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.

“I was born and raised in Texas, but my parents are immigrants from Taiwan,” says Andrew Chiou, the chef and co-owner of Mount Vernon Triangle Chinese restaurant Lucky Danger. “As a first-generation Asian American, I have experienced racist comments and stereotypes my entire life, 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.”

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 honour 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 labour 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.

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

The mission of Navy Yard-based Steadfast Supply is to provide a retail platform for independent brands and designers from around the globe to share their goods and their stories with our neighbouring communities. This female-owned business helps connect makers with customers and advance the local creative community to the DMV.  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 flavours 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.

Elsie Yang contributor for Thrillist. Follow her on Instagram.

Washington DC

15 Totally Free Things to Do in DC

A full itinerary, completely free of charge.

Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery
Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery
Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery

Washington DC is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, and for those of us who call the District home, it’s easy to see why. With dozens of world-class museums, murals that transform streets into galleries, and sites brimming with history, DC offers a full agenda-completely free of charge. Whether you want to try a new farmer’s market, explore a new hike, or polish off your roller skating or canoeing skills, here are some of our favourite free things to do in the District.

Flickr/gawnesco
Flickr/gawnesco
Flickr/gawnesco

Hike, bike, or stroll along the C&O Canal

The historic Chesapeake and Ohio Canal is one of the most accessible nature escapes from the District. Thanks to a multi-year restoration project, the first mile of the canal is an idyllic walk that’s easy to access in Georgetown. Stick to a short stroll there, or grab a bike or lace up your hiking shoes for a longer adventure along the 184.5-mile canal.

Jump on the pickleball craze

Pickleball is working its way up the ladder past kickball and softball as one of America’s favourite games. Jump on the craze and practice your paddling at one of the District’s pickleball courts in Takoma Park, the Palisades, and more. Plus, Washington DC Pickleball invites guests to drop in to beginner sessions to try their hand at the sport before signing up for a $30 annual membership.

Flickr/mcfeelion
Flickr/mcfeelion
Flickr/mcfeelion

Bike the Mount Vernon Trail

DC is incredibly bike-friendly, and luckily that applies to the land immediately outside of the city as well. Start in the city and bike along the Mount Vernon Trail, a scenic route that hugs the water and cuts through the woods. It’s about a 10-mile trip from DC to Mount Vernon, but you can cut the trip slightly short and end at the Old Town Alexandria waterfront-just make sure to factor in time for ice cream before pedalling home.

Explore a sculpture park

While not located in the District proper, Glenstone, an expansive sculpture park in Maryland, is worth the 45-minute drive. Tickets to the park are free (just be sure to reserve several weeks in advance), and the 300-acre space offers stunning art, architecture, and open land. In addition to its indoor gallery spaces, you can spend hours walking on paths that wind through sculptures, meadows, and forests.

Flickr/Geoff Livingston
Flickr/Geoff Livingston
Flickr/Geoff Livingston

See the monuments at night

When the sun goes down-and the summer humidity somewhat dissipates-head to the National Mall for the rare chance to see the monuments without busloads of tourists. Moonlight will give you a different perspective as you traverse the marble steps of the Lincoln Memorial or gaze up at the Washington Monument set aglow with lights.

Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery
Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery
Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery

Museum hop the day away

One of DC’s greatest strengths is its world-class Smithsonian museums that are open to the public free of charge. There is no shortage of options, from the intimate Renwick Gallery, to the sprawling National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonians offer something for everyone. Pro tip: Some of the museums are open late in the evenings, making for an ideal date night.

muralsdc
muralsdc
muralsdc

Explore the city’s murals

Washington is home to hundreds of murals that are becoming as much a part of the city’s landscape as the monuments on the National Mall. Take a self-guided tour of these colourful creations no matter which neighbourhood you happen to be in. MuralsDC, the organization behind 150 of the District’s public artworks, is a great resource for mapping out a route to explore the city’s street art.

Hotel Washington
Hotel Washington
Hotel Washington

Take in a birds-eye view of the city

Washington looks pretty stunning from up high, and there are few spots within the city that make for phenomenal vantage points. Rooftop bars and restaurants offer epic views for the price of a drink or two, but there’s no more iconic sight than seeing the city from the top of the Washington Monument, which is completely free. Book a ticket ahead of time and ride an elevator all the way to the top of the monument and step out on the 500-foot observation deck.

Flickr/Nicolas Raymond
Flickr/Nicolas Raymond
Flickr/Nicolas Raymond

Wander through a garden

DC is home to some of the most beautiful urban gardens in the country, and many of them are open to the public for free. There is nothing like an afternoon spent strolling through, or picnicking, at the expansive 446-acre United States Arboretum or wandering through the Botanic Garden on the edge of the Mall. For something a bit smaller, explore the grounds at Tudor Place or Dumbarton Oaks (free in the winter), both of which are in Georgetown.

Flickr/ehpien
Flickr/ehpien
Flickr/ehpien

Hike the Billy Goat Trail

You can catch one of the District’s most popular hiking trails, the Billy Goat Trail, from the C&O canal. The full trail is 4.7 miles and ranges from easy to strenuous, so hike a section in and back or make the full loop for the variety.

Pay your respect at Arlington National Cemetery

Just across the Potomac from DC, Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 400,000 veterans. The cemetery is an expanse of 639 hallowed acres and the ANC Explorer allows visitors to locate graves, notable sites, and take self-guided walking tours to spots including the tomb of the Unknown Soldier as well as the final resting place of President John F. Kennedy.

Lace up your roller skates

When was the last time you went roller skating? Chances are it’s been too long. So get back into this nostalgic activity at the Anacostia Park roller skating pavilion. You can rent skates for free, just show proof of a government-issued ID, and the skating pavilion is open from 9 to 5 every day.

Help clean up the Anacostia River

We all know there’s a lot of work to be done to keep our waterways clean. Do your part, and have some fun, by participating in the city’s Green Boat initiative. On select weekends, DCers can join a two-hour guided paddle along the Anacostia River to collect trash and monitor the river’s progress.

Eastern Market
Eastern Market
Eastern Market

Stroll your local farmer’s market

DC’s close proximity to the farms of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and beyond mean that the city’s farmers’ markets always have something to offer. Check out the year-round markets like Eastern Market in Capitol Hill and the Sunday market in Dupont Circle or head to seasonal markets like the pop-up in front of the White House that draws vendors like Cucina al Volo and Call Your Mother Deli.

The Library of Congress
The Library of Congress
The Library of Congress

Play tourist all around the city

It’s easy to forget that all those traditionally touristy activities can be fun for locals too. If you haven’t been on a tour of the White House, the National Archives, the Library of Congress, or the Capitol, this is your sign. All are free with advanced reservations. Plus, tucked in the northern quadrant of NW, the Washington National Cathedral is free and open to all. Tour the cathedral’s impressive architecture, 215 stained glass windows, 112 Gothically-inspired gargoyles, and enormous pipe organ. See if you can spot the sculpture of Darth Vader.

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Madeline Weinfield is a Thrillist contributor.

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