DC’s Shaw neighborhood, long distinguished for its place in African American history, has experienced a dramatic change in the past few years. As part of a multi-year gentrification project that has now spanned the surrounding area inclusive of the U Street Corridor, Columbia Heights, and the H Street Corridor in the nearby NE quadrant, Shaw has emerged as a new destination area for locals and tourists alike. With Metro accessibility and sharing the grounds with historical Howard University, Shaw now boasts a place for Washingtonians to soak up culture, history and …a good beer.
Right Proper Brewing Company came into the community late last year, and joined other noteworthy neighborhood spots like Shaw’s Tavern and Kafé Boheme… adding to the flurry of activity that the area now enjoys. The brewery is the creation of a trio of Washingtonian movers and shakers in the social scene: noted DC “beer guru” Thor Cheston, head brewer Nathan Zeender, and Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Company founder/owner John Snedden. This triumvirate came together essentially to serve good beer and good food at good prices –smack in the center of one of the hearts of DC.
The pub’s website shares that its location is where storied jazz master Duke Ellington learned how to play music as a teen, just a few steps away from the Howard Theater. Location alone is historical, and there is no better ode to the greatness that’s spawned forth from those walls than by creating a place for people to gather, to enjoy great company, and to have a nice time with non-pretentious staff.
The neighborhood itself has drastically gone through its own storied past. It thrived in the early 20th century, and served as a center of African American cultural and academic life. As mentioned, Duke Ellington is its most famous son. And Langston Hughes, who hailed from nearby LeDroit Park, often passed through the neighborhood streets. Shaw fell into despair, along with other nearby areas, after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. It was rocked by the DC riots that followed, and soon ushered in a steep decline in not only population, but development. What followed were years of urban decay, which ate at the heart of the place.
But civic perseverance never lost hope, and renewal projects started to pop-up in and around the area. While mostly residential, with a prominent display of Victorian row houses flanking the streets, Shaw has benefited from the recent gentrification of many DC neighborhoods. Businesses are now making their way back to the neighborhood in a great way.
The recent refurbishing of the Howard Theater, too, has gleaned the area’s penchant for drawing cultural experiences. Music and art shows now find their way to Shaw, drawing spectators back to take part in the scene. And to cater to the people are the many restaurants, bars and small-scale shops that have opened, or are scheduled to open, to serve the neighborhood’s needs.
Right Proper surely fits the bill, boasting tasty food options and a list of libations to accompany them. The offering is heavily influenced by the tastes of the South, appropriately so with DC being the crossroads between the north and south. You’ll find fried oysters, jalapeño corn muffins, and even a side of “Hoppin’ John” (a black-eyed peas & rice dish) to start. And then the main dishes vary between burgers, an “eight-hour” lamb French dip, barley risotto, and even smothered chicken & biscuits. Specifically, the southern fried chick-filet sandwich is the real deal (way better than the cheaper option you’ll find at that other famous chick-filet place).
Right Proper also houses a full bar for the cocktail-inclined. Wines are limited and on-tap, interestingly, but quite good. The Pacific Standard Old Vine Zinfandel was a memorable choice for me recently. But the beers are the main draw here: Right Proper beers lead the list of choices, and a plethora of bottled and canned craft beers also call this place home.
The best thing about being at Right Proper is the energy that emanates from within. With the lights casting dimly against the interesting murals that flank the walls, there’s also the hum of constant conversation. People are coming here not only to eat or drink, but to hang out. Laughter brims on one side of the room, while what looks to be a bevy of “date night” tables are sporadically placed all around. And the back bar provides an open and friendly place to just lounge around. It’s the perfect neighborhood watering hole.
624 T Street NW
Washington, DC 20001