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Best of Logan Circle & U Street: Cool Spots

A musician, a soccer star, and two business owners on the neighborhoods’ best bets

Singer and composer Olivia Mancini likes to hang out at Som Records. Photograph by Matthew Worden.

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Olivia Mancini is a musician and composer who plays with her band, Olivia Mancini and the Mates, and writes and records music for film and television.

My favorite place for a grab-and-go lunch is Aroma Bakery and Market (1320 U St., NW; no phone listed). I don’t think many residents of U Street know that we have a real deli in our midst. Aroma has made-to-order sandwiches, some very nice baked treats, and organic meats and milk from grass-fed cows.

I live almost across the street from Som Records. You can buy, trade, and sell albums, and it just started selling turntables. It’s a fun place to stop in, browse, and talk about music. Their bulletin board is the best place in town to find out what’s happening. I swear people come from 50 miles away to post stuff.

Mid City Caffé (1626 14th St., NW; 202-234-1515) is a freelancer’s dream. It’s really cute and has free wi-fi. They have an emphasis on eco-conscious coffee, and it’s really good. They’re starting to do acoustic performances by local artists on Tuesday nights.


Ben Olsen is an assistant coach with DC United. He retired as a player last year after 12 seasons with the team.

I have a daughter, 15 months old, and she’s the focus of my life these days. There’s a wonderful park behind our house called Westminster Playground (911 Westminster St., NW). It’s a cool scene for the little ones.

The restaurant 1905 is a nice place to go when the weather turns cold. It’s very intimate and warm inside. The food’s good, and it has a decent brunch.

For coffee, I go to Azi’s (1336 Ninth St., NW; 202-232-0001). Azi is the sweetest lady in the city. She worked at the Ritz-Carlton in the West End for years, and then she opened up a coffeehouse.


Nizam Ali runs Ben’s Chili Bowl—the DC landmark founded by his parents in 1958—along with his brother Kamal.

I go to see shows a lot at the Lincoln Theatre. It’s a 1,200-seat theater that was around back in the Duke Ellington days, and it has great, varied programs. It was shut for ten years or so, and then the city put money into it and restored it to its original luster.

I love Eatonville. It has a really amazing vibe—dramatic and different-looking for the area. And the food is great, sort of upscale Southern.

At Ben’s, we use Industrial Bank (2000 11th St., NW; 202-722-2000), one of the largest black-owned banks. My mom was a teller there, and it’s where she met Dad in the ’50s.


Jackie Flanagan is the owner of Nana, a boutique on U Street named after her grandmother.

I can’t find a dessert I like better than the Nutella calzone at Coppi’s Organic. They dust it with powdered sugar, and that plus a glass of wine can pretty much make your weekend.

I love the view from the top of Meridian Hill Park (16th and Euclid sts., NW; 202-895-6070), also known as Malcolm X Park. There’s a beautiful waterfall, and you can see all over the city. I have two kids, and I always love to take them there—you can sometimes find ducks in the morning.

I love everything at the eco-friendly shop Greater Goods (1626 U St., NW; 202-449-6070). It’s become my go-to home store. They have a ton of kid-friendly beauty products as well as workshops on everything from making jewelry to composting.

This article first appeared in the March 2010 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here.