Who should Barracks Row serve?


Streetcars on Barracks Row. From Barracks Row/Mainstreet.

Streetcars on lower Barracks Row. From Barracks Row/Mainstreet.


You’ve got to love the Prince of Petworth. A full-time blogger, the man cranks out 20 posts a day about news and scuttlebutt all over the city.

Perhaps his site’s greatest attribute is that it fosters discussion. Development, crime, food, the Metro…it’s all fair game. And despite his moniker, he gets down to Capitol Hill fairly often.

One of his recent posts highlighted the addition of a pair of restaurants to Barracks Row, aka Eighth Street SE, and the loss of a pet supplies store. A spirited discussion followed, about what this means for parking, why there is no retail and other important issues for this strip, which is eternally popping off.

For residents, parking is a non-issue. We have large strips of “Zone 6 only” parking throughout Capitol Hill. But rest assured, pay parking and two-hour areas will start running dry, if they haven’t already. Thankfully for myself and other rezzies, the two new restaurants, a Moby Dick’s and a sushi joint with takeout,  focus more on serving Capitol Hill eaters rather than  destination diners. Why? Takeout business and presumably modest prices.

Destination diners are important too; there is no way this strip could support the amount of restaurants it does without a stream of Metro riders and Virginia and Maryland drivers (OK, and D.C. people drive here too. Why? I have no idea). But as I was discussing with a local bartender the other day, most people that live on Capitol Hill quickly realize Pennsylvania Avenue SE is where the locals hang, and Barracks Row is for, well, everyone else.

Why is that? Well unless I want Popeye’s (which I do), all the non-chain food on the street is overpriced, save for a couple of restaurants on the other side of the freeway on lower Eighth Street. Furthermore, while I have enjoyed a good deal of my meals on the street, much of the food is mediocre. It’s the truth.

As this restaurant row keeps growing, some restaurants will start to fail, especially the mediocre ones. Observing first-hand, nothing upscale (sit-down restaurant) has closed for well over a year. But at some point, some of these mediocre places (Banana Cafe, for the love of God) will close. Eventually, there will be balance. Will it be when people from Vienna decide that H Street NE is now habitable? Maybe. But at some point, Barracks Row’s scene will peak, and fall into equilibrium.

Then we see some balance as businesses serve both residents and commuters. That is how neighborhoods thrive, and become envied by everyone (Columbia Heights subtracting the crime, Dupont/Logan/Shaw).

Barracks Row may never reach that status; not enough density yet. But a takeout and a sushi joint is a step in the direction for people that refuse to pay $25 for a pizza. That, I can applaud.

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One Response to Who should Barracks Row serve?

  1. carsonata says:

    Here, here. The voice of reason!

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