Dig into Black history, cool concert venues, dining and some of the city’s hippest shops
African-American history runs deep in Shaw, a rowhouse-, restaurant- and retail-filled neighborhood northeast of the White House. Duke Ellington was born here, and he and other stars of “Black Broadway” played at nearby theaters that are still standing. These days, the zone is just as well known for trendy restaurants, indie boutiques and a happening bar scene. One thing’s for sure: it’s one of the most interesting places in cap city to be right now.
Catch a show at the historic Howard Theatre
Big names like Ella Fitzgerald and Marvin Gaye performed at Howard Theatre during the first half of the 20th century. Restored in 2007, the two-level concert hall now hosts jazz, rock and blues acts. A statue of DC-born Duke Ellington, who played here, sits outside the theater.
Drink locally made beers at Right Proper Brewing Company
Sip made-on-site suds and chow down on sandwiches at an arty brewpub outfitted with colorful wall murals and vintage wrought iron. An in-house cheese-monger is in charge of the long list of artisanal cheeses and there are frequent special tastings.
Eat and drink in an alley
Shaw had a thriving alley culture in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, historic areas like Blagden Alley and Naylor Court buzz with bars, restaurants and other businesses in old carriage houses and warehouses. Try the Alley’s Mid-Atlantic farm-to-table darling The Dabney or Naylor Court’s Sundevich.
Learn about history at the African-American Civil War Memorial
On a corner plaza, the outdoor memorial pays tribute to Black Civil War soldiers with a dramatic statue of combatants and walls listing the names of 209,145 soldiers who fought for the Union in the Civil War. A small museum contains related photos, letters and uniforms.
Take in the creative comfort of dinner at The Red Hen
A woodfire-powered kitchen, bucolic decorations that emulates a countryside abode and an affordable, Italian-infused menu have turned The Red Hen into one of DC’s go-to neighborhood restaurants. Pasta lovers will have difficulty resisting dishes such mezze rigatoni with fennel sausage ragu or squid ink linguini, while those hankering for seafood can savor caramelized scallops or grilled swordfish. An exceptional wine list only adds to the tranquility of this gem.
Catch a movie at the Atlantic Plumbing Cinema
Sleek and modern design, reserved stadium seats and a roster of indie movies keep one of the most distinctively named boutique cinemas around crowded with locals. The on-site bar serves up unusual cocktails, wine and small bites to enjoy there or take into a screening room.
Pay homage to icons
Duke, the prodigal son of DC, is celebrated in a photo-friendly memorial standing proudly outside the facade of Howard Theatre. The statue depicts Ellington next to a treble clef, emblematic of his contribution to music and culture in DC. Nearby you'll find the Howard Theatre Walk of Fame, a stunning tribute to 20th century African American icons. Extending from the 1900 block of 7th Street NW to the theater's entrance on T Street NW, the walk depicts its honorees in bronze medallions featuring hand-sculpted bas relief portraits embedded in the sidewalk. Even certain architectural details from the theater's facade are mirrored in the medallions. As you walk, you’ll notice the incredible array of musicians honored, including Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Chuck Brown and Mamie Smith. Each one performed at Howard Theatre and helped to establish the vital legacy that the venue holds today.