With a perfect Logan Circle location and typically stylish design, the Kimpton Mason & Rook Hotel (1430 Rhode Island Ave., NW. Tel: 202-742-3100. www.masonandrookhotel.com), which opened in 2016, is one of the hottest new entries in Washington, D.C. (now the famously LGBT-friendly hotel chain’s largest market). Enter a world of understated calm, much like a gentleman’s study. It’s quite a change from Kimpton’s previous hotel on the site, the retro-colorful Hotel Helix, which they totally overhauled to prepare for this boutique-style property. Wood floors and wainscoting, furniture and carpets in shades of gray and brown, a floor-to-ceiling bookcase filled with tomes, and a chessboard with gold and silver pieces set the tone.
In your room, the subtle design continues, with wood furniture, gray-on-gray padded headboards, and subtly patterned wallpaper contributing to a look that’s at once minimalist and comfortable, as if they’ve transported the interior of one of the nearby brownstones into your room. Even the eclectic arrangement of photos and paintings on the wall looks like something a homeowner might have chosen. Many of the rooms have great views of the city, whether it’s one of the spectacular spa suites or a simple king or queen/queen room. Vistas not good enough for you? Ride up to the roof, where you’ll find a pool by day and bar by night, and one of the most spectacular panorama’s of the nation’s capital, with a cityscape of spires, roof decks, and landmarks from the National Cathedral to the tip of the Washington Monument (imagine the perfect view of July 4 fireworks you’ll have from there!).
Located just off 14th Street, the Mason & Rook is at the heart of a newly hip corridor that has become very popular in the last few years. You’ll now find a vast selection of boutiques, restaurants, and bars along the street.
Mason & Rook is also perfectly situated to light up the night, with a few great hot spots just a block or two away, including the recently opened Trade (1410 14th St., NW. Tel: 202986-1094. www.tradebardc.com), a selfdescribed “gay dive bar” that’s actually a comfortable neighborhood place, drawing a mainly male clientele of a wide variety of ages and is busy every night of the week.
Right off 14th, on P Street, lies Number Nine (1435 P St., NW. Tel: 202-986-0999. www.numberninedc.com), an upscale cocktail bar where a crowd of mixed ages and genders gathers on the high banquettes and tall white stools, or in the upstairs video bar, for cocktails like the blood orange old fashioneds or jalapeño margaritas.
If you want to venture to the very gay Dupont Circle, it’s a 20-minute walk away, and you might love dancing, lounging, or drag shows at Cobalt (1639 R St., NW. Tel: 202-2324416. www.cobaltdc.com), or karaoke nights at DIK Bar (1637 17th St., NW. 202-328-0100. www.dupontitaliankitchen.com/bar). You’ll also find a lot of action on U Street, including perennial favorite Nellie’s Sports Bar (900 U St., NW. Tel: 202-332-6355. www.nelliessportsbar.com), also only about twenty minutes away on foot.
Do take some time, though, to explore 14th Street, because exciting things are happening. Here, you’ll find such gems as SOM Records (1843 14th St., NW. Tel: 202328-3345. www.somrecordsdc.com), where the collection of vinyl, not to mention décor like a vintage Warren Zevon concert poster, are like taking a step back into the past (or, as hipsters rediscover the world of vinyl, the future).
Get a ticket for the latest offering at the well-regarded Studio Theatre (1510 14th St., NW. Tel: 202-332-3300. www.studiotheatredc.com), where some of the more experimental work in D.C. is happening.
There’s great dining at such spots as Le Diplomate (1601 14th St. NW. Tel: 202-3323333. www.lediplomatedc.com), the DC outpost of Philadelphia-based restaurateur Stephen Starr, and a treat for brasserie-style cookery, from trout amandine and steak to moules frites.
Another great possibility: gay-owned The Pig (1320 14th St., NW. Tel: 202-290-2821. www.thepicdc.com), which as its name implies is devoted to the joys of pork, from lobster with pork cheeks to pork tenderloin niçoise. There’s also Dolcezza (1418 14th St., NW. Tel: 202-817-3900), great for a gelato or an espresso and just a block from the Mason & Rook.
You might choose, though, not to leave Mason & Rook at mealtime, and it’s a choice we heartily endorse, as their in-house restaurant Radiator (1430 Rhode Island Ave., NW. Tel: 202-742-3150. www.radiatordc.com) is as good a spot for dining and cocktails as you’re likely to find. Between Chef Jonathan Dearden’s creative cuisine and head bartender Sarah Rosner’s equally creative drinks, it’s either a cocktail bar with great food, or a restaurant with amazing drinks, or, more accurately, both of the above. Take a seat in the long, cozy room with patterned walls that vaguely resemble garage doors, or on the patio where lazy Susans allow you to whirl small plates around for all to share, and a row of birdhouses makes for a jaunty atmosphere. Order a Fancy Pants (gin, sparkling wine, absinthe, bitters, cucumber, tarragon) or Big Boy Pants (scotch, lemon, honey, strawberry, rosemary). Or, I dare you, experience the Ricotta Situation, Rosner’s concoction of fig spirits, lemon, rawhoney, vanilla, and, yes, ricotta cheese that’s possibly the most uniquely amazing cocktail in the history of cocktails.
Then it’s time to dig into Chef Dearden’s offerings. Start, perhaps, with some lambbelly tacos or croquettes of Serrano ham and fontina cheese. Move on to tender gnocchi with lollipop kale, beech mushrooms, and truffle pecorino. Seafood lovers can’t go wrong with the succulent local rockfish with black rice and turnip slaw. Vegetarians will go for the multi-layered harissa-roasted Romanesco, with black bean hummus and cilantro tabbouleh; there are more flavors, textures, and cultures than you thought possible on one plate! Even the burgers are a gourmet delight here, served with bacon fat fries that are sprinkled with the bacon fat powder that Dearden concocts in-house. Dessert? Go for the “cookies and milk,” a fab little heath bar cookie accompanied by a glass of yogurt panna cotta, perhaps accompanied by Dearden’s own boozy creation, a milkshake made with Guinness ice cream and Patron XO Cafe. If you don’t leave Radiator pleasantly sated by both food and drink (and some incredibly nice service), there’s no hope for you.
One of the nicest things about Mason & Rook is its devotion, Kimpton style, to local products, and its partnerships with local producers. The gin and bourbon in the mini-bars are specially created for the hotel by D.C. distiller Jos. A. Magnus & Co. (2052 West Virginia Ave., NE. Tel: 202-4503518. www.josephmagnus.com), a distillery that originated in 1892 and was just re-established last year. If you love the taste and look of these classy little bottles, pay a visit to their distillery, where much-awarded distiller Nicole Hassoun and her staff will show you the process used for gin, vodka, and their muchanticipated bourbon, give you a taste of the products, and perhaps even let you do some bottling yourself.
Another Mason & Rook partner, Shinola (1631 14th St., NW. Tel: 202-470-0200. www.shinola.com), offers a wide variety of products from bicycles to tote bags to their best-known creation: watches. Choose from a wide variety of faces and bands, and be confident that you’re sporting something original, beautiful, and long-lasting. What to do if you can’t decide for sure? Well, “check out” a watch from the Shinola case at Mason & Rook, of course: yes, the hotel offers loans of these upscale timekeeping beauties!
That’s not surprising for a spot that also offers free bicycle loans so you can see the city on pedal power. If you prefer to arrive in more distinguished style, you can bring your Tesla and take advantage of the charging station. In you don’t have a Tesla, you might arrive during a time when Tesla is organizing free test drives at the hotel, and you can drive or be driven in one of these miracle cars. Admire the space-age panel that controls your every comfort, hold onto your hat as it accelerates from zero to sixty MPH in 2.8 seconds, thrill to hands-free driving as the car’s automatic pilot feature does the steering, automatically sensing the lanes and the cars around it.
Back at the Mason & Rook, simply pull up in front of a parking space (even a parallel one) and instruct the car to park itself. You’ll hop out, shrug off compliments saying “oh, this old car?” and head straight to the late afternoon wine hour in the lobby. Check your Shinola watch to make sure there’s time for some relaxation, and head up to the rooftop lounge, or indulge in a leisurely game of chess. Who knew life could be so good in our nation’s capital?