Capitol Hill

Whether it’s Eastern Market or H Street Corridor, Capitol Hill is buzzing with fantastic activities, stores, and, of course, places to eat.

About Capitol Hill

First thing’s first—Capitol Hill is not just one neighborhood. In fact, its boundaries extend into every quadrant of the city, and within them, you’ll find several distinct communities. The historic blocks around Barracks Row and Eastern Market, for instance—with their handsome rowhouses and hole-in-the-wall shops—could hardly feel more different from the slick new eateries and luxe apartment buildings rising around the ballpark in Navy Yard. Head north to H Street, and you’ll find a funkier scene, with offbeat restaurants and plenty of nightlife. Start wherever you want, but all the areas of the Hill are worth exploring.

Where to Eat in Capitol Hill

French toast at Ambar. Photograph by Ardent Vibe.
French toast at Ambar. Photograph by Ardent Vibe.

Barracks Row/Eastern Market

Ambar. You might not automatically think Balkan when making brunch plans, but the $39 all-you-can-eat-and-drink spread here is one of the city’s most popular weekend repasts for a reason. It’s generous, sure, but there are few better times to revel in nap-inducing treats such as creamy spreads with cornbread, cheese and meat pies, veal-and-beef burgers, and of course, mimosas—here splashed with cherry purée and lime juice. 523 Eighth St., SE; 202-813-3039.

Market Lunch. If perusing Eastern Market’s stalls for dinner ingredients has your stomach rumbling, head to this 39-year-old lunch counter. In the morning, go for a scrambled-egg platter topped with fried whiting and sided with grits and toast. Later in the day, it’s all about the crabcake sandwich. 225 Seventh St., SE; 202-547-8444.

Pineapple and Pearls Patio and Cafe. If you don’t have the patience to wait in line at Rose’s Luxury next door, or the cash for a $280 tasting menu in the dining room here, you can experience some of the wonder of Scott Muns’s cooking in the front cafe and on the patio. The cafe slings terrific sandwiches by day (fried chicken, grilled cheese). At night, reserve an outdoor table and linger over Jeff Faile’s marvelous cocktails and one of the new patio snacks, such as sweetbread tacos with white mole. 715 Eighth St., SE; 202-595-7375.

Coffee shops with wifi in DC: Spend a day working and eating at Maketto, which mixes a coffee/pastry shop, bar, and Southeast Asian restaurant--all with free wifi. Photography by Scott Suchman.
Spend a day working and eating at Maketto, which mixes a coffee/pastry shop, bar, and Southeast Asian restaurant–all with free wifi. Photography by Scott Suchman

H Street Corridor

Conbini by Uzu. Tucked away in the clothing boutique Shopkeepers Gallery is chef Hiro Mitsui’s 15-seat cafe specializing in Japanese comfort 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 protected].

Copycat Co.. 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.

Maketto. 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.

Sally’s Middle Name. 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.

Stable. 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.\

We can't get enough of Whaley's seafood towers. Photo by Scott Suchman.
We can’t get enough of Whaley’s seafood towers. Photo by Scott Suchman

Navy Yard

Bluejacket. The Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s brewery turns out IPAs and stouts, but it also experiments with funky sour beers and other unusual creations on its 20-plus draft list. Taster portions, mostly $2 to $3, let you sample a wide range of beers, and a food menu with loaded tater tots and grilled kielbasa makes for ideal pairings. 300 Tingey St., SE; 202-524-4862.

Ice Cream Jubilee. Victoria Lai left her job as a Department of Homeland Security lawyer to open her dream ice-cream shop. Now she’s offering cones filled with unusual flavors such as cardamom/black pepper and honey/lemon/lavender—all made with milk from a local creamery. We’re fans of boozy flavors like bourbon old fashioned and gin-and-tonic sorbet. 301 Water St., SE; 202-863-0727.

Osteria Morini. It’s all about the pasta at this casual Italian eatery from renowned New York restaurateur Michael White. Rigatoni, cappelletti, pappardelle—watch them all being made from the open kitchen or grab a seat on the patio to take in the riverside view. 301 Water St., SE; 202-484-0660.

Whaley’s. This waterfront restaurant serves up one of this city’s best seafood towers, with dreamy sunset views to match. A perfect meal includes the seafood risotto for two and creative crudos. Throughout the summer, check out the tropical-plant-filled “rosé garden” for your fix of pink wine, frozen cocktails, and oysters. 301 Water St., SE; 202-484-8800.

Where to Shop in Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill Books. Photograph by Caroline Cunningham.

Barracks Row/Eastern Market

Capitol Hill Books. An institution as much for its personality as for its books, this used-book shop is built for browsing. Books fill every inch on three levels, from paperbacks in the Mystery Room to foreign-language titles in the bathroom to cookbooks (where else?) on the kitchen sink. Join bibliophiles the second Saturday of every month for wine and cheese. 657 C St., SE; 202-544-1621.

Eastern Market. It’s been around forever (well, actually, since 1873), and you’ve visited many times. But even in a neighborhood now saturated with grocery stores, in a city flush with newer foodie destinations, Eastern Market still more than holds its own. You can shop for artisanal cheeses, fresh pasta, specialty sausage, pastries, and flowers. Outside every weekend, you’ll find local farm stands and the bustling market of artists and crafters. 225 Seventh St., SE; 202-698-5253.

Hill’s Kitchen. Heaven for serious chefs, weekend dabblers, and gift-givers alike. Bestsellers include cookie cutters and cutting boards in the shape of DC and every state but Hawaii. The shop carries brands such as All-Clad and Waring, plus aprons and towels, gadgets and knives, barware and cookware, cookbooks and seasonal goodies. 713 D St., SE; 202-543-1997.

Howl to the Chief. Whether your dog is yelping hello to our new commander in chief or lifting his leg, he’ll enjoy the frosted elephants and donkeys in this pet store’s baked-goods section. Stop by for a cool pumpkin frozen-yogurt cup, Nats hoodies for your four-legged fan, and Trump and Putin dog toys. 733 Eighth St., SE; 202-544-8710.

Labyrinth Games & Puzzles. Newly expanded, this mom-and-pop is an antidote to our wired world. Pick up classics like Monopoly, Twister, Candyland, or Clue, or some of today’s big sellers, such as Catan or Exploding Kittens. Labyrinth hosts a huge used-game sale with live and silent auctions every summer (this year’s is July 22 and 23) and is known for its game nights most evenings. 645 Pennsylvania Ave., SE; 202-544-1059.

H Street Corridor

The Daily Rider. 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.

FreshFarm H Street Market. 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 Store. 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.

Shopkeepers Gallery. 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; [email protected]

Navy Yard

Conte’s Bike Shop. With the recent expansion of the nearby Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, it’s the perfect time to clip in and pedal. Or for $7,000, you can cruise on a Stromer’s electric bike. The new shop, which opened in the luxe Arris apartment building, also carries bikes (the kind you have to pedal) by Cannondale, BMC, Giant, and Niner. Maintenance classes and organized rides are coming soon. 1331 Fourth St., SE; 202-558-9866.

Evo Furniture Gallery. Here you’ll find American-made furniture built for small city living, with 400 custom fabric and color options. Trending these days: funky accent chairs, sofas/sectionals in shades of gray and blue, and textured synthetic fabrics such as herringbone weave. Couches start at $999, chairs at $599. 301 Tingey St., SE; 202-488-6298.

FreshFarm Capitol Riverfront Farmers Market. New to the neighborhood, this market features local produce, meat, cheese, bread, beer, handmade soaps, and coffee. Open Sunday 10 to 2 through September 24. 200 M St., SE; 202-362-8889.

Pacers Running. Get fitted for a running shoe, pick up a “Runnerd shirt,” or show your District spirit with DC-flag tanks and tees. Even if you’re not in the market for new gear, you can join one of the morning or evening social runs organized by the shop. 300 Tingey St., SE; 202-554-1216.

Things to Do in Capitol Hill

Photograph courtesy of the Washington Nationals Baseball Club.

Barracks Row/Eastern Market

Eastern Market Pottery. The studio has offered pottery instruction on the Hill for nearly 50 years. In weekday and evening classes, students use the wheel and learn decorating and glazing techniques. The studio is open for students to use on Saturdays and for public visits every weekend. 225 Seventh St., SE; 202-544-6669.

Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital. This cultural center brought new life to a vacant building that once was a naval hospital for veterans of the Civil and Spanish-American wars. You’ll find classes and programs as diverse as Cambodian cooking, sewing basics for kids, readings, and meditation. 921 Pennsylvania Ave., SE; 202-549-4172.

Marine Barracks Friday Parades. A rare opportunity to see the lovely grounds of the Marine Barracks, these free summer-evening performances feature the President’s Own Marine Band, the Drum and Bugle Corps, the color guard, the silent drill platoon, and Chesty XIV, the bulldog mascot. Request reservations online. Eighth and I sts., SE;

The Miracle Theatre. This 1909 vaudeville and silent-film house reopened a year ago with 1920s seats, pressed-tin ceilings, and a balcony. Owned by National Community Church, it features almost-new movies like La La Land and favorites such as The Princess Bride, heavy on family-friendly fare. Showings Friday through Sunday. 535 Eighth St., SE; 202-400-3210.

H Street Corridor

Atlas Performing Arts Center. 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.

The Escape Lounge. 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.

Gallery O on H. 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.

H Street Country Club. 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.

Rock & Roll Hotel. 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.

Navy Yard

Ballpark Boathouse. Paddling along the Navy Yard and the Yards Park will give you a new perspective on the Anacostia River. Renting a kayak ($16 an hour for a single, $22 for a double) or canoe ($25 an hour), you can hear cheers from Nats Park, enjoy a Friday-night concert from the water, and, if you’re lucky, spot river wildlife. Potomac Ave. and First St., SE; 202-337-9642.

Capitol Riverfront Outdoor Movie Series. Pack your picnic and head to the north side of Canal Park every Thursday for free movies this summer, including classics such as Grease and Sister Act as well as recent blockbusters like Arrival and Rogue One. The series begins in June; showtime at sundown. Canal Park, Second and I sts., SE.

Nationals Park. Since it opened in 2008, Nats Park has helped springboard surrounding Navy Yard into the fastest-growing neighborhood in DC. The stadium seems to evolve every season along with its environs. This year’s additions include a mojito cart, gourmet tater tots at the new food stall See You Tater, and MLB’s Ballpark app—download it to your phone and get special deals (such as upgraded seats), order concessions without waiting in line, and play along with your favorite Racing Presidents. 1500 S. Capitol St., SE; 202-675-6287.

Trapeze School New York. Channel your inner circus performer. If the idea of jumping off a 23-foot-high platform has you shaking in your safety belt, skip trapeze and learn another skill, such as trampoline, juggling, or acrobatic partner-balancing. TSNY’s local branch offers kids a special one-day circus experience as well as summer camps, culminating in performances for proud parents. 1299 New Jersey Ave., SE; 202-479-6861.

Washington Navy Yard Tour. New this year, the National Museum of the United States Navy is organizing free, two-hour walking tours of the Navy Yard. The next is July 17 at 10 am. Registration required; e-mail [email protected] or call 202-433-4882. 805 Kidder Breese St., SE.

Photos of Capitol Hill

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