Washington area neighborhoods: H Street NE

By Fritz Hahn and Stephanie Merry
Friday, August 27, 2010

Once upon a time, the H Street corridor of Northeast was one of the biggest shopping and entertainment districts in the D.C. region. Then, like other parts of Washington, the area was torn apart in the riots after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. As recently as five years ago, H Street was still a string of boarded-up storefronts, Chinese carryouts and discount beauty salons.

But then things began to change. The Atlas theater reopened. The Argonaut (itself the victim of a recent fire) and other bars began to move into the neighborhood. The Palace of Wonders offered burlesque and sword swallowing performances, the Red and the Black hosted indie bands before (slightly) growing crowds.

Hipsters started hanging out and getting late-night fish sandwiches at Horace & Dickie's. Then everything exploded, and restaurants and bars began attracting larger and larger crowds.

But H Street has become more than a strip of late-night bars: There's dance, cutting-edge art and even a kid-friendly wine bar. We know we've written a lot about H Street, and if you're a savvy Washingtonian, you've probably putt-putted past zombie presidents at the H Street Country Club and grabbed a pie to go from Dangerously Delicious. But there's more to H Street than novelty stops. The vibrant neighborhood is just that: a neighborhood, full of secret charms among the increasingly popular hot spots. Next month, the H Street Festival will bring an influx of people to celebrate the region's renaissance. But who needs that kind of excuse to pay H Street a visit? Here are some of the destinations that keep us coming back.

1. Ethiopic

401 H St. NE. 202-675-2066.


This sleek Ethiopian restaurant is one of the trailblazers on the less-bustling Union Station end of the H Street strip. Exposed brick, a smiling wait staff, alcove seating and an uncrowded, unfussy setup add to the appeal of the locale owned by Meseret Bekele and her husband, Samuel Ergete, who pride themselves on serving authentic Ethiopian cuisine. Things get spicy quickly with an offering atypical of an Ethiopian restaurant: a basket of bread, which is served with red-flecked, berbere-laced olive oil. The menu offers all the standbys, from the traditionally raw beef dish kitfo to vegetarian selections, including the curried potatoes of dinich wot. In some cases, the restaurant really knocks the simple offerings out of the park, such as with fosolia, a deliciously seasoned mix of the most basic of foods: carrots and green beans.

2. Studio H

408 H St. NE. 202-468-5277.

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