Work isn’t just professional for Fatima Popal, it’s personal since she’s the CFO of Popal Restaurant Group, the boutique, family-run hospitality group founded by her parents Shamim and Zubair Popal. After fleeing their home country of Afghanistan over three three decades ago due to the Soviet invasion and decamping in Washington, D.C., the pair channeled their creativity into entrepreneurial endeavors. In 2003, they unveiled their first concept, Georgetown’s Cafe Bonaparte, a Parisian-inspired cafe that immediately charmed locals with its old-world design and imaginative crepes.
Today, Popal Restaurant Group manages an impressive portfolio including Lutèce, the highly lauded French bistro helmed by husband-wife Matt Conroy and Isabel Coss (a 2023 Food & Wine Best New Chef), beloved Afghan eatery Lapis, and soon-to-open elevated Mexican restaurant Pascual.
Because the company is led by Fatima’s immediate family (namely, her parents and one brother), her responsibilites extend beyond the normal CFO. She also oversees the HR department, all events, and corporate social rsponsiblity—a cause that is, in her words, “the key to my soul and my passion.”
As for what she loves about living in the nation’s capital, it’s being able to experience an abundance of diversity without having to venture far. “Because of all the embassies and global organizations, we have so many different cultures represented,” says Fatima. “It’s a reminder of my family’s journey here from Afghanistan.”
Here, she shares her favorite spots to eat, drink and explore in Washington, D.C.
What’s your favorite neighborhood?
Popal: Honestly, I have more than one. I love Georgetown because our family spent so much time there when we first moved. It reminded us so much of Europe, where we lived after leaving Afghanistan. Georgetown was also the inspiration for our first restaurant, Cafe Bonaparte, which is now Lutèce.
Also, I love Adams Morgan because it holds so many memories of being a young adult in D.C. and the early stages of our restaurant group. My brother Omar and I lived on the same street at one point with my older brother Mustafa living two streets down from us. It became the Popal kids corridor by Lapis.
What’s your favorite casual restaurant, and what’s your go-to order?
Popal: As a mom, I love 2Amys. They're such a DC staple, and my kids love their cheese pizzas. I usually create my own pizza with a bunch of veggies since I don't eat red meat, and then of course I eat whatever my kids don't finish.
I am also a huge fan of tacos and Mexican Food—also why we're opening a Mexican restaurant—and love popping by Taqueria Habanero for a quick bite. I usually order tacos with fish or shrimp.
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“He’s in here, in the kitchen every night and he’s smiling. He’s so happy to be doing this,” explains one of the managers of Café Carmellini. He is chef Andrew Carmellini, well known around New York the past 15 years for his respected but more casual restaurants Locanda Verde, Lafayette, The Dutch, Carne Mare and Bar Primi. This restaurant, which opened November 1st in the new Fifth Avenue Hotel, marks his return to fine dining with reinterpretations of French and Italian classics and as his most personal restaurant is the first one that bears his name. It’s been packed since opening night and looking around the Gilded Age style dining room with its oversized bronze and seeded glass chandeliers suspended from double height ceilings, plush blue banquettes and sculpted trees in the middle of the floor, the chef isn’t the only one smiling.
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With their centuries-old Alpine towns surrounded by farmland and their cosy chalet hotels offering open fires and comfort food, Austrian ski regions are the postcard perfect counterpoint to the big, purpose-built resorts in neighbouring France. And yet the skiing is as good as it gets, with some of the world’s most advanced lifts and huge, linked areas.
During a two-and-a-half-week backpacking trip across Europe last summer with two friends, Jess Braun was delighted and a little perplexed to discover upon touching down in Vienna, Austria, that her hostel was located inside an Ikea.
Gifts that make a bedroom feel like a five-star hotel can help a jetsetter feel like they’re on a perpetual vacation. From plush bedding to posh amenities, these holiday gift ideas for travelers bring hotel magic into the home, conjuring the atmosphere of a high-end guest room. And with the hotel-inspired ambience might come that spark of curiosity and deep relaxation every traveler feels on a trip. All that’s missing is daily housekeeping.
One of the most delightful holiday traditions is counting down the days to Christmas with an advent calendar, especially with one filled with chocolate. The tradition of advent calendars dates back to 19th-century Germany, where people marked the days leading up to Christmas with daily small treats. The first printed advent calendar appeared around 1903, with religious images behind small numbered doors. Over time, the concept evolved to include a variety of themes, from chocolates to toys and was adopted outside of Germany too. Here are ten of the finest luxury chocolate advent calendars, created by the world’s top chocolatiers.
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