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You can feel the sense of pride by longtime residents of Shaw, many of whom have lived in this neighborhood for generations. Named after Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, who led one of the first official black units during the Civil War, Shaw is one of Washington DC's oldest sections. Rich in history, it has also transformed in recent years to offer a wealth of entertainment, culture, and greenspaces. Not to mention, its central location in the northwest quadrant of Washington DC makes anywhere in Shaw a convenient address. Residents can find anything they need within its boundaries of 15th Street NW, Florida Avenue, North Capitol Street, and M Street NW. Yet, it's also easily connected to other equally vibrant neighborhoods.
In addition to being one of DC's oldest neighborhoods, Shaw is also an up-and-coming one that has been attracting new businesses like wine bars and retail shops in conjunction with real estate re-developments. If you're looking for an apartment in Shaw, you'll find it tucked amid a mix of housing, including single-family and multi-unit row houses, modern loft condominiums, and newly constructed luxury buildings. Even with the rising rent prices, young people manage to find affordable places to live here. As host to Howard University, Shaw delivers a healthy dose of college life, with almost a quarter of its residents being undergraduates and grad students.
Despite the neighborhood growth, Shaw sees its fair share of crime, with incidents reported around Sixth Street, and the area south of P Street can turn questionable after dark. Though some parts near U Street offer bustling nightlife, it's best to stay alert while moving about after sunset. Just use caution and enjoy both the grit and the glam of Shaw's urban life.
As one of the most walkable neighborhoods in Washington DC, Shaw has everything you need within easy access. It's also got decent infrastructure for bicyclists with expansion projects for bike lanes in the works. Outside your door, you'll find anything you need from shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants. If you do need to head out, it's a fast ride on the Green Line Metro north to the bustling Columbia Heights corridor or south to the Convention Center and downtown. Less than two miles to the White House, you can even walk to the National Mall while soaking in DC's residential and urban mix along the way.
A fairly low-key neighborhood by day, once night falls, the streets do get congested. Uber, Lyft, and other carshare services usher locals to and from the best eating and drinking spots. During these times, driving can be a challenge, but it's easy to get around without a car since there are multiple Metro stations within walking distance of the nightlife. A few bus routes also drive by the late-night action, including the 70, 71, and G2 routes.
Foodies will love the variety of restaurants in Shaw, from authentic hole-in-the-wall establishments to polished eateries and alleyways that have been made over into unique urban spaces. Streets like 9th and 7th have become culinary destinations and places of gathering. With the largest Ethiopian community outside of Ethiopia, the area has been dubbed DC's "Little Ethiopia," making up one of the city's most vibrant culinary subcultures.
The place to sample faithful representations of Ethiopian traditions? Dukem Ethiopian Restaurant on U Street. Try its signature doro watt dish, poultry and hard-boiled eggs braised and simmered in a thick sauce spiked with berbere spices. This hallmark mixture that gives Ethiopian food its heat consists of chili peppers, garlic, ginger, dried basil, and other ingredients. Savor the flavors created by a long, slow cooking process that reduces the stew into a concentrated curry with fall-off-the-bone chicken.
To take traditional meals home, stop into Habesha Market, where you can pick up Ethiopian grocery staples and prepared dishes to go. Open all day, morning until late into the night, grab breakfast, lunch, and dinner from a menu showcasing East African beef, lamb, and vegetarian dishes.
Wander to the other side of the world with a visit to Abunai, a Hawaiian food restaurant that boasts a poke just like in Honolulu. The founder, a Native Hawaiian and Japanese woman, creates dishes with fresh, sustainable, and organic ingredients. It's the place to get your fix of cubed sashimi-grade ahi tuna marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, sweet onion, and scallions.
For a more casual trip around the globe, stop into SUNdeVICH, a converted garage turned counter-serve deli with sandwiches named for cosmopolitan cities. Whether you order the Berlin, Athens, or Buenos Aires sandwich, you'll enjoy how the flavors reflect their namesake country. Choose from equally international side dishes like curried potato salad and Greek tzatziki. Best of all, know that everything between the slices of bread is free from additives or preservatives.
When you want a brew, Shaw's destination beer garden, Dacha, delivers. Come day or night to kick back with German beers served in kitschy glass boots. Beyond pilsners, find a carefully curated selection of world-class Belgian and American craft beers along with wines, meads, ciders, and other drinks. Pair your beer with bratwurst, pretzels and cheese, Schnitzel, and other traditional Bavarian beer garden (or biergarten) foods.
Get your sweet tooth soothed at Dolci Gelati Cafe, an all-natural gelato company rated the best in DC by the Washington Post. Their process starts every morning with deliveries from local dairy farms. The flavors are made with handpicked fruits and fine chocolate imported from a small sustainable farm in Ecuador. Beyond artisanal ice cream, you'll find gelati pops, Italian desserts, and savory panini on the menu.
There's no shortage of neighborhood coffee shops in Shaw, but Sankofa Bookstore and Cafe is a standout. It's a relaxed coffeehouse near Howard University where you can grab light bites while perusing African-focused books and a schedule for film screenings. There's also the Roasted Boon, one of the few coffee shops that open at 6 am in DC. Bring your laptop and get some work done in a comfortable, living-room-like space inside. If you're camped out long enough, you might transition from afternoon tea to happy hour, thanks to their wine bar.
Grocery shopping in Shaw is easy at Giant Food on 7th Street NW, a chain supermarket stocked with fresh produce, meats, seafood, and prepared foods. This location offers a convenient parking garage across the street where you can get two hours of parking free with a store-validated ticket. Grab a snack to eat at the garden (but note, the veggies growing here aren't free for the picking), or come by during the garden's "Open Times" to meet the staff, see cooking demos, and create art.
For a good selection of Latin and Asian specialty ingredients, shop at Capitol Supermarket. This long-standing, family-owned grocery store carries ethnic foods, private labels, meat, and produce. Locals appreciate the variety of ingredients packed into a small store.
When it comes to clothing and accessories, check out Lettie Gooch. This Black and woman-owned boutique specializes in emerging designers, eco fashion, and some home decor. Violet Boutique is another trendsetting, woman-owned shop in Shaw. The store's owner touts a tight-knit team of fashion-forward entrepreneurs who help put together power outfits to confident streetwear for every kind of personal style.
Want to dress up your living room instead? Head to Goodwood, where you'll find midcentury modern and traditional furniture in surroundings that might remind you of an old general store. Spend your time choosing amongst its vintage and antique pieces carefully, as some shoppers are disappointed to find there are no returns or exchanges allowed once you make your purchase.
If you ask locals what's the best in Shaw, they might say it's the micro-sized pocket parks sprinkled throughout the neighborhood. Get to know well-kept Westminster Park or tiny gated French Street Park, a quiet spot with a few benches planted amidst lush vegetation, perfect for hunkering down with a book. Then, there's the Marion Street Intergenerational Community Garden. A short walk from the Convention Center and the Shaw Metro, in the right season, you'll spy butterflies and bees flitting around where flowers, vegetables, and herbs are grown.
The Howard Theatre is one of the area's many historic properties. Originally opened in 1920, this live entertainment venue made its name as the first large music venue in the nation for African-American audiences. It's now one of the oldest theaters in the country that has hosted legends like The Supremes, Duke Ellington, James Brown, The Temptations, Miles Davis, and Marvin Gaye. A place of celebration, President Franklin D. Roosevelt even attended balls given here in his honor. Following the 1968 riots, the property fell into decline and closed for many years. It was renovated and reopened in 2012, and though the interior has gone through many makeovers, its original stage remains impressively intact.
For other types of performances, check the schedules at DC9 and the ever-popular 9:30 Club. DC9 is more of a hybrid restaurant and club with floors for dancing and karaoke, too. A more traditional music venue, 9:30 Club was once named one of the 10 best live music venues in America by Rolling Stone. It's an all-ages music hall showcasing artists from all genres. Though it's known as a progressive venue for discovering up-and-coming acts, major artists like Bob Dyland and Adele have performed shows there.
Just around the corner in U Street is Howard University, also known as Howard or HU, a historically Black university founded in 1867. The 256-acre campus is sometimes referred to as "The Mecca," where students enroll in 120 areas of study across 14 schools and colleges. Howard touts its standing as number one in sending Black students to medical schools, providing the greatest opportunities for minority students in business, and producing the most Black communications and journalism professionals. Notable Howard alumni include former US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, and Emmy Award-winning actress Phylicia Rashad.
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