Recap: U Street & Shaw Neighborhood Food Tour with Carpe DC Food Tours

If you’re a food lover like myself or enjoy a good cheat meal here and there, a food tour is definitely up your alley. I’ve looked up tours when visiting other cities before but never thought to do so in my own backyard. That’s a problem. With empty stomach in tow, I ventured out to the city on a Saturday morning to right my wrongs.

Carpe DC Food Tours is run by husband and wife duo Mary Collins and Stefan Woehlke, who found their passion for local foods through their international travels. The tour focuses on the U Street and Shaw neighborhoods of D.C. which have a rich African-American history that is highlighted along the way.

Stop #1

We started off at Ben’s Next Door (1211 U Street NW), where we checked in and were quickly treated to our first meal: the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl half-smoke and chili cheese fries, paired with DC brau public ale. If you live in the area and you’ve never tasted Ben’s, I’m judging you. It’s a D.C. staple and has been in business for 57 years, with locations on U street, H street, and Arlington, VA.  

Stop #2

Our second stop was Eatonville (2121 14th Street NW), which has closed since I went on the tour. The Zora Neale Hurston themed restaurant will soon be replaced by ‘Mule Bone’ in February 2016. It will still serve southern fare but gets a new look and name, with the kitchen being run by Top Chef alum Carla Hall. While there we tasted the fried green tomato, which was a nice shift from the heavier chili dog, and tasted Atlas beer, also from a DC brewery.

STOP #3

From there we moved on to Fast Gourmet (1400 W Street NW), which I have passed numerous times on my quest for parking on 14th street. I initially thought it was a gas station convenience store but was surprised to see a menu of amazing food inside. We tasted the ham & cheese empanada which didn’t disappoint. According to our tour guide/company founder Mary, Wale frequents this location for late night eats. That’s nice.

Stop #4

On to stop 4...Etete! Located at 1942 9th Street NW, it’s a quaint Ethiopian restaurant on 9th street with a very comfortable vibe, which we appreciated after walking for a while. We were given some tej (honey wine), which they make in house, and their yemesir wot platter (cabbage, carrots, yellow split peas & greens) to share. I wish we could’ve tasted some tibs (chunks of beef or lamb) but Ethiopian veggie platters are always filling by themselves anyway. Etete topped off our eating for the day and we ventured off to Compass coffee for stop #5 and a cup of their Cardinal blend. Coffee is my friend.

Stop #6

From there we tasted raspberry kombucha and a chai tea called Love Potion #10 at Calabash Tea & Tonic (1847 7th Street NW), which looks like a cafe where Aladdin would have been a regular. The highlight at Calabash was their Monster cookie which is made with chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, cranberries and peanut butter. As someone who doesn’t have a sweet tooth, you should trust my judgment about how amazing this cookie was because I ate it and loved it.

Moral of the story, go on a U Street & Shaw Neighborhood Food Tour with Carpe DC Food Tours if:

  1. you’re a local who wants to give out-of-towners a different tourist experience.
  2. you’ve never been to D.C. and want to experience a few local eateries in a short time.
  3. you’re a local just who wants to try great food, and potentially make some new friends. Shout out to my friends Jen & Jen who were visiting from Florida!

For tickets and more information on tours visit Carpe DC Food Tours.

- Nyasha Chikowore

Photo Credit: Nyasha Chikowore