News & Politics

Best of Columbia Heights and Mt. Pleasant: Local Favorites

Locals talk about their neighborhood’s hidden gems—a farmers market, a corner store, a dog park, and more

Robert Egger likes the coffee at Dos Gringos.

Robert Egger is founder and president of DC Central Kitchen. He has lived in Mount Pleasant for 15 years with his wife and two pugs.

National Zoo
3001 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-633-4888
One of the great secrets of Mount Pleasant is that the grounds of the National Zoo open at 6 in the morning. Any given morning on my walk to work, I’m walking by pandas and elephants. The animals are so alive then, moving around, waiting to be fed.

Best of Columbia Heights & Mount Pleasant

Raven Grill
3125 Mount Pleasant St., NW; 202-387-8411
Since I was a kid, the Raven Grill  has been the ultimate dive bar in DC. There’s nothing better than the kind of belligerent joy that comes from wandering into a place that reeks of alcohol and character.

Dos Gringos
3116 Mount Pleasant St., NW; 202-462-1159
Dos Gringos is a great little store. I get coffee from there quite often. They’re now serving ice cream, and I dig that.

Bestway Supermarket
3178 Mount Pleasant St., NW; 202-265-3768
I’m a tequila man, and you can get five limes for a dollar at the Bestway Supermarket. The place feels just like your classic bodega, only larger.

Mt. Pleasant Farmers’ Market
3200 Mount Pleasant St., NW
I also go to the Mt. Pleasant Farmers’ Market. Two young brothers there make Pleasant Pops, these amazing frozen delights that they sell on the weekends. I try every flavor they have.

Rebecca Medrano is cofounder and executive director of GALA Hispanic Theatre, which began in 1976 and moved to a permanent home in Columbia Heights’ Tivoli building in 2005. She lives in Mount Pleasant with her husband, Hugo Medrano, GALA’s cofounder and artistic director.

The Heights
3115 14th St., NW; 202-797-7227
We go to the Heights  quite often and sit outdoors. The crabcake sandwich is so good I get it every time. Alero (3345 14th St., NW; 202-450-5620), next door to the theater, is Mexican and has an outdoor patio. It’s famous for its margaritas and salsa, and it has great service.

El Rinconcito II
1326 Park Rd., NW; 202-299-1076
When the theater opened in 2005, one of the only restaurants near us was El Rinconcito II, a Salvadoran restaurant with great soups. They are especially delicious in the winter.

Columbia Heights Community Marketplace
14th St. and Park Rd., NW
On Saturdays I go to the Columbia Heights Community Marketplace to get fruits and vegetables from local farms. It also has arts and crafts, with earrings, jewelry, and weavings. It’s at the Civic Plaza, which has become a central focus for people during these warm months. They have concerts, markets, street theater—real attractions for the neighborhood.


3222 11th St., NW; 202-567-7713
Recently at the plaza, I saw a performance by BloomBars, a community arts organization. They have a workshop space where they teach music and painting to young people. It’s a small venue, but it’s always popping with activity. They’re very active in terms of social justice and awareness and have done a lot for youth empowerment in the neighborhood.

John Andrade is owner of the bar Meridian Pint, which opened last year in Columbia Heights.

Room 11
3234 11th St., NW; 202-332-3234
Room 11 is a unique restaurant and wine bar—it’s very small, but the product and service are top-notch. The fact that it’s done in such a quaint, tiny environment captures the essence of 11th Street: a very local, very neighborhood feel.

Red Derby

3718 14th St., NW; 202-291-5000
I’m a huge fan of the Red Derby. It has the distinction of serving only canned beer. Its appeal comes in its simplicity—it’s not trying to be anything more than a little neighborhood place that serves beer in a can. I always get the Combo, a can of Stroh’s and a shot of Jameson for $5. I love craft beer, but there’s something to be said for a simple American beer and tossing it back with a shot of Jameson for five bucks.

3155 Mount Pleasant St., NW; 202-986-7661
I really like Mount Pleasant’s proximity to Rock Creek Park. I’m an avid outdoorsman, so proximity to nature while still being in the city is huge. In terms of restaurants in that neighborhood, I love Tonic. I go for the burger. And the downstairs bar is a great place to watch sports.

Monica Hesse is a writer for the Washington Post Style section. She has lived in Columbia Heights for four years with her husband and Belgian shepherd.

The dog park at 11th Street and Park Road is where I spend most bleary-eyed mornings with other people in their pajamas. It’s not the prettiest park, but people are really invested in it—they’ve made an effort to clean it up and added chicken wire so the dogs don’t escape. They also have an impromptu happy hour when it’s nice outside on Fridays. People bring drinks in plastic cups and sit outside and talk.

Red Rocks
1036 Park Rd., NW; 202-506-1402
Right across the street is Red Rocks, which I think has better pizza than 2 Amys. I’m a fan of the classic Margherita, but I have friends who swear by the pepperoni.

Meridian Pint
3400 11th St., NW; 202-588-1075
Meridian Pint has an amazing breakfast and brunch with lots of vegan options. It has a tofu scramble and orange-flavored vegan French toast that’s really good.

3100 14th St., NW; 202-939-0500
The IHOP is probably the hardest place to get a table at in Columbia Heights. I’m not kidding—it’s the hottest ticket in town. I don’t care what anybody says—you can go to any restaurant in the world and the hash browns will not be better than IHOP’s.

Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats
1370 Park Rd., NW; 202-299-9700
I’m a longtime vegetarian who occasionally flirts with veganism, so another favorite destination is Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats. Everyone goes there for the cupcakes, but the brownies are amazing.

This article appears in the October 2011 issue of The Washingtonian. 

Staff Writer

Michael J. Gaynor has written about fake Navy SEALs, a town without cell phones, his Russian spy landlord, and many more weird and fascinating stories for the Washingtonian. He lives in DC, where his landlord is no longer a Russian spy.