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Never-Ending Excitement on 14th Street
Swank and style: The new 14th Street scene everyone’s talking about
Bars, restaurants, galleries, boutiques, coffee shops, music venues, vintage stores: the 14th Street scene has an experience for everyone. Locals and visitors throng to this exceptional streetscape for its endless allure and ceaseless excitement. Read up on the spots that make 14th Street buzz.
Pearl Dive is a palace indeed, boasting a Gulf-style bar and a dedicated fishmonger. This Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand honoree from Chef Jeff Black devotedly serves up sustainable American seafood, including highly select oysters, rotating based on freshness. Start with a dozen Black Salts on the half shell – these plump alluvial oysters are specially grown in Virginia for Mr. Black. Don’t miss the gumbos, po’ boys, grilled fish or duck confit (still waterborne, fewer gills).
The Scene: For all the new upscale restaurants arriving nearby, Pearl Dive has been a popular mainstay, mixing jorts and Chanel jackets. Festivities at the bar overflow onto the sidewalk patio, where the raw bar has a second window.
Insider Info: Mondays mean all-night happy hour, a must-do for half-off bivalves and beer. Plus, there’s two bars upstairs – Black Jack, with a dedicated cocktail and bar snack menu (check out the whiskeys),and Tilt, a neon-lit bar with a separate cocktail menu that will make you feel as if you're in an 80's-themed pinball machine.
Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, 1612 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
It’s DC’s major contemporary Belgian restaurant with a roaring bar scene and a Josper oven, a Spanish machine that achieves exceptionally high heat to caramelize the exterior of a bone-in ribeye for two, for example. There are expected dishes like endive salads, mountains of mussels (offered seven ways), plenty of frites, and not-so-traditional offerings like a waffle stuffed with mussels and herbs.
The Scene: This place is built for fun and does get noisy. There are to-go eats, like cones of frites, served late-night. Brunch can get just as festive as happy hour, when crowds enjoy waffles and mimosas.
Insider Info: Chef Bart Vandaele was knighted in his native Belgium for services to the crown. Sir V is not, however, without a naughty sense of humor. There are pictures of giant sausages (so we hear) in the men’s room.
B Too, 1324 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
Occupying a prime corner spot, the Logan Circle outpost of this local treatery is a café serving fine coffee and gelato in the spirit of an old-fashioned parlor. Dolcezza pours Stumptown coffee and scoops Argentinian-style gelato made right here in Northeast DC from locally sourced ingredients. Flavors lean fruity and fun.
The Scene: Owners Rob Duncan and Violetta Edelman (who met while sailing up the Amazon) have refurbished the building. It opened in 1878 as a pharmacy, and was until the dynamic duo refurbished it, a fried fish joint. It’s unrecognizable now: a gleaming marble counter, space for a dozen-plus flavors of gelato and a La Marzocco espresso machine, the Ferrari of coffeemakers and 30 seats.
Insider Info: Don’t have time to linger? Sidle up to the to-go window for coffees and gelati by the cup or cone.
Dolcezza, 1418 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005
Michael Babin’s DC restaurant empire (butchery, brewery, bakery) comes together in this modern American restaurant. Open for dinner and weekend brunch, it attracts a crowd who know to expect classic fare with a twist.
The Scene: A touch rustic, a touch romantic, the low-lit dining room is abuzz with hip Washingtonians who come for hand-cut pasta, grilled local lamb and seasonal veggies. In-the-know diners pair meals with suds courtesy of beer director Greg Engert, voted by Food + Wine as one of the country’s top sommeliers.
Insider Info: Still thirsty? Head upstairs to ChurchKey, a brew-head’s paradise, serving some 555 beers.
Birch & Barley, 1337 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005
Locals are tossing them back with glee at Greg Engert’s Bluejacket Brewery on the Capitol Riverfront, but the chic gastro pub that put him on the map still deserves heaps of praise. Stocked with exactly 555 house-selected brews, many of which are seasonal and heavily sought-after pours, ChurchKey proves invaluable to the thirsty suds seeker. It’s the site of many a brew pilgrimage, but even if you aren’t operating your own nanobrewery out of your basement, you’ll appreciate the beer house’s pledge to serve high-quality craft beers that can’t be found anywhere else.
The Scene: Behind the surprisingly spacious bar that sprawls across the front room rest deliciously potable artwork. Parched masses will zombie walk their way up these stairs, especially on the weekends, but you’ll know to take a look.
Insider Info: A small lounge area offers refuge from the masses in the back, dimly lit and nicely comfortable.
Churchkey, 1337 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005
A minimalist, uber-modernist white dining room punched up with bursts of neon drive home the message: this is Vietnamese cooking, but not like what you’re used to. It’s a unique and creative burst of Southeast Asian cuisine. There are salads, grilled meats on sticks, soups, curry, rice dishes and spectacular whole fried fish that arrive as if swimming to the table in flavor. There’s heat too: from the mild and herbaceous to the downright fiery, but cocktails and a well-crafted wine list balance the spiciness. Vegans and vegetarians fare well here and there are dedicated menus outlining specific choices to please all palates.
The Scene: Quite high on the chic scale to impress any date.
Insider Info: Chef Haider Karoum won the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington’s highest accolade in 2014, the RAMMY for outstanding chef. He presides over Doi Moi and nearby Estadio (Spanish) and Proof (a wine bar). Before leaving (or better, before arriving), step downstairs to the unlabeled Two Birds One Stone, a speakeasy-esque bar run by Adam Bernbach who hand draws the drinks menu.
Doi Moi, 1800 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
Top Chef alum Mike Isabella fuels his passion for Mediterranean fare at this two-in-one spot. By day there’s G, a next door sandwich shop serving true-blue Jersey-style hoagies stuffed with the flavors of the Eastern Med, from roast lamb to roast cauliflower. By night, the focus moves next door to the Kapnos restaurant, a star of Greek fare. Serving bowls of fresh, creamy hummus, bricks of feta and of course, carnivorous treats: lamb, chicken and occasional goat or rabbit are spit-roasted in plain view of the open dining area. Fun fact: Kapnos means “smoke” in Greek.
The Scene: With so many plates to sample, this is a super spot for a group, although date-nighters are welcome, too.
Insider Info: There’s boozy kegged lemonade, at least a dozen imaginative house cocktails and a long by-the-glass wine list.
Kapnos, 2201 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
When restaurateur Stephen Starr armed 14th Street with a slice of pre-War Paris in spring 2013, he had an instant classic on his hands, and what seems to be a perennial, highly lauded favorite. Part brasserie, part café, part bistro, Le Diplomate is France-meets-DC. Brown butter-infused trout almondine and perfectly cooked steak au poivre – rest assured, it’s peppery – share the menu alongside chilled oysters, a famed roast chicken and ever-munchable pommes frites.
The Scene: From haute fashions to casual designs for les femmes and a mélange of jackets paired with jeans for les hommes, expect a laid-back yet chic vibe and high-volume chatter to fill the vast space comfortably.
Insider Info: True to a French restaurant, the bakery items are magical; just leave room for the terrine. The slim patio is a people-watching paradise. Finally, if you belly up to the bar, you’ll have a front-row seat to a dapperly attired barman mixing craft cocktails just for you.
Le Diplomate, 1601 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
Founded in Capitol Hill by a married pair of practiced baristas, Peregrine Espresso is the complete coffee experience. From sourcing single-origin beans to serving piping-hot mugs and providing “Better Brewing at Home” lessons on the side, Peregrine weaves coffee into the local community and a growing number of locals love it thanks to its multiple locations. Treating coffee as if it were a lifestyle, the staff makes every sip count, whether you’re a stickler for a foamy macchiato, filter drip coffee or the basic, reliable namesake pour.
The Scene: Just like a café in Rome, practiced espresso drinkers hang at the stand-only bar sipping from tiny ceramic cups. If you’re patient, table space will present itself, as the site serves as a prime stopover to fuel up before meandering around 14th Street.
Insider Info: Peregrine peddles beans from respected roaster Counter Culture, and then pedals them via bicycle to locals nearby.
Peregrine Espresso, 1718 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
Sure, there’s a billiards table (that’s free) and solid beers on draft, but the main draw of this pour house are the many fine whiskeys, scotches and bourbons that adorn the bar, and eventually your glass. Seasonal cocktails made from strong distillations bedeck a chalkboard behind the bar, but if you aren’t too bashful, lean on the bartender to mix something up for you. It’s not rare on weekends for DJs and young whiskey aficionados to take over the space.
The Scene: Outfitted with enough exposed brick to please any mason, Black Whiskey is where driven young professionals, experienced rye lovers and the 14th Street set coalesce.
Insider Info: Don’t forget, all those small batch whiskeys and ryes require a solid foundation, and the grub here fits the bill. Slow-cooked, carved meats like tender lamb, bacon-wrapped pork loin or roasted beef all prosper here.
Black Whiskey, 1410 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005
Now of legal age (it turned 21 in 2014), this vintage venue best known for landing up-and-coming alternative artists still hasn’t missed a beat. Black Cat is truly in tune with the indie and underground scene, and has certainly anchored the 14th Street since before its recent boom. It’s also home to events like monthly DJ-led dance parties and sci-fi happy hours. What’s more, there’s room enough for two simultaneous concerts, one at the intimate ground-level Backstage (where there’s often no cover) and a headliner at the upstairs Mainstage. In between, visit the Red Bar, it’s hipster vibe, game machines and never-crowded atmosphere.
The Scene: Feel free to have a drink up and down 14th Street before lining up outside for a show, but there’s more than enough going on inside the Black Cat (Pinball, two stages, cheap beer, fantastic crowd) to warrant making a night of it at this here venue.
Insider Info: Band or no band, hungry vegetarians hit up the onsite Food for Thought Café in search of barbecue seitan sandwiches and a solid veggie burger. Omnivores aren’t excepted, as half-smokes and hamburgers also decorate the menu, offering any concertgoer a quiet repast before returning to the bedlam.
Black Cat, 1811 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
After doing some serious world travel with her husband, owner Rose Previte decided to get in the business of serving up street food from every corner of the globe. The space is no little stall, however. Cozy and warm, outfitted with vintage furnishings and unique fixtures, it’s an intimate sanctuary just made for sharing some almost-unpronounceable but certainly delish dishes.
The Scene: Compass Rose sits just a hop east on T Street in an unassuming converted townhouse, all exposed brick and mood lighting. Groups of hip twentysomethings and couples converge in this chic, casual atmosphere.
Insider Info: The dish to order? Khatchapuri, made famous by its inclusion on many DC “best-of” lists. It’s an import from Georgia, a masterfully rich bread-cradled boat of just-runny cheese and a liberal helping of butter, topped with an egg cracked directly into the warm embrace by your server tableside.
Compass Rose, 1346 T Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
Explorers, food-lovers, oenophiles and night owls, Kimpton's latest boutique hotel, Mason & Rook, should be on your radar. Whether you're a solo business traveler with a wild dining side or a local hosting a friend who prefers frequenting local hot spots over touring the National Mall, Mason & Rook caters to both. It even offers refuge from the hustle and bustle of 14th Street less than a block away with stylish new rooms and great bar slinging classic craft cocktails and some crave-worthy culinary finds.
Kimpton’s Mason & Rook Hotel, 1430 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20005
Restaurateur Richard Sandoval opened these two nearly neighboring eateries. Masa 14, a Latin fusion hot spot, the second Mexican, they both have fantastic rooftops and happy hours to enjoy small plates and craft cocktails. Masa 14 is the quieter of the two, great for a second date.
The Scene: You’ll want to dress to impress, but not with a blazer and slacks. Think more Euro, with tighter fitting, more daring outfits.
Inside Info: El Centro is a bit more of a party, but both boast all-night Tuesday happy hours. What makes El Centro stand out is the Latin dance parties in the subterranean dining room. The tables are removed, the remixed salsa is turned up and dancing commences. The unlimited rooftop brunch is also a DC-must dining experience.
Masa 14, 1825 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
El Centro D.F., 1819 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
A Capitol Hill mainstay, Ted’s Bulletin has made its way among the stylish recent entries to a prime location on 14th Street. This restaurant, named for the owners’ father who grew up during the Depression, screams Americana, from country-fried steak to creamed corn to milkshakes (to which you can add shots, like Kahlua or coconut rum, making them all the better). It’s also an impressively ample space for such a popular area.
The Scene: Families, visitors, locals, longtime fans: just like the country, it’s a melting pot of diners, who chat at overstuffed booth or atop stools at the very long bar.
Inside: What makes America great? Ted’s Tarts, for one. Ted’s makes its own version of the flaky breakfast pastry, down to the colorful icing and fun filling.
Ted’s Bulletin, 1818 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
We’ll have a heavy pour of Hemingwayesque 1920s Paris, please. A veteran spot in the scene, Bar Pilar is a wonderland of shimmering chandeliers, gilded decor and exposed that transports quaffers to an earlier time. Cocktails are strong and meticulously poured. Splendid for a date along the sensuous wooden bar.
The Scene: Few would bat an eye at impeccably dressed patrons going to, or coming from, a night out. Take note of artwork covering every wall and corner.
Inside Info: Attempt to snag the sole outdoor table to pair good drinks with a way to take in the entire scene. The downstairs can get crowded, but the smaller upstairs is a bit more intimate.
Bar Pilar, 1833 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
Runway-ready and famous-name boutiques have opened, along with fellow vintage and consignment shops, but Miss Pixie’s stands apart. Redecorate your entire home with antiques, black-and-white postcards, sterling silver, and most-adorable teacups. Unsurprisingly, the inventory changes constantly, so each time visiting is a new shopping experience.
The Scene: Both kinds of strollers appear here; young couples putting together their first place, families with kids, and the just-moved-in look for ways to make their abodes unique.
Inside Info: Grab an adorable mini cookie at the register while you shop. It’s a sweet way to peruse the many wares.
Miss Pixie’s 1626 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009
Baan Thai rests quietly above a sushi spot and specializes in serving traditional Thai food. The chef wanted to return to her roots and move away from tired Americanized Thai. Sure, you could order pad Thai or green curry chicken, but the range of dishes are so much deeper than that, taken straight from the countryside and using deep, earthy spices, herbs and curries found nowhere else.
The Scene: It’s not a party (though perhaps in your mouth), but a relaxed space to enjoy authentic cuisine, with artwork and original pieces flown in from Thailand.
Insider Info: Speaking of party: Head all the way upstairs, where you can reserve the space for free, order from the bar, and sip and mingle under the shimmering lights of an enormous chandelier.
Baan Thai, 1326 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20005
These two bars, located around the corner from each other at P and 14th, come to the area courtesy of co-founder Ed Bailey who helped make DC’s gay nightlife scene what it is today from his Tracks days as a DJ. Number 9 is decked out in mirrors and leather banquettes downstairs, has a tiny, great-for-people-watching patio, and music-video-playing TVs upstairs. Trade just opened in 2015 to much fanfare and is still highly popular, with its tall wood-backed booths, offbeat paintings and rooster-print wallpaper.
The Scene: Number 9 may be slightly more formal, but only because the lighting and setting is less dim than Trade, which has a few darker corners in which to canoodle.
Inside Info: 9’s happy hour is two-for-one form 5 to 9; Trade offers something called Huge Happy Hours, in which cocktails are given generous pours into tall pint glasses from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Number Nine, 1435 P Street NW, Washington, DC 20005
Trade, 1410 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005
No single adjective can describe DC’s 14th Street scene. This strip of activity changes by the day, making it one of the most dynamic, vibrant, and energetic corridors in the District. For more adventures, you should also check out more things to do in Logan Circle and nearby U Street.