Street Smart: Cleveland Park

July 12

Neither a park nor in Cleveland, the neighborhood got its name after President Grover Cleveland’s secret purchase of a house there in 1886. Today, the 3400-3600 block of Connecticut Avenue, next to Rock Creek Park, is a one-stop shop for necessities such as groceries and vacuum repairs, as well as fun-seeking in bars, restaurants and shopping.

1. The Uptown

3426 Connecticut Ave. NW

The deco theater opened its doors in 1936, attracting not only stars but premieres of famous films, such as Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” It was also one of the first cinemas to play “Star Wars,” and moviegoer Deborah Smith recalls waiting in a line around the block with people wielding lasers nearby. “There’s a lot of weirdos that come here, and that’s the way we like it.”

2. Atomic Billiards

3427 Connecticut Ave. NW

The glittering polyurethane bar and ’50s-inspired atomic age murals make for a brilliant underground hangout. Bartender Jake Simms knows the people traipsing in, from those freshly legal to retirement age. “There is no pressure to be anything you aren’t,” he says. Besides billiards, patrons can play shuffleboard, Giant Jenga and Mortal Kombat 3 while the jukebox glows.

3. Walgreens

3524 Connecticut Ave. NW

“Why is Walgreens so cute?” asks Sara London, visiting from Pittsburgh. In fact, it’s what used to be here that has locals nostalgic: Chinese restaurant Yenching Palace, where the waitstaff wore bowties and conversation never ran dry. President John F. Kennedy’s and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s emissaries supposedly met here during the Cuban missile crisis, and Henry Kissinger was a frequent diner.
“To me, it’s still Yenching Palace,” resident Scott McLoughlin says.

4. Ripple

3417 Connecticut Ave. NW

At a restaurant serving local, organic and sustainable food, the menu changes daily. To keep up, Pennsylvania Mennonites deliver produce most afternoons, and animal purveyors carry in whole pigs, of which every part is used — the “head-to-hoof concept,” says bar manager Caroline Blundell. Try the bone marrow with strawberry-thyme jam or the grilled cheese bar, staffed, at left, by cheese monger Malachai Howard.

5. Engine Co. 28 and Truck 14

3522 Connecticut Ave. NW

After four years of planning and renovating, the tiny firehouse has reopened with friendly firefighters eager to give tours. Built in 1916 as the neighborhood’s first commercial building, it had its doorway renovated to accommodate today’s firetrucks, which are a little bigger than their horse-drawn predecessors.

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