Friday Question of the Day – What are the Best Additions to the DC Scene in the last Three Years?

Photo of ‘Coffee and ipads instead of coffee and newspapers’ by PoPville flickr user ekelly80

“Dear PoP,

I was wondering if you could do a bit for out of towners (rather selfishly, I admit). I’m moving back to DC after almost three years New York City, and I’m a bit down in the dumps about it to tell you the truth. I would really like to know what there is to do in DC now? Movies? Culture? Great food? Music?”

First and foremost DC has seen tremendous changes in the last three years. But let me take an aside first and offer some unsolicited advice about coming to DC from NYC. I’m originally from New York and when I first visited DC I hated it. It wasn’t until I stopped comparing everything about DC to NYC that I started to really enjoy it and then I quickly fell in love with DC’s distinct neighborhoods. NYC is a very unique place and there is no place else like it period. Having said that DC is an amazing place in its own right and every year I’ve been here it keeps getting (mostly) better. But that’s just me, so, back on point. What’s the best change we’ve seen in DC over the last 3 years?

Well, the restaurant scene has exploded all over the city. It seems like every single week a new restaurant is opening or planning on opening. I had the opportunity to try Estadio (14th and Church St, NW) for the first time and while the food was great, I was blown away by the slushito (alcohol slushies). Truly amazing. And if you really get homesick for NY – we’re even getting a Shake Shack soon! And we already have a Carmine’s. And we have a ton of food trucks now. The amount of change in the restaurant scene all over the city is astounding.

As for music – we still have the great 9:30 club which was great 3 years ago (same goes for the Black Cat) but Rock and Roll Hotel on H St, NE has really come into its own. And in Columbia Heights you can catch some really interesting acts at Bloombars.

Additionally the bar scene has exploded across the city especially on H St, NE. We now have a proper German Beer Garden and another one is on its way to Near SE/South Barracks Row. We also have a phenomenal restaurant and bar in Logan Circle called Church Key and Birch & Barley. Up in Columbia Heights we have bar with table taps! And nearby you can get some great Pho.

As for the movie scene – I’d say it remains basically the same as it was 3 years ago. E St. Cinema remains the best for eclectic/indie films. However there are lots of film festivals that seem to pop up every other month.

In addition to having a new baseball stadium – we’ve also have new parks and basically a whole new neighborhood.

As for culture – well DC has one of the greatest museum scenes in the world. You can see some of our favorites here. And here’s a number of general must do activities in DC. Here are some great romantic spots around town. Bottom line is – there are tons of amazing things to do in DC, all you have to do is look and the good news is that there are a lot more places to look now.

So for the FQotD – what has been the greatest change/addition to the DC food/cultural/music/movie scene in the last three years?

77 Comment

    • Shut up.

      • im always shocked how often a-holes manage to be the first person to comment. If this blog really bores or upsets you, wouldn’t you be doing something other than checking it frequently enough to be the first commenter? Or is that all part of being an a-hole?

        • Settle down Francis.

          Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

          This person wanted to express the fact that they thought this post was boring in a non threatening and gentle manner, and you sling profanity? Who is the “a-hole” now.

  • We all know the random gang beatings are soooo much better in NYC.

    Having said that, best addition to DC in the past 3 years is the proliferation of beer-based establishments. And I mean good beer establishments. In fact, DC is becoming one of the best cities in the country for beer snobs.

    • +1 – beer and beer pairing nights at good bars / restaurants. i think it started with granville moore’s, but churchkey, meridian pint, etc. have really embraced bringing quality foreign and domestic microbrews in abundance

    • I agree. All the great bars and restaurants here with people who truly care about good beer are making this town a real destination for beer lovers everywhere. They all make the Brickskeller look like a joke in comparison, and the beer landscape in DC wasn’t even close to this five years ago.

  • My advice to them- we’re better off without you with that attitude, please don’t move back. The city is better off with people who want to be here, and lots of us are getting priced out by lamos like the original questioner who are making life choices they don’t even wanna do.

    PS There are about 3 dozen cities (off the top of my head) I’d rather live thank overhyped NYC

    • Prince Of Petworth

      Woah, are you reading the same question I am. Chill out. It’s an honest question I think with good intentions. The questioner is just asking what has changed in DC which is fair. The fact that they are bummed can be for a variety of reasons. So chill please.

  • The obvious one is PoP moving to full time and covering more of the city! 😉 No really, how about all the new bike lanes and bike sharing program? EVs coming soon.

  • What’s new about DC in the last 3 years is that Arlington has become more of a mecca for hipsters than U St, H St, Columbia Heights, Dupont, Adams Morgan, Mt. P, and Petworth combined. (not really?)

  • Let’s not turn this into NYC vs DC…it’s apples and oranges. Might as well argue about Hong Kong vs Madrid.

    I also lived in NYC for several years before moving to MtP/CH 6 years ago.

    I had “low expectations” for this town…but I opened my mind to let DC be what it was going to be.

    Since I made this town my home, I’d have to say that DC always provides me with an high quality of life and a stimulating environment that just improves over time.

  • Down in the dumps? Really? And you lived here 3 years ago and have to ask if there’s culture and good food here? I think your move will go better if you start out with a more positive attitude (and this is coming from someone named grumpy!)

    • Prince Of Petworth

      I find the reaction the question is evoking in some people fascinating. I think the OP knows that there is culture and good food here but they are just asking what are the new elements. If I were moving back to NYC I would ask the same questions. It doesn’t mean I don’t think NY has good food. I’d just want to know what’s new.

      • The person didn’t just ask for ideas – they said they are “down in the dumps” about moving back to DC. Lame. Why would you move anywhere you were “down in the dumps” about? Stay in NYC.

        • maybe they are more career driven than happiness driven.

          • then they’re fools

          • Yeah, it happens. In my field there are practically zero job opportunities in NYC but plenty in DC.

            Sometimes you have to choose between living in your dream city and having your dream job. At the end of the day I think happiness is more dependent on the job than the location.

  • The posters who attacked the OP based on one paragraph, in which s/he asks a simple question about what there is to do these days in DC, crack me up.

    Insecurity complex much?

    Either answer the OP’s question or shut up. No one’s attacking you or your loved ones – they’re just asking what there is to do.

  • did you go to h ne street 3 years ago?
    its much better now.

    did you go to adams morgan 3 years ago?
    it’s also much better now.

    chinatown has more chains

    dupont is exactly the same

    ever heard of the noma neighborhood? thats kinda newish.

    the bike share program is great.

    that cool place along the canal to rent canoes closed. thats kinda lame.

    oh, but there are farmers markets everywhere now.

    • I agree with other sentiments, but Dupont isn’t the same. Maybe 25+ new restaurants or eating establishments. The economic meltdown caused closure of a bunch of places in Dupont — some of which will be missed.

      My theory is that once real estate dropped to realistic, more affordable levels again, it invited in a lot of lot of new commercial tenants. That’s why there’s 5 new burger joints there now, or whatever.

  • There are some angry idiots in this town. Reread the original question and comments. The person simply wants to know what’s new and what’s going on….

  • New in the past three years and good to see:

    Abraham Lincoln Cottage in Petworth

    Mount Vernon (well redone, truly awesome)

    Drum Circle, Meridian Hill Park on Sundays

    Arena Stage is brand new venue on the SW Waterfront

    Ford’s Theatre (newly restored)

    Nationals Baseball Park


    H Street corridor (who knew?)

    Stroga Gym/Yoga in beautifully restored L’Aiglon Building on Adams Mill Road

    Check out Circulator Bus routes (new fast service)

    New in the past three years and good to eat/drink:

    Pho 14 on Park Road and 14th Street

    Las Canteras Peruvian Restaurant on 18th Street in Adams Morgan

    Open City for breakfast in Woodley Park

    Capital City Diner in NE (in authentic 50’s diner dragged from up state New York)

    Eastern Market on Capitol Hill (rebuilt and even better after the fire)

    Table taps at Meridian Pint

    Old Hotels made new in the past three years:

    The (W)ashington Hotel

    The Jefferson Hotel

    The Hay Adams Hotel

    Hilton Washington

    Two long established, staid, refreshingly untrendy restaurants that served good wholesome food three years ago, still serves the same up now, and will serve up three years from now:

    Best Italian in Washington:

    Giovanni’s Trattu in Dupont Circle

    Best French in Washington (without over priced Georgetown’s Citron):

    La Fourchette in Adams Morgan

    Go and enjoy now because they won’t be around in three years:

    The Hitching Post Restaurant in Petworth

    The Seafood Wharf on Maine Avenue on the SW Waterfront

    Will be fabulous and great to see three years from now:

    NoMa neighborhood and everything there around Union Station

    New high end boutique 5 star Schrager/Marriott Edition Hotel in Adams Morgan

    –and of course three years from now–

    Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street closes down for good.

    –We can dream can’t we?

    Oh, and Miss Pixie’s left 18th Street, and is now bigger and better on 14th Street.

    • “New high end boutique 5 star Schrager/Marriott Edition Hotel in Adams Morgan”


      • Once they dubbed it a “5 star” hotel instead of what it was actually intended to be–a “boutique” hotel–I knew the aging trustifarians and NIMBYs in AdMo, especially those on the ANC, would shoot it down. God forbid we should have an internationally-renowned hospitality and entertainment pioneer set up shop in that location and bring in the type of off-hours traffic I’m sure 18th Street merchants desperately need. Maybe they can turn that location into a museum that chronicles the proud and noble tradition of the jumbo slice–they seem to be one of the only commercially-viable enterprises left in AdMo these days.

    • Failure of the Seafood Wharf?!?!!?!?!

      Why do you say that? It is by far one of the best locals-only spots in all of DC. …and its packed every time I go there!

      Do you know something I don’t about its future, or are you just pessimistic about the chances of old-school non-gentry-styled establishments?

      • El Gringo,

        I, too, very much enjoy going to our seafood wharf on Maine Avenue (open 365 days a year) for fresh seafood and have enjoyed it since I was a kid, but modern realities have to accepted.

        I included my prediction of the loss of our Wharf in my round up write up above (hoped you liked it) because the parcels that comprise it have been sold and part of it has already been lost:

        The new owners will be seeking a return on their investment which the low margin seafood retailers won’t be able to pay in higher rents, and our greedy local government officials will want to collect more tax revenue on the waterfront property after new high rise development.

        Will be a truly sad and lamentable loss, so go and enjoy while it lasts.

        • Does any of the seafood sold there actually arrive by boat anymore? My guess is no, and it could probably be relocated just about anywhere in the city. Finding a place that is willing to accept the related smells and mess is another story altogether.

        • The article you cite says “while the restaurant’s current quarters are scheduled to be demolished in tandem with another abandoned property at the site, the remainder of the Washington landmark at 1100 Maine Avenue, SW, will be safe for the foreseeable future.”

          My understanding is that the plans for the PUD preserve the fish market, albeit with some renovations/changes. At any rate, it’s in the 2nd phase of development (7th-9th st. SW is the first phase) so I doubt anything will
          happen there in the next 3 years.

    • The drum circle in Malcolm X Park didn’t start within the past three years. It’s been around a whole lot longer than that.

  • As for movies, don’t forget the fairly significant addition of the West End Cinema just last month.

  • About 100+ new bars and restaurants (no exaggeration)

    Cities can only change so much in 3 years though, so if you’re looking for some epic transformation, then you’ll be disappointed. If you didn’t like it for what it was 3 yrs ago, you probably won’t today either. That said, it’s probably the most rapidly improving city in the country and already a good place to live

  • You guys forgot to mention U Street Music Hall for some great live music/DJ acts and more of a real night club atmosphere (think Nation but smaller with an equally amazing sound system.)

  • I’d like to add my rave review for the West End Cinema. I’ve gotten to speak to the owner a bit over my past three visits there and he seems like a genuinely nice guy who is excited about bringing great films to our fair city. Oh, and the fact that they have a bar helps too 🙂

  • I was going to chime in about West End Cinema. I hope it gets more press and does well. Went this weekend. I almost always find the indie movies to be pretty awful, but I love having the option and do try to go a few times a year. It’s a really nice small theater.

  • Best addition to the scene in the past 3 years? BIKE POLO

  • Totally agree – U Hall is unbelievable. Even better than Red, which is saying a lot.

  • Target it so nice and I really really like just seeing new restaurants spring up now and again. What is not to love about DC (don’t start with the crime thing either)

  • You should really check out all the new awesome alcohol-fueled coed (non)sports leagues too.

    I think I actually saw an ad for Adult Duck-Duck-Goose in Adams Morgan.

  • Two parts of town that have really come into their own within the last three years would be the eastern end of U Street, and H Street.

  • I moved here w/in the past three years, best addition to DC by far. =)

  • I hate NYC even more just by reading your question.

  • Let’s see:

    Total transformation of Columbia Heights (check out 11th St), 14th St in Logan

    Momentum for new development now is on the green line and H St NE

    I always thought the Hill had nice houses but no good bars or restaurants and Eastern Market was overrated–but my how it has changed on all fronts! If you can afford it the Hill is great

    And speaking of affording, if you are interested in buying a home still a lot of good deals in up and coming neighborhoods (thinking esp of Petworth here which will get u the most for your $, but also H St area and Shaw/Bloomingdale

  • Having just moved here from NYC, I too, shared the OP’s angst. There is no place like NYC. That being said, DC isn’t so bad. Is it NY? Absolutely not. But the DC posters here need to get over their inferiority complexes. Of course DC isn’t like NYC, but that doesn’t mean DC is a wasteland. OP was never suggesting that it was. Chill out.

    • So anytime someone vents frustration at a slight on their city it’s an “inferiority complex?” Interesting.

      • It’s pretty clear the DCers don’t like playing “second fiddle” to that grand city 5 hours north of here. No one was slighting DC — just saying it’s not as epic as NYC.

        • It takes you 5 hours to get to NY? Are you walking?

          • SouthwestDC

            Have you ever driven up there? It takes me at least 4 hours just to get to South Jersey.

          • I’ve taken the bus up there many times. If you leave at 5am, it can take you 3.5 hours. At any other time, if you make it in 5 you’re doing well. You can spend 30-45 minutes getting from the Jersey side of the tunnel to wherever Bolt Bus drops you off, easily.

  • DC’s getting Walmart!!!

  • The Yes Organic Market on Georgia Ave.

    The Looking Glass Lounge taken over by the folks who own Wonderland.

    Napolean in Adams Morgan.

  • Since I moved to DC 3 years ago, I feel like I have seen a HUGE transformation in Columbia Heights and U Street. When I first got here I remember hearing about how cool U Street was, but I was honestly pretty disappointed when I saw what was there. I would run down U Street from the direction of Adams Morgan to the U Street metro and feel like there was hardly anything there wasn’t all that much. Things have really changed and the boom has definitely continued eastward. CH still had DC USA, but I feel like most of the shops were vacant. That area around the fountain definitely didn’t have what it currently does. Also, I am pretty sure there was almost nothing on 11th besides Red Rocks Pizza.

  • I got here 5+ years ago, and I’ve really enjoyed my front-row seat to the revitalization of Columbia Heights. Sure, the haters like to call it an urban strip mall, but it can’t be beat for convenience. Also, great modeling of modern high-density, mass-transit-oriented planning.
    It will be interesting to watch the areas around Rhode Island and Ft Totten metros develop, too.

  • The Gibson at 14th and U. I know it’s probably not the best thing to hit DC, but it’s been my favorite bring-out-of-towners-to-try-it place. They always leave impressed.

    On another note, Dance Place continues to bring in great local and national companies. There are some new local dance artists (I dance for Unevenlane) that I think are worth checking out. DC is looking for new local choreographic talent, and it will be interesting to watch over the next few years which of these new companies emerges as a defining DC dance staple.

    • Hi Chalk, thanks for the info on your dance company. Dance Place is a really great venue, and I’ve always enjoyed going there. It’s inspiring for a wannabe dancer like me!

  • Although it doesn’t really compare to NYC, DC’s independent theater scene is now second in the US only to New York’s. Among other things, the past few years have seen the Studio theater’s expansion on 14th Street, Wooly Mamoth open it’s new theater downtown, the Shakespeare theater’s expansion with the opening of Harmon Hall, the opening of H Street’s H Street Playhouse and Atlas theaters, the Arena stage’s complete makeover in SW, the saving and remodeling of the Source Theater, and the arrival of the Fringe Festival.

    • This is what I dont get. I completely agree that nothing compares to NYC, so why preface your statement with “Although it doesn’t really compare to NYC”? Of course it doesnt and nowhere else in the US (and possibily the World) does, so is there a need to say it? That is the issue I have with people who live in NYC, they compare everything to NYC and you just cant do that and non-NYC’ers get tired of hearing how everything is better in NYC, we know a lot of things are better in NYC. Saul Seinberg’s painting,”The World As Seen From New York’s 9th Avenue,” which apperared on the cover of the New Yorker in 1979 still remains true today, some 31 years later.

  • houseintherear

    Welcome back!

    I’d say that the addition of more bike lanes and bike-ability in the city has been a great change over the last few years, at least to me. If you have a dog, the Dupont dog park at 17th and S NW is a wonderful newish DC feature, as well as the Shaw park at 11th and Rhode Island NW.

    Also, check out new developments in neighborhoods like Bloomingdale and Shaw, because that side of the city is really starting to change. The new library at 7th and Rhode Island is a fantastic alternative to doing your reading/writing/web-browsing in a Starbucks.

  • I’d add the new West End Cinema as a great addition to the movie scene. Love the variety of independent movies and documentaries, some of which E Street doesn’t even show.

  • I love the holiday craft markets.
    And there is a decent gallery hopping scene on 14th street. Love the walkability of DC, not nearly as much cabbing required as when I’m in NYC.
    And the awesome protests/hilarity rallies.

  • Let’s please recognize the fact that Pho 14 second to Pho Viet if you want “great pho.”

    • So true!!! Been to Pho 14 about 4 times and it was ok but underwhelming, (but still glad they were only a block away.) Then recently wandered up to Pho Viet with some friends and loved it much more! (Need better signage! We missed it even though we were looking!)

      Actual Pho was better – richer broth, firmer noodles. Papaya salad was great. Atmosphere was much better. (Last visit to Pho 14 – late lunch – we had to beg them to turn down the TV so we could even hear each other)

  • Not that I want to draw any attention to it, but I can’t believe no one mentioned the Kogod courtyard (I guess since it opened in November of 2007 it wasn’t exactly within the last 3 years, but, hey). It was named in Conde Nast Traveler as one of the new Seven Architectural Wonders of the World.

  • Murders are down about 10% I think, though other crimes are stable or higher. And the politics of DC are even more fascinating now than just a few years ago. Gray needs to make the unions happy while increasing efficiency of city services while Marion Barry wants to do away with lifelong wellfare. Those things alone will be one of the greatest spectator sports in all the land.

  • To Chris in Eckington:

    While I regularly go to the Studio Theatre and the Woolly Mammoth, Chicago (my hometown) has a better independent theater scene than here:

    That said, there’s a lot to like here as well.

    • Actually, pretty much everything is better in Chicago, and Chicago also has a cost of living about half that of DC. Plus the people aren’t so stuck-up.

      I’ll be back in two weeks – woo hoo, tacos in Pilsen, here I come!!!

  • It will be a while before we return to festival season, but haven’t a lot of new ones been added in recent years? Not to mention other outdoor events like the Tweed Ride? Maybe someone more motivated that I am can come up with a list.

  • Also, was the National Harbor around 3 years ago? Although it’s kind of tacky, I like to go there sometimes when I want to escape DC and feel like I’m on vacation. It has a completely different vibe than anywhere else in the region.

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