Tag Archives: Petworth

Savoring Senegal and the Flavors of West Africa

Our town is a veritable mecca for Ethiopian food, and I suspect many a resident has introduced family and friends to the delights of injeera and wat.  But D.C. is also home to a number of other exceptional African restaurants, including one of the few West African joints in the area, Chez Aunty Libe.

Located north of the Petworth neighborhood, Chez Aunty Libe offers “Senegambian” food, which includes influences from many West African countries like Senegal, The Gambia and Cote D’Ivoire.  Both the ambience and food are, as one reviewer put it, “straight out of Dakar.”

Dishes you may sample generally consist of stews of meat and vegetables like cassava, carrots, and cabbage.  Examples include thieboudienne (fish in a tomato-based stew), maffe (peanut or groundnut sauce), and yassa (marinated fish or meat).

Another items worth trying is the bissap, a juice made from hibiscus flowers that reminded me very much of Mexico’s “jugo de jamaica.”  And although I didn’t sample it myself, many reviews recommend the thiakry, a couscous pudding for dessert.

One of the best parts of a visit to Chez Aunty Libe is the opportunity to chat with Aunty Libe herself, also known as Liberte Ehemba.  Originally from Senegal, she arrived in the U.S. more than 20 years ago and has made her business a hub for members of the West African community in D.C.  This fact was clear early on—Libe is extraordinarily friendly, knew nearly every person who walked in the door, and had long conversations in French (and perhaps other languages) with each restaurant goers.

It isn’t often that we get the opportunity to feel like we’re on the other side of the world while still in our city, so savor it when it happens!

To visit:  6115 Georgia Ave. NW, 202-531-2561, Sunday–Thursday 11:30 a.m.–11:30 p.m. and Friday- Saturday 24 hours.  One mile from the Takoma Park metro stop, or 2 miles from Georgia Ave.-Petworth.  The 70 and 71 bus stop very close by.


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President Lincoln’s Cottage: A Glimpse Into a President and a City Under Siege

Tucked in a pleasant wooded area just a 10-minute drive north from the center of DC is President Lincoln’s Cottage, the place where our 16th President spent more than a quarter of his Presidency and drafted the Emancipation Proclamation.  The house is a veritable shrine to Lincoln and the Civil War, and is self-dubbed “the most significant historic site directly associated with Lincoln’s presidency aside from the White House.”  The site was designated as a National Monument in 2000, yet only opened to the public in 2008.

The cottage—that’s a term used lightly, it’s actually a nicely-sized house—is on the grounds of the Soldier’s Home, a fully-functioning retirement home devoted to career veterans.  The veterans’ home has existed since 1851, long before the location gained fame for housing brooding presidents.  In fact, presidents were invited to stay at the cottage in order to build political support for the struggling retirement home.  Presidents Buchanan, Hayes, and Arthur also all stayed for some period on the grounds.

President Lincoln and his family lived in the cottage during the summers of 1862-1864 as a respite from the hot weather of DC, but the President would commute the three miles to the White House every day.  I was tickled by how our tour guide referred to his journey as “though the wilderness,” back in the day when there was no such thing as Petworth and the city ended at W Street!

The Visitor Education Center is your first stop on the tour, the second and only other stop being the cottage itself.  The education center is filled with information about Lincoln, the prelude to the Civil War, and the war itself.  It is a fancily-curated visitor’s center, with touch screens and videos and other technological gadgets that are sure to keep you engaged and informed prior to the tour.

One of my favorite aspects of President Lincoln’s Cottage is the exhibits devoted to the history of Washington, DC during the Civil War.  I guess I hadn’t realized that the war happened here, right in our midst, with forts surrounding the city outskirts, wounded soldiers in makeshift hospitals, and tens of thousands of freed slaves lending a hand to the war effort.  The city was only about 60 years old at the time of the war, and the exhibits did a great job of explaining how frightening it was that such a young capital city came under such intense threats.

After spending time in the education center you set out on the guided tour of the cottage.  Because it only opened to the public a few years ago, the house itself is still being remodeled and refurbished.  It’s nothing like other grand, furnished DC homes such as the Brewmaster’s Castle and Woodrow Wilson’s house, but it’s only going to get better over the next few years as more money is raised for preservation.  Nevertheless, it’s an excellent experience to be in the same hallowed space that Lincoln lived and worked.

Washington, DC is filled with historic sites and homages to our famous politicos, but President Lincoln’s Cottage feels different for some reason.  Perhaps it’s that when the breeze blows just the right way up on the hill, you can begin to feel the magnitude of the decisions the President had to make at this location.  Whatever it is, it’s well worth a visit, and you’ll come away feeling a new appreciation for Lincoln and the tragedy of the Civil War.

To visit:  140 Rock Creek Church Road NW, 202-829-0436.  Open Monday-Saturday 9:30am-4:30pm and Sunday 11:30am-5:30pm, tours almost every hour.  H8 bus will stop at the gate.  Adults $12 tickets, some discounts apply.


Filed under Activities, Museums

Hanging Out Up on 14th at The Highlands Café and Grill

The Highlands Café in Petworth (not to be confused with Highland Origin Coffee in Silver Spring) is a charming neighborhood spot that is unassuming on the outside and colorfully artsy on the inside.  Located on 14th Street between Crittenden and Decatur, this is one of “it” spots in the 14th Street Heights neighborhood.  Didn’t know that there was a 14th Street Heights district in DC?  Neither did I, so that’s another good reason to go up there and hit some of the other local staples along the way—Districto Federal, the Red Derby, etc.

The most memorable quirk about this coffee shop/restaurant/bar is its long mural on the southern wall, depicting the life-cycle of coffee from the berry-picking to the barista-ing to its enjoyment by friends.  Along with its mainstay beverage The Highlands also boasts brunch and dinner menus that seem a bit ambitious for such a small place, but the results are great—hearty, Southern-style meals with a smattering of vegetarian options.  I was a fan of the towering smoothies!

According to the mission on its website, The Highlands is trying very hard to not just be another relatively funky coffee shop in our city, but a place where patrons can interact with management and feel ownership over the location.  I can only speak to my Saturday afternoon visit, but I was very impressed with the variety of clientele, from older men reading newspapers to young Millenials rubbing the sleep out of their eyes, but the best thing is that they all clearly were residents of the neighborhood.  In my opinion, this kind of community-oriented local watering hole is just what DC needs more of!

To visit:  4706 14th St. NW, 202-829-6200.  Moderate walk from Petworth or Columbia Heights Metros, or the 52 and 54 buses will drop you outside the door.

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