When the Argonaut first opened its doors in August of 2005, those of us who live near the H Street corridor welcomed it as the first sign of life returning to the neighborhood. There were those who worried that Joe Englert’s plans to open eight establishments between 12th and 15th Streets would start us down a path that would turn H Street into “Adams Morgan Northeast,” but community response was generally positive. In the three years since then, we have seen a steady influx of new establishments that are giving the Atlas District (as the neighborhood has since been branded, in honor of the Atlas Performing Arts Center) a very different flavor.
Last week, the Washington Post confirmed this with a front-page article in the Food Section entitled “H is for Happening.” The piece is written by Jane Black, a Post staff writer who has contributed dining and food-related items in Washington, New York and Boston (she was the food editor at Boston Magazine before coming to the Post) – so it’s safe to say she knows a bit about the subject.
Seriously? An article about H Street that doesn’t focus on its Hipster appeal (who hasn’t read about Drunken Jenga at the Rock and Roll Hotel by now?) or its burgeoning nightlife scene? More after the jump.
Though local response at FrozenTropics has been generally positive, critics argue that Black did some establishments a disservice by failing to mention them. Generally speaking, the article is certainly noteworthy for its effort to shine the light on what those of us who live here have been thrilled to see – we really are turning into a destination for creative and well-executed dining options!
Black did a great job of hitting the highlights, but I wanted to make sure to point out a few more ‘don’t miss’ items as you eat your way from one end of the Atlas District to the other.
- At the Argonaut, you owe it to yourself to try the sweet potato fries. They’ve been on the menu since the Argonaut’s earliest days, and there’s a good reason for it. At once sweet and salty, they offer a texture and flavor that rival those of the best fries in the city. Get them with any of the classic sandwich options on the right-hand side of the menu (the Fuji apple and brie on rye is a local favorite), or order them on their own.
- ANM Market Deli, a relative newcomer to the block, offers salads and sandwiches made to order a few doors down from Sova. Though they don’t rise to the level of ‘dining establishment,’ they provide a great option for carryout and late-night eats.
- Granville Moore’s is getting plenty of well-deserved press for chef Teddy Folkman’s presentations of plump, rope-grown PEI mussels, but their bison dishes are an unsung treat. They source their bison from New Frontier Bison in Madison, Virginia, and the meat is lean and flavorful. If you want a treat, start off your dining experience with the bison tartare – bison, capers and black truffles in a rich, cold-pressed olive oil.
- Sticky Rice is definitely starting to find its footing – being too crowded night after night to really establish a rhythm is the kind of problem most restaurants would be happy to have, but it has definitely resulted in some mixed reviews from neighbors and others who have had long waits for less-than-stellar meals. Stick to what they do best – their poki is a plate of tuna sashimi dressed with sesame oil, ginger, garlic, soy sauce and toasted coconut and it is a home run. The vaunted tater tots live up to the hype, but you may want to do yourself a favor and get a side order instead of the full appetizer portion if you’re planning to eat anything else.
- Philadelphia Water Ice Factory is another great late-night dining option. Though it’s really just a walk-up window that fronts onto the 1200 block of H Street, it offers cheesesteaks served on authentic Amoroso rolls (the ones that everyone from Philly swears are what make their steaks so freakin’ amazing) and offered with Cheez Whiz in the true Philly style. They offer a bevy of drunk-food options including funnel cake, half-smokes, nachos and the water ice suggested in the name. Guilty pleasures, to be sure.
One thing that Black fails to mention is that H Street continues on past 12th Street, the arbitrary end of the Atlas District. Additional dining options can be found at XII, a newly-opened club/restaurant/lounge and Napa 1015, a restaurant that grew out of a catering operation and offers a full sit-down dining experience complete with pre-theater menu.
These options, coupled with the coming attractions hinted at in Black’s article, suggest that H Street is well on its way to proving early skeptics wrong and establishing itself as a destination for all kinds of foodies.