Walk through the Logan Circle neighbourhood and you can see how Washington has changed. Not with Trump – you won't see many Make America Great Again hats – but through the 20-year flow of money and people into the central cities of the United States. Along the main strip of 14th Street Northwest, tapas restaurants and gastropubs share the block with chain retailers such as J. Crew, Filson and Whole Foods. New condo buildings belly up to century-old storefronts. And all the day and into the evening, the sidewalks are full of shoppers, theatregoers and drinkers. The place is alive.
It wasn't always that way. Like much of D.C., the area was hit hard in the 1970s and '80s by disinvestment, street crime and drugs. But it remained one of the more diverse places in a racially segregated city and gentrifiers were attracted to its central location and good bones. Take a walk and you'll learn the place is named after one of the traffic circles that break up Pierre L'Enfant's street grid; this grassy circle is surrounded by a gorgeous collection of Victorian row houses and capped with a bronze 1901 statue of the Union-general-turned-U.S.-senator John Logan. Today, Logan looks down on a neighbourhood that's as prosperous and safe as it's been in 50 years and with much better espresso.
Mason & Rook
Following a major renovation completed last year, this 10-storey tower is now a Kimpton hotel with big rooms and a vibe that mixes D.C. dark-wood staidness with mid-century-modern verve. In the panelled lobby, you can enjoy a complimentary morning cup of coffee or evening glass of wine, then borrow a bike or even a Shinola watch for your explorations through the city.
Upstairs, the rooms have a similar feel, not at all edgy but firmly up to date. There's more panelling, marble counter tops and dark wood furniture, spiced up with a mix of drawing and photography on the walls. The key amenity is comfort. All rooms are uncommonly big – this used to be an apartment building – and our suite was bigger than some of my friends' homes. The beds are excellent and the drapes keep the rooms as dark as you want them.
That could be useful if you spend time downstairs at the restaurant, Radiator. Within the dark and leathery room, chef Jonathan Dearden and lead bartender Sarah Rosner deliver a menu full of familiar flavours and artisanal twists: lamb-belly tacos, roast chicken served with grated kohlrabi, gnocchi with a hit of labneh, excellent craft beers and a faultless gin and tonic.
One night, as we had dinner, the courtyard patio was closed for a private dinner attended by Lena Dunham. For a few moments, the crowd of preppy thirtysomethings in the bar hummed with murmurs of "look it's her!" And then everyone went back to their drinks. 1430 Rhode Island Ave. NW; masonandrook.com; rooms from $199 (U.S.)
EAT AND DRINK
Belgian in D.C.? Yes indeed, thanks to chef Bart Vandaele, who brought his experience in Michelin-starred restaurants here as chef to the EU delegation. Mussels and frites are as good as you'd demand and the boast of "the best steak tartare in D.C." is, at least, plausible. 1324 14th St. NW; btoo.com
This bistro is likely too loud for diplomacy, but it's an ideal place for an attaché to take a date and her parents. The landmark serves up a very proper Parisian mix, from a café au lait to a Niçoise and coq au vin, in a room that's very artfully cluttered. 1601 14th St. NW, lediplomatedc.com
The name suggests a military level of readiness and this big, comfortable bar-restaurant delivers: From breakfast (epic chocolate-chip pancakes) to happy hour ($2.50 draft on Tuesdays) to dinner (burgers either veggie or grass-fed). Wall clocks show the time in Nashville and Berkeley, Calif., spoofing Washington's officious self-importance. It's owned by Eat Well DC, a company that supplies its restaurants with produce from its own farm in La Plata, Md. 1443 P St. NW, commissarydc.com
The Detroit-based watch and leather-goods retailer is an indicator species for advanced gentrification: When they've landed, your area has really made it. (By now, there's already a scattering of Starbuckses.) This is the place to buy that watch you borrowed from the hotel and couldn't let go; a rose-gold Runwell costs $600. The line's handsomely retro bicycles start at $1,000. 1631 14th St. NW, shinola.com
Salt & Sundry
Here, you can find a strong selection of local products: cocktail supplies from Gordy's such as Fine Brine and Bloody Mary Mix. S&S also runs plant shop Little Leaf around the corner; here, you can score a Stegosaurus planter by Sill Life ($40). Otherwise, back at the main store, find Immodest cotton throws made in India, hand-thrown ceramic coffee mugs from California's WRF Lab, accompanied by Portuguese coffee spoons. 1625 14th St. NW, shopsaltandsundry.com
Director Joy Zinoman founded the company in 1978 and now it's Washington's leading company for contemporary theatre. Presenting and workshopping productions by playwrights from across the city and around the world, the institution is a huge draw and a major presence in the neighbourhood. Its complex, which now includes four small- and mid-sized theatres, has been here for more than 35 years. 1501 14th St. NW, studiotheatre.org
A legendary music venue since it opened in 1993, the Black Cat remains a beloved stop for touring musicians – in November, the Drums and Luna are among then. But it's also open for nerdier pursuits: Each Saturday, the place shows an episode of Doctor Who, with themed drink specials. Fire up the TARDIS. 1811 14th St. NW, blackcatdc.com
The writer paid a reduced rate at the Kimpton Mason & Rook Hotel. It did not review or approve this article.