U Street Corridor neighborhood guide

Your guide to U Street Corridor in DC, including local restaurants and bars, arts and entertainment and things to do

Photograph: Worn Creative
Brixton

Known during the Jazz Age as America's 'Black Broadway', the neighborhood around U Street became an African American cultural powerhouse during the 1920s and '30s. Poet Langston Hughes and jazz great Duke Ellington matured here. Along with Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole and Redd Fo, they made 'You' Street world-famous.

These days the area has transformed into a shopping and nightlife corridor for a diverse group of consumers, diners, drinkers and partiers. It seems a new business opens along the stretch between 9th Street and 16th Street nearly every week.

Restaurants and bars in U Street Corridor

Izakaya Seki

Critics' pick

A brisk walk from the main drag of restaurants and bars near U and 14th streets, NW, Izakaya Seki is tucked into an unassuming and narrow, two-floor row house. Choose to eat upstairs in the dining room or downstairs at the chef’s bar. Either choice is equally no-frill; coat hooks are just about the only décor. Once seated, you’ll be hard-pressed not to salivate, either over plates arriving at neighboring tables or by what the robata cooks behind the bar are turning over a low flame. When it comes time to choose what to drink, brace yourself for page after page of sake selections. Your server is your best ally here. Another great ally: the list of specials handwritten on a piece of scrap paper, usually accompanied by a quirky doodle or two. The chef’s rotating sashimi selection is explosively rich (note: the wasabi here is fresh), and the seasonal miso soup (recently served with assorted roasted mushrooms) is not to be missed. From the main menu, order the slow-grilled octopus. The salmon roe hand roll—with its barely warm rice and fresh roe—will put you in a state of nirvana. In short: Izakaya Seki deserves a deep bow of respect.

Read more
U Street Corridor

Gibson

Critics' pick

If you’re in a bar in Washington drinking a cocktail, listening to dub bossa nova and watching hipsters at play, chances are that the bar is owned by Eric Hilton. Hilton, who makes up one-half of DJ duo Thievery Corporation, has been slowly taking over DC’s bar scene in his spare time (Eighteenth Street Lounge, Marvin, Dickson Wine Bar). The Gibson is Hilton’s take on the New York speakeasy. First, you’ll need to find the entrance, an unobtrusive doorbell next to Marvin. Once inside you’ll find some of the best cocktails in the city, with drinks updated on a chalkboard daily, and ingredients from celery-infused Pisco to burnt cinnamon. Reservations recommended.

Read more
U Street Corridor

Ben’s Chili Bowl

Looking like a museum piece on the yuppified, buppified stretch of U Street once known as Black Broadway, Ben’s Chili Bowl, opened in 1958, is in no danger of mouldering away, thankfully. In fact, its claim to be a 100% wind-powered business makes it very contemporary. This family-owned institution’s appeal rests on three legs: nostalgia (past customers include Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Bill Cosby and, more recently, Barack Obama), the insatiable late-night hunger of young partiers, and, of course, the great bang for the buck afforded by burgers, fries and chili. In-the-know customers order chili on a dog or half smoke (arguably Washington’s signature specialty) and cheesefries, but you can also get a turkey sub or a veggie burger. These days, in fact, you can even order Ben’s over the internet.

Read more
U Street Corridor

Music and nightlife in U Street Corridor

Gibson

Critics' pick

If you’re in a bar in Washington drinking a cocktail, listening to dub bossa nova and watching hipsters at play, chances are that the bar is owned by Eric Hilton. Hilton, who makes up one-half of DJ duo Thievery Corporation, has been slowly taking over DC’s bar scene in his spare time (Eighteenth Street Lounge, Marvin, Dickson Wine Bar). The Gibson is Hilton’s take on the New York speakeasy. First, you’ll need to find the entrance, an unobtrusive doorbell next to Marvin. Once inside you’ll find some of the best cocktails in the city, with drinks updated on a chalkboard daily, and ingredients from celery-infused Pisco to burnt cinnamon. Reservations recommended.

Read more
U Street Corridor

Bar Pilar

The younger and less popular sister of Café Saint-Ex, Bar Pilar is affectionately referred to as a dive bar, dressed up. The vibe is intimate, with just 38 seats, and the low-key attractions include bacon bloody marys at brunch (sort of a liquefied BLT, hold the lettuce) and a kitschy photo booth.

Read more
U Street Corridor

Brixton

Yes, the second floor of this three-level bar looks more like a Downton-era hunting lodge than a real Brixton tavern. And no, the menu offerings of Thai chicken salad and miso-glazed black cod aren’t really authentic either (although, to be fair, rotis and samosas are available too). But don’t let that bother you, because the Brixton’s vibe is charming, with leather stools and wood paneling inside and a spectacular roof terrace. It gets packed to the rafters with college kids late at night so come early for surprisingly good Pimm’s cups, Boddingtons and Newcastle on draft, and Fuller’s London Pride in bottles.

Read more
U Street Corridor

Shopping in U Street Corridor

Ginger Root Design

Critics' pick

Founded by two Midwestern redheads with a reputation for being the nicest ladies on the block, you’ll find a great selection of jewelry and accessories by local designers for men and women at Ginger Root (don’t leave without trying on one of the famous lady ties, made from repurposed vintage fabrics and sewn by hand). This place's main focus, though, is its excellent by-appointment-only tailoring service. Bring your beloved but ill-fitting items here for some much needed TLC, and they'll be given a new lease of life under the owners' skillful hands.

Read more
U Street Corridor

Treasury

If you ask a stylish local on U Street where they got that incredible hat or handbag they’ll undoubtedly say "Treasury". Known by locals as a treasure trove of designer and classic vintage finds, the secondfloor rowhouse boutique is the place to go for recast vintage jewelry, a vintage slip silk dress, or a chic hat that gives an outfit that extra je ne sais quoi.

Read more
U Street Corridor

Comments

0 comments