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Last weekend, we indulged in a pre-holiday staycation at the LINE DC. Our agenda included a lot of relaxation—enjoying lobby bar cocktails, ordering room service, sleeping in, and exploring the hotel’s amenities. While we set out to relax, we also wanted to engage with the community that the hotel creates for both its visitors and its locals. Hearing that the hotel had three diverse restaurants, two lobby bars, a café, a radio station, and a well-designed lobby frequented by working locals during the week, we were intrigued by how it invited the outside in.
Upon arrival, we were taken back by the building’s strong façade—stately steps leading to tall columns, and entrances that visitors lingered in. The hotel, housed inside a renovated 110-year-old church, shines with original details, like large windows, expansive heights, and its original organ pipes intact, hanging high above the lobby. Drawing guests in with its historic charm, the hotel also feels undeniably hip. Walking in, there were sweeping staircases on the left and right—the right side leading to one of the restaurants, A Rake’s Progress (which later proved to have an unmissable brunch), and the left side decorated with large quilted pillows for the perfect photo opp.
The parting continued in the middle for a regal walkway. Before entering the expansive lobby, guests are then treated to The Cup We All Race 4 café on the right, and Full Service Radio, housed in a glass room, on the left. After a macchiato, we found ourselves chatting with the man behind the radio station’s concept, Jack Inslee.
We learned that Inslee was a part of famed pizza joint Roberta’s food radio station, Heritage Radio Retwork, in Brooklyn—a concept of pop-up radio that was essentially unheard of at the time. Wielding a music production degree from NYU, he used his talents from 2009 to 2016 as the executive producer, before moving to D.C. to help create an entirely new station. Today at the LINE DC, he oversees the community podcast network, which is live broadcasted from the lobby into each room on Channel 2, as well as online and available on iTunes. About two-thirds of the programming is talk radio, and the rest are DJ shows.
“We have 34 shows a week now,” said Inslee. “When I moved here, I spent a year digging around D.C. to find what’s happening in the local creative community and seeing who were the voices that should have a platform. I put together a core group of hosts, and now that’s ballooned into 34 shows a week. The hosts are people who were doing cool stuff already.”
Inslee described that the diversity in the community is highlighted in a variety of dynamic shows, such as: “The Leap,” a show bringing together small business owners to talk wisdom, tips, and advice, hosted by Sarah Gordon; “BYT Radio,” a show run by entertainment collective Brightest Young Thing, informing D.C. on where to go for fun and relaxation, hosted by Brandon Wetherbee; and the popular show “Insert Here,” an educational sex podcast with topics like intimacy as a trans person, hosted by Kate Warren.
“It’s meant to show D.C. as D.C. is,” said Inslee. “We’re airing the leaders in the community that the locals respect and look up to.”
From there, we ventured up to our suite on the fourth floor, admiring the clean design filled with special touches like bulb lights, brass finishings, snake plants, and unique fabrics. Straight ahead, just past a leather-topped desk, we had a clear view of the Washington Monument.
That night, we had dinner at Spoken English—a Tachinomiya-style restaurant helmed by one of D.C.’s gastronomy all-stars, Erik Bruner-Yang, with dishes by Chef Matthew Crowley. Tucked around the back corner of the lobby and down a few stairs, the restaurant is literally nestled within a kitchen with a woodfire burning oven. Standing room only for 15 guests, Spoken English is a treat for adventurous eaters looking for something out of the ordinary. (Cue menu items like sweetbreads and chicken hearts.)
“Stylistically, the restaurant is sourced as a concept by way of Japan,” said Crowley. “But being that Erik is not Japanese, and I’m not either, I cook food that I feel fits the space in a broad sense—aesthetically, and I don’t mean in the way that the food looks good on a plate. We cook a lot by feel. We work based on the seasons of the mid-Atlantic, and we use some products from Asia and afar, obviously, but we try and be a Washington, D.C. restaurant through the lens of this Japanese concept.”
While the menu changes often, dishes like the Green Hill Camembert and Blood Cake will never go away. At dinner, Chef Crowley came over to say hi, presenting us new plates that just appeared on the menu the day before, like the Peewee Potatoes—sea urchin sauce and pickled chilies over small potatoes—and Caviar—a small Japanese pancake with Kombu, topped with caviar. In all plates, however, there were a wide range of characteristics that Crowley likes to play with, ranging from technique to texture.
“Most of my mastery has been in modern French and American fine dining, so I’ve had a very technique-heavy career so far; high levels of refinement. We try and do that here, but in a way that makes sense. There’s just three of us, so we get here at noon and meal prep all day, and I personally view it as more of a craft. I get a lot of joy out of really aesthetically-pleasing plates. It’s the idea of a job well done that I aspire to.”
After a long, enjoyable dinner, we made our way back to our suite on the fourth floor for some shut-eye. When we awoke, sun flooded the room, making way for a clear view of the Washington Monument straight ahead. We spent the morning enjoying simple things like room service by the hotel’s other Bruner-Yang restaurant, Brothers and Sisters, and reading notes from the small selection of old-school books on the desk.
In robes and slippers, we ventured for a cappuccino at The Cup We All Race 4 before retreating back to our suite for one last moment of relaxation. Check-out time came too soon, but at the LINE DC, one thing was clear—community was something that didn’t come and go when visitors did. It’s there to stay, regardless of who is.