Nothing says summer quite like spending your days near the water. DC is home to five distinct waterfront neighborhoods, each unique in their own way but brimming with drinking, dining and outdoor activities. Here are some highlights and fun facts about each waterfront, along with insight from locals about what makes them all so unique. Our riverside neighborhood rundown starts with a spotlight on some of the best foodie spots these areas have to offer, so read on for the inside scoop.
Inside District Hardware
Q&A with co-owner Jarrett Conway
We caught up with Jarett Conway, co-owner of family-owned, neighborhood-focused District Hardware, about his niche bike shop, hardware store and café at The Wharf.
On Tap: District Hardware has a lot to offer customers. What do you see people coming in for the most?
Jarrett Conway: There is a lot going on, but I’d say still less than other retailers with a larger footprint. We have three complementary departments, but [are] very geared toward an urban community. [Velo Cafe] is very well-patronized, and I think the community has really responded to the fact that a local-centric business has shown up. The hardware store has also seen a good number of customers who haven’t had the convenience of a hardware store in Southwest.
OT: How does the shop in its current form still connect with your grandfather Stanley Conway’s original plans for his 1971 store, and how does it differ?
JC: The core concept of my grandfather’s initial store is still there, just with more products. From a business perspective, he was always very progressive in what he offered. It’s really about the customer and the convenience to them. I’m very proud of the fact we’ve been able to maintain that same approach.
OT: What types of classes and events do you offer?
JC: They’re almost always free and allow us to meet and engage with our neighbors, impart some wisdom, and bring in some new folks that might not have walked by otherwise. All the events are targeted toward some segment of our business. In hardware, we have classes on plants and how to fix a hole in drywall. In bike, we offer group rides and free clinics on how to perform a safety check. And in café, we’ll offer classes on coffee brewing methods or host a tap takeover.
730 Maine Ave. SW, DC; 202-659-8686; www.districthardware.com
Spotlight on Kirwan’s on the Wharf
Seven years ago, Mark Kirwan was one of the first to sign a letter of intent for restaurant space on District Wharf, earning the prime waterview spot and riverside patio that Kirwan’s on the Wharf currently occupies on the revitalized waterfront.
“The doors to our building open up like an accordion, so when the weather is nice, you feel like you are sitting outside even when you are sitting inside,” Kirwan says. “And with the tables across the street at the waterside patio and outside our building, we’ve basically recreated our inside capacity outdoors.”
After quite a bit of research on The Wharf and realizing the Irish lived in the area during the 1800s, Kirwan says he wanted to “bring the Irish back to The Wharf.”
“I’m just trying to create a stepping stone for Ireland to people,” he says, noting that the entire bar itself came from Ireland – from the woodwork to the tiles. And to add to the pub’s authenticity, the carpenters who helped construct everything and the chef who Kirwan collaborated with on the menu are also from Ireland.
With nine years of experience working for Guinness, Kirwan says the beer selection – along with the overall beverage list – is very important to him.
“We want to keep things completely import and local craft beers [on our draughts] to be sure and represent all the great beers being produced in the area,” he says.
This summer, Kirwan’s will offer a riverside patio menu and a new fish-and-chip kiosk to go along with the outdoor drink options.
“We really like to have people sitting on the patios with a nice glass of rosé, cocktail or beer, enjoying the atmosphere,” he adds.
749 Wharf St. SW, DC; 202-554-3818; www.kirwansonthewharf.com
The Wharf’s music scene is bustling, with headlining acts several nights a week at the Anthem – from Sylvan Esso to Janelle Monáe – and a mix of local and up-and-coming artists at intimate neighboring venues Union Stage and Pearl Street Warehouse. But for the summer months, District Wharf is offering locals the opportunity to enjoy music al fresco with regular outdoor programming.
Music lovers who steal the show with their dance moves can show out at The Wharf’s new Saturday Night Dancing on the first Saturday of every month; the lineup includes swing, country line and salsa dancing. Free and open to the public, folks can dance to live music on Transit Pier, which The Wharf’s marketing and communications director, Matt Jahromi, says is “magical around dusk.” If you’d rather just listen than move your feet, check out Wednesdays at The Wharf for live music on Transit Pier throughout the summer. Plus, DC JazzFest will be making its first appearance at The Wharf this year on June 16-17 with at least 20 musical acts.
“The waterfront setting with public seating along the piers as you listen to live music makes this a special place to enjoy beautiful DC summer nights,” Jahromi says.
Learn more at www.wharfdc.com.
In Search of Seafood
Look no further: we’ve got the lowdown on The Wharf’s best seafood options by price point.
Keeping It Casual: Maine Avenue Fish Market
Clam chowder to-go is the perfect handheld snack for a walk around the Potomac River. If you’d rather skip the walk and turn in for an early evening at home, why not take freshly caught trout or crab to cook? All of these are available at The Wharf’s open-air fish market. The oldest in the U.S., the Municipal Fish Market is in the midst of extensive renovations as part of the entire Wharf project. Although the market will have a fresh, clean look and some new options for dining, rest assured that its charm remains intact. Some prefer boats over cars and The Wharf hears that. They’ll be adding even more space for docking boats for a few hours or even overnight. While new restaurants are also in the works, visitors can still enjoy comforting classics from family-owned businesses Jessie Taylor Seafood and Captain White’s Seafood City.
1100 Maine Ave. SW, DC; www.wharfdc.com
Hip But Lowkey: Hank’s Oyster Bar
Hank’s is the place for “urban beach food,” a description used by founder Jamie Leeds. Marketing assistant Erin Lucas explains, “[We’re] all about using fresh, local seafood to create dishes that are comforting, simple and delicious.”
The oyster bar’s signature dish – the lobster roll with Old Bay fries – is just that. Enjoy your fries with a glass of Hank’s Hops by Atlas Brew Works. For a summer day combo, Lucas recommends the seafood pateau (raw oysters, shrimp cocktail, mussels in escabeche, middleneck clams, ceviche and chilled steamed lobster) with a Hank’s Hanky Panky cocktail for a bubbly citrus refreshment.
“[Hank’s] is a special place that’s perfect for family night, date night or just hanging out with your friends,” Lucas says.
Check out Hank’s menu online to learn more about classic dishes and daily specials to enjoy all summer long.
701 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.hanksoysterbar.com
Feeling Fancy: Del Mar de Fabio Trabocchi
It’s definitely fitting that a restaurant named “of the sea” would offer fresh, delicious seafood right by the water. If you can’t afford a trip to Spain this summer, Del Mar assures the authentic taste you would experience across the ocean – owner Maria Trabocchi is a Spanish native.
“Many of our recipes come directly from [Maria’s] family and her heritage,” says Jesse Gerstein, who handles media relations at Del Mar. “The restaurant was designed to replicate the flavors, colors and textures of coastal Spain.”
Del Mar’s signature summer dish is any of their seafood paellas. Try one with a gin and tonic at dinner and end your evening with one of Del Mar’s scrumptious Spanish desserts, like a melt-in-your-mouth Flan de Maria. This upscale restaurant also offers brunch on the weekends.
791 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.delmardc.com
Up Above the Crowd
For your post-show hunger, Brighton’s British menu will help you reenergize. Hydrate with water, then drink up with their selection of beer and wine. 949 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.brighton-dc.com
A premium experience, the rooftop lounge is opportune for impressing your guest with a view of the sunset, M2 (mango, lemon and mint flavors) cocktail in hand. 975 7th St. SW, DC; www.whiskeycharliewharf.com
On the Water
This bambina of the original restaurant, Cantina Marina (closed for Wharf renovations), isn’t just a concession stand. Try their Dockside Donkey cocktail while enjoying the rooftop bar. 801 Wharf St. SW, DC; @cantinabambina
Owned by and located across from Kith and Kin, Watering Hole offers
right-on-the-water seating with beer, wine and a pop-up bar feel. 801 Wharf St. SW, DC; www.kithandkindc.com
Really Love the Water?
At District Wharf, folks can dock and live on their houseboats.