Explore Washington D.C.

Work Hard, Play Harder in Washington D.C. With Mesfin Asfaha

A great concierge never rests! Mesfin Asfaha of Sofitel Lafeyette Square Washington DC and Omni Shoreham Hotel gives his top picks on where to eat, drink and play throughout the DMV and beyond.

With the recent filming of the upcoming “Wonder Woman 1984” in Georgetown and downtown, D.C. is getting its fair share of movie-making magic. What are some of your favorite hotspots in these areas?  

In Georgetown, there’s always kayaking or stand-up paddleboard at the Key Bridge Boathouse. The Washington Harbour offers some of the best patio seating for sightlines to the Kennedy Center and views of the Rosslyn skyline with planes to and from Reagan National Airport flying overhead. And the sunset over the Potomac River is breathtaking. Dining at Farmers Fishers Bakers, Sequoia or Fiola Mare is also a must.

Downtown, grab stone crab at Joe’s Seafood or one of the best dry-aged steaks at Rare. Finish your night at POV at the W Hotel for best views of the Washington Monument, or stroll around the 14th & U corridor for great nightlife.

POV at the W Hotel in Washington D.C.
Looking for the best view of the Washington Monument? Asfaha suggests taking it to the top at POV at the W Hotel (© Daniel Swartz).

With fall underway, what are some of your favorite fall activities to recommend to your guests?  

When the leaves change colors, you must visit the Tidal Basin, Rock Creek Park, Meridian Hill Park, Capitol Hill and George Washington Parkway. CityCenterDC has great seasonal events as well. Though these are all free to the public, you can also take advantage of tours by bus, bike, Segway, boat and on foot to get the whole experience while learning something new from some of the best tour guides in Washington, D.C.

Changes in season usually bring changes in restaurant menus. Which restaurant would you recommend to guests looking for a special night out? 

There are so many to choose from! For locally sourced and seasonal dishes, I always suggest Equinox, The Dabney, Convivial, Lincoln, Honeysuckle and Ris, depending on the location or type of cuisine my guests are looking for.

As a concierge, it’s always your job to stay current on what’s going on in the city. Where should every visitor go at least once now while visiting the D.C. area?

Every visitor should visit the free Smithsonian Institution museums, Capitol Hill, the National Mall, Arlington Cemetery and the beautiful memorials along the National Mall. The new Observation Deck at CEB Tower in Rosslyn, Virginia, offers the best wide-angle 360-degree views of D.C. and Northern Virginia. With its breathtaking sunset view, it’s one of the most unique views of the DMV.

Aerial view of the Lincoln memorial
Visiting the D.C. area for the first time? Asfaha recommends visiting the beautiful memorials along the National Mall. (Courtesy National Park Service, National Mall and Memorial Parks)

A guest is looking for a fun and interactive tour of the city. Which one do you recommend?

“The Art of Burning Man” at the historic Renwick Gallery is my version of Mad Max, without the violence, from Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. There’s also a scavenger hunt of six sculptures from Burning Man throughout the surrounding Golden Triangle neighborhood.

"The Art of Burning Man" at the historic Renwick Gallery
Looking for an interactive exhibition? Asfaha suggests "The Art of Burning Man" at the historic Renwick Gallery. On display through January 21, 2019 (Courtesy Irena Laster).

Describe your perfect day (or night) in D.C.

My perfect day in D.C. begins with a nice brunch at Le Diplomate, Lupo Verde, Blue Duck Tavern or Duke's Grocery. Then I like to wander through one of the museums to learn something new. Afterward, I’d head to Blagden Alley’s hidden bar, Calico, or Columbia Room for a cocktail (I suggest the Cortado!), then I’d visit the D.C. Alley Museum. To cap off the night, I’d enjoy an incredible dessert at Leopold’s Kafe in Georgetown, then head to Top of the Gate at the Watergate Hotel for a nightcap.

Where should every first-time visitor go during their trip to D.C.?

First-time visitors should at least visit one of the many historic sites we have in the city, such as Decatur House, President Woodrow Wilson House, Tudor Place, Frederick Douglass Historic Site, Historical Society of Washington, D.C. and Ford’s Theater. To top it off, everyone must visit Ben’s Chili Bowl to celebrate its 60th Anniversary.

I’m looking for something fun to do outside of the city for the day. What do you suggest?

While it’s common to visit Mount Vernon, Great Falls, Inner Harbor and Old Town Alexandria, which are all beautiful and fun, I would visit Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Many do not know that the third President of the United States designed and built his home, located just outside Charlottesville, Virginia. Guided tours of the house and the plantation garden are offered daily throughout the year; outdoor gardens and plantation tours are offered daily April through October, and children under age 5 are free.

When you’re not working to make sure your guests are enjoying their stay, where can we find you?

If I’m looking to network and relax, you’ll find me at Tryst in Adams Morgan. If I want a nice burger, a drink and smooth Jazz, you can find me at JoJo on U St. For a relaxing evening with awesome cocktails, I can be found at The Gibson, a Prohibition-themed speakeasy. Otherwise, I’m exploring different locations in the district to find the best, unique and newest hotspots for my enjoyment and knowledge. A great concierge never rests; he’s always learning.

Omni Shoreham's Secret Garden Jazz Series
Asfaha enjoying the sounds and scenery at the Omni Shoreham's Secret Garden Jazz Series (Courtesy Mesfin Asfaha)