April 17, 2015

DC Cherry Blossoms and MXDC Review

This past weekend there was one of the most highly anticipated events that draw tourists from all over the US - cherry blossoms! Predicted to be at peak bloom between April 11-14th,  big crowds and major traffic was to be expected. Many friends were visiting from out of town, so there was a fun weekend planned.
The history of the National Cherry Blossom Festival dates back all the way to 1912 when Tokyo's mayor Yukio Ozaki gifted over 3,000 cherry trees to signify the friendship between the US and Japan. The cherry blossom, also known as the "Sakura", is a symbol of evanescence of human life.

Although the history behind what these cherry blossoms represent is too long to add in one post, a few of my favorite snippets:
  • First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda (the wife of Japanese ambassador) planted the first two trees on the north bank of the Tidal Basin. These two original trees still stand near the John Paul Jones Memorial at the terminus of 17th St, SW!
  • The lantern that is lit annually to open the National Cherry Blossom Festival was gifted in 1954 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first Treaty of Peace.
  • Through a cycle of exchanges and gifts over the years, "the cherry trees fulfilled their role as a symbol and an agent of friendship."
I summarized immensely, you can learn more from this article here and interesting timeline here. Aside from this rich history, our group was ready to brave the crowds to enjoy the beauty of these cherry blossoms.
We started the weekend off with a late night hearty meal - all you can eat Korean barbecue! The deal at Il Mee is spectacular at only $13.95 a person after 10pm. We had a generous helping of various proteins and unlimited side dishes, until we finally went back home after midnight.

We all planned on arriving in DC at 9am to beat the thick of the crowd, and thank goodness we hadn't come later. There was a good amount of traffic going into the city, but not nearly as much as it grew through the afternoon hours!

A snippet of our day...

After a few hours of walking through the Tidal Basin and admiring the blooms, we made our way through the festival to where we hoped to have our first meal of the day.
We walked several blocks to get to District Taco, a well known spot (over 500 reviews on Yelp!). However the line seemed too long for our starving appetites and we moved on. Definitely must eat there soon! Unfortunately, none of us were even remotely aware of how crowded every other restaurant was.

After trying Old Ebbit Grill and a few other places with great reviews online, we came along a restaurant that could seat our party of nine right away - seemed like a winner!

600 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20005
To start off, many of us were wary of the fact that this restaurant was nearly empty although every other location we passed by had lines out the door. The hostess was standoffish from the moment we asked for a table to accommodate our large party - her original plan was to squeeze us at a smaller table by adding extra chairs (please note again, the entire restaurant was empty). 

After being seated, we were excited to find a special on Sangria's and ordered two pitchers for the table. In our starved state, we were almost immediately ready to order. 
After enjoying our glasses of sangria, we patiently waited for our food to arrive, while also noticing the restaurant starting to fill up. After a full hour of waiting, the entire restaurant was full and EVERY table had their meals arrive (and were consumed) before we could even get a hold of the waiter again. 

Sadly, our experience was absolutely horrible and none of us plan to return. We ended up letting the waiter know we'd just pay for our drinks and leave. Our still-famished group ended up at the closest food court and enjoyed an assortment of Halaal food and Moe's Southwest Grill. Although disappointed in our experience at MXDC, we saved a ton of money and enjoyed our lunches regardless!
After arriving back at our cars and enjoying a more relaxed dinner in Shirlington, Lisa and Hoang generously allowed all of us to stay at their place overnight since we planned on having dimsum the next morning. We were all pretty exhausted after nine miles of walking through DC that day, and ended the night watching Interstellar with wine and mini ice cream sandwiches haha!

Overall the festival was fun with the absolutely beautiful weather (balmy 65 degrees with some strong breezes throughout the day) but we may hold off next year for the packed crowds. Driving alone took over 2-3 hours (people were walking into the streets without a care) and with all the packed restaurants, it may be best to avoid the weekends to enjoy the buds. Hopefully those planning on going this weekend don't have to face as big a crowd as we did!
Until next time!

Stay Hungry,

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