Shaw: DC’s Best-Kept Secret
Located in the heart of Washington, D.C., Shaw is a small, charming, historic neighborhood replete with unique restaurants and bars and is on its way to competing with popular destinations like Adams Morgan or U Street Corridor.
Located between Florida Avenue and M Street, and 11th Street and New Jersey Avenue and next to several extensively developed and popular areas such as 14th Street, downtown and Mount Vernon Square, Shaw can easily go by unnoticed. However, the neighborhood boasts a rich history and cultural heritage. Named after Civil War Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, it was originally a destination for many freed slaves in the post-war period.
For many years, the neighborhood was the center of African-American culture in D.C., housing many famous artists, from the celebrated Langston Hughes to jazz legend Duke Ellington. As D.C. continued to grow, so did Shaw, and soon enough, Seventh and Ninth Streets evolved into corridors in which high-end department stores and progressing businesses, as well as schools, juke joints and places of worship chose to take root.
Things took a drastic turn for the neighborhood after destructive riots took place in response to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The neighboring community has since made drastic efforts to contribute to its reconstruction and development, reinventing the neighborhood as an area of intersection of the old and the new.
The combination of the historical and modern presence is what is truly captivating about Shaw. The traditional architecture keeps its appearance quaint and residential, but the new construction projects reminds visitors that Shaw is catching up with the latest lifestyle trends that comes with being a part of a big city. To add to its charming atmosphere, the alternative and secretive label associated with the area makes it a unique find for those who are in constant lookout for hidden and undiscovered bars, restaurants, art galleries and street art.
At first glance, Shaw might seem like a residential neighborhood. However, upon closer inspection, it proves itself to be a hub of new and fresh restaurants. Shaw offers places that cater to every taste and need: for the foodies, the coffee connoisseurs, the artists and the adventurers.
Shaw’s Tavern is a cozy American tavern with Southern flair and its management describes it as a location that “customers like to call home.”
“Shaw is a great neighborhood rich in culture. It has an authentic D.C. feel with an amazing community of residents. There’s a lot of buzz going around about the neighborhood with some amazing concepts — bar, restaurant, retail — coming to the area,” Shaw’s Tavern Managing Partner Eric Heidenberger said.
In recent years, Shaw has seen the establishment of a diverse array of bars and restaurants, all based on innovative concepts, yet simultaneously offering original experiences. One of these is Chaplin’s, a restaurant that fuses a 1920s atmosphere with Japanese cuisine that plays silent movies every night to create a unique dining experience. Other highlights in the area are BKK Cookshop for savory Thai food, SUNdeVICH for fresh sandwiches prepared with locally grown products, Rito Loco for some of the best tacos in town and Al Crostino for homemade pasta and authentic Italian food.
General Manager of Al Crostino Juliana Nicolai said that one of the main reasons Shaw is becoming so popular is that it has a “small ma-and-pap business and residential vibe and doesn’t seem like a cookie-cutter neighborhood.”
There is also more to Shaw than great food. There are several venues ideal for enjoying a drink or two with friends, family or co-workers: Dacha Beer Garden as a popular destination for a beer outdoors, A&D Neighborhood Bar for a hipster-pub-like experience and creative cocktails and Southern Efficiency for whiskey-based cocktails.
In addition to food and drink, Shaw is also the perfect destination to experience the history and culture of D.C. The historically emblematic Howard Theater, restored in 2012, offers fun entertainment from live music shows to R&B Soul Brunch. Also worth visiting is the Long View Gallery, a boutique art gallery showcasing local artists with monthly exhibits of contemporary American art.
While it remains an important residential neighborhood of D.C., Shaw’s growth as a cultural and entertainment center is palpable. It is worth visiting for its abundant heritage and history, as well as an availability of trendy restaurants and concept bars, art galleries and scenic streets. As Shaw positions itself as an up-and-coming neighborhood in the city, it remains one of its hidden and undiscovered gems.