Closest Metro: Dupont Circle on the Red Line.
Dupont Circle sits in the heart of DC, where Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut avenues come together in Northwest DC. The neighborhood surrounding the circle has many charms—the beautiful (and expensive) rowhouses on P and Q streets to the east, the lively bars on Connecticut Avenue to the south, and the impressive embassies to the north along Massachusetts Avenue. Inside the famed circle itself, old men who have occupied the same chess tables for decades join musicians, tourists, and neighborhood residents walking their dogs, eating picnic lunches, or relaxing under the leafy trees.
Comfort One Shoes (1607 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-667-5300). Don’t let the name fool you: this isn’t your grandmother’s shoe store. These shoes give you a chance to walk on the wild side (without getting blisters). The shop features such renowned comfort brands as Earth, Dansko, and Birkenstock but also shows off some surprises like patent-leather pumps and seersucker Chuck Taylors.
The Guitar Shop (1216 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-331-7333). Tucked above a burger spot on busy Connecticut Avenue, the Guitar Shop is a wall-to-wall musical haven for aspiring guitar heroes. The tiny shop stocks 2,000 guitars, including a wide selection of electrics and acoustics and gems like harp guitars and banjitars, a guitar/banjo hybrid. The most rare and expensive instruments are kept behind a locked gate—to be admired but rarely played.
Propper Topper (1350 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-842-3055). Primarily a hat shop featuring a wide selection of fedoras, furry Russian ushankas, and day-at-the-races flowery numbers, Propper Topper also offers a quirky selection of women’s clothing, accessories, and housewares.
Second Story Books & Antiques (2000 P St., NW; 202-659-8884). A labyrinthine store filled floor to ceiling with books, Second Story caters to literary junkies. In addition to rare and out-of-print books, the shop also sells used CDs, records, and DVDs. It even has some special artifacts such as a framed letter to Richard Nixon and his wife and early editions of classics like Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby.
Hank’s Oyster Bar (1624 Q St., NW; 202-462-4265). Tucked away among the brownstones on Q Street, Hank’s is an ideal neighborhood restaurant. In warmer weather, the small dining room is accompanied by patio seating. Enjoy the simple pleasure of raw oysters on the half shell, or sample chef Jamie Leeds’s cooking, which extends beyond seafood with Southern-inspired “meat and two” platters, which change nightly.
Julia’s Empanadas (1221 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-861-8828). Fast food at its finest, the empanadas at this takeout storefront operation are flaky and hot, $3.41 each, and even on the healthy side. Fillings include turkey and spring onion, spinach, and a daily vegan option that’s usually very tasty. Julia’s is conveniently situated among Connecticut Avenue’s popular bars, and stays open till 4 AM on weekends.
Komi (1509 17th St., NW; 202-332-9200). Chef Johnny Monis opened his 38-seat restaurant in a 17th Street rowhouse in 2004, at the age of 24. His Mediterranean-influenced food is daringly, deliciously adventurous (featuring ingredients such as wild boar and roast pigeon) and has achieved an almost cultlike following. Don’t miss the delectable mezzethakia-like warm marscarpone-stuffed dates, a bite that shines as the highlight of many a diner’s meal. If you want to dine at Komi, be sure to plan ahead—the tiny restaurant fills up fast. The maître d’ recommends making reservations at least two months in advance.
Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe (1517 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-387-1400). Every neighborhood needs a good bookstore/coffeehouse, but this one offers even more. It’s open 24 hours on weekends and features a menu that ventures beyond pastries and coffee, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late-night bites, plus Saturday and Sunday brunch. It has a fully stocked bar that includes 18 draft beers and a selection of premium wines. Stop in Wednesday through Saturday night for live music. Oh, and be sure to peruse the book selection while you’re there.
Tabard Inn (1739 N St.,, NW; 202-785-1277). This adorable inn is a perfect spot for brunch—especially if the weather allows for dining in the picturesque courtyard. The short brunch menu, available Saturdays and Sundays, has plenty of tempting offerings, both sweet (toasted pecan waffles) and savory (quiche with crab and leeks).
Zorba’s Cafe (1612 20th St., NW; 202-387-8555). This kitschy restaurant, with plastic fruit-print tablecloths and everything-Greek-goes decor, serves up good Greek dishes on the cheap. The souvlaki and gyros are juicy and flavorful, and don’t miss the spreads for pita: top-notch hummus, baba ghanoush, and taramosalata (whipped cod roe). In nice weather, try to snag a seat on the outdoor patio for prime people watching.