Exploring Washington, D.C., neighborhoods: 14th Street NW

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 6, 2010

Fourteenth Street stinks.

It used to anyway, with an odor that was redolent of a bus station restroom. Nowadays, it's more likely to be the aroma of chick peas in saffron broth wafting from the kitchen of Cork Wine Bar. Joren Lindholm, an artist whose studio is two doors down from the restaurant, says the smells that sometimes drift over to his back porch have a powerful allure.

They're not the only allure the street has to offer either.

Carroll Vuncannon, a 29-year-old who lives with her husband and 9-month-old daughter nearby, likes to visit 14th Street's ACKC Cocoa Bar (hubby prefers coffee from Mid City Caffe). But both agree on one thing. "We really love Miss Pixie's," she says, referring to the vintage furniture shop that relocated from Adams Morgan in 2008, bringing a bit of that neighborhood's eclectic vibe with it. "Every time you walk in, it's like a different store. With most other places, you might as well be opening up a catalogue."

"Walk down 14th Street from P to U between 10 and 1 in the morning, and it feels like the liveliest place in the city." That's Martin Irvine talking. The contemporary art dealer -- whose gallery is part of the booming canyon of bars, restaurants, boutiques and cultural establishments that line the bustling strip just west and north of Logan Circle -- admits he's biased, but he's not alone.

"It's like an old Main Street," says Rod Glover, one of the founding owners of Home Rule. Along with Garden District, Vastu, Muleh, Well Built and other shops, the funky housewares store has turned the once-faded neighborhood into a home-furnishings mecca.

But shopping is not all that 14th Street is known for. Anchored by the venerable Black Cat music club, dotted with commercial galleries, and bookended by the Source and Studio theaters, the strip has become what Irvine calls "one of the main arts corridors in Washington."

It's also something of a destination for foodies. In coming months, keep an eye out for a taqueria next to the Black Cat and a burger-joint-turned-beer-garden said to be opening at 14th and S streets.

Hop on the tour bus, as we take you around the neighborhood. We'll take you out to eat, show you where to shop and tell you where to see the latest shows, whether they be art, music or theater. There's no better time than now to start. On Saturday and Sunday, the annual MidCity Dog Days sale will feature store discounts, restaurant deals and arts events, up and down the avenue. (Visit http://www.midcitylife.com for more details.)

1. Irvine Contemporary

1412 14th St. NW. 202-332-8767. http://www.irvinecontemporary.com.

Gallery owner Martin Irvine has taught at Georgetown University for 20 years. As the founding director and associate professor in the school's communication, culture and technology program, he calls his gallery a "center for learning about the big picture" of contemporary art. Man does not live by museums alone, he believes, since art happens "in real time."

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