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

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?

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