Food and Drink in the District
Since the founding of the District, food and drink have almost been as important as politics. Two examples: Rhodes Tavern, which is no longer standing, is associated with the early days of the City of Washington, its governance, and politics; City Tavern in Georgetown played an important role in the early days of that once-independent port city and was linked to Founding Fathers John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. And certainly, many delicious meals — and tasty drinks! — have led to the success of numerous deals on the Hill.
Today, Washington's cuisine is as popular as ever, with many residents visiting weekend farmers markets and booking reservations at the newest Michelin Star restaurants. This tour encompasses some of the city's historic landmarks related to food, drink, and high calories!
Early on, public markets were established and integrated into the city's plan. Center Market on Pennsylvania Avenue NW at 7th Street operated until the development of Federal Triangle in the 1930s (the National Archives is now located on the site), and Western Market at K and 21st streets NW stood until the 1960s. Thankfully, Capitol Hill's Eastern Market — designed by the major Washington architect Adolf Cluss in 1873 — is still a popular destination for Washingtonians from across the city, and tourists from around the world.
Georgetown Market on M Street NW was a center of that community, stretching back to when Georgetown was an independent city, and continued as a grocery store until recently. Unfortunately, Northern Liberty Market near Mount Vernon Square is no longer standing, but O Street (Northern) Market in Shaw is still standing and has been repurposed into a Giant grocery store.
Additionally, prior to national chains, Washington had an important baking industry centered along 7th Street NW in Shaw. This one-time hub is represented by Holzbeierlein, Dorsch's White Cross (Wonder Bread), and General Baking Company (Bond Bread Factory), which are still extant and were historically designated within the past decade. One can imagine the smell of bread and other treats wafting through the area! As for the arrival of national brands, Schlitz Brewing Company's facility in Eckington, with easy access to the railroad tracks, illustrated the new competition that local brands faced around the turn of the 20th century. In this case, it was a Milwaukee-based beer company using the rapidly developing transportation networks that connected the nation to its advantage.
Related to this is the wholesale industry, which supplies numerous restaurants around the District with important ingredients. Union Market Historic District showcases meats, vegetables, fruits, and other delights — and is adjacent to the newest restaurants and bars.
Other businesses have been important centers of community and advocacy. During the postwar era, Billy Simpson's House of Seafood and Steaks on Georgia Avenue in Petworth catered to African American leaders in entertainment, business, and government, while Annie's Paramount Steakhouse in the Dupont Circle Historic District has long been an important social spot for the city's LGBTQ+ residents.
Also in the Dupont Circle Historic District, Tabard Inn is a longtime woman-owned business that catered to women in DC when it served as a tearoom from the 1920s to 1970. Ben's Chili Bowl, prominently located on U Street NW — which was once referred to as "Black Broadway" — is located in a one-time cinema, and is arguably one of the most famous restaurants in the city and throughout the years has been visited by many famous individuals.
Enjoy the tour, and don't get too hungry!