Monday, March 9, 2009

Out and About: What's Up With H Street NE?

Give it up for the Atlas District. Even three to four years ago, I wouldn't have had a reason to stop anywhere on H Street NE. Drive though, yes. On the way to Botanical Gardens, yes. On the way out to some parts of Maryland, yes. I don't have kids, but perhaps if I was on the way to the old Children's Museum, then yes. But now, I find myself working to get down to this part of Northeast several times a month.

The first place which I began to visit on a semi regular basis was the Argonaut. I tried a few happy hours a couple of years ago and really liked the atmosphere. It's not so much a dive bar as it is a pretty solid watering hole with better than average food for a bar. I swear there were a few vegan-ish offerings when I first visited, but at least they kept the skinny-crisp fries and have killer sweet potato fries now, too. You can watch sports there and its the H Street venue that most feels like a really old neighborhood haunt to me.

The most in/famous of the newish venue on H Street has to be the Rock and Roll Hotel. Before attending a new years party there two years ago, I wrote a letter complaining about the prospect of naked sushi, which they had widely advertised before hand. I was a little taken aback by possibly having to eat sushi off of a naked lady. Or watch other people eat sushi off of a naked lady. Anyway, when I showed my ID for admittance, the door guy recognized my name and we had a laugh over me actually writing a letter about naked sushi. Turns out it wasn't really as degrading or unhygienic as I had imagined. Plus the sushi was mostly gone by the time we got there and the ladies just went home I guess. They had bikinis on, too. So, not naked. Great sound system. Books great bands. That's all I have to say about Rock and Roll Hotel.

The place I visit the most, though, is Sticky Rice. It's a Richmond, VA import (my hometown). The DC version is just as fun, if not more so, and I thoroughly enjoy being there whenever I go. Somehow, it's always packed. I mean, I can't get over this fact. There are always people there. Upstairs, downstairs, at the bar, waiting to be seated, on the patio, just everywhere. If one place exists that can pull off sweet decor, awesome, unique, and vegan friendly food, good drinks, over the top staff antics, while mixing in the use of a gong without being cheesy, it's Sticky. And I said it a year ago and I will say it again, the Dirty Vegan is like, the best meal ever invented. The best. Non-vegans, please try it. And the sushi here is inventive (yes, even for the vegans) as anywhere. And fresh. Hands down the crown jewel of H Street eats, in my eyes. And the best spot for partying on H Street in general. If college partying had an older and (only slightly) more mature brother, this place is it.

As for the Red and the Black, Sidamo, Pug and the few others I've been to, I need to visit a couple more times to give a proper write up. However, the Atlas District has matured nicely so far and if most of the places survive the recession/depression, H Street NE will boost itself back into the upper tier of neighborhoods in DC. Another quality neighborhood site, Frozen Tropics, keeps tabs on a daily basis if you want to follow along in real time.

Atlas District: Is it growing on you, too? Not convinced yet? Haven't figured out how to get there/get home? What do you you think?