Despite the breakneck speed of development in nearby Columbia Heights and the U Street corridor, Mount Pleasant has remained a near-true vision of its origins as one of D.C.’s first suburbs. The area has long been home to a large Latino population as well as yuppies in search of affordable group housing, making it historic and hip all at once. This diversity translates into a mix of charming, locally owned businesses along the Mount Pleasant Street strip, including no-frills pupuserias and a dive bar that dates to 1935. Got a few hours and two $20 bills? Here’s the best way to spend them while you’re there. Note: All prices include tax and a 20 percent tip when necessary.
An eight-ounce coffee from Flying Fish Coffee and Tea, $2.20
The most obvious choice for a fresh cup of coffee (sorry, Heller’s), Flying Fish joined Mount Pleasant in 2011. It’s got all the staples of a neighborhood cafe: friendly baristas, worn armchairs, buttery pastry and even a small booze offering. You’ve got a busy day ahead so grab some joe -- maybe even spring for a cappuccino made from freshly ground Culture Coffee beans, pictured below. 3064 Mount Pleasant St. NW. 202-299-0141. www.flyingfishcoffeedc.com.
Rent a book from the Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Library, free
Hold your scoffs, Kindle lovers. In addition to three floors of books (including one of the city’s largest collections of graphic novels and Spanish-language literature), this Carnegie library houses a hidden treasure: in the children’s section lives a whimsical circus-themed mural painted in 1934 by Aurelius Battaglia, an artist who resided in the neighborhood and went on to illustrate Walt Disney’s "Dumbo." 3160 16th St. NW. 202-671-3121. www.dclibrary.org/mtpleasant.
A can of Natty Boh from the Raven Grill, $3.60
Don’t let the name fool you: there’s no grill at this dive bar, which opened in 1935 and it shows. Leather booths are torn, floors are scuffed and bathrooms are … let’s not even go there. Yet it’s hard to resist the draw of the eccentric clientele, rocking jukebox and $3 cans of Natty Boh. 3125 Mount Pleasant St. NW. 202-387-8411.
Batik luggage tag from Amani Ya Juu, $6.36
Even one-beer deep, you’re bound to notice that Mount Pleasant is something of a retail desert, which makes this hole-in-the-wall boutique all the more special. One of a network of seven around the world, Amani hawks fair-trade clothing and home goods made by marginalized women in Africa, thus giving them financial means. The luggage tags, both practical and pretty, are made in Nairobi from hand-dyed textiles, screen-printed with traditional tribal designs. 3166 Mount Pleasant St. NW. 202-536-5303. www.amanidc.org.
Hot and spicy pork noodle bowl from Beau Thai, $13.20
Sure, Shaw can stake claim to a Beau Thai as well. But this menu masterpiece is only offered at the Mount Pleasant location. Available with minced chicken or pork (go with the pork), your choice of noodles are served in chicken broth with dried chili, lime juice and peanuts. It’s a big serving, but do your best to finish it, because it doesn't re-heat well. 3162 Mount Pleasant St. NW. 202-450-5346. www.beauthaidc.com.
Coronarita from Don Juan, $14.05
You receive no points for deducing that a "Coronarita" is a margarita with an inverted bottle of Corona in it. Sure, ordering a margarita and a bottle of Corona separately would cost you $1.15 less, but you wouldn't have the privilege of saying the word "Coronarita" out loud in a completely serious context. Plus, it’s best to leave the gravity-defying bottle-flip to the professionals. 1660 Lamont St. NW. 202-667-0010. www.donjuandc.com.
Total Cash Spent: $39.41
For a few bucks more:
Doughnuts from Radius Pizzeria, $6
The doughnuts — one of the casual pizza joint’s most popular items — are made with pizza dough rather than the traditional formula. The results are a bit tougher and chewier, though just as delicious. They’re served with Nutella and house-made jam prepared by Lenka Culbertson, who co-owns Radius with her husband Matt. 3155 Mount Pleasant St. NW. 202-234-0202. www.radiuspizza.com.
2Armadillos roasted chickpeas from Each Peach Market, $1.95
Like any neighborhood market worth its weight in kale, Each Peach loads its shelves with locally grown produce and products, including pickles from No. 1 Sons and ice cream from Ice Cream Jubilee. Best for an on-the-go snack? A bag of 2Armadillo’s spicy cayenne-flavored chickpeas. Made in D.C. from all-natural ingredients, the treats are filling yet won’t induce guilt. 3068 Mount Pleasant St. NW. 202-525-1725. www.eachpeachmarket.com.
Roll of Tums from Mount Pleasant Care Pharmacy, $0.89
For obvious reasons. 3169 Mt. Pleasant St. NW. 202-387-3100, www.carepharmacies.com.