NFT Washington DC Columbia Heights

Columbia Heights

Columbia Heights has a well-earned reputation as a hipster mecca and vegan ghetto. It's true, there's no shortage of skinny jeans, fixies or soy cheese here. But there's also amazing Latin and African American culture and eats. Traveling away from the main drag reveals that the neighborhood's full transformation isn't yet complete.

The only Target in the District means plenty of visitors hauling toilet paper and lumpy bull's-eye shopping bags. Chicks in granny glasses and guys with sleeve tattoos chow down on vegan eats at Sticky Fingers Bakery. Catch them washing it all down with a beer at Wonderland Ballroom.


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Veg in the City

By Amber McDonald
What's captivating everyone from politicians to Playboy bunnies, athletes to authors? Veganism! Check out Amber McDonald's guide to DC's new and unusual veg offerings.
Artsy Bar Crawl

By Graham Fortier
Cheap, normal bars in DC. That's what Graham Fortier is talking about.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Magda Nakassis
Photo:  Magda Nakassis

Room 11
Room 11 feels like a small slice of Manhattan here in DC. Firstly, it is tiny, with only 15 seats. An outdoor patio opens in the warmer months, but mostly this is an intimate, indoor space. It is pristinely, thoughtfully decorated. And it is full of fashionable, intentionally dressed 20- and 30-somethings. There is not even a whiff of arthritis or sweatpants to be found. Although focused on wine, Room 11 also has an expertly curated selection of beers and hand-crafted cocktails; there are no macrobrews or rail drinks. And if you're lucky enough to sit at the bar, the mixologists will explain their process. To eat, there's meat, cheese, small plates, and desserts—from Virginian goat cheese to dark chocolate torte with cherry lavender compote. The menu is on the pricier side, and the portions are on the smaller side--but then it caters to a certain demographic. It's hard to imagine a world where this is the norm, or a full-on drinking session of Lindeman's Framboise, but I think you would be hard-pressed to take a bite or a sip in Room 11 that wasn't absolutely, fantastically divine. Sometimes it feels good to embrace your inner yuppie.

Posted By:  Magda Nakassis
Photo:  Magda Nakassis

The Looking Glass Lounge
Somewhere along the arc of my life, I went from being a late bloomer to a prematurely old lady--without ever being on the curve. I'm not sure how or when it happened, but surely there was a moment (however fleeting) when I acted my age. But now I practice needlecraft and resent interns--and there's no turning back. I've reached a point in my life where I want to be comfortable; I don't want to be bothered; I don't want to compete for space; I don't want to compete for space with interns. Therefore when it comes to bars, at least on weeknights and when dancing isn't involved, I just want to enjoy my drink and good company. I'm basically looking for a public living room. More like a pub, if you will. The Looking Glass Lounge has somehow managed to be the perfect neighborhood bar. But the trouble, for many, is that Petworth is not their neighborhood. However I would say that its lovely atmosphere, fantastic selection of draft beers and cocktails, fair prices, outdoor seating area, friendly bartenders, and jukebox that actually plays your music could not exist in trendier areas. And anyway it's right on the green line with plenty of bus routes--accessible enough that we can all pretend it's our local for the night.

Posted By:  Jade Floyd

The Wonderland Ballroom
Sometimes there is a neighborhood bar that goes well beyond the hood, and you have Virginia and Maryland natives swarming your secret nest on a nightly basis. That's essentially what happened to Wonderland Ballroom, but the nightly debauchery will only evolve as Sneakers in the Club (one of Washington's crunk resident DJ sets) brings some Authentic Sh*t to Wonderland this Thursday at 9 pm Upstairs most certainly will be insanity as DJ's Jerome Baker III, Stereo Faith, and Trevor Martin take over the turntables. Wonderland is perhaps one of the last bars in DC to welcome sneakers and have an assortment of beer from around the world that won't break your bank (well what little bank you might have in the current recession). And everyday from 5 to 8 pm they have happy hour specials that include $3 footlong hotdogs with chili and/or cheese, $2 off all drafts, $3 rail drinks and $6 Delirium Tremens. So if you really want to live it up stop in for happy hour, stay on for Sneakers in the Club, and then crawl to work in the morning.

Posted By:  Magda Nakassis
Photo:  Magda Nakassis

Taqueria Distrito Federal
Sometimes I just wanna eat goat. And sometimes I wanna eat beef tongue. Sometimes I wanna eat tripe. But sometimes you want to eat chicken. And then we meet at Taqueria Distrito Federal, our favorite bright, friendly, affordable, delicious taqueria on 14th Street. In addition to the fine selection of tacos, burritos, tostadas, quesadillas, and tortas, there are a few special platters. But I am largely a fan of the drinks menu, which is no mean feat considering they don't serve any alcohol. To make up for it, there's a selection of popular Jarritos Mexican soft drinks (mandarinda! guayaba! sandia!), aguas frescas (a blend of water, sugar, and fruit/seeds/grains), and even imported Mexican Coca-Cola (with cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup). With a second TDF recently opened in Brightwood, I know I'm not the only beef tongue lover in town.

Posted By:  Hunter Gorinson
Photo:  Hunter Gorinson

Chuck & Billy's
Between the checkerboard floor, circa 1992 jukebox and portrait of Malcolm X refracting off the mirror ball, Chuck and Billy's is about as old school DC as you're likely to find anywhere Northwest. The bread and butter of this joint is afternoon lounging--step inside around 4 on any given day and you’ll probably find a few church matrons picking at chicken wings and grizzled, pork-pie wearing elder gents sipping on Jack and gingers. Maybe that's why Happy Hour here never really comes off as "happy" per se, but then again it's Shaw.

Posted By:  Magda Nakassis
Photo:  Courtesy of Intangible Arts

Having lived within 3 blocks of Rodman's for 3 years, you could say I was a very spoiled beer-drinker. And even when I didn't buy my brews in that enchanted discount gourmet grocery, it was at another upper NW fine beer/wine/liquor shop. So when I moved across the park, I was in for a shock. Not only did selections suck, but they were expensive to boot. And carrying six-packs across neighborhoods is something less than charming. Imagine my relief then when D'Vines appeared! From the same people who run De Vinos in Adams Morgan, a deluge of delicious, carefully selected craft beers arrived! Also a lot of wines, but I don’t drink those things. Right outside the Columbia Heights Metro Station, it's hard to avoid, so pop in for some Smuttynose Shoals Pale Ale, Old Chub, or Wolaver's Oatmeal Stout. Drink up!

Posted By:  Magda Nakassis
Photo:  Magda Nakassis

The Looking Glass Lounge
Temperance Hall is such a nice neighborhood bar that non-Petworth residents make the trek out here. It’s the sweet & spicy peanuts that call to them, I believe. I’m sure the jukebox, outdoor patio, and full menu don’t hurt either. Oh, and neither do the crystal chandeliers; exposed brick and velvety wallpapered walls; dim, but warm lighting; or broad selection of rye whiskeys. It’s a welcoming spot to dive into on these dark and cold winter days, with plenty of nooks to hide in and heart-warming libations to sip on. But Temperance Hall, much like the rest of the neighborhood, is in for a change. Temperance Hall has been bought by the owners of Columbia Heights’ Wonderland Ballroom, soon to be renamed the Looking Glass Lounge (and continuing the Alice in Wonderland theme). That means say goodbye to all those rye whiskeys and classic cocktails, as well as much of the 1920s speakeasy décor. But the prices promise to go down, and the list of draft beers will be extended to include many of the tasty microbrews on offer at Wonderland. So put on your glad rags and make your way to Georgia Ave for one last Sidebar, doll. It’s the bee’s knees.

Posted By:  RP Wolosiuk
Photo:  RP Wolosiuk

Quickly becoming an institution, it is exceedingly difficult to say something about Five Guys that has not already been said. Five Guys really does have the best burgers served outside of a steakhouse. The fries, particularly the Cajun variety, are equally as good. The trademark Spartan interior and peanut shell strewn floor have all been endlessly detailed among the various publications in the area. The problem with Five Guys is that it is a danger to society. In a time where heart disease has reached almost epidemic proportions and childhood obesity is spiraling out of control, Five Guys has only increased in popularity. It is in fact spreading throughout the United States, having gone as far west as Wisconsin, leaving only a grease-soaked brown bag in its wake. It’s too late for me folks, I’m already hooked…you can only save yourselves!

Posted By:  Ashley Byrne
Photo:  Ashley Byrne

It would be easy to visit Sticky Fingers Bakery, leave with a mountain of treats and indulge in an ultra-satisfying sugar coma, all without noticing anything out of the ordinary. And yet, Sticky Fingers is actually far from ordinary, not just because their concoctions are good enough to make your knees buckle, but because everything that they serve is vegan. As anyone who has ever dutifully choked their way through a brick-like vegan speltberry muffin can tell you, the realm of dairy-free baked goods is rife with opportunities for culinary misery, but Sticky Fingers serves up goodies with a sweet wallop strong enough to fully redeem the genre of vegan baking from its unfortunate reputation. Their pastry case is filled with items that are both inexpensive and satisfying, like 'Little Devils' (two thick slabs of chocolate cake filled with a vegan version of what I can only describe as 'Twinkie filling'), huge, gooey Sticky Cinnamon Buns and pecan cookies. Having recently moved to large and sunny new location in Columbia Heights, they now offer a full menu of coffee drinks, a roomy seating area with free Wi-Fi, and a case of pre-prepared foods.

Posted By:  Halley Bondy
Photo:  Doug Sanford

The Wonderland Ballroom is a Columbia Heights neighborhood bar/restaurant with two floors and a really "lived in" feel. The space downstairs is cluttered and homey, that is if "home" reminds you of a vintage jukebox and a noseful of cooked sausages (bratwurst, andouille, and foot long hot dogs are all featured menu items). By night the air is filled instead with funk music, and the upstairs area opens to a second bar and a sizable dance space. Here a diverse Columbia Heights crowd gets down to disco, hip-hop and funk often delivered by live DJs. The unpretentious vintage decor is welcoming to every bar-going specimen, big and small.

Posted By:  Halley Bondy

Florida Avenue Grill
Recently featured in the online Washingtonian as a 2005 “Dirt Cheap Eat,” the 61 year-old Florida Avenue Grill, though peculiarly nestled in a quiet residential Shaw neighborhood, is worth a side visit and spare change. The red-stool diner remains a strikingly homey treasure amidst DC’s ever-encroaching trendy transitions. The grill’s modest dealings are a pleasant surprise since the walls are covered with autographed glossies of famous African-Americans who allegedly ate there (from Martin Luther King to Ludicrus) and regard the Grill as a cornerstone of black culinary and social culture. However, if you’re not visiting just for the atmosphere, be sure that you’re in the mood for no-bullshit southern-bred mom and pop soul food: grits, pickled beets, mac and cheese, scrapple, pig’s feet, and a glut of grease.

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