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. 8.

Adams Morgan
Shops and restaurants bring global culture to Adams Morgan's 18th Street. (Photos: Harrison Jones/GW Today)
August 28, 2019

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.

By Briahnna Brown

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

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 a 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. 8 this year), visitors can take part in Adams Morgan Day. The free festival features live music and international food as well as sidewalk vendors and cultural dancing, and 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, or grab some vintage clothing at Meeps, which also has an extensive costume section.

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). Bookworms can stop by Lost City Books (formerly Idle Time Books), an independent bookstore that offers new, used and rare books for every bibliophile.

Hear live music at Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe, which has all ages and 18+ shows with acts from all over the world and also serves as a vinyl shop, café and restaurant. Or bring some friends to sing karaoke at Muzette, which boasts more than 70,000 songs in multiple languages. Rent a private room for around $5 per person, and enjoy Korean food while taking turns singing your favorite songs.

Adams Morgan

Adams Morgan is a foodie's paradise with an abundance of affordable eateries.

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-$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.
  • Donburi, 2438 18th St. NW
    Offering “the ultimate Japanese comfort food,” Donburi serves a variety of rice bowls at around $13 each. Try their signature bowls with sushi-grade salmon or their rice bowls with a choice of Japanese curry or traditional Donburi chicken, pork, shrimp or tofu.
  • The Diner, 2453 18th St. NW 
    Open 24/7, the Diner serves 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, and many items are 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 Road 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 for about $10 or the “Texas Ranger” with sliced brisket and crispy onions on Texas toast for about $13.
  • Pop’s Sea Bar, 1817 Columbia Road NW
    Seafood lovers can enjoy this boardwalk-themed restaurant that serves fried snacks such as calamari and oysters for about $10. Pop’s Sea Bar also serves burgers and Old Bay fries, as well as classic root beer floats. Make sure to bring quarters for the game room.

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 H1 bus toward Brookland from the corner of 23rd and I streets NW. Hop off at the Columbia Road and 18th Street NW stop.

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.
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