Capital of Cool
Washington’s arbiter of taste shows us around the hip Blagden Alley neighborhood.
Anna Kahoe is an expert at appreciating unique treasures that others sometimes miss. GoodWood, her U Street shop in Washington DC that she runs with her husband, offers a rotating array of salvaged furniture, funky dresses, handmade shoes, and 19th-century antiques. Kahoe’s ability to spot a diamond in the rough has extended beyond the shop. Take her neighborhood, Blagden Alley, a collection of four intersecting brick-paved back alleyways off of K Street. When she saw a “For Sale” sign on a crumbling 1880s carriage house overgrown with weeds ten years ago, Kahoe couldn’t resist. “I thought I had stumbled upon something charming and distinctive unlike anything in DC,” she explains.In the decade since, gallerists and restaurateurs have transformed the abandoned stables and parking garages into the city’s buzziest destination. “I had no idea that 9th Street was about to explode or the alley would be open to so many great new businesses,” Kahoe says. Here, she shares her favorite neighborhood haunts.
Chef Jeremiah Langhorne’s first restaurant, The Dabney opened in 2015 and earned a Michelin star one year later. “While words like ‘local’ and ‘farm-to-table’ seem to be part of DC’s foodie vocabulary, at The Dabney it doesn’t feel gimmicky.” says Kahoe. “Langhorne is shining a light on our local bounty with food from mid-Atlantic farms and purveyors,” she continues.”He’s a very passionate talented and committed chef. The restaurant is beautiful and cozy, with low-slung ceilings, a herringbone-pattern brick floor and giant wood-fired hearth.” The Dabney: 122 Blagden Alley NW; 202-450-1015
Philadelphia-based La Colombe opened on Blagden Alley in 2014. “My original love was the latte, but now I recommend the roasty flavor of their beans in a cappuccino, which the barista never fails to make taste like coffee-flavored velvet.” says Kahoe. “The coffee is the main attraction, but you can always count on some delectable muffins and baked goods.” La Colombe: 924 Blagden Alley NW, 202-289-4850
On an outer corner of Blagden Alley, at K Street and 9th Street NW, Espita Mezcaleria amped up the neighborhood’s cool factor when it opened last spring. “It’s a cool Oaxacan restaurant with an incredible mole and mezcal selection,” says Kahoe. “Megan Barnes, who used to work with us at GoodWood, is the beverage director, and was just recognized as of DC’s best bartenders. We love to stop at the bar on Sunday evenings and let her decide what we should eat and drink.” Espita Mezcaleria: 1250 9th St NW, 202-621-9695
“All-Purpose bills itself as a pizzeria, but you can have a great meal there without even touching a pizza,” says Kahoe. “My favorite dish is chilled seafood mixto. It’s fresh and bright and beautifully plated.” Kahoe also recommends All-Purpose for its laid-back, cheery service. “It’s fun to just slip in and hang out at the bar,” she adds. All Purpose: 1250 9th St NW; 202-849-6174
Interior designer and DC local Darryl Carter just opened his first retail space around the corner from Blagden Alley, selling glassware, pottery, books, and elegant pieces for entertaining at home. It’s one of few actual shops in the food-focused neighborhood. “I hope it’s the first of more to come,” says Kahoe. Darryl Carter: 1320 9th St NW; 202-234-5926
As Blagden Alley rents have risen, many artists have moved out of the neighborhood. “Promoting artists and creating space for art is one of Blagden Alley’s core values,” says Kahoe. “It is reassuring to have Adamson Gallery continue to bring this value to life on the daily. No one loves restaurants more than me but I love to see the galleries thrive. We gotta feed the soul too.” Adamson Gallery: 926 N St NW; 202-842-9220