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Feb 4, 2013 02:46 PM

Best DC neighborhoods to live in from a CH perspective?

I am considering moving to D.C., and I would like to learn which neighborhoods to consider. One factor is food-friendliness, if you will - i.e., access to grocery stores, maybe farmers' markets, neighborhood restaurants, take-out or delivery places, etc. Of course, this is only one consideration, but it's an important one for me. I've been to D.C. for work a few times, but I'm not familiar enough to know the neighborhoods well. I am talking strictly about D.C., not the VA or MD suburbs. So how would you rank the various neighborhoods or areas? And why?

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    1. Will you have a car?

      I would say Dupont/Logan Circle/U Street would be the best.
      Dupont has the only year-round farmers market, and it's a close walk to the restaurants around Logan Circle/U Street (20 minutes). Grocery stores are not great: Giant and Target up in Columbia Heights (with car, from Dupont or Logan Circle), Harris Teeter in Adams Morgan, crappy Safeway on 17th and Q, and Whole Foods at Logan Circle. Trader Joes (and another Whole Foods) at Foggy Bottom, kind of hard to get to without a car or bike. Another new Giant coming in Shaw, also car-able. Also with a car you can drive over to the new uber-yuppie Union Market.

      Capitol Hill has Eastern Market (week-round indoor market), and Safeway, and Teeter, and a fair number of restaurants, but I think it would be kind of unpleasant without a car. It's a little less dense over there. With a car, you do have easy access to the growing number of restaurants on Barracks Row and over on H Street NE (10 minute drive).

      9 Replies
      1. re: hamster

        I must disagree, I lived for 10 years w/o a car in Eastern Market (7th and G SE) and got by just fine. I'd live there again. but it is kind of a quiet, tasteful Mayberry RFD.

        I will say for a younger person, the area between Dupont and Logan might be more fun, more street life and restaurants/cafes and fewer 'coupled up' homebodies.

        and neither area 'needs' a car to be workable. parking is such a headache everywhere it's easier to walk, Metro, bus or take a cab.

        1. re: hill food

          Ditto on the car except I live in Dupont. I walk to the grocery stores---I have a Granny cart but rarely use it. I tend to just go to the store a couple of times a week (which I don't mind because I like my fish and produce as fresh as possible). If you are healthy and have legs you certainly don't need a car (especially if you have to spend $250 a month for a parking spot!).

          1. re: hill food

            I actually did not mean to imply that either area needed a car. I have never owned a car myself, and I walk around primarily for all of my needs. I've lived near the U Street metro for over 4 years now, and have lived in DC for almost 8. But many people moving from other cities/regions do have a car, so I wanted to paint a full picture of the options, especially the grocery stores since it's not exactly ideal on foot.

            1. re: hamster

              Hamster - gotcha, and that's a fair call. after an adolescence of being independently mobile it WAS intimidating to go carless (I started that in SF in 1990) and I have to admit in DC, I used Zipcar for bulk stock-ups (until they got silly expensive) and rented cars for overnight weekends.
              the pedestrian life (and weird Cap Hill store hours in 2000) came down to the theory of pre-need purchasing. and as long as there were the basics for breakfast and pasta puttanesca or something in the freezer (and drinks) in the house, all the rest sorted out.

              1. re: hill food

                Thanks, all, for the great information. I'm not sure if I will have a car. I have one, but where I live now it is not optional. I would definitely give it up if it makes sense to do so.

                hill food, I giggled just a little at your first post, because I am not a "younger person," however, I do want to live in a more fun and lively area (just not one dominated by university students), so I suppose I want to live like a younger person. I'm 50 and married, but we are so tired of being bored. I want to be able to walk out my door and down the street to get a great, different, interesting dinner.

                I was also somewhat concerned about the grocery store situation, which you all have addressed for me. Last time I lived in a city, getting groceries was a big hassle. Nearest store was two blocks away, but it was rather pathetic.

                Access to great food is just one part of my decision-making process, of course, but it's not a small consideration, and I really appreciate all of the replies. Additional insights are always welcome, so if anyone else has a different perspective, please do share. I am just at the very beginning of my process, but this is proving to be very helpful, so many, many thanks to you all!

                1. re: lisavf

                  Just in case it's helpful, I know some people that sound similar to you -- along the lines of raised their kids in the suburbs and eagerly got back into the city -- and are really happy in more or less the neighborhood where I live which is right at the border of Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights, and Mount Pleasant. It's not the most chowworthy (so hesitate to post) in the immediate area, but it's quite convenient to good eating neighborhoods, lot of variety, and there are several grocery stores within about a 10-15 minute walk (Safeway [not too gross, imo, but I don't buy meat or produce at grocery stores, usually], Harris Teeter, Giant, Yes Organic Market, a bunch of corner market/bodegas, the Latino markets of Mount Pleasant, a few decent liquor stores, and the Target. Whole Foods isn't too far, and I drive to Trader Joes. There's a nice farmers market in Mount Pleasant (as in the other neighborhoods mentioned on this thread) -- and when it's closed in the winter, I do walk down to Dupont Circle. The large grocery stores all have parking garages.

                  And, on driving, if you've got a paid-for car and don't mind taking a bit of a risk with street parking, I think it would be worth it to keep it here (just knowing you won't find parking easily at night, if you don't want to rent or buy a parking space). I hear that you can rent a parking spot in the DCUSA parking garage, where Target is, at the Columbia Heights metro. We will go weeks sometimes without driving, but it's an old, small, reliable and paid-for car and nice to have. And now that we own a parking place, we'll even drive to spur of the minute dinners in Arlington ;)

                  I don't think you've gotten any bad neighborhood advice here, though (although I don't really get Arlington as the Left Bank, but Steve tends to be right about things so, sure ok) -- depends on the vibe that appeals to you (and, if you're commuting to something, what's most convenient). For a different vibe than what's been suggested, for example, you could check out Cleveland Park, which has some great restaurants. If I were you, I'd start taking the metro around town, getting off at different stops and seeing what feels right.

                  Didn't mean to go on so long, sorry!

                  1. re: mselectra

                    Thanks! Long is okay, lots of information is a good thing.

                    Next time I am in D.C. for work, I plan on coming for an extra day or two to do just that - ride around town and walk the neighborhoods. All of this advice is incredibly helpful in focusing my search.

                    1. re: lisavf

                      I'm still just so happy I got to move to DC (and, also about eight years ago like hamster -- whose taste tends to be right on par with mine, btw, but s/he's way more knowledgeable) -- so I think I get excited thinking about other people getting to move here too. One thing I appreciate about this city is that it's so accessible. I know the region is supposed to have the worst traffic in the nation, and there's been plenty of frustrations with Metro, but somehow I feel like it's just pretty easy to get around to different neighborhoods, try different food, etc (even if I haven't been able to do that so much lately, for other reasons). But I do think that might partly have to do with what neighborhood you base yourself in.

                    2. re: mselectra

                      Thanks for noticing , Ms Electra.

                      My comment on Arlington being the Left Bank (just like Paris) is because Arlington was originally going to be part of the '10 miles squared' that formed DC, with the Potomac flowing through the middle - just like the Seine splits Paris in half. DC was designed by Frenchman Pierre L'Enfant.

                      But Virginia wanted the land back. Development stagnated on the Virginia side, and business interests tried to build a canal to compete with the C&O canal on the Maryland side.

                      That canal was never completed because the newly developed railroad promised a much more efficient way of moving goods. Remnants of the abandoned Virginia canal can still be found on national park land at Great Falls and Dranesville District Park.

                      That's why DC wraps around the Potomac in a weird shape instead of forming an almost perfect diamond. The Arlington neighborhood of Rosslyn (Across Key Bridge) is a lot closer to the White House, for example, than many parts of DC.

          2. None. Arlington is where it's at. Think of it as the Left Bank. The 5th, 6th, and 7th Arrondissements.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Steve

              The 7th is my dream location. We rented an apartment there for a month, and every time I stepped out the door, I felt like I was home. I will check Arlington out for sure.

            2. Lisavf - if you can afford the high cost of rent I would move to the 14th and U area. Lots of restaurants, take-out, and nightlife

              1. There have been a number of posts on this subject already.

                For me personally I would move to Logan Circle or Dupont Circle---that way you have close access to all the great restaurants on 14th Street but also walking distance to U Street, Adams Morgan, and Dupont.

                There are also a bunch of gorcery stores within walking distance (depending exactly where you are located of course). Personally I'm right off the Circle and I'm walking distance to a Trader Joes, 2 Whole Foods and a Safeway (albeit a gross Safeway that I never buy meat or produce in). I also can walk to the farmers market every Sunday.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Elyssa

                  Elyssa, is that the Soviet Safeway?

                  1. re: Bob W

                    If that's what you call the 17th Street Safetway then yes.

                    1. re: Elyssa

                      I'm not a Safeway shopper, having never lived in DC proper. I just like the nicknames. 8<D

                    2. re: Bob W

                      compared to the late 90's/early 00's it's really not so 'Soviet' anymore. and it WAS grim back then. what little was on the shelves, you didn't want anyway.

                      lisavf - here's a hint: all the Safeways have an 'ess' sound nickname, usually based on their location, sometimes on what they stock.