Welcome to another edition of Where We Live. This week we’ll be covering the ins and outs of one of the District’s coolest neighborhoods, Adams Morgan. Adams Morgan is unique in DC in that it actually feels like a neighborhood during the weekdays and weekend days, and completely changes character on weekend evenings as it transforms into a concentration of drunk non-residents. Unfortunately, some people only ever see the drunken frat party of 18th Street in Adams Morgan and don’t get to understand the really wonderful neighborhood behind it. Here’s your chance to learn what else there is to it!
History: Adams Morgan gets its name from the two formerly-segregated elementary schools in the area, the all-white John Quincy Adams school and the (now closed) all-black Thomas P. Morgan school (therefore, the area is not actually called Adam’s Morgan or Adams’ Morgan, both of which I’ve seen everywhere). In 1956 the Adams-Morgan Better Neighborhood Conference formed to improve the neighborhood, and jump-start urban renewal (not the Southwest Waterfront kind, though). Interestingly enough, the neighborhood’s name was hyphenated as Adams-Morgan in the Washington Post up until 2001.
Neighborhood Character: Adams Morgan is one of those few areas close to downtown that actually feel like a neighborhood. Ilana, an Adams Morgan resident of 4 years, had this to say: “I know my local grocery store clerk and the liquor store guy and I recognize most of my neighbors that have been in the area for a while. I also love the diversity, both ethnically and socially.” A variety of housing is nearby, mostly in rowhouses that have been subdivided or in smaller apartment buildings, and the main commercial hub is at 18th Street and Columbia Road. While 18th Street is home to more bars and restaurants, Columbia Road is home to more of the neighborhood places– smaller restaurants, a Safeway grocery store, and a number of local businesses.
Ilana says the best time to get a true feeling for the neighborhood of Adams Morgan is “on a nice Saturday afternoon when it’s not too crowded, all of the bars are serving cheap and delicious brunch, the local markets (while small) are all set up (farmers market/crafts market/hispanic market), and it’s really pleasant just to walk around.” Friday and Saturday nights, the neighborhood becomes overrun with jumbo slice-fueled debauchery, and the sidewalks become jam-packed with college students/interns/recent grads in various states of inebriation.
Transportation: Lots of good transportation options here, with the exception of an awkwardly-placed Metro station. The area is served by a number of bus lines, including the 42 (to Metro Center/Mount Pleasant) and the 90/92/93/96 that connect the area across town to SE DC. The new Circulator connects Adams Morgan to Columbia Heights and Logan Circle, and since it only has a few stops, it’s one of the fastest ways to get to the area. There are plenty of Zipcars (over 20 within a few minutes’ walk of 18th & Columbia), bike racks and an ever-expanding network of bike lanes, and nice wide sidewalks that make it one of the most pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods in town. In fact, the corner of 18th & Columbia & Adams Mill & Calvert recently underwent a major facelift to become even more pedestrian-friendly.
What to See: Assuming you’re checking out the neighborhood at a time that isn’t a Friday or Saturday night, here’s what to see.
- There are so many great restaurants and bars in the area. Meze is great for brunch, tapas, or just mojitos; The Reef is great for drinks on the rooftop; Madam’s Organ (love that name!) has great BBQ, a rooftop deck, and live music; Perry’s has a great drag brunch and great sushi/tapas on a beautiful roof with a fantastic view of Adams Morgan; Tryst is the place to go for good coffee and great ambiance. Pasta Mia is that place on Columbia where you constantly see people waiting outside– it’s great Italian food but they don’t take reservations, so you’ve gotta wait outside until it’s your turn. It’s definitely worth the wait though!
- Local restaurant/bar Bourbon deserves a separate mention, as it seems to be a favorite of just about every Adams Morgan resident I know. Here’s what Chris, who has lived in the area for 3 years, has to say about it: “Bourbon is an unassuming bar that has some of the best food and drink you’ll find on 18th, plus an outdoor patio that’s great when it gets warm. I bring everyone there for brunch or a good beer to begin a night of going out.”
- The Marie Reed Recreation Center is open weekdays and has an indoor swimming pool, as well as tennis courts and a basketball court. It’s free if you’re a DC resident!
- The Adams Morgan Day Festival is coming up on September 13th. Mark your calendars for a day of great food, live music and performances, and local crafts and art. There are also free summer concerts every Saturday from 5-7 at the BB&T Bank plaza.
- A little-known event that even neighborhood residents don’t know about is Adams Morgan First Tuesdays. On the first Tuesday of every month, a number of Adams Morgan restaurants serve food and drink for two for just $25, and select Adams Morgan retailers offer discounts of 10 to 35 percent. It’s a fantastic deal, so definitely check it out!
Neighborhood Links: Adams Morgan doesn’t have a strong presence in the blogosphere yet, but there are some good business-oriented websites to check out:
- Adams Morgan NOW is a great website for neighborhood events and information on neighborhood establishments. It’s managed by the Adams Morgan Main Street Group.
- The Adams Morgan Partnership is a business improvement district that keeps streets clean and safe, and develops marketing programs for the neighborhood.
- AdamsMorgan.net is an online depot of information, but it’s fraught with misspellings and looks like it hasn’t been updated since taxi time-and-distance fares went into effect.
- My Adams Morgan seems to be on a hiatus at the moment, as nothing has been posted since December. There are good restaurant reviews and some good neighborhood information in the archives, though.
Why We Love Adams Morgan: DC has a reputation for being buttoned-up and stuffy, but Adams Morgan is none of that– it’s eclectic, multi-cultural, fun, and very real. It’s full of “great restaurants, fun bars, funky coffee places, basketball courts, inviting parks” and more, according to resident Chris. The neighborhood is a great mix of residents from many different backgrounds, and if you want to get completely sloshed a variety of fantastic bars are a short walk away. It’s got it all!