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PoP Special Feature: Intangible Tales Volume Two – Meet Georgia Avenue

by Prince Of Petworth February 20, 2008 at 11:54 pm 26 Comments

Georgia Avenue, originally uploaded by IntangibleArts.

It is my pleasure to present Volume Two ( here is Vol. One if you missed it.) of Intangible Tales by local blogger Intangible Arts. Intangible Arts’ assignment for Vol. Two was to demystify Georgia Avenue. Enjoy the journey.

Georgia Avenue has become DC’s new test lab for balanced development. It’s an ambitious task, and I’m not sure it’s ever been done right.

Tricky! How to balance the new money vs. the long-time residents that are the backbone of the neighborhood, in one strip of development? Other neighborhoods have tried this and failed miserably (creating national retail hell-holes with no local flavor), and that is why we watch our little street with great interest.

I heard from one new resident that Georgia Avenue can be a damned scary place. Maybe that’s true, but a little familiarity can go a long way. When we bought our place, we didn’t have anyone to point out the neighborhood gems, and so we’ve tried to find ’em ourselves. As a result, the strip isn’t nearly as damned-scary as some might think.

And that’s the real point here: A brief tour of my home stretch of Georgia Avenue, southward from the Petworth Metro to the top of Howard University. Due to space, it’s a short list. Story continues after the jump.

Like many shops on Georgia, Capitol Locksmith (at New Hampshire Ave) was practically invisible; I probably walked past it for weeks without noticing. But its tiny size is deceptive. Rather than driving down to the Home Depot on Rhode Island Ave, I’ve had great luck finding random, odd little home-improvement items in there.

We’ve given The Looking Glass Lounge (at Princeton) loads of exposure already. If you aren’t aware, just get in there. I’ll be the unkempt looking photoblogger at the bar with a face-full of garlic fries and Rittenhouse rye, making insane croaking noises at the DC United game…

Mom & Pop Antiques (at Newton) is an amazing nest of treasure. Their hours are unpredictable on the weekends and they close by 4pm on weekdays, so it’s a treat to wander by and find the place open. My drug of choice is old (weird) vinyl records, and I’ve scored amazing finds there (including of course, the Puff & Toot kids’ record). Proprietor Bill Sims usually keeps a tempting bunch of furniture on the sidewalk when he’s open. But be warned: if you’re fond of antique and junk shops, this place is a huge time-vortex in a small space.

The Hunger Stopper (between Princeton & Otis) stopped being the Hunger Stopper years ago, but I’ve gotta love it: That’s the coolest restaurant name in the world. And the signage is a thing of beauty. Moving on…

Rita’s (at Lamont) opened in 1973 and is a critical spot on the Avenue. They did a fine job renovating the facade last year, with a new sign and fresh tiles. It’s a West Indian carryout place with an adjoining dining room, filled with the aroma of Trinidad-style curries. And the value is incredible. Typically, I’ll walk out of there with the stuff in the photo: for just $6.50, there’s enough chickpeas, lentils, and rice to feed two starving adults.

(also worth it for the hilarious faces the dog makes at the smell when I get it home.)

Honorable mention to Kusa Market (at Irving): we’ve got a million beer/wine/convenience shops, so the best one for you might be whichever is closest. But for what it’s worth, these folks have always been very pleasant, and I’ve never had to deal with a glut of drunken maniacs throwing lottery tickets around, as in other places on the strip.

More carry-out food, this time from Everlasting Life (at Columbia Rd). Their store shelves are pretty barren these days, but it’s still a good source for organic and health-food items. So while you’re in there on a mad dash for sliced Tofurky, gitcherass to the back, for lunch. The spicy tofu, salad greens, and couscous (pictured) is a mere $5.80, and is tasty as hell.

And Georgia Avenue continues to evolve: The E.L. Haynes charter school is under construction and the prospect of the Central Union Mission shelter is still with us. The old SunRay market and its neighboring lots are about to be torn down for a mixed-use project. And there’s still the huge condo development by the Petworth Metro…

For now, there is still crime, poverty, and unpredictable craziness on Georgia, but to some extent, that will always be the case. There’s also a lot of new residents in this neighborhood and hopefully they’ll claim their fair slice of this unique street with us, and keep their precious money in the ‘hood, where it can do the most good.

So what the hell did I miss, eh? Other favorite suggestions?

  • chris

    great list, IA. one thing you missed that’s not really a “hidden” gem, but gem nonetheless: sweet mango. some of the jamaican food around. also, i can’t tell you how wonderful it is to head out to take the dog for a walk at 7am and smell jerk chicken in the early morning petworth air. definitely makes you want to skip the corn flakes and go straight for the chicken w/red beans and rice and cabbage.

  • Anonymous

    Glad to see Rita’s got a mention…seeing as how I just gorged myself on it a little earlier this evening. The menu is extensive and the proportions are generous…just the way I like it.

  • Anonymous

    fish in the hood, murray’s for cheap produce.

  • Anon: Definitely Murray’s; I’ve consumed about five million of those cheap frozen crabcakes already… Also wanted to call out the L and N thrift-shop two doors up from Kusa, but they didn’t make the cut for space reasons. It’s another great time-vortex, like Mom & Pop Antiques. Love that place.

  • Anonymous

    dear white people,

    talk to some black folks. promise its not that scary and they wont ask you for money.

  • mz. lady

    ladies, be warned. i have had some creepy experiences at that hardware store. i go there reasonably often, as i live around the corner. the white guy with gray hair that seemingly owns the place is kind of horrible. i can’t count how many times i’ve seen him ridicule and otherwise yell at his son, who also works there. once i was buying stakes for my flowers, and he began slapping his hand with the stakes, asking if i liked to be spanked, saying “yeah, i bet you do, i can tell.” he is a creep. but the older black man who works there is extremely nice, and will help you find items and help you figure out what you need.

  • mjbrox

    Anonymous, I talk to Black people all the time. I do live in Petworth afterall :)

    I think some black folks seemed shock when I say good morning to them while I walk my dog, or jog though the neighborhood.

    I am always striking up conversations in Sweet Mango, while I wait for my food

    Admittedly, I probably stand out a bit being a 6’4” white guy in tight bright (not spandex) running clothes.

    I love running in the summer time. It is amazing how all the comments I would hear from porches would scare me a little, now I have realized that everyone is very friendly and cheering me on. I end up getting great Interval training while trying to race some of the local kids to the end of the block.

  • Anon; You knee-jerk assume the neighbor I referred to was melanin-challenged? I’ve heard that opinion voiced about the strip from folks representing three skin colors.

    ….that would be different people. Three skin colors on one dude would be fiercely unbelievably awesome.

  • saf

    Brown’s Bakery – I love them. Have you been there?

  • Golden Silence

    WaPo did an article on this last year. It goes over the delay in revitalizing the area, plus the fear that the area will lose its diverse eclectic feel with gentrification.

    And slightly off-topic, but did you know that a DC resident/actor wrote a book called The Georgia Avenue Bus? I’m waiting for my copy to be put on hold at the library. It’s supposed to be about the diverse characters (Petworthians and others) that ride that bus.

  • Golden Silence

    Oh! To add to my previous comment, I was apartment searching last weekend, and saw a place I liked in Petworth. Color me surprised because I never thought I was a hugest fan of the area (when I lived there). I explored Upshur Street (I did go to Domku once in the past but never paid attention to the street as a whole) and was impressed with all I’d seen there—other than Domku, there was El Limeno, a Natural Black hair salon (the shirt in the window that said “Nappy Me!” called to me), a few mom-and-pop corner stores. . .WOW! I was really considering moving back to Petworth then.

    I ended up getting a place closer to where I am now (I need to move soon and it was a nice place as well and a quick offer), but I wouldn’t mind making visits to Petworth just to check out those fine restaurants and that Natural hair care place.

    Hearing about the changes and seeing the little diamonds in the rough has made me change my stance on Petworth. It’s not a bad place after all!

  • bogfrog

    thank you, Intangible, for a great tour! I like your selections! And initially, I would have advocated for Morgan’s Seafood. But I don’t want to go to a food restaurant and get touched and stroked continually.

  • GforGood

    Bogfrog, can you enliten me/us: what do you mean by the “touching and stroking”?

  • Glenn

    Thanks for the tips! I have lived a block from that hardware store for almost 3 years and walked by it most days on my way to work. Until your article I did not realize it was actually in business. I thought it was just another abandoned storefront that the owners never bothered to clean out.

  • reuben

    Wonderful, informative list. This blog has introduced ( and reintroduced ) me to the
    poetry (if you will) of a hood I have “known” since 1959.

  • Great post, Intangible. I’m a block from Georgia, but it’s in the other direction from everywhere I need to go (work, metro, etc), so I never think to just turn around and wander around over there. I’ll have to take a walk some weekend and just check it out, esp now that I’ve seen Rita’s food, mmmm.

  • Bogfrog: We finally got some fish & sides at Morgans a while back… the fish was alright, but the corn was awesome succulent sweet perfection. Somehow we missed out on the “touching & stroking”…

  • Also: It looks like some contractors (or the owners, or somebody) have been working on the Rich Convenient Store (entrance faces Irving, at Georgia, across from the Nat’l Guard place) — The inside seems gutted, but hopefully it’ll spring to life soon…

  • GforGood

    I just saw on the excellent

    that the Park Morton development program (east side of Georgia and South of Park Rd) has been given a go ahead by the DC Council. Looks like a huge project, as its expected to take 9 (!!) years to be fully completed.

  • leslie

    Hey Golden Silence: The Howard Bookstore used to and may still have copies of The Georgia Avenue Bus. I got mine there.

  • Golden Silence

    Leslie, thanks for letting me know! My hold on it at the library came through, so I’ll get it from there for now. If I end up liking it, I now know where to go to buy it to add to my book collection. Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    I second the caution about the creepy guy at the hardware store. I stopped going there and prefer to go to Cooper’s at 14th and Oak. Friendly and will order stuff for you. As far as the touchy feely thing at Morgan’s goes, the owner did hit on me once… he’s a playa playa but unfortch he smells like fish.

  • Anonymous

    No need to hate on Columbia Heights. We’ve still got some flavor. And having the modern conveniences of Target at our fingertips is not the worst thing in the world.

  • iammrben

    DC United! Next away game, I’ll come join you at Looking Glass :)

  • I

    PoP thanks for the post Kusa Market is one of my favorite places. Ms. Sue gives me candy when I buy beer there and they now have an ATM which on that section of Georgia is hard to come by. The BoA one always broken.

  • emma d.

    fascinating… i’d love to see one of these for the world north of petworth metro (but shy of silver spring)…


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