What To Do
A catalyst for the revitalization of H Street, the former 1938 movie house reopened in 2006 as a community-focused arts organization. It hosts art shows, dance performances, plays, and spoken word. This summer, check out the resident Mosaic Theater Company’s Voices From a Changing Middle East Festival—two plays that delve into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 1333 H St., NE; 202-399-7993.
Gather a group of friends and pay to get locked in a room—really. For $25 a person, you can “Escape the Oval Office,” an hourlong game in which your team puzzles through clues to uncover a White House scandal before time runs out. If that one hits too close to reality, try another option, such as kid-friendly “Escape the Classroom,” in which your group must find the key to get out of school before the last bus leaves. 1322 H St., NE; 202-399-0900.
After a major renovation in 2013, this early-20th-century building—made of the same stone used in the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery—was transformed into an indoor/outdoor community space that hosts art and photography shows as well as music performances. Weather permitting, local jazz artists play free weekend concerts in the courtyard all summer. 1354 H St., NE; 202-649-0210.
Head to this campy haunt for taco- and margarita-fueled competition. After getting your fill of Tex-Mex, partake in a collection of arcade games, including shuffleboard, skeeball, and the main attraction—a nine-hole mini-golf course of tiny DC landmarks. The games are first-come, first-served, but you can wait your turn on the 2,000-square-foot roof deck, the largest on H Street. 1335 H St., NE; 202-399-4722.
When nightlife impresario Joe Englert opened this music venue and bar in an old funeral home in 2006, most of H Street was vacant and you could forget about finding a cab. But his bet paid off—more than a decade later, it remains a staple of the H Street corridor, now lined with other bars and restaurants. Rock & Roll Hotel still packs its upstairs dance floor every weekend, while its first-floor concert hall hosts acts nearly every night of the week. 1353 H St., NE; 202-388-7625.
Where To Eat
Tucked away in the clothing boutique Shopkeepers Gallery is chef Hiro Mitsui’s 15-seat cafe specializing in Japanese com-fort fare that’s rare to find in DC—let alone done so well. Standouts on the small menu include okonomiyaki (mushroom- or pork-laced savory pancakes), fragrant oyakodon rice bowls, and omucurry (omelet with yellow curry). Plus, some of the gorgeous ceramic tableware is for sale. 1231 Florida Ave., NE; email@example.com.
Get your cocktail and dumpling fixes at this haven for Chinese street food and creative libations. Owner Devin Gong (ex-Barmini) takes the chalkboard approach to his drink menu, meaning you may find tiki one night and a half dozen styles of julep the next. Skewers, buns, and pot stickers pad the stomach into the early morning. 1110 H St., NE; 202-241-1952.
Chef Erik Bruner-Yang’s indoor/outdoor emporium is a draw any time of day. Mornings call for the cafe’s Vigilante coffee drinks and pastries, while the shaded courtyard is our preferred spot for Cambodian sandwiches or dim sum brunch on sunny afternoons. Dinner—and that duck bao platter—is a knockout. 1351 H St., NE; 202-838-9972.
What started as a neighborhood bistro has become an H Street destination thanks to chef Sam Adkins’s ambitious seasonal fare. Wednesday fried-chicken dinners are a rare constant on the oft-changing menu, and worth a visit. A lovely 30-seat terrace is tucked in back—perfect for al fresco brunches. 1320 H St., NE; 202-750-6529.
The only Swiss restaurant in DC dishes up more than melty cheese—though there’s plenty of that if you reserve one of two raclette party tables in the rustic space. Chef David Fritsche pays homage to his homeland with specialties including ramp spaetzle, Berner rösti (crispy potato pancakes), and house-made breads. 1324 H St., NE; 202-733-4604.
Where To Shop
H Street residents Beth Rogers and Loren Copsey opened a neighborhood bicycle shop in 2012. Five years on, they’re preparing to move into a new space later this summer—nearly double the size—on the ground floor of the swanky Apollo apartment building, at Sixth and H. Until then, shop their original location for great-for-the-city options, from folding and cargo bikes to models that transition easily from commuting to trailblazing. 1108 H St., NE; 202-396-0704.
One of the city’s longest-running seasonal markets, these booths of produce and gourmet goodies will appear every weekend through mid-December. In addition to fruits and vegetables, you can shop skin-care products from Amalthea Ridge, smoothie bowls from JustJuice, and locally made pickles and kimchee from Number 1 Sons. Open Saturday 9 to 12:30. 13th St. between H and I sts., NE; 202-362-8889.
Maketto can feel a bit disorienting for first-timers. You likely show up expecting a restaurant—but you walk directly into an ultra-hip men’s store. Before continuing to the host stand farther back, it’s worth lingering over the shop’s selection of funky athletic wear from a mix of Japanese, LA, and DC designers. On the shoe wall, you’ll spot more familiar brands like Adidas and Asics. 1351 H St., NE; 202-838-9972.
The store’s name is apropos—it does have an art-gallery quality about it. The serene space, open since January, is stocked with high-end women’s clothing in modern silhouettes, by designers such as Mimi Miller and Vivian Chan. You’ll find occasional pops of blue or red, but most pieces are in shades of black, white, and blush. 1231 Florida Ave., NE; firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Marisa M. Kashino
This article appears in the June 2017 issue of Washingtonian.