D.C.’s Columbia Heights is a Foodie’s Paradise

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Columbia Heights is a diverse neighborhood in Northwest Washington D.C. which is home to many historic buildings, row houses, as well as some embassies.  It has had a large Hispanic population for decades and the GALA Hispanic Theatre and the Mexican Cultural Institute are in the neighborhood.

The neighborhood enjoys a diverse multiracial population of mixed socio-economic strata. It has become famous for its eclectic cuisine, particularly dishes from the Philippines and it offers a great blend of historical and modern architecture.

Where is Columbia Heights?

Columbia Heights is located in Northwest Washington D.C. bordering Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant and the up and coming U Street.

The area has great parks for picnicking, as well as other activities, such as cycling. Be ready for a lot of pedaling, because there are many hills round the neighborhood.

History

Columbia Heights was designed as the ideal Washington suburb in the hopes of attracting high-level government officials. Since the early 1900s, it has been home to many wealthy and influential people including the famous jazz musician and composer, Duke Ellington.

During the late 1990s the neighborhood underwent renovation and saw the opening of its own subway station. Although property prices increased, the area still retains a mix of many races including white, black, Hispanic and Asian, unlike other areas of the cities whose ethnic minorities were forced out due to gentrification.

Lifestyle

What to Do

The neighborhood is constantly buzzing with energy. There is a large Hispanic population and influence, with one place worth visiting being the Mexican Cultural Institute, which had at one time been an actual Embassy of Mexico in the city.

There are a number of parks. Meridian Hill Park, which is famous for its dramatic fountain is a favorite for both people-watching and picnicking. There is lots of space for outdoor activities and yoga classes are offered in the park.

During the warmer months, the streets are filled with local craftsmen, flower sellers and great street food including tacos, as well as South-east Asian options. Local farmers gather on Saturdays to offer their freshest produce.

There are some great Salvadorian markets on the border of Mount Pleasant which are very reasonably priced. The Tivoli Theater offers great shows in Spanish and features flamenco dancers from Spain, as well as Argentine Tango performers.

Where to Eat and Drink

Columbia Heights offers an eclectic blend of ethnic cuisines, but Bad Saint, run by a Filipino immigrant and award winning chef, Tom Cunanan is not to be missed.

In addition to the great street food options, there are many Hispanic restaurants, and a number of Laotian restaurants in the area serving many great dishes like alligator meat.

There are a number of great bars including the popular Wonderland Ballroom, as well as newcomers to the neighborhood such as Tequila and Mezcal which is always crowded due to great drinks prepared with the freshest ingredients.

Among the many Latin and Asian restaurants, don’t miss an Ethiopian favorite, called Letena, which has great coffee, many vegetarian dishes, as well as alcoholic beverages.

Moving to Columbia Heights

Real Estate Snapshot

Columbia Heights has a population of 35,500 residents, most of whom are middle to upper-middle class professionals of diverse ethnic backgrounds.

The rents in the area tend to be lower than the pricier nearby neighborhoods of DuPont Circle and Adams Morgan. Apartments for rent in Columbia Heights go for an average of $2,063 per month.

The architecture is a blend of both historic mansions and many modern apartments and townhouses built within the last few decades. Although the neighborhood boasts many historical mansions and has a blend of upper-income professionals, as well as middle-class residents, the crime rate is higher than other areas in the city, particularly in the area closest to Mount Pleasant.

Transportation

Columbia Heights has a metro station which bears its name and connects to the Green and Yellow lines. The area is located near many great shops and restaurants and is walking distance to the National Zoo.

Buses connecting to much of the city are easily available, as is the city’s Capital Bike Share. Taxis are rather expensive and operate by zone not by meter. Uber or Lyft would be a better option.

Schools & Employment

Cardozo Education Campus is a highly-rated combined public middle and high school in the Columbia Heights neighborhood. Harriet Tubman Elementary School is also a good option. There’s a bilingual, Spanish-English Catholic elementary school nearby in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood called Sacred Heart which is very well-respected, in addition to Little Flower Montessori School on 16th street is highly rated.

Columbia Heights has more of a residential than commercial feel even though it has nice shops and restaurants. Most people in the community work for the federal government or local think tanks or not-for-profits. Some are high-ranking government officials.

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