Eastern Market Neighborhood Story

See how the locals live in this pretty, mixed-use area just a few blocks east of the Capitol building. If you take the short walk along Pennsylvania Ave SE from the Capitol complex, you’ll be amazed how quickly the marble walls and intense hill staffers give way to cute little homes and intriguing businesses prowled by locals and a few savvy visitors like yourself. If the late morning finds you near the big dome, this neighborhood is a great side trip for lunch and a recharge before returning to the mall.

Eastern Market is named for the city’s last operating historic market. The market building proper, at the corner of 7th and C Sts SE is open during the daytime with produce stalls, specialty food shops, and a quaint lunch counter. The grounds just outside have produce stalls during the week and craft goods on the weekends.

The neighborhood is bounded by Pennsylvania Ave SE to the south and North Carolina Ave SE to the north. (Where else but the district can you be simultaneously north of Pennsylvania and south of North Carolina?) 6th St SE and 10th St SE provide the west and east borders. Most of the commerce runs along Pennsylvania and 7th with homes and pocket parks filling up the rest of the space. The best metro station for the area is called Eastern Market as well.

If you’re in Eastern Market for one of our evenings from Just the Ticket: An Insider’s Guide to Great Evenings Out in Washington, DC, you’re probably headed to a show at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW), a darling little black box theater in the adjoining Barracks Row neighborhood. There isn’t a great deal of nightlife here in Eastern Market, although the local, divey Tunnicliff’s Tavern is a frequent post show drinking spot for artists performing at CHAW.

There are a number of very nice restaurants in the neighborhood. Acqua Al Due is a charming Italian spot with a sister restaurant in Florence. Monmartre is a sleek and tasty French destination. Radici Market or District Taco are good choices for a quick bite, perhaps to take away and eat on a bench in the tiny park at Pennsylvania and D SE.

Beyond the market itself, there are numbers of attractive specialty stores along 7th St SE. Fairy Godmother and Dawn Price Baby testify to the child raising element in the area. Woven History features funky textiles from far away. Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm there’s a big flea market for those who like to poke through random stuff for treasures.

While there is no single giant reason for the visitor to stop in Eastern Market there are enough little ones that you’ll be glad you made time. DC has a lot of grandeur. Eastern Market is one of the best places to learn that it also has a great deal of charm.

Please let us hear about your Eastern Market adventures either in comments here or by dropping us a line at peteandsara@greateveningsout.com.

Fireworks, onstage and in the sky

This post goes out especially to all of you who will be visiting DC for the upcoming 4th of July weekend. There will be scads of things to do and legions of people here to do them. Popping in to one of these three plays from Just the Ticket: An Insider’s Guide to Great Evenings Out in Washington, DC would be a great addition to your DC visit.

The following Great Evenings, described in greater detail in the book, are all available this weekend. Some of the schedules are altered a little for the holiday, so there are details below.

Chalk (We Happy Few at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, 545 7th St SE, Washington, DC 20003. no box office phone whfchalk.bpt.me) shows you a new take on a classic custody battle on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, and has a Saturday matinee at 2 PM if you want to escape the heat.

Another Way Home (Theater J 1529 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20036. 202-777-3210 washingtondcjcc.org) takes you to summer camp with a twist on Thursday and Saturday nights with a 1 PM Sunday matinee for day campers.

Born for this: The Bebe Winans Story (Arena Stage at 1101 Sixth Street, SW, Washington, DC 20024. 202-488-3300. arenastage.org) hits all the right notes on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights with a 2 PM matinee on Sunday for the after-church crowd.

Bonus insider tip from Great Evenings Out central: If you’re on the mall Monday night for the fireworks, you’ll have a better time if, after the last sparks fade, you continue lounging wherever you are for a while and let the bulk of the crowd take a head start. Metro stations fill to overflowing in the half hour immediately after the celebration, and where you’re sitting is probably more comfortable than shuffling slowly in a giant line.

Have a great Independence Day weekend in DC, and please share your adventures with us by comment on this post or at peteandsara@greateveningsout.com.

Metro, still better than driving through gridlock, but not as good as usual

Strange things are definitely happening with DC public transit, and unfortunately it’s not fun for visitors or residents. A couple of weeks ago, on our way home from The Who and the What at Round House Theatre, our conductor abruptly announced that all passengers should get out at Woodley Park Station. We emerged and determined this looked like it might be a big delay, so even though it was raining we decided to take our chances on walking home as it only added one mile to our walk. As we went up the stairs from the platform, we saw smoke curling in from the southbound tunnel and the station manager was rushing people out of the station. That was a completely new experience for us, and still rare but more common than it should be.

In Just the Ticket: An Insider’s Guide to Great Evenings Out in Washington, DC we extol the virtues of the Metro system, especially Metro Rail, as a speedy and convenient way to get around the area.DC has some of the worst traffic in the country, and Metro is especially valuable during the otherwise gridlocked after-work hours when you’ll be wanting to get to your neighborhood for a great evening out. To a large extent, Metro still deserves to be your #1 travel choice for speed and reliability.

However, you may have picked up on news coverage that parts of the system have been discovered to need unusually high levels of maintenance. The operators of the system have announced “SafeTrack Surges,” or week-long periods when entire parts of the system will have reduced or no service. There’s one in progress right now that has two stations in SE DC completely closed until July 3rd.

That is clearly a huge inconvenience for thousands of locals.  For visitors, unless you are staying near one of the closed stations or outward from them, these closures shouldn’t have much impact on your enjoyment of the city.

Along with these Surges, some lines trains are running less frequently or “single tracking” at night and on weekends. While this is frustrating, the trains should still be able to get you home, you’ll just be waiting longer.

What can you do?  We suggest, first, doing a little bit of advance research:

  • Metro’s website: this web page has information on scheduled work that may disrupt your travel, through the end of the calendar year
  • Google: type “transit stops near [street address of your hotel or apartment]” into Google’s search field to learn more about public transit nearby
  • Your local hookup: call or email your concierge, Airbnb host, or a friend to ask for some backup transit advice
  • Your smartphone: download and set up Google Maps on your phone, which offers the best up-to-the-minute advice on transit options when you are on the ground in its Directions feature.  These include walking, Metrorail, buses, driving and hailing an Uber; speaking of which, download and set up the Uber app on your phone if you haven’t already.
  • Your wallet:  Of course, Uber and taxis are more expensive than public transit.  You may need to adjust your travel budget upwards for your trip this year — and invest in a decent pair of walking shoes, which will give you much more flexibility in this immensely walkable city.

Once you’re here in DC, you can use Google Maps/Directions, the Uber app, and the kindness of bartenders and theater house  managers to navigate the terrain.  And remember, in most neighborhoods in DC and almost all the neighborhoods we’re sending you to, you can hail a cab on the street or at a hotel as well (Shirlington is the main exception, and hailing an Uber works fine there).

Even with these delays, if you need to get on a weekday night from your just-closed museum on the Mall to a 6 PM dinner reservation in Bethesda, for instance a Metro Rail train is still a WAY better bet than trying to make the drive with thousands of homeward-bound commuters on the road. Hopefully, we’ll pass through SafeTrack Surges by the end of the fall, and get back to the more normal state in DC, which is of having one of the most useful and reliable transit systems in the USA.

Great Evening Extra: Mischief in Dixie, Gallery Place

We knew that eventually we would discover a great evening opportunity well after our Kindle e-book for the quarter had been published. It just happened, and this blog seems like a great place to make up our oversight.

An Octoroon performs Wed – Sun through June 26. Top ticket price $83.

A meaty meal and a play full of guilty laughs make for a memorable evening in Gallery Place. This is one of Washington’s most varied entertainment districts with theaters, a cinema, a giant sports venue, and dozens of bars and restaurants drawing people here on many different quests. (Metro: Archives/Navy Memorial)

Start with dinner at The Partisan. This stylish yet comfortable restaurant is kin to its neighboring butcher and deli Red Apron. As a result, the menu is liberally supplied with mouthwatering meaty dishes. The menu is organized around the type of creature at the center of the dish and further broken down into small, medium, and large. When they say large, they mean it with some of the large dishes sufficient for 4 diners. There is also a good variety of vegetarian dishes that can serve as sides to a mixed meal or as a whole meal for those avoiding meat. We know them mostly as a bar, where they shine whether in cocktails, beer, or wine. Service is friendly and helpful. (709 D St NW, Washington, DC 20004. 202-524-5322. thepartisandc.com)

Enjoy the same great ingredients without all the trappings and with significant savings by picking up sandwiches at Red Apron. There’s a little bit of seating inside, but on a nice evening, you’d do well to head across D St NW and step down the pedestrianized section at the end of 8th St NW for pleasant bench seating either north of or on Navy Memorial. Take selfies with the sculpted sailor, find your home on the huge map, or just eat your dinner then pop into Plan B (just outside the northwest curve of the memorial) for a drink before heading to Woolly. (709 D St NW, Washington, DC 20004. redapronbutchery.com)

An Octoroon at Woolly Mammoth takes on racial issues in a bunch of different ways. We open with a side-splitting monologue from an actor playing playwright Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins about his frustration at only being encouraged to write race plays. He goes on to star in and show us his adaptation of a melodrama from 1859 about a southern plantation in financial difficulty with a love story on the side. The original play went to a lot of trouble to distinguish good slave owners from bad slave owners, a concept that is offensive all on its own in 2016; then Brandon layers on more unsettling elements in the form of people playing characters not their own race by slapping on make-up and two women playing slaves who provide running commentary in contemporary language very different from how other characters speak. Somehow, though, with the wonderful acting and brilliant design, most people are finding they can overlook all that and wrestle with the fascinating question of what made someone want to put this play on stage in just this way. It made us think, and you’ll likely enjoy it too. (641 D Street, NW Washington, DC 20004. 202-393-3939 woollymammoth.net/octoroon/)

You’ll have a lot to discuss just around the corner at the bar of Oyamel. We’ve used this Mexican restaurant for dinner in other Great Evenings. The strongest suit is cocktails made with tequila and mescal. We’re still learning about mescal, and so sometimes order a sampler flight. The bartenders are great and will talk you through any of their offerings. Beer and wine are also good. There are often classic Mexican action movies on the screen. Did the show make you uncomfortable? Was it in a good way? Why does it break so many rules? (401 7th St NW, Washington, DC 20004. oyamel.com)