Lanae Spruce describes herself as a foodie and cultural connoisseur. But in the nation’s capital, the 31-year-old is better known for digital storytelling and building social media brands. Until September, Ms. Spruce designed and managed the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture’s award-winning social media accounts for more than six years.
In her downtime, Ms. Spruce, an Ohio native, relishes exploring D.C. neighborhoods that have transformed into buzzing destinations. One of them is her own, the Trinidad-H Street Northeast area. “What drew me was the rich history of black entrepreneurship and proximity to all the hip things that enliven the city. Art galleries galore, hidden alleys with small shops, outdoor sculptures and tons of eating options.” This month, she and her fiancée, Brianna Cooper, a chef, are decamping to New York City for Ms. Spruce’s new job with iOne Digital, a media platform for an African-American millennial audience. Here, Ms. Spruce shares her favorite D.C. spots.
1. Anacostia Arts Center
This welcoming community hub, which stretches nearly half a block, opens directly into “a collection of black-owned shops and two art galleries displaying established and emerging black artists. It’s one of the hidden gems in Anacostia.” Ms. Spruce is a fan of MahoganyBooks, where the shelves are lined with some of her favorite authors. “And it’s pretty cool to see black-owned brands for cosmetics, fashion, food, toys, even card games.”
2. National Museum of African American History and Culture
“For me the most meaningful spot is the fourth floor panorama lens,” Ms. Spruce says. “It’s a cutout in the lattice facade overlooking the green lawn of the National Mall. Much of the Mall was once occupied by plantations and worked by slaves. Sometimes after a long day I like to stand here, look out and remember we’re sitting on the shoulders of our ancestors.”
Named for the D.C. native Marvin Gaye, this restaurant and popular rooftop bar attracts stylishlocals. “It’s a great place to meet young professionals and hear local musicians,” Ms. Spruce says. “There’s live music several nights a week, mostly jazz. It’s not pretentious. You can sit right up next to the band and talk to them during sets.”
4. La Vie
The year-old restaurant and rooftop bar, with a Mediterranean-inspired menu, is often Ms. Spruce’s first stop at the Wharf, the huge waterfront development in southwest Washington lined with food spots, shops and entertainment venues.
“It’s where I go to have fun and be seen, when I’m dressed fancy or after a stressful week,” Ms. Spruce says. “La Vie is where I’ll start my evening. It’s got the perfect mix of stunning views, a chic ambience and delicious cuisine. If octopus is on the menu I always try it. The plates are small, so then I’ll get lamb meatballs and oysters.”
In the heart of downtown, this spot with an Italian vibe is one of the latest female-owned cafes to join D.C.’s lively culinary scene. “I really love going to women-owned eateries. This one is small, chic and cute. The oven churns out hot breakfasts, lunches and dinners every day.” The owner, Amy Brandwein, is also the chef. “She makes a kind of stuffed bread called scacce. It’s like a savory sandwich. The best is the lamb sausage scacce. It’s so yummy.”
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