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Music Picks: Nas, Cecily, Blink-182 and More

SATURDAY, JULY 6

Gringo Starr
Indie group Gringo Starr will be celebrating their 10-year anniversary by releasing their very first live album this summer. The garage rock group hails from Atlanta, Georgia, which is better known for its hip-hop legends; but the indie rockers are far from that and no less legendary. Doors at 8:30 p.m. Tickets begin at $10. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

Immigrant & Refugee Music Festival
As we celebrate Independence Day weekend, Echostage will celebrate musicians of immigrant descent. Artists varying from Africa, Greece, Colombia and much more will come out to promote their heritage and influences for the community through music. Musicians like DJ CYD, Martha Afework, Yannis and many more will perform and inspire people from all walks of life to learn, dance and sing to music from all around the world. Doors at 4 p.m. Tickets begin at $29.99. Echostage: 2135 Queens Chapel Rd. NE, DC; www.echostage.com

SUNDAY, JULY 7

Angie Stone
A career spanning more than 30 years, Angie Stone graces the stage one more time performing soulful classics. An R&B legend, her melodic voice captivated audiences for years. A soulful jazz artist within her own right, her long stable career is largely due to her lyrics, highlighting a number of adversities facing black women. Releasing her album Dream in in 2015 proved her groovy approach to music still leaves her audience wanting more. Doors at 5 p.m. Tickets begin at $55. City Winery: 1350 Okie St. NE, DC; www.citywinery.com

TUESDAY, JULY 9

Cecily
If you’re into soul artists like Alicia Keys and India.Arie, you will surely love DC-based vocalist Cecily. Her mellow and rich sound can be described as a combination of R&B, folk and jazz. Growing up, Cecily got her musical influence from her parents, who listened to artists like Smokey Robinson and Miles Davis. Her latest album Songs of Love and Freedom delves into Cecily’s experience with vulnerability in love while her bold lyrics perfectly encapsulate the beauty of new beginnings. Show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets $22. Blues Alley: 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.bluesalley.com

WEDNESDAY, JULY 10

Nick Murphy (fka Chet Faker)
Nick Murphy, previously known as Chet Faker, is an Australian singer and songwriter, most notably known for his cover of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.” His latest album is reminiscent of a poppier and more jazz-oriented Bon Iver. While there is some lack of cohesion, it still provides very easy listening and pushes him above and beyond where he started when he was only known for his iconic first cover. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $36. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

THURSDAY, JULY 11

Blink-182, Lil Wayne and Neck Deep
For all you 90s babies,  Blink-182 was probably prominent on your mix CDs, but there was likely some confusion when they announced they were touring with famed rapper Lil Wayne. Rock and rap are traditionally different sounds. Historically, both have contributed tremendously to music, so if one of your friends likes rap and the other prefers rock, this show has hits for both. Show at 7 p.m. Tickets begin at $37.50. Jiffy Lube Live: 7800 Cellar Door Dr. Bristow, VA; www.livenation.com

Stephen Marley
Stephen Marley is an eight-time Grammy-winning artist and producer, not to mention the second son of Bob Marley. Marley started his career at the tender age of six, singing and dancing with siblings in Ziggy Marley and the Melody Shakers. The group’s first single “Children Playing In The Streets,” was produced by their father in 1979. Since, Stephen has helped produce singles by his brother Damian, not to mention released numerous albums of his own. For the past two years, Stephen has helped developed and curate Kaya Fest, a music festival that educates the public on cannabis and honors the legacy of his father. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $29.50. Fillmore Silver Spring: 8656 Colesville Rd. Silver Spring, MD; www.fillmoresilverspring.com

FRIDAY, JULY 12

Backstreet Boys
Backstreet Boys made their debut in the late 90s when pop boy bands were peak culture, as the Boys competed with groups like NSYNC and 98 Degrees for supremacy. In the beginning, they had a larger fanbase in Europe than the United States due to mainstream pop being kept off the radio, but their stateside stardom was a when, not if. Their most iconic album Millennium went multi-platinum, with singles like “I Want It That Way.” The record lived high in the charts as their blend of hip-hop, R&B and pop was exceptional for its time. Show at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $190. Capital One Arena: 601 F St. NW, DC; www.capitalonearena.com

Brecreation
With an upbeat tempo, dope lyrics and a momentum to move, Brecreation brings a celebratory vibe to the music scene. His writing capabilities convey such a deep message within his music, you can’t help but fall in love with his energy. His grasp on combining rap and pop beats will leave you enticed and wanting more, allowing the listener to bob their heads and move their feet to singles like “Enough” and “Midnight.” With a deep connection to the DMV area, being from Gaithersburg, Maryland, he wanted his first show to be in the nation’s capital. Doors at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are free, but a $5 donation suggested. Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe: 2477 18th St. NW, DC; www.songbyrddc.com

The Weeklings
The Weeklings are set to bring back nostalgic hits from The Beatles for this performance, busting out hits like “I Am The Walrus” and “Paperback Writer.” Along with performing Beatles classics, The Weeklings have recorded two studio albums at Abbey Road studios in London, which include original work and songs inspired by The Beatles. The Weeklings can be heard on Sirius XM’s The Beatles Channel. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets begin at $20. City Winery: 1350 Okie St. NE, DC; www.citywinery.com

SATURDAY, JULY 13

Trap Karaoke
It’s not your typical karaoke, there’s no “Bennie And The Jets” or “Love Shack,” more Tupac and Kendrick Lamar. Trap music has been an influence within the black community; advocating for controversial issues, empowerment and more. Jason Mowatt started trap karaoke as merely a joke, but eventually him and his friends played on the idea of a trap version of karaoke. Starting with just 40 people, since then, thousands have come out to enjoy a night filled with fun and trap music. Gracing cities from Los Angeles, California to Atlanta, Georgia and building a platform where all walks of life can come out and enjoy singing their favorite music. Show at 8 p.m. Tickets begin at $22. Howard Theatre: 620 T St. NW, DC; www.thehowardtheatre.com

SUNDAY, JULY 14

Nas & The National Symphony Orchestra
Growing up in the projects of Queens in New York City, Nas used his exposure to his legendary album Illmatic, a reality piece within “the golden age” of rap. These adversities helped him one of the greatest records ever. Since, he has challenged the stereotypical view of rap, going in depth with his experiences of being a black man in America. Tracks like “The World is Yours” and “If I Ruled the World” gave listeners a sense of hope that even though discrimination was always lurking, there was hope. Poetic in verse and sincere in rhyme, the Wolf Trap experience provides a twist on his usual performance with the accompaniment of the National Symphony  Orchestra. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets begin at $50. The Filene Center at Wolf Trap: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; www.wolftrap.org

TUESDAY, JULY 16

Yuna
Malaysian singer and songwriter Yuna steadily rose to fame in the mid-2000s after uploading her songs on Myspace. It wasn’t until releasing her debut hit “Deeper Conversation” that she started to gain an international audience, leading to recorded tracks with Pharrell and a coinciding  performance with him at Lollapalooza in 2012. Her upcoming album, Rogue, which features tracks with G-Eazy and Tyler, The Creator will make its debut on July 12. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $25. 9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; www.930.com

WEDNESDAY, JULY 17

Harry Jay and NINA
Harry Jay is a man of many talents, ranging from 4-plus octave range to being a natural lyricist. His twist on funk, rock and soul has allowed music lovers alike to gravitate to his music. Specifically, amongst both Boston and DC, he has a wide range of supporters, alongside his band The Bling, who together have effortlessly sold out shows after the release of their first EP, Truth. The other artist on the bill is NINA, influenced by the depth of Joss Stone, the voice of Aretha and the powerhouse that is Beyoncé. Her newest single “I Can Do Better,” empowers the everyday women to become go-getters. Her pop-soul genre allows the listener to be active while listening, but at the same time captivate her unique sound. Doors at 6 p.m. Free. Pearl Street Warehouse: 33 Pearl St. SW, DC; www.pearlstreetwarehouse.com

THURSDAY, JULY 18

Cayucas
Waiting on the next Two Door Cinema Club album? Well, Cayucas may be able to tide you over until then. Twin brothers Zach Yudin and Ben Yudin are an indie pop band, hailing from Santa Monica, California. Their most recent album Real Life provides a real summer soundtrack, the type you would see in a movie where they are driving down the Pacific Coast Highway in California. The duo will give you all the calm beachy vibes the warmer months have been missing so far. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $15. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

The Native Tongue Fest
Celebrating 30 years of hip-hop, The Native Tongue Fest will celebrate the Native Tongues collective, as well as other notable artists. The lineup includes Jungle Brothers, Monie Love, Black Sheep and Brand Nubian. Part of the proceeds will be donated to The American Diabetes Association in honor of the late Phife Dawg. Doors at 5:30 p.m. Tickets begin at $70. The Anthem: 901 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.theanthemdc.com

FRIDAY, JULY 19

PRETTYMUCH
Members of PRETTYMUCH originally auditioned on the X-Factor to pursue solo careers, but didn’t form until judge Simon Cowell believed they’d be better off as a group. The American-Canadian music group quickly rose to fame in 2017, releasing their single “Would You Mind,” which recieved tons of praise. Their teeny-bop sound is very similar to the U.K. group One Direction. Show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets begin at $31. DAR Constitution Hall: 1776 D St. NW, DC; www.dar.org/constitution-hall

Third Eye Blind and Jimmy Eat World
Two bands come together for one mega-rock performance taking you back to the late 90s. Third Eye Blind pulls their influences from classic and pop-rock. Their debut single “Semi-Charmed Life” reached the top 10 on the Billboard in 1997. The band broke up in the early 2000s, but eventually came back together in 2009 and released their fourth studio album, Ursa Major. Jimmy Eat World started their music career in the emo-core genre, but as their audience broadened, the group morphed into an alternative rock and power pop band. Their latest album, Integrity Blues, blended electronic sounds and their rock roots, proving yet again their music isn’t confined to a singular genre. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. Tickets begin at $29.50. Merriweather Post Pavilion: 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia, MD; www.merriweathermusic.com

SATURDAY, JULY 20

Dave Matthews Band
Being the kings of improvisation, Dave Matthews Band quickly took the rock industry by storm. Formed in 1991, they continue to amaze fans with their unexpected performances while largely sticking to their classic material. With the soothing strum of a chord magnified by their musicianship, there’s no wonder how successful they’ve been over the past two decades, selling out arenas, being at the top of musical charts and still having thousands of loyal fans. The use of violins, saxophones and many more instruments electrify their music, making it almost impossible for fans not to enjoy a live show. Show at 8 p.m. Tickets begin at $49.50. Jiffy Lube Live: 7800 Cellar Door Dr. Bristow, VA; www.bristowamphitheater.com

Stereo League
Emerging from Philadelphia in the summer of 2018, with their debut album A Light on Each Side, Stereo League quickly took reign over the city. Classified as a recording collective, they frequently collaborate with numerous artists across all genres of music. It didn’t take long for fans to catch wind of this group, which put them on a nationwide tour with sold out shows, leaving fans coming back for more. The collective is planning on releasing a second album this summer and will give DC9 a sneak peak. Doors at 6 p.m. Tickets $12. DC9: 1940 9th St. NW, DC; www.dc9.club

TUESDAY, JULY 23

John Mayer
One of the savviest musical minds of our time, there is nothing he can’t do with a guitar in his hands. Hit after hit, John Mayer has charted all major music pop charts making it almost impossible to compare. Inspired by the great Jimi Hendrix, his guitar solos alone bring thousands to fill stadiums. Classics like “Waiting On the World to Change” and “Your Body is a Wonderland” will have you singing along to the nostalgia of what was the beginning of an era that continues to this day. Show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets begin at $49. Capital One Arena: 601 F St. NW, DC; www.capitalonearena.com

The Marías
It’s hard to fit The Marías into a category because they touch on so many different genres of music: a little jazz, some indie and even psychedelic. The Marías are uniquely “strange.” Their soulful tunes paint a vivid picture fans easily grasp onto, and songs “Cariño” and “I Don’t Know You” helped the group gain national acclaim. Their gentle approach to each song resonates a calmness within each listener, proven in their soulful cover of Britney Spears’  “Hit Me Baby One More Time.” With an authentically eclectic style, their sound is more than enough to keep fans enticed and wanting more. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets begin at $18. Union Stage: 740 Water St. SW, DC; www.unionstage.com

WEDNESDAY, JULY 24

Mark Redito
Make Redito, formerly known as Spazzkid, is a Filipino musician based out of Los Angeles, California. His fusion of pop, J-pop and beat music is characterized in a completely new sound of his own making. Taken from a multitude of cultures, his techno add-ons creates a new perspective on “trap techno.” Even though his music has taken on a role on its own, his ability to combine three different genres allows him to reach a much broader audience. It’s unique, fun and uplifting, and creates an ambiance of all around good vibes. Doors at 10:30 p.m. Tickets begin at $15. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

FRIDAY, JULY 26

Ibibio Sound Machine
Hailing from London, Ibibio Sound Machine has become known as a live music collective that produces hits perfect for Friday nights at the club. Their chanty melodies coupled with steady beats of drums and other instrumentals incorporates influences from West African funk, disco, modern electro and post-punk to produce a modern take on 70s funk and electronic music of the 80s. Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets $20. U Street Music Hall: 1115 U St. NW, DC; www.ustreetmusichall.com

Johnny Gill
The man, the myth, the legend Johnny Gill is gracing The Birchmere’s grand stage. A career spanning more than three decades, including classics like “Can You Stand The Rain” and “Rub You The Right Way.” He serves as one of the few that have allowed his humanitarian acts and his love for teamwork to help carry his career, along with his voice. He is one of the few that have had a successful group and solo career. With his unforgettable contributions to New Edition and LSG, his voice still reigns supreme as he  further cements his legacy in the nation’s capital, the first stepping stone in his career. Show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $95. The Birchmere: 3701 Mount Vernon Ave.Alexandria VA; www.birchmere.com

TUESDAY, JULY 30

Corinne Bailey Rae
Three-time Grammy-nominated artist Corinne Bailey Rae made headway in the U.K. and the United States with hits like “Put Your Records On” and “Like a Star” back in 2006. In 2011, Rae released The Love EP, where she did covers by artists like Bob Marley and Prince. Her cover of Marley’s “Is This Love” won her a Grammy for the Best Female Performance category. Rae’s sound can be described as soul, pop and R&B wrapped into one. Doors at 6:30 p.m. Tickets $40. Lincoln Theatre: 1215 U St. NW, DC; www.thelincolndc.com

Queen and Adam Lambert
In their new tour, Queen and Adam Lambert are coming together to bring the Rhapsody Approaches tour. Mixing old classics with some new tunes, there will be something for everyone at this show. While the combination may seem a bit odd, Lambert is a perfect lead for this iteration of Queen and he credits Freddie Mercury as an icon of self-identity for him. The marriage between the two has brought Queen back and allowed Lambert to play with his childhood heroes. Show at 8 p.m. Tickets begin at $200. Capital One Arena: 601 F St. NW, DC; www.capitalonearena.com

WEDNESDAY, JULY 31

Cosmic Charlie
Cosmic Charlie plays to the tunes of The Grateful Dead. A cover band since 1999, Cosmic Charlie continues to pay tribute to this unique, charismatic band that left audiences dancing in their seats. An eclectic band mixed with rock, country, folk and blues, which helped them become  “the pioneering Godfathers of the jam band world.” Since the death of one of their band members, Jerry Garcia, their spirit has lived on through Cosmic Charlie. Filled with the style and energy of the Dead, their covers aren’t always perfect as no show is ever the same, and they use their own foundation to add to the legacy of The Grateful Dead. Doors at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m. Tickets begin at $15. Gypsy Sally’s: 3401 K St. NW, DC; www.gypsysallys.com

Photo: Trent Johnson

DC’s Honey Delivers Diverse Rock

Four years ago, three volunteers with Girls Rock! DC considered joining musical forces and forming a band. Karen Foote, Saman Saffron and Ebony Smith went on with their busy lives but reunited a year later at the organization’s afterparty to discuss the band. A mutual friend offered up a basement practice space, and the musicians who had long admired each other’s abilities from afar officially created Honey.

“It was kind of amazing,” says Foote, who plays guitar. “I think we were all on the dance floor at one point and the three of us were dancing and we were like, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s do this band thing.’”

Foote and her bandmates have been playing music in some capacity for most of their lives, but Girls Rock! DC brought their talents together. The music education organization “aims to create a supportive, inclusive and creative space for girls and non-binary and trans youth of varying racial, ethnic, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds, abilities, identities and experiences to develop their self-confidence, build community, rise up and rock out,” per their website. And for Honey, the experience led to the creation of new music.

The band draws from their varying backgrounds, experiences and personal tastes to create a brand of indie rock that’s powerful and relatable. Although the trio only has one EP, I’m Your Best Friend, Admit It, they cover everything from dealing with the eponymous “F–kboy” to romantic relationships. And the places from which they find inspiration are as wide-ranging as their lyrical subject matter.

“I feel like we all bring such different influences,” Foote says.

Vocalist and bassist Saffron echoes that sentiment, adding, “I think it’s funny sometimes, because we’re a pretty big span of ages and upbringings, but sometimes someone will start playing a song as a joke in band practice and we’re like, ‘Yeah. That’s awesome. Blink-182. When are we going to cover that?’”

Drummer Ebony Smith agrees.

“I think what really works well for us is that we just have different backgrounds and genres that we bring in and blend together. We can put them together and it just ends up being really cool. It’s something I really appreciate and enjoy.”

Outside of their time in Honey, the group’s daily work lives vary greatly. Foote is a videographer, Saffron works in nonprofit programming and Smith for an engineering firm. Busy schedules don’t keep them from their work in the band, though, and they emphasize the importance of taking time to nurture creative work outside of their professional lives.

“It can be challenging but rewarding to explore that creative outlet,” Smith says. “We all love music and we love what we do. But I think sometimes when people think about forming bands, they don’t think about the back end. It’s not just going out and playing music and partying and stuff like that. It takes a lot of work and a lot of communication. You have to think of everything that’s included in playing music with your friends.”

For Saffron, she’s found the right balance by treating band time as non-negotiable.

“Being like, ‘Well, [on] Tuesday night, this is what I’m doing,’” she says. “And also, voice memos are my best friend. With a couple of our songs, it’s been like, ‘Oh, I’m in the bathroom. I have a line idea. I’m just going to sing it right now into my phone. I’m going to put it away six months later. I need a bridge for this song that we’re working on. This will go well here.”’

Honey has had some memorable experiences throughout the time they’ve been together. Foote recalls playing the Black Cat’s anniversary show last year – a show she describes as one of the shortest they’ve played but one of the best, nonetheless. They also brushed elbows with the legendary Ted Leo while tuning in the back room as he was looking for a place to meditate.

“We were tuning [in the] dressing room and Ted Leo came in,” Saffron adds.

Foote continues, saying he was looking for a quiet space in the backstage area.

“He was like, ‘Hey, do you mind if I come in [and] sit here for a little bit?’ And we’re like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’ But I think we were still too disruptive, so he left. And I had not yet been like, ‘Hi, I’m Karen.’”

Saffron laughs.

“We were like, ‘Wait, did we just strong-arm Ted Leo?’”

“But then we got to talk to him later and he was so nice,” Foote says. “That was my favorite.”

The band recalls the support they’ve received from their EP release show and the Girls Rock! DC community overall.

“Every experience that we’ve had has been someone who’s a few degrees of separation from Girls Rock! DC,” Saffron says. “Obviously, having been around for more than 10 years, it’s a big community.”

The band’s personal experiences speak to the necessity of the organization’s existence. The musicians lead by example, but hope the future looks different for up-and-coming musicians.

“It’s so rare that we play with a band that’s all girls, or trans folks or gender-expansive folks,” Saffron continues. “So often we’d show up and we’re like, ‘Hello, lineup of all dudes. Hello, lineup of predominantly white folks. Nice to see you.’ I don’t want young people to feel like they have to be perfect. I don’t want them to feel like they have to be experts in order to do something. People who see themselves reflected all the time are treated as individuals all the time.”

Foote concurs.

“I definitely feel that shows – especially because we are an all-female band. It’s like, ‘Oh, we have to super nail this’ or people are going to be like, ‘Look at this all-women band!’”

Saffron concludes with, “I would love for music programs like Girls Rock! DC to not even be necessary; for them to just be fun rather than being something that needs to happen, politically speaking.”

Honey plays Slash Run on Monday, July 22. For more information on Honey and to listen to their EP I‘m Your Best Friend, Admit It, visit www.honeymusicdc.bandcamp.com. Visit www.slashrun.com for more on the show.

Slash Run: 201 Upshur St. NW, DC; 202-838-9929; www.slashrun.com

Photo: Vita Images

Diner en…Pick Your Color

“I have to buy a ticket and preorder my drinks – then pack food, table, chairs, flatware and decorations and drag them on foot, dressed entirely in white, across the city to a mystery location?”

My friend usually loves my party invites, but she was struggling with Diner en Blanc.

“In August in the swamp – are you serious?”

But she accepted. And she loved it.

From a spontaneous picnic three decades ago in Paris, Diner en Blanc has evolved into a yearly multicity extravaganza complete with waitlists, hashtags and FOMO.

“It’s the allure of the unknown,” says Bryer Davis, cohost of DC’s Diner en Blanc. “Everything is a mystery until the day of: the location, who you’ll sit next to, the spectacle, the weather.”

And the finished product is genuinely magnificent: a diverse gathering of thousands of Washingtonians clad in white, eating dinner, making friends, waving sparklers and framed by a DC landmark.

But what if your sartorial preferences forbid white? You’re in luck: the last three years, DC has also embraced Diner en Noir (DEN), an evening of feasting and celebration while clad in…all black. But these are not dueling events.

“While there may be similarities, DEN is a community-based event that aims to promote the local arts and business community,” says founder Howard N. Cromwell, who has also attended Diner en Blanc and encourages others to do so.

“It’s a magical, one-of-a-kind experience,” he says of Diner en Blanc.

While Diner en Blanc events around the world feature local artists, the global umbrella organization imposes more restrictions in terms of local charity and small business involvement, which DEN does not have. This year, DEN will make donations to the Northeast Performing Arts Group and the Congress Heights Community Training and Development Corporation.

As for its part, Diner en Blanc offers a global experience with a deep history. Friendships have been formed through the years as enthusiasts travel the world to participate in other cities. Of course, the Holy Grail is Paris, where it all started.

“Diner en Blanc brings people together who want to experience it in as many places – with as many people – as possible,” Davis observes. “Everyone makes the evening uniquely theirs.”

Both Davis and Cromwell attended this year’s Diner en Blanc in Paris on June 6. The evening was also an opportunity to celebrate the 75th birthday of its founder, François Pasquier.

“The night was nothing short of spectacular,” Cromwell says. “We learned a great deal from some of the event’s original European organizers.”

David says he was blown away by the pop-ups, local artists and activations in Paris.

“It gave me so much inspiration for DC,” Davis adds.

I asked both Diner wizards for advice for participants.

“Preparation is always key,” replies Cromwell. “Great preparation prevents poor performance.”

“Pack your patience!” Davis exclaims. “Ultimately, the event is what you make of it.”

Diner en Noir will be held Saturday, July 20; more information available at www.dinerennoir.com/dc. Diner en Blanc is on Saturday, August 24; more information available at https://washington.dinerenblanc.com.

MIAMI, FL - MARCH 26: Images of match between Kyle Edmund of Great Britain and John Isner of the United States at the Miami Open held at the Hard Rock Stadium on March 26, 2019 in Miami, Florida (Photo by Mike Lawrence/ATPTour.com)

Old Guard vs. New Guard: Top Players Come to Win at Citi Open

“It’s been a good year so far.”

That’s the low-key summary of 2019 from Reilly Opelka, the up-and-coming American tennis powerhouse who won his first Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Tour title in February, and saw his world-ranking climb to an all-time high of 53 in May – just a few years into his career.

“It was a big accomplishment for me – a huge step in the direction I’ve always wanted to go in,” he says of the win. “And I hope it’s just the beginning. There’s a lot more I want to accomplish and that’s definitely a really good steppingstone toward the progression.”

Next up for Opelka is DC’s legendary summer series, the Citi Open, from July 27 to August 4. Formerly known as the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, the series has been drawing District residents (an average of 72,000 each year) to its Rock Creek Park location since 1969.

While summer in DC might not be the preferred weather for all players, Florida-based Opelka loves the playing conditions. He says the high heat helps his style of play.

“I get a lot of help from the court with my serve. It bounces higher when it’s hot, and the ball goes through the court more. So from a conditions standpoint, it’s a good setup for me.”

Opelka’s rankings in the tennis world have been climbing since he turned pro, around the time he won the 2015 junior Wimbledon tournament. The athlete is almost 7 feet tall, making him the tallest ATP-ranked player in tennis history. While he tried his hand at many different sports as a kid, tennis was always his main focus.

“I went to public school and had a lot of friends in the neighborhood, so I spent a lot of time throwing the football, playing baseball, playing basketball.
But tennis was always a priority for me, even at a young age.”

With his incredibly powerful serve, Opelka has drawn comparisons to another U.S. tennis stalwart who also happens to be one of the top players in the world – and one of the tallest. John Isner, currently ranked No. 11 in the world, has been at it about a decade longer than Opelka. But he is still improving every year, achieving his highest career ranking ever just last year: No. 8 in the world.

Isner and the Citi Open go way back to his debut year in 2007, where just six weeks after turning pro, he made a splash and battled his way to the finals but lost to Andy Roddick in two sets. Isner made the Citi Open finals in 2013 and 2015 as well, losing to Juan Martin del Potro and Kei Nishikori respectively. When asked about his chances at this year’s tournament, Isner lightheartedly says that maybe he will finally win it all and take home the big trophy.

“I’ve had some great memories competing in DC and have been close to winning a few times. Do I think this could be my year? Sure, why not? I’m looking forward to being back and playing in front of great DC fans.”

Now a veteran of many Citi Opens and tournaments in general, Isner can spot talent when he looks at a new crop of U.S. players – and he sees it in Opelka.

“Reilly has a lot of potential and is on the right track. He’s a good friend of mine as well and obviously, we can relate on many levels. I think if he stays healthy [and] continues to work hard and develop, then the sky is the limit.”

Catch Isner and Opelka at the Citi Open from July 27 through August 4 at the Rock Creek Park Tennis Center. Tickets start at $25. Learn more at www.citiopentennis.com.

Rock Creek Park Tennis Center: 16th and Kennedy Streets in NW, DC; 202-721-9500; www.citiopentennis.com

Photo: Trent Johnson

What’s On Tap: Denizens’ New Riverdale Location Offers Customers A Wide Variety of Drinking Options

There is no better way to kick off the summer season than checking out Denizens Brewing Co.’s new location in Maryland’s Riverdale Park Station. The 12,000-square-foot production facility and taproom, which opened on May 25, is nestled between Whole Foods, District Taco and several other restaurants. The array of beer, cocktails and food options allows for any customer to come in and find something to enjoy, no matter their preferences. We caught up with the new spot’s general manager Coleene Rosenbach to talk about how the Riverdale location is different from Silver Spring’s and what customers can expect this summer.

On Tap: How did you decide on the Riverdale location versus other locations in the DMV?
Coleene Rosenbach:
This is a really great area. Lots of different types of neighborhoods intersect here. We’re always looking for areas where we can really be a part of a growing neighborhood. When we initially opened in Silver Spring five years ago, what we saw was an area that was just starting to become a lot more popular with the young professional groups, as well as already having an established familial suburban feel.

OT: What are some differences with the new Riverdale location compared to that Silver Spring location?
CR:
The focus at this production facility will be on our main sellers. As far as what we have to offer in the taproom, a lot of it is the same. We have far more taps here than over at Silver Spring, so we will be able to provide a larger seasonal selection once we get going.

OT: Do you think you will expand to other locations in Virginia in the future?
CR:
Opening this location was a two-year process, so we’ll probably take a little bit of a break before we open anything else. Right now we’re working with a couple of distribution companies to start being able to distribute into Northern Virginia.

OT: How do you plan to sell more beer to establishments in Northern Virginia, Maryland and DC? How much will the distribution increase?
CR:
We are hoping once we get the full production line going, it’ll probably quadruple the amount of beer we produce in a year, so we’re really trying to get ourselves out there.

OT: Which craft beer flavor is your best seller so far this summer? What are the best beer and food pairings?
CR:
From what I’ve observed, IPAs are just always going to be a thing. They’re always popular regardless. You’ll notice the trends, a lot of people are trying to focus on, like the hazy New England-style IPAs. We like to focus on lagers and more traditional takes on traditional styles of beer. As of right now, one of our more popular beers is actually a peach berliner weisse, the Georgia Ave., and it’s really light, low ABV.

OT: What are your recommendations for customers who come into Denizens and don’t love craft beer, but still want to try it out?
CR:
So one of our biggest things here is obviously we want to make beer approachable to everyone. We understand that not everyone is a beer snob and craft beer is definitely something that can be
intimidating to enter, but of course, we like to focus on what kinds of drinks people like in general.

OT: Beer marketed to women is often described as being fruity and low calorie. That being said, what tactics do you use to appeal to every customer?
CR:
We are the only fully female and minority-owned brewery, and again, as I said, we want beer for everyone. Regardless of if you’re the standard flannel wearing bearded beer aficionado or someone who really hasn’t had much of a foray into craft beers, we think we have something for everyone.

OT: There is a summer concert series at the River Park Station through August. How does that impact Denizens?
CR:
It’s been pretty great. We’ve definitely have had people hang out on our patio and hear [the concert]. I think it’s just been a really great kind of crossover. We definitely plan on being heavily involved in any kind of events that are being held in the shopping center [or] gathering area in general. Any kind of event that the Riverdale Association plans, we always try to be a part of it.

Denizens’ Riverdale Park Taproom is open from 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday and 12 p.m. – 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. For more information on the brewery, visit www.denizensbrewingco.com.

Denizens Brewing Co. Riverdale Park: 4550 Van Buren St. Riverdale Park, MD; 240-582-6817; www.denizensbrewingco.com


What’s On Tap July Listings

Greetings, beer nerds! As you likely know, there are a number of fantastic spots in the DMV where you can grab a pint, and their menus are always evolving and adapting to your tastes. If you’d rather avoid the guessing game, check out what’s coming up at a few of these fine establishments.

TUESDAY, JULY 2

Tuesday Brewsday
For the entire month of July, Kramerbooks and Afterwords café will be offering 18 varieties of half price pints and $1 wings. The 18 half price pints will include new limited and specialty run drafts and cans along with $1 wings. 7 p.m. – 1 a.m. Free admission. Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café: 1517 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.kramers.com

THURSDAY, JULY 4

Mussels, Burgers & Beer: Fourth of July at the Sovereign
Celebrate Independence Day with your friends from The Sovereign. Come out and enjoy their signature 4×4 happy hour, which includes four different draft beers, cocktails and wines at $4 each. In addition, there will be two very special Independence Day-only deals, including $15 for a burger and beer or $20 for mussels and a beer. 12-8 p.m. Free admission. The Sovereign: 1206 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.thesovereigndc.com

FRIDAY, JULY 5 – SUNDAY, JULY 7

Waterfront Beer Garden by Port City Brewing Company
Kick off summer at the Waterfront Beer Garden by Port City Brewing Company. Over two weekends, enjoy award-winning craft beer plus local food and entertainment, including live music and DJs. In addition to classics like Optimal Wit, Port City will highlight different beers during the weekend. Over Fourth of July weekend, attendees can enjoy beer with barbecue from Chadwicks on Friday and Saturday, Rocklands Barbeque’s food truck on Saturday and Smoking Kow BBQ’s food truck on Sunday. Cool off with treats from Dolci Gelati. Attendees can also enjoy lawn games, live music and DJs throughout. 5-8 p.m. on Friday, 12-8 p.m. on Saturday and 12-4 p.m. on Sunday. Free to attend. Waterfront Park:1 King St. Alexandria, VA; www.visitalexandriava.com

FRIDAY, JULY 5

DC Brau Half Price Pint Night
Enjoy cheap beer, tasty food pop-ups, board games and more at DC Brau’s Half-Price Pint Night. All flagship beers are 50 percent off all night. 3-11 p.m. Free admission. DC Brau Brewing Company: 3178 Bladensburg Rd. NE, DC; www.dcbrau.com

Tour de Pour Friday Night Happy Hour Rides
Come out and experience this happy hour series hosted by Bike Lane Brewing and Lake Anne Brew House. Park and gear up at Bike Lane Brewing, then take a fun group ride to Lake Anne Brew House for a beer and pretzel pit stop before returning to Bike Lane for another. Don’t have a bike? Contact Bike Lane about a test ride on one of theirs. Valet racks are provided at Lake Anne for parking. Rides are led by a Bike Lane employee. All skill levels and speeds are welcome for this casual, fun spin between Reston’s two breweries. Riders will depart promptly at 6 p.m. from The Bike Lane. Free admission. Bike Lane Brewing: 11150 Sunset Hills Rd. Reston, VA; www.thebikelane.com

SUNDAY, JULY 7

The Schneeeule Brauerei Showcase
Join ChurchKey as they feature the unparalleled beers of Schneeeule Brauerei. They will pour five of their exciting sour German brews alongside co-founder Andreas Bogk. Don’t miss the chance to try these old world and modern takes on Berliner Weisse which includes Marlene, Imgard, Kennedy and Yasmin. Not to be outdone, ChurchKey will also pour the incredibly rare August, the only U.S. keg of this one-of-a-kind sour Bock. All Schneeeule drafts are priced individually by the glass and 4-oz. tasting pours. 12-11:30 p.m. Free admission. ChurchKey: 1337 14th St. NW, DC; www.churchkeydc.com

WEDNESDAY, JULY 10

Belgium National Day Beer Dinner
Join Granville Moore’s for a four-course sumptuous dinner with Ommegang and La Chouffe inspired beer pairings. The dinner will consist of cuisines ranging from shucked PEI mussels, pan seared scallops to pan-seared lamb tenderloin, as well as Belgian chocolate and cherry tart for desert. 7-10 p.m. Tickets $60. Granville Moore’s: 1238 H St. NE, DC; www.granvillemoores.com

Summer Of Sour Series: The Classics of Cantillon
All summer long, The Sovereign is rolling out a slew of rare sour beers every week. Join as they showcase some of their favorite producers of Belgian-inspired sour beers from across the globe. The series is set to showcase the Classics of Cantillon, the legendary Lambic producer of Brussels. On this night, The Sovereign will pour four of Cantillon’s most iconic blends, including rare kegs of Fou’Foune and Kriek alongside bottles of Rosé de Gambrinus and Classic Gueuze. All Cantillon beers will be priced individually by the glass and in 4-oz. tasting pours. 5-11:30 p.m. Free admission. The Sovereign: 1206 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.thesovereigndc.com

Yoga & Beer at Fair Winds
Fill your sails with this monthly mindful movement and drinking experience. Attendees will enjoy a fun hour-long yoga class and then toast to the good life with a tasty Fair Winds craft beer. The brewery and yoga studio gets warm in the summer without AC; be prepared for warm yoga, hydrate well before class. All levels are welcome, no experience needed. Bring your own mat. 7-8:30 p.m. Free admission. Fair Winds Brewing Company: 7000 Newington Rd. Lorton, VA; www.eatyogadrink.com

THURSDAY, JULY 11

Civic Circle Happy Hour
Celebrate democracy and register to vote with bingo to benefit The Civic Circle at Denizens. Participants will have the chance to win patriotic prizes. The event also featurs voter registration by HeadCount and a non-partisan group that works with musicians to promote participation in democracy. 7-9 p.m. Free admission.Denizens Brewing Co.: 1115 East-West Hwy. Silver Spring, MD; www.denizensbrewingco.com

SATURDAY, JULY 13

6th Annual Port City Old Town Pub Crawl
Port City’s annual Pub Crawl returns for the sixth time on the streets of Old Town Alexandria. The brewing company will be at local restaurants near the Alexandria waterfront, stamping pub crawl passes and handing out swag. From 1:30-2:30 p.m. attendees will go to any of the participating locations to grab their pass. From 1:30-6 p.m.  stop at all locations, look for the PCBC team and get a stamp. Participants can stay and enjoy some brews and food specials at their favorite spots. Finally, stop by the Port City Tent from 5-6 p.m. with your completed pass and get a limited edition pint glass. 1:30-6 p.m. Free admission. Port City Brewing Company: 3950 Wheeler Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.portcitybrewing.com

Denizens Brewing Co.’s 5th Anniversary
Join Denizens in celebrating their fifth anniversary with a spectacular line up of music and dancing performances. Attendees don’t forget to dress in your best Mardi Gras outfit for a chance to win a free beer. The brewery will also have a bead contest. Don’t miss out on the fun, as this popular brewery celebrates five years in the biz. As they say in New Orleans, let the good times roll. 5 p.m. -12 a.m. Free admission. Denizens Brewing Co.: 1115 East-West Hwy. Silver Spring, MD; www.denizensbrewingco.com

Jailbreak Brewery Tour
Come take a tour with Jailbreak Brewing Company to see where the magic happens. The tour includes four beer samples and a pint to take home. 1-4 p.m. Tickets $10. Jailbreak Brewing Company: 9445 Washington Blvd. North Laurel, MD; www.jailbreakbrewing.com

Yoga & Beer at New District Brewing
Roll out your yoga mat at New District Brewing Company for a luscious, hour-long vinyasa flow led by a talented, registered yoga instructor. After class, stay for a refreshing craft beer and great company. This mindful movement experience is accessible to all levels, beginners to advanced. Bring your own mat. 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. $20 online tickets include yoga and a beer ticket; $25 for walk-in tickets if space is available. New District Brewing Company: 2709 South Oakland St. Arlington, VA; www.newdistrictbrewing.com

THURSDAY, JULY 18

Brew at the Zoo
Hold onto your brews. This year the friends of the National Zoo are turning DC’s best beer festival into a prehistoric party. Attendees will journey to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo for unlimited beer tastings from 70-plus breweries, live music, food truck fare and much more. It’s three fantastic hours of dino drafts and fossil food. Guests can show their support for Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ) and the Zoo’s shared species-saving mission at Brew at the Zoo, where beer finds a way. 6-9 p.m. Tickets start at $30. Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute: 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.nationalzoo.si.edu

FRIDAY, JULY 19

Beer Garden Bass
Enjoy music and food at Denizens Brewing Co.’s Silver Spring location for a night of bass and beer on the patio. DJ InnoVadar will be behind the decks, so mark your calendars because you don’t want to miss it. 8 p.m. – 12 a.m. Free admission. Denizens Brewing Co.: 1115 East-West Hwy. Silver Spring, MD; www.denizensbrewingco.com

SATURDAY, JULY 20

America’s Best Brew Fest
America’s Best Brew Fest is a celebration of the very best craft beer. Guests will enjoy live music, outdoor games, amazing food vendors, arts and more. The festival features more than 80 different brews and amazing selections of wine, including a huge rosé garden, delicious varieties of cider, hard sodas, gluten-free options and much more. Tickets grant attendees with unlimited tastes of hand-picked beers, wines  and ciders. 12:30-8 p.m. Tickets begin at $17. The Bullpen: 1299 Half St. SE, DC; www.brewfestdc.com

Jazz at The Beer Garden
Enjoy the Jazz Trotters at this super beer garden. The beer garden is connected to a butcher shop, so guests can partake in quality dining alongside some outdoor fun. They are also a local, independent market who prides themselves on the fact that their focus is on quality, local products. 5-9p.m. Free admission. Westover Market: 5863 Washington Blvd. Arlington, VA; www.westovermarketbeergarden.com

SUNDAY, JULY 21

Belgian Independence Day Celebration
This Belgian Independence Day, The Sovereign is celebrating in style by popping some of their favorite bottles. The brewery will offer 21 of director Greg Engert’s personal picks at truly unbelievable prices. Highlights include some classic Belgian Gueuzes from Cantillon, Drie Fonteinen, Girardin and Tilquin, and some stunning beers from American stalwarts Oxbow, Jester King and Crooked Stave. 12-11:30 p.m. Free admission. The Sovereign: 1206 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; www.thesovereigndc.com

Pints and Paws
Studies have shown that pet ownership and beer drinking may contribute to a longer life. In that spirit, DC Brau Brewing Company will be hosting the Humane Rescue Alliance for a meet and greet of some of DC’s most eligible kitties and canines. DC Brau will donate $1 per pint to the Humane Rescue Alliance throughout. Guests can shop for the newest pet gear and treats from The Big Bad Woof, and you may even go home with your new best friend. 12-3 p.m. Free to attend. DC Brau Brewing Company: 3178 Bladensburg Rd. NE, DC; www.dcbrau.com

MONDAY, JULY 22

Port City Joggers & Lagers
Start your week off with a Monday evening run from Port City Brewing Company. First, meet at the brewery tasting room before heading out for a one, three or five-mile run. Participants should expect a fun crowd, support from Pacers Running staff and occasionally vendors provide shoes to try out. 7-9 p.m. Free admission. Port City Brewing Company: 3950 Wheeler Ave. Alexandria, VA; www.portcitybrewing.com

WEDNESDAY, JULY 24

Pickleball & Beer Party
Get ready for some pickleball – this new sport is making a big wave! It’s super fun and easy to learn. Come out to play while having a couple of beverages and snacks on the tennis courts. This event is BYOB. 5:30-7:30p.m. Free admission. McLean Swim and Tennis Association: 1700 Margie Dr. McLean, VA; www.mcleanswimandtennis.org

 

Swan Lake by the American Ballet

Stage and Screen: Aziz Ansari, Swan Lake, Aladdin and More

THROUGH JULY 14

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui
In 1930s Chicago, Arturo Ui would stop at nothing to become the next tyrant. Ui would’ve been just a stranger you met on the street, a neighbor in your local market; but influenced by greed, money and power, he conquered the cauliflower industry. Playwright Bertolt Brecht’s clear depiction of a modern-day Hitler is renewed in this production directed by John Doyle. Times vary. Tickets $25-$45. Atlas Performing Arts Center: 1333 H St. NE, DC; www.atlasarts.org

TUESDAY, JULY 2

Aziz Ansari:  Road to Nowhere Comedic Tour
After a fall from grace following a sexual misconduct allegation in early 2018, comedian Aziz Ansari will return to the public eye in his first tour since the controversy. His argumentatively contentious allegation has created a new discovery in his comedic expression. Ansari uses his witty, sarcastic and socially progressive charm to push the conversation forward. The set will highlight his life after public scrutiny and what lies ahead for him as a public figure. There’s no doubt all seats will be filled, laughs will be heard and questions hopefully answered. This is the official return of Aziz Ansari as a comedic artist. Show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets $30. DAR Constitution Hall: 1776 D St. NW, DC; www.dar.org/constitution-hall

TUESDAY, JULY 9

Pilobolus
Dance company Pilobolus continues to push the limitations of human physicality through performance art. Using the medium of poetic movement, this group continually challenges their bodies, whether stretched, bounded or morphed together, to better create a versatile view of humans in the physical form. Join in this interactive performance as they create a unique narrative using the only thing they came in with: their bodies. Show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets $29-$69. The Music Center at Strathmore: 5301 Tuckerman Ln. North Bethesda, MD; www.strathmore.org

THURSDAY, JULY 11 – SATURDAY, JULY 13

American Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake
This timeless ballet classic involves a love story combining magic, romance and tragedy to tell the tale of Odette and Prince Siegfried. Based on reputation, American Ballet Theatre’s rendition has continually exceeded expectations, providing majestic movements in gracious unison that have left audiences in awe for generations. Under the choreography of Kevin McKenzie, Wolf Trap hosts this romanticized depiction of an essential classic. Starts at 8:30 p.m. Tickets $25-$80. Filene Center at Wolftrap: 1551 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; www.wolftrap.org

THURSDAY, JULY 11 – SUNDAY, JULY 14

UrbanArias: Juliet Letters
Elvis Costello’s Juliet Letters was drafted to create several musical interpretations of Shakespeare’s famed character Juliet. Filled with passion, despair and betrayal, UrbanArias will perform a series of narratives by Costello and Brodsky Quartet in a cabaret setting. The show features characters ranging in age and backgrounds to provide a dynamically dramatic performance to pay tribute to some of Shakespeare’s best written work. Thursday to Saturday shows at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets $47. Signature Theatre: 4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington, Virginia; www.sigtheatre.org

THURSDAY, JULY 18

RuPaul’s Drag Race: Season 11 Tour
The Emmy winning RuPaul’s Drag Race continues to strut its stuff for the 11th season, and the starring queens don’t plan on stopping any time soon. The queens, dragged in style and grace, are once again ready to head down the runway and put on a show. Make sure your wigs are secure and edges laid, because this show is going to be one for the books. They are coming to break necks! Doors at 7 p.m. Tickets begin at $37. Lincoln Theatre: 1215 U St. NW, DC; www.thelincolndc.com

THURSDAY, JULY 18 – SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 7

Disney’s Aladdin
Come enjoy the hit Broadway musical Disney’s Aladdin, as it graces the JFK’s center stage. From the producers of The Lion King, comes the magic fairy tale of a young lad and his Genie. Tony Award-winning James Monroe Iglehart gives a performance of a lifetime bringing nothing but comedy, beauty, and magic to the stage as Aladdin’s very own Genie. So strap in your magic carpets, grab a lamp and be ready to discover a whole new world. Times vary. Tickets start at $39. Opera House at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: 2700 F St. NW, DC; www.kennedy-center.org

SUNDAY, JULY 21

DC Improv: Murder Mystery Comedy Show
Die Laughing Productions is back in DC with another night of comedic fun. Taking it back to the 90s with “Hit Me ‘90s One More Time,” this show features comedians involved in a narrative pitting their characters against one another for the hottest concert ticket of the year, Ace of Base. This fun-filled night will have you laughing out of your seats and enjoying nostaligc flashbacks, all while trying to uncover a murder mystery. Come out and celebrate the 90s with the DC Improv group, and just maybe you’ll make it out alive! Starts at 7 p.m. Tickets $19. DC Improv Comedy Club: 1140 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; www.dcimprov.com

Thamee // Photo: Mariah Miranda

New and Notable: Blend 111, Laos in Town, Queen’s English and More

On Tap keeps locals in the know about the hottest new food and drink spots around town and the top culinary happenings of the month. Read on to get the inside scoop on what’s new and notable in the DC area.

New

Blend 111
Open:
May 18
Location:
Vienna
Lowdown:
Tech CEO Michael Biddick has long had a passion for food, wine and coffee, so when he got out of the business of software startups, opening a restaurant was a natural next step. A Vienna resident, Biddick often wished for an upscale, modern restaurant in his neighborhood. Blend 111 was born out of that need, and soon, neighbors invested to make the restaurant a reality. The name is a nod to the many influences involved. The investing families’ connections to Venezuela, France and Spain drove the menu, Biddick’s extensive wine knowledge shaped the beverage program, and a sense of responsibility to sustainability resulted in careful sourcing, compostable to-go containers, a composting program, renewable energy and carbon offsets for imported goods. Chef Abby McManigle, whose resume boasts several respected West Coast restaurants including Chez Panisse, works to source ingredients for her seasonal menus as locally as possible – within a 200-mile radius of the building. The summer menu stars dishes like a watermelon salad that mimics watermelons on the vine in a garden, a Mediterranean grilled octopus dish with pepperonata, green garbanzo bean puree and crispy shallots, and Venezuelan arepas with manchego and cotija cheese. Biddick, a certified sommelier and author, created a wine list that shines a light on small-batch French and Spanish wines – organic or biodynamic – that lack representation in the U.S. He also roasts organic coffee in house for the espresso bar. 111 Church St. NW, Suite 101, Vienna, VA; www.blend111.com

Laos in Town
Open:
April 30
Location:
NoMa
Lowdown:
Two Bangkok natives enamored with the flavors of Laos have opened a new restaurant to share the cuisine they fell in love with. Fresh off a research and development trip to Laos, restaurateur Nick Ongsangkoon and chef Ben Tiatasin opened Laos in Town in NoMa. Ongsangkoon is also a co-owner of Thai restaurant Soi 38. Tiatasin managed the front of the house at Bangkok Golden and Thip Khao, and also worked as a chef at Esaan. Tiatasin’s menu focuses on traditional Laotian food with other Southeast Asian influences sprinkled throughout. Standbys like papaya salad and crispy rice salad are represented, as well as less familiar selections like marinated, deep-fried quail and basa fish steamed in banana leaves with curry paste and herbs. Many of the items can be made vegan, and there’s an entire menu dedicated to vegan options. The two desserts – coconut custard or fresh mango – are both accompanied by a sweet sticky rice, lightly tinted green by pandan leaves. The bar offers wines, cocktails with Southeast Asian ingredients, and Laotian and local beer. The windows at the bar open to a large sidewalk patio, and the modern, airy interior is punctuated by traditional touches like birch trees lining the walls and fishing traps hanging from the ceiling. 250 K St. NE, DC; www.laosintown.com

Queen’s English
Open:
April 10
Location:
Columbia Heights
Lowdown:
Chef Henji Cheung, who grew up in Hong Kong, has teamed up with his wife Sarah Thompson to bring the cuisine of his childhood to DC. Cheung runs the kitchen, while Thompson leads the front of the house and beverage program. The two met working in the industry in New York at Little Beet Table. Their synergy has produced a restaurant that features food Cheung is passionate about, alongside Asian-influenced cocktails, beer, cider and natural wines. The food menu is succinct but jumps all over the map with flavorful vegetables like soy-braised enoki mushrooms with a coddled egg and bok choy with XO sauce, as well as show-stopping proteins like crispy fried, salt-and-pepper blowfish with goji berry and a golden half-chicken lacquered with soy sauce and seasoned with lots of ginger and scallion. Other crowd favorites include the two-tone, hand cut noodles dyed with squid ink and the soft daikon fritters showered in pork sung. The cocktail list is topped by two barrel-aged blends: a medicinal Manhattan and a Chinese five-spice negroni. There are also lighter options like the Lilibet with mezcal, damiana flower, pineapple and ashberry. While walk-ins are welcome for the dining room, chefs counter and patio, they also offer limited reservations. 3410 11th St. NW, DC; www.queensenglishdc.com

Thamee
Open:
May 15
Location:
H Street
Lowdown:
For mother-daughter duo Jocelyn Law-Yone and Simone Jacobson, Thamee is a deeply personal restaurant. The name means daughter in Burmese, which is a word Law-Yone’s daughters knew growing up even though they didn’t speak the language. Law-Yone was born in Burma and says she comes from a family of storytellers, with food and laughter at the center of her upbringing. Jacobson was born in the U.S. and says food is what connected her to her heritage. The pair, along with a third co-owner, Eric Wang, aim to share the stories and tastes of Burma with curious diners in DC. While Burmese cuisine is influenced by bordering nations China, Thailand and India, there are many ingredients and dishes unique to the country. Specialties like pickled tea leaf salad, white flower mushroom salad, mohinga – a catfish curry typically eaten for breakfast – and butterfly pea flower negroni are rare finds, even in a city with a robust Asian dining scene. Colorful decorative touches in the space complement the food, like tabletops based on colorful Burmese tribal textiles and custom aprons made with traditional fabrics from Law-Yone and Jacobson’s personal collections. The family restaurant has a diverse team behind it made up of industry veterans, refugees and first-generation Americans speaking 10 different languages. Thamee also supports diversity in their partners with beer supplied by Sankofa Beer, the city’s only black-owned brewery, and coffee from Nguyen Coffee Supply, the first Vietnamese-American-owned importer, supplier and roaster of coffee beans from Vietnam. 1320 H St. NE, DC; www.thamee.com

Notable

New Pastry Chef at Kith & Kin
Location:
The Wharf
Lowdown:
The law of attraction is clearly at work at Kith & Kin. Chef, newly minted author and James Beard Award-winner Kwame Onwuachi recently added another rising star to his team. Pastry chef Paola Velez joined the Afro-Caribbean restaurant this spring, bringing her tropical flair to the dessert menu. Velez trained under chocolatier Jacque Torres and was recently recognized by RAMW for her work at Iron Gate. She grew up in New York and the Dominican Republic, the latter cultivating her love of tropical fruits. Highlights on her new menu include a Caribbean rum cake accented with sorrel leaves and passion fruit sorbet, and a chai soft-serve sundae topped with Nigerian puff puffs – a sweet fried dough. 801 Wharf St. SE, DC; www.kithandkindc.com

New Wine Director at Jug & Table
Location:
Adams Morgan
Lowdown:
Casual neighborhood wine bar Jug & Table is heading off the beaten path with their wine program, now helmed by sommelier Chas Jefferson. The new list of more than 30 wines by the glass and eight on tap showcases rustic table wines from small, thoughtful producers. The selections will change seasonally, but the focus remains on sustainable, natural, biodynamic and organic wines. This inaugural list introduces more obscure varietals and emerging regions, offering a chance to try grapes and producers you might have never heard of. Jefferson keeps things approachable yet stimulating, and he can expertly suggest a fascinating new pour that will appeal to a guest’s preferences while expanding their understanding of wine. First floor of 2446 18th St. NW, DC; www.jugandtable.com

Spotlight On

Dudley’s Sport & Ale
Part American sports bar and part local crafthouse, Dudley’s brings a space to Shirlington for all types of beer drinkers to enjoy. Carrying the “sports bar” moniker, the Arlington spot features countless TVs and a 20-seat, theater-style space to catch the game. Swing by for weekend brunch with $5 champagne bottles, a “Hail Mary” Bloody Mary, frosé and frozen margaritas. And don’t exclude your furry friends – the ground-level patio is dog-friendly (weather permitting). No matter your pleasure, Dudley’s has a spot at the bar for everyone. Write-up provided by venue. 2766 S. Arlington Mill Dr. Arlington, VA; www.dudleyssportsandale.com

The Sally's Rickey on the Row // Photo: Mynor Ventura

The Rickey: A Distinctly DC Cocktail

A city with a heated climate – literally and politically speaking – the rickey is a cocktail to cool them all down. From a bourbon-based drink to one that utilizes gin, the simple ingredients leave much room for experimentation for DC’s mixologists.

Summertime in the nation’s capital brings out all the jokes about DC’s swamp-like qualities, so it’s no wonder July was dubbed Rickey Month in the District.

“We’re one of only two cities that has our own identified cocktail,” notes Hunter Douglas, bar program manager of Hank’s Oyster Bar and Hank’s Cocktail Bar.

“The rickey is up there on the pantheon of drinks that cocktail bartenders in DC really care about. Everyone has a good way that they like to make a rickey.”

The first-ever rickey was sipped in the District and has remained a distinctly DC cocktail ever since. Shoomaker’s Saloon is credited with mixing up the first one in the late 1800s – the local bar stood where the current JW Marriott is downtown. Named for Colonel Joe Rickey, the original libation mixed bourbon with lime juice and sparkling water – a simple enough drink that gained popularity with the substitution of gin for bourbon. These days, say “rickey” and the latter is what comes to mind for most.

The leap from bourbon to gin seems understandable, but the addition of lime foam, cumin or pickled lime? These days, the drink has been elevated with mixologists putting their own stamp on the classic. From more understated additions to some rather unexpected ingredients, bars are continuing to transform the drink further.

“The rickey, first and foremost, should be refreshing,” Douglas continues. “It should be able to cool you down. It should be a light, refreshing drink while you’re in 90-degree weather.”

Douglas manages the menu and team behind the recently relocated cocktail bar (now in Dupont Circle) from the Hank’s brand. Among the nearly 40 cocktails on the menu, the Rick Rolled presents itself as a slightly fresher, sweeter upgrade to the classic. Aviation Gin infused with dehydrated cucumbers works as the base upon which lime and honey are layered on top. Shaken and strained over fresh ice and soda water, it’s “light, refreshing and not overly sweet, and you get these cool herbal, floral notes from the citrus oil, honey and cucumber.”

Just down the street from where the original was created, The Occidental’s version from mixologist Frankie Jones adds earthy notes with coriander, turmeric and white pepper. The spices provide an unexpected flavor that plays well with the gin. The I Only Had A F.E.W. Rickeys is an off-menu item, and can be ordered as Jones had intended or customized to any guest’s palate.

“I just ask people, ‘What kind of flavor are you into?’” Jones says. “Literally, I can make a rickey with anything. Choose bourbon or gin. If you want a fruity rickey, we can do that, too.”

The rickey is a blank canvas of sorts because of its simplicity.

“It leaves so much room for experimentation and the addition of flavors and textures, so it’s quite fun to play around with,” Jones adds.

His former stomping ground, 14th Street’s The Gibson, has been in operation for a decade, and the team is well-versed in making the rickey.

The Gibson’s creative director Julia Ebell notes, “We are so classically focused here. It’s a place where you can come and get a really fantastic standard rickey or Colonel Joe anytime, year-round.”

The DC heat makes the rickey a bit of a necessity come summer months, but that doesn’t stop the team from having a little bit of fun with it.

“We have an outdoor space, so rickeys are a formula we love playing around [with] here,” Ebell says.

The speakeasy’s latest iteration, made just in time for Rickey Month, was born of a multilayered conversation between staff members about everything from Rick and Morty to Little Women to realizing how much they “love putting pickled and preserved product into our drinks.”  The Beth’s Cure: A Pickle Rickey features Brooklyn gin, turmeric and pickled lime and ginger soda over ice and garnished with a pickled lime.

On why the drink remains as popular in the District as it has for so many years, Ebell notes, “It’s kind of spirit(ual) air conditioning. DC is warm and muggy, and just having something you can drink outside without feeling like you’re drowning yourself is fantastic. It’s something that comes out of the place where it was born. It’s as much DC as go-go is.”

From a non-DC resident’s perspective, Pyramid Hotel Group Director of Restaurants Davide Crusoe points out that very few cities have a signature cocktail, and the draw comes from the rickey’s history and unique DC character.

“[The rickey] will be forever and always on our [menus].”

He designed The Sally’s cocktail menu, located in Dupont Circle’s The Fairfax at Embassy Row, which includes the Rickey on the Row made with Hangar 1 vodka, kaffir lime, Plymouth gin, The King’s Ginger, lime foam and egg. The cocktail is intended to be “a fun play with a lot of different things that we think are cool.”

Of all the elevated versions and plays on the original, Crusoe says, “It sort of morphed over time with people’s palates. The rickey has grown up with time and it’s stayed synonymous with the city.”

For some bars, the key rickey ingredient comes from an unexpected source: bubbles. Micah Wilder, mixologist and partner at Zeppelin, explains how the Shaw newcomer’s program is focused on Japanese spirits and bubbles.

“The Toki Highball is a really great example of a whiskey rickey: just super classic and simple,” he says of his rickey concoction.

Zeppelin is able to increase the fizziness of the cocktail by nearly freezing it using a special machine, which helps retain carbonation.

“The way the temperatures are working with the machine, it’s just really amazing.”

Made with Roku Gin, Italicus Rosolio Bergamot Liqueur, grapefruit, lemon and baller bubbles, Zeppelin’s Kabuki Springs cocktail is “a little bit more of a signature gin rickey [that tastes] like you’re drinking this Japanese soda.”

Wilder adds, “It’s super simple and good, and really what it’s supposed to be.”

No matter how it’s shaken, stirred or garnished, Jones says the rickey is still “the perfect cocktail for our weather.”

“It’s just this refreshing thing that you can drink fast and it cools you down a bit,” he elaborates. “And if you have enough of them, it’ll probably warm you up but you won’t care about the humidity anymore.”

Despite differences (political or not), DC denizens can all agree on one thing: the rickey belongs to the District.

The Gibson: 2009 14th St. NW, DC; www.thegibsondc.com
Hank’s Cocktail Bar: 1624 Q St. NW, DC; www.hankscocktailbar.com
The Occidental: 1475 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, DC; www.occidentaldc.com
The Sally: 2100 Massachusetts Ave. NW, DC; www.thesallydc.com
Zeppelin: 1544 9th St. NW, DC; www.zeppelindc.com