An historic area of DC U Street is deeply rooted in local culture. A home for prosperous African Americans in the early twentieth century, it was an epicenter for America’s black culture on par with Harlem. The neighborhood fell into disrepair in the 60s, and bore the brunt of the city’s deadly 1968 riots. Today, decades of revitalization have made it once again a social destination for locals and out of towners alike. The neighborhood’s strengths are in music, drinks, and food, so here are some suggestions on how and where to enjoy all three.
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U Street is considered by many as the center of Washington DC’s music scene. The Lincoln Theater has hosted jazz and big band icons like Duke Ellington for over 90 years. On the National Register of Historic Theaters, the Howard Theater has a proud history continued by major acts in recent years including Chaka Khan and Macy Gray. Lastly, the U Street Music Hall is the most prolific and popular venue in the area today. Catering to a lot of DJ’s and indie bands, it’s an easy spot to find some fun dancing and new music. Up one block, the 9:30 Club (officially Nightclub 9:30) on V Street, hosts big-name bands and rising indie stars alike, and has won Billboard Magazine’s Top Club award five times.
Near Dupont Circle, Logan Circle and Adams Morgan, U Street is one of the most popular nightlife neighborhoods in town. Bar-hoppers can begin an evening with a glass of whiskey or craft cocktail at the speakeasy-style bar The Gibson. A bit less refined, Nellie’s Sports Bar is a classic good time with large flat screen televisions, drag show brunches, poker nights, and karaoke. Lastly, for a laid-back atmosphere and good drink, Saloon keeps a stellar draught list and a no cell phone rule for a little break from the consuming world of iPhones.
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As if there’s not enough to do on U Street already, the area is also filled with an eclectic collection of beloved restaurants. The Fainting Goat has dishes like goat bolognese, catalan fish stew and scallop crudo with lobster mushrooms. JoJo Bar and Restaurant features live jazz alongside classic delights like bourbon bbq ribs and New Zealand lamb chops. On top of all these spots, no visit to U Street is complete without stopping by the original Ben’s Chili Bowl—a neighborhood landmark—and getting a chili dog.
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