Washington DC

How to Support the Asian-American Community in DC

From AAPI nonprofits and restaurants to artists and small businesses.

Ice Cream Jubilee
Ice Cream Jubilee
Ice Cream Jubilee

On Tuesday, a mass shooting at two massage parlors in Atlanta claimed eight lives, six of which were Asian women. This violence serves as a tragic apex of anti-Asian sentiment that has been coaxed along in recent months with notions of the “Chinese” COVID-19 virus, and in centuries past with legislation like the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Racially or identity-based discrimination, much less violence, is never acceptable, but not uncommon. For some members of the AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) community, however, it is also a part of doing business. 

“These events are nothing new,” says James Beard nominated Chef Erik Bruner-Yang. “Maketto was broken into three times in the last calendar year, and our financials suffered gravely when the virus was first becoming known and it was very much branded as an Asian problem.”

Maketto
Maketto
Maketto

Lucky Danger chef and co-owners Andrew Chiou also acknowledges that anti-Asian sentiment is not just a recent development, and something he experienced plenty being born and raised in Texas with immigrants parents from Taiwan.

“As a first-generation Asian American, I have experienced racist comments and stereotypes my entire life,” he says. “But I also benefit from access to a broader worldview and an appreciation for certain things that others might take for granted. At minimum, the murders in Atlanta remind us that words have consequences-often costly ones.”

Resilience, however, is endemic to many Asian cultures, and continues to serve as a driving force behind many AAPI businesses. “Violence against Asian Americans is racism, period,” says Sharon Cao, co-founder of virtual party kit company Happied. “As a company that is Black- and Asian-owned, we couldn’t just sit on the sidelines. We wanted to make a difference in the best way we know how: providing a safe space for folks to have conversations about racism. Connecting over food and drink is a shared experience in Asian culture and this happy hour reflects that.”

And while recent events may have catalyzed a renewed conversation around how folks can support AAPI businesses in DC and beyond, Bruner-Yang reminds us that the work needed to eradicate racism does not have an ending point. “In the moments right after tragedy, I tend to get a lot of questions from folks about what they can do to help-but look at what’s been going on for the last several years,” Bruner-Yang says. “We’ve been asking people to read the materials, check their biases, to do the work that you have to do to examine your own life for as long as I can remember. This can’t be a conversation that only flairs up when the headlines deem it important.”  

As the nation continues to grapple with its codified commitment of justice and equality for all, we as individuals can support DC’s AAPI community. “Right now, it is important that we listen and learn,” Chiou concludes. “We need to listen to the victims’ families as they remember and honor their loved ones. We need to learn more about the social, historical, and systemic root causes that led us to this moment.”

Luckily, in one of the more diverse cities of the United States, there are plenty of opportunities to support AAPI-owned and operated restaurants, businesses, and nonprofits right in Washington DC. We’ve rounded up a list of the places and ways that you might be able to make a difference.

NAAAP DC - National Association of Asian American Professionals
NAAAP DC – National Association of Asian American Professionals
NAAAP DC – National Association of Asian American Professionals

Donate your time and money to a local nonprofit or advocacy group

You can find a wide range of nonprofits and organizations in DC and across the United States that seek to advance equality and progress among the AAPI community. Asian Women in Business has rounded up a particularly solid list, though there are many others.

Support the missions of Asian American Government Executives Network (AAGEN)-which is to promote and expand Asian American and Pacific Islanders’ leadership in government-and Asian Americans Advancing Justice, which tackles issues of importance including anti-Asian violence prevention/race relations, census, immigration, language access, television diversity, and voting rights. 

Other groups that seek to increase representation include the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies, a non-partisan, nonprofit educational corporation with the goal of increasing the participation of Asian Pacific Americans in public policy on a national level. Plus, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance is the first and only national organization of Asian Pacific American Union members that organizes and works with workers, many of them immigrants, to build the labor movement and address exploitative conditions in the garment, electronics, hotel and restaurant, food processing, and healthcare industries.

If you’re interested in meeting like-minded professionals in this space, look into the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership (CAPAL), which conducts monthly forums and workshops on issues of interest and concern to the APA community or the DC chapter of the National Association of Asian American Professionals, a nonprofit that cultivates, supports, and promotes Asian American leaders. 

To learn from one of the longest-standing nonprofits in this space, look into the DC-based Organization of Chinese Americans, founded in 1973, that includes more than 50 chapters and affiliates around the country to empower the next generation of AAPI leaders. 

Stop AAPI Hate offers resources in 11 languages to help you report incidents of Asian hate or violence you may bear witness to. The nonprofit uses the community reporting tool to aggregate the data needed to ensure better protection, education, and policies. Asian Americans Advancing Justice also hosts a virtual training that reviews the five strategies for intervention and how to ensure your own safety while taking action on behalf of others.

@_luckydanger
@_luckydanger
@_luckydanger

Support these AAPI-owned restaurants

Renowned Burmese restaurant Thamee is a family affair, run by mother and daughter team Jocelyn Law-Yone and Simone Jacobson. Chef Tim Ma is no stranger to opening successful restaurants, but Lucky Danger (whose recent success has catalyzed a second location in Arlington) is a bit different. Ma sought to elevate the concept of Chinese takeaway food, and has done so by combining his classical training with traditional Chinese dishes. Ma is also behind concepts like Laoban Dumplings and American Son, the restaurant in the Eaton hotel. 

The team behind Daikaya Group (Katsuya Fukushima, Daisuke Utagawa, and Yama Jewayni) has created a veritable restaurant empire in the DC area. Any of the restaurants will satisfy even the most pressing of ramen cravings, and at Daikaya’s mini mart, you can find a wide range of Asian grocery items. 

For additional Japanese options, look no further than the renowned Sushi Taro in Logan Circle and Roll’d Sushi in Arlington, both the product of Michelin-starred chef Nobu Yamazaki. Another incredible option is Santouka, which opened its first restaurant nearly four decades ago in Sapporo, Japan and just opened a new location in Tyson’s Boro, delighting diners with with Hokkaido-style ramen and Japanese karaage-style fried chicken.  

Whether you’re looking for fast-casual Korean food or trying to recreate Korean barbecue at home, Seoulspice in Noma has you covered. Or check out Mandu in Mt. Vernon Triangle, which specializes in homestyle Koreans cooking and the brunch menu is a must-try.

For some award-winning food, head to Rooster & Owl in Shaw where husband and wife team Yuan Tang (the chef) and Carey Tang (the general manager) bring elevated American cuisine into a beautiful space without feeling pretentious. Of course, Erik Bruner-Yang is well known for

Maketto, a combination restaurant, cafe, and shopping experience all in  one airy, multi-level space. For another contemporary experience, head to Moon Rabbit at The Wharf, where Kevin Tien is dishing out innovative Vietnamese food that reflects his upbringing.

Another family-inspired spot is Mama Chang in Fairfax, which celebrates the women from Peter Chang’s family and features Hunan, Szechuan, Hubei, and home-style Chinese cooking and recipes. Of course, there are plenty of Asian-owned businesses in Chinatown, but Reren Lamen & Bar stands out from the crowd, where ramen is the main draw. Chris Zhu is the powerful force behind not one, but two Chinese mainstays in the DC area, including Han Palace in Tysons and China Garden in Rockville.

For Thai food, look for Soi 38 in the West End, where Dia Khanthongthip creates street food and creative cocktails, and Baan Siam in Mt. Vernon Triangle, where Chef Jeeraporn “P’ Boom” Poksupthong brings traditional Thai recipes from her mother and grandmother to her kitchen in DC. For Laotian food, Thip Kao in Columbia Heights has introduced diners to crispy pig ears and fish sauce caramel from chef Seng Luangrath.

Ice Cream Jubilee
Ice Cream Jubilee
Ice Cream Jubilee

Patronize these other small businesses

Shopkeepers on H Street is a one-stop shop created by Seda Nek, offering a retail experience, cafe, and grocery store all in one setting.

If you’re looking to support local dessert bakers, head to one of the several locations of Ice Cream Jubilee, a passion project that was born when Victoria Lai started making ice cream in her kitchen over a decade ago. Today, she’s sending pints of ice cream to people’s homes across the country and DC residents of course, can actually visit a location in-person, checking out flavors like Thai Iced Tea, Citrus Sichuan Peppercorn, Matcha Green Tea, Red Bean Almond Cookie, and Roasted Barley Tea. 

Sharon Cao and April Johnson are the two powerhouses behind Happied, a COVID-born concept that creates virtual social experiences via a kit that gets mailed to you and your friends. The events in a box are food and beverage-centric, and Happied also hosts Race, Equity and Inclusion Social Hours, which helps participants facilitate change in their organizations through guided communal conversations. 

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Elsie Yang contributor for Thrillist. Follow her on Instagram.

Washington DC

The Eight Most Exciting Suburbs Outside DC

You could use a little space.

Regine Poirier/Shutterstock
Regine Poirier/Shutterstock
Regine Poirier/Shutterstock

When people say Washington, DC, it’s hard to tell if they’re talking about The District proper, or the sprawling metro area that is sometimes nicknamed the DMV: The District, Maryland, and Virginia. The fact is that DC is made whole by its vibrant suburbs, whether you’re looking for a shopping center dedicated almost entirely to Vietnamese cuisine, a rock climbing wall in-you guessed it-Rockville, or a wetland preserve that’s wide open for hiking and fresh air.

The DC suburbs practically have it all, and you can reach many of these neighborhoods by bike, public transit, or a set of four wheels. Here are eight great suburban destinations that you may find yourself visiting soon. We won’t judge you if you want to stay.

Earth Treks Rockville
Earth Treks Rockville
Earth Treks Rockville

Rockville

Distance from DC: 30 minutes
Many people will inevitably cruise Rockville Pike, aka 355, for all of its big-box delights, since this retail corridor has always been a sprawly place to shop for decades. But more recently, Rockville has become something entirely different. It’s walkable and bikeable, thanks to the Pike & Rose development. And it remains a destination for some of the best Chinese soup dumplings in the DMV at A&J Restaurant and Bob’s Shanghai 66. Rockville is also, fittingly, home to the best rock climbing wall attracting serious spelunkers and climbing newbies alike. And it remains a place for family-run restaurants, many of which are run by immigrants. For a small taste of the magic of this Montgomery County suburb, visit Bombay Bistro for Chef K.N.Vinod and Surfy Rahman’s take on Indian fare from the country’s southern region. Like many of the best eateries in Rockville, this restaurant is tucked away in a shopping strip. When you find it, you’ll be rewarded with mouth-watering dosas, biryani, and vindaloo.

Fresh Baguette
Fresh Baguette
Fresh Baguette

Bethesda

Distance from DC: 20 minutes
Anyone who grew up near Bethesda has probably spent their early teenage years loitering at the Bethesda’s Regal Cinema or by The Barnes & Noble water fountain. Now, both of those legendary spots of yesteryear have been transformed into a suburban-style city with sidewalk cafes, trendy shopping, and an upgraded Capital Crescent Trail-a longtime favorite with joggers and bikers. Bethesda is also home to a world of flavors: Fresh Baguette for Parisian-style pastries, Pesca Deli for Portuguese, Taqueria El Jalapeño for tasty tacos, and Passage to India just to name a few. To reach all of these places, you can hop aboard the Bethesda Circulator, a free shuttle service that picks you up at the Bethesda Metro station and takes you in a loop around town.

Brookside Gardens, Montgomery Parks
Brookside Gardens, Montgomery Parks
Brookside Gardens, Montgomery Parks

Wheaton

Distance from DC: 20 minutes
There is absolutely no beating Wheaton when a food craving hits, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner. This Maryland suburb, just north of DC on Metro’s red line, has one of the best diners in the region, Nick’s Diner, owned and operated by Nick Markopoulos and his Greek family. For lunch, Wheaton is home to a handful of pupuserias that are indicative of this neighborhood’s Salvadoran community. Pupuseria La Familiar, Los Chorros, and Irene’s Pupusas are three great options. Finally, for dinner, Peruvian chicken at El Pollo Rico or Bolivian fare, and specifically the beef silpancho, at Kantuta’s are hearty and tasty offerings. Finish your day of dining on a high note with a cannoli or rainbow cookie from Filippo’s Deli. After a day of eating, you’ll need to walk off all those carbs. Go for a leisurely stroll around the pond at Wheaton Regional Park’s Brookside Gardens. The park is a five-minute drive north of Wheaton’s retail corridor, and it’s free and open to the public year-round.

Streetcar 82 Brewing Co.
Streetcar 82 Brewing Co.
Streetcar 82 Brewing Co.

Hyattsville

Distance from DC: 20 minutes
A brewery tour is a safe bet when visiting Hyattsville, Maryland-a community with a small-town vibe, located in Prince George’s County, just across The District line. A primary reason why beer nerds flock here is Franklins, a brewpub that last year opened a tiki-themed bar in its parking lot to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are more than a dozen beers on tap, plus Franklins makes its own root beer if you prefer some nonalcoholic suds. That’s in addition to a historic hardware shop that’s been converted into a bottle shop, with a wide collection of craft beer and local wine. Nearby on Route 1, find a local brewery that specializes in outdoor drinking. Streetcar 82 Brewing Co. opened two years ago and is named in homage to the 82 Streetcar line which ran by the brewery’s site from 1888 to 1957. This converted auto garage now serves hop-forward beers and has bike rack parking and picnic tables, perfect for a Sunday Funday. For more craft beers from around the country paired with wood-fired pizza, Pizzeria Paradiso is a top-notch eater across the street, and cap off your crawl by swinging by Maryland Meadworks, which serves a range of meads from sweet to semi-sweet to dry.

Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary
Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary
Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary

Upper Marlboro

Distance from DC: 45 minutes
Fulfill your childhood wonder and delight at the greatest playground in the DMV. Watkins Regional Park is great for kids (or the kid at heart) looking to romp around themed playgrounds. The first is a horse-racing-themed playground, part of Maryland’s legacy as a horse racing capital. Meanwhile, the second option is the stuff of fairy tales-a Wizard of Oz-inspired playground, complete with a yellow brick road, a ruby slippers slide, and an Emerald City climbing wall. Grownups and kids alike will also enjoy the hiking options at nearby Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, an expansive preserve that’s part of the tidal reaches of the Patuxent River. There are more than 1,700 acres of unique freshwater marshes, forested wetlands, creeks, meadows, pines and sand barrens, plus fields and park areas for an afternoon picnic. If you’d rather fuel up than bring-your-own food, Upper Marlboro’s Main Street Coffee & Treats is where the community gathers for coffee, pastries, fresh-pressed juices, and vegan cupcakes at all hours of the day.

Photo Courtesy of Ada's on the River
Photo Courtesy of Ada’s on the River
Photo Courtesy of Ada’s on the River

Old Town Alexandria

Distance from DC: 20 minutes
With waterfront views, historic homes along cobblestone streets, and a trolley that goes up and down King Street for free, it’s hard not to imagine why Old Town Alexandria wouldn’t be on our suburban list. You might come for the charm, but there’s a lot more to this city than just Instagram-worthy streetscapes. The Torpedo Factory is a burgeoning artist enclave for purchasing one-of-a-kind sculptures and artwork. Those who prefer a pleasure cruise down the Potomac can take the Potomac River Water Taxi to or from the city. And outdoor eating by the water offers plenty of space and social distance. The food and outdoor surroundings at Ada’s on the River and King & Rye, two of Alexandria’s latest eatery additions, are great places to book a weekend brunch.

Eden Center
Eden Center
Eden Center

Falls Church

Distance from DC: 30 minutes
Most people know Falls Church as the home of Eden Center-a shopping center with dozens of Vietnamese businesses and restaurants. This might be the biggest draw for Falls Church food lovers. However, there are several more reasons to make this Northern Virginia suburb a part of your food bucket list. Start at Takumi, a popular Japanese sushi spot, serving quality grade sashimi, sake, and sushi tastings. Got a craving for cavatelli? Then book it to Thomspon Italian. Chef Gabe Thompson and Pastry Chef Katherine Thompson are a husband and wife team who make this spot feel more like home. While the dining room remains closed, Thompson is offering several of its top dishes, including housemade pasta and gelatos, for pickup.

Wolf Trap
Wolf Trap
Wolf Trap

Tysons Corner

Distance from DC: 30 minutes
When you visit Tysons Corner, you’re probably here to do one thing-shop until you drop. Tysons is home to two malls, sometimes nicknamed Tysons I (Tysons Corner Center) and Tysons II (Tysons Galleria). The former is pretty typical while the latter leans more upscale. Not surprisingly, Tysons II also has good taste in food. Find the Urbanspace Food Hall, home to Donburi DC and Andy’s Pizza, plus an upscale pastry shop called Lady M. Aside from the shopping and dining, another good reason to visit Tysons this summer might be for a concert. The Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts recently announced its outdoor summer concert lineup, which could start as soon as the end of May. We’ll keep our fingers crossed!

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Tim Ebner is a contributor for Thrillist. 

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