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By The Way
Detours with locals. Travel tips you can trust.
The Adams Morgan neighborhood in D.C.
The Adams Morgan neighborhood in D.C.

A local’s guide to Washington, D.C.

The Adams Morgan neighborhood in D.C.
The Adams Morgan neighborhood in D.C.
  • By Austin Graff
  • Photos by Melina Mara
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To know Washington is to peel back its suit: The briefcases and blazers the rest of the world sees are just covers for a vibrant, creative community. Whether it’s the food scene — one of the country’s best — or the murals tucked away in historic alleys, the city D.C. residents know is quirky — and inspiring.

After you sit in on a Supreme Court hearing, you can explore an eccentric mansion with more than 70 hidden doors. Once you are done reading the oldest book in the Library of Congress, you can take a wine tour through a haunted cemetery. There is kayaking, urban hiking, rare-book hunting, brunching and rich history beyond the white buildings.

Meet Austin Graff

Austin has lived in Washington since 2007. He grew up as an American in Russia, attended boarding school in Germany, has lived in Kazakhstan and China and has traveled to more than 60 countries.

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H Street corridor
H Street NE is where native Washingtonians mingle with transplants over a beer or two (or three or four). You can experience chicken curry ramen at Toki Underground, old-school murals down alleys, late-night chess pie at Pie Shop and a nightcap on an outdoor patio at Hill Prince. Then you’ll be ready to stumble back to your Airbnb in a historic rowhouse just off the main drag. Or take the free D.C. streetcar. Find this neighborhood.
Capitol Hill/Hill East
Tourists who comment on the lack of children in D.C. have obviously never been to Capitol Hill/Hill East, where runners dodge strollers. There are several boutique hotels, bed-and-breakfasts and Airbnbs among the rowhouses occupied by lawmakers, lobbyists and lawyers. Find this neighborhood.

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Heat Da Spot
This casual Park View favorite is known for its friendly service and squeeze bottles of homemade green hot sauce. The menu is a smorgasbord of American and Ethiopian comfort food, ranging from cheesy egg sandwiches to breakfast plates built around ful (stewed fava beans) to a meatball sandwich. Owner Timnit Goitom welcomes every visitor with a smile.
BTW: Order your food to-go and admire the murals painted up and down Georgia Avenue NW.
Heat Da Spot Cafe, 3213 Georgia Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20010
Tabard Inn
Brunch is a sport in D.C., and Tabard Inn deserves trophies. Inside this historic hotel, continuously operating since 1922, the restaurant is famous for $2 doughnuts, dipped in cinnamon and sugar and served with vanilla whipped cream. Ivy-covered brick walls are a stately backdrop for a daily brunch that runs from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
BTW: Make a reservation to avoid long weekend lines.
Tabard Inn Restaurant, 1739 N St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20036
A Litteri
Across from Union Market, the city’s largest food hall, you’ll notice an Italian flag painted on a doorway in a row of industrial buildings. Inside are tight aisles crammed with gnocchi, spaghetti and pappardelle. In the back, you’ll find an unassuming deli selling subs (or hoagies, or grinders, but let’s not get political). If you don’t want to build your own, stick with the classic Italian. In a city where food prices can be steep, a quality 12-inch sub for $10.99 is a steal.
BTW: This place arguably has the best selection of Italian wine in the city. If you need a recommendation, ask the owner.
A Litteri, 517-519 Morse St. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002
Deli City Restaurant
This cash-only deli makes a sizable pastrami on rye bread using the same recipe that the owner’s father and great uncle did in the 1950s. It’s now a sit-down and takeout place, out of a small building in a still very industrial part of town. (There’s not much for pedestrians here; driving is your best bet.) Adding to its charm, the decor inside is stuck in 1979, the year the place opened at this location. The classic sandwiches here cost $10.95. Order the half-sweet-and-half-unsweetened iced tea and the homemade bread pudding made fresh daily. If you go more than once, the servers will remember your name.
BTW: After lunch, drive to the nearby National Arboretum, a huge, world-class garden space and civic treasure that also contains old U.S. Capitol columns. Supreme Core Cider has a taproom just outside the arboretum.
2200 Bladensburg Rd. NE, Washington, D.C. 20018
This corner restaurant with a growing list of accolades is just a right turn away from restaurant-lined H Street NE. Chef Suresh Sundas fills his Indian menu with playful twists such as a dal makhani burrata, blue cheese-marinated chicken kebabs or za’atar olive naan. The creativity of the cocktails matches the food: Bartenders mix drinks with toasted coconut, green papaya and masala chai.
BTW: No need to tip. A 20 percent service charge is included in every bill.
Daru, 1451 Maryland Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002
Muchas Gracias
Chef Christian Irabién started this narrow Mexican restaurant as a pandemic pop-up to support Latin American immigrants and raise money for related nonprofits. Now that it’s here to stay, the restaurant draws customers to Upper Northwest with thoughtful, family-friendly cooking. Open Tuesday through Sunday for brunch, lunch and dinner, Muchas Gracias serves tacos, quesadillas, burritos and tortas alongside homey dishes such as enfrijoladas and tres leches cake. Draft cocktails are just $9 during happy hour.
BTW: Politics & Prose, a local bookstore with a coffee house and wine bar inside, and Little Red Fox, a bakery/cafe/market, are on the same block.
Muchas Gracias, 5029 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20008
Amsterdam Falafelshop
Even if you’re not on your way back from the bars, Amsterdam Falafelshop is worth a late-night stop. The original location, in Adams Morgan on 18th Street, is small, but it’s a quick eat. Pick a falafel pita or bowl, then go crazy with the 22 topping options, from pickled cabbage to hummus.
BTW: No matter how full you are, order the fries. They come salty and are best with the Dutch mayo from the side counter.
Amsterdam Falafelshop, 2425 18th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20009
This H Street NE spot pulls double duty. The bottom floor is a Chinese street-food shop, with bar and window seating only. The kitchen makes pot stickers, bao and skewers right in front of you. When you’re ready for a drink, head upstairs to the bar, where the city’s bartenders hang out. Because of that, order the “bartender’s choice” to give them the opportunity to show off their skills.
BTW: The $11 dan dan noodles are among the best in the city.
Copycat, 1110 H St. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002
(D. C. illustrator Jillian Blazek for The Washington Post)
  1. Break out the walking shoes and skip the Metro. The city is one of the most walkable places in the country. Walking allows you to discover the unexpected and win your Fitbit challenge group, too.
  2. See the museums after hours. The National Gallery of Art hosts free live music and performances monthly.
  3. Use the 80/20 rule: Spend 80 percent of your time off the National Mall and 20 percent on.
(D. C. illustrator Jillian Blazek for The Washington Post)


Culture House
A few blocks north of the tourist-heavy Wharf district, this former Baptist church stands out with a technicolor paint job. The popular gallery and event space opens for public viewings on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. If you visit, remember you’re on sacred ground. The 1886 building once served a Black congregation.
BTW: Take your time walking through the Southwest Waterfront neighborhood, stopping to appreciate the late 18th-century houses on Wheat Row and the view of the Washington Channel from the Titanic Memorial.
Culture House, 700 Delaware Ave. SW, Washington, D.C. 20024
Congressional Cemetery
Congressional Cemetery has been dubbed “the hippest cemetery in America,” and it lives up to the title. Located in Hill East, it was America’s first national cemetery, established in 1807, with several V.I.P. eternal residents, including former D.C. mayor Marion Barry and several congressmen. Once in disarray, the cemetery started promoting itself as a dog park and charged people for it. To this day, it has a long dog-walking wait list. Beyond hosting the city’s pets, the cemetery has tours with wine, horror-novel book clubs, yoga and free live music on Sundays in the chapel.
BTW: If you want to be the coolest (or creepiest) kid on the block, you can rent a crypt for a small event or party.
Congressional Cemetery, 1801 E St. SE, Washington, D.C. 20003
Eastern Market
The longest continuously operating market in the city, Eastern Market is considered the town center of the historic Capitol Hill neighborhood. Inside the large brick building are stands selling fresh produce, cakes, dumplings, flowers and fish. The very last stall is Market Lunch — ironically, a popular breakfast spot. People stand in line for over an hour to pay cash for blueberry buckwheat pancakes. On the weekend, the outside turns into a large flea and farmers market. A Turkish woman who sells jewelry to celebrities and a Maryland artist commissioned by the White House are just two of the vendors you’ll meet.
BTW: . Packed with used books from floor to ceiling, Capitol Hill Books is a must-visit across the street from the market.
Eastern Market, 225 Seventh St. SE, Washington, D.C. 20003
Frederick Douglass House
The Frederick Douglass House, now part of the National Park Service, was the private home of the 19th-century abolitionist. The house gives historians much to geek out about, but its location will entice everyone to visit. Located in historic Anacostia, the house is on one of the highest hills in D.C., providing a clear view of the city’s skyline. If you’re looking for that perfect shot for social media, this is your spot.
BTW: With a clear view of the National Mall, it’s also a great spot to watch the fireworks on the Fourth of July.
Frederick Douglass House, 1411 W St. SE, Washington, D.C. 20020
Temporarily closed for renovations
Kingman Island
This man-made island in the Anacostia River was twice proposed to be a theme park. Lucky for us, that never panned out: It is 40 acres of nature trails over wooden bridges and under mural-covered overpasses. You won’t find many tourists there, but you’ll see locals picnicking, kayaking, hiking and birdwatching; the island has more than 100 species of resident and migratory birds. Every spring, the island hosts the Kingman Island Bluegrass and Folk Festival, attracting D.C.’s more eclectic crowd for a day of live music, craft beer and people-watching.
BTW: The island offers free canoe tours throughout the year.
Kingman Island, 575 Oklahoma Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002
Mansion on O Street
This quirky museum in Dupont Circle is five interconnected townhouses with more than 100 rooms. Most people pay $26.50 for a reservation to explore the building, trying to find all 70 of its secret doors, but the average visitor uncovers only 10 (just to set your expectations). Each themed room is cluttered with knickknacks, from poetry books to signed guitars, all for sale. The mansion doubles as a hotel, offering visitors the chance to rent any room they find fascinating.
BTW: They host a three- to five-course, chef’s table dinner in their outdoor garden.
Mansion on O Street, 2020 O St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20036
Austin Graff
Austin has lived in Washington since 2007. He grew up as an American in Russia, attended boarding school in Germany, has lived in Kazakhstan and China and has traveled to more than 60 countries.
Melina Mara
Melina is a Washington Post photographer who spends her free time climbing, skiing, traveling and exploring. Her work is inspired by memories of her father, a CBS cameraman, and her passionate and loving Italian mother.