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The Times Discovers Real D.c.

For the long-suffering District residents out there, the Times picks up on a cultural revival in "real" D.C. that's ramping up with Obama's arrival:

In Petworth, Columbia Heights, the U Street district and even the dicier parts of North Capitol Hill, a little restaurant revival is under way. Washington neighborhoods that for years were considered too dangerous or too poor for a viable sit-down restaurant are suddenly entertaining quite a few. ... “For the past two or three years, you kind of feel this energy, this current, going through D.C.,” said Neil Glick, who for eight years has served as the advisory neighborhood commissioner for Capitol Hill East. “It’s really kind of a hip place to be. Suburbia is dead.”

A short drive north is Petworth, where [chef Gillian] Clark has lived for a decade. At the neighborhood’s main intersection, the smell of grilling jerk chicken from Sweet Mango drifted over to the construction site that will be home to her Georgia Avenue Meeting House, a 4,000-square-foot restaurant she hopes to have open by late fall. Condos are being built on the top floors of the development, which will also house a new Metro entrance.

Neighbors, who have watched the open-air drug and prostitute markets go away and home values rise, are looking forward to the development, said Dan Silverman, who writes a blog called the Prince of Petworth. “For sure people are excited because for many years in this neighborhood and Columbia Heights there were not options except take-out Chinese,” he said.

Petworth is a fascinating area. I have driven through it every single Sunday morning for three years. At 9:15 a.m. on Sundays, Sweet Mango -- the jerk chicken place -- is already belching delicious-smelling smoke onto the corner, and by noon, when people are flooding out of church, El Limeno and Domku are ready to dish out garlic shrimp and beet salad. But the restaurants -- and, actually, the church I work at, too -- attract mostly outsiders, rather than locals. It's still a neighborhood for urban vacations.

--Eve Fairbanks