August 10, 2010

Beyond the Capitol Building

Many tourists visiting Washington DC go to Capitol Hill. They walk past the House and Senate office buildings and take pictures of the US Capitol Building, the Supreme Court, and the Library of Congress. But, that is normally where their tour of this neighborhood ends and they turn back towards the grassy expanse of the National Mall.

A few blocks past the political beehive there is a different side of Capitol Hill. It is a vibrant and upcoming area of the city which has seen a great deal of transformation in recent. Nestled along Pennsylvania Avenue, 8th Street SE, and Massachusetts Avenue this is part of Capitol Hill is home to Eastern Market and many other shops and cafes.

For those unfamiliar Eastern Market, it is a home to several permanent food shops and spills out onto the sidewalks and surrounding streets on weekends when farmers and artists come to sell their wares. It is a fun place to wonder around on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. After visiting the market, branch out and explore the other side of Capitol Hill. The block just south of Eastern Market is lined with cafes and shops – a quaint French restaurant, a gourmet pizza place, a cute children’s shop, a coffee shop and other establishments.

Peregrine Espresso is a small and quirky coffee shop that serves excellent coffee and tea. To accompany your beverage they sell a variety of pastries. I tried a chocolate sandwich cookie and it was perfect with my plum tea. This cute shop has a small brick patio in front for use during pleasant weather. It is a great place to sit on weekends and watch people walking to and from Eastern Market.

Crossing Pennsylvania Avenue is 8th Street SE and Barracks Row. Shops, cafes, and restaurants line the street from Pennsylvania down past the barracks to the Southeast Freeway. Two of the restaurants along 8th Street are Belga Cafe and Cava Mezze. Belga Cafe serves excellent waffles and other Belgian specialities. The savory waffles are tasty and a pleasant departure from the American expectation of this dish. Across the street is Cava Mezze, a Mediterranean tapas restaurant. The food is classic eastern Mediterranean style small plates – salads and vegetable dishes, hummus, grilled cheese, and meats and seafood dishes. On warm evenings the sidewalk patio is a great place to sit, enjoy your food, and watch the people strolling by.

If you want to see the neighborhood that lives in the shadow of history and current events, take a photograph of the US Capitol Building and then visit the other side of Capitol Hill.

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