The African-American Civil War Memorial
Shaw is a North Central neighborhood just east of Dupont Circle and south of Adams Morgan, but with a history and culture rooted firmly to the D.C.'s African-American history that could not be mistaken for those other neighborhoods. In recent years it has rapidly become one of the most diverse sections of the city, with everyone moving in for the live jazz, bars, and high-end nightclubs on U St and 14th, and for the marvelous food, including the amazing Little Ethiopia strip.
The U Street Corridor is a vibrant collection of shops, restaurants, nightclubs and galleries stretching from 9th Street in the east to 18th Street in the west. It has been the center of Washington's African-American nightlife for much of the 20th century, as well as the birthplace of jazz great Duke Ellington. 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 (America's largest until overtaken by Harlem in 1920). Following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, 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 flight of residents and businesses from the area, the U Street Corridor succumbed to urban blight.
Since the early 1990s 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 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 St. 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 the southeast corner of 13th & U St NW, and on 10th Street, south of U.
Plenty of bus routes service U St, although figuring out where they'll take you can be difficult!
The X3  is a very convenient express route heading west from U St/Cardozo through Adams Morgan to the National Zoo.
#52, #53, and #54  all run along 14th St NW straight from the Mall and up to the Columbia Heights metro stop.
#S1, #S2, and #S3  run up along 16th St NW from the north end of the White House through U St, and on all the way up through Carter Baron and on to Silver Spring, MD.
The D.C. Circulator Woodley Park-Adams Morgan-McPherson Square Metro Station "Green" line runs Su-Th 7AM-midnight, F-Sa 7AM-3:30PM. It has two stops on 14th St, one at U and one at Massachusetts just west of Logan Circle. It comes up from downtown, and goes north through Columbia Heights and Adams Morgan and then on to Woodley Park.
By car, the main streets are 14th, R, 9th, and Florida. North Capitol is a good and relatively uncongested artery heading north towards Maryland and the Beltway. Avoid driving on U St, 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. Throughout Shaw, and really throughout most all of north-central D.C., smash-and-grab robberies of parked cars are more common than you'd like.
- 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.
- House of the Temple, 1733 16th St NW, ☎ +1 202 232-3579, . M-Th 10AM-4PM (usually on the hour). A Masonic Temple, the headquarters of the Scottish Rite, and a prominently featured location in Dan Brown's latest novel, The Lost Symbol. It's almost absurdly grand, pretty easily outshining the similar Supreme Court Building downtown, and there's nary a Washingtonian around who hasn't at some point walked by it, surprised by this enormous but unidentified building. Courtesy of the author of the Da Vinci Code, though, everyone will from this point on know what the building is. The interior is a wild Orientalist fantasy in way that only the Masons could bring to life, and is open to the public for tours and exhibits. Following The Lost Symbol's publication, the previously empty tours are now filled with crowds—early morning is the best time to avoid them. Free.
- 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]), . M-F 8:30AM-8PM, Sa 10AM-3PM. 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 that he formulated his opinion for the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision here. On the first floor, the Shaw Heritage Trust maintains an exhibit portraying the living history of African Americans in the Shaw Community. Free.
- 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.
- Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St NW, ☎ +1 202 332-3300, . shows usually: W-F 8PM, Sa 2PM, 8PM, Su 2PM, 7PM. The Studio Theatre can lay claim to being the vanguard of D.C. Theatre. It's spacious, modern, comfortable, and puts on absolutely top-notch contemporary dramatic performances. If what's playing here appeals to you at all, make a night here a priority. $35-70, discounts available per website.
The Studio Theatre by the galleries on 14th
Friendship Heights and Georgetown have a lock on the capital's conventional, high-end shopping, but U St is the place for the more funky, local, boutique shopping that you probably never expected to find in D.C. The same goes for the 14th St art gallery scene, which has by far the most exciting contemporary exhibits in the city. If you are up for some seriously exotic shopping, head down 9th from U to sample the various Ethiopian video/record stores and food markets (and don't miss the delightful Convention Floral at 1920 9th St NW).
- Blink Optical, 1431 P St NW, ☎ +1 202 234-1051 ([email protected]), . M-F 11AM-8PM, Sa 11AM-6PM, Su 11AM-5PM. A small store with a small selection of very high quality designer glasses, for a price, naturally.
- Caramel Fashion, 1603 U St NW, ☎ +1 202 265-1930, . Th-F noon-9PM, Sa 11AM-7PM, Su noon-6PM. An "eco-friendly" boutique sporting men's and womens' clothing from lesser-known designers. Their casual clothes are noticeably stylish, but still the type you'd feel comfortable wearing while walking down the street daytime.
- Circle Boutique, 1736 14th St NW, ☎ +202 518-2212, . T-F noon-8PM, Sa 11AM-8PM, Su noon-6PM. 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.
- Dekka, 1338 U St NW (2nd floor), . Tu-F 1PM-7:30PM, Sa-Su 10AM-7:30PM. A boutique run by an artist collective of designers, visual artists, and even musicians, offering funky fashions from only local designers, well-hidden off street-level in a townhouse! The unique jewelry here is especially popular (and affordable). Your boyfriend can even stay happy here, as they have a "listening station" where anyone can check out the really interesting selection of music they have for sale.
- Junction, 1510 U St NW, #B, ☎ +1 202 483-0261. W 3PM-7PM, Th-Sa noon-7PM, Su noon-5PM. One of the better vintage stores in the city, with a rather small, but thoughtful selection at better prices than you'd find for this quality in most vintage stores.
- Nana, 1528 U St NW, ☎ +1 202 667-6955, . M-Sa noon-6PM, Su noon-5PM. Perhaps the most consumer friendly boutique on U St. Nana has a still fashionable, but less eccentric selection, renowned customer service, and a rather less pretentious crowd.
- 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.
Founders Library, the symbol of Howard University
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. In the late 80s and early 90s the area was better known for buying drugs, but today 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. A smaller gallery focused on contemporary photography and digital prints.
- Curator's Office, Suite 201, ☎ +1 202 387-1008 ([email protected], fax: +1 202 387-1006), . W-Sa noon-6PM. This is in fact the Curator's Office—she's devoted a wall and a half of her small room to small exhibitions.
- G Fine Art, Suite 200, ☎ +1 202 462-1601 ([email protected]), . T-Sa 11AM-6PM. The building's most popular stop, which sees some exceptional photography exhibits, and which hosts very well-received opening receptions.
- Hemphill Fine Arts, Suite 300, ☎ +1 202 234-5601, . T-Sa 10AM-5PM. The block's swankiest gallery, which usually exhibits contemporary works by more established artists.
- Gallery Plan B, 1530 14th St NW, ☎ +1 202 234-2711 ([email protected]), . W-Sa noon-7PM, Su 1PM-5PM. A delightfully casual space, with exhibitions that tend towards the quirky and humorous.
- Irvine Contemporary, 1412 14th St NW, ☎ +1 202 332-8767 ([email protected]), . T-Sa 11AM-6PM. Run by a Georgetown professor, and dedicated to works by emerging artists.
- Transformer Gallery, 1404 P St NW, ☎ +1 202 483-1102 ([email protected]), . W-Sa 1PM-7PM. A non-profit gallery whose mission is to provide opportunities for emerging artists, focused on new, experimental works.
- Greater Goods, 1626 U St NW, . Tu-Sa 11AM-8PM, Su 11AM-6PM. D.C.'s greenest store, specializing in a whole wide range of eco-friendly home goods, as well as items designed to raise awareness of how you can minimize your carbon footprint, decrease waste, etc. The book section is also worth a browse, and the owner is very friendly.
- Ruff & Ready Furnishings, 1908 14th St NW, ☎ +1 202 667-7833. Sa-Su 11AM-6PM. Lying somewhere between an indoor flea market and a nice antique store, this place is a lot of fun for browsing! Items range from very cheap to very expensive, and you'll be wading through the dust and clutter.
- Simply Home, 1412 U St NW, ☎ +1 202 986-8607, . Su-Th 11PM-10PM, F-Sa 11PM-11PM. Eat. Drink. Shop. Yes, it's a good place for upscale Thai, cocktails, eccentric gift shopping, and equally eccentric t-shirts. Food: $13-20.
Shaw is a great place for two types of food: Soul and African. Especially African. Little Ethiopia on 9th St just south of U is incredible, offering excellent meals, often less than $10, of a quality that you would be hard pressed to find anywhere else outside of Addis. There are some 200,000 plus Ethiopians in the area, the largest population anywhere outside the motherland, and this is the epicenter of their community. (To brush up on your Ethiopian dining etiquette, see the overview article.)
Given how stylish this neighborhood has become in recent years, it's a bit surprising that it is still a little low on high-end restaurants—perhaps it's because they can't compete with the excellent ethnic restaurants? But if that's your kind of dish, you can find it in droves just west in Dupont Circle, just south in the East End, or look in some of the upscale clubs.
D.C. townhouses in Little Ethiopia
- Ben's Chili Bowl, 1213 U St NW, . M-Th 11AM-2AM, F-Sa 11AM-4AM, Su noon-8PM. A U St 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. If you want to say you've been, but want something fancier, look next door for Ben's Next Door, which is a nice bar/restaurant built by the owners looking to capitalize on their ever increasing fame. $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 capital's most famous diner, a no-nonsense soul food diner since 1944 (it survived the riots by grace of the vigilant owner's shotgun). Make no mistake, the food here is good, but it's not the best—it's popular enough where they don't try as hard as some other lesser-known establishments. But still, you will want to be able to say that you've been here, and its a good place to spot politicians national and local. $5-12.
- Henry's Delicatessen, 1704 U St NW, ☎ +1 202 265-3336. T-F 10:30AM-9PM, Sa 7:30AM-9PM, Su 7:30AM-8PM. Now here is some good down-home cookin'! Despite having been here for about 50 years, this is one of those hole-in-the-walls that even locals seem to have missed. They're missing out—Henry serves up some of the best smothered pork chops, wings, and yams you will find anywhere outside of the South. Mostly take-out, but there is a small, barebones seating area. $3-8.
- Negril, 2301 Georgia Avenue NW, ☎ +1 202 332-3737, . M-Th 10:30AM-10PM, F-Sa 10:30AM-11PM. Decent and inexpensive Jamaican food. Try the chicken fricassee and the rum cake. $6-10.
- Sumah's, 1727 7th Street NW, ☎ +1 202 462-7309. 10AM-11PM daily. 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 two–three 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. $14-16.
- Torrie's Restaurant, 700 V St NW, ☎ +1 202 462-3700. M,W-Th 7AM-5PM, F-Sa 7AM-8PM, Su 7AM-6PM. Right across from the hospital, this diner isn't half as well known as the Florida Ave Grill, but it should be. Torrie's has as good a claim as any to have the best soul food in the whole metro area. This is one place where the whole menu is good, and you don't really need recommendations, but the steak & egg breakfast, chitlin's, and fried chicken livers rank among the most popular. $3.25-12.
- Zenebech Injera, 608 T St NW, ☎ +1 202 667-4700. 9AM-10PM daily. Little Ethiopia's dive restaurant. Has only two tables, but does a thriving carryout business among the cab drivers. It's cheaper than most of the options on 9th St, and spicier too—while the tables won't impress a date, the food here is unbeatable. Kitfo (raw beef) is probably their number one dish. $6-8.50.
- 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 solid, if of variable quality. But the real reason to come is for the daily late-night 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. The gold standard in D.C.'s Ethiopian scene, by which all other Ethiopian must be compared. Nice ambiance, excellent service, and top-notch quality for all the favorite dishes. $8-18.
- Lalibela, 1415 14th St NW, ☎ +1 202 265-5700. 9AM-11PM daily. Lalibela is closer to Dupont than to Little Ethiopia, but the food is authentic and delicious. Pleasant outdoor seating remedies the dark interior, and is indeed the main reason to come here as opposed to the otherwise superior options on 9th St. $8-14.
- Queen Makeda, 1917 9th St NW, ☎ +1 202 232-5665. 11AM-1AM daily. Close to Etete, but far less crowded, this is often-named the sleeper choice by serious D.C. foodies. Gored Gored (raw beef), Shiro (ground chickpeas), and Misir (red lentils) are house specialties. They have an alarming tendency, though, to tone down the spices for anyone who doesn't have the look, so if this is a problem for you, tell them not to. $8-14.
- 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.
- Tabaq Bistro, 1336 U St NW, ☎ +1 202 265-0965, . M-Th 5PM-11PM, F-Sa 5PM-midnight, Su 11AM-4PM. A nice, trendy Mediterranean restaurant/lounge, with a successful menu most notable for its fish and small-plate dining. The retractable-glass-enclosed rooftop deck has a great view, and is a pretty perfect spot on U St for cocktails. $25-45.
- Thai X-ing, 515 Florida Ave NW, ☎ +1 202 332-4322, . Tu-Su 4PM-10PM. Some of D.C.'s best Thai food served in the city's strangest "restaurant." There is one cook, Taw, and this is basically his house. Fortunately he's expanded a bit to include his front yard, where there are a few tables on the street. Since it's a one man show, and everything is cooked to order, expect a long wait—bring good interlocutors, a book, or a laptop (free wifi!). Safe to say, this has been discovered by D.C.'s foodies, and the prices have gone up, and you'll need to make reservations relatively far in advance for weekends. Taw has also changed the weekend menu to a noticeably more expensive chef's choice prix fixe, which has allowed him greater creativity—and that's decidedly a good thing. $18-35, Prix fixe: F-Sa $40, Su $30.
A true landmark of black Washington and the
place for half smokes in the city
U St is a post-1968-apocalyptic strip no more. In the past fifteen years it has recaptured its former glory and then some—this is the place in the city for live music. Its clubbing scene is not as popular, nor as trendy, as those of nearby Adams Morgan or Dupont, but it can be a really nice change of pace from those. It's a bit older, less caffeinated, and dare one say it, more sophisticated. R&B dance parties draw the neighborhood folks, fashion-forward, and Howard University crowds; the indie rock clubs draw the hipsters and punks; coffee shops draw the communists; and the jazz clubs just bring anyone who appreciates a night of world-class and sophisticated music.
- 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.
- ChurchKey (Birch & Barley), 1337 14th St NW (2nd floor), ☎ +1 202 567-2576, . M-F 4PM-1:30AM, Sa-Su noon-2:30AM. Beer selection is without a doubt the primary reason to come here, with a list of some 50 craft brews on tap and 500 bottles of beer on the wall. Ambiance would be a distant second—it's a really classy, stylish bar, but the place is generally so immensely crowded that you won't be able to sit, much less chat with the friendly and very knowledgeable bartenders (M-W nights are best). Happy hour is busy and a good time to meet people. Downstairs is Birch & Barley, which serves the full beer menu and has excellent contemporary American dinner plates. Since you can reserve a table downstairs, that can be a good bet if you don't want to brave the crowds upstairs.
- 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 St. 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.
- The Gibson, 2009 14th St NW, ☎ +1 202 232-2156. M-Th 6PM-1AM, F-Sa 6PM-2AM, Su 6PM-1AM. According to legend, Mr. Gibson asked the bartender to serve him "an improvement upon the perfect martini." The wise bartender opted not to tamper with the simple perfection of gin and vermouth, but rather replaced the olive garnish with a small slice of onion. Thus was the Gibson born. Its namesake bar is D.C.'s favorite unadvertised speakeasy—you ring the buzzer to get in. Although, the Gibson has a strict policy of not allowing more people inside than there are seats (no standing), so if you plan a weekend visit, you should definitely make a reservation before 5PM. It's beautiful inside, dimly lit and elegant, and the cocktails are renowned as some of the city's very best, mixed by true experts.
- 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. Popular with those wanting to dance or meet singles. Happy hour runs weekdays 5:30PM-8PM, and the house DJs spin F-Sa 10PM-1AM.
- The Saloon, 1207 U St NW, ☎ +1 202 462-2640. Tu-Th 11AM-1AM, F 11AM-2AM, Sa 2PM-2AM. 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.
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 most prominent music venues, playing host to plenty of national rock and hip hop acts.
- 9:30 Club, 815 V St NW, ☎ +1 202 265-0930, . doors open: 6PM-11:30PM. The capital's flagship music venue. Check the calendar first, but know that the acts will be big. It's very small by big-name concert venues, but big by D.C. standards, boasts top-notch lighting and sound systems, and expensive booze. The place is small enough where you are going to have a great view no matter where you are standing. cover: $10-60.
- The Black Cat, 1811 14th St NW, ☎ +1 202 667-7960, . Su-Th 8PM-2AM, F-Sa 7PM-3AM. D.C.'s "second" club, which also plays host to some big names, but usually features indie-rock and underground hip hop. The sound system certainly suffers compared to the 9:30 Club, but the covers are lower, and there's more to do here: in addition to the live music, they have another room for DJs and dancing, one for shooting pool, and another for a vegetarian cafe! cover: $5-30.
- The Velvet Lounge, 915 U St NW, ☎ +1 202 462-3213, . Su-Th 7:30PM, F-Sa 9PM. Probably D.C.'s diviest venue for music—to the point where you might legitimately worry about falling through the floorboards of the tiny performance space. Shows are often local, and in addition to the standard indie rock, punk, and dance music, feature D.C.'s premiere experimental acts. Su-Th there's no cover to enter the downstairs bar, so you can sample the music first to see if you want to pay to go upstairs. cover: free-$10.
- 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.
- 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 St'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, 816 H St NE, ☎ +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 of the city. 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.
General John Logan, Union general, in Logan Circle
Most options are towards Scott Circle in the southwest of Shaw 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 St, 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 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.
- Cardozo Guest House, 13th & T Streets NW, ☎ +1 202 328-3510, +1 877 893-3233, . Guest house in a beautiful home with comfortable rooms (most with shared bathrooms). This isn't a typical B&B as no breakfast is served and sometimes your only company at the guesthouse may be other guests. There are no cooking facilities (except in the Cardozo Guest House apartment), and you also won't find internet access, TV or telephones in bedrooms. What you do get, however, is to spend your time in a safe home on a quiet street in a lively neighborhood with plenty of entertainment and restaurants, and you'll be only a few blocks away from the U Street Metro Station. $65-$185.
- 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 St 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. Five-ten min walk from Dupont Circle metro stop. $110-300.
- 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.
Many locals have an impression of Shaw as being somehow very dangerous and run down. Rest assured that this impression is either outdated or just uninformed—it's as safe as Adams Morgan, and being, as it is, home to an impressive share of the city's high-end shopping and nightlife, it most certainly is not run down. That said, this is D.C., and the North Central neighborhoods are all places that have a significant problem with muggings, particularly around the nightlife districts.
U St is a fabulous nightlife destination, one of the best in the city, so plenty of visitors to the area will be here well after dark, and need to remain vigilant (especially after drinking). If you are in a group of three or more, you are unlikely to have any problems. If you are not, avoid walking on dark side streets; even some more well-traveled areas like 9th St and parts of Florida Ave can get a little too quiet after midnight. Drunken club goers stumbling out of the 9:30 Club and Black Cat are often targeted for petty theft—keep an eye on your belongings, and remember to refocus your alertness upon leaving the club. And the bums, while annoying, will usually stop bugging you if you keep up your pace and just give them a polite smile and a "sorry."
The good options for surfing the internet in this area are coffee shops or the neighborhood library.
- Shaw Library, 1630 7th St NW, ☎ +1 202 727-1288, . M,W 1PM-9PM, Tu,Th-Sa 9:30AM-5:30PM.
- 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 or free shuttle from Chinatown to get from here to there.
- If you want to delve further into D.C.'s African-American history, next stop Anacostia!
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