What to eat, drink, see and do at the 2013 H Street Festival

September 18, 2013

It doesn't seem possible, but the H Street Festival has gotten even bigger this year. Ten blocks of H Street NE, stretching from Fourth through 14th streets NE, will be pedestrianized on Saturday -– four more than last fall -– to include all the new businesses that are moving in to the western end of H Street, such as Boundary Road and Le Grenier.


Avery's Bar and Lounge has a rare view of the Capitol dome -- and multiple blocks of H Street NE -- from its new rooftop deck. (Photo by Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post)

Asphalt usually occupied by parked cars or lanes closed for streetcar construction will be turned into beer gardens, extended "patio" seating for restaurants and numerous stages for bands, DJs and fashion shows.

Local '70s funk stars the Blackbyrds and Father's Children perform on the stage at Eighth Street. The new stage at Fourth Street has more of a pop-rock vibe, with the Justin Trawick Band and the Morrison Brothers Band. DJs spin electronic music, from house to drum 'n' bass, at the 11th Street stage. Parents will find family-friendly fare at the CapKids Zone in the parking lot of the H Street Connection, including theater, puppet shows and music.

Of course, all the action's not outdoors: Rock and Roll Hotel will offer a dozen bands and DJs from noon to 9 p.m., including dub reggae group Nappy Riddim and nightclub fixtures Gavin Holland, Chris Nitti and Chris Burns as part of its free Brodown Throwdown.

There are some things we always look forward to, including the display of fancifully decorated art cars, the beer gardens outside of pubs and dive bars, and the finest people-watching of any festival in the city.

But with so many new places popping up on H over the last year, or joining the festivities for the first time, there are numerous opportunities to check out that you haven't seen before. Here are a few places to make sure you have on your agenda:

Avery's on H
For my money, Avery's has the best view of any roof deck on H Street: You can see all the way to the Capitol and the Library of Congress. If you're trying to Instagram the scale of the festival, this is the place to do it. Owner Avery Leake says they'll open at noon, with grilling and drinks on the roof.

Impala Cantina
News flash: The perennially "coming soon" Mexican restaurant and taqueria, which has been in pop-up mode since 2010, is "hoping to give patrons a sneak peek at the first-floor bar," according to co-owner Troy Hickman. Regardless, Impala will host another of its popular parties in its rear courtyard with draft beer, tamales, tacos and live music by tropical funk group Empresarios, plus DJ Sonny Cheeba, from noon to six.

Biergarten Haus
A staple of the H Street Festival for years, Biergarten Haus is again using the H Street Festival to kick off Oktoberfest season, tapping nine seasonal German beers. So what's new? Saturday will be the debut of the Rathskeller, a new bar carved from a garage adjacent to the huge back patio. Get there early to beat the lines.

Sol Mexican Grill
Mariachis are the draw at Sol, which will be selling tacos, burritos and margaritas outside the two-level restaurant. (The upstairs bar, with its relaxing back patio, is well worth a visit.)

Vendetta
The Italian restaurant and bar, known for its two indoor bocce courts, won't have any games outside, but they will have a 100-seat patio with prosecco and Peroni on draft.

Boundary Road
While Boundary Road was open during the 2012 H Street Festival, all the action was four blocks east. This time, with the restaurant near the festival's western border, there will be an outdoor seating area as wide as the building. Three Stars and Port City beers will be discounted all day, and the kitchen will serve a special (and as-yet undetermined) menu. Indoors, lunch will be served beginning at noon.

Bardo Beer Garden
Bardo's not on H Street – it's about half a mile up Bladensburg Road. But if you haven't checked out the 15,000 square foot beer garden, full of picnic tables and corn hole games, this is the day to do it. A "Cool Bus" will be running from Bardo's front door to the intersection of 15th and H streets every 10 to 15 minutes during the festival, and the Fojol Brothers food truck will be on site. Grab one of the 20 beers at the bar and enjoy.

Fritz Hahn has covered bars, drinks and nightlife for the Washington Post Weekend Section since 2003, but he also writes about everything from Civil War battlefields to sailing classes. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram.
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Stephanie Merry · September 18, 2013