Even though I’m always a fan of chili-cheese fries at 3 am, Ben’s Chili Bowl isn’t the only U Street establishment that’s worth the trip. Besides U Street’s rich cultural history and landmarks that prove it, this quirky bunch of eateries and bars have always contributed to the neighborhood’s mojo:
- Ulah Bistro always hits the spot. The restaurant is known for being consistent and casual with a bit of flair, which translates well on the menu of modern American cuisine. Brunch is my favorite meal here, with plenty of great options to choose from. The eggs Benedict Chesapeake ($13) comes piled high with fresh lump crab meat at an affordable price, while the smoked gouda mac n’ cheese ($11, or $9 without bacon but we assume you know better) is creamy and not too heavy, so you can keep drinking mimosas. Make it bottomless for only $25 (includes one entrée). 1214 U Street NW, Washington, DC. 202.234.0123
- 1905 flies under the radar with a down-to-earth vibe and sexy candlelights that make for delightful evenings, whether you’re bravely enjoying a unique absinthe cocktail or taking comfort in the Southern-inspired menu which changes from time to time. Must-tries include the brined pork loin with spaetzle ($22) and the house-smoked pork belly with truffled grits and a sunny-side up egg ($9 appetizer at dinner, $12 entrée at brunch). The rooftop deck is incredibly serene, open late, and my secret go-to drinking spot for the summer. 1905 9th Street NW, Washington, DC. 202.332.1905
- Hands down the best jumbo slice in DC, I don’t feel guilty about eating Duccini’s Pizza in the daylight. It’s become a local late-night gathering spot where familiar faces make this place a hidden gem…or the joke is on us. Regardless, the crust is thin and crispy, and doesn’t succumb to the inevitable grease that you happily devour sop up with a napkin. All slices are wallet-friendly ($4-$8) and the toppings fresh; there are even vegan options for those who don’t like having fun. 1778 U Street NW, Washington, DC. 202.483.0007
- You may not be able to eat here, but there is plenty of food for musical thought at U Street Music Hall. With one of the best sound systems in the country, this no-frills dance party is always a good time once you embrace the fact that you’re in a basement drinking $5 Natty Bohs. The atmosphere is welcoming and every DJ’s beats are infectious, so be ready to move in ways you never imagined. Catching an intimate live performance on the front stage is an even better way to experience U-Hall (what the kids call it). 1115 U Street NW, Washington, DC. 202.588.1880
- Pleasant Pops, the brick-and-mortar version of the “pop”-ular food truck, just opened last year and is technically around the corner from U Street. But since I like breaking rules, it finagles a well-deserved spot on this list. The adorable shop is always full of happy hipsters sipping coffee and writing e-books, and sucking on wildly-flavored popsicles such as guacamole and pineapple basil. Try the delicious salads or sandwiches ($5-$7) for something more substantial, or buy any of the artisanal products from local vendors (including cookies from Blind Dog Café = my kryptonite). 1781 Florida Avenue NW, Washington, DC. 202.558.5224
Photo: Pleasant Pops
Lisha grew up in her potty-mouthed grandma’s soulful kitchen, asked for a bread-maker on her 11th birthday, loves whiskey and once ate a whole spit-roasted guinea pig in Ecuador. Lisha has been a GMF contributor since 2011, and now lives in Oakland, CA, where the intersection of food, identity, and community has sparked her interest in sustainable and equitable dining. When she’s not working as a finance professional and dance instructor, Lisha is side-hustling as a biscuit entrepreneur.