The Washington, DC metro area (or the DMV) is full of fun, independently unique neighborhoods. For our first Neighborhood Guide, we’d like to start in Capitol Hill. Because the ‘Capitol Hill’ neighborhood is so large, we’re going to break it down for you piece by piece- starting with Eastern Market. Sounds easy enough right?
The neighborhood Eastern Market is named after the historic market that it houses. The Market was first opened in 1805 in the Navy Yard but was moved to 7th St SE where it currently lives in 1873. It was one of three markets that L’Enfant planned when he was laying out the city. The building it lives in today was designed by German Architect Adolf Cuss. This same architect also designed the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building. It has seen two expansions over the years and currently holds National Historic Landmark status. The neighborhood itself has seen many changes over the years but also holds historic status. Many of the row houses that line the streets were built in the early 1900s (including the one Shannon lives in!). All it takes is a few minutes of walking around the neighborhood to fall in love with the history and the architecture!
Getting to Eastern Market can be a bit of a nightmare, depending on where you’re coming from. In all cases, if you can come in on the metro do it. The Eastern Market metro stop is on the Orange/Blue/Silver line and is centrally located for the neighborhood. You’d be a block from the market itself and from Barracks Row. It’s also right next to the (almost) newly minted Trader Joe’s.
Parking is nearly impossible so try and avoid driving at all costs. Most of the neighborhood is Zone Six parking and as Shannon will tell you, parking enforcement does not mess around. There are a lot of loading zones in the area and those tickets run you about $100 so make sure to look at the signs. Pay-to-Park spots exist, but there aren’t enough to go around.
Best times to Visit
The neighborhood is quite residential so during the workday it is fairly quiet. The exception is during lunchtime and immediately after school gets out. There are a handful of schools in the area and it seems that most of the students will head home on the bus or the metro. Lunchtime is pretty busy…like ‘the line is out the door at Chipotle’ busy. There are a ton of sit down restaurants though and people tend to avoid those since their lunch breaks aren’t long enough.
It’s generally pretty hoppin’ on weekends so brunch reservations are a must, especially if the weather is nice. It’s pretty quiet at night too as none of the restaurants stay open late. That being said, we’ve never felt unsafe in the neighborhood. Keep your wits about you as you would any other time and you’ll be fine.
For the Coffee Lover
While Eastern Market has a Starbucks and a Dunkin Donuts, there are much cuter coffee shops you can dip into when you need a buzz. However, since you’re in the neighborhood you might as well do as the Obamas do and go to Radici. They’ve got great vanilla lattes and a wonderful outside patio that you can people watch (and dog watch) from.
For the Foodie
Eastern Market boasts a lot of options for great food. It is honestly one of the best places for indecisive groups of people-just restaurant hop (only partially kidding)! 8th Street SE or Barracks Row, is lined with restaurants with something for everyone.
- Ambar: Amazing Balkan food
- ChiKo: Quick Korean BBQ
- Belga Cafe: Great Belgian food, albeit pretty pricey
- The Banana Cafe and Tio Javier: Both give you lots of Mexican/Cuban/Puerto Rican options. We love The Banana Cafe, but Too Javier has stronger margaritas. Plus it has an amazing rooftop bar (where the bartender sometimes gives free shots!)
- For the true foodies, Rose’s Luxury and Pineapples & Pearls are both located at the end of the block but prepare yourself for a wait. People line up for hours ahead of time to get into Rose’s.
For the Weekender
The big draw to the neighborhood is its namesake: Eastern Market. During the week, the historic building is open for all of your fresh meat cuts, fresh fruits and veggies and flowers. But on the weekend (9AM-4:30PM Saturday & Sunday), there is a huge flea market that lines most of 7th Street. Flea market feels wrong here because it’s not all used antiques. Some of my favorite pieces are artwork are from this market. If you are visiting DC, this market is a must especially because it’s a great place to buy a cute gift for someone (or yourself!).
At the back of the building you’ll find the most amazing blueberry pancakes. The lines for this small restaurant (really, it only has a few seats and is in the open market) get really long, really fast. So arrive early! If that doesn’t strike your fancy, head out back and there will be a few additional food stalls. Grab a breakfast burrito from the small Mexican shop and head back to buy some artwork!
If the small stalls/tents near the actual market aren’t cutting it for you, head back to Barracks Row for a great brunch. Ted’s Bulletin has amazing options for that “I am so hungover and just want eggs, hash browns and bacon” feeling. Cava Mezze has an unlimited tapas brunch that is also really delicious. You also can’t go wrong with Matchbox Capitol Hill (check out our brunch review!)
For the Avid Reader
While Eastern Market might have the greatest public library (it’s really really small), you can still get your book fix. Even better is that you have the option between new books (but still a small business) or used books. East City Bookshop is still fairly new, but they are truly everything someone could want in a book store. They’ve got a large selection of witty cards, children’s books and fun DC gifts. Oh and lots of books. They also hold events…if you like their Facebook page, you won’t miss any of their book clubs, author signings or poetry nights!
If you’d rather have a used bookstore, head to Capitol Hill Books. It’s right off 7th Street, just past Radici. The owner is this incredibly well read, cantankerous old man who leaves fake spoilers in a lot of the books. It looks a bit disorganized but there is a place for every book. Just ask!
For the Date Night
Across the street from the market is Acqua Al 2. It is a really delicious, beautiful decorated Italian restaurant. Everything on their menu is good…you truly cannot go wrong. The desserts are delicious and their wine list feels never ending. What’s especially notable is that it isn’t overly loud- which is key for a date. There’s even a small bar area if you’re not ready to commit to a full meal.
Historical Fun Fact
Barracks Row is the city’s oldest commercial center. In fact, it received this distinction in 1799 and was chartered as such nearly 200 years later. HOW COOL?!