Photo: Gary W. Sweetman
Photo: Gary W. Sweetman

Talking Controversy with The Originalist’s Jade Wheeler

Enemies of division, rejoice. Award-winning political drama The Originalist is returning to Arena Stage tonight. The provocative play tells the story of a liberal law clerk, Cat (Jade Wheeler), who is hired by the late Justice Antonin Scalia (Edward Gero.) At a time of little political middle ground, their relationship turns into one of fierce political sparring and admiration.

Wheeler, lead actress and former DC local, told us her thoughts on today’s political division, how she prepped for a legalese-heavy, explosive drama and how her own politics affect her role as Cat. Her resume includes local performances in venues like the Kennedy Center, Woolly Mammoth and Shakespeare Theatre Company. And when it came to talking controversy – which the play, like its late subject, embraces – Wheeler didn’t shy away.

On Tap: Antonin Scalia ruffled a lot of feathers, to put it mildly. Why should people come see a play about him? What do we gain from dramatizing the life of such a controversial figure?
Jade Wheeler: There have been many plays written about controversial figures, so I hope the subject won’t deter people. [Playwright] John Strand was aware of the tense sociopolitical climate when he wrote this play. He begs the question, “How can we listen to, and not demonize, someone we disagree with?” He added, “There’s a lot of humanity that gets overlooked.”

OT: Why should people on the left come see this? And people on the right?
JW: People should come see this. Period. The divisiveness is poisonous and steering us away from progress. Strand employs the characters Scalia and Cat to broach the wider issue of how we engage in a dialectic – especially with someone who doesn’t share the same point of view.

OT: How do your personal politics come into play as you prepare for the role?
JW: Overall, I try to keep my beliefs out of it. If I have opinions that align with Cat’s and feed the truth of the moment, cool. But if something doesn’t serve her journey, then I leave it at the door.

OT: What do you hope the audience will take from this performance? In a politically fraught time, what should this play do for people?
JW: Nowadays, we are so quick to unfriend, unfollow or block people for thinking differently from us. There’s a hypocrisy that needs to be addressed because, at the end of the day, most of us are seeking truth. Percy Shelley wrote, “I always find the bottom of the well, and they say truth lies there.”

OT: Tell me a little about your creative process. How are you prepping for this role?
JW: My initial prep included a lot of index cards – there was so much to research. Finding Cat’s voice and her physical life was a priority. But the craftwork and relationships get deeper when working with castmates Edward Gero and Brett Mack. This is our third time performing this piece together; I am extremely humbled and honored.

OT: What’s the role of performance art in politics, and vice versa?
JW: The arts and politics have a long and complicated history. My short answer is that performance art is often used to bring awareness to the masses. Politics and economics, however, do have a major role regarding issues such as censorship and funding of the arts.

OT: And finally, slightly unrelated to the play but as a fellow George Mason Patriot alum, I have to ask: where do you stand on the highly-protested renaming of Mason’s law school after Scalia?
JW: I think I’d have to defer to the students and faculty of the law school on this one. I will say that our country has more than a few institutions with names on them that could or should be reconsidered.

Whether you appreciated Scalia’s legal aptitude or loathed his influence, The Originalist tells a humanizing story about breaching political divides with a can’t-miss cast. Catch The Originalist at Arena Stage from July 7 to July 30. Tickets are $40-$90 and can be purchased from

Kreeger Theater at Arena Stage: 1101 6th St. SW, DC; 202-554-9066;

Photo: Matthew Murphy
Photo: Matthew Murphy

Sixteen Going on Seventeen: The Sound of Music’s Paige Silvester

Our city is buzzing about one of the 20th century’s most beloved musicals, currently at the Kennedy Center Opera House through July 16. The Sound of Music tour has finally made its way to the nation’s capital after nearly two years, with Tony Award-winning director Jack O’Brien at the helm. We caught up with actress Paige Silvester, who plays Liesl Von Trapp and has been with the tour from the start, about playing her dream role and why the musical is more relevant than ever before.

On Tap: What first drew you to the role of Liesl?
Paige Silvester:
I grew up watching The Sound of Music, of course, and Liesl was always a dream role because I idolized teenage girls. I would force my little brother – who doesn’t do theater, he’s a soccer player – to play Rolf and Liesl with me. We had a U-shaped couch, and I would make him dance around and jump from cushion to cushion and pretend it was the gazebo in the movie and we’d sing “Sixteen Going on Seventeen.” It’s really nice to get a chance to play the role. It’s a beautiful story that was definitely integral to my desire to do musical theater.

OT: How has your approach to playing Liesl evolved over the past two years?
I think I’ve been able to keep it fresh because the travel is really stimulating to me. We’re always in a new theater in a new city. The audiences react differently every night, so that’s fun.

OT: What has it been like to bring this production to the Kennedy Center?
It is so exciting to perform there. The gravity of performing in that theater really elevates the whole experience. I think the audience is really excited to come to the theater when they’re seeing a show there and so they’re right there with you. It’s a really excited, vocal audience, especially for this show, because everybody has a history with it; it’s nostalgic. I think when they sit down, they’re excited to see the show, but as it progresses, they might be drawn in because it’s a little bit different of a production – different messages might be illuminated throughout the night sitting in the theater, so they really go on a journey with you. It’s an intelligent audience and we appreciate that so much onstage because we feel that energy and we feed off of it. It’s really fun to perform here.

OT: Do you have a favorite song(s) in the musical?
I really love to perform “Sixteen Going on Seventeen.” It’s just a blast to perform with Austin Colby, who plays Rolf. We have a fun connection. I also really love “Edelweiss,” especially in today’s climate and being here in DC, it feels just ever so relevant; so that has been extra powerful in the last few months. Our Captain [Von Trapp], Nicholas [Rodriguez], just does a fantastic job with it. He brings tears to my eyes every night.

OT: Why do you think this production of The Sound of Music is relatable to audience members in their 20s and 30s?
Our show is fun because a lot of people grew up with it and know it, but because of that too, they might think, “Oh, it’s stuffy old Sound of Music that I used to watch with my grandma,” or something like that. But I think that the messages that we have really worked to illuminate in this production [and] the topical relevance of the story right now, and not even just right now, but just that we find always relevant in society…the questions of morality that it brings up, and doing what you think is right and wrong, and the power of religion and love and family, and the importance of music – they’re all really universal topics. I also think our production is younger and fresher and a little bit sexier. It really is fast-paced, and it’s visually stunning. Our set design by Douglas Schmidt and lighting design by Natasha Katz, who just won a Tony Award last weekend – they’re beautiful. It feels like a Broadway production, and if you have the opportunity to see something like that in your hometown, you really should.

OT: What is the best part of being in the show?
Performing at the Kennedy Center is really, really special. I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time, and I can’t believe after two years that this part of the tour is already here. I didn’t over-hype it in my mind. I’m excited to be here. And I get to perform a lot with the kids that are in the show, and every night, they bring something really different to it. You never know quite where you’re going to catch them. For them, it’s just fun. It’s not work for them. If I’m overthinking anything or if I’m tired, I just have to look at them and they give me all the inspiration that I need and just take it back to the place I was in when I decided this is what I wanted to do for my career and the rest of my life, because it can just be such simple fun. They’ve been a really good source of inspiration for me.

The Sound of Music runs at the Kennedy Center Opera House through July 16. Tickets start at $49. Go to to learn more.

The Kennedy Center: 2700 F St. NW, DC; 202-467-4600;

Photo: Trent Johnson
Photo: Trent Johnson

Behind the Bar: July 2017

In a city full of coworking options, we picked some of our favorite spots to grab coffee, a cocktail or a little bit of both while collaborating or working independently. Trust us – every now and then, a spiked coffee can boost your creativity.

The Coupe (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Aaron Herencia
Bartender and Floor Manager, The Coupe

On Tap: How would you describe The Coupe’s environment?
Aaron Herencia: We strive to have something for everyone, so if you want to come have dinner or drinks with friends, or sit on your laptop and work, you can definitely do that. There’s a true sense of community.

OT: Is there a similar sense of community at the bar? What’s the vibe?
AH: It’s not going to be high volume, but at the same time, we like to have fun with the music. It’s very eclectic. You can be listening to Queen and then you’re listening to Biggie. Honestly, we just kind of go with the flow. Depending on how the night goes, we might crank it up and make it a little more fun.

OT: How do you choose your beers?
AH: We try to stay local. Breweries in the DMV area are thriving right now. We have 16 beers on tap, so we try to stay seasonal too.

OT: What’s a popular drink on your menu that combines coffee and spirits?
AH: The most popular one is the Irish coffee. It’s a very simple cocktail: coffee, sugar, Irish whiskey and heavy cream. Whenever you take a sip, you’re going to get that warm spiked coffee and a little bit of that chilled heavy cream.

OT: What’s your most interesting coffee drink?
AH: We have a very good lavender coffee soda. It’s an espresso drink with lavender syrup, a little bit of lime juice and soda. It makes it refreshing – a bit bitter, a bit tart – and perfect for summer.

The Coupe 3 (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Aaron’s Pick
Chocolate City Toddy
Pig’s Nose Scotch
City black tea
Demerara syrup
Heavy cream
Cacao powder

The Coupe: 3415 11th St. NW, DC;

SlipStream 1 (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Coleene Rosenbach
Beverage Manager, Slipstream

On Tap: Slipstream just opened a second location in Cap Riverfront. What was the motivation behind that decision?
Coleene Rosenbach: We wanted to create a little bit more of a spatial difference between the coffee and the bar side.

OT: How did you land on this spot on I Street, and what was the design process like?
CR: We are really fortunate that we got in right as this building was being built, which was how we managed to snag this amazing corner location. You can’t miss it. Everything inside here was built to our specifications, and we had a big say as to where we wanted things.

OT: Do a lot of non-coffee drinkers come in?
CR: Oh yeah, sure. As we get toward the end of the week, when people find it a little more okay to have a few more drinks at the end of their work day, our happy hour really kicks off.

OT: Any spiked coffee concoctions on the menu that are customer favorites?
CR: Our staple Simply Irish, which is our take on an Irish coffee. We do Jameson with a touch of sugar with one of our coffees, hot or iced.

OT: Why do you think people like coming to Slipstream?
CR: I think we’re inviting friendly people who want to go somewhere where they are treated like human beings and not like, “Ugh, what do you want?” sort of a thing. They can grab something fast or spend hours in the back; it really doesn’t matter. We can afford that kind of space where there’s a spot for everyone.

SlipStream 3 (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Coleene’s Pick
The One With The Flashback
Old Overholt Rye Whiskey
Nitro iced coffee

Slipstream: 1333 14th St. NW, DC and 82 I St. SE, DC;

The Royal 1 (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Andrew Larsen
Bar Director, The Royal

On Tap: How does the Royal differ from other spots offering a place to work, but also to enjoy coffee, cocktails and food?
Andrew Larsen: We really try to tie everything together as much as we can. In our cocktail program, I try to incorporate the coffee and tea, and the cooking area and cooking techniques. We try to be an all-day coffee shop/restaurant/bar. You can get any service, and it’s high quality.

OT: How do you keep your cocktail menu fresh?
AL: I try to have a spectrum of as much as I possibly can. I try to have something citrusy, something boozy. We’re always trying to modify and improve our classic cocktails as well. We do actual menu changes about every two months.

OT: Do you offer coffee-based cocktails? 
AL: I’m trying to incorporate them into the menu, because I think it’s fun. One we have on the menu right now is The Monks Made Me Do It, and it’s such a complex cocktail. It’s easy to crush, but you don’t want to, because there are so many intricacies. For our next menu, we’ll do a cold brew negroni that is delicious.

OT: What kind of patrons do you bring in, and does that change dramatically after 5 p.m.?
AL: We try to be very neighborhood-friendly with the menu and the pricing. We’re trying to be your first stop on the way to Shaw, and your last stop on the way back. As we get more accolades, we’re seeing more people come from farther away. It’s definitely nice having that. After 5 p.m., I don’t want to say it gets rowdy in here, but it’s pretty packed.

OT: What regular events do you host?  
AL: Every second Monday of the month, we have a big event called Royal Nights. We bring in guest bartenders and they come up with four cocktails, and I come up with four cocktails, and basically go head to head. The cocktails are cheap too; they’re $8.

The Royal 3 (Photo - Trent Johnson)

Andrew’s Pick
Cold brew concentrates
Cocchi di torino
Smoked with cherrywood

The Royal: 501 Florida Ave. NW, DC;  

Photo: Courtesy of Denizens Brewing
Photo: Courtesy of Denizens Brewing

Brewing Up Business

The craft beer market has grown into a $23.5 billion industry, and the Washington metro area is growing right alongside it.

In 2016, more than 5,300 breweries were in operation around the U.S., and represented approximately 12 percent of market share by volume for the overall beer industry, according to recent data released by the Brewers Association. Overall, craft brewers’ production accounted for nearly 24.6 million barrels, and increased 10 percent in sales and 6 percent in volume over the previous year.

In our region – be it Virginia, Maryland or DC – there’s been an influx of microbreweries, brewpubs and regional craft breweries, and each is attracting customers through innovation and unique offerings. Take Right Proper Brewing, a small brewery company brewing beer in two DC neighborhoods.

“We have both a brewpub in the Shaw neighborhood (The Shaw Brewpub and Kitchen) and a production brewery with a tasting room in the Brookland neighborhood (Brookland Production House and Tasting Room),” says Nathan Zeender, the company’s head brewer. “We have a different set of beers at each location, so there is good reason to visit both. We brew a wide range of styles, with a strong focus on beer fermented with our house wild yeast and lactobacillus cultures.”

The production house is equipped with a shiny new 15-barrel brewhouse, six 30-barrel stainless steel fermentation tanks and three 45-hectoliter French oak foudres. One of the ways Right Proper separates itself from other breweries is by hosting events such as beer yoga, and by showcasing its three huge French oak fermenters used to ferment some of its beers. Zeender says that since the company operates both a brewpub and production brewery, it uses two different models – direct sales and wholesale distribution.

“We brew highly drinkable beers with good personalities,” he continues. “Small-scale, locally supported brewing seems to be driving the industry these days. We continue to see healthy growth in the DC metro area that is supporting an ever-increasing trend toward small breweries.”

Jeff Ramirez, co-owner of Denizens Brewing Co. in Silver Spring, Maryland, which launched in 2014, says the genesis of the business was to bring the camaraderie of the brewery taproom to the DMV. The brewery offers 200 seats, a dog-friendly beer garden and a two-level taproom.

“In the beginning, we tested out further into Maryland and DC, but we learned that it’s better to focus on a more local feel,” Ramirez says. “I feel there’s a big hops focus among the brewers around here, but we focus on doing a variety of beers that are true to tradition.”

At any given time, Denizens has 10 taps open, filled with diverse beer offerings, including at least three seasonal beers and mixed-culture beers. Overall, it has 65 beers and counting.

“We have an events manager that plans fun things to bring people in, and our bottom floor has outdoor seating and a private alleyway, so people can hold events,” Ramirez says. “We try to focus on having fresh, local food.”

Sean Arroyo, CEO of Heritage Brewing Co. in Manassas, Virginia, says the microbrewery is veteran-owned and operated, and looks to provide the same level of attention to detail and passion that its founders brought to serving our country. Established in 2013, the company opened a brewpub in Clarendon this past April, following the success of its microbrewery operation.

“It’s always been a part of our business plan to open a brewpub, and we just wanted to make sure we had the right location picked out and had the right team to do it,” Arroyo says. “For us, we have found that and are making great, on-style, approachable beers.”

When Heritage opened just four years ago, Arroyo says there were less than 50 breweries in the state of Virginia, and only four in Northern Virginia. Now, there are nearly 200 in the state and 40 in the NoVA area.

“It’s really been an explosion, as people enjoy going to the breweries and trying craft beer,” he says. “We have noticed a trend of going backwards a bit in terms of craft, with people drinking more of the lighter beers and lagers, but we always make sure to have what people are looking for.”

Heritage Brewing was one of the first breweries in the area to can its beer, and has helped lead the way for the canning explosion that most customers crave.

“Our brewpub is an all-encompassing experience,” Arroyo says. “We do fresh coffee in the morning and then serve world-class beer throughout the day. We also do a hot barrel series at our brewery, with hundreds of barrels brewing at any one time.”

The secret to success, he says, is to follow consumer trends and listen to your patrons.

“We try and create products that represent them and the needs of the marketplace. The brewpub is a great expansion of who we are. Part of that is that we think of what we are putting in a consumer’s body, producing a better product that not only tastes great, but also is made in a responsible and sustainable way.”

Another brewery finding success in Northern Virginia is Old Ox, a family owned and operated commercial brewery in Loudoun County, which just celebrated three years in business.

“Our business model includes the tasting room and distribution in both draft and package formats,” says Chris Burns, president of Old Ox. “We brew beer we want people to enjoy every day. But we also have fun with our specialty beers by exploring the more creative side of craft beer. For example, we have a series we call Funky Face, which is a collection of tart and sour ales. Our Cooper’s Cloak series features barrel-aged brews. In our tasting room, we always have something on tap that is a bit extraordinary.”

When Old Ox opened, the owners wanted the tasting room to be a place where friends and families gather to connect with each other and celebrate special occasions. The brewery also hosts events in the tasting room that support other local businesses and raise money for good causes.

“What we hear from our tasting room customers is that the feeling they get when they walk through the door at Old Ox is unique,” Burns says. “They feel welcome and part of the Old Ox community, whether they are a regular or from out of town. Our accounts appreciate the time we spend with them and the help we give them in promoting sales in their businesses.”

According to Burns, the craft beer business in Northern Virginia and DC is still growing, and he doesn’t see an end in sight.

“We see new breweries in the pipeline and established breweries expanding their footprints,” he says. “There’s a lot of discussion around how hyperlocal the craft beer business has become. Both residents and visitors to this area want to drink what is produced within just a few miles of where they are located. We also see more and more accounts responding to this demand by offering more tap handles and shelf space to local beer.”

Learn more about these local breweries and brewpubs at their websites.

Right Proper Production House: 920 Girard St. NE, DC;

Denizens Brewing Co.: 1115 East-West Hwy. Silver Spring, MD;

Heritage Brewing: 9436 Center Point Ln. Manassas, VA;

Old Ox: 44652 Guilford Dr. #114, Ashburn, VA;

Right Proper Brewpub and Kitchen: 624 T St. NW, DC;


A Summer Tradition: 311 Brings Annual Caravan to Silver Spring

For 311, it’s a family affair.

The multi-platinum, alt-rock band just embarked on the Unity tour, with a two-night stop at the Fillmore Silver Spring on July 24 and 25. In a recent phone interview with On Tap, bassist P-Nut, born Aaron Wills, told us that the band had just practiced their new song “’Til the City’s on Fire” – and his mom Joan loved it.

“It’s a good mom song,” he said. And then he added, surprisingly, “My mom is actually here with me right now, so you’re interviewing both of us.”

Mom has a lot to be proud of.

Over the course of their 27 years together, 311 has sold over 9 million albums and DVDs in the U.S. alone. Their last nine albums have reached the Top 10 on the Billboard Top 200 Album charts, and they’ve had nine Top 10 radio hits, including three that climbed to the No. 1 spot. But numbers alone don’t speak to the intangible factor that the band has going for it: the passion of their fans.

“They just want to be with each other,” P-Nut said of the band’s fans, “because when you’re at a 311 show, you’re surrounded by friends. And they all know it, so they want to get together all the time. It’s a really cool thing.”

The band started in 1990 in Omaha, Nebraska and consists of P-Nut on bass, Chad Sexton on drums, Tim Mahoney on guitar, and S.A. Martinez and Nick Hexum sharing vocal duties.

While the band has been so successful with their recent albums, their intention has always been to evolve and grow. In the case of their brand new release, Mosaic, that meant opening up to new ideas and people, and giving up the controls more than ever before.

“This is the first time I’ve ever seen us, in our writing core of Chad and Nick, really letting go,” P-Nut said, “and having it be like, ‘Let’s let someone else control it a little bit – the direction of the songs.’”

To that end, the band brought in John Feldmann from the band Goldfinger, who P-Nut called “a 20-year friend of ours who’s turned into this top-list producer.”

P-Nut said that Feldmann pushed the band to revisit some of their most rocking hits, and to see if they could write another one together. He felt that the outside angle really brought a whole new energy to Mosaic, or at least renewed what was already there.

“It’s kind of cool to hear it from someone else’s perspective,” P-Nut said, “and then see what they come up with. It’s just really fun. It’s cool to have control of the collective, but also know that we’ve been around so long that other people might have these great ideas about what’s possible.”

Before the interview with P-Nut ended, his mom wanted to bring it back to the fans. Part of the reason she was so proud, she explained, was that 311 fans make up a positive, charitable group who give back to their communities, motivated by nothing but love.

“In Atlanta last year, they had a diaper collection,” she said, “and they collected disposable diapers from fans who were coming to the show to donate to homeless shelters in Atlanta. Because families make up a large part of the homeless. Just imagine having a baby and not having diapers. And they collected a truckload of diapers from 311 fans who were coming to the show.”

She explained that the band didn’t provide any kind of reward for this outpouring of giving; it was just because 311 fans are generally good people.

“The band doesn’t give you anything for doing something nice,” she said. “But they generated that themselves, because that’s the kind of people that they are and that’s the kind of music that they like.”

It turns out there is a reward, though. Sure, maybe not for that specific charity event, but in general, 311 rewards fans every other year with a concert on March 11 (a.k.a. 3/11). It was a fan-generated idea at first, but the band embraced it. They play more songs each time, old favorites and rarities, requests and whole albums. P-Nut said it’s just one way the band gives back to the people that have given them so much.

“It’s its own little lifestyle,” he said, “and we are endlessly thankful for the opportunity. We love the way our community represents the band so well with a positive message.”

And with that, they signed off. Any mom would be proud.

Catch 311 with opening act New Politics at Fillmore Silver Spring on Monday, July 24 or Tuesday, July 25. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $50. Learn more about 311 at

Fillmore Silver Spring: 8656 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, MD;


Photo: Lindsay Galatro
Photo: Lindsay Galatro

Culinary Collaborations: The Rise of DC Food Incubators

A burgeoning food mecca worthy of Michelin stars and an entrepreneurial spirit that launched the likes of Sweetgreen and &pizza on a national stage make it no surprise that the food incubator trend has taken hold in the nation’s capital.

These coworking commercial kitchen spaces offer a home base to entrepreneurs interested in learning how to run a food business. They’ve helped lower the barrier of entry for those looking to put a great recipe or idea out on the market, leading to the creation of hundreds of DC-made products and concepts in the last few years.

Union Kitchen paved the way, opening the first food incubator in DC in 2012 in NoMa and more recently, a second location in Ivy City. Since then, four other incubators have come onto the scene: Mess Hall, EatsPlace DC, TasteLab and the upcoming Tastemakers from the owners of Captain Cookie and the Milkman.

TasteLab started out just like some of the startups currently occupying its 9,000-square-foot industrial kitchen space in Northeast DC. Founder Ryan Hansan had a great idea, but lacked the infrastructure or space to execute it.

“I had a dinner kit delivery company called scratchDC that we launched in 2012,” Hansan says. “We actually started out of a very small bar kitchen in National Harbor and grew out of the space. We had some contacts in the industry, but unless you get really lucky and find a restaurant or bar that would allow you to come in and use their space during off-peak hours, there was really no commercial facility at the time that was licensed and ready for a small food startup to move into.”

Realizing there were others in the same position, Hansan decided to go out and build his own commercial kitchen and rent out extra space to his industry friends. After a yearlong search for the appropriate space, Hansan settled on a wide-open plumbing warehouse in Northeast, and launched TasteLab in 2015.

“We looked at where our revenue was coming from, and the commercial kitchen business for us was booming, and we were getting so many inquiries and people moving in,” he says. “If we shut down scratchDC, we would have much more room for people to come in, and that’s ultimately the decision we made and we haven’t looked back.”

Now, TasteLab has over 80 small business entrepreneurs operating out of its space, with companies in the pipeline that the incubator is working with to get up and running, and daily inquiries into renting kitchen space. The incubator caters to clients at every stage of the process, whether they already have a license in place or are starting with just an idea. Hansan says TasteLab covers everything from “walking [clients] through registration with the government to ordering and packaging food to how to build a website.”

TasteLab is essentially a one-stop shop to come and launch your food business. Along with shelving space and use of the kitchen, clients have access to the depth of knowledge Hansan and his team have developed over years with hits and misses in the food startup industry. This includes an established relationship list with major packaging and food vendors, marketing associates, licensing, and attorneys.

“DC is a really solid place to start these businesses because people have disposable income, there is a wide variety of tastes in the city, and people living here have high expectations and want quality food,” Hansan says. “It’s quite ripe for the growth of any sort of food company.”

In April, TasteLab opened up its first retail space at Union Market, showcasing 130 different DC-made products; it’s currently the only booth in the market to do so. Everything from root beer and popcorn to jerky and chocolates is featured at the space.

“It’s been a great benefit to our clients interested in retail,” Hansan says. “We’ve gotten them on the shelves and given them some revenue, and hopefully the confidence to go out and sell their products to any grocery store in the area.”

Bethany Kazaba, cofounder and managing principal of Neighborhood Retail Group, explained that the increasing success of food incubators in the District could very well push restaurateurs, especially ones expanding, to build out larger kitchens to service multiple restaurants rather than building a larger restaurant and kitchen space.

“The challenge is where is that affordable space, and where will you put a larger format production kitchen that is close enough to the market with easy access?” Kazaba says. “Landlords will need to be flexible and understanding, and think outside the box.”

Kazaba, whose real estate firm’s clientele includes restaurants and retail, is one of five cofounders of Restaurant Brain Trust, a collective effort from several active members of the DC area restaurant community to develop an educational and networking series geared toward restaurateurs and their staff.

“We thought there was a void in the DC market, where there really wasn’t a great educational or networking program for the restaurant industry, and so we thought we could fill that void,” says Restaurant Brain Trust Cofounder Trish McHugh.

The new group kicked off with a March 7 inaugural event to a huge turnout, featuring an impressive panel that interacted with the audience on topics of importance to the local restaurant community, McHugh explains.

“One takeaway from this is we aren’t just allowing anyone to be on the panel,” she says. “It’s a very committee-driven process and an absolute requirement that panelists speak honestly and freely about the questions we are asking. Because the honest response, although it can be brash and difficult, is extremely important to help other entrepreneurs and startup restaurants.”

Restaurant Brain Trust followed their inaugural event with a June 1 industry panel and networking happy hour event on Bar Deco’s rooftop, showcasing a notable panel of DC restaurateurs discussing leasing and labor issues. The group plans to host quarterly events; the next one is slated for October and will have a financial focus, with experts on the panel including lawyers, accountants and restaurant owners.

“I think it’s important to hear from someone who is in the trenches, who started like everyone else did and expanded,” McHugh says.

Learn more about local culinary incubators at their websites:

EatsPlace DC:
Mess Hall:

Union Kitchen:

Cowork & Dine

You don’t have to be in the restaurant industry to enjoy the perks of DC’s collaborative food scene. Spots around the DMV offer coworking spaces to locals looking for a unique way to work that involves good food and maybe even a libation or two. Our short list of coworking spaces with stellar dining options is below.

Busboys and Poets
With multiple locations around the DMV, Busboys and Poets prides itself on being a neighborhood gathering place for “artists, activists, writers, thinkers and dreamers.” All locations offer ample seating, a variety of delicious menu items (including many vegan and gluten-free) and free Wi-Fi, making it an ideal location to sit and work for awhile. The Takoma location offers a coworking space with available computers and a self-service area for ordering drinks. Various locations in the DMV;

CoworkCafe at Boccato
The concept, which operates in a reserved space of Boccato, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., gives you a functional workspace with the comforts of a coffee shop. For $150/month, members get a $50 food credit, reserved comfortable seating with tons of floor outlets, high-speed Wi-Fi, private booths for calls and basic office amenities. 2719 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA;

This renowned Indian restaurant offers “chai + Wi-Fi,” a membership-based cowork space at their Cleveland Park location, available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For $35/month, members take advantage of unlimited masala chai, tons of outlets, high-speed Wi-Fi and a comfortable workspace. Try it out for $8 your first time, or a one-week trial for $15. 3512 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC;

From the owners of Busboy and Poets, Mulebone hosts a free community workspace with a full menu of healthy treats including all day brunch, free Wi-Fi and color printing, and $3 coffee with unlimited refills. Spread out your work and get things done at one of the many booths or communal tables. 2121 14th St. NW, DC;

Northside Social
Award-winning baked goods, free coffee refills and complimentary Wi-Fi for customers, along with two levels of communal seating, make Northside Social one of the go-to work and meeting spots in Clarendon. And on a sunny day, you’ll find patrons taking advantage of the outdoor picnic tables for al fresco meetings. 3211 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA;

Photo: Brandon S. Hunter
Photo: Brandon S. Hunter

Where To Live Now: Hip Neighborhoods

It’s quite common to chat with someone who grew up in the DC area and hear stories about how M Street in Georgetown and the main drag in Adams Morgan used to be some of the only spots in the city known for quality restaurants, a pulsing nightlife and the always sought-after hip factor. But the nation’s capital is experiencing a cultural and culinary renaissance, and neighborhoods such as the H Street Corridor, Ivy City and Capitol Riverfront are emerging as sought after locales.

At the same time, DMV neighborhoods more known for residential living such as Merrifield/Dunn Loring and Bethesda are undergoing major transformations with thriving town center areas like Mosaic District and North Bethesda. We highlighted some of the cool things happening in each of these neighborhoods, and caught up with a few of the people living and working in them to get their take on why you may want to call them home too.

Bethesda/North Bethesda

AMP by Strathmore
Music and dining is combined, with neither outshining the other at AMP, a venue overseen by the Strathmore. The gorgeous venue space allows you to come and get a delicious meal and cocktails thanks to an above par menu, and listen to a live act without needing to make other plans. The venue benefits from the Strathmore connections with musical talent, showcasing a variety of classic rock, blues and jazz artists, as well as urban R&B and Latin. Notable acts that have come through include the late Chris Cornell, NRBQ and Noah Gundersen. 11810 Grand Park Ave. North Bethesda, MD;

Barrel & Crow
A good/excellent review from Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema was well earned back in 2015, when Barrel & Crow opened in Bethesda, and not much has changed since. The restaurant’s elevated Southern coastal cuisine includes such highlights as fried Amish chicken and waffles with seasonal fruit compote; spiced roasted moulard duck breast; and quail and andouille gumbo. For cocktails, you can’t go wrong with the Golden Rule: Filibuster bourbon, Meyer lemon, ginger-honey syrup and Cointreau. 4867 Cordell Ave. Bethesda, MD;

Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club
Built in 1938, this intimate concert hall underwent an $8 million renovation to now accommodate 300 seats for dinner and live music, along with an additional 200 seats for performances. Featuring an impressive array of blues and jazz performers, along with some talented tribute performances (hello, Billy Joel), the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club is a truly unique place. Regular concertgoers can take advantage of their loyalty reward program. 7719 Wisconsin Ave. Bethesda, MD;

Pike & Rose
This complex combines retail, restaurants and living all in one, and is expanding just as rapidly as it is growing in popularity. The Residences at Pike & Rose offer three apartment communities for rent, while 930 Rose are condominiums for sale, both of which are steps away from everything.  Nearby shopping includes REI, Nike and Francesca’s, while popular eateries include local favorite &pizza and Del Frisco’s Grille, with a “second phase” of development bringing even more restaurants and retail. There are always outdoor events and community gatherings in the complex, and for an amazing music and dining experience, head to local hot spot AMP. 11580 Old Georgetown Rd. North Bethesda, MD;

Summer House Santa Monica
The tastes and feel of Southern California comes to North Bethesda at this popular restaurant, with relaxed beach décor and fresh, seasonal dishes. An open kitchen gives a view of the wood-fire grill that serves up center-cut filet, rainbow trout and prime burger. Other highlights of the menu include ahi tuna and watermelon tostadas; local burrata with tomato jam and grilled bread; and caramelized Brussels sprouts. For cocktails, try the In-Sandiary: jalapeno-infused tequila, watermelon syrup and lime cordial. 11825 Grand Park Ave. North Bethesda, MD;

Q&A with Sam Brumbaugh

Director of Programming, Strathmore

On Tap: How would you describe the atmosphere at AMP by Strathmore?
Sam Brumbaugh: It’s designed in a way that you are able to enjoy a nice meal and see a show, and the two things aren’t mutually exclusive; rather, they blend into one great experience. You are there the whole night. You can go after work, grab a drink, sit down, and then stay for dinner and a show.

OT: How does AMP fit in with the neighborhood?
SB: Besides Strathmore, geographically there really isn’t a live music venue around here where you’re going to get pretty serious artists on a very intimate scale. We draw a lot of different crowds at AMP, and the music program brings a lot of different groups into the Pike & Rose complex. People will come, walk around a bit, grab a drink and then come in for a show.

OT: What do you look for when booking musicians?
SB: You have to get on the map locally before you can nationally, in some ways. We’ve always stressed a lot that if you build your audiences locally, that’s your first building block. We do a lot of tributes and local R&B. We have a biannual Luther Vandross tribute that is hugely popular, and all of that is a building block with different audiences and genres.

OT: What is your go-to spot in the area when you have downtime before a show?
SB: The cookies at Summer House [Santa Monica] are amazing. You can split one between two people, they are so big. When I’m over there at sound check and I get two minutes, I’ll run down there and get one. The best are the oatmeal and apple or cheesecake cookie.

AMP by Strathmore: 11810 Grand Park Ave. North Bethesda, MD

Click to the next page below to read more.

Photo: Courtesy of Archipelago
Photo: Courtesy of Archipelago

Summertime is Tiki Time in DC

While I’d strenuously argue that there’s never a bad time for Tiki, summertime is undoubtedly Tiki time in the nation’s capital. Tiki has never been hotter than it is right now, and here’s where you can take part.

“It was time for DC to get [a Tiki bar],” says Owen Thomson of Archipelago, which opened last spring and filled the void in the city where Tiki always should have been.

After the closure of Hogo, the city had been lacking a true year-round Tiki haven. In came a team of bartending buddies, Thomson included, to open Archipelago, and the problem was solved. Since then, the sky-high Tiki trajectory has only become more prominent, as well as more diverse.

“There are just as many styles for this new interpretation of Tiki as there are regular bars,” says Thomson. “We skewed more toward the laidback neighborhood style.”

They serve multiple, highly popular large format drinks meant for between two and four people, as well as their own takes on classics like the piña colada and mai tai, and a range of additional inventive house creations.

In Alexandria, Captain Gregory’s – tucked away inside Sugar Shack Donuts – has held a number of Tiki Night events spurred on by assistant beverage director Rachel Crossno.

“Reviving Tiki was the natural next step when people wanted to look past pre-Prohibition drinks,” she says of the category’s emerging prominence. “Tiki cocktails held sway in the U.S. for half a century, and for good reason. At their core, Tiki drinks are social and escapist, and when done correctly, they are highly complex and delicious.”

Her go-to favorite Tiki drink is one you likely haven’t heard of – the Roman Twist.

“[It’s] a lovely concoction of bourbon, coffee liqueur, orgeat and citrus created by Joe Scialom in 1963,” explains Crossno. “Not only does it showcase the fact that Tiki drinks are not exclusively reliant on rum, but the interplay of the roasted coffee and toasted almond notes really sets the drink apart from its peers.”

Once you start dabbling in Tiki, you’ll see that alongside its chilled-out, come-as-you-are vibes, it’s a world filled with such time-honored traditions as Tiki mugs, and elaborate and ornate garnishes and decor. So when Crossno has a Roman Twist, she’ll probably sip it from her personal favorite Tiki mug, the Moko Moai from Tiki Farm, a replica of a Tiki sculpted by Ben “Benzart” Davis.

Back to the city, at the newly opened Truxton Inn, Brian Nixon is debuting a new two-month Tiki menu starting July 1. His previous menu already had a Tiki diversion or two, such as the JFK on Vacay, a supercharged daiquiri riff made with Maui Pineapple rum, rhum agricole, passion fruit, lime and mulled simple syrup.

“I’m always thinking Tiki,” he says. “It’s fun and whimsical. And that’s part of why I like bartending.”

He relishes those ideals himself, while equally enjoying people’s reactions as he helps them to partake as well.

Jack Rose’s annual rooftop Tiki bar is back for the season as well. It’s open Thursdays through Saturdays, including a special Tiki Thursday happy hour, a weekly four-hour bash where everything is half-priced. Expect seven original Tiki cocktails plus a lineup of Tiki classics.

Even the booming DC distillery scene couldn’t keep away from Tiki time. Enter Cotton & Reed’s Allspice Dram, their take on the popular Tiki cocktail staple. Pick up a bottle for some at-home Tiki experimentation, or head to Cotton & Reed to try one of local cocktail wiz Lukas B. Smith’s latest creations.

And speaking of Hogo, it’s back. After a three-year hiatus, Tom Brown has transformed the top floor of The Passenger into a Hogo revival. It’s expected to last through the summer, but could end up sticking around even longer than that.

Still thirsty? Across the street at La Jambe, their springtime Tiki cocktail menu has been replaced, but they retain a “La Surprise” cocktail on their menu where you can request something, or have the bartender get creative. You may want to call back to one of their previous libations – try the Ana’s Ananas, with pineapple-allspice shrub, ginger, jalapeno and a blend of agricole rhums.

Find Your Tiki

Check out these local spots for the most creative tiki drinks in and around the city.

Archipelago: 1201 U St. NW, DC;
Captain Gregory’s: 804 N. Henry St. Alexandria, VA;
Cotton & Reed: 1330 5th St. NE, DC;           
Hogo (At The Passenger): 1539 7th St. NW, DC;
Jack Rose Dining Saloon: 2007 18th St. NW, DC;
La Jambe: 1550 7th St. NW, DC;
Truxton Inn: 251 Florida Ave. NW, DC;

Photo: LIndsay Galatro
Photo: LIndsay Galatro

A Day in the Life: WeWork’s Alissa Avilov

Today, cult classic Office Space is nearly obsolete, and the plotlines in The Office feel like they were plucked from 30 years ago, rather than the past decade. The reason these office-centric themes are no longer relevant to the way we work? We don’t congregate around the watercooler anymore.

Instead, we’re sipping micro-roasted coffee on a swanky tufted couch or enjoying craft beers on draft at the sleek kitchen bar, and we’re not chatting up our colleagues – we’re talking to entrepreneurs, freelancers and creatives that share our same coworking space.

WeWork is at the helm of the coworking movement, with eight DC area locations and two more on the way. We caught up with Reston, Virginia native Alissa Avilov, community manager at WeWork’s brand new Apollo location in the H Street Corridor, about her role at the company, the local coworking landscape, and some of her favorite things to do in and around the city.

On Tap: How does WeWork operate?
Alissa Avilov: WeWork is a coworking space, but our whole premise is to build communities within. All of our spaces are built and designed so that we can foster community and encourage networking; customers can meet new people, and come to and host great events. We want people to make a life, not a living. We want people that are living their side hustle full-time.

OT: What does your role as community manager entail?
AA: I was the community manager at WeWork Crystal City, and that was a different experience because those actually have living spaces as well. As a community manager, my biggest responsibility is that we are thriving on sales. It’s not like traditional sales; we’re just trying to bring people into our community and see if they fit. You’re really listening to people, and seeing if there’s a way you can help them and their needs. I have to know our members, know their birthdays, where they live, and milestones they reach personally and professionally. We have to curate events that aren’t just business-focused, but also include things like yoga and partnerships with people from our community. We’re really fostering a welcoming, inspiring environment.

OT: How did you get involved in community work spaces?
AA: I worked for a small food startup. I ran a food truck and restaurant, and I was drawn to it because I loved working in the industry. While I was there, my best friend in college worked at a WeWork in Boston, and we partnered by connecting our communities. It got to a point where I was looking to move, and I was ready to make a career move, and what really struck me was the community she built. Her day-to-day was listening to and speaking with [her community], and it struck me how little I see from that otherwise. Sometimes, we forget to talk to people around us. I really wanted to work for WeWork. I started here last April, and I’ve been loving it ever since.

OT: How will your role be different at the new Apollo WeWork space?
AA: I definitely have the same goals. I’m motivated by the people who are working in what they believe in. I love that aspect of being with WeWork. WeLive [furnished apartments and rentals in Crystal City and Lower Manhattan] is a great new project, and it’s so exciting to be a part of a new project and system. I’m really excited about the Apollo. I’m also the person that supports events in DC, and working at the Apollo will give me a little more time to focus on events and content that are really exciting, but also really helpful. We want to bring everything that we can to our communities.

OT: Do you see coworking spaces as a trend? What are the advantages to sharing space with other businesses?
AA: Absolutely. I think what I love so much about touring is that you show people the space, and they’ll be skeptical, and we prove them wrong. I love those members, because they can come in and see it for themselves. It’s just a culture with WeLive, with the coliving. We live in these neighborhoods and apartments where we don’t know anyone; it’s rare to find someone living in your neighborhood. It’s special to sit at a breakfast with 20 strangers, and people are seeing the value in that in both their professional and personal lives. We all need support from other people and communities that we can be a part of. That’s what makes WeWork such a special place.

OT: Why do you think WeWork spaces have been so successful in DC?
AA: I think DC has been a really special place. From my experience, all of our buildings have personalities. We attract people in businesses that are attracted to those spots specifically. We’re getting a lot of people from H Street in Apollo, as opposed to our White House location, which is more buttoned up and government-like. We’ve found a lot of success here, and there’s a WeWork for everybody, but at the same time, WeWork is a community in and of itself. I think that’s the best thing that I’ve seen about DC.

OT: Are you ever surprised at just how diverse the clientele is at the spaces you provide?
AA: No; I think that’s part of what’s so exciting. The space can make sense for anyone. It can be a mom blogging who just wants to come in, or it can be a huge enterprising company. It’s exciting for everyone, regardless of the size of their company. And the more diverse we are, the better, because you can stand to learn something from anyone.

OT: When you’re not working, what’s your go-to spot to grab a meal?
AA: I love Sally’s Middle Name. I think it’s really special; it’s super authentic and honest. It’s such a reflection of what’s in the market, and it’s also delicious, which definitely helps.

OT: Do you have a favorite drink?
AA: I love anything from Dogfish Head. I don’t really discriminate, but I don’t really drink that much either.

OT: What kind of music do you enjoy listening to?
AA: I love to listen to anything live, but my favorite artists are The Lumineers, Sara Bareilles – any kind of folk, but with really strong lyrics. The Lumineers are my favorite band, and I’ve seen them twice. I saw them in Richmond and at Madison Square Garden.

OT: Do you have a favorite venue to catch shows?
AA: DAR Constitution Hall; I saw The Head and the Heart there. I like all of the intimate settings in the city. I also really like the 9:30 Club.

Learn more about WeWork Apollo at

WeWork Apollo: 810 7th St. NE, DC; 202-759-7745;

Exploring new cities on foot
Building community
Supporting people’s passions
Food education
Spending time with loved ones

Cell phone
Calm space
Knives (for cooking)

Key card
Cold brew coffee
Vegetables (again)

Photo: Will Niccolls Photography
Photo: Will Niccolls Photography

Mountain Biking the DMV

On an early summer Saturday at Rosaryville State Park in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, a half-dozen early risers congregate in a parking lot, stretch their limbs, and strap on helmets and gloves before climbing onto brightly colored mountain bikes.

Moments later, excited hoots and hollers pierce the muggy morning air, followed by a whoosh of kinetic energy as the group drops single file into a dense forest trail under a cooling canopy of hardwood trees surrounded by fragrant wildflowers. The 80-minute ride around a 10-mile loop – just a half-hour from downtown Washington – sends these riders hurtling down ravines, chugging up hills, blasting through creek beds, and hopping over occasional logs and rocks. It will also leave them flecked with mud, covered in sweat and grinning from ear to ear.

It’s a scene that plays out hundreds of times each week throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, which over the past decade or so has become one of the nation’s premier mountain biking locales. Northern Virginia and Southern Maryland offer dozens of excellent trail riding options an hour or less from DC, a fact that surprises some considering the region’s relatively low altitude and urban setting.

Martin Fernandez, who has written three outstanding books about biking in the DMV area – including Mountain Biking Virginia and Mountain Biking the Washington, D.C./Baltimore Area – told On Tap that the region is “a virtual mecca for mountain biking.”

“We’re lucky,” Fernandez said. “In Virginia, coupled with the riding trails available in Maryland and bordering Pennsylvania and West Virginia, you could spend several years and not ride all of what is available.”

A big chunk of the credit for the sport’s growth in the area can be attributed to the Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts (MORE). Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, the nonprofit recreational organization started out as a club of about 30 mountain bikers; it now boasts more than 1,500 members and is steadily growing. Ernie Rodriguez, who has served as MORE’s president for the past four years, said the group’s mission is reflected in its slogan: “Riding bikes and building trails since 1992.”

“Everything goes under that – the social experience, the advocacy effort, the communication with public land managers, and the building and maintenance of trails,” Rodriguez explained over hamburgers and beers at MORE’s annual summer celebration at Seneca Creek State Park in Maryland last month.

As we talked, about a hundred people of all ages were heading out for, or returning from, trail rides in the lush green park. They milled about – chatting and laughing, swapping bike and trail tips, and professing their love for the sport. Local bike shops and national bike manufacturers showed up to provide free bike swag, bike maintenance and demo rides on fancy new models.

MORE’s work is entirely volunteer-based, and its members don’t just ride bikes and rock cookouts – they get to work. MORE volunteers devoted more than 6,000 hours of labor on area trails last year alone. The group maintains more than 400 miles of natural-surface trails in 41 state and county parks throughout the region, and has constructed nearly 100 miles of new, sustainable trails. The club also leads hundreds of rides each year at area parks, ranging from beginner to intermediate to advanced.

While men often seem to outnumber women on area trails, that could be changing. Anne Mader, owner of The Bike Lane – a full-service bike shop with locations in Reston and Springfield – said she is selling more mountain bikes to women than ever before, and that manufacturers are making bikes specifically designed for them. Mader sometimes teams up with MORE to offer riding clinics for women.

“Twenty years ago, when I started mountain biking, there were very few women,” she said. “And now I go to some trailheads and there are almost more women than guys. The sport is definitely growing for women. A lot of women are coming to it in their 30s and 40s, getting into it later in life – maybe because they’re not running anymore but want to be out in nature.”

Mader also said there is a misperception of the sport as death-defying and dangerous. It can be that, certainly – but it doesn’t have to be.

“Mountain biking can be as easy as going on a nice single-track trail and riding just to be outside,” she said. “There really is a trail for every ability level.”

Rodriguez encouraged anyone interested in the sport to check out MORE’s website at He said even if you don’t have a bike, the group could help you find a loaner for an initial ride and then a good deal on something used if you take to the sport.

“It’s a good way to meet some really great people,” he said. “It’s really exhilarating to ride, and you get to be out in nature. What more could you ask for?”

Must-ride local trails

One of the most revered mountain biking destinations in the region, Fountainhead, near Fairfax Station, Virginia, has a little something for everyone: easy, flowing single-track, moderately difficult technical areas and an expert section that will put even the most skilled of riders to the test.

Located in a big valley near Ellicott City, Maryland, Patapsco features an appealing mix of fast-flowing trails, rock gardens, bridges, and switchback curves with well-maintained berms and trails. This park also features a pump track where riders can practice their jumps.

Rosaryville in Upper Marlboro, Maryland is an excellent trail for beginners and intermediates, featuring a 10-mile perimeter loop through a beautiful forest with a fun, easy flow, a few moderate ascents and a generally mellow vibe. Be careful to look for equestrian riders who share the park.

Learn more about all three tracks at