Walking distance from both Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle, this condensed, stylish center of black culture and boutique shopping was formerly one of D.C.’s sketchiest neighborhoods. Its Victorian homes echo its post-Civil War origins as a bedroom community for newly-migrated Southern blacks, and a few preserved Art Deco club and theater facades belie its history as a Harlem-owned “Black Broadway,” but for decades after being the epicenter of D.C.’s violent 1968 riots (sparked by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.), this area was sadly known best for drug trafficking.
However, the U Street area was almost wholly revitalized during the real estate boom of the 1990s. Still a bit gritty in the evenings (when music clubs like Black Cat and the 9:30 Club draw hip, young crowds), milder daytime attractions here include the famed Ben’s Chili Bowl (where longtime fan Bill Cosby offers the on-hold accompaniment for to-go orders), the funky, literary-themed café scene at Busboys and Poets, and the African-American Civil War Memorial and Museum. The independent shops here offer some of the city’s most unusual and artistic finds, from jewelry to clothing and housewares.
The closest Metrorail station is U Street (at 13th Street), serving the Yellow and Green Lines.