H Street NE is notable for its ill-paved streets and random assortment of eclectic bars and restaurants. It’s our very own Epcot-like recreation of Brooklyn! And because it’s deliberately thematic, it has managed to avoid the onslaught of bistros–nondescript, sterile, nice restaurants that thrive on euphemisms (“approachable cuisine” anyone?). But Smith Commons, a new restaurant on H Street is all that, and it leaves us wondering what’s becoming of this former open-air crack market.
Smith Commons is essentially the Birch & Barley of H Street: A fine restaurant with a nice interior that serves good, pricey food, where the side dishes are referred to as “companions,” and the French Fries as “frites.” There’s no PBR or circus acts or Jews and Irish people forging a New World Order of latkes and Guinness. It’s a just big bar/lounge-y type place. It gets an extra point for having THREE stories with a bar on every floor, though it loses points for its puny beer selection. Anything less than 500 beers is unacceptable.
What, dear neighbors, do we expect of H Street, both now and in the longer view? Also, is anyone truly interested in exporting the glory of Logan fucking Circle to H Street?
I think of H Street as a place to retreat from (1) the lack of character downtown and (2) the congestion of Adams Morgan without running into Georgetown kids, top-shelf vodka, and other such yuppie influences. Not that H Street, lined with fair trade espresso and the sweat of 300 middle-aged yogis, isn’t yuppie-fying, but to me, the H Street vibe is somewhat humbled yuppie. Yeah, whatever the hell that means.
And at the moment, the gentrification of H Street has proven more inspired than neighborhood “improvements” elsewhere in D.C. — what, with mini-golf and Trinidad and a bierhaus and a Popeye’s and some quiet, indie coffee options all adequately close for comfort. Throw in two decent taqueries and I’ll start scouting for a lease.