WORD ON THE STREET: H STREET

LOCATION

H Street is north of Capitol Hill, and east of NoMa. Some people call it the Atlas District, basically because it sounds cool, but since when is that an acceptable reason to rename something? I think it’d be cool if my name was Black Falcon, but that’s not what it says on my driver’s license. Live with it. Still others call it “Near Northeast,” which I guess is true in the sense that it’s nearer than, say, Canada. We all have that friend who’s like, “Come to H Street, it’s not that far! No, seriously, it’s really not that far, stop being a baby!” And then you cave and go out there and it’s FAR. You could watch a Terence Malick film in the time it takes you to get to H Street from anywhere else. They should call it Far Northeast, but then no one would go there.

IS IT EXPENSIVE?

No. It’s actually pretty cheap over here, especially if you’re willing to have roommates. With a little luck, you could even score a nice one bedroom for a little over a thousand. That’s why everyone is moving here, which is why all the bars and restaurants are full up every weekend, which is why more bars and restaurants are opening every month, which is why even more people are moving here. It’s just like the Circle of Life in “The Lion King.” Get in on this before everything gets expensive. (Too late!)

AMENITIES

Well, there’s the super-convenient streetcar that connects H Street to the rest of the city – oh, wait, that won’t be up and running until next year, though it’s already been delayed several times. Even in the absence of the streetcars, though, there’s the centrally-located metro station that – oh wait, there’s no metro station either. Any section on H Street’s amenities has to start with its lack thereof, the most glaring of which is its utter inaccessibility by public transportation. (You could take a bus, but I’m not counting buses, because I hate them.) Not a big deal if you bike or drive (though that late night drunken bike ride to or from H Street can be extremely irritating), but if you don’t, it could potentially rule H Street out for you entirely. Come to think of it, there aren’t all that many amenities that come with living over here, except for the surplus of nightlife. Crappy transportation, no real green space, no movie theater, no anything. Living on H Street right now is the equivalent of working at an internet startup; it sort of sucks right now, what with the eighty-hour workweeks and screaming matches in meetings and stress and uncertainty, but in five years, you’ll probably be the envy of all your friends. Not to mention you’ll be rich. (Probably.) H street’s best days are ahead; you should probably only move there if you’re willing to wait around.

Also: is H Street gentrified?! Welllll, that’s a tough question. There’s no definitive answer, as it’s more of a “gradations on a spectrum” thing than a “yes/no” thing. But H Street is unique among most gentrified neighborhoods in that there’s a slight disconnect between the neighborhood itself and the people who’ve moved there. The neighborhood is still rough around the edges, both in the sense that it’s sort of unfinished (ie. the lack of transportation), and in the sense that you could still get robbed at gunpoint if you get drunk and wander too far from the main strip. On the other hand, the people you typically see there are the people you might find in a neighborhood in the advanced stages of gentrification; yuppies, people who shop at American Eagle Outfitters, etc. This weird laggy disconnect is probably due to the fact that H Street wasn’t organically gentrified, but was designated for development by city government, who showered the area with cash (in the form of grants). Usually, you have to build it, and then they come. On H street, they came, and now they’re building it. Weird.

STUFF TO DO

Do you like drinking? You do? Well then, you came to the right neighborhood. H street might surpass even Adams Morgan for sheer number of bars; I’d try and give you a more definitive answer, but that would involve counting, and I hate math. Still, the strip here in H Street is extremely long, and getting more filled-in by the day. Sticky Rice is a great asian-ish casual eatery – they have a wide selection of vegan and vegetarian dishes, and also serve a literal bucket o’ tater tots, which I believe Emily Post specified as the mark of any sophisticated establishment. It’s also a great place to drink.

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The Pug is a legit dive bar that’s right under ramen hotspot Toki Underground, but is way too good to just be a place where you have a beer or two while you wait for your turn to go upstairs and pay sixteen dollars for a bowl of noodles. It’s cheap, dirty (attractively dirty, though, like Russell Brand), and the bartender told me that if I punched someone there, he’d just kick me out – not call the police. Eight out of five stars for this place.

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I’ll mention Rock and Roll Hotel because it’s a good place to see a show – it’s the Black Cat of H Street – but it’s hit and miss in terms of clientele. Going here is a lot like a one night stand – once in a while it’s the greatest night ever, but usually it’s just boring and regrettable. Still, you keep trying. If you go there just to drink, stick to the upstairs bar.

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Jimmy Valentine’s is a fantastic red-lit dive-type bar on Bladensburg Rd. NE that’s a few blocks off the main strip, but is worth the walk (unless you get murdered during the walk, then it probably wasn’t worth it). PBR tallboys start at a buck and increase a buck each hour starting at 9, and there’s a root beer slushie that’s named “Mr. Lethal,” which, yes, could potentially kill you with acute alcohol poisoning, but that’s a positive, not a negative, right?!

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Lastly, I’m partial to both H Street Country Club and Atlas Arcade, because when you have as many bars in a small area as H Street does, you need a gimmick to rise above the competition. H Street Country Club has mini golf and skee ball, and Atlas Arcade has old arcade games and air hockey; it’s corny, yes, but you won’t care after your third beer.

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As to stuff that won’t slowly murder your liver, Sova is a great neighborhood coffee shop, perfect for getting a latte on a Sunday afternoon, sitting in the window, and staring so hard at attractive passersby that their skin actually heats up wherever you’re looking. Also, if you like thrifting, the Salvation Army towards the far end of the strip is a great thrift store. Most thrift stores, like Goodwill, only put out the “current” donations, like pink velour sweatpants or tshirts with skulls and Olde English font on them, and throw the old outdated donations into the burn pile, but this store puts EVERYTHING out. I got a cosby cardigan there last winter that total strangers have offered me cash for multiple times.

THE NEIGHBORS

Recent college graduates who are actively making bad decisions for the next three years to “get it out of their system,” people who paid $199 to attend weekend-long seminars on “How to Get Rich Flipping Houses,” your boss, your ex who thought he was a hipster because he wore fedoras.

WHAT KIND OF STUFF YOU’LL FIND ON THE CURB ON TRASH DAY

LSAT study guides (still shrink-wrapped), cheap “Captain Morgan” sunglasses handed out as promotional items at music festivals, futons with suspicious stains on them, bad paintings from first dates at “Merlot & Masterpieces,” tear-stained textbooks from “How to Get Rich Flipping Houses” weekend seminars.

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