A true landmark of black Washington and the
place for half smokes in the district
Shaw is a neighborhood in central D.C. to the north of the East End (Penn Quarter/Chinatown area), east of Dupont Circle, and south of Adams Morgan. It is home to major nightlife and dining strips along U, 14th, and 9th Streets NW.
The U Street Corridor, the center of Washington's African-American nightlife for much of the 20th century and the birthplace of Duke Ellington, is a vibrant collection of shops, restaurants, nightclubs and galleries stretching from 9th Street in the east to 18th Street in the west. This corridor became commercially significant when a streetcar line operated there in the early 20th century. During this time, it was known as the Black Broadway and served as a significant cultural and economic center for the city's African-American population. Following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the area around 14th & U was the epicenter of a violent and destructive riot—a scene tragically replicated in major urban areas across the United States. Following the riots, and the subsequent white flight of residents and businesses from the area, the U Street Corridor succumbed to urban blight.
Since the mid-1980s Shaw has been hit by a wave of gentrification, prompted by spillover development from then-trendy Adams Morgan and later from Logan Circle. In 1986 the city helped hasten the renewal of the corridor by locating a major municipal building, the Reeves Center, at 14th and U. The transformation that began soon after continues to gather speed with boarded-up commercial buildings being renovated and reopened and more than 2,000 upscale residential condominiums and apartments being constructed between 1997 and 2007.
Nightlife seekers have migrated from Georgetown and Adams Morgan for a slightly older, less raucous scene where the patrons have a bit more money to spend, and the jazz clubs in particular are second to none. Shaw has long been a center of Washington's music scene with the Lincoln Theatre, Howard Theater, Bohemian Caverns, and other clubs and historic jazz venues. Duke Ellington's childhood home was nearby on the 1200 block of T Street. The Lincoln Theater opened in 1921, and Howard Theater in 1926.
The neighborhood is serviced by the U Street/African-American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo stop on the Metro's yellow and green lines, with entrances at:
- The Southeast corner of 13th & U Streets NW
- On 10th Street, south of U Street
By car, the main streets are 14th, R, 9th, and Florida. Avoid driving on U Street, because it is very congested (that is, even more congested than the rest of these streets). On street parking is possible on the quieter side streets, really any time of the week, although if you are not familiar with the area driving in is definitely not recommended.
- African-American Civil War Memorial, 1000 U St NW. The nation's only monument to African American Civil War soldiers. More than 209,000 names of the United States Colored Troops who fought in the Union Army are inscribed on 157 burnished stainless steel plaques. Arranged according to regiment, the names include those of the 7000 white officers who served with the African American troops. At the center of the plaza encircled by the inscribed names is a sculpture, The Spirit of Freedom, by artist Ed Hamilton.
- Black Fashion Museum, 2007 Vermont Ave NW, ☎ +1 202 667-0744 ([email protected], fax: +1 202 667-4379), . By appointment only. A very small, family-run museum documenting the history of African-Americans and the world of fashion. It features (among other exhibits) the inaugural gown of Mary Todd Lincoln (designed by a former slave), Jackie Kennedy's wedding gown, and the dress Rosa Parks was sewing when she refused to give up her bus seat. (And the museum was founded by Lois Lane—no joke!) It's only open to the public via guided tour, for which you should call Ms. Joyce Bailey at least a week in advance.
- Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U St NW, ☎ +1 202 328-6000, . Native Washingtonians Duke Ellington and Pearl Bailey performed in the Lincoln Theatre. So did Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Lionel Hampton, Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Eckstine, Billy Eckstine, Billie Holliday and Sarah Vaughn. Today, it host musical events, films, and community events.
- The Thurgood Marshall Center, 1816 12th Sreet NW, ☎ +1 202 462-8314 ([email protected]), . This building is a Shaw landmark, built as the local YMCA in 1912, and designed by one of the nation's first black architects, W. Sidney Pittman. The name comes from the fact that Supreme Court Thurgood Marshall was a frequent visitor to the Y, and it is rumored that he came up with his opinion for the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision. On the first floor, the Shaw Heritage Trust maintains an exhibit portraying the living history of African Americans in the Shaw Community, as well as a tour center for the Duke Ellington's Shaw Heritage tours.
- Self Guided Tour: City within a City, ☎ +1 202 661-7581 ([email protected]), . A self-guided walking tour, which provides big signs with information about the neighborhood and local history, as well as itinerary maps. Starts 13th & U, ends 14th & U. ~90 minutes.
- Blink Optical, 1431 P St NW, ☎ +1 202 234-1051 ([email protected]), . A small store with a small selection of very high quality designer glasses, for a price, naturally.
- Circle Boutique, 1736 14th St NW, ☎ +202 518-2212, . D.C. emphasizes status and bland power over all else when it comes to fashion, so Circle Boutique is a real breath of fresh air, offering slightly offbeat, but yet very classy and fashionable clothing for both sexes. A great local store, offering some very exclusive brands. But do expect to pay dearly.
- Redeem, 1734 14th St, NW, ☎ +1 202 332-7447 ([email protected]), . M,W-Sa noon-8PM, Su noon-6PM. Boutique offering luxury casual wear with a strong indie-rocker bent. You might be tempted to contemplate the inherent contradictions of boutique counterculture, but catch yourself—it's that same political preoccupation that keeps D.C. stuck in drab suits. That's also presumably why the store has the name it does.
The two blocks of 14th St just above Rhode Island Ave in recent years have become the center of D.C.'s high-end contemporary art scene. Such a scene barely existed in the 1990s, but it's already host to some world-class exhibitions.
- Galleries at 1515, 1515 14th St NW.
- Adamson Gallery, Suite 202, ☎ +1 202 232-0707 ([email protected], fax: +1 202 232-2660), . T-Sa 11AM-5PM.
- Curator's Office, Suite 201, ☎ +1 202 387-1008 ([email protected], fax: +1 202 387-1006), . W-Sa noon-6PM.
- G Fine Art, Suite 200, ☎ +1 202 462-1601 ([email protected]), . T-Sa 11AM-6PM.
- Hemphill Fine Arts, Suite 300, ☎ +1 202 234-5601, . T-Sa 10AM-5PM.
- Gallery Plan B, 1530 14th St NW, ☎ +1 202 234-2711 ([email protected]), . W-Sa noon-7PM, Su 1PM-5PM.
- Irvine Contemporary, 1412 14th St NW, ☎ +1 202 332-8767 ([email protected]), . T-Sa 11AM-6PM.
- Transformer Gallery, 1404 P St NW, ☎ +1 202 483-1102 ([email protected]), . W-Sa 1PM-7PM.
- Ben's Chili Bowl, 1213 U Street, N.W., . A U Street mainstay (and city landmark) since 1958, it's been patronized by President Barack Obama, Martin Luther King Jr., Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Nat King Cole, Bill Cosby, and every last city mayor. In fact, you might find future mayoral candidates bivouacked here, in hopes of showing that they are "of the people." It's a down-home, low-maintenance, diner-style restaurant known for serving D.C.'s best half-smokes and for its friendly staff. $3.50-7.
- Florida Avenue Grill, 1100 Florida Ave NW, ☎ +1 202 265-1586. T-Sa 8AM-9PM, Su 8AM-4:30PM. Quite possibly the District's #1 diner, a no-nonsense soul food diner since 1944 (it survived the riots by grace of the vigilant owner's shotgun), serving up great grits, savory scrapple, and all sorts of cheap greasy wonderful down-home cooking. Keep an eye out for politicians national and local at this neighborhood landmark. $5-12.
- Sumah's, 1727 7th Street NW, between R and S. Easy to miss among the large apartment buildings, but offers huge portions of very tasty Sierra Leonean food. An entree is $14, but will easily feed 2-3 people. If you ask Sumah, he'll let you sample everything before you order, since you probably won't otherwise know what to get. Whatever you end up ordering, make sure to wash it down with delicious homemade ginger beer.
- Negril, 2301 Georgia Avenue NW, close to W Street and Howard University. Decent and inexpensive Jamaican food. Try the chicken fricassee.
- Zenebech Injera, 608 T Street NW, one block from 7th Street. Superb Ethiopian food in somewhat less superb surroundings. Has only two tables, but does a thriving carryout business among the cab drivers. Cheaper than most of the options on 9th Street, and spicier too. Highly recommended.
- Dukem, 1118 U St NW, ☎ +1 202 667-8735 (fax: +1 202 667-2498). Su-Th 11AM-2AM, F-Sa. The Ethiopian cuisine here is as solid as any of them, especially the varied menu, but the real reason to come is for the nightly live Ethiopian music—likely the best you'll experience outside Ethiopia itself. A real hub for the local Ethiopian community. Full bar. $10-20.
- Etete, 1942 9th St NW, ☎ +1 202 232-7600, . 11AM-1AM daily. One of the best restaurants in D.C.'s Little Ethiopia neighborhood, which is centered on 9th Street near its intersection with U Street and considered by many to offer the best Ethiopian dining in the city. Excellent injera; also try the tej, a type of Ethiopian honey-wine, or a Meta beer. $8-18.
- Lalibela, 1415 14th St NW (cross street P St; closest to the Dupont Circle Metro), ☎ +1 202 265-5700. 9AM-11PM daily. A favorite among D.C.'s Ethiopian cuisine connoisseurs, Lalibela is closer to Dupont than to Little Etihiopia, but the food is authentic and delicious. Pleasant outdoor seating remedies the dark interior. $8-14.
- Queen Makeda, 1917 9th St NW. Close to Etete, but generally less crowded, this is another good choice on the 9th Street row.
- Islander Carribean Restaurant, 1201 U St NW, ☎ +1 202 234-4971, . T-Th noon-10:30PM, F-Sa noon-11PM, Su noon-10PM. An attractive restaurant serving home-style Trinidadian cuisine that gets uniformly rave reviews from locals and Caribbean expats alike. Live jazz on most weekend nights from 6PM—check the website to make sure—and karaoke on Wednesdays. If you haven't had Trinidadian before, be forewarned: when they say it's spicy, it's spicy. $7-14.
- Cafe Saint-Ex, 1847 14th St NW, ☎ +1 202 265-7839 ([email protected]), . M 5PM-1:30AM, T-Th 11AM-1:30AM, F-Sa 11AM-2:30AM, Su 11AM-1:30AM. The contemporary American Bistro upstairs (with good food but spotty service) is complemented by a very popular bar/lounge downstairs, where DJs spin bossa, downtempo, French lounge, 70s funk, etc. DJs usually spin starting at 10PM T-Sa, but check the website for details. Entrées: $12-23.
- Cork, 1720 14th St NW, ☎ +1 202 265-2675 ([email protected]), . T-W 5PM-midnight, Th-Su 5PM-1AM. A fancy little wine bar, heralding the completion of the gentrification process on 14th Street. It specializes in French and Italian wines, particularly in more offbeat wines, and the food is superb (prepared by Chef Tanaka of Citronelle acclaim). Try the rosemary chicken liver bruschettas with a shallot marmalade, or perhaps a chili mint roasted eggplant. Wines/glass: $7-15, 3-wine-flight: $9-13, entrées: $5-25.
- Local 16, 1602 U St NW, ☎ +1 202 265-2828 (fax: +1 202 483-1961), . M-Th 5:30PM-2AM, F 5:30PM-3AM, Sa 5:30PM-3AM, Su 5:30PM-1AM. The (affordable) food is hit-or-miss, so focus on the (expensive) rooftop bar (with outdoor heaters for the winter), brought to you by the owners of the über-cool 18th Street Lounge. Happy hour runs weekdays 5:30PM-8PM, and the house DJs spin F-Sa 10PM-1AM.
- Polly's Cafe, 1342 U St NW, ☎ +1 202 265-8385, . M-F 6PM-2AM, Sa-Su 10AM-2AM. Although always crowded, this bar/restaurant is a refreshing reprieve from some of the overly-hip lounges creeping into Shaw from Dupont and Adams Morgan. It's more laid back and the clientéle is all over the generational, cultural, and racial map. Brunch is a big hit with the neighborhood. Live music on Wednesdays, usually of the singer/songwriter variety. If you're lucky, there are a couple outdoor tables right on U Street. Entrées: $6-12.
- The Saloon, 1207 U St NW, ☎ +1 202 462-2640. A laid-back neighborhood bar with an emphasis on conversation over good beer. The owners have carved a niche (sad that this is a niche) in providing a reasonably quiet and friendly atmosphere, with the music turned down. The owners have a wide variety of quality European beers, but they do not carry any American standards such as Bud or Miller. Beers run $6-$20.
ASEFU Restaurant and Lounge 1920 9th Street, NW DC current home of the infamous dc BOUND the last Friday of the month as well as 2 floors and a deck and great food and drink specials
Live music finds its home in Shaw, particularly around U St. The Black Cat (at 14th and T) and the 9:30 Club (at 9th and V) are two of the city's more prominent venues, playing host to acts including underground hip-hop, indie rock, DJ nights and more.
- The Black Cat.
- 9:30 Club.
- Busboys & Poets, 2021 14th St NW, ☎ +1 202 387-7638 ([email protected], fax: +1 202 387-6138), . M-Th 8AM-midnight, F 8AM-2AM, Su 9AM-midnight. Somewhere between a cafe, a bookstore, and a bar, Busboys & Poets principally serves up hearty portions of leftist politics. Poetry readings and political rants grace the stage, while the food is basic pizza, burgers, some down-home cooking, and sandwiches filled with things like falafel and hummus. Cool place to hang out if you share the vibe. Nine on the Ninth, is an open mike poetry night at 9PM of the 9th of every month. Food: $8-15.
- Love Cafe/Cakelove, 1501 U St NW, ☎ +1 202 588-9800 ([email protected]), . M-Th 9AM-10PM, F 9AM-11PM, Sa 9AM-midnight, Su 9AM-9PM. Cake, cake, cupcakes, and more cake, all baked fresh from scratch. Love cafe is the spinoff coffee shop from the cake shop across the street, which sells what they're baking. (Expect to buy something expensive if you walk into the aromatic bakery.) The bakery/coffee shop was founded by a high-powered downtown lawyer who, apparently, woke up one day and said, "screw this, I'm gonna bake cakes." Live DJs T-W 8PM-10PM. Free Wi-Fi. Desserts: $3-7, sandwiches: $5-10.
- Mocha Hut, 1301 U St NW, ☎ +1 202 667-0616, . 7AM-9PM daily. Light foods with modest prices, complemented by an interesting selection of gourmet coffees, free Wi-Fi, and locals hanging-out. Great hot breakfast served all day, specialties include the frittatas, salmon cakes, Belgian waffles, and scrapple. Poetry open-mic nights every Thursday. Food: $3-6.
- Bohemian Caverns, 2001 11th St, ☎ +1 202 299-0800 (fax: +1 202 299-0803), . shows usually F-Sa 9PM-1AM. In the basement of a large classy establishment, the legendary D.C. caverns live on. The Bohemian Caverns were the place to hear live jazz back in the days when Duke Ellington lived in the neighborhood and the list of legendary musicians and singers who played here is staggering. After the 1968 riots, this club closed down along with virtually all the rest of U street's commercial activity, but it has finally been resurrected and is quite possibly on the way to restoring its former glory. The caverns really feel like a cave, complete with stalactites, quartz walls, and petrified wood tables. The space is small, the audience eclectic and smart, and the stage features the best of D.C.'s local jazz scene, as well as the occasional big name touring act. Get tickets in advance and show up early if you want to sit down. Cover: usually $15.
- HR-57, 1610 14th St NW, ☎ +1 202 667-3700 ([email protected]), . T-Th 8PM-midnight, F-Sa 9PM-1AM. Rightfully included in Down Beat Jazz's list of the world's 100 greatest jazz venues, HR-57 is one of both the coolest and the most eccentric venues in the city for live music. You won't find touring musicians headlining on stage here—the focus is on its jam sessions with the aim of really promoting the growth of D.C.'s local jazz scene. The popular poetry/spoken word jams take over on Tuesday nights. Covers are so low that the place struggles to stay afloat. The strange name comes from a resolution passed in the US House of Representatives declaring jazz a national treasure. It's a large space with couches and chess tables further back from the stage if you want to chat without shouting. Food is limited to a small soul food menu and lemonade, with a BYOB policy that neighborhood regulars have taken to heart. Cover: $5-10.
- Twins Jazz, 1344 U St NW, ☎ +1 202 234-0072 (fax: +1 301 445-4363). T-Th 8PM-midnight, F-Sa 9PM-1AM, Su night jam sessions with very loose hours. Blues Alley steals the headlines, but Twins puts on the best shows in D.C. The sets are long, the touring performers on the weekends (and the local musicians on weekdays) top-notch, the audience sophisticated, and even the food (Ethiopian) is good. Though this club is young, the Twins brand has long been recognized as one of D.C.'s top jazz establishments from their former club (Twins Lounge) in a very off-the-beaten-path neighborhood in the Northeast D.C.. Cover: $10-30 + a 2-drink minimum. Twins will usually turn over the audience between sets for big-name shows on weekends.
- Utopia, 1418 U St NW, ☎ +1 202 483-7669, . Su-Th 11AM-2AM, F 11AM-3AM, Sa 5PM-3AM; Music starts: Su,T-Th ~9PM, F-Sa 11PM. The kitchen at this bar also offers great food for those who are looking for a good dinner in addition to a drink in a fashionable, attractive, art-filled space. More of a bar than a jazz club, but the jazz is still good. The only downside is that the service can be s l o w. Note—no draft beers. Food: $7-15.
Most options are towards Scott Circle in the southwest of the district to obtain that much sought-after advertising blurb, "close to the White House and downtown." But anywhere in that area really is a good place to be, since you'll be near metro stops, principal D.C. restaurant/nightlife scenes in Dupont and U Street, and yes, the White House. It's also a pretty neighborhood with a lot of Victorian architecture—there are some very good small hotel/B&B options here.
- District Hotel, 1440 Rhode Island Ave NW, ☎ +1 202 232-7800, +1 800 350-5759 (fax: +1 202 265-3725), . Fairly bare-bones, they still find their color cable TV to be tout-worthy, and the breakfast gets hate mail, but the price for the location is absolutely fantastic. A very solid option for travelers on a budget who want to be both within walking distance of the Mall and in a neighborhood where locals actually hang out. from $80.
- Aaron Shipman House, 1310 Q St NW, ☎ +1 202 328-3510, +1 877 893-3233 ([email protected]), . A charming, small Victorian B&B by Logan Circle, with a beautiful back porch and gardens for warmer months. There's also an apartment-suite with a full kitchen on the top floor for $220+/night. Spring/Fall: $145-$275, Summer/Winter: $115-205.
- The Embassy Inn, 1627 16th Street, NW, ☎ +1 202 234-7800, +1 800 423-9111 ([email protected], fax: +1 202 234-3309). A small hotel (converted from an apartment in 1919) in a quiet spot just between Dupont Circle and the U Street Corridor. $130-200.
- Hotel Rouge, 1315 16th St NW, ☎ +1 202 232-8000 (fax: +1 202 667-9827), . Boutique hotel with large rooms located just east of Dupont Circle, with a red theme throughout the hotel. Bar/restaurant located on the premises. 24-hour fitness center. Happy hour of red wine, red beer, and red juice served M-F. 5-10 min walk from Dupont Cirlce metro stop. $110-300.
- Washington Plaza Hotel, 10 Thomas Circle NW, 20005, ☎ 202.842.1300 (fax: 202.371.9602), . .Enter a world of friendly, personalized attention at the Washington Plaza. Designed in 1962 by world-famous architect, Morris Lapidus, this landmark hotel in downtown Washington DC creates a splendid balance of cosmopolitan ambiance and unpretentious hospitality -- in a colorful, vibrant location. Step out our front door and view the newly renovated Thomas Circle, part of the city's original L'Enfant Plan. Enjoy a short trek to a treasure trove of museums and monuments. Or experience some of Washington's premier shopping and nightlife.
- Doubletree Hotel, 1515 Rhode Island Ave NW, ☎ +1 202 232-7000 (fax: +1 202 521-7103), . A large upscale hotel that caters particularly to business travelers and lobbyists, as it is a few blocks from K Street and a couple more from the White House. $260-420.
- Holiday Inn, 1501 Rhode Island Ave NW, ☎ +1 202 483-2000, +1 800 465-4329 ([email protected], fax: 1 202 797-1078), . Old reliable. A big upscale chain close to the White House, with a big underground parking garage. Nothing unique about it, but you know you'll be taken care of. $220-260.
- Hotel Helix, 1430 Rhode Island Ave NW, ☎ +1 202 462-9001, . This boutique hotel has sort of a hollywood-retro-pop art thing going on and very international clientèle—a fashionable small hotel in a fashionable location. You'll probably want to dress fashionably to fit in at the lounge. Not a typical "Washingtonian" experience, but D.C. really has little to do with that stereotype anyway. $250-400.
Chances are good you're here for the nightlife, so it wouldn't be surprising if you wanted to hop on to different neighborhood for some more. Dupont Circle and 18th St in Adams Morgan are both within easy walking distance. The Atlas District is a wilder choice, but requires a cab to get from here to there.
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