Ceviche, Cake, and Apple Cider Vinegar: What 9 Influential Washingtonians Eat for Breakfast

Susan Goldberg

Editor-in-Chief of National Geographic

Susan Goldberg’s day is spent in the company of people from every corner of the globe. She has back-to-back meetings, international phone calls, and frequent business trips abroad. But before all of that, Goldberg starts her morning in the National Geographic Society cafeteria on M Street, Northwest.

Goldberg always asks for the same thing: two hard-boiled eggs with salt, a large cup of tea, and a juice blend (today she sips on kale, beet, ginger, and apple). Her tea has to be Earl Grey, and it has to have skim milk—it’s a follow-up to the cup her husband, Geoffrey, hands her every morning before she leaves their home in Kalorama.

Goldberg is the tenth editor-in-chief of National Geographic magazine, but she previously worked in newspapers, and her morning routine is that of a newshound’s. First, she listens to WTOP while she wakes up and gets ready. Then, she reads both the Washington Post and The New York Times digitally.

Photographs by Elissa Miolene.

Francisco Borja

Ambassador of Ecuador to the United States

Francisco Borja moved into Ecuador’s chandelier-adorned mansion in late April. It’s a home and an office: “In the two months here, I have never dined by myself,” he says. “I receive so many people from my country.”

Today, his fiancé, his sister, a diplomat, and a few public relations employees join him in a room with French paneling. “It’s very important for our culture to have breakfast together with the whole family,” says Trilce Oña, an employee in the ambassador’s office.

Glass doors line the eastern wall, opposite a buffet spread with ceviche, tigrillo, and empanadas, among other dishes that represent the cultural diversity between Ecuador’s Andean highlands and coastal regions.

The guests discuss Ecuadorian exports, ceviche as a hangover cure, and New England quarterback Tom Brady over a four-course meal containing fresh passionfruit juice, ceviche, and chocolate mousse. “We have the best chocolate in the world,” says cultural attaché Carla Portalanza.

While only a few of the plates would make for a workday breakfast, the display is representative of a Saturday brunch. “I’m going to tell you something,” says Borja, “the bolón is the only thing here I don’t like,” referring to the plantain dumplings filled with mozzarella.

Borja needs a big breakfast to fuel him for the day, but Deputy Chief of Mission Efraín Baus has a different theory: “He can eat a big breakfast like this because he bikes to work.” Borja makes the 1.5-mile journey to and from Ecuador’s embassy in Columbia Heights every day, plus another round trip for his lunch break.

Photographs by Angie Hilsman.

Carlene Thomas RDN, LD

Dietitian, Founder of Healthfully Ever After

For Washington’s best healthy-eating Instagrammer, work is a constant. “There’s always something for me to be doing online, so I’m constantly on the move,” says Thomas.

The walls, tables, and bowls in Thomas’s Georgetown office are white—an environment perfect for her photography—but also a reminder of her work as a dietitian. “It’s a practice-what-you-preach thing,” says Thomas, adding that what she has in her fridge and what she eats for breakfast are liable to end up on her blog. “Weirdly, as I think I eat the same things all the time, it helps people come up with new combinations.”

Thomas boils eggs before her work week starts, so they’re easy to grab as she’s running out the door, she says. “It has to be easy, because if it’s not easy, it’s easy to skip.” The dietitian pairs eggs with yogurt, green juice, and whatever fruit is on hand from her CSA delivery. “It’s all very portable.”

Thomas discussed the importance of including a balance of macronutrients—carbohydrates, protein, and fats—in a breakfast dish to maintain focus. “It’s easy to rely on a starch, but your energy levels just crash.” Despite her feelings that “leftover ratatouille with an egg on top is the best breakfast ever,” Thomas says eating right is all about listening to your body. “I won’t choke down a green juice just because I feel I have to,” she says.

Photographs by Angie Hilsman.

Andy Shallal

Owner of Busboys and Poets, Eatonville

At 7 AM, Andy Shallal wakes up in his Adams Morgan home. But for half an hour, he takes it slow. “I guess you can call it meditation,” he says, “I sit up in bed and gather my thoughts—it seems the busier you get, the more you should slow down.” The restaurateur dedicates most of each day to his activist ventures and his eight restaurants; including all seven Busboys and Poets scattered throughout the DC area, and Eatonville Restaurant on 14th Street, Northwest.

Shallal always eats breakfast at one of his restaurants, and that breakfast is always oatmeal. Today, Shallal sits down at the Busboys on 14th and V. His oatmeal is sprinkled with cinnamon and served with milk and walnuts.

“When I was trying to figure out what to do, I started waiting tables,” Shallal says, “and I really loved it. I loved the power of food, and the power of convening.”

Photographs by Elissa Miolene.

Lynn Goldman

Dean of Public Health at the Milken Institute School of Public Health, GW University

Though Lynn Goldman wakes up between 5 and 6 AM, her husband, Doug, wakes up even earlier. He makes her a skim milk latte and heads out the door, and Lynn begins her first routine of the day: fresh fruit, peach yogurt, and plain oatmeal. “It’s a little basic, and a little boring,” she says, “but it works for me.”

Growing up, Goldman was naturally thin and much less health-conscious. “But as a pediatrician and a public health expert—if I’m going to be preaching the gospel of physical activity and healthy eating, I better be doing it too,” she says.

Goldman leaves her Silver Spring home in time to arrive at work around 8. From then on out, her day is filled by meetings with staff, faculty, and students both prospective and current.

She usually eats alongside her 22-year-old parrot, Chica. On the weekends, Goldman’s routine changes a bit: Doug and her 19-year-old daughter, Hannah, join her at the breakfast table.

Today, Goldman treats herself to blackberries. Her family orders produce through a CSA, which delivers strawberries, potatoes, and asparagus, among many other products, straight to the Goldmans’ porch. Goldman has her own garden outside as well—in the summer, she makes pear butter from the fruit trees in her backyard.

Photographs by Elissa Miolene.

Drew Kim

Co-owner of Matchbox, Ted’s Bulletin, and DC-3

For restauranteur Drew Kim, breakfast is a family affair. Squished into a narrow kitchen, his wife, Addie Spahr Kim, prepares French toast for their two boys, but opts out of using butter. “I like coconut oil because it adds extra sweetness,” she says.

While the children will also get fresh fruit from their CSA delivery, along with an assortment of supplements—a concentrated fruit and vegetable tablet, fish oil, and multivitamin, among others—the Kim parents will prepare themselves smoothies to fuel their day.

Drew Kim usually bases his smoothies on protein, explains Addie, which means vanilla or chocolate plant-based protein powder, peanut butter, and bananas. “If I start my day like this with all the vitamins, I can let the rest of the day slide,” he says. “I’m having dessert after this,” he says, explaining that Matchbox is trying to roll out several new desserts that he’ll be taste testing.

Addie Kim usually blends a green juice. “Getting a nutrient-dense shake that’s going to get us through the day is partly function, partly consciousness,” she says. “We want to live longer so we can see our kids doing what we’re doing.”

Drew Kim prepares a second smoothie to go. “Spinach, kale, blueberries, apple, carrot, coconut water, chia seeds, and worms,” he jokes to his son. Addie Kim explains that they like to incorporate at least one superfood—not including worms—into each breakfast, and opens the door to the “superfood cupboard” to reveal canisters of chia, hemp, and flax seeds, along with coconut shreds and acai berries. Alternatively, her breakfast blend includes frozen pineapple and mango, banana, dates, hemp hearts, kale, and coconut water, with a hearty side of supplements that she dishes out of her large-print pill box.

The couple swears by their Vitamix blender, but on weekends, they loosen up a little: “We usually drag everyone to Ted’s for breakfast—splurge a little—or get crêpes at the market,” Addie Kim says.

Photographs by Angie Hilsman.

Rachad Bouhlal

Ambassador of Morocco to the United States

5 AM in Washington is 10 AM in Morocco, so each morning at that time, Rachad Bouhlal wakes and almost immediately gets on an overseas phone call.

Soon after, Bouhlal joins his wife Fatiha Bennani for breakfast in their Bethesda home. The dining room is colorful; a brightly patterned sofa wraps around two walls, and Moroccan silver dangles throughout.

The first meal of the day is important for Moroccans, and Bouhlal’s two chefs prepare breakfast accordingly. A large glass bowl holds fresh fruits like plums and mango; surrounding it are six smaller bowls filled with dried fruits, nuts, honey, olive oil, fresh fruits, and jam. The Bouhlals will ladle these toppings onto their main dishes.

First, the Bouhlals eat two poached eggs with khlii on top (a cut up, sundried beef). A server pours mint tea and Moroccan coffee into the Bouhlals’ cups, which the chefs make by mixing the grounds with cinnamon, crushed Arabic gum, cloves, and cardamum, Fatiha says.

The server then sets out four traditional Moroccan dishes: baghrir, a type of pancake; sfenj, a popular beignet/doughnut dish; msemen, square pan-fried dough; and harcha, semolina flat bread. Such a display is typical for Moroccan families. Fatiha explains that in Morocco, people do not go to restauraunts to eat as often as people in the United States do: the home is the central point for congregating.

Photographs by Elissa Miolene.

Virginia Ali

Owner of Ben’s Chili Bowl

Virginia Ali arrives at Ben’s Chili Bowl for breakfast, but before she can sit down, Bernadette “Peaches” Halton, an employee for 38 years, has her breakfast ready: a salmon cake, turkey bacon, an egg over easy, home fries with onions, and a cup of hot water, lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar. “I did limit myself to one egg,” Ali says about today’s breakfast. “I prefer two.”

Today, Ali is joined by Bernard Demczuk, assistant vice president for District relations at George Washington University. “I think DC’s too busy for breakfast unless it’s like The Mayflower or Hay-Adams, places where executives gather,” he says over his oatmeal with raisins. While Demczuk connects breakfast with networking, Ali has her own ideas.

“I’m 82, and I don’t take any pills, so I can eat anything I want,” she says confidently. “I’m not eating to be healthy. I’m eating to enjoy.” Ali later says that salmon cakes aren’t an everyday option, especially when you work around chili dogs. Breakfast is usually a smoothie, produce, or yogurt.

“Having a healthy breakfast gives me energy to get through my day,” she says. But Ali enjoys eating at work. “It keeps me from having to cook the same thing at home, and most important, I get to see my children everyday.” Ali’s three sons—Kamal, Nizam, and Sage—help run Ben’s and have opened up additional restaurants around town. “Life doesn’t get any better than that.”

“I grew up eating three meals a day on time, and I still do,” Ali says. “Breakfast really is my favorite meal and has been for as long as I can remember. I think everyone should have breakfast.”

Photographs by Angie Hilsman.

Richard Reyes-Gavilan

Executive Director of DC Public Libraries

Richard Reyes-Gavilan moved full-time to DC this time last year, after spending about five months commuting between here and New York. “The hard part of going to a new city is being able to find a sandwich like this,” he says, referring to fried egg, cheese, and ketchup on a seeded Kaiser roll.

Reyes-Gavilan normally makes the trip to So’s Your Mom in Adams Morgan with his two daughters on the weekend. “We’re all big fans of egg and cheese sandwiches,” he says.

Today coworker George Williams joins Reyes-Gavilan for breakfast in Kalorama Park, while Reyes-Gavilan explains the significance of such a sandwich in New York. “There are things like Pret and Panera that are fast and casual,” he says. “In New York City, an egg and cheese on a roll is a ubiquitous sandwich. You can go to every store. I’ve had a hard time finding other delis in DC. They just don’t exist.”

Reyes-Gavilan explains he and his wife had stumbled upon the shop while they were looking for a place to live. “We stayed at an Airbnb just down the street. It was the first place we walked into while exploring the neighborhood.” He discusses his family’s recent purchase of a Mount Pleasant home. The transition from his Woodley Park rental, he says, will hopefully feel less transient, and allow for a more regular breakfast. “I’d like to have breakfast everyday, but it’s the logistics of having two kids under the age of 10,” says Reyes-Gavilan. On workdays, he typically settles for an earlier lunch to compensate for the skipped breakfast.

Before concluding that the move would fix his breakfast woes, Reyes-Gavilan returns to his longing for a perfect sandwich. “I’ll have to make sure they fix the roll problem,” he says. Reyes-Gavilan prefers seedless Kaiser rolls.

Photographs by Angie Hilsman.