Shaw Gears Up for the Holidays

FishScale co-owner Brandon Williams and Mayor Muriel Bowser kick-off DMV Black Restaurant Week. Photo: Pleasant Mann

Shaw started off the holiday season this year with its celebration of Shaw Business Saturday on November 27, the neighborhood version of the national Small Business Saturday event that gives prominence to local small businesses during the shopping season. This year, Shaw Main Streets offered its ever-popular Shawbucks, five dollar-denominated coupons that could be used at 17 neighborhood businesses during the day. The Shawbucks seemed to do the trick to generate business right after Thanksgiving, with businesses reporting the redemption of thousands of dollars’ worth of Shawbucks for purchases. Small Business Saturday also got national attention when the administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Isabel Guzman, visited Lee’s Flower and Card Shop to promote the effort.

Shaw’s Small Business Saturday also saw the inauguration of a Shaw Art Market at the Cornerstone at 625 T Street NW. Each of the plastic bubbles previously used by the HalfSmoke restaurant to serve outdoor diners will feature a local artist, offering artwork for holiday gift giving. The Shaw Art Market will be open weekends in December through Sunday, December 19.

There were other holidays being celebrated during the season. Shaw’s famous dive bar Ivy and Coney (1537 Seventh Street NW) is bringing back its annual Hanukkah Bar decorations, in a year when Hanukkah starts early. Next door, The Passenger (1539 Seventh Street NW) is holding its first commemoration of Festivus, the festival for the rest of us, marked by the airing of grievances and other traditional activities.

Mayor Marks Black Restaurant Week in Shaw
Mayor Muriel Bowser came to Shaw on November 8 to kick off this year’s DMV Black Restaurant Week and to announce an important initiative to support food equity in the DC. The mayor’s press conference was set up in front of FishScale (637 Florida Avenue NW), one of the neighborhood’s notable Black-owned establishments. Brandon Williams, co-owner of FishScale, welcomed the crowd to the event. He was followed by Mayor Bowser and a number of economic development and hospitality professionals, including the venerable owner of Ben’s Chili Bowl, Virginia Ali, outlining how important it is to strengthen the Black restaurant industry in the District.

DeAndre Green of Stop Smack’n Restaurant collects Shawbucks during Shaw Business Saturday. Photo: Alexander Padro

The major announcement made at the event was the inauguration of the Food Access Fund. The fund will provide $9 million in grants to eight recipients to provide new restaurants and fresh food groceries in Wards 7 and 8. HalfSmoke (651 Florida Avenue NW), the Shaw restaurant on the opposite end of the block from FishScale, will get a grant to open establishments at Skyland Town Center and Downtown Minnesota Avenue in Ward 7. HalfSmoke’s owner Andre McCain spoke about how he had started on Wall Street but wanted to do something else. He said that he would not be able to open the East of the River locations of his popular restaurant without the grant from the new fund.

Mayor Bowser also used the occasion to introduce the new director of the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife and Culture, Solander Vander Nat. Ms. Vander Nat has had 11 years of experience managing nightlife and event planning programs, most recently directing Hook Hall’s pandemic meal kit program for workers in the hospitality industry.

The event was closed by FishScale co-owner Kristal Williams, who invited attendees to sample the fish burgers and other items their restaurant offered.

Oyster Oyster, Shaw Restaurants Get Respect
Oyster Oyster (1440 Eighth Street NW), Shaw’s hot plant-based restaurant, received a notable honor recently when it joined Esquire magazine’s prestigious list of the Best New Restaurants in America, 2021. Esquire describes the restaurant as “one of experimental exuberance, where chef Rob Rubba serves watermelon with peanuts and oysters (it just works) and a dish of mushroom, corn truffle, and potato that tastes like the forest floor in the best way possible.”

Oyster Oyster also topped the new Washingtonian magazine Reader’s Poll as Best New Restaurant. Ghostburger, the Shaw pandemic pop-up at Espita Mezcaleria (1250 Ninth Street NW) that has gone permanent, took the No. 1 spot for Best Pop-Up. The Dabney (122 Blagden Alley NW) was the best restaurant for a Special Occasion in the poll (Vice President Harris and First Gentleman Emhoff celebrated his birthday there in October), while Unconventional Diner (1207 Ninth Street NW) took the title for best Family-Style Carryout. Columbia Room (124 Blagden Alley NW) had the Best Cocktails, with Shaw establishment Oohh’s and Aahh’s (1005 U Street NW) winning Best Soul Food, Capo Italian Deli (715A Florida Avenue NW) taking Best Sandwiches, All Purpose (1250 Ninth Street NW) for Best Pizza, and Beau Thai (1550 Seventh Street NW) for Best Thai. Other Shaw establishments including Seylou, El Techo, Shouk, Chaplin’s and Chercher also got high rankings in the poll.

Tony Hawk Comes to Shaw
Legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk visited Shaw on Sunday, November 7 to check out the newly refurbished Shaw Skate Park. Hawk published an Instagram Reel showing himself at dawn, throwing one of his trademark skateboards through the locked gates of the park. Later, Hawk came back to try out the park and got to meet the skater who got his board. Hawk stayed in the neighborhood to go to The Dabney for dinner.

New Businesses Opening in Shaw
As the District continues to recover from the pandemic, Shaw is starting to see new businesses filling previously vacant commercial spaces. Yoga Heights has opened at 905 U Street NW. Their third location in DC, the U Street Yoga Heights will be the only studio in the District offering Aerial Yoga. A movement experience like no other, Aerial Yoga involves suspension from the ceiling using a silk hammock. Yoga Heights is a locally-owned, community-oriented studio that offers classes for every body, at every level and every budget.

Kiki, a new LGBTQ-friendly establishment, will open by the end of the year at the spaces at 915-917 U Street, formerly home to nightspots Dodge City and the Velvet Lounge, according to Eater DC. Led by Keaton Fedak, formerly general manager of the Dirty Goose, Kiki will have two dance floors, a stage for weekly drag shows and a bar serving margaritas on draft. Plans are to add a lounge, a sports-themed bar dedicated to LGBTQ teams and a beer garden.