Catherine dubbed herself U Street Girl in December 2008 when she launched a blog of the same name. The twentysomething writer, who keeps her full name under wraps, had just been laid off from her job and was looking for an outlet to keep her creative juices flowing. She landed on a blog about her neighborhood—where she’s lived for three years—when she noticed that few people were writing about it.
“I don’t know a ton about my audience other than my mom, who claims to account for every view I get,” she says. More likely, Catherine’s cadre of readers includes fellow residents and wannabe neighbors who are looking for insider information on what’s happening along U Street.
Catherine keeps them informed with lots of useful content. She stays on top of building renovations and new businesses scouting the area and occasionally falls into historian mode with posts on the neighborhood’s rich past. Regular features include Gourmet on a Budget, in which Catherine posts wallet-friendly recipes, and a local-travel series called Hello From.
We caught up with the neighborhood know-it-all to find out what’s new on U Street. Best takeout? Best roof deck? Best off-the-beaten-path boutique? Read on for Catherine’s answers.
Five words to describe U Street:
“Vibrant, artistic, historic, young, exciting.”
Three reasons to live there:
“(1) The history. It’s everywhere, and we try to celebrate it. (2) The diversity. Whether it’s the restaurants, the cool boutiques, the bars, the art galleries, or the people, U Street is diverse. It’s DC: black, white, poor, rich, old, young—you name it. U Street represents the best of DC. (3) The community. U Street is a real neighborhood, and the people who live here love it. Business owners get to know their regulars, and people smile at you on the street.”
One thing people would be surprised to learn about your neighborhood:
“I’m surprised by how many people don’t know about the history. I’m also surprised that so many of my friends who grew up in the area had never been to Ben’s Chili Bowl. It’s strange to me. I always want to go to the institutions and learn about the history of wherever I am.”
Best takeout option on U Street:
“This is a tough one because I’m not sure there are great options. DC Noodles is good, and I like doing take out from Dukem.”
Where to go on a date:
“Etete because it was the restaurant my boyfriend and I went on our first date. And if your date isn’t game for trying Ethiopian food, they’re probably not much fun.”
Where to grab a drink after work:
“Bar Pilar. Order some food, make friends with the bartender, and get the best wine and food recommendations. I can’t sing Bar Pilar’s praises enough. Also, go to Solly’s just because I love it so much—PBR in a can, good company. Because I go often enough, I have become friends with Solly himself.”
Favorite off-the-beaten-path boutique:
“Legendary Beast! I can’t believe I just went there for the first time a few weeks ago. Everyone, you have to go. Wonderful jewelry, a friendly, knowledgeable owner, and a great location.”
Pick a roof deck: Marvin or Nellie’s.
“They’re both nice when they’re not über-crowded. So I pick both, as long as it’s not 11 PM on a Saturday.”
9:30 Club or Black Cat?
“9:30 Club for bigger shows, and Black Cat for ’80s dance night and small indie bands.”
Cork or Vinoteca?
“I like Vinoteca, but I love Cork. I love the owners, love the food, love the service, love the wine, love the atmosphere. The only thing I don’t love is how difficult it is to get a table.”
Ben’s Chili Bowl or Ben’s Next Door?
“Ben’s Chili Bowl. You just can’t beat the energy or atmosphere in that place. Oh, and the half-smokes. Plus, they play awesome music.”
Shop or business you’d like to see move in:
“A bookstore. Why are there next to no bookstores in DC? I’d love one in the neighborhood. Also, if Georgetown Cupcake wants to open a location, I won’t protest. And some more lunch options would be great—a sandwich shop or something.”
Biggest architectural eyesore:
“The Reeves Center. It’s just ugly. And also, the empty storefronts along 14th and U streets, though thankfully there are fewer and fewer as time goes by.”
One thing about the neighborhood that needs improving:
“This might seem small, but it’s the littering that gets to me. I wish people would show more respect for the neighborhood and throw their trash out in a garbage can. Sometimes it really detracts from enjoying the neighborhood.”
Finish this sentence: “If a reality show was made about U Street residents, it would be called . . . ”
“. . . Diversity in the City, following people of different incomes, races, and walks of life who all live in the same ’hood.”
Where you’d live if you didn’t live in the U Street Corridor:
“Probably H Street, Northeast. Pretty much all of my friends live in that neighborhood, and I’m the lone one holding down the fort on U Street. Beyond that, that neighborhood is just exploding with new ventures. It’s such an exciting place right now.”
Favorite local blog besides your own:
“Of course, Prince of Petworth, 14th & You, and Borderstan, since they cover the same ’hood as me. Also, Free in DC, Metrocurean, and ReadySetDC. Love what all of them are doing.”
Next week, we hop on a bicycle and take a ride with Gregg Deal from District Cycling. Check back Wednesday to find out his favorite bike paths and shops, biggest cycling pet peeves, and what he thinks about Maryland and Virginia drivers.