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Photo: Shervin Lainez
Photo: Shervin Lainez

Sylvan Esso brings Emotional Electronic Pop to The Anthem

Have you ever heard of Sword & Sorcery?

No, probably not. At least I hadn’t until (squints at calendar) May 15. Even still, I somehow already knew the name of Sword & Sorcery characters integral to what Wikipedia describes as an “indie adventure video game.” The name of said characters are Sylvan Sprites, and the reason the name is familiar is because of the band Sylvan Esso.

“I just restarted [playing the game],” Nick Sanborn says, finally on the phone with me after multiple sliding doors caused a slight delay.

“I’m actually learning how to be a dungeon master for Dungeons & Dragons,” Amelia Meath chimes in. “It’s great to think about on tour. It helps you think about a bunch of scenarios.”

Sylvan Esso is the formation of this very power couple – Meath and Sanborn – based in Durham, North Carolina. After one listen through their music catalog, the reason they bestowed a reference to a fantasy video game upon their band name becomes immediately apparent.

The sound is electronic at its base because of Sanborn’s background. His studio tinkering pulsates and radiates waves of energy, sometimes in the form of distorted beeps and boops, and also in ambient noises like a collage of what you’ll hear on a busy street. All of this builds to when Meath whispers, then bellows, and then whispers again, at once reminding you of the flesh and bones behind these intimate collections.

“I think the best part about it is [fantasy] can be anything you want it to be,” Sanborn says. “Really, it’s about storytelling and improvisation with a group of people. It’s really a specific skillset that is deeply creative.”

This approach is also an accurate description of how Sylvan Esso tackles music, as the creatives have enjoyed a lifetime of molding sounds. Meath grew up in a “singing family” in New England who did a ton of driving around, vocalizing whatever was on the radio. She also enjoyed singing in a sea shanty group titled The Rebels, who would perform music based on “whatever culture the director picked that year.”

For Sanborn, his love of all things electronic didn’t get kicking until he was just exiting high school. The Midwesterner was introduced to a range of works from England to Detroit, and simply put, they all resonated with the teenager.

“I didn’t want to go to college for performance, I wanted to go for composition,” Sanborn says. “This is a way that I could express my interest in composition, and it started slowly but never stopped growing.

Meath and Sanborn met in Milwaukee in 2013, and their musical chemistry was palpable and essentially immediate. This like-mindedness was something each wanted to capitalize on. The two are also married, which lends itself to an extremely seamless dynamic.

“I think with anybody, there’s no way to extricate the two things,” Sanborn says. “I think the way you make music with each other is honest, because that’s the way you connect with those people. Bands are a reflection of the dynamic of those people. We’re always shooting for something that feels accurate.”

Because of the constant communication between the two, every moment has the opportunity to be a songwriting moment – whether on the road in a bus roaming from state to state or in their home in Durham.

“There’s not really a formula,” Meath says. “Sometimes it’s me coming up with an idea, and sometimes I write a whole song. Our jobs are slowly becoming one job, because we’re always communicating. It’s not like I have a stack of lyrics.”

The duo is currently on tour for their 2017 release, What Now, which according to Pitchfork “offers a biting, withering take on pop music, full of crisp humor while still finding real moments of tenderness.”

The two also released a recent post-apocalyptic summer single, “PARA(w/m)E,” which is accompanied by an oxymoronic upbeat video, featuring Meath and other dancers wandering the scorched earth in an offputtingly cheery manner.

“We wanted it to feel really happy, but for the lyrics to be really devastating at the same time,” Sanborn says. “It’s the hit song for the willfully ignorant. There’s already that sort of conflict and tone. These people are having a super joyous dance party through this torn up world.”

As for what now after What Now, the band is in a creative space, even bringing a studio rig with them on the road. Despite the yearning both have to create music, Meath says there’s no pressure to hurry another project out the door.

“We’re just starting to think about the next record, and it’s really fun to be in a creative space again,” Meath says.

Sanborn adds, “We don’t have prerecorded notions. The process itself is rewarding and cathartic, even if it’s nothing.”

Check out Sylvan Esso when they headline The Anthem on July 27. Tickets start at $40. For more information about the band, visit their website at www.sylvanesso.com and follow them on Twitter @SylvanEsso.

The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; 202-888-0020; www.theanthemdc.com

Photo: Courtesy of SMYAL
Photo: Courtesy of SMYAL

DC Celebrates Pride

When one thinks of Pride in our area, visions of big celebrations with copious amounts of drinking and dancing often come to mind, but there’s much more to appreciating and championing this impactful time than big spectacles. In fact, many organizations use Pride for advocacy or to bring attention to important initiatives in a serious way.

Capital Pride weekend obviously gets a lot of the attention this time of year, and its collection of events and activities is bigger than ever, but there is a lot going on throughout the DC community that shouldn’t fall through the cracks.

Empowering the Youth

Adelphie Johnson, program director at SMYAL (Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders), says SMYAL youth intend to fully celebrate their various identities of being queer, black, young and amazing leaders in accordance with this year’s theme of “Elements of Us.”

“We seek to empower our youth by letting them be the drivers of our involvement,” she says. “Pride is an opportunity to both remember the struggles that our community has faced and is still facing, as well as to celebrate our existence. That can be a very powerful moment for a young person who hasn’t always been told, ‘You’re loved,’ or ‘You can be proud of who you are, however you are.’”

SMYAL youth will participate in some events, from speaking at Black Pride to handing out information at Trans Pride to walking in the Capital Pride parade. SMYAL is also hosting a youth dance following the parade to give young people a place to continue the party while DC’s adult population hangs out at house parties, bars and restaurants in the area.

“We’ve seen an evolution in how the community has increased their involvement of youth-specific spaces or youth-friendly spaces,” Johnson says. “Young people don’t always have the same availability or resources as adults, so ensuring we intentionally make space for our young leaders in a way that works for them is important.”

Thankfully, she adds, Pride is so openly celebrated across the city in all different communities that it shows our youth that there are places where they can be accepted as they grow into adulthood.

“Sometimes people forget that the first Pride marches were protest marches, and that advocacy is built into Pride from the ground up,” Johnson says. “One specific thing we’re doing this year is partnering with DC Black Pride to cohost a Youth Town

Hall led by a group of youth panelists, and the topics of discussion will center around healthy relationships.”
pride at the Wharf

District Wharf is partnering with LGBT newspaper Washington Blade on the first annual Pride on the Pier, which will have the District Pier open to all ages and a dedicated Transit Pier as its “Family Pier” with activities for all ages.

“Our goal is to make a fun event that the whole community will enjoy,” says Stephen Rutgers, director of sales and marketing for Washington Blade. “Pride allows us to showcase the community to anyone and everyone, and hopefully bring awareness to the important issues and struggles LGBTQ+ people face every day.”

Rutgers feels it’s important to make sure everyone in the community feels welcome, so creating new community events like Pride on the Pier provides an opportunity to do that.

“Pride is a time to celebrate the community, no matter who you are or how you identify. Being LGBTQ+ doesn’t mean that everyone likes the same things or has gone through the same struggles. We have to remember that we are all a family and need to make sure anyone and everyone feels welcome. If just one person feels left out, then we are failing ourselves.”

A Sharp Design

Washington Blade also has a partnership with DC Brau on Pride Pils cans, which raised more than $7,000 last year for SMYAL and the Blade Foundation.

“While Pride is used to celebrate ourselves, it is also a time to give back to the community as well,” Rutgers says. “This year, we are producing over 28,000 cans of the Pride Pils that was designed and voted upon by the community.”

Last year, the design was of a unicorn holding the rainbow flag, but this year, Rutgers notes the design really represents everyone in the community. DC-based artist Alden Leonard chose to show the juxtaposition of Pride – both a celebration and an act of protest – with a colorful design featuring three figures in defiant poses with their eyes fixed on symbols of tradition and order.

“The LGBTQ+ community in DC includes people of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds, and this year’s design by Alden Leonard really shows our diversity,” he says. “All three individuals on the can could identify as anyone in the LGBTQ+ community, and really gives everyone their own voice in how they see themselves.”

The design will appear on more than 28,000 cans of DC Brau’s flagship pilsner this summer in the District and will officially launch at a Yappy Hour at Town on Wednesday, June 6 at 6 p.m.

“2018 has been a year when a lot of marginalized groups have had their voices amplified and celebrated,” says Brandon Skall, CEO and cofounder of DC Brau. “We loved that Alden’s Pride Pils design on first glance was summery and poppy, but on closer inspection, carried such a subtle but profound message of diversity and inclusiveness.”

DC Brau is also participating in the Pride Run on Friday, June 8, and Skall says there is “always a fun group that walks in the Pride Parade, which really is the highlight of the weekend for us.”

Everyone Gets Involved

Outside events are coming into the city more and more and really making DC Pride an event for all, so no one feels left out. The leather community kicked off its DC Leather Pride celebration earlier in May, which included a fundraiser at Town to raise money for the LGBT Fallen Heroes Fund, an expo at the DC Eagle (followed by a rubber social and dance party) and a brunch fundraiser on the last day.

“There’s been an embrace of the different aspects of being LGBT,” says Miguel Ayala, cofounder of DC Leather Pride. “We see who people are and who we are as a community. Younger people are coming out, trans folk are more visible now, and there’s been an embrace of different styles and different aspects within our community.”

Trans Pride and Black Pride both had speakers and panels throughout the month of May, offering people a chance to talk and help people learn from past experiences. Latino GLBT History Project hosts DC Latinx Pride annually, now in its 12th year representing the Latinx LGBTQ+ community. This year’s theme is Belleza Latinx, representing the beauty of the community in all colors, shapes, and range of languages and genders.

“As the hosts of annual festivities, we constantly reach out to the community to see what their needs are,” says Nancy Cañas, president of the Latino GLBT History Project-DC Latinx Pride. “For example, this year at La Platica, we are discussing issues pertaining to older LGBTQ+ folk. Our panel focuses on economic resilience, how this group and us as well – as we become older – how we will continue to support ourselves and our family.”

Then there’s the Department of Justice Pride and FBI Pride joining forces to march under a joint banner in the Capital Pride Parade. The DOJ also presents its annual award during Pride to the person who has made outstanding contributions in the LGBTQ+ community.

“No matter your age or how you identify, it is great to see events that everyone can enjoy,” Skall says. “Giving people options of what they can do really helps DC celebrate in new and exciting ways.”

Learn more about Pride events and partnerships, as well as participating LGBTQ+ organizations, below:

Capital Pride: www.capitalpride.org
DC Brau: www.dcbrau.com
Latino GLBT History Project: www.latinoglbthistory.org
Pride on the Pier: www.prideonthepierdc.com
SMYAL: www.smyal.org
Washington Blade: www.washingtonblade.com

Photo: Alexandra Cabral
Photo: Alexandra Cabral

Twin Shadow Falls into Focus with New Album, Tour

Twin Shadow’s latest tour, which aims to bring attention to the release of their new album Caer, kicked off on March 23 and includes dates with Alt-J and Beck. The creative force behind the band, George Lewis Jr., says he looks forward to what will be something of an East Coast homecoming at their U Street Music Hall show this Friday.

“We love DC, we always have great shows there,” he says. “We’re all east coast people – we’ve got a California boy in the band now – but [bandmate Wynne Bennett] and I both like to spend a lot of time on the east coast so we’re really excited about coming back there because it feels like home.”

As for the tour itself, a new era is approaching for Twin Shadow. The spotlight is set on the magnificent new music and serves as a showcase of Lewis Jr. and his band’s talent.

“This tour is really about just getting back to the music,” he says. “There’s not a big production behind the set. We just want to play music for people. The set up with the new band sounds amazing and it’s really just going to be that.”

A lot has changed for Lewis Jr. since he released his last record in 2015. He and his band were forced to stop performing after their tour bus crashed into a tractor-trailer near Denver. Thankfully, no involved parties suffered major injuries, but Lewis Jr. and his band took time to reflect and grow while off the road, both personally and politically. He speaks of the global themes that anchor this new record.

“This is the first time I really feel like people are actually looking at the world like ‘oh man, this might be it, this might be kind of the last round in humanity,’” Lewis Jr. says. “The idea of what being human [means] is changing because of computers and I think everything is being questioned. Everything is flipped on its head. And artists are making art at a time when that’s happening, and regardless of political themes, it’s hard to not make art that has a feeling of ‘oh this might be our downfall, this might be the end or this might be the beginning of a new version of who we are as human beings.’ It’s where the emotional bed of the record is.”

While dealing with the changing ways of the world, Lewis Jr. also weaves a thread between other works of his, adding to an impressive catalog that will now span four full-length records. “I would say [Caer] is more of a progression from Eclipse and it kind of goes back to some of the musical ideas on my first record, Forget,” he notes.

Caer also includes collaborations with HAIM, the vivacious alt-rock trio consisting of three sisters who released their sophomore album Something to Tell You late last year. Lewis Jr. says after he and the members of HAIM became good friends, they eventually guided him during his creation of Caer.

“I had originally sent Danielle from HAIM ‘Saturdays’ when I wrote it, because I wrote it thinking about them,” Lewis Jr. says. “They ended up going in and working on it and that was really exciting because I just think they’re the best.”

The title of the album comes from the Spanish verb caer, meaning “to fall.” While the Lewis Jr. moves forward into a new phase of his life, he’s certainly had many things both good and bad fall into place on this record, leading to his triumphant return to stage this month.

Twin Shadow play U Street Music Hall with Yuno on Friday April 27. Doors 7 p.m. Show 7 p.m. The new album “Caer” is also available this day. Tickets $30 here.  All ages.

U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; 202-588-1889; www.ustreetmusichall.com

Photo: Courtesy of Ana at District Winery
Photo: Courtesy of Ana at District Winery

Brunch Buzz: Top 25 of 2018

Socially, Washington is held together by the glue of brunch. More than the city’s other social institution – the happy hour – brunch allows for extended, leisurely bonding without a set agenda. And the District can never get enough of new culinary adventures – so we compiled our favorite newbies from the past year. These are wonderful places to hang out, see, be seen, and roll out refreshed and ready for the work week.

1. Ana at District Winery

Between high ceilings and massive windows, dining at the District’s only winery feels like dining outside. The cocktail menu is limited, but the menu features the winery’s growing range of house wines. District Winery sources grapes from across the U.S. and then produces wines that highlight the flavor profiles in America’s different growing regions. 385 Water St. SE, DC; www.districtwinery.com

2. Baba

This Turkish hot spot in Clarendon serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays (9:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.), offering heavenly crafted bowls of oatmeal, egg dishes and pastries, along with high-quality coffee drinks. Enjoy unlimited brunch for $34/person, with music and a buffet section of handmade Turkish pastries, salads, sandwiches and more, along with made-to-order Balkan eggs, sliders and smoked salmon crêpe. And $1 mimosas, bellinis and Bloody Marys. 2901 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.baba.bar

3. Bar Elena

Comfort food and arcade games is one form of brunch heaven. Add in a sophisticated seafood menu for a lux touch, and you have a formula that will endlessly appeal to DC’s trendy young professionals. 414 H St. NE, DC; www.barelenadc.com

4. Bindaas at Foggy Bottom

This casual take on Indian street food with a flavorful twist is the newest location from Chef Vikram Sunderam of Rasika. Brunch runs from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. on the weekends, offering an array of dishes that mix sweet and savory. Try the avocado golgappa with sweet yogurt and chutney, the lamb kathi roll with roast masala and fennel seed, or the Parsi fried chicken roadside sandwich with spiced fried chicken and beef tomato chutney. 2000 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; www.bindaasdc.com

5. Bluestone Lane

Every library should have an airy, light-filled Australian café attached. DC’s West End Public Library is wrapping up its renovation, and diners can take their coffees into the library’s reading area. Order a flat white and an avo toast (easily the best in DC) – but note the café has no liquor license, so plan to air your liver out. 1100 23rd St. NW, DC; www.bluestonelane.com

6. Brothers and Sisters in the LINE Hotel

If you love Maketto, you’ll adore Erik Bruner-Yang’s newest adventure. Brothers and Sisters also occupies a unique space – a neoclassical church with most of its original architectural elements preserved – and has a similar buzzy energy. Brothers and Sisters serves American classics with East Asian influences, as well as a collection of unique cocktails. We recommend “It’s Not Just for Osaka Anymore” (Cocci rosé, gin, red shiso syrup, vitamin C powder). 1770 Euclid St. NW, DC; www.thelinehotel.com/dc/venues

7. Burmese Bodega at Union Market

There’s always something new going on at Union Market, and grazing at different food stalls has become a beloved DC brunch option. We are intrigued that beloved local Peregrine no longer has the coffee market cornered (welcome, Blue Bottle Coffee!), and our favorite newcomer is the Burmese Bodega – lots of rich, earthy Southeast Asian flavors underscored by very fresh ingredients. 1309 5th St. NE, DC; www.unionmarketdc.com

8. Chloe

Chloe’s eclectic brunch menu (available Saturday and Sunday) pays homage to Chef Haidar Karoum’s Lebanese roots and world travels. Start with the sheep’s milk ricotta with raw honey, rosemary and grilled house-made bread, or the crispy churros with bittersweet chocolate ganache. Then go for the Ivy City smoked salmon tartine or the poached eggs with warm scallion biscuit and shiitake mushroom mornay sauce. Grab a house Blood Mary, or mimosas by the carafe to wash it all down. 1331 4th St. SE, DC; www.restaurantchloe.com

9. Del Mar

Wharf restaurants take full advantage of the water views – with lots of windows and cathedral ceilings – and Del Mar pairs its prime real estate with perfect service, a buzzy atmosphere and an extensive menu of authentic, carefully prepared Spanish dishes. Order a carafe of sangria roja (red wine, brandy, vermouth, orange) for the table and enjoy the buzz. 791 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.delmardc.com

10. Delirium

When Belgium beer makers Delirium decided to open their first-ever U.S. restaurant/bar location, they ran several analyses and settled on Leesburg, Virginia as the perfect location. And lucky for us, because their 300-plus beer list and epic brunch offerings are amazing. On Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., dishes include fresh waffles that can be piled with ice cream and fresh strawberries, poutine with classic brown gravy and house-made farmers cheese (add that fried egg!), and scrambled salmon with cream cheese and fresh herbs. Grab a beermosa featuring delirium tremens or a mimosa (by the glass or carafe). 101 South King St. Leesburg, VA; www.deliriumcafe.us

11. Heritage Brewing Co. Market Common Brewpub and Roastery

This brunch is for beer and coffee enthusiasts alike, as Heritage Brewing Co. beers and Veritas Coffee Co. nitrogen-infused cold press coffee are on full display, along with elevated pub fair. On Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. – 3:30 p.m., grab the $25 brunch special, which includes a main course, two 13.5-oz. flagship beers and a dessert. We recommend the heavenly, thick-cut brioche French toast with salted caramel maple sauce or the eggs Benedict served on cheddar and scallion scones. Go with the coffee stout chocolate brownie for dessert. 1300-1398 N Fillmore St. Arlington, VA; www.hbcmarketcommon.com

12. Hummingbird

Inspired by popular traditions of clam bakes and oyster boils, this Alexandria waterfront restaurant and bar offers a daily breakfast (6:30-10:30 a.m.) and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 7 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Start the table with a brunch bread basket, and then move on to the crab and corn fritters with chipotle aioli or the crispy fried oysters. You can’t go wrong with the French toast or our favorite, avocado toast with an added fried egg. Other notable dishes include the eggs Benedict with the option for a crab cake or lobster tail, and the Irish smoked salmon platter.220 S Union St. Alexandria, VA; www.hummingbirdva.net

13. Joselito Casa de Comidas

We adore this bit of Spain in DC, complete with an Iberico ham cart. And while the mimosa-bellini-Bloody Mary bar is perfect, we prefer the delightful sangria – served with a lovely, enormous, fruit-filled ice cube. 660 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, DC; www.joselitodc.com

14. Kith and Kin

When Kwame Onwuachi’s overly-ambitious Shaw restaurant crashed and burned, no one envisioned his Phoenix moment. Onwuachi landed at the Wharf’s new Intercontinental Hotel, where he has created a menu that blends Nigeria with the Bronx. Note that it’s technically a breakfast menu – but you just need to grab the cocktail list to make it a smashing brunch. 801 Wharf St. SE, DC; www.kithandkindc.com

15. Lucky Buns

Influenced by Southeast Asia, Australia and the UK, brunch offerings include such sandwiches or “buns” as the Proper Bacon Bun with bacon rashers, brown sauce, and charred tomato on sourdough (add on the cheese, avocado and egg!) Other dishes include the Full Monty English breakfast and smashed avocado toast on sourdough with cotija and roasted tomato. Grab a side of proper chips with malt vinegar mayo to round things out. Brunch offered all weekend starting at 11:30 a.m. 2000 18th St. NW, DC; www.luckybunsdc.com

16. Pamplona

Named after the town in Spain where the famed running of the bulls occurs, Pamplona serves up unlimited Spanish tapas and mimosas during their bottomless brunch for $35 per person on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Choose from dishes like the chorizo biscuits, lamb burgers and serrano ham benedict. Mimosa flavors include classic, grapefruit or apple, with a two-hour limit on bottomless. 3100 Clarendon Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.pamplonava.com

17. Quinn’s

This Rosslyn sports bar boasts that it’s the longest brunch in Arlington, running 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. on the weekends. Start with the French toast sticks and then move on to the cheddar bacon Belgian waffle, served with two eggs sunny side up, or go for the crab cake BLT. Be sure to save room for the Reese’s sundae for two, and don’t forget the $1 bottles of champagne (per person with brunch item order). 1776 Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.quinnsonthecorner.com

18. The Salt Line

A popular happy hour spot for Nationals fans, this New England-style seafood restaurant serves up an amazing brunch complete with gorgeous Capitol Riverfront views. Classic dishes include the clam chowder and fried clam bellies, while brunch staples include a heavenly lobster omelet, decadent king crab mac and cheese, and an unexpected but completely welcome duck confit French toast. Wash it all down with one of several signature brunch cocktail creations – our go-to is the Seaside Spritz. Brunch is served 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. all weekend, with cocktails going until 5 p.m. 79 Potomac Ave. SE, DC; www.thesaltline.com

19. Sfoglina

The Trabocchis’ posh pasta palace refocuses its menu for a glorious weekend experience. We love the Maine lobster skillet pancake alongside the eponymous Sfoglina (vodka, elderflower shrub, prosecco), which tastes like summer and joy. And don’t be fooled by the white tablecloths – the service is warm and friendly. 4445 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.sfoglinadc.com

20. Siren

Located in the Darcy Hotel, this latest addition from Chefs Robert Wiedmaier and Brian McBride take the freshest seafood and put it center stage. Brunch runs 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. and for $35 per person, you can enjoy a raw bar, salad and dessert buffet spread in the lower lounge of the Darcy, with à la carte menu items available. For those looking to take it up a notch, order from the caviar service, which comes with crème fraiche, red onion, chive and egg. 1515 Rhode Island Ave. NW, DC; www.sirenbrw.com

21. Sunday in Saigon

Sunday in Saigon has masterfully blended East and West in its beautiful brunch menu. The picky eaters should order malted milk pancakes and mimosas, while the more adventurous can explore the approachable menu of pho noodle soups and bahn mi sandwiches. Do not miss the small but creative brunch cocktail menu – we heart the Pink Expat (charred pineapple and chili-infused tequila, guava nectar, lime, prosecco). 682 N St. Asaph St. Alexandria, VA; www.sundayinsaigon.com

22. Supra

DC’s first Georgian restaurant (the country, not the state) is helmed by the Embassy’s former chef, and shows off a national cuisine that’s a natural fit for brunch (think lots of beautiful carbs and cheese). Georgian cuisine also inspires the drinks menu – we love the Bloody Mariami (vodka, red Georgian plum sauce, red ajika seasoning, lemon, cilantro syrup, svanuri salt). 1205 11th St. NW, DC; www.supradc.com

23. Tiger Fork

This Blagden Alley restaurant takes Hong Kong culture and mixes it with hints of Asian, European and Islamic flavors. Their “Dim Sum and Then Some” brunch menu on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. features a variety of small plates including broccolini with house-made oyster sauce, Chinese bacon with pickled radish salad, and Hong Kong style French toast with burnt coconut cream and a cute smiley face, of course. For cocktails, you can’t go wrong with the gin-based All the Pretty Flowers. 922 N St. NW, DC; www.tigerforkdc.com

24. Tulips

Champagne brunch in a charming Dupont Circle rowhouse? Yes, please. The extensive renovation converted the old Irish Whiskey into a haven of brick and chandeliers and chintz. Order bottomless for the table, and you’ll get a steady stream of mimosas, bellinis, oysters and beignets. 1207 19th St. NW, DC; www.tulipsdc.com

25. Unconventional Diner

Diners love classics (example: pancakes) like kids love candy – and we love this diner’s unconventional take on the classics (example: lavender-ginger pancakes with vanilla mascarpone). And we love the Unconventional because it really does live up to its name. Our inner fat kid is happy. 1207 9th St. NW, DC; www.unconventionaldiner.com

Photo: Courtesy of the Washington Nationals Baseball Club
Photo: Courtesy of the Washington Nationals Baseball Club

Breakout Batter: Meet Michael A. Taylor

The “A” has always stood for Anthony. Now, it stands for his performance.

Michael A. Taylor, center fielder for the Washington Nationals, established himself last season as one of the young players to watch in Major League Baseball. He finished among the top three Gold Glove candidates at his position in the National League despite playing in a mere 118 contests. In his injury-abbreviated season – Taylor spent most of July and part of August on the disabled list with a strained right oblique – he swatted 19 home runs and stole 17 bases. Only five other National League players can say the same about their 2017 campaigns.

“I think [one] of the major changes I made [was] my view going into the game, and what I consider successful for me a lot of the time,” Taylor says. “I would get caught up in the result, and baseball is a game of failures day in and out – whether that’s just swinging at good pitches or moving a runner [and] making hard contact.”

Hard contact was something that drew Taylor into the spotlight late in 2017. In September and October of the regular season, he had one of the best stretches of his career in terms of power, notching seven home runs that included an inside-the-park grand slam against the Phillies. Taylor’s power took the national stage in the playoffs, when he hit yet another grand slam, this time to seal a win over the Cubs and force game five of the National League Division Series.

Then, in game five, he hit a three-run bomb into the Cubs bullpen in left, giving the Nationals the lead in what ended as a heartbreaking 9-8 loss. That’s nine home runs in 33 games among September, October and the postseason, for whoever is counting. Taylor isn’t one of them.

“I try not to make too much of statistics,” he says. “I go out there and try to do my best.”

Regarding his unexpected, late-season mash fest, Taylor says he thinks it’s a byproduct of a good approach in his game.

“Home runs will come. When I try to force home runs, I end up putting myself in a bad spot, swinging too hard or swinging at pitches out of the zone.”

Taylor’s approach will be much-scrutinized at the start of 2018. For the first time since 2015, he’s the favorite to start in center field at the beginning of the season. In 2016 and 2017, respectively, trade acquisitions Ben Revere and Adam Eaton filled that role. Thanks to Taylor’s breakout 2017 and his superb defense, Eaton is now moving to left field while Taylor hunkers down as the “field general” in center.

The potential scrutiny doesn’t seem to faze Taylor, who maintains a calm, composed demeanor in on-camera interviews. Part of his confidence stems from a positive relationship with Nationals fans. Even during his first two-plus seasons in the majors, during which Taylor hit a combined .228 and struck out more than once a game, he says fans had his back. In 2017, Taylor returned the favor, lifting his average to .271 with an OPS of .806.

“One thing I can say about fans in DC [is] they’ve been very supportive through my whole career. I’m very grateful for that. Even the years I felt like I didn’t perform as well as I’d like, they still were behind me and very supportive.”

Taylor is also lucky in some respects. In June, then-Nationals Manager Dusty Baker called him “one of the most fortunate dudes” he had ever managed, according to Patrick Reddington of SB Nation’s Federal Baseball blog. For example, although he didn’t start opening day in 2016 and 2017, he did see significant playing time both seasons because of injuries to Revere and Eaton. This year, he also has the benefit of two experienced, talented outfielders – Eaton and Bryce Harper – flanking him in left and right.

“They make it really easy on me,” Taylor says of Eaton and Harper. “Those guys have a lot of experience and are great outfielders. I think we work very well together. We’re all on the same page. They make it easy and encourage me to go out there and take the lead.”

Adding to the rocky beginnings of Taylor’s career is the fact that he’s had three different managers since the beginning of 2015. This season, Dave Martinez takes over, and based on Taylor’s attitude, it’s just another fortuitous turn.

“Davey has been great. [He] communicates with the guys every day. It’s been very laid-back and energetic. I’ve really enjoyed spring training with him, and I’m looking forward to a full season.”

A full season is actually one concern lingering around Taylor, even now that he has established himself as a serious player. In spring training, what the Nationals called “tightness” in his right side – the same side as his oblique strain last season – forced him out of the lineup on March 5. Luckily, he returned to the Nationals’ Grapefruit League lineup on March 17, going one for three with a pair of strikeouts.

So what’s Taylor’s goal for 2018? Play in 162 games? Reach the 20-home-run, 20-stolen-base plateau? Make up for that near miss at a Gold Glove?

“To win a World Series,” he says.

If Taylor, with all of his good fortune, helps the Nationals bring home the World Series trophy, he can go ahead and add “plus” to that “A” in the middle of his name.

The Washington Nationals’ home opener is on Thursday, April 5 at 1:05 p.m., when they will host the New York Mets at Nats Park. For more information on Taylor and the Nats’ 2018 season, visit www.mlb.com/nationals.

Nationals Park: 1500 South Capitol St. SE, DC; 202-675-6287; www.mlb.com/nationals