9 Best Hidden Gems in Kalorama

  • Hagen Bergstrom Team
  • 06/29/20

Kalorama Has a Wealth of Hidden Gems—if You Know Where to Look 

Kalorama is known for its prestigious residents, secluded environment, and lavish properties. There is much to love about Kalorama, and its location in the Northwest Quadrant means that residents can enjoy the bustle of busy Capitol Hill and still return home to the quiet streets. There is delicious international cuisine, idyllic scenery, and historic charm around every corner in Kalorama. Here are a few hidden gems I’ve discovered around Kalorama that I think you’ll love. 

Visit the President Woodrow Wilson House

Home to the twenty-eighth President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson’s house in Kalorama is now a historic landmark and operating museum. After the term of his presidency, Woodrow Wilson retired to Kalorama in 1921, and it is in this house that he enjoyed his final years. Guests can choose from a selection of guided tours to participate in, and tours typically last about an hour. Explore the manicured gardens, walk through the Prohibition-era wine cellar, and peruse the historic Kalorama architecture. This Georgian Revival-style home was built near Embassy Row in 1915. Both the house and gardens were designed by Waddy Butler Wood, a notable 20th-century architect in Washington DC. The home has been preserved as it was in 1924, the year President Wilson passed, and began operating as a museum in 1963. A Steinway & Sons piano that dates back to the early twentieth century sits in the drawing room surrounded by a Gobelin tapestry manufactured in France. This manor housed the first nationwide radio broadcast, which President Wilson made on Armistice Day in 1923. This important piece of Kalorama architecture makes for an excellent afternoon adventure. 

Dine at Lapis 

Kalorama’s Embassy Row has attracted international residents for decades, and the area is fortunate to have many global cuisines represented in local restaurants. For Afghan cuisine, try Lapis. This family-owned Afghan bistro takes its name from the semi-precious stone Lapis lazuli, which has long been sought after for its vibrant, deep blue coloration. The stone is native to Afghanistan, which has no doubt inspired the restaurant’s lavish menu of upscale delicacies. Their dinner menu sports entrees like hearty lamb shank qorma stew and plenty of vegetarian options, like gulpee with sauteed cauliflower in a rich tomato sauce. You’ll want to make sure you grab a plate of their Afghan dumplings, which come in three distinct flavors: aushak, which are stuffed with leeks and then topped with yellow split peas, ground beef, and garlic yogurt; traditional mantoo beef, which are topped with a carrot tomato sauce; and a Lapis specialty mantoo shrimp, which comes covered in a creamy saffron sauce. Cool off with a ginger plum tea or an iced hot chocolate, and order a slice of their orange pound cake or chocolate layered mousse cake for dessert. 

Relax on the Spanish Steps

Nicknamed after Rome’s iconic Spanish Steps, Kalorama’s sweeping staircase Decatur Terrace was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. The staircase was built in 1911 in order to connect Decatur Place and S Street. A steep, sloping escarpment prevented the area from being functional as a road, so rather than demolishing existing buildings, the steps were designed to increase the park’s functionality and beauty. This coincided with the “City Beautiful” movement, a reform that swept the nation in an effort to aesthetically improve cities during the early twentieth century. This movement was tremendously popular in the midwestern cities of Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago, as well as here in Washington DC. The Spanish Steps and its accompanying lion-head fountain are an incredible backdrop for weddings. 

Play in Kalorama Park

If you’re searching for an afternoon escape from urbanity, enter Kalorama Park. Step across Columbia Road for a retreat into this well-maintained 3-acre green space. Home to a playground and a recreational center, this park is an excellent place to take the family. The park has paved trails for walking as well, and it is a great option when you need a little fresh air. There is a dedicated area for a well-loved community garden. Spread a picnic blanket and enjoy a meal alfresco, play a game of basketball on the regulation size court, or simply enjoy the great outdoors at Kalorama Park. 

Search for Restored Call Boxes

Sheridan-Kalorama was home to sixteen police and fire call boxes sprinkled throughout the area. These boxes were lifelines for residents in the 19th century and were used to contact the fire station or police department in the event of an emergency. They were in operation until the 1970s when the 911 emergency system rendered them obsolete, but they remain standing today in Kalorama. In 2003, a group of activists sought to restore each of these abandoned boxes and, in their place, create mini-museums of Kalorama history. The project was completed in 2007, and now each box is on display with its own theme ranging from Kalorama residents of the Gilded Age to a commemoration of each of the three Chief Justices who resided here. Spend an afternoon hunting for each of the sixteen boxes and enjoy the innate beauty of Kalorama’s quiet streets while catching a glimpse of the neighborhood’s rich history. 

Grab a Bite From Bistrot Du Coin 

Since 2000, this local cafe has brought lively French cuisine to Kalorama. Translated, their name means ‘local bistro,’ and their motto is “French, Fun, and Friendly.” In the last twenty years, Bistrot du Coin has perfected their menu, which is stuffed to the brim with remarkably French dishes such as moules marinières, foie gras, and duck confit. Start your meal with a bowl of French onion soup or an assortment of French cheeses. You’ll want to make sure you take time to peruse their extensive wine list to find the perfect pairing or choose from one of their authentic French cocktails. For dessert, try their mont blanc chestnut mousse with crushed hazelnut topping or their rich mousse au chocolat. Bistrot du Coin is also open for brunch. Whether you opt for eggs benedict with French ham or a savory omelet with goat cheese, spinach, and roasted tomatoes, a meal at Bistrot du Coin is an excellent way to kick off your weekend. 

Admire the Biltmore Triangle Garden

This garden is small, but it makes great use of the space between 20th Street and Biltmore Street. Every spring, this patch bursts with vibrant blooms. The park was designed in 1981 by Gordon Riggle, an architect who lived in Kalorama. Winding paths allow visitors to navigate the community garden’s ten plots, each tended by dedicated residents. The garden is fully funded by donations to the Kalorama Citizens Association. The blooming garden would be an excellent inspiration for outdoor painting. Make this beloved community space a frequent stop on your neighborhood strolls. 

Treat Yourself at Dolcezza Gelato & Coffee

For a sweet treat, look no further than Dolcezza Gelato & Coffee. This gelateria is crafting artisanal gelato with local ingredients, and their coffee is carefully harvested and roasted by professionals. What makes gelato different from ice cream? Gelato hails from Italy, and the gelato at Dolcezza is denser and creamier than traditional American ice cream while having half the fat and therefore half the calories. They consult local farmers to acquire fresh ingredients, and their flavors shift with the seasons, so you might taste a scoop of sweet white peach gelato at the peak of summer and red ripe strawberries in the spring. Their coffee bar recognizes the importance of craftsmanship when creating a fantastic cup of coffee, so rest assured that the finest care will be taken when you order. 

Peruse the Phillips Collection 

The Phillips Collection was founded in 1921, and the nation’s first museum of modern art is home to more than 5,000 breathtaking artworks. As you walk the halls of this 21st Street townhouse, you’ll recognize artworks by masters such as Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh, Georgia O’Keeffe, and more. The museum’s most popular artwork on display is an Impressionist piece by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880-1881). Notably, the collection curated pieces from different regions and artistic movements so that you might see a French Impressionist oil painting on canvas next to contemporary American work in order to spark conversation. The collection also boasts a selection of permanent sculptural installations in the garden and rotating exhibitions featuring global artists.
There is something beautiful worth exploring around every corner in Kalorama. If you’d like to learn more about Kalorama real estate or houses for sale in Cleveland Park DC, contact us today for more information. 
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