Some of the biggest names in '90s punk came from D.C., and that edgy aesthetic is alive and well among both food and music types here today. Add to that the serious influx of creative capital after the Obama election, and you've got some deliciously eclectic grub and tunes to choose from.
The Venues: U Street was coined "Black Broadway" in its heyday by singer and actress Pearl Bailey, and that musical heritage is alive and well at Bohemian Caverns, where native son Duke Ellington as well as Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald once played, and at the newly reopened Howard Theatre, fresh from a $29 million renovation that included a soul-inflected revamp of the dinner menu by Marcus Samuelsson. Walking through the streets, you can catch performers banging out go-go music, the funky percussive dance-hall genre made famous by Chuck Brown here in the '60s and '70s (and revived Top 40–style with hip-hop flair by Wale. And for the indie rock end of things, check out 9:30 Club—a favorite of national touring bands—and the Black Cat, co-owned by Foo Fighter Dave Grohl. Watch for local acts like pretty-boy country rockers U.S. Royalty, the synth-pop Deleted Scenes, and arty noise-rockers Bluebrain.
The Menus: The sheer variety of D.C. dining could keep any food tourist engaged for weeks on end, hitting the José Andrés hot spots, up-and-comer Johnny Monis' Komi, the eateries of Little Ethiopia, and Ben's Chili Bowl, home of the half-smoke (the hot dog's larger, spicier cousin). But if music's your thing, don't miss the Belgian soul food at Marvin (a tribute to native son Marvin Gaye), the late-night Jamaican snacks at dance hall Patty Boom Boom, and the small-bite/cocktail tasting menu at speakeasy Columbia Room, which plans to open a performance space next door.
Colleen Clark is a food-nut travel writer whose work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, Esquire, Food & Wine, USA Today, and Epicurious.