For years Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle have been the district’s neighborhoods de jour. But ask any local and they’ll tell you U Street is the city’s hidden gem. Once a bastion of music and nightlife, the corridor succomed to the city’s tumultuous political history in the 1960s and 70s. But recent years have seen a new wave of restaurants, luxury apartments, and bars reinvigorate the popular street. Live jazz venues, low-key beer taverns, an emerging food scene–what’s not to love about U Street?
U Street is steeped in a rich African-American culture that saw some of jazz music’s biggest legends–Duke Ellington grew up here, and stars like Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald were D.C regulars–mingle on what came to be known as Black Broadway. After the 1968 riots, the neighborhood fell into disrepair, but a vibrant scene has blossomed again in recent years.
Next to Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle, U Street is one of the most popular nightlife destinations in the city. JoJo Restaurant & Bar maintains the neighborhood’s historical spirit with a cool vibe and live jazz and blues throughout the week. The Saloon is a laid-back bar with an extensive beer menu and a non-fratty crowd (no shots or standing room!) A swankier scene unfolds at the Penthouse Pool and Lounge, the cabana-fringed rooftop club overlooking the Washington Monument is a summer haven for stylish locals.
U Street’s restaurant landscape mixes old and new. Tico is a tapas joint with walls adorned in street art, a killer happy hour ($4 tacos, $5 beers), and a collection of nearly 100 tequilas. Order the crab tostada with smoked avocado and gazpacho sauce and the chimichurri-topped homemade chorizo. Nearby, chef Nathan Beauchamp sources local ingredients for his forward-thinking American menu at the year-old Fainting Goat. True to its name, the highlights include goat po’ boys and goat cheese fondue. Any trip to U Street should include a stop at the iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl. Dating back to 1958, it’s a neighborhood landmark that dishes out old-school hot dogs and burgers piled in heaps of housemade chili.