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Concierge
Luis Colmenares
Hotel Monaco, Washington D.C.

by Lawrence Ferber

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The progressive, LGBT-friendly Kimpton Hotel Group boasts seven properties in Washington D.C., including funky Hotel Helix and chic, sultry Hotel Rouge within the hip, gay Logan Circle/14th Street NW district. Located at the crossroads of Penn Quarter and Chinatown, the 183-room Hotel Monaco (www.monaco-dc.com) embodies D.C.'s stately yet constantly evolving essence. Occupying the landmark Tariff Building, several galleries and attractions nestle the property, including the National Portrait Gallery, International Spy Museum, Crime Museum, Verizon Center, and Red Velvet Cupcakery (really yummy cupcakes, including vegan varieties), while the National Mall and Capitol Building are a short walk away.

Hotel Monaco's in-house restaurant, Poste Moderne Brasserie, features Chef Dennis Marron's international bistro fare utilizing sustainable, regional products, and cocktails incorporating house-infused liquors. A 24-hour fitness center, in-room spa services, and nightly hosted lobby wine hours help round out the amenities, while out and proud Chief Concierge Luis Colmenares offers guests a wealth of helpful information and a 1,000-kilowatt smile. President of the Washington Area Concierge Association and member of Les Clefs d'Or, he previously worked at D.C. luxury properties Mandarin Oriental and Ritz-Carlton. Romantic requests, he notes, are happily fulfilled.

"I once had a guest request Champagne, rose petals all over the bed, and a violinist playing in the room at the time they walked in," he recalls. "I most enjoy the interaction with guests as well as fulfilling people's needs and making them happy. I'm an ambassador for my hotel, my profession, and the city of Washington, D.C."

Where are the coolest places in Washington D.C. to go for cocktails?
For me, it would be P.J. Clarke's (1600 K St. NW. Tel: 202-463-6610. www.pj-clarkes.com), offering the timeless Sidecar, invented during prohibition. The Tabard Inn Bar (1739 N St. NW. Tel: 202-331-8528. www.tabardinn.com) offers the well-known Tabard Cocktail, a blend of tequila, sherry, Drambuie, orange bitters, and fresh thyme. And my speakeasy favorite, The Gibson (2009 14th St. NW. Tel: 202-232-2156. www.thegibsondc.com), for the classic cocktail The Gibson: gin, dry vermouth, two or three onions, and garnish with a lemon twist. Delicious!

What are the best restaurants for a romantic dinner in the city?
Marcel's (2401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 202-296-1166. www.marcelsdc.com), to channel French and Belgian romanticism. Chef Robert Wiedmaier creates rich cuisine, including French sauces for elegant entrées. The Tabard Inn is quirky, historic, loaded with character, and has it all: a cozy lounge with crackling fireplace to enjoy a cocktail, and artful modern American cuisine. If candlelight and flowers are your thing, make a reservation at 1789 Restaurant (1226 36th St NW. Tel: 202-965-1789. www.1789restaurant.com) for the John Carroll Room, where a great fireplace makes the space the epitome of classic romance. If you are the ultimate foodie and you don't care whether it's the most expensive dining experience in the region, then head out to the Inn at Little Washington (309 Middle St, Washington, VA. Tel: 540-675-3800. www.theinnatlittlewashington.com). Advance reservations are a way of life in D.C., so be sure to make them for any restaurant you plan to visit.

Who serves the greatest weekend brunch in town?
Seasons, the restaurant located at the Four Seasons Hotel (2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Tel: 202-342-0444. www.fourseasons.com/washington). If you're looking for a luxurious brunch, you will not be disappointed.

What sort of special arrangements does the Hotel Monaco provide for honeymoon couples?
For honeymooners, the hotel offers a complimentary bottle of Champagne, red roses, and a welcome card. Sometimes we offer special romance packages through the website, like for Valentine's Day. We try to make anything happen for guests that they want, though, and aren't just limited to specific packages.

What museums are a must-see for visitors? Any secrets or tips how to beat the crowds or get free or reduced admission?
Newseum (555 Pennsylvania Ave., NW. Tel: 202-292-6100. www.newseum.org), a private museum about the news and media, can eat up the better part of a day. It features a section of the Berlin Wall, a large exhibition dedicated to 9/11, and some enlightening LGBT-related materials. Just across the street from Hotel Monaco, The National Portrait Gallery (800 F Street NW. Tel: 202-633-8300. www.npg.si.edu) is part of the Smithsonian's family of museums and galleries. Definitely the American Art Museum (800 F St NW. Tel: 202-633-7970. americanart.si.edu) and the Natural Museum of American History (1400 Constitution Avenue, NW. Tel: 202-633-1000. www.americanhistory.si.edu), which of course includes Julia Child's kitchen. All the Smithsonian Museums are free to the public. To beat the crowds either go early in the morning, right when they open at 10 A.M. or late in the afternoon. Newseum does charge $21.95 per adult ticket, but it's good for admission on two consecutive days.

What would you recommend as part of an ideal weekend itinerary for a gay couple honeymooning in D.C.?
The first two stops should be to the US Capitol and the Supreme Court. After that, if you have time, you can visit the Library of Congress, Botanical Garden, or Union Station. Have lunch in the up-and-coming neighborhood of 8th St SE on Capitol Hill or Eastern Market, which is fun and has great places to eat. Grab a Monuments by Moonlight Tour (www.trolleytours.com/washington-dc) of iconic sights including the Lincoln Memorial, Iwo Jima Memorial, and Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial. Head to Logan Circle to have brunch at one of the many restaurants along the hip and very gay 1400 block of P Street NW. Then go around the corner and head north up 14th Street to U Street for a window-shopping stroll—there are great vintage and original boutiques and shops here. If you're hungry, stop by Marvin (2007 14th St NW. Tel: 202-797-7171. www.marvindc.com), a classic bistro and bar dedicated to Washington, D.C.'s native Marvin Gaye; or maybe Busboys and Poets (2021 14th St. NW. Tel: 202-387-7638. www.busboysandpoets.com), a restaurant, bookstore, and gathering place. If you feel like some art, go to the Phillips Collection (1600 21st St., NW. Tel: 202-833-9740. www.phillipscollection.org), a private gallery dedicated to French Impressionists and American Modernists. Afterward, go to legendary DuPont Circle gay bar JR's (1519 17th NW. Tel: 202-328-0090. www.jrsbardc.com) for happy hour. Before heading home, have a drink at Old Ebbitt Grill (675 15th St NW. Tel: 202-347-4800. www.ebbitt.com) for a true Washington experience. They have the best raw bar in town as well one of the best martinis.

If someone is looking for a full-service spa, where do you send them?
The Spa at the Mandarin Oriental (1330 Maryland Ave. Tel: 202-554-8588. www.mandarinoriental.com/washington). I think it's heaven on earth, very peaceful and beautiful. The massages are amazing and the surroundings are Zen. I like the half-day package, which includes an 80-minute Body massage, an 80-minute Specialized Facial, and complimentary valet parking. One of the half or full-day spa programs' benefits is they also include full use of their state-of-the-art fitness center, swimming pool, and Head and Water Experience, a special type of aqua therapy involving vitality pools, experience showers, and steam room.

Where are the best places to work out in the city?
For indoor, I will recommend Vida Fitness Center (www.idafitness.com), which has five locations throughout the city. Or The Sport Club LA (1170 22nd St NW. Tel: 202-974-6600. www.thesportsclubla.com), for a great workout and facility.

What suggestions do you have for the smart shopper?
Loehmann's (5333 Wisconsin Ave NW. Tel: 202-362-4733. www.loehmanns.com) is the best bargain in town for designer fashions. You'll come out spending less and looking fabulous. However, if you are looking for a more 'local' venue, head to RUE 14 (1803A 14th St. NW. Tel: 202-462-6200. www.rue14.com). You'll find a diverse, original shopping experience, both for men and women, without the big store price tags. But no shopping trip in D.C. is complete without a stop to Georgetown for flagship stores and a great neighborhood in general. Lost Boys, Urban Chic, and Annie Cream Cheese are some of its boutiques.

What are the most popular gay dance clubs in the city?
Town Danceboutique (2009 8th St. NW. Tel: 202-234-8696.), a nightclub with a lounge, stage for weekend drag shows, and two enormous dance floors. Cobalt (1639 R Street NW. Tel: 202-232-4416. www.cobaltdc.com) is another hotspot, great for dancing. It's a restaurant, lounge, and nightclub on three floors. Good mixed crowd, great DJs, and voted 'Best Place to Meet Guys' by the Washington Blade, so it's great for singles. Another alternative will be the dance party called Blowoff (www.blowoff.us), held about once a month at D.C.'s famed 9:30 Club (815 V St. NW.). Local music legends Bob Mould and Richard Morel, also bear icons, tag team as BlowOff's DJs. The party provides a rare meeting place for everyone, from music enthusiasts to leather daddies and the muscle bears featured in BlowOff's cool artwork.

What are the best gay/lesbian bars in Washington D.C.?
Number 9 (1435 P St. NW. Tel: 202-986-0999. www.numberninedc.com) is a stylish lounge with plenty of seating, cool music, mixed crowd, and a seasonal cocktail selection. Another alternative is Nellie's Sports Bar (900 U St. NW. Tel: 202-332-6355. www.nelliessportsbar.com). Definitely a noteworthy place, and chances are you'll end up there at some point. It's a gay sports bar and tends to have a mixed crowd. They probably have the coolest happy hour in town, Beat The Clock: $2 drinks from 5-6 P.M., $3 drinks from 6-7 P.M., and $4 drinks from 7-8 P.M. between Monday-Friday. Phase 1 (525 8th St. SE. Tel: 202-544-6831. www.phase1dc.com) is the oldest lesbian bar in the country, so show your support. It's a neighborhood hangout with a small dance floor.

Where can someone go at 3 A.M. for a good meal?
Open until 3 A.M. or even later, Bistro Français (3124 M St. NW. Tel: 202-338-3830. www.bistrofrancaisdc.com) is the oldest bistro in Georgetown. Specialties here include their famous Poulet Bistro tarragon rotisserie chicken, Minute Steak Maitre D', and they have the best eggs Benedict in town. If you're looking for straightforward American cuisine, The Hamilton (600 14th St. NW. Tel: 202-787-1000. www.thehamiltondc.com) is the place. Open 24/7, this restaurant delivers a contemporary dining experience that is eclectic and fun. After midnight you can have The 2 x 4, which is two eggs any style, two pancakes, two strips of bacon, and two sausage links. Or Chicken & Biscuits, a fried chicken breast, two fried eggs, buttermilk biscuit, and bacon with sausage gravy.

Please finish this sentence: Don't leave D.C. without…
Visiting the Lincoln Cottage within the "Old Soldiers Home" grounds for a historic tour of this important house where Lincoln spent his summers, and taking the tour of the adjacent Rock Creek Cemetery. During the fall and winter months go ice skating in the National Gallery's Sculpture Garden. View sculpture, listen to music, and have a cup of hot cocoa in the middle of the National Mall. In spring and summer months, renting a paddleboat in the Tidal Basin.

[Published: May, 2012]

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