The 13 Best Places to Eat and Drink in Washington, D.C.

Kirkikis, iStock / Getty Images Plus
Kirkikis, iStock / Getty Images Plus

We've covered a lot of the best foods, destinations, and bookstores in all 50 states here at Mental Floss, but unfortunately, our historic and vibrant capital city doesn't get represented in those lists. In fact, Washington, D.C. has trouble getting represented at all. Today, we're correcting that wrong. Here are 13 places you won't want to miss if you need a meal in the District.

1. Best Chocolate Chip Cookie in Washington, D.C. // Baked & Wired

Georgetown's Baked & Wired might be known for their cupcakes, but they have more than a dozen cookie and other sweet treat options, including a soft chocolate chunk cookie with optional walnuts. The only problem? The shop's self-serve cookie bar with its clear-glass cookie jars can be tough for those who like to think with their sweet tooth.

Read our Best Chocolate Chip Cookie in All 50 States

2. Best Pie in Washington, D.C. // Pie Sisters

"Any time is pie time, morning noon or night." The three real-life sisters behind Pie Sisters live by that motto and treat their customers to a wide enough variety of pies that you truly could eat them at any time of the day. Their specialty Jumble Berry includes a mix of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, but if you need a dinner option, the Country Tomato or Pulled Pork Barbecue savory pies would be a good lead-in to a Bourbon Chocolate Pecan dessert. Gluten and lactose-free options are also available by request.

Read our Best Pie in All 50 States

3. Best Diner in Washington, D.C. // Osman & Joe's Steak-N-Egg Kitchen

Need 24/7 access to the best steak and eggs dish around? Osman & Joe's has been open around the clock since 1993, and everyone from the locals to visiting dignitaries know to pop in for a breakfast platter or a kosher hot dog with an old-fashioned milkshake.

Read our Best Diner in All 50 States

4. Best Coffee Shop in Washington, D.C. // The Wydown Coffee Bar

Two coffee-obsessed brothers run the two Wydown locations—the 14th Street location focuses on the perfect pour-over to pair with their popular blackberry lavender scones, while the H Street location resembles a Viennese cafe, with its assortment of coffees, treats, and wine spritzes.

Read our Best Coffee Shop in All 50 States

5. Best Ramen in Washington, D.C. // Sakuramen

The brothers who own Sakuramen say they are committed to creating the best possible ramen "sourced from pure bone broth coupled with the freshest ingredients available." And while the menu is full of Japanese and Korean staples, there's also a more local tribute: the DC Miso mixes Berkshire pork belly chashu with bamboo shoots, naruto (fish cake), nori … and shredded Monterey Jack cheese.

Read our Best Ramen in All 50 States

6. Best Pizza in Washington, D.C. // Timber Pizza Company

Famous for serving wood-fired pies since 2014 at local farmers markets, Timber Pizza Company opened their first location in Petworth, D.C. during the summer of 2016. While they have various options for red, white, and green pizzas (try the Green Monster, which is covered in pesto, feta, zucchini, and kale), they also know how to cater to any number of unusual add-ons, like nectarines, sugar snap peas, or cilantro.

Read our Best Pizza in All 50 States

7. Best Grilled Cheese in Washington, D.C. // The Pursuit Wine Bar

The only thing that could make a well-curated wine bar better would be a selection of sweet and savory grilled cheese sandwiches—for pairing purposes of course. Pursuit offers five wildly different grilled cheese options, like the "Some Like It Hot II" (jalapeño cheddar, pepper jack, tomato, mixed greens) or the "Little Salty Sweet" (brie, honey, prosciutto, and dried dates on challah).

Read our Best Grilled Cheese in All 50 States

8. Best Burger in Washington, D.C. // Lucky Buns

Lucky Buns in Adams Morgan has been serving seasoned-to-order burgers covered in house-made pickles and sauces since 2016. Try the Alfie's Bun for a sweet combination of runny egg soaking into gouda and a pineapple slice, or the Hot Tiger Bun for a fiery mix of spicy fried chicken and Sichuan peppercorn paste.

Read our Best Burger in All 50 States

9. Best Chili in Washington, D.C. // Ben's Chili Bowl

Ben's Chili Bowl has been a U Street staple for more than 60 years. It's the kind of place with celebrity and presidential photos lining the walls (president-elect Barack Obama ate there just days before his first inauguration), and all-original booths, stools, and diner counter. But most important are the bowls of their thick, delicious chili con carne. Ben's is also famous for their half-smoke—a smoky hot dog with mustard and onions and covered in their spicy chili, which they've been serving since 1958.

Read our Best Chili in All 50 States

10. Best Food Truck in Washington, D.C. // Feelin' Crabby

In D.C., politicians and plebeians alike love seafood—especially when it's topped with a generous pinch of Old Bay. That's where Feelin' Crabby comes in: The punny food truck serves lobster and crab-based sandwiches, salads, and sliders, including the giant "Crabwich" sandwich, which contains 5 ounces of jumbo lump crab meat and 2 ounces of lobster claw and knuckle meat.

Read our Best Food Truck in All 50 States

11. Best Sandwich Shop in Washington, D.C. // SUNdeVICH

According to owner Ali Bagheri, the name SUNdeVICH alludes to the accented pronunciation of "sandwich" that he hears in the middle east, but the flavors on his menu are fully global. A quick trip to this converted garage along an alleyway can yield sammie-inspo from Athens (lamb, greens, tzatziki), Havana (roasted pork, gruyere, dijonnaise), Seoul (bulgogi beef, kimchi, garlic mayo), and Tehran (mortadella, feta, fresh herbs)—no passport needed.

Read our Best Sandwiches in All 50 States

12. Best Bookstore in Washington, D.C. // Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café

Who needs dinner-and-a-movie when you could do dinner and a bookstore? A combination bookstore and restaurant, Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café in Dupont Circle gives patrons the oft-overlooked satisfaction of browsing the stacks and immediately sitting down with their new find over something as fancy as filet mignon or as comforting as fried chicken on cheddar waffles.

Read our Best Bookstores in All 50 States

13. Best Picnic Spot in Washington, D.C. // The Yards Park

Whether you want to take a nice stroll or have lunch with a view, this scenic park along the Anacostia River provides plenty of space and is free and open to the public. The Dancing Fountains at the entrance of the park are fun for kids (or adults!) to cool off in, and their annual Summer Fridays concert series invites people to indulge in some food while listening to live music.

Read our Best Picnic Destinations in All 50 States

10 Fascinating Facts About the Thesaurus for National Thesaurus Day

iStock.com/LeitnerR
iStock.com/LeitnerR

Writers often turn to a thesaurus to diversify their vocabulary and add nuance to their prose. But looking up synonyms and antonyms in a thesaurus can help anyone—writer or not—find the most vivid, incisive words to communicate thoughts and ideas. Since January 18 is Thesaurus Day, we’re celebrating with these 10 fascinating facts about your thesaurus.

1. Thesaurus comes from the Greek word for treasure.

Greek lettering.
iStock

Most logophiles consider the thesaurus to be a treasure trove of diction, but the word thesaurus really does mean "treasure." It derives from the Greek word thésauros, which means a storehouse of precious items, or a treasure.

2. The plural of thesaurus is thesauruses or thesauri.

Row of old books lined up.
iStock

How do you refer to more than one octopus? People say everything from octopuses to octopi to octopodes. Similarly, many people have trouble figuring out the correct plural form of the word thesaurus. Though thesauri is technically correct—it attaches a Latin suffix to the Latin word thēsaurus—both thesauri and thesauruses are commonly used and accepted today.

3. Early thesauruses were really dictionaries.

Close-up of the term 'ideal' in a thesaurus.
iStock

Ask a French scholar in the 16th century to see his thesaurus, and he'd gladly give you a copy of his dictionary. In the early 1530s, a French printer named Robert Estienne published Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, a comprehensive Latin dictionary listing words that appeared in Latin texts throughout an enormous span of history. And in 1572, Estienne's son Henri published Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, a dictionary of Greek words. Although the Estiennes's books were called thesauruses, they were really dictionaries comprised of alphabetical listings of words with their definitions.

4. A Greek historian wrote the first book of synonyms.

Stacks of books surrounding an open book and a pair of glasses.
iStock

Philo of Byblos, a Greek historian and grammarian, wrote On Synonyms, a dictionary of synonyms that scholars consider to be the first ancient thesaurus. Dating to the late 1st century or early 2nd century CE, the book lists Greek words that are similar in meaning to each another. Sadly, we don’t know much more about On Synonyms because copies of the work haven’t survived over the centuries.

5. An early Sanskrit thesaurus was written in the form of a poem.

Sanskrit lettering.
iStock

In the 4th century CE, an Indian poet and grammarian named Amara Sinha wrote The Amarakosha, a thesaurus of Sanskrit words. Rather than compile a boring list of similar words, Amara Sinha turned his thesaurus into a long poem. Divided into three sections—words relating to the divine, the earth, and everyday life—The Amarakosha contains verses so readers could memorize words easily. This thesaurus is the oldest book of its kind that still exists.

6. A British doctor wrote the first modern thesaurus.

Portrait of Peter Mark Roget.
Thomas Pettigrew, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Peter Mark Roget is the British doctor credited with authoring the first modern thesaurus. In 1805, he began compiling a list of words, arranged by their meaning and grouped according to theme. After retiring from his work as a physician in 1852, Roget published his Thesaurus of English words and phrases; so classified and arranged as to facilitate the expression of ideas and assist in literary composition. Today, Roget’s Thesaurus is still commercially successful and widely used. In fact, we celebrate Thesaurus Day on January 18 because Roget was born on this day in 1779.

7. The thesaurus has a surprising link to a mathematical tool.

Image of a vintage log log slide rule.
Joe Haupt, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

The division between "words people" and "numbers people" is deep-seated. Many mathematicians may try to steer clear of thesauruses, and bibliophiles may avoid calculators, but the thesaurus is actually linked to a mathematical tool. Around 1815, Roget invented the log-log slide rule, a ruler-like device that allows users to easily calculate the roots and exponents of numbers. So while the inventor of the thesaurus was compiling words for his tome, he was also hard at work on the log-log slide rule. A true jack-of-all-trades.

8. The Oxford English Dictionary has its own historical thesaurus.

Synonyms for
iStock

In 1965, a professor of English Language at Glasgow University suggested that scholars should create a historical thesaurus based on entries in the Oxford English Dictionary. The project was a massive undertaking, as people from multiple countries worked for 44 years to compile and classify words. Published in 2009, the Historical Thesaurus to the Oxford English Dictionary contains 800,000 words organized by theme and date. The thesaurus covers words and synonyms from Old English to the present day and lets readers discover when certain words were coined and how long they were commonly used.

9. One artist turned his love of words into a series of thesaurus paintings.

Mel Bochner,
Mel Bochner, "Crazy," 2004. Francesca Castelli, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In 2014, the Jewish Museum in New York showed a survey of conceptual artist Mel Bochner’s art. Bochner had incorporated words and synonyms in his paintings for years—which were collectively referred to as the thesaurus paintings—featuring word paintings and lists of synonyms on canvas. The brightly colored paintings feature different groups of English and Yiddish synonyms. According to Bochner, Vietnam and Iraq war veterans cried after seeing his thesaurus painting Die, which features words and phrases such as expire, perish, succumb, drop dead, croak, go belly up, pull the plug, and kick the bucket.

10. There's an urban thesaurus for all your slang synonym needs.

Copy of an Urban Dictionary book.
Effie Yang, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Urban Dictionary helps people decipher the latest slang terms, but where should you go when you need a thesaurus of slang? Urban Thesaurus, of course. The site, which is not affiliated with Urban Dictionary, indexes millions of slang terms culled from slang dictionaries, then calculates usage correlations between the terms. Typing in the word money, for example, gives you an eclectic list of synonyms including scrilla, cheddar, mulah, coin, and bling.

7 Weird Super Bowl Halftime Acts

Al Bello, Getty Images
Al Bello, Getty Images

Shakira and Jennifer Lopez seem like natural choices to perform the halftime show at this year’s Super Bowl, but the event didn’t always feature musical acts from major pop stars. Michael Jackson kicked off the trend at Super Bowl XXVII in 1993, but prior to that, halftime shows weren’t a platform for the hottest celebrities of the time. They centered around themes instead, and may have featured appearances from Peanuts characters, Jazzercisers, or a magician dressed like Elvis. In honor of Super Bowl LIV on February 2, we’ve rounded up some of the weirdest acts in halftime show history.

1. Return of the Mickey Mouse Club

The era of Super Bowl halftimes before wardrobe malfunctions, illuminati conspiracy theories, and Left Shark was a more innocent time. For 1977’s event, the Walt Disney Company produced a show that doubled as a squeaky-clean promotion of its brand. Themed “Peace, Joy, and Love,” the Super Bowl XI halftime show opened with a 250-piece band rendition of “It’s a Small World (After All).” Disney also used the platform to showcase its recently revamped Mickey Mouse Club.

2. 88 Grand Pianos and 300 Jazzercisers

The theme of the halftime show at Super Bowl XXII in 1988 was “Something Grand.” Naturally, it featured 88 tuxedoed pianists playing 88 grand pianos. Rounding out the program were 400 swing band performers, 300 Jazzercisers, 44 Rockettes, two marching bands, and Chubby Checker telling everyone to “Twist Again."

3. Elvis Impersonator Performs the World’s Largest Card Trick

Many of the music industry's most successful pop stars—like Prince, Madonna, and, uh, Milli Vanilli—were at the height of their fame in 1989, but none of them appeared at Super Bowl XXIII. Instead, the NFL hired an Elvis Presley-impersonating magician to perform. The show, titled “BeBop Bamboozled,” was a tribute to the 1950s, and it featured Elvis Presto performing “the world’s largest card trick.” It also may have included the world's largest eye exam: The show boasted 3D effects, and viewers were urged to pick up special glasses before the game. If the visuals didn't pop like they were supposed to, people were told to see an eye doctor.

4. The Peanuts Salute New Orleans

Super Bowl XXIV featured one of the last halftime acts that was completely devoid of any musical megastars. The biggest celebrity at the 1990 halftime show was Snoopy. Part of the show’s theme was the “40th Anniversary of 'Peanuts,'” and to celebrate the milestone, performers dressed as Peanuts characters and danced on stage. The other half of the theme was “Salute to New Orleans”—not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the comic strip.

5. A Tribute to the Winter Olympics

Super Bowl XXVI preceded the 1992 Winter Olympics—a fact that was made very clear by the event’s halftime. The show was titled “Winter Magic” and it paid tribute to the winter games with ice skaters, snowmobiles, and a cameo from the 1980 U.S. hockey team. Other acts, like a group of parachute-pants-wearing children performing the “Frosty the Snowman Rap,” were more generally winter-themed than specific to the Olympics. About 22 million viewers changed the channel during halftime to watch In Living Color’s Super Bowl special, which may have convinced the NFL to hire Michael Jackson the following year.

6. Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye

“Peace, Joy, and Love” wasn’t the only Disney-helmed Super Bowl halftime. In 1995, Disney produced a halftime show called “Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye” to tease the new Disneyland ride of the same name. It centered around a skit in which actors playing Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood stole the Vince Lombardi Trophy from an exotic temple, and it included choreographed stunts, fiery special effects, and a snake. Patti LaBelle and Tony Bennett were also there.

7. The Blues Brothers, Minus John Belushi

The 1990s marked an odd period for halftime shows as they moved from schlocky themed variety shows to major music events. Super Bowl XXXI in 1997 perfectly encapsulates this transition period. James Brown and ZZ Top performed, but the headliners were the Blues Brothers. John Belushi had been dead for more than a decade by that point, so Jim Belushi took his place beside Dan Aykroyd. John Goodman was also there to promote the upcoming movie Blues Brother 2000. The flashy advertisement didn’t have the impact they had hoped for and the film was a massive flop when it premiered.

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