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If you were a foodie and could live anywhere in/near DC - where would it be?

Hello All,

My partner and I are relocating to DC later in the year from overseas and we're trying to get a feel for the 'vibe' of various neighborhoods.

In a dream world, I would love to live somewhere with a good selection of local cafes, a great local baker/ butcher and maybe a farmers market not too far away (I did say dream!).

We both enjoy a drink but we're not rampaging party animals so bars are okay but not vital. We are more likely to spend time in sunny brunch cafes than in formal fine dining establishments. Also, we have a toddler but he won't be school aged while we are there so we don't have school zoning issues etc.

So far we are considering the Clarendon/Courthouse areas of Arlington, Capitol Hill and Columbia Heights.

What do you all think? Are these the right places to be looking? And which of them would you choose if you were looking for somewhere with atmosphere?

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  1. This is not a fair fight, much better eating to be done in Clarendon then Capitol Hill or Columbia Heights. Courthouse has its own farmers market. Much better access to food shopping, especially if you can get to large Latino and Asian markets not right in the neighborhood, but not all that far either. Friends we have on Capitoll Hiil and Adams Morgan are constantly making trips out to Arlington for the shopping, playgrounds, park activities, and library programs, but perhaps your toddler doesn't like playgrounds.....

    3 Replies
    1. re: Steve

      Alexandria is also nice, especially Del Ray.

      1. re: ChewFun

        I would pick Del Ray, too, and think it's overlooked, which is another reason to live there. Can't beat Cheesetique, Dairy Godmother, and all the other little shops there and there is a farmers market. And, it's easy to get from there to other good food locations if you have a car.

        1. re: chowser

          I used to live in Rosemont, just to the south of Del Ray and my neighbors used to look down their patrician noses at Del Ray. The best food in Del Ray was Al's Steaks and that was about it other than Dos Amigos. Amazing how 25 years have changed things.
          Del Ray is very cool, but I would still give the edge to Courthouse/Clarendon.
          I don't know DC now well enough to comment on it, left my Capital Hill apartment behind in 1993 but it seems to have gotten a lot better in some ways since then.

    2. Well, a lot of young families live in Capitol Hill. There are quite a few cafes (Peregrine and the new Pound Coffee come to mind), an exploding number of restaurants and bars of various stripes (on Barracks Row, on H Street NE, and my favorites We the Pizza and Good Stuff Eatery on Pennsylvania), and of course Eastern Market, which is a lovely historic market open every day with vendors selling meat, cheese, etc and once a week there is also a farmers market there with fresh produce. Eastern Market is pretty awesome.

      There is more cheap ethnic food in the suburbs, as well as wine shops, cheese boutiques, and the like, I believe. Clarendon has a much less urban feel than Capitol Hill, so it depends what you're comfortable with.

      Good Stuff Eatery
      303 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington, DC

      Pound Coffee
      200 Florida Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002

      1 Reply
      1. re: hamster

        I'm with you. Clarendon and the rest of the suburbs have a lot, but not more than the city. I usually cross city lines once every four months or so, when suburban friends talk me into it. Otherwise, I'm good. I think Capital Hill is just right, especially near Eastern Market. There's SO much growth there. Clarendon has gems here and there, but is just a bit too pristine for my tastes. So, as you said, it depends on how urban one wants to be.

        I'd caution against Columbia Heights. Not many restaurants to write home about, and despite the commercial growth there, I don't feel that its residential growth has kept pace (when I was looking to buy two years ago, the areas I was looking at were Columbia Heights and Shaw. I chose Shaw and am glad I did - much safer and tons of families).

      2. Personally I would live in the Dupont Circle/Logan Circle area. There are a large variety of restaurants in this area. You are walking distance to a lot of coffeeshops, wine stores, froyo places, farmers markets and about 3 different grocery stores (depending on where you are located). I have some friends that live closer to Logan Circle with a toddler and they love it.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Elyssa

          i second dupont circle which is also on the metro red line and thus a short metro ride also from penns qtr-chinatown area and its bursting at the seams restauraunt scene

          1. re: Elyssa

            I'm biased (because I live there now), but having lived in VA and worked in a few different places in DC, I'd say 14th Street, if children related matters are totally not an issue (otherwise this suggestion is N/A). First: transportation to any suburban location on average is far easier from the center of DC than any particular suburb. So if you have a car (or even if you don't) getting to Eden Center for Vietnamese, Annandale for Korean, visits to Annapolis or Bethesda are simply easier and shorter (non rush hour). Second, from 14th you are walking distance to DuPont, 14th Street/Logan, Penn Quarter, U Street and what is becoming a hot area, 9th/7th Street. You are a ten minute cab/car drive from Atlas/H St, West End, Georgetown, Woodley Park. Unlike the suburbs you can actually get a cab! So if schools and crime are not issues and you can afford it (you certainly do get a lot more space for your money in the burbs), I'd be on or near 14th St South of U or therabouts. Oh and as for farmers markets- walk to the grandaddy of them all, DuPont, ride to the biggest market (though not really all that nice per se at the Wholesale Market at New York and Florida) and you are within a mile or two of a farmers market nearly every day of the week.

            Eden Center
            Falls Church, VA, USA, Falls Church, VA

          2. I would live within walking distance of Eden Center.

            Eden Center
            Falls Church, VA, USA, Falls Church, VA

            1. I live in Arlington in Ballston so I am totally biased, but I wouldn't live anywhere else in the DC area other than Arlington. (I used to live on Capitol Hill) It is so close to anything in DC, you can quickly get to places in Virginia too, so I think it is easy to get both in and out of the city and still be in the middle of things. You end up driving to a lot of things, but nothing is all that far and there are multiple farmer's markets. There are several butchers nearby.

              There is good ethnic and regular food and more and more places are coming daily.

              That being said of your list Capitol Hill would be my second choice, and I don't have kids, but it is probably more kid friendly actually than Clarendon.

              1. How important is food in your life? And where do you need to be and what do you do when you're not eating? A certain amount of common sense should prevail. That being said, I'd say that from a food aspect, Clarendon/Court House and Capitol Hill are pretty much a tie, with the tie breaker being where there's more of that you like for everyday eating and cooking. If you're close to the Eastern Market you have both foodstuffs and prepared foods close at hand, same with Clarendon. And both are close to Metro which will get you anywhere else (well, anywhere but Eden Center, Hong Kong Palace, or the Korean section of Annandale - for them you need to take a bus or a long walk) when you get the urge to widen your horizons. Wheaton will get you some of the area's best dim sum, but that's about it when it comes to chowhound food. Rockville will get you traffic jams.

                But if you have to go to work every day, you really should take that into consideration as well as the food.

                Just trying to be practical.

                Eden Center
                Falls Church, VA, USA, Falls Church, VA

                5 Replies
                1. re: MikeR

                  Actually, Rockville will get you the area's best Chinese food (in addition to the traffic jams). And there are several good ethnic restaurants in Wheaton.

                  Clarendon or Capitol Hill are easier commutes to the Hill, though.

                  1. re: MikeR

                    I agree with MikeR's comment on figuring out where you will be going ever day. I don't want to start a whole chain of comments about what grocery store people like more than other, but I just moved from Logan Circle (2 blocks from Whole Foods) to CityVista (above Safeway). My BF and I have a back and forth discussion about this but I think we agree that we would rather live near Whole Foods, despite its prices, than near the Safeway. I miss having the produce and meat/fish dept, as Safeway can be pretty bad (in my experience).

                    I enjoy this thread because we rent and I keep arguing that we should only buy a place that meets all of my food/wine/other eating related needs! :)

                    1. re: DCLindsey

                      If you're looking for better produce than Safeway has, I hope you've discovered the Bloomingdale farmer's market on Sundays from 10-2. Save room in your bag for some meat and baguette as well. And the cheeses! (Oh yeah, they have fruits and veggies too)

                      1. re: katecm

                        Yep, I go to a lot of the farmer's markets. I just sometimes have a hard time finding items that are affordable. For example, yesterday at the Penn Quarter farmer's market, I could buy 9 stalks of asparagus for $4! Or heirloom tomatoes, which are incredible but pricey. And only once a week - I am not that great at figuring out what I want for dinner tonight, let alone for the rest of the week. So, living near a farmer's market is great, but not necessary a determining factor on where to live...

                      2. re: DCLindsey

                        I don't want to get too OT, but I found this article fascinating:


                    2. MikeR makes good points, where one needs to go on a daily basis ought to be a major factor. the big difference btw Clarendon and Capitol Hill is one has highrises, the other is more like an urban Mayberry RFD (and guess which is more pedestrian friendly) I'm biased towards the Hill, (hence the pseud). VA has a lower tax rate, and while the Hill abounds in good and great neighborhood joints, no real destination type places IMHO. so it's really not about the food, but the lifestyle. do you cook in or eat out? do you walk or do you drive? if it's mostly Asian food you like to cook at home VA might be a better choice (love that HMart!) if the usual is more European, than the Hill is a pretty darn good choice (but btw Yes and Teeter and the occasional foray, the basics of anything can be found).

                      1. All very welcome feedback - thank you! We were initially thinking Arlington but I'd read some pretty harsh comments about it - the below comments reassure me that it's not bland at all as people have said.

                        Based on the advice below, I'll stick with Arlington and Capitol Hill as starting points and I will add Dupont Circle to the places to look for housing too. Arlington sounds great for parks etc but I would also love to live somewhere where we didn't have to drive very much. Great to get a sense of these neighborhoods.

                        I totally take on board your comments MikeR. My partner will be working in the Dupont Circle area but all these neighborhoods seem a pretty easy commute to there. My work prospects are a bit uncertain but having a toddler we will be looking for parks (thanks for the tip on parks in Arlington Steve - we both love a good swing) and playgroups etc.

                        I know focussing on food might sound like a weird way to start looking for a place to live, but I guess the thing about the local food scene is that I see it as a way to feel part of a community, which is really important to me. I love knowing the girl who makes my morning coffee and the little rituals surrounding trips to the farmers markets etc are what makes a lifestyle and a home -a home away from home in our case.

                        Thanks again all. So very excited about moving to your wonderful part of the world!

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: nouveau_housewife

                          I completely agree w/narrowing it down to either the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington or to Capitol Hill. However, no one has mentioned the fact that both are very expensive areas to rent or purchase a home. A general rule of thumb is that Arlington is just a bit less expensive than anything in the city. In terms of a sense of community, & getting to know people in your neighborhood, I think Capitol Hill is a little better. Since you know your partner will be working near Dupont Circle, you may want to check the Metro map to see which neighborhood will provide the easier commute. Either way, if you live within easy walking distance of a Metro station, & you plan to buy a car, you could easily do with purchasing only one car to share. My final words of advice would be: either Clarendon or Capitol Hill are very very nice areas, but don't compromise on the specific location - that is to say, stay close to a Metro station and EASY walking distance to the center of each of those neighborhoods.

                          1. re: OneMoreBite

                            I was wondering when someone was going to mention how expensive areas in and around DC are. Also don't forget the VA car tax.

                            1. re: agarnett100

                              The car tax is insignifcant (though that may say something about my car). Commutes are among the worst in the country. You will be far happier having a short commute and time to cook your farmers market bought food than being stuck in traffic.

                            2. re: OneMoreBite

                              Having lived on Capitol Hill and in Alexandria, I would say that Capitol Hill is a great place to live (unless you need to park your car). Eastern Market is a better scene than a place to buy food. The farmers market at the Stadium is really great (though not in any way fancy). The farmers market at the Courthouse in Alexandria is pretty great. Try to live without a car. Depending on where you are coming from, housing prices can be pretty scary.

                              1. re: OneMoreBite

                                "don't compromise on the specific location - that is to say, stay close to a Metro station and EASY walking distance to the center of each of those neighborhoods"

                                I agree with OMB here. If I could live anywhere, it would be as close to a Metro station as possible. Eastern Market first, followed by Dupont Circle, and Gallery Place are all good. I'm not as familiar with Clarendon, but It would probably be up there as well.

                              2. re: nouveau_housewife

                                If your partner is going to work in Dupont Circle, I would recommend living there. There are tons of restaurants up and down Conn Ave and you are a short walk from 17th Street, and Adams-Morgan. This would limit your need to drive, while still allowing you to drive out to Arlington on the weekends.

                                I lived in South Courthouse and then Ballston for 10 years. Having a toddler, we loved the parks and large, family restaurants, but the area is increasingly corporate, with family restaurants getting demolished to make way for apartments (especially in Clarendon). The natural, organic vibe is much better in Dupont.

                                1. re: nouveau_housewife

                                  since you're new-ish parents there's a listserv for the Hill addressing those concerns called something like Moms on the Hill (don't recall the exact name or address) doubtless there are others for any given neighborhood.

                                2. Money notwithstanding, I would live in Cleveland Park so I could walk to Palena every day of my life.

                                  3529 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

                                  1. I don't have a ton to add, but I agree with the recommendations to check out Capitol Hill. There's really a great neighborhood vibe there. And, parks aren't exclusive to Arlington. There are actually several great parks that serve as de facto community gathering spots on the Hill as well. I also think it's a great place to have a toddler, as you'll likely meet a lot of other young families there.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: lilkimbo

                                      The Palisades neighborhood is my favorite. Short hop across the river to Virginia, good schools, very safe. If I had to live in DC again, I would move back there in a minute. Dupont and downtown are a fifteen-minute ride on the D-3 bus.

                                      1. re: flavrmeistr

                                        I like the Palisades as well. The only big negative to that neighborhood (IMO) is that the D3 only runs once every half hour, so if you miss a bus by a matter of minutes, you are stuck waiting for another one for a while. This obviously isn't as big a deal if you don't plan on using public transportation as your primary method of getting around.

                                        1. re: lilkimbo

                                          This is getting off track, but it looks as if the D3 terminates in Georgetown, not Palisades.

                                          The D5 and D6, which do go to Palisades, run more frequently.

                                          1. re: Lori D

                                            Thanks for the info! I only ride the D3 from Union Station to Georgetown, so I know how frequently it runs, but I was basing my info about where it runs on flavermestr's comment.

                                            Interestingly, I just checked the D5/D6 (I'm actually going to the Palisades neighborhood for a friend's cookout this weekend) and, unfortunately, it looks like they, too, run on a 30-35 minute time frame on the weekends. I might have to suck it up and take a cab!

                                            1. re: lilkimbo

                                              They may have changed the schedules since I lived there about 8 years ago. I used to take the D-3 from MacArthur and Resevoir Road to 17th and Conn. It usually took between 20-25 minutes. During rush hours, they ran about every 10-15 minutes. In any case, it's a great part of the city for people with children. There's a decent Safeway and a good wine store. It's leafy and relaxed. It doesn't attract a lot of tourists and partiers. Okay, I'm old now.

                                    2. I am still getting a feel for rental prices in DC so it's useful to know I've chosen expensive parts of town! Coming from Sydney where housing affordability is out of control, I think DC will be comparable. We are happy to live somewhere a little shabby if it means a better location. Saying that I had heard that Palisades/Georgetown are really expensive so I hadn't looked into them. Was I right in thinking this?

                                      Very very good tip on not compromising on location OneMoreBite - I hadn't really thought about the fact the suburbs we're talking about might be large enough to have parts that are close to public transport and parts that aren't. Will definitely take that into account too.

                                      Capitol Hill and Eastern Market are sounding very cool right now although I have seen comments online about day care being hard to find (which we may not end up needing depending on whether I find work). I will definitely check out Moms on the Hill.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: nouveau_housewife

                                        Palisades is nice and much less expensive (somewhat anyway) than GTown proper. but also not as transit accessible.

                                        1. re: nouveau_housewife

                                          Hi - I wanted to chime in and give some feedback on Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant, as in the 5 years I've lived in that neighborhood food options have significantly improved. First there's 2 farmer's markets - Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant (check out http://www.columbiaheightscommunityma... and http://www.mtpfm.org/). There is a great local bakery, Heller's, in Mount Pleasant. Both neighborhoods are convenient bus, metro, or walking access (25 - 30 minute walk) to Logan Circle and Dupont. A grocery store is in Columbia Heights and Harris Teeter, a higher end grocery store with great meats, cheeses, seafood & a bakery is in nearby Kalorama across from Meridian Hill Park, a really pretty park.

                                          Now to restaurants. While this area has a bunch of yummy hole-in-the-wall Mexican and Salvadorian restaurants, it is also now home to a good array of pizzerias (Pete's, Radius, Red Rocks), restaurants/bars (Meridian Pint - great locally sourced food & beer including DC's newest brew DC Brau, The Looking Glass, Wonderland, The Heights) and more. In particular Meridian Pint and The Heights stand out as brunch spots though neighborhood cafe Dos Gringos is good too. There are coffee shops - Sticky Fingers, Flying Fish, Dos Gringos, Tynan's - with a few more opening later in the year. A neighborhood library, parks, and the nearby zoo and Rock Creek Park all make this a fun place to live too.

                                          Mount Pleasant has more of a quaint neighborhood feel, like a village in a city, and has more families and kids. Columbia Heights has more of an urban, fun feel to it though it also has some pretty, quieter tree lined streets. Either way - definitely check these neighborhoods out. Also this blog covers some of the more off-the-beaten path neighborhoods in DC - http://www.princeofpetworth.com/.

                                          1. re: jweaver310

                                            Heller's is local, but it's a stretch to call it great. What bakery would you call mediocre?

                                        2. My wife and I are pretty ardent pursuers of that which constitutes interesting eatin' in the area - not just the fancy places. We lived in Bethesda near River and Western - a great neighborhood called Brookdale - for about a decade. Every grocery store imaginable, various farmer's markets not far away, good coffee and bagels close by, all the Bethesda restaurants within minutes. Virginia is not a bad drive, nor is Silver Spring, Rockville, etc....

                                          We've moved recently to Rock Creek Forest - on paper it's Chevy Chase, but geographically it's about centered between Bethesda and Silver Spring. We've been exploring Silver Spring and Wheaton restaurants more, but a trip to VA is only a few minutes longer, and the vibe is much less pretentious than Bethesda. I'll assume that Chow-friendliness is ~a~ consideration, not ~the~ consideration. I didn't see a key point in the original post which is 'buy or rent". If you're buying, obviously the lifestyle and house appropriateness factors trump all.

                                          All of this said, I'm a DC area native of all of my 51 years. I grew up in Rockville, resided in Bethesda for many years, a short spell in Clarendon, and have been all over all of it. I'm loving the Rock Creek Park side of Chevy Chase for livin' and eatin'

                                          Rock Creek
                                          4917 Elm Street, Bethesda, MD 20824

                                          Chevy Chase
                                          6200 Chevy Chase Dr, Laurel, MD 20707

                                          1. We are in an identical situation: relocating to DC this coming fall with a 2 year old, love to eat, and a good-for-eating neighborhood was high on our list. It came down to Clarendon v. Capitol Hill, and after a scouting trip to DC we decided on Capitol Hill - it wasn't even close. While it seems true that there aren't really destination eating spots in Capitol Hill, the day-to-day shopping, proximity to a variety of farmers markets in the city, Eastern Market, nice cafes, and just general urban vibe were so much nicer. I do anticipate we'll be driving out to the NOVA suburbs for Vietnamese, Thai, etc on weekends. On a non-food side note, finding day care on the hill was difficult but not impossible.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: bigeaterette

                                              A late reply, but thanks so much bigeaterette - really useful. Like you, it's the daily lifestyle that's more important to us than destination eateries.

                                              While we aren't in a position to do a scoping trip like you guys, we are hoping to spend a few weeks in a serviced apartment to get a feel for the various suburbs before we rent somewhere.

                                              Great to hear that day care is not impossible too. I did find a few preschools in the Capitol Hill vicinity too. Perhaps our kids will end up at the same place!

                                              1. re: nouveau_housewife

                                                By the way I meant my reply was late, not yours...