A quick stroll from the frenzied atmosphere of the nation's Capitol, Eastern Market is an inviting, verdant and friendly retreat. On weekends, expect to see an eclectic mix of buttoned-down Washingtonians in their weekend wear.
With three floors of more than 20,000 used books stacked floor to ceiling, Capitol Hill Books is a great escape for District bibliophiles. The bathroom doubles as the store's foreign-language section, and cookbooks are upstairs in the former owner's kitchen sink. The personality of Jim Toole, a retired Navy rear admiral who bought the store in 1995, is embedded throughout with his tongue-in-cheek labeling and ground rules (forbidding words and phrases such as "perfect," "OMG" and "like").
Owner Juan Jose Canales left El Salvador at age 20 and, since then, has helped two of his brothers establish businesses in the Market (Canales Quality Meats and Eastern Market Grocery). "It's like a family reunion every day," he says. Fun fact: The spot used to be a Russian deli, and if you look up near the ceiling, you can spot famous Russian landmarks.
Blink and you might miss this gem, tucked away in the basement of the south end of the market's South Hall. Established in 1968, the art studio makes and sells functional pottery and offers such eight-week courses as basic pottery skills, and decorating and glazing techniques.
The store offers 6,000 games, including hand puzzles for toddlers and European-style board games, such as The Settlers of Catan, for adults. Employees run after-school programs for 13 elementary and middle schools and host nightly themed events, including a free Thursday board game night during which customers can try more than 400 games. Bonus: Correctly answer a weekly puzzle outside the store for a free pack of Smarties.
As at all good speak-easies, the entrance to Harold Black is semi-hidden and nondescript. An unmarked door leads to a long hallway, a flight of stairs and a secret, sliding wooden panel. One knock and an intimate, dimly lighted room is revealed. This Prohibition-inspired bar offers a Roaring '20s vibe with a 21st-century perk: Guests can make online reservations at www.cityeats.com/dc.
For more areas to explore, visit StrollAround.com.
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