After more than a decade of starts and stops, The Wharf finally arrives. On Oct. 12, the Southwest waterfront will begin a new era bringing the nation’s waterfront on par with other great waterfront cities.
As professor Robert Lewis says, “Washington has comparatively little residential, commercial, or cultural structures occupying its shorelines. A few developments, such as the Watergate complex and Kennedy Center, have river views and proximity but without river connectivity.” The Wharf has both proximity and river connectivity. The 60-foot-wide Wharf Street promenade will separate the Washington Channel from the capital’s most anticipated venture in decades.
The Wharf will be served from the water’s edge for patrons coming or going. Public docking will allow guests arriving by water to tie up and visit the many shops along the promenade. For those looking to escape by water, they will be able to take the Water Taxi from Transit Pier to Nationals Park, National Harbor, Old Town Alexandria, or Georgetown. There is also a free Wharf Jitney from the Recreation Pier to ride across to East Potomac Park.
District Pier is The Wharf’s largest pier is a dramatic gathering place and backdrop to festivals. Market Pier is for direct waterside access for boaters and visitors to the Market Square and the Municipal Fish Market. Besides the Water Taxi, Transit Pier is a bustling launch pad that will also have a number of things to do, from live concerts to ice skating in the winter. Patrons will be able to rent kayaks and paddleboards from the public-access Recreation Pier (or bring your own), and take them directly onto the water.
On the Maine Avenue side of the mile-long venture, Capital Bikeshare will add two new docks open at 9th St. SW and near the Fish Market, joining the current dock near Arena Stage/Gangplank Marina.
The Southwest Shuttle will offer free rides to L’Enfant Plaza Metro/VRE station (7th St. and Maryland Ave. SW), the National Mall (7th St. at Independence Ave. SW), and L’Enfant Plaza/International Spy Museum (10th St. SW).
The Wharf is home to 10 acres of parks and open green spaces as well as four distinct piers for recreation and transportation. Seventh Street Park is a lush and energetic green space for relaxation and outdoor workouts featuring walking trails, benches, and stand-up desks. Waterfront Park, a 3.5-acre park right at the edge of the Wharf with rows of willow trees, shady trellises, and room for bocce is dedicated to DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. Banneker Park, beginning a $4 million renovation, sits just north of Market Square and connects The Wharf to the L’Enfant Plaza promenade.
RESTAURANTS & BARS
First things first, our two favorite Southwest Waterfront staples, Jenny’s at The Wharf (on the Southwest waterfront since 1981) and Cantina Marina, will remain for the time being (until closing and reopening with Phase 2 of The Wharf in 2021). Fret not, Cantina Bambina will be open along Transit Pier in case you need a quick bite to eat before you shuffle off to The Anthem for a concert or hop on a water taxi.
New restaurants to the neighborhood will span the world and the seas. Kaliwa will add a second Asian restaurant, while Florentijn will be the first Belgian restaurant. Competing for best mussels along the water will be La Vie, a coastal cuisine restaurant. Joining them will be Hank’s Oyster Bar and Rappahannock Oyster Company for all the bivalves you can handle.
From the same team behind Southwest’s Station 4 comes Italian restaurant Lupo Marino. And Stefanelli’s Italian Market is a three-story spot offering various spaces and dining and shopping options, opening this spring.
Master chef Fabio Trabocchi opens his Spanish-themed restaurant Del Mar. And in keeping with the Mediterranean theme, French restaurant Requin is a partnership between Top Chef’s Jennifer Carroll and restaurateur Mike Isabella.
Speaking of top chefs, Kwame Onwuachi will open Kith/Kin at the InterContinental Hotel, a refined, family-style, Afro-Caribbean inspired affair. And finally, a long-awaited Mexican restaurant will open along the waterfront, with acclaimed chef Roberto Santibañez opening Mi Vida, which is sure to be the life of many Southwesters.
But you don’t only have to eat sitting down. Fast-casual American restaurants will join the mix with Taylor Gourmet and Shake Shack both opening shops along Maine Ave. SW.
And it won’t just be about the food. The Wharf will bring a number of bars, coffee shops, and music venues to the neighborhood.
Mark Kirwan opens Kirwan’s Irish Pub with the entire restaurant’s handmade décor shipped in (and even constructed by carpenters) from Ireland. (See our full write up in later in this issue.)
Award-winning sommelier and artisan cocktail-maker Todd Thrasher brings his latest venture Potomac Distilling, with an in-house rum distillery and two-story tavern.
Whiskey Charlie, The Wharf’s first rooftop bar and lounge got its name from the call sign “WC” given to captains entering the Washington Channel. Sitting atop the Canopy by Hilton, the views promise to be amazing.
The Brighton will be sure to be a hit as it sits along the promenade inviting patrons in for fun and drinks as it opens directly in front of The Anthem.
Mixed in to keep you going will be coffee and ice cream shops, ensuring that the fun does not stop. Velo Café will open inside District Hardware and Bike, offering locally sourced coffee, pastries, sandwiches, and beer.
The capital’s first Blue Bottle Coffee will open to high acclaim. The premium coffee shop ensures “all coffee served on the premises is no more than 48 hours out of the roaster.”
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream will compete with district favorites Dolcezza Gelato, offering espresso and gelato in their Argentinean-inspired setting, while District Doughnut will offer round, tasty goodness. Lastly, don’t forget to stop by Harper Macaw chocolate-makers for local, premium chocolate, or its next-door neighbor, Momofuku’s Milk Bar.
Have you heard of the Foo Fighters? Well, as Dave Grohl, the front man of the United States’s biggest rock band said, The Anthem “is set to become the No. 1 venue in America. It has the illusion of a stadium, but the intimacy of a nightclub. It’s perfect.” The band opens the venue on Oct. 12.
Not to be outdone, the waterfront will have music on both ends of the mile-long strip. Opening up across from each other along Water St. SW are Pearl Street Warehouse and Union Stage. The small-scale music venues will feature music for all types. Union Stage will feature rock concerts, acoustic performances, children’s concerts, private events, and community gatherings, while Pearl Street Warehouse will be an intimate music venue featuring live music seven nights a week, including rock, blues, roots, bluegrass, and country.
To balance out all those calories, The Wharf will offer a number of options to take care of your mind and body. Pamper yourself at Bella Moda Salon & Spa, Blush Med Skincare, and L’occitane Spa.
Or take care of your mind at DC favorite Politics and Prose Bookstore’s new 2,300-square-foot store (including a special for Southwest residents; see the article in this issue). And for a mix of both, Yoga Factory will offer Bikram hot yoga, BUTI, Vinyasa, HIIT, and restorative yoga.
There will also be a number of boutique stores to help you update your home and your closet with the opening of A Beautiful Closet, offering clothing, jewelry, gifts, home décor, and fair trade goods from countries around the world. Ligne Roset will offer high-end furniture, home accessories, and lighting with assistance from professional interior designers.
For everything from linens and tableware to furniture and accessories for the home, Patrick’s Fine Linens & Home Décor joins The Wharf. And for your walls, local artist Martha Spak opens her latest Martha Spak Gallery.
Helping make sure you never have to leave are Blink Optical, CVS Health, and local, family-owned dry cleaning and laundry shop The Press. Nautical store Anchor will serve both the Southwest live-aboard community at Gangplank Marina as well as the sea-faring guests docking along the water’s edge.
And for when the family comes to visit, three hotels will be ready to offer nice accommodations along the channel. The first Canopy by Hilton in North America is designed as a part of the Southwest neighborhood, with local design, food, and drink. The rooms are decorated with a DC and nautical theme. No two Canopy by Hiltons are designed the same.
Hyatt House is an extended-stay hotel reminding guests of home with services and amenities such as full kitchens and flat-panel, high-definition TVs, a fitness center, a market, and laundry facilities.
And the largest hotel, The Wharf InterContinental, will showcase a unique blend of high-end wares in a contemporary style and sustainable design. The hotel features two upscale restaurants and a rooftop pool bar and grill with Potomac River views.
As we said in our editorial piece in the July issue of The Southwester, we call on our fellow neighbors to embrace the coming changes with the spirit that Southwest has always had: an inclusive neighborhood for all. Let this renewal along the waterfront serve as our invitation to new visitors to learn what we have always known—Southwest is the best neighborhood in the nation’s capital.
And as much as we recommend keeping The Southwester on hand at all times to ensure you do not get lost, The Wharf has developed a free app you can download from your preferred app store.