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Cool Comeback: Best of H Street
In 2006, the historic Atlas Theater reopened, sparking a renaissance that has transformed Northeast DC’s H Street area into a magnet for bars and restaurants. Here are the best places along this lively corridor to eat, drink, and see art.
Photograph of Conner Contemporary Art courtesy of Conner Contemporary Art
1 Steins, Sports, and Schnitzel
Biergarten Haus (1355 H St., NE; 202-388-4085), Washington’s only German-style beer hall, can seat 300 at the communal tables in its rear courtyard. The two-story bar keeps a dozen German pilsners, lagers, and hefeweizens on tap, and the kitchen serves Bavarian comfort food such as sauerkraut and bratwurst. NFL and college football, hockey, and soccer games play on seven large flat-screens. Matches are also shown outside on projection screens.
Photo Courtesy Rock & Roll Hotel
2 Discover a Hot Band
No rooms are for rent at the two-story Rock & Roll Hotel (1353 H St., NE; 202-388-7625), but the downstairs stage draws on-the-verge acts such as Maria Taylor and Odd Future, and tickets are almost always less than $15. When sold-out shows get cramped, retreat to the big upstairs bar, where winged guitars fly across the ceiling and three low-lit side rooms are filled with vintage furniture.
3 Pass the Pie
The Harley-Davidson-inspired sign tells you Dangerously Delicious Pies (1339 H St., NE; 202-398-7437) isn’t your grandma’s pie shop. For one thing, it’s open until 3:30 am on weekends. Despite the bad-boy image, the Baltimore-born company knows how to make old-fashioned, deep-dish pies. There are plenty of classics—banana-cream, chocolate chess—plus a few savory varieties. If you have a serious sweet tooth, order the Baltimore Bomb, laden with chocolate-frosted Berger cookies and custardy vanilla filling.
4 Bar Games Galore
Khakis and polos pour in by the cabful at H Street Country Club (1335 H St., NE; 202-399-4722), the neighborhood’s only preppy hangout. Skeeball, shuffleboard, and Xbox Kinect keep bargoers entertained while they wait for a shot on the upstairs mini-golf course ($7 a person), where the holes include obstacles such as K Street lobbyists and gargoyles from Washington National Cathedral.
5 Cultural Hub
The Atlas Performing Arts Center (1333 H St., NE; 202-399-7993) was built as a movie theater in 1938. Today the nearly 60,000-square-foot renovated space houses three dance studios (managed by resident partner Joy of Motion Dance Center) and four performance spaces that host a mix of plays, dance classes and shows, jazz concerts, and films.
6 Modern Dandy
Modern-day Jay Gatsbys and Daisy Buchanans will feel at home at Smith Commons (1245 H St., NE; 202-396-0038), where oversize houndstooth chairs sit against large windows and high-back couches are propped in front of the fireplace. Food can be hit-or-miss, so go for a brown-liquor cocktail—we like the lime-and-bourbon Tarboro Viking and the ginger-infused Guava McGauvington.
7 Cozy and Casual
Mussels and fries are no-brainers at Granville Moore’s (1238 H St., NE; 202-399-2546), which once housed the neighborhood doctor after whom the Belgian gastropub is named. Plump mollusks arrive at the table swimming in sauces—choices include the decadent Bleu, with blue cheese and pork belly, and the Jalfrezzi, a spicy coconut-milk-sweetened curry. These hold their own winningly alongside a long list of robust Belgian brews.
8 Cool Dive
The rules at the Pug (1234 H St., NE; 202-388-8554) tell you all you need to know: “No idiots. No bombs. No shooters. No specials. No politics. Relax. Drink. Be Cool. Behave.” You’re not coming for high-concept cocktails in long-stemmed glasses. Instead you’ll wash down your whiskey with a $3 can of Natty Boh, then settle into worn leather booths and stadium seats brought in from the now-closed Orpheum Cinema in Baltimore.
9 Really Good Ramen
The fact that graffiti-splashed Toki Underground (1234 H St., NE; 202-388-3086) has only 24 stools means it’s ideal for a quick solo fuel-up, as diners would do at a ramen shop in Tokyo. But this is Washington, and Toki is one of the few places to get a bowl of the comforting noodle soup, which can mean long lines. The classic ramen with pork loin, plates of beef dumplings, and surprisingly good cocktails are worth the wait.
10 Dance the Night Away
The upstairs dance floor at Little Miss Whiskey’s Golden Dollar (1104 H St., NE; no phone) may be small, but that doesn’t stop people from packing it full. During our favorite weekend dance parties, DJs spin a Michael Jackson-heavy mix of ’70s soul and funk beneath pink and purple lights, while the first and third Wednesdays of the month are known for Kostume Karaoke. Don’t miss the spiked slushie, called the Awesomeness. Cash only.
11 Sophisticated Newcomer
The Atlas Room (1015 H St., NE; 202-388-4020) is everything a neighborhood restaurant should be: It’s cozy and welcoming, ambitious without being flashy, and it knows how to mix a good cocktail. The menu is eclectic, featuring marjoram-flecked seafood chowder alongside short-rib ravioli and pork loin with chili-caramel sauce.
Photo By Erik Uecke
12 Piled-High Burgers
The Big Board (421 H St., NE; 202-543-3630) opened three months ago and got most of its attention with a gimmick: a stock-exchange-inspired pricing board for its many beers (the more a certain brand is ordered each night, the more the price drops). But stick around for the burgers, which come in such over-the-top combinations as the Straight Outta’ Dublin, a Guinness-marinated patty topped with cheddar, cabbage, and whiskey-stoked gravy.
13 Good for Groups
Ethiopian eating is meant to be communal, so if you’re traveling in a pack, look to Ethiopic (401 H St., NE; 202-675-2066) for the area’s best rendition of the cuisine. Settle in around big platters of injera—the rolls of spongy, slightly sour bread are used in place of utensils—and share cool, spicy lentil and chickpea salads and assertively spiced doro wat, a chicken stew. The cozy dining room is a nice respite from the neighborhood’s bar scene.
14 Avant-Garde Art
After eight years in Dupont Circle, Conner Contemporary Art (1358 Florida Ave., NE; 202-588-8750) moved to a space just north of H Street in 2008. The gallery focuses on cutting-edge midcareer and emerging multimedia artists. Don’t miss the popular annual exhibit “Academy,” at which outstanding BFA and MFA students from Washington and Baltimore schools show their work.