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Guide to Cleveland Park

Perched between the National Zoo and Washington National Cathedral in Northwest DC, Cleveland Park—President Grover Cleveland purchased a summer home there in 1886—long has been one of the District’s most desirable neighborhoods, attracting young and old

This Italian restaurant on Connecticut Avenue features an extensive wine list and great dinner specials. All photos by Jasmine Touton.

Closest Metro stops: Woodley Park/National Zoo and Cleveland Park (Red Line)

THE SCENE
In one of the city’s first “streetcar suburbs” you’ll find tree-lined streets with houses—many from the late 19th century—in a mix of architectural styles. Commercial activity is limited to Wisconsin and Connecticut avenues, the latter the site of the 1930 Shop and Park, one of the earliest strip malls. Both corridors offer lively and interesting dining, shopping, and entertainment opportunities.

SHOPPING

Transcendence - Perfection - Bliss (3428 Connecticut Avenue, NW; 202-363-4797). A combination children’s toy store and paper-and-gift shop, Transcendence is an ideal stop on the way to a birthday party. It carries unusual wrapping paper, finger-painted cards, knick-knacks, jewelry, pens—even small plastic puppies or kittens for present toppers. The stuffed giraffe in the window signals an extensive stuffed-animal collection. Also in stock: incense, candles, and lavender soap.

Vace Italian Deli (3315 Connecticut Avenue, NW; 202-363-1999). This carry-out Italian market and deli is often packed with customers browsing the cookie-lined shelves, extensive wine selection, and cases fill with  fresh-cut pasta and cheese. There’s also an array of ready-to-scarf subs and pizzas, including a fresh mozzarella and sun-dried tomato sandwich and pizza with toppings ranging from prosciutto to pine nuts.

Wake Up Little Suzy (3409 Connecticut Ave, NW; 202-244-0700). This eclectic gift shop’s shelves and walls are stocked with simple vases, over-sized mugs, giant glass rings, clothing, and a large selection of reasonably priced jewelry. Another plus is a “toys” section in the back for children big and small.

Spices serves up Asian favorites—fresh sushi, miso soup, and seaweed salad—in a sleek, spacious dining room that’s become a local favorite.

DINING

2Amys (3715 Macomb St., NW; 202-885-5700). Don’t let the line out the door scare you away. This Neopolitan-style pizza kitchen serves up interesting and affordable appetizers like supli (fried risotto balls) and escarole hearts salad, along with some of the most talked-about pies in town. Diners can craft their own pizza, choosing toppings like eggplant and ricotta cheese, or select one from the menu, such as the Norcia Tomato, topped with salami, grilled peppers, fresh mozzarella, and grana. Can’t wait out the crowd at the wine bar? 2Amys takes to-go orders, too. Appetizers are $4 to $7, pizzas $8 to $15.
 
Dino (3435 Connecticut Avenue, NW; 202-686-2966). Owner Dean Gold put together a 48-page wine list for his glass-encased dining room featuring authentic Italian cuisine. On Monday and Tuesday, a three-course menu for $30.08 includes an anitpasto, contorno, salad, or cheese dish to start, an entree, and dessert. Wednesdays, patrons looking for more wine and fewer carbs can get an antipasto trio and three wines for $25.

Foster Brother’s Coffee (3515 Connecticut Avenue, NW;  202-364-7128). This quiet spot has all the hallmarks of a neighborhood coffee joint: three computers up front with Internet access, tables and couches, and a cluster of regulars bending over homework or newspapers. The java shop offers some surprises: panini, fresh orange juice, and original espresso drinks, like the Berrywhite mocha, topped with raspberry and whipped cream, and the Zebra mocha, topped with white chocolate and whipped cream.

Palena (3529 Connecticut Avenue, NW; 202-537-9250). Diners from all over convene at this award-winning restaurant, with its fusion of pricey and moderate dining experiences. The back of the house offers an expensive, fixed-price, three- to five-course dinner that includes the likes of Alaskan crabs, foie gras, and Swiss chard. The front room offers less expensive but not less tasty fare from its $10-to-$18 cafe menu. Among the standouts is the famous Palena gourmet cheeseburger and shoestring fries. Sometimes grilled fresh triggerfish or poillard wow customers with interesting flavor combinations. A wide bar with comfy barstools is a good spot to share a dessert or order fancy cocktails. The Eleanor, a prosseco, blood-orange infused drink, is almost too pretty to drink.

Spices (3333-A Connecticut Ave, NW; 202-686-3833). This roomy Asian restaurant and sushi bar offers a lengthy menu that can balance the extremes of weather outside—and service can be quick. Chilled to the bone? A hot bowl of miso soup with generous portions of tofu or one of the restaurant’s specialty teas could warm your mood. Want to cool down? Grab a seaweed salad, sushi, or rice-paper spring rolls with shrimp, green papaya and fresh mint. Appetizers are $3 to $7, entrees $9 to $15.

ART & FUN

The Aroma Company (3417 Connecticut Avenue, NW; 202-244-7995). This neighborhood lounge and cigar bar—one of the few spots in DC where it’s legal to smoke inside—keeps the eyes entertained with its mosaic bar and bright paintings from local artists. No food is served, but guests can bring their own from the nearby Pho79/Nam Viet or another restaurant. A deejay spins tracks every Friday and Saturday night.

Atomic Billiards (3427 Connecticut Avenue; 202-363-7665): Billiards takes “bar game” to another level: With pool, darts, roughed-up couches, and stacks of board games (including Connect-Four and Sorry!) behind the counter, you’re bound to take part in some form of competition. And while you’re having fun, the brews are affordable, too.

Uptown Theater (3424 Connecticut Avenue; 202-966-5401): Since Warner Bros. opened this Art Deco movie palace in 1936, it has seen countless Hollywood premiers, sold-out houses, and first-run 70mm films on its giant screen. Screen times run early (2:30, 5:15 and 8 PM), making it a good pre-dinner destination or place to wait out large crowds at nearby restaurants.

GREAT ITINERARY
Work up an appetite: Start with a visit to the Washington National Cathedral (3101 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-537-6200). Then head up 36th Street to Macomb Street and stroll through the tree-lined neighborhood to bustling Connecticut Avenue. Drop into Nanny O’Brien’s (3319 Connecticut, NW; 202-686-9189), an Irish pub, and grab a quick snack, salad, or hearty plate of mac ’n’ cheese for lunch. Wander into Magruder’s Grocery (3527 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-237-2531) for a gelato dessert and sit across the street on the bench outside Cleveland Park’s old-fashioned fire station, a prime people-watching spot. Continue down Connecticut Avenue and find an accent piece or gift in the stores interspersed with the many restaurants. Duck into the Uptown Theater if its one-screen showing fits your taste and schedule. If not, paint a pot at All Fired Up (3413 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-363-9590) or stop at Bardeo (3311 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-244-6550) to sample its many wines and cheeses.

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This article is part of Washingtonian's Visitors' Guide. For more articles like it, click here.

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