It’s not often that a whole new DC neighborhood opens — in fact, a project as ambitious as The Wharf development is practically unprecedented within Washington’s city limits. And while DC is buzzing about whether restaurants, shops and music venues sandwiched between Maine Avenue SW and the Potomac River will be ready for the grand opening celebration on October 12, the folks behind the project are determined to make it so. We recently took a hard-hat tour of the area and came away both excited and impressed by all the cool things in store for both Washingtonians and visitors alike. Here’s what we’re looking forward to most:
So. Many. Restaurants.
The sheer number of restaurants opening at The Wharf will make your head spin. By our count, there will be 11 new eateries expected to open on or around October 12, including Del Mar, the first Spanish restaurant from the Fiola team; Kith/Kin from chef Kwame Onwuachi from Top Chef and the short-lived Shaw Bijou; Requin, the second seafood-focused spot from chef Jennifer Carroll; a fourth location of Hank’s Oyster Bar; and Kirwan’s Irish Pub, which will also feature live Irish music. Shake Shack, Taylor Gourmet, and Cantina Bambina — a sort of concession stand with beer, quesadillas and snacks from the Cantina Marina owners — are among the faster, more casual options. Other big-name spots that are expected to open on a rolling basis before spring include Kaliwa from Restaurant Eve’s Cathal Armstrong, the three-level Italian emporium and a restaurant called Officina from Masseria chef Nicholas Stefanelli, and Chloe, the first solo project from former Proof chef Haidar Karoum.
Live music for just about everyone
If you know only one thing about The Wharf, it’s probably that the Foo Fighters are playing on opening night. What you might not know is that the new music venue from the owners of 9:30 Club have created an incredibly unique and gorgeous space that includes laser-cut back-lit metal panels that create the illusion of theater bunting lining the balconies, several bars, grand chandeliers, cascades of drum cymbals hanging from the ceiling, which, by the way, also shows off the underside of the swimming pool used by those lucky enough to live in the surrounding apartments. Anthem will book the larger bands that can pull in up to 6,000 fans, while more intimate bars and venues along Pearl Street — such as Pearl Street Warehouse, Union Stage and Kirwan’s Irish Pub — will offer live Americana, family-friendly acoustic bands and Irish music, respectively, on a smaller scale. There’s even a barge off of Transit Pier that doubles as a stage for outdoor performances.
A revitalized fish market
For all of you who worried that the nation’s longest-running open-air fish market would come to an end thanks to this Disney-esque development, you can rest easy. Not only will the Municipal Fish Market continue its run, it will experience an expansion and restoration that includes a new fish-cleaning building, new market hall, retail additions, a distillery and a rehab of a historic oyster shed that will operate as an oyster bar from the Rappahannock Oyster Bar team. Also look out for a new parking lot, plaza, pier, and square.
Water, water everywhere
It’s tough to believe that a city with so much shoreline offers so few opportunities to enjoy the water. That’s about to change drastically thanks to The Wharf, which has made about a mile of waterfront newly accessible to the public. The four public piers will host fitness classes, festivals and concerts, views of the private boats docked there, swings and plenty of seating to just relax and take it all in. A boathouse offers a place to launch kayaks and paddleboards while also renting them out, and there’s an active marina and yacht club for those with fancier vessels. A new water taxi system will ferry visitors between The Wharf and Georgetown, Old Town and National Harbor, and a free electric jitney will ferry people over to East Potomac Park and Hains Point — along with their dogs, bikes, and munchies — twice an hour seasonally.
Consider it the downtown Disney of the north
Since this is practically an entire destination that’s popping up in one fell swoop, the developers had the chance to be thoughtful when it came to what families might want. First of all, they made it easy to get to with the addition of a free shuttle bus that loops up to L’Enfant Plaza, The National Mall and back; there are two walkable Metro stops — Waterfront and L’Enfant Plaza; several bike-share docks and bicycle parking; not to mention the super-fun way of arriving by water taxi or personal boat. Once you get there, kids will start begging for ice cream and treats from Dolcezza, Ben & Jerry’s and Milk Bar that can be enjoyed on perches overlooking the river. (It’s a scientific fact that ice cream tastes better by the water. Look it up.) Other kid-tastic perks include a new outpost of Politics & Prose bookstore plus parks, fountains, swings, rocking horses, programming like parades and festivals, and — get this — a lower-level seasonal ice rink that makes it feel like you’re skating on the river. We’re pretty sure this will quickly become the answer to any harried parents’ question of: “What should we do today?”