Charming is the first word that comes to mind when I’m standing on Connecticut Avenue, in-between Uptown Theater and Sam’s Park & Shop. If I squint away the Chipotle and California Tortilla, I feel like I’m in a different era. It’s no wonder, given the presence of stores like Vace Italian Deli and the Brookville Supermarket that date back to the 70’s, and those are brand new compared to the Uptown (1936) or the Park & Shop (1930).
This vintage charm is one of the many appeals of Cleveland Park, a mostly residential neighborhood in Northwest whose heart lies in its two commercial strips, one on Connecticut Avenue and the other on Wisconsin Avenue. The area, named after President Grover Cleveland, is home to the oldest house in DC, the Rosedale estate. Over the years, the neighborhood was filled up with a plethora of architectural styles. The houses mostly showcase trends from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but modern styles hold their ground too. This odd combination of architecture makes any walk through Cleveland Park a unique experience.
Sandwiching the neighborhood’s residential sector are two commercial areas, and if walking around and looking at pretty houses isn’t your thing, you’re sure to find something to do there. For all the foodies, I urge, no, I beg you to go check out Vace Deli. I promise you it’s better (for your stomach and wallet alike) than any of DC’s fancy sit down pizzerias. There’s no seating, which only adds to the experience by encouraging you to find a nice place outdoors. I usually opt for a bench on the Klingle Valley Bridge.
If heavenly pizza isn’t for you, Cleveland Park has much more to offer. Head down to Cactus Cantina for delicious Mexican cuisine, or hit Medium Rare for the only thing on their menu- an amazing steak (or so I’ve heard, #pescatarianlyf). 2 Amy’s also offers incredible pizza, but you can’t go wrong with their smaller plates.
The inner artist in us all can run free at All Fired Up, an art studio where you buy pre-made ceramics and paint them as you like. The resulting mugs and plates will make for a very special kitchen cabinet. The Cleveland Park Library may have a slightly limited selection, but the friendly and ready-to-help librarians more than make up for it. For all gift giving needs, Wake Up Little Suzie has got you covered. Plus, who wouldn’t want to be in a place that sells ice cream flavored lip balm and sushi shaped erasers? It’s a dream come true.
Cleveland Park’s main attraction is its towering Art Deco movie theater, the Uptown. This single-screen theater is a DC landmark, having been around for 80 years. It has been the site of countless midnight film premieres, including Star Wars, whose release disrupted the peace of the neighborhood as block-and-a-half lines formed for weeks. Pro-tip: balcony seating gives you the best view and allows you to avoid straining your neck.
The area’s best feature might be its accessibility. Its own metro stop and many bus routes make it incredibly easy to get to. And with its unique houses, high quality dining, and cute locally-owned shops, Cleveland Park is definitely worth a visit. •
PHOTO BY JOHN BELISARIO