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Guide to U Street
In Washington’s U Street corridor, you’ll find tons of African-American history—from Civil War soldiers to jazz legends—with hearty servings of shopping, dining, and nightlife on the side. By Catherine Andrews, Emily Leaman, Matt Carr, Ashley Jacobs
U Street, Northwest. All photographs by Ashley Jacobs
Comments () | Published November 19, 2008
Closest Metro: U Street/African-American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo (Yellow and Green lines).

THE SCENE
The U Street corridor—along U Street between Ninth and 18th streets, Northwest—was an artistic mecca in the early 20th century. It was home to Duke Ellington and Langston Hughes as well numerous theaters and music venues that helped make the neighborhood “black Broadway.” After a period of decline due to the 1968 riots, it has regained its status as an artistic and culinary center, and its ties to black culture make it one of the most colorful areas in the city. The center of the neighborhood is the intersection of 14th and U streets, where much of the shopping, dining, and nightlife are located.

SHOPPING

Go Mama Go. Looking for an ecofriendly shop? Look no further than Go Mama Go. This home-furnishings store stocks wares exclusively from fair-trade dealers, and the result is an impressive collection of colorful and affordable dinnerware, wall art, bath soaps, and gifts from local and international designers.

Home Rule. This shop’s varied, funky, and yet tasteful collection of kitchen and bathroom products is a step above your average department-store aisle. From a bright-green trash can for $4.99 to a two-slice toaster for $59.99, Home Rule is full of practical bargains, moderately priced necessities, and occasional higher-priced irrational buys. To wit, the Babyplane: a spoon fitted with removable plastic wings for $16.99.

Nana. This store stocks trendy and colorful vintage-inspired clothing and accessories. The cozy women’s boutique carries stylish apparel from designers such as Pieces of a Girl, Dagg and Stacey, Kelly Lane, and Anastasia Lomonova. And the extensive sale rack isn’t bad, either.

Pulp. If you’re hunting for a notecard or a quick and quirky gift item, head to Pulp. It stocks cards for any and every occasion, and gifts include everything from Urban Smalls baby onesies to shopping bags made from recycled newspaper. Don’t worry about packaging the gift—Pulp also sells a selection of wrapping paper and ribbons.

RCKNDY. This shop (whose name is pronounced “rock candy”) offers a hyper-modern selection of home-decor items, including funky ceramics by Anne Black, sleek furniture by Blu Dot, fragrant bath soaps by Kol Design, and colorful Judy Ross textiles. Popular gifts include Kobo candles ($34) in scents such as jalapeño and Portuguese olive blossom and a hot-pink piggy bank ($95).

Red Onion Records & Books. A great source for finding and rediscovering favorite bands and authors. Stacks of used and new vinyl, CDs, and books fill the shelves and walls of this intimate one-room haven. Take your time browsing because the speakers often blast great music and owners Joshua Harkavy and Alyssa Best are happy to share their tastes.

ShoeFly. This small shop contains a gold mine of funky footwear for both men and women. ShoeFly offers a range of choices from detailed Gola sneakers for men to patterned Naughty Monkey pumps for women.

DINING & NIGHTLIFE

Café Saint-Ex. Happy hour at this cafe, from 5 to 7 on weeknights, isn’t overly popular—but that’s part of its appeal. The long wooden bar usually has a few open seats, and mellow jazz plays just low enough that you can enjoy it while talking with friends. Although wine and Yuengling and Miller bottles are the only featured deals, it’s worth ordering a regular-priced beer from the eclectic selection including Chimay, Peroni, and Delirium Tremens. There aren’t any food specials from the ecofriendly kitchen, which is stocked with local produce, but a plate of fries—sweet-potato or traditional—is only $5, and a fried-green-tomato BLT is $10.

Cork. With 50 wines by the glass and more than 160 by the bottle, this wine bar lives up to its name. The owners intended it to be a neighborhood hangout, but it’s quickly becoming a destination for folks throughout Washington—the frequently long lines are proof of that. If you brave the crowds, you won’t be disappointed, especially if you’re a fan of Rhône wines and Old World varietals. For food, nosh on chef Ron Tanaka’s shareable small plates, which run from $4 to $24. Try the rosemary/chicken-liver bruschetta with shallot marmalade or oil-cured roma tomatoes.

Duffy’s Irish Restaurant & Pub
. Owner Andy Duffy, an Irishman, opened this pub in May 2006. White-painted walls, lined with photos of the Emerald Isle, are trimmed with dark wood, and quotes from Irish notables such as James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, and George Bernard Shaw are stenciled in green. Tealight candles glow from the bar and tables, accompanied by dim overhead lighting. On tap are frothy Guinness stout and an amber Smithwicks, but Strongbow cider comes in a can. Food includes the Irish standbys—fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, and corned beef and cabbage—but also such American fare as Buffalo wings and burgers. The Monday happy hour features $1 domestic cans from 4 to midnight. On Friday and Saturday nights after 9, domestic cans are $2.

Local 16
. Located on the corner of 16th and U streets, this restaurant, lounge, and bar draws crowds on the weekends. Decked out in various shades of red, the dimly lit first floor contains a bar and two rooms with table seating as well as more intimate window seats. Prices are within reason for entrées, ranging from a traditional cheeseburger ($13) to curried tofu ($14) and the more expensive steak frites ($18). Upstairs, an outdoor bar and seating area includes heat lamps that help keep the space open through some of the colder months. The second level also houses an indoor bar where local DJs spin. Check out the all-day $3 Peroni special every Sunday and Monday.

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Posted at 12:00 AM/ET, 11/19/2008 RSS | Print | Permalink | Washingtonian.com Articles