A short walk from Howard University from the north or Mount Vernon Square from the south, the ultra hot neighborhood of Shaw has made a name for itself with its mix of eclectic retail, raved about restaurants and bragging rights to some very cool African American jazz history. No national chains here – instead, foodies will find a plethora of must-dine neighborhood restaurants that are rapidly making a name for themselves.
New and Notable
No neighborhood in DC as opened more new restaurants over the last two years than Shaw. It has seen a renaissance with a rush of innovative culinary concepts, local pop-ups purveying coffee and produce and creative boutiques. The dining scene has made it a must-visit for locals and visitors alike.
Restaurants like The Dabney, a salute to Mid-Atlantic food obsessively sourced by chef Jeremiah Langhorne, have caught the eye of discerning diners and Michelin inspectors alike. Chef Cedric Maupillier’s homage to American cuisine, Convivial, is also attracting diners who want to linger over one of the city’s most famous dishes, the fried chicken coq au vin.
A pair of restaurants from chef Eric Ziebold (who previously oversaw Mandarin Oriental’s CityZen and cooked at the world-renowned The French Laundry) has also scored with restaurant critics. Ziebold’s Kinship, which lays out the menu with unique categories like “Ingredients” and “Indulgences” was called “the most exciting DC restaurant opening of the new year” by Washingtonian – and it has since earned a Michelin star. Head downstairs Ziebold’s upscale Métier, which features a seven-course tasting menu that includes “menu notes” on the backstory of each dish. Gentlemen, jackets are required.
Buttercream Bakeshop, a creative confectionary from locally lauded pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac, will wow you with its assortment of savory and sweet creations. Perfectly executed classics like scones, macarons and lemon meringue bars share the stage with edibles that seem like they could only be the stuff of dreamland. Case in point, the Breakfast Bombs, baked cheese-crested, milk-bread muffins filled with scrambled eggs, sausage and cheese. Or, go the sweet route with the Flakie, a hand-rolled croissant dusted with sugar and filled with an otherworldly passion fruit mousse. Wash it all down with Compass Coffee, served on-site (or at its flagship 7th Street location).
Brisket, bacon and cold-brew coffee are the orders du jour at Smoked & Stacked, and what’s not to love? From the mind of chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley, the sandwich sanctuary’s lineup of early morning offerings are near perfect. The breakfast specialty of the house: the New Yorker, composed of pastrami, a fried egg, Comté cheese and hot pepper jelly.
Part of Shaw’s appeal is the everybody-knows-your-name vibe at its cozy restaurants. Table takes the neighborly vibe up a notch with its monthly Family Meal. Diners make reservations in advance and then break bread with strangers over a set meal from chef Frederick de Pue, who focuses on seasonal ingredients.
For a sophisticated take on Mexican, head to Espita Mezcaleria, which specializes in southern Mexican cuisine (including seven different kinds of mole). After working under chef Robert Wiedmaier at the award-winning Marcel’s, chef Jesse Long launched his own concept with Thally. The restaurant breaks from his white tablecloth experience and takes a more pared-down approach with an American menu made up of fresh, simple ingredients. All-Purpose Pizzeria and Boundary Stone Public House also serve up tasty all-American options in Shaw.
And venture just beyond the outskirts of Shaw to the Bloomingdale neighborhood for a date night at The Red Hen, which serves up delicious dishes in a low-key, open-kitchen setting.
Saturday Night Social
Shaw’s musical roots run deep. The area straddles the line with U Street, home to what was once known as “Black Broadway” with greats like Cab Calloway and Pearl Bailey playing at the Howard Theatre. The historic venue got a multimillion renovation awhile back and now plays host to modern-day musical acts. There is food available during shows, but it’s the Sunday Gospel Brunch with its all-you-can-eat buffet from celeb chef Marcus Samuelsson that’s not to be missed by foodies. Or stop before your next show at Right Proper Brewing Company, the arty brewpub next door that makes their suds on-site.
Local mixologist and cocktail historian Derek Brown has made a name for himself by opening bar after bar in DC that features creative cocktails. A trio of his intoxicating watering holes reside on 7th Street in Shaw: Mockingbird Hill, which serves up sherry and ham; Eat the Rich, an oyster bar with cocktails served by the pitcher; and Southern Efficiency, an ode to Southern food and whiskey. True cocktail connoisseurs will want to experience Brown’s tour de force, Columbia Room in Blagden Alley. The venue features a popular punch garden, the spirits library and lounge area and its namesake, an on-site retreat featuring three- and five-course cocktail tasting menus paired with snacks.