A casual daytime stroll down the sleepy H Street corridor hides the spirited North East bar scene that comes alive at night.
By day, H Street Corridor is fairly mundane. The pawnshops and used clothing stores are some of the only places open, and crumbling storefronts dot the area. But at night, the street is transformed. Neon signs glitter on the strip of bars and music venues, and young couples populate the restaurants that line the streets.
While the gentrified corridor is known for its late nights and wild bar scenes, the hidden jewel of H Street is the food served along the 11 city blocks. Here’s a sampling:
1224 H St., NE
I was initially skeptical of Sticky Rice, an Asian restaurant, because one of the first things I saw on its website was a picture of tater tots. But the American-Asian fusion theme works surprisingly well. The service can be best described as clueless yet charming. When our waitress arrived, she raved about two dishes. I gladly approved of the Godzirra maki ($12.50), a roll of shrimp, avocado, cucumber, cream cheese and those inescapable “tempura crunchies,” topped with tobiko. I also enjoyed her second recommendation, Sticky Balls ($10.75). These deep fried tofu pockets filled with an unidentifiable mixture of tuna, crab and Sriracha rice are topped with wasabi dressing and eel sauce. If fish isn’t your thing, there are enough vegetarian options to fill up Buddha himself.
An entire menu section dedicated to “vegetarian specialties” includes the Dirty South ($5.25), a dish of tempura-fried sweet potatoes with sam bahi, garnished with sesame seeds, and Garden Balls ($7.50), tempura-fried pockets of mushrooms, pepper, cilantro and rice, all drizzled with eel sauce.
The restaurant comes alive nightly with karaoke, trivia and DJ nights. Sticky Rice is the perfect place to unleash your inner hipster, even if that means downing a few sake bombs first.
Souk Moroccan Tapas & Wine Bar
1208 H St., NE
The words “Moroccan” and “tapas” were all it took to whet my appetite and curiosity. The six-month-old restaurant’s small tables, dim lighting and subdued Moroccan music make it ideal for cozy conversations and intimate dates. A colorfully lit, swanky bar is fully stocked with hard liquor, beer and wine if you want to add some zeal to your meal. Souk’s slender and concise menu provides a number of tapas appetizers sure to satisfy the taste buds.
Their frittes ($5.95) are not homemade, but are dusted with spices and served with a harissa aioli. The Merguez ($9.95), grilled lamb sausages, were jerky-dry but still delicious. If you are not a meat eater, there’s an appetizer for that, too. Try anything from grape leaves ($5.95) stuffed with rice, tomatoes and herbs to Adas ($6.95), spiced lentils simmered with tomatoes, garlic and cilantro. As for the Moroccan specialties, they’re certainly an experience. Chicken Bastilla ($15.95), a national dish of Morocco, is essentially a meat pie made with saffron, almond paste and orange blossom water contained in flaky dough. Think of it as baklava for meat lovers. Drizzled with honey, it is the perfect dish for satisfying those sweet and savory cravings.
But soon, the food won’t be Souk’s only attraction, the venue’s manager Salim Bouguerra said the eatery will add a hookah bar upstairs by the end of the year.
Star and Shamrock
1341 H St., NE
Star and Shamrock’s owner, Jay Feldman, was raised in an Orthodox Jewish household, surrounded by the Irish-Catholic neighborhood of Bayonne, N.J. After moving to D.C. in 1999, Feldman decided to extend his dichotomy by combining the two cultures' cuisines. So, he opened the unique Irish pub and Jewish delicatessen and began to create fusion dishes.
The Star and The Shamrock sandwich ($12) is an ode to corned beef and cabbage, an Irish staple, and to the classic Reuben. The crunch of the rye bread can be heard over even the rowdiest Irish crew and the succulent pastrami, rich chopped liver spread, melted Swiss cheese and Russian dressing are tasty enough to silence any sceptics. The sandwich also includes a dense and starchy, yet satisfying latke. Star and Shamrock revolutionized the hot dog, too, upping the “Jew-ciness” by using a quarter pound Hebrew National dog, adding the classic Reuben toppings and serving it on a challah roll for $10. Other fusions include a shepherd’s pie topped with a latke, as well as fried matzo balls with dipping sauce.
The bar offers cocktails, wine, whiskey, specialty pints and beer. Get your l’chaim on with a bottle of He’Brew Messiah Bold, “The Chosen Beer.” Star and Shamrock also features Irish and American folk artists at night. Thankfully, Feldman hasn’t tried to combine Irish folk with Klezmer yet.
Horace & Dickies
809 12th St., NE
The smell is the easiest way to find this seafood shack, which has been dishing out fried fish and chicken for 20 years. With a steady line of hungry customers, Dickie’s daughter, “Big Mama,” runs the joint with an interesting outlook on customer service.
When one customer asked for fries with her order, Big Mama replied, “No, I don’t feel like it.” After every order, she will point to an oversized plastic jug and say, “That’s my tip jar, if you can.” The only seating is a solitary bench outside, which is where I started to eat my four-piece whiting fish sandwich ($5.80). The fish was crispy and flavorful on the outside and warm and flaky on the inside. Served over Wonder Bread, hot and tartar sauces are must haves. I donated one huge fillet of fish to a woman on the bench, Addie Bell Jones, 41, who is there every day collecting money to buy a meal. If you see her, buy her a soda – orange is her favorite.