There’s no doubt that Anacostia is slowly changing. Currently an almost entirely residential neighborhood, it has recently begun to at least show signs of success in drawing businesses and economic development to Ward 8, which the Washington Post called a “a long-neglected area of the city” in February. Perhaps the most important bellwether of this change is the opening of one of Anacostia’s first (if not the only, depending on what your consider “Anacostia”) sit-down restaurants and bars, Uniontown Bar and Grill.
Uniontown takes its name from Anacostia’s original name. The Uniontown neighborhood was incorporated in 1854 and was one of DC’s first suburbs. The history of the area is very interesting, and full of demographic changes, including covenants against selling to members of certain races and ethnicities—see this National Park Service primer for more details. Uniontown the bar homage to its past, with framed black and white photos on the wall from Anacostia’s olden days.
The restaurant captures the perfect combination of both trendy and neighborhood-y feelings. It is filled with young professionals who seek happy hours after work, and almost all of the patrons when I visited were local. This is a far different experience than that of most watering holes in DC, particularly in places like Adams Morgan and Farragut, whose bars beckon those from miles around to drive in and spend money. Uniontown is better for it.
The food is southern inspired—the crab dip and sweet potato fries are certainly worth sampling. The bar options lean heavily towards cocktails (a.k.a. “hip sips”), with just a few beer options. Also impressive is a “create your own salad” option—bar food taken up a notch!
The owner of the restaurant, Natasha Dasher, is often on hand to chat with patrons, make personal inquiries, and welcome anyone and everyone to her establishment. I was lucky enough to visit Uniontown with an Anacostia resident, and Natasha seemed to know him and everyone else in the bar, preserving the feeling that this place is “a hub in the community,” as she was quoted in an interview describing her hopes for the place.
As the Washington Post stated in its review of Uniontown, the spot is a symbol of Anacostia’s “potential to have the same services and amenities found in more affluent areas of the city.” Head to Uniontown soon not only for its good vibes, but for a glimpse at history being made in a neighborhood that is right in the middle of some very important changes.
To visit: 2200 Martin Luther King Ave. SE, 202-678-8824, Monday-Thursday 11am-9pm and Friday/Saturday 11am-2am. It is a 10-minute walk from the Anacostia metro stop, or the 90 bus from NW/Capitol Hill.