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Photo: John Gervasi

Demystifying Polo: DC Polo Society

DC is known for big league sports like football and basketball, but not as much for its niche leagues or teams. But times are changing with more unique sports popping up in and around the District, like rugby and polo. When it comes to the latter, Congressional Polo Club’s Seema Sharma says its inclusivity sets the sport apart.

“Everyone should be part of this,” she says of polo. “We want everyone to feel like they belong.”

Sharma, the club’s director of operations, has seen the fields in Poolesville, Maryland go through a few different cycles of management to remain relevant among the growing number of sports offerings in the DMV. This summer marks the first season of the DC Polo Society, a series of eventful Sundays at the club. The final Summer Sunday is on September 22, as the DC Polo Society is set to close out the season with Bubbles & Bubbly. The festivities include local brew samplings and a Mimosa bar.

“The vision behind DC Polo Society is to create an organization that welcomes people within [and outside of] the polo community to come together within one setting,” she continues.

Sharma discovered polo through her children. In Sharma’s case, it became a family commitment as her husband Rajeev is the acting director at the club and shares day-to-day duties with her. The couple also shares the goal of hitting a specific demographic: young professionals.

“We want to make this sport more popular and more prevalent,” she says. “Millenials are key. Many have memories of riding [horses] and going to farms as kids. You begin to work and life becomes hectic, and this perception is made that there is either no polo facility close to DC or it is too difficult to get to.”

With the DC Polo Society, these trepidations are ultimately untrue; the Montgomery County-based club is close to the city and provides everything necessary to participate including charter bus options.

As for the sport itself, when most people think of polo they likely imagine big hats and expensive bubbly – but that’s not always the case. Spectators can expect to enjoy a low-key day in the country where they will be surrounded by three grassy fields and a beautiful view of the sky.

“Being there is a wonderful way to get away from the hectic day-to-day of the city,” Sharma says of the club, placing a heavy emphasis on her desire for people to come to a match and have a reprieve from their busy daily lives.

The allure of a day away from traffic and city life isn’t the only pull Sharma promotes. Athletes like professional polo player Nico Eurnekian provide tremendous entertainment in their own right, playing the game at an impeccably high level.

“I was literally born with a polo mallet in my hand and I have been playing ever since then,” Eurnekian, Congressional Polo Club’s very own pro, says.

Every polo club has a club pro, otherwise known as the anchor of the team. Usually, they have been playing or involved in the sport for a long time, thus they have the most experience and can help other players, which enhances the credibility of the club. This creates a link between the club and community – specifically with training programs for members.

Eurnekian grew up on a farm in Argentina surrounded by horses and fields, so polo was a natural fit.

“There is something very particular about polo where when you get into it, it is very difficult to get out of it,” he says.

He also notes that when spectators come to watch a match, all they see is the speed and the immaculate polo shirts and white pants. In subtle ways, there is so much more that goes into getting to that point, such as the work in creating a relationship between the player and the horse.

“They should see how important the interaction between the animal and the person [is], the relationship [being built] in the midst of the game.”

So, why should you attend a polo match? According to Sharma, there are three things you should keep in mind: the beauty of polo, a day out in the country with your family and friends, and the experience of something new. On top of that, this represents an opportunity to meet new people, so what are you waiting for? Climb on that horse.

Join the DC Polo Society for Funbrella on Sunday, July 28 from 2-5 p.m. Tickets $15-$85. For more on DC Polo Society, visit www.dcpolo.com, and for more about the Congressional Polo Club, visit www.congressionalpolo.com.

Congressional Polo Club: 14660 Hughes Rd. Poolesville, MD; 844-260-4827; www.dcpolo.com

DC Fray is a proud partner of DC Polo Society.

Game Day Fare: Fried Chicken, Local Brews and More

Capitol Riverfront caters to some of the city’s most passionate sports fans, with the Washington Nationals and D.C. United playing home games just blocks apart. That’s a lot of hungry and thirsty people to satiate before and after games. Fortunately, the options have grown considerably in the past few years, with plenty of bars and restaurants opening for business. Whether you’re looking for a sit-down meal from an acclaimed chef, a quick bite, a locally made beer or a strong cocktail, there’s a spot to match your culinary mood all within a short walk of both stadiums.

QUICK & EASY

The Big Stick
Sausages, burgers and sandwiches are the draw at this sports pub. Satisfy hunger in true DC style with the Half Street half smoke or a Maryland crab cake sandwich. The bar offers a good amount of draft and canned craft beers from DC and around the world, in addition to wine and cocktails. 20 M St. SE, DC; www.thebigstick.com

Bonchon
Orders of Korean-style fried chicken come in all shapes and sizes here, making it well-suited to a game day meal with friends. Heat seekers shouldn’t miss the blazingly spicy drumsticks, wings or strips. Sides of rice and pickled radish are there to tame the flames. The traditional soy garlic sauce is addictive as well – but without the tears. Chicken is certainly the signature, but the menu doesn’t stop there. “We also offer traditional Korean dishes along with Asian fusion items for those looking for a more adventurous time,” general manager Jeff Chang says. “I’d wash it all down with an ice-cold beer from a local brewery like Hellbender or DC Brau.”

Happy hour is offered two hours before game time until the start for both baseball and soccer. The restaurant also offers a $13 game-day pack filled with your choice of fried chicken, side, bottled beverage and box of Cracker Jacks to go. 1015 Half St. SE, DC; www.bonchon.com

Philly Wing Fry
Located inside Whole Foods, this counter from Top Chef star Kwame Onwuachi takes game day food to another level. Fill up on decadent, dry-aged beef cheesesteak, confit chicken wings and berbere-spiced waffle fries. Vegetarians can dig into a spicy mushroom sandwich with herbed lebne, smoked provolone and pickled Fresno chilis. 101 H St. SE, DC; www.phillywingfry.com

TaKorean
This fast-casual Korean eatery serves build-your-own tacos and bowls with a focus on fresh and healthy ingredients. Proteins like sweet chili-marinated chicken, bulgogi steak and hoisin tofu can be topped with variety of slaws, crunchy toppings and sauces. A small selection of local beers is available as well. 1212 4th St. SE, DC; www.takorean.com

BAR VIBES

Bluejacket Brewery
Nats fans pack this homegrown brewery during home games, sipping pints from the bar’s extensive tap list. Choose from a rotating selection of more than 20 beers – including several cask selections – and fill up on food ranging from pretzels and fries to a half rotisserie chicken or double-patty burger. 300 Tingey St. SE, DC; www.bluejacketdc.com

Due South
Laidback Southern vibes course through this riverfront eatery. Fortify with a bourbon Shoo-fly Punch with ginger liqueur, mint, orange bitters and ginger beer, or a pour of the bar’s hand-selected Knob Creek bourbon. Food includes comforting favorites like shrimp and grits, buttermilk fried chicken, and a bacon pimento cheeseburger. 301 Water St. SE, DC; www.duesouthdc.com

Gordon Biersch
This spacious pub has plenty of room to meet up before or after a game, including outdoor seating. Beers are brewed in everything from German styles like pilsners and hefeweizens to hoppy American ales. 100 M St. SE, DC; www.gordonbiersch.com

Mission
Mission’s Capitol Riverfront location includes 20 big-screen TVs, a dining room and four bars – including a balcony. That means low wait times for drinks as well as lots of room to gather. “We are always happy to reserve space for groups going to a game or just trying to celebrate,” general manager Fritz Brogan says. Happy hour is available daily, including game days. Weekends include late-night discounts from 10 p.m. to close along with DJs and live music. Earlier in the day, pre-game crowds can take advantage of the bottomless brunch spread featuring items like guacamole, beer and margaritas.

“We believe it’s more fun to eat in a bar than drink in a restaurant.” 1221 Van St. SE, DC; www.missionnavyyard.com

Willie’s Brew & Que
Grab a pile of napkins and settle in with a platter of smoked meats and pint of beer from Willie’s. There are also several burgers and sandwiches to pick from, along with items like mahi mahi tacos and supersized nachos. 300 Tingey St. SE, DC; www.williessportsbardc.com

RELAX & STAY AWHILE

All-Purpose
The Capitol Riverfront location of this popular pizzeria offers riverfront and rooftop views with a side of Italian-inspired dishes – along with beer, wine and cocktails, including a couple of frozen options. It’s also convenient for baseball and soccer fans alike. “We are a two-minute walk from the first base gate of Nationals Park and one of the closest establishments to Audi Field,” general manager Michelle Stewart says.

All-Purpose’s current menu includes both a food and drink special to benefit charity. The first is a pizza created in partnership with D.C. United’s Screaming Eagles fan group; the “L’aquila” (eagle in Italian) pie is topped with tomato, fennel sausage, basil and stracciatella. A dollar from each pizza sold will be donated to Earth Conservation Corps. There’s also the DC Brau Full Count, brewed exclusively for the restaurant with $1 from each sale benefiting local nonprofit DC SCORES. The restaurant will open at 11 a.m. for all 1 p.m. midweek baseball games. Happy hour is daily from 4 to 7 p.m., and Steward says crowds can actually be lighter during games. “It’s like finding a hidden gem in the city,” she says of game day dining. 79 Potomac Ave. SE, DC; www.allpurposedc.com

Chloe
Chef Haidar Karoum’s lively dining room transports guests with flavors of the Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and more. Most dishes come as small plates, so sharing with the table is encouraged. Larger entrees can be split as well, such as the spice-roasted chicken or the crispy whole fish. 1331 4th St. SE, DC; www.restaurantchloe.com

CIRCA
Known for its wide-ranging American bistro menu, CIRCA is a crowd-pleasing option for a meal or round of drinks. “It’s a place you can come a couple times a week for a couple different reasons,” says Matt Carlin, president of Metropolian Hospitality Group, which operates CIRCA.

Unlike a sports bar, CIRCA’s kitchen brings more of an upscale approach to its menu. Two of the most-ordered snacks include the bulgogi beef lettuce wraps and the tuna poke nachos. There’s also happy hour from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. The laidback vibe is also great for anyone who wants a night out without buying a ticket to the stadium.

“Even if you’re watching the game on TV, you can enjoy it,” Carlin says. “It’s not a wild place.” 99 M St. SE, DC; www.circabistros.com

Declaration
The menu here is full of Italian and American comforts like burrata, fried meatballs and crispy calamari. Signature pizzas are named for America’s forefathers, from Thomas Jefferson to New Jersey’s John Witherspoon. 1237 1st St. SE, DC; www.declarationrestaurant.com

The Salt Line
This seafood spot takes its cues from New England coastal eateries. Chef Kyle Bailey’s fresh Maine lobster roll, stuffed clams and satisfying smash burger make stadium food an afterthought. Guests can also hang with a cocktail or glass of wine and slurp oysters from the restaurant’s raw bar. 79 Potomac Ave. SE, DC; www.thesaltline.com