Getting to Know the DMV: Adams Morgan

This vibrant and culturally diverse D.C. neighborhood offers a bit of everything for lovers of food, art and history; its popular Adams Morgan Day festival is Sept. 10.

September 5, 2023

Adams Morgan

Shops and restaurants bring global culture to Adams Morgan's 18th Street. (Photos: Harrison Jones/GW Today)

Washington, D.C., is more than the seat of the national government. The DMV—the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia—is home to broad, diverse communities and neighborhoods that offer history, good eats, parks and waterfronts—much of it a quick Metro ride away. About once a month during the academic year, Getting to Know the DMV will offer a glimpse of selected neighborhoods.

Adams Morgan blends a rich, diverse history from a legacy of immigrants, activists and revolutionaries with artistic and culinary expression, making this neighborhood a must-visit.

Originally known as simply “18th and Columbia,” which refers to its major crossroads in Northwest D.C., activists and urban planners in the 1950s sought to create a new identity for the neighborhood with a name that unified Washington, D.C., residents across racial lines.

Black and white families were fighting together for better education for all, even at a time when area schools were still segregated. To show their unity, parents from the whites-only Adams School (named for President John Quincy Adams) and the “colored” Morgan School (named for city commissioner Thomas Morgan) organized as the Adams Morgan Better Neighborhood Conference, giving the area its new name.

In the 1960s, as D.C.’s population expanded, Adams Morgan attracted younger and more diverse residents to the then-affordable residences. Artists and musicians gathered in the smaller neighborhood buildings, and the Black Panthers and anti-Vietnam War activists took up space along the 18th Street corridor.

Today, international shops and restaurants line the streets of Adams Morgan, and residents throughout the District take advantage of everything the neighborhood has to offer.

Every year on the second Sunday in September (Sept. 10 in 2023), visitors can take part in Adams Morgan Day, a free festival featuring live music and international food as well as sidewalk vendors and cultural performances. Many neighborhood businesses offer deals for the celebration.

Adams Morgan

The LINE DC is a multipurpose venue that is home to a hotel, community center and radio station.

What to do:

This culturally diverse neighborhood has something for everyone, especially foodies and those who love the arts. Adams Morgan is known for its nightlife scene, but there are still plenty of places to visit and things to do during the day as well.

Explore historic D.C.:

Starting at 16th Street and Florida Avenue NW, visitors to Adams Morgan can take a self-guided heritage trail called “Roads to Diversity” to learn more about the vibrant community of artists and activists that made the neighborhood what it is today.

Housed inside a historic 110-year-old church, the LINE DC is a hotel, community center and radio station all in one. The Adams Morgan Community Center includes event space and a mini library to check out books and also serves as a nonprofit incubator space that celebrates the rich history of the neighborhood. It is also the home of Full Service Radio, a community podcast network that features interviews with local leaders and influencers to discuss topics ranging from food and drink to music and culture.  

Or do some shopping at local stores: find unique accessories and room décor at Urban Dwell (1837 Columbia Ave. NW), browse the stacks for old favorites and rare finds at independent bookstore Lost City Books (2467 18th St. NW) or on weekends grab a treasure from the selection of vintage goods at Mercedes Bien Vintage (2423 18th St. NW).


Adams Morgan

Visit Lost City Books, an independent bookstore that boasts rare finds.

Engage with the arts:

Throughout Adams Morgan, there are colorful murals to see at every turn. At the DC Arts Center, visitors can stroll through an art gallery for free or see a show at the theater at a relatively low price (usually around $20). Or bring a crew to karaoke standby Muzette (2305 18th St. NW), which boasts more than 70,000 songs in multiple languages. A private room is surprisingly affordable, at around $5 per person, and offers the opportunity for you and your friends to belt out your favorite songs without too much of an audience—and to order tasty Korean food while performing.


Storefronts including Jumbo Slice

Adams Morgan is a foodie's paradise with an abundance of affordable eateries, including late-night staple Jumbo Slice—beloved by partygoers, if not by gourmets. 

Where to eat:

  • Lucky Buns, 2000 18th St. NW
    Craving a late-night sandwich? Lucky Buns takes flavors from all over the world to craft their beef burgers and chicken sandwiches, ranging from $10 to $15. The “Bun Mi,” for example, comes with grilled tandoori chicken and pickled daikon, and customers have the option of getting their sandwich over a crunchy salad instead of a bun.
  • The Diner, 2453 18th St. NW 
    Open 24/7, the Diner has for years served classic comfort food with a modern spin. They offer a little of everything from chili to a BLT to breakfast favorites like omelets and pancakes, with many items around $10.
  • Mama Ayesha’s, 1967 Calvert St. NW
    Serving food that meets any dietary preference, Mama Ayesha’s offers authentic Middle Eastern cuisine with Syrian family recipes. Try traditional charcoal grilled kabobs or vegetarian specialties with lentils, rice and chickpeas.
  • Sakuramen, 2441 18th St. NW
    The chefs at Sakuramen strive to create the best ramen in the world. Most bowls are less than $15 and come in a variety of broths. Try the “DC Miso,” a tribute to Washington, D.C., with pork belly chashu, bamboo shoots, shredded Monterey jack cheese and naruto (fish cake).
  • Federalist Pig, 1654 Columbia Rd. NW
    For barbecue lovers, Federalist Pig serves American barbecue inspired by regional fare. Their signature sandwiches include the “Carolina on My Mind” with chopped pork shoulder and spicy vinegar sauce or the “Texas Ranger” with sliced brisket and crispy onions on Texas toast.
  • Keren Café and Restaurant, 1780 Florida Ave. NW
    Especially if you’re new to D.C., don’t miss an opportunity to try an Ethiopian or Eritrean meal: generous portions of shareable, delicious food served with signature injera, a spongy, delicate sourdough bread some have compared to a crepe. Keren’s selection has garnered it a coveted Michelin star.

Adams Morgan

Formerly "18th and Columbia," Adams Morgan today is a cultural hub that is easily accessible via metrorail and metrobus.

How to get there:

From Foggy Bottom:

  • Metrorail: Take the Red line train from Farragut North toward Shady Grove to the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan stop. Then, walk along the Duke Ellington Memorial Bridge until Calvert Street NW becomes 18th Street NW.
  • Metrobus: Take the 42 or 43 north toward Mount Pleasant from 23rd and G streets NW or catch it later in the route at 18th St. and Pennsylvania Ave. Hop off at Columbia Rd. and 18th St. NW.

From Mount Vernon

  • Campus Shuttles- Take the Vern Express from the Mount Vernon campus to the Foggy Bottom campus. Then, use the Metrorail or Metrobus methods mentioned above.