For a neighborhood of only about 12 square blocks, Bloomingdale manages to pack in a lot of hidden treasures: unassuming dive bars, surprise parks and award-winning restaurants. Tucked between Shaw and Eckington on the border of the District’s northwest quadrant, Bloomingdale stretches from Second Street NW to North Capitol, bordered by Florida Avenue NW to the south and Bryant and Channing places NW to the north.
And while its old-timey rowhouses help the neighborhood maintain its turn-of-the-century charm, it’s also become the home of shiny new restaurants and bars — and soon, to even more residential space.
The heart of Bloomingdale is a 10- to 15- minute walk to the Green Line’s Shaw-Howard U metro stop, or 20 minutes to NoMa-Gallaudet U on the Red Line, but the best way to get to and fro is on one of the many bus lines that bisect the area. The G2 runs from Howard University south to P Street, then west to Georgetown. The G8 runs along Rhode Island Avenue NW and goes into the heart of downtown or up north through Brookland to Woodridge, and the 90, 92 and 96 cut along Florida Avenue, making trips down to H Street or up to Woodley Park a (somewhat lengthy) breeze. The 80 line travels along North Capitol and over to Foggy Bottom. You can also find Capital Bikeshare stations at the corners of R Street and Florida Avenue NW and up at First Street and Rhode Island Avenue NW.
Bloomingdale is known for its ample rowhouses — their colorful conic and pyramidal turrets are even featured in the opening credits of Netflix’s “House of Cards.” The large homes draw families and young renters looking for roommates, and many are split into smaller units.
A handful of small apartment buildings are also nestled in amongst the Victorian-era houses, including The Providence (70 Rhode Island Ave. NW), The Rhode Island (1929 First St. NW) and The Nebraska (51 Randolph Pl. NW). One of the most notable is the Parker Flats at Gage School, which converted a 1904 multi-building brick school campus between U and V streets NW into a set of 92 condominiums.
Another area of note, McMillan Park (and its reservoir) sits just to the northwest of Bloomingdale proper. This long-shuttered former sand filtration site is set to be polished up with acres of updated public grounds, restored grain silos and a slew of new apartment buildings. The first buildings are set to be complete in 2018.
The great outdoors
Tucked away behind stately rowhouses, Crispus Attucks Park is the buried treasure in Bloomingdale’s center. At just over an acre, the park is like Brigadoon, appearing only once you’ve walked a few dozen yards down an alley between U or V streets NW. Summer afternoons there are calm, with quiet reading nooks under trees, sun-soaked benches and stretches of open field to accommodate as many cartwheels as your heart desires.
There’s also nearby LeDroit Park, which sits just west of Second Street NW between Elm and V streets NW, which offers a jungle gym for kids and a fenced-in area for pets. It’s also home to Common Good City Farm, a community farm where locals can volunteer to farm, shop for produce or learn about gardening.
Behind the dive bar Showtime’s unassuming facade, you’ll find Bloomingdale’s premiere entertainment, Granny and the Boys. From 7:30 to 10 p.m. on Sundays, Granny, a skilled musician and octogenarian, plays sweet funk fusion melodies on the keyboard, with “the boys” (men in their late 50s and beyond) as her backup.
Across the street at Boundary Stone, a whiskey bar with better-than-pub fare, Mondays are open mic nights, with half-priced drafts after 10 p.m. For those looking for a lower decibel level, Yoga District offers classes seven days a week for pre-work, post-dinner or weekend stretch sessions.
Bloomingdale doesn’t have a major grocery chain within its borders, but it has a string of little independent markets that supply staples (though sometimes at a steep price). Giant at City Market at O in Shaw takes just a quick G2 bus ride, and a Harris Teeter near the NoMa-Gallaudet U Metro is not far away.
For something a little closer to home, a bright corner near Big Bear Cafe hosts a farmers market each Sunday between May and November, where you’ll find hyper-local produce, baked goods, fresh pasta and more. The market participates in the city’s Produce Plus program, which gives $10 toward fruits and vegetables to any D.C. resident participating in various food-purchasing assistance programs. When city cash runs out, the market has additional privately funded resources for matching food stamps.
And for those looking to take to the open road, Bike House is on hand at the Sunday farmers market to help Bloomingdale residents fix up their two-wheelers free of charge.
The true culinary heart of Bloomingdale is around Rhode Island Avenue and First Street NW. The Red Hen is the star of the show, with upscale Italian dishes and wine that have made it a favorite among food critics. That buzz has led to long wait times, so arrive early and go for a seat at the bar.
Steps away, Bacio Pizzeria’s menu lists pies with names Bloomingdale locals will appreciate, like the Randolph Place or the Crispus Attucks. A variety of sweet and savory scones, muffins and cookies line the glass case around the corner at Grassroots Gourmet on Rhode Island Avenue NW. Fresh bread from D.C.’s Metropolitan Baking Company is also in stock on the weekends, along with Grassroots’ own cinnamon rolls.
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