Art

Spy Museum historian and curator Andrew Hammond’s perfect day in DC

In DC Dream Day, we ask our favorite people in the area to tell us how they would spend a perfect day in the District.

As the historian and curator of the International Spy Museumwhich celebrates its 20th anniversary on July 19, Andrew Hammond stays busy, between hosting the museum’s podcast, SpyCastand sharing the history of its expansive spy collection with visitors.

“The job is an amazing job,” says Hammond, who lives in the H Street corridor. “I get to meet really interesting people, and I get to research really interesting artifacts.”

Hammond served in the Royal Air Force before going back to school full time in 2005. He received his PhD in history and international relations from the University of Warwick in England and held several fellowships at the National September 11 Memorial Museumthe Library of Congress and more institutions before landing his coveted job at the Spy Museum in 2020.

Like a CIA agent astutely observing his surroundings, Hammond would spend much of his DC dream day outdoors at some of the city’s best people-watching spots.

The first thing that I would do would be to go to the Wydown on H Street. They are a coffee shop, and their blueberry muffins are to die for. They’re so good. You’ve got the really nice stuff on top of the crumbling muffin. And you get to the bottom and there are these not-too-hot-but-warm blueberries that just explode in your mouth. I typically get up quite early, usually before my wife and my daughter. I would pop over there, grab a latte, grab a muffin and then I would come back and I would sit on the balcony and watch H Street come alive.

I’m really obsessed by bialys, and when I left New York, I spent a lot of time trying to find the best bialy in the city, and I haven’t really found a great one in DC Maybe they do exist, but I haven’t found them. So if we’re going out, we would probably go to Buffalo and Bergen, and I would get a poppy seed bagel with cream cheese and a regular drip coffee with half-and-half.

I think after that, I think if it was a nice day, I would go with my wife and my daughter to the Sculpture Garden and the National Gallery of Art. I really like just sitting and whiling the time away. If it were my dream day, I wouldn’t want to frantically rush from one place to the next. So I think I’d just like to sit there and just soak up the atmosphere, look at the art and spend time with my family.

And then if [the weather] wasn’t good, there’s an antique shop that me and my wife love in the Logan Circle, 14th Street NW area called GoodWood. We don’t always buy something when we go there, but we kind of like to just rummage around in there and spend time looking through stuff.

After that, I think that it would probably be time for a late lunch, early dinner by that point. And there’s an amazing place that we discovered just a few weeks ago called Paraíso Taqueria on Pennsylvania Avenue in Southeast. I used to spend a lot of time on Pennsylvania Avenue outside the Library of Congress, and this place is so good. The nachos are a whole tortilla that’s fried, and you get it with salsa. It’s not the boilerplate “here’s some chips and salsa” and it’s, like, perfunctory — this is part of the experience. My wife and I love the cod tacos. They’re really excellent. If I was looking for some alcohol, it would be a margarita. Classic, on the rocks.

After that, we would walk home, and on the way, we would stop either in Lincoln Park or Stanton Park. I love the parks on the east side. We would sit under a tree and just watch the world in action. People practicing sports or doing tai chi, kids playing, people walking their dogs. I love just lying on a blanket in the park and just listening to all those sounds. I think I would probably spend the hours leading up to darkness just sitting in one of those parks.

Coming full circle back to H Street, Copycat Co. is just an excellent cocktail bar. I love the ambiance. Personally, I really like spirit-forward cocktails, like Negronis, Manhattans, martinis, those types of things. I love just sitting in a cocktail bar just whiling away a couple of hours. So I think that’s where I would probably have the nightcap. And I’ve always thought to myself, if I was ever to have another life, I would open up a speakeasy called Espionage. And it would be quite playful, but rooted in the real world of intelligence. Trying not to make it too hokey. You know, like a code word to get in, secret items on the menu, cocktails called names like the Dead Drop, Covert Action, Encryption, Double Agent — and then get a really awesome mixologist.

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