In the 1950s and 60s H Street NE was a middle class neighborhood and a commercial strip home to Ford Motor Credit, Woodward and Lothrop and the People’s Drug. But tragically, in 1968, the area became the epicenter of local rioting following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and many of the homes and shops were looted and burned. Displaced by rioting — or enticed by suburban sprawl’s suggestion of a white picket fence and a 2-car garage — former H Streeters moved to develop nearby neighborhoods like Fairfax and Bethesda.
But today, the trend is in reverse, with people young and old moving back to cities to conserve energy, drive less and live in a chic central location. Good news for H Street! After nearly 40 years marked largely by crime and poverty, the neighborhood is undergoing a revitalization, quickly making a name for itself as a go-to destination for food, drinks and nightlife.
I’m holding my breath to see what happens — and what H Street holds next — and suggesting you head on over NOW for food and other fun. Here’s my guide to what H Street’s got:
A Romantic Dinner for 2 – The Atlas Room
This small bar and dining room is easy to miss from the outside. I’m guilty myself of walking past it a few times… but was amazed when I finally popped in for dinner. Seven proteins — like Poultry, Pork, Beef or Vegetable — are available in different sizes. (So, if you are in the mood for lamb, for example, there is a tapas size, an appetizer item and an entree size, all different.) The drinks are old school craft cocktails like the Clover Club or the Gin Fizz, done to perfection; and the mid-century modern feel is a nice change from every other industrial resto design.
To Eat at the Bar – Le Grenier
You can find me sitting at the 10 seat, L-Shaped bar at Le Grenier, which exudes all that I love about a French bistro without the stuff I don’t. The dining room is cozy, the bar neatly tucked away. The glassware is cocktail specific, and the menu is classic without being predictable. There are fresh herbs, ripened fruits and homemade infusions sitting out to be used in many of the $11 cocktails. The menu is appetizers, salads, cheese and entrees with options like Butter and Herb poached Frog Legs and Crispy Duck Breast with a Cabernet reduction. The craft cocktails are exceptionally French, complete with lavender essence or orange zest. Plus, dinner and drinks for 2 is usually under $100.
Hit a Dive Bar – Little Miss Whiskey’s Golden Dollar
H Street certainly has no shortage of dive bars, but I think this one is head and
shoulders above the rest. The neo-gothic feel mixes 80’s rock music with black
lights and trippy glow-in-the-dark posters. Rock out to a Dj on the dancefloor upstairs or chill at the downstairs bar… or, when the weather is nice, take advantage when they fire up a grill in the back to make burgers and brats. The best part is it’s open ’til last call seven nights a week. Get that much needed beer and shot at 1:29 AM on a Sunday — Cash Only of course!
For Chilling Outside – BierGarten Haus
Now that the long, hot, slow, summer is over, it’s safe to go outside again, and Bier Garten is just the place. Walking by the German Style Restaurant, you would never guess how expansive it is in the back; Pass through the small indoor bar to enter a wooden picnic table filled courtyard with giant projection screens showing everything from German Soccer to the Caps/Pens Game. Another set of stairs leads to a rooftop terrace. But not only is the atmosphere here authentic, so are the beers! They import over 20 seasonal brews direct from Deutschland… and Octoberfest is going on now!
Go Off the Radar – Kenny’s Pit BBQ
The brand new places opening every other week get most of the headlines, but
Kenny’s Pit BBQ, tucked away on 8th and Maryland Ave NE, is my pick for the best BBQ in town. It’s not much more than a pick up counter with a few tables and a seasonal patio, but I can’t think of anything better on a cool autumn afternoon. Their pork ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, collared greens, red beans with rice and cornbread have my mouth watering even now. And they also make their own Bar-B-Q Sauce with the option of mild, medium or HOT. The only downside? Kenny’s Pit is closed on Sunday, so I can’t order a feast for the Skins game.
Eat Late – Boundary Road
Boundary Road fits into a few of this posts “occasions,” but really stands out in my book as H Street’s spot for Late Night Dining. If you’re a night owl like me, you’ll have a late lunch before grabbing dinner around 11 PM, and that’s next to impossible to find (in DC alone, and most certainly on H Street.!) Thankfully, Boundary Road has a late night menu ’til 1 AM every night. So while it’s a must try for or dinner during normal hours, also check out the pared down dining options — and ever changing assortment of bar treats — after 10:30 PM. There is always a selection of meat and cheese available with crusty bread and Dijon mustard… plus the Chef offers things like a Pig Head and Lamb Ragu, Peel and Eat Shrimp, or Panko Crusted Rocky Mountain Oysters. Try those at your own risk.