People ask where we live in Washington, D.C. and when I say, “Brightwood,” it is clear from the blank stares that they’ve never heard of our neighborhood. The secret is not out—yet.
Even among those who’ve lived in D.C. for several years, the area remains a mystery, a blank space on the map of the city in their minds. Everyone knows Georgetown and Dupont and Capitol Hill and Chinatown. You might even know Shaw and H Street. But Brightwood? Nah.
We moved to our neighborhood five years ago but, ironically, my husband’s grandparents used to live two blocks down our street in the 1940s. Like the entire city, things have changed since then—though not at the rate of areas closer to downtown. We live in Uptown. Still Northwest, but not the multi-million dollar mansions and luxury condos people picture.
Instead, Brightwood and Brightwood Park, which are adjacent, remain mostly residential and look more like D.C. past. The area has a local, community feel to it—you never see tourists roaming the streets. There are no high rises or fancy hotels. It’s a place people actually live.
How long will this small swath of old D.C. last?
It’s hard to say. Gentrification is sweeping through with no signs of slowing, bringing good, bad, and plenty of debate. The luxury condos are on their way, and the main commercial thoroughfare, Kennedy Street, is bubbling with new businesses.
So, if you want to know what a neighborhood in transition looks like and experience a side of D.C. that few ever see, I recommend a stroll down Kennedy Street. These are some of our favorite places.
Where to stop on your stroll through the Brightwood DC neighborhood
Start at 1st St and Kennedy St and walk West to find each of these Uptown DC gems.
1. Wet Paint Mural
“Do something every day to remind this city why the hell you’re here,” the mural says. “Give it your best every single day and don’t be so hard on yourself come nightfall.” If walls could talk, right?
2. Jackie Lee’s
Historic jazz club turned Art Deco dive bar that serves solid food and drinks. Order the ribs or the chicken and waffles. Friendly staff and free games like a Trivial Pursuit deck from the 90s.
Visit the boutique for “pre-loved” antiques and housewares from noon to 5 PM on Saturdays, or rent out the event space for a tea party of your own for $75 an hour. “Pinkies up!”
The Library Tavern serves a mix of Persian and American food along with cocktails, beers, and wine amidst walls of books. They have a lounge downstairs with a pool table and more.
Andrene has been serving up delicious, filling Caribbean-soul fusion on Kennedy Street for 13 years. Try the oxtail, the Jamaican beef patties, and a side of mac n’ cheese.
Find your center with kundalini, hatha yoga, and pilates. It’s not your typical yuppie yoga operation with only power flow classes. Try the Yoga for “Misfits” class if you’re zen-curious.
Designing floral arrangements in D.C. for over 30 years, this flower shop cafe has it all: gorgeous blooms, espresso drinks, pastries, and made in D.C. goods for sale.
8. Soup Up
Not just soup! Fancy toasts, grilled cheeses, jerk chicken wings, and more are all on the menu (but also soup). Drink some fresh-squeezed juice filled with loads of fruit and veggies too.
The production arm of ANXO in Shaw, this cidery and tasting room is a community hot spot. Sip your cider with Basque snacks and sandwiches or bagels, lox, coffee, and more for brunch.
Opened in 2019 and ⅔ women-owned, this cheese catering studio offers cafe hours on Fridays and Saturdays, plus special tasting events. Stellar cheese and wine pairings in an intimate, friendly space.
Note: If you’re into natural wine, check out our post on the Solstice Natural Wine Festival.
11. La Coop Coffee
Founded by the son of a coffee farmer in Guatemala, La Coop is all about fair trade and sustainability—in addition to a delish cuppa joe. Right now, Juan (the owner) is running it as a pop-up shop inside of Cheesemonster on weekday mornings. Stop in for your nitro fix and to say hi!
A family-friendly bar and restaurant with a cool circular bar upstairs that’s great for watching sports. This restaurant has the same owners as Boundary Stone, which is a Bloomingdale fave.
Shop local produce, baked goods, and more at this small but bustling farmer’s market serving the Brightwood DC neighborhood. Open Saturdays from 9 AM to 1 PM.
A warm and welcoming studio that offers a variety of fitness classes for $99 per month, unlimited. It’s owned by a mother-daughter duo who focus on making exercise fun.
If you reach Rock Creek, you’ve reached the end of this Brightwood DC neighborhood tour—but you should keep walking! Kennedy will turn into Morrow Drive and take you into the park, which is gorgeous. Explore the trails and you might even stumble upon some horses.
Washington, D.C. never ceases to amaze me with the hidden gems it has to offer in just a few square miles. Brightwood is not the only underrated area of the city — there’s so much more to explore. So yes, do all the museums and the famous neighborhoods, but then venture further. The real D.C. is really not that far away.
Never miss an adventure!
Images all shot by Melissa M. on an iPhone 8 Plus, except the image of Rock Creek Park, which is courtesy of creative commons.