The Shaw neighborhood in DC is one of Washington’s coveted areas that is not yet well known to those outside of the district. A historically African-American area made famous by the composer and pianist Duke Ellington, Shaw has now grown to include the vibrant U Street Corridor area and has risen in nightlife, arts and culture through development of the area.

The Howard Theatre
620 T St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 803-2899

An historically African-American theatre, The Howard Theatre first opened its doors in 1910 and has become known for performers that gave rise to stardom or even a new genre of DC music. Known for being the people’s theater during a time where segregation drove a wedge in our culture, The Howard Theatre was where Washingtonians of all races could unite to experience the greats such as Duke Ellington, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, The Supremes and James Brown, to name a few. The theatre was forced to shut its doors after the 1968 riots following the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. sent the area into a deep economic depression. The theatre underwent an amazing restoration and reopened its doors in 2012. Be sure to check out a Chuck Brown All-Star Band for a tribute to the Godfather of DC’s own music genre of Go-go.

Lincoln Theatre
1215 U St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 328-6000

The recently restored Lincoln Theatre was originally built in 1922 where jazz powerhouses like Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole and Louis Armstrong were regular performances. After its recent restoration that brought the gorgeous theatre back to its original glory, the Lincoln Theatre has become a mixed-use commercial and cultural space for both touring nationally known acts and those from DC’s own community. Even if you can’t see a show, seeing the venue is worth it. The Lincoln Theatre runs tours for $5 per person and is free for kids four years old and younger.

Ben’s Chili Bowl
1213 U St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 667-0909

If there’s any restaurant that can be truly called a DC institution, it’s Ben’s Chili Bowl. Since 1958, Ben’s was made popular by its famous local half smokes, which are a combination of beef and pork in a sausage casing that is then smoked and grilled up. Ben’s food is coveted by Washingtonians day and night. Try the popular Bill Cosby, which is a half smoke on a roll covered in Ben’s deliciously complex, spicy chili and served with brown mustard and onions. Ben’s nearly always has a line, but it moves quickly, so don’t be intimidated, especially after a late night out on U Street. It’s cash only, but there’s an ATM inside.

Related: Best Neighborhood Bars In DC: U Street 

Nellie’s Sports Bar
900 U St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 332-6355

Nellie’s Sports Bar is a great place to get a bite to eat and drink in an unpretentious atmosphere. Established in the former Addison Scurlock Photography Studio, Nellie’s offers an inside bar and a popular roof deck that overlooks the bustling U Street corridor. Infamously known for being DC’s most popular gay bar, Nellie’s is open to all. For some transgender entertainment, check out its drag bingo nights on Tuesday. Be sure to make a reservation as the area is packed hours before the queens even arrive. There’s also the drag brunch on Sundays that offers a buffet for $24 and includes a mimosa, plus a drag show.

Dukem Ethiopian Restaurant
1118 U St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 667-8735

Shaw is well known for its presence in the Ethiopian community. In fact, it’s unofficially dubbed Little Ethiopia. Dukem is the perfect place to find all the classic Ethiopian favorites. Ethiopian food is a variety of stewed dishes that usually start with a base of chopped onions and clarified butter before veggies or meat is mixed in with aromatic spices. It’s served on a spongy sourdough pancake-like bread called injera. This same bread is used to eat the food with your hands. If you’re new to Ethiopian, try the doro wat, a hot chicken stew made with the berbere spice mixture and served with a hard-boiled egg. For those more adventurous who want a truly native dish, go for the kitfo served raw. Kitfo is chopped beef mixed with spices. It may be raw, but it’s not served cold. It’s truly a taste explosion. Don’t forget to order the Ethiopian honey wine to go with your meal.

Related: Best Ethiopian Cuisine In DC

Jamie Hardin is the counter-culture Washingtonian in the know. Inspired by food, sustainability issues, and public health, she prides herself on finding DC’s off-the-beaten path treasures. When she isn’t enjoying organic food or reducing her carbon footprint, Jamie’s traveling on her scooter or walking her two pit bulls. Her work can be found at