Born in Washington, D.C. and raised in nearby Olney, Maryland, Derek Brown has been mixing drinks in our nation’s capital since long before it was a top food and drink destination—and is, in fact, one of the people most responsible for making it so.
Brown helped kick off D.C.’s cocktail scene as the barman at the Gibson, a pioneering speakeasy when it opened in 2009. Today he owns four boundary-pushing bars around the city, including the sherry-focused Mockingbird Hill and the luxe, experimental Columbia Room, where he and his team pair cutting-edge cocktails with the likes of scallop ceviche and venison carpaccio.
But where does he dine and drink in his free time? Just in time for the Fourth of July, we asked him for a few of his favorite haunts in the capital city.
517 Morse St. NE
“Less than 100 yards from foodie haven Union Market, A. Litteri has subs for a fraction of the cost and with a lot more history: It’s been in business for eighty years, and it’s still in the same family. You’ll have to dodge delivery trucks and loaded dollies outside, but inside you’ll find shelves of olive oils, antipasti, fresh pasta, and wines. At the deli counter, you’ll get a form to fill out. Perplexed by the options? Check the ‘Classic Italian Sub,’ with capicola, genoa salami, mortadella, prosciuttini, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion, hot peppers, and Italian dressing.” alitteri.com
8012 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, Maryland
“There are a few reasons to visit this forty-five-year-old family-run seafood stop on the outskirts of D.C. One is the fresh, local seafood, often deliciously drowned in butter. Another: the signed photos of regular Jimmy Buffett in a shrine on the wall. Then there’s the charming array of antique oyster plates and beer steins. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there’s the longtime wait staff. Though the trend these days is to go for a local brew, my favorite order here is still a chilly Bud Light in a small glass. Pro tip: Skip the tartar sauce and mignonette. House hot sauce is the condiment of choice, on everything.” crisfieldseafood.com
Horace & Dickie’s
809 12th St. NE
“The H Street area in Northeast D.C. is booming now with some of the city’s best restaurants and bars. Horace & Dickie’s has weathered both boom and bust for over twenty years, serving soul food—primarily seafood. Though the seafood platter and the chicken at this takeout-only joint might tempt you, locals know to order the jumbo fish sandwich: a pile of fried whiting on bread with a vinegary hot sauce.” horaceanddickies.com
Meats & Foods
247 Florida Ave. NW
“The half-smoke is a snappy, peppery, smoky sausage that’s one of the city’s authentic foods—and the house specialty at the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl. Locals know their half-smokes, and I recommend Meats & Foods. Opened in 2014 by husband-and-wife team Scott McIntosh and Ana Marin, it’s new, but it might have the best in town. Topped with chili and served on a potato bun, this is what D.C. really tastes like.” meatsandfoods.com