Just a quick 30-minute walk from the front gates or a 15-minute bus ride, Dupont Circle combines the hustle and bustle of downtown Washington, D.C., with the stately architecture found in the neighborhood you now call home. With a thriving culinary and shopping scene — as well as a Red line Metro station — Dupont is one of the most exciting places in the District.
Just off the circle, you can find one of the city’s most prominent farmers markets on Sunday mornings, which offers everything from organic produce to ice pops from more than 50 different vendors. Located in Dupont Circle, Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe combines an independent bookstore with a cozy cafe. If you’re looking for a book that may be a little harder to find, the nearby Second Story Books specializes in out-of-print, used and rare works.
Dupont Circle is filled with restaurants of all types, whether you’d like to grab a quick bite to eat at chicken chain Nando’s PERi-PERi or celebrate after a tough week of midterms at Banana Leaves, Bistrot du Coin or Sette Osteria.
14th Street Corridor/Logan Circle
No area in D.C. has grown quite like the 14th Street Corridor, which was the city’s main red-light district only around 25 years ago but is now the site of a culinary boom. Nearly 30 new eateries opened in this area just in 2013, and the number is growing as construction on residential and commercial properties continues at a dizzying pace. The star of the revival is French bistro Le Diplomate, which, after being open for just a few years, has already taken a spot among the most popular restaurants in the city. On 14th Street, quantity has not come at the cost of quality. Pearl Dive Oyster Palace specializes in catfish sandwiches, gumbo and, of course, oysters, while The Pig’s menu focuses nearly exclusively on pork. Birch & Barley has an unbelievable 555 beers on tap to go along with its understated New American cuisine, while its sister restaurant, ChurchKey, offers an even larger selection of brews in a more casual setting.
Logan Circle is also the unofficial center of D.C.’s LGBTQ community. You’d be hard-pressed to find a local business that doesn’t have a pride flag draped outside, and there are a host of gay and lesbian clubs nearby, including Number Nine and Nellie’s Sports Bar, which is also considered the best sports bar in the District.
Located just north of Logan Circle is U Street, a rapidly growing area that is arguably the center of the District’s cultural life. A good time on a weekend night, however, is nowhere near all this area has to offer. The most famous institution on U Street is Ben’s Chili Bowl. The only business in the area to survive the 1968 riots that devastated the city, Ben’s and its famous half-smokes — a sausage and hot dog combo topped with chili and cheese — are a throwback to a different era.
U Street is equally well-known for its high concentration of live music venues. The one you’ll most likely head to is the 9:30 Club, which will host popular acts such as Jade Bird, Cigarettes After Sex and Bishop Briggs this fall. Another popular venue is the Black Cat, known for featuring lesser-known alternative acts and for its Red Room Bar. Other venues in the area include the venerable jazz club Bohemian Caverns, U Street Music Hall, DC9 Nightclub and the recently reopened Lincoln Theatre. The Howard Theatre is also located nearby. Restaurant, bookstore and event space Busboys and Poets is another U Street highlight.
Adams Morgan is the tried-and-true home of late-night D.C., less stuffy than the occasionally buttoned-up Dupont Circle and more worn in than what you’ll find on U Street. As the murals that line the neighborhood’s buildings show, Adams Morgan is culturally vibrant. Although soaring rent prices over the past 20 years have caused what was once the city’s most diverse neighborhood to become somewhat gentrified, Adams Morgan nevertheless retains an aura of multiculturalism and artistry that’s hard to find anywhere else in the city.
Late-night eating options are plentiful: Pizza Mart, which provides the prototypical jumbo slice for which the District is known, is open until at least 3 a.m. every night, Amsterdam Falafelshop is one of the best places to get falafel in the city and The Diner, which offers typical but refined diner-style food, is open 24/7. There are also a number of record stores in the area: Smash! Records specializes in rock ’n’ roll albums, and Hill & Dale in Georgetown is recognizable for its sleek interior. The nightlife options in Adams Morgan are extensive, as well. The main corridor of 18th Street is lined almost entirely with bars, so there will always be somewhere to go.
H Street NE
A proposed streetcar line from Georgetown to Union Station has been in the works for a long time. The most exciting prospect of this plan isn’t that it will be easier to take the train home — it is how easy it will become to get to H Street NE, one of the fastest developing areas of D.C. Like the U Street Corridor, H Street, damaged heavily during the 1968 riots, was once a cultural hub of the District. Like U Street, H Street is now the home of new businesses and rapid apartment construction, not to mention a front-row view of the positives and negatives of D.C.’s rapid gentrification. While H Street is similar to U Street in that most of its establishments are relatively new and cater to a younger crowd, the locations here are a little more playful and bohemian.
The neighborhood also features some stellar food and drinks: Sidamo Coffee & Tea may just be the best coffee shop in the District, with standard black coffee as impressive as its lattes. Toki Underground, although small and often crowded, serves unbeatable ramen. If you’re looking for a place to grab dinner with friends or relatives, Smith Commons is delicious and reasonably priced and has an excellent brunch, too.
Capitol Hill is the city’s largest neighborhood and presents a more lively visitor experience than its austere name would suggest. That doesn’t mean, however, that the building for which the neighborhood is named isn’t worth a visit. The U.S. Capitol building is the home of Congress, and the architecture and aura are awe-inspiring even to the less politically inclined. The Supreme Court building and Library of Congress are also close by if your interest extends beyond the operations of the legislative branch.
File Photo: Keenan Samway/The Hoya