cat. You’d get three different Washington views in one night. The hardest part would be what to wear.”
Shannon: “The National Building Museum, Dupont Circle, and the Jefferson Memorial.”

Best thing about fall in Washington:
Don: “I grew up in Miami, so this is an easy one for me: the changing leaves. All those colors even make raking tolerable.”
Jenn: “You can still eat outside and enjoy outdoor activities but with beautiful colors and mild weather. Theater, concerts, galleries—the cultural calendar comes alive in the fall. You’re never bored.”
Shannon: “Those nice crisp weekend days that are perfect for sitting around Dupont Circle with a pumpkin latte.”

Where you’d live if not in DC:
Don: “There are dozens of places. But my wife and I conferred about this for a good ten minutes and couldn’t think of any place we’d rather stay long-term than here.”
Jenn: “I’d love to use DC as home base but continually travel the world and explore new places. I’d be a nomad for a year and go off the grid. No one believes me, of course.”
Shannon: “Probably Denver—it’s walkable, young, fun, and surrounded by so much natural beauty. And they’re building a huge new light-rail system with six lines that’ll make it easy to get around without a car.”

Favorite local blog besides your own:
Don: “My all-time favorite, Tequila Mockingbird, is defunct. 2Birds 1Blog is coming close to being as snarky and funny, though.”
Jenn: Metrocurean.”
Shannon: “I really like BeyondDC. It’s an entertaining look at planning, urbanism, and transportation in the region.”

Earlier:
Off the Cuff
Why I Hate DC
All Blogger Beat interviews

Have a favorite local blogger you'd like to hear from? Send suggestions to eleaman@washingtonian.com.  

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