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Posted at 2:01 PM ET, 09/17/2010

Food, music, art and Oktoberfest at the H Street Festival

By Fritz Hahn

Over the past few years, the H Street Festival has become one of the area's largest neighborhood block parties. About 15,000 people attended last year, according to organizers, and they expect at least 20,000 this year, despite the havoc from the construction of streetcar tracks. (Free shuttles from the Eastern Market and Gallery Place Metro stations should help, along with a free bike valet service at Eighth and H, which is the eastern end of the festival.)

If you're going to the festival, which runs from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, here are some things that we're looking forward to; get more info from the H Street Festival Web site.

Food and drink
One of the reasons for H Street's popularity is the quality of the food and drink. Unlike, say, Adams Morgan Day, where the streets are lined with vendors selling abysmal Chinese and Jamaican food, H Street's restaurants use the day as an occasion to show off their cooking. You have a chance to wander in and try pies from Dangerously Delicious, eat lobster rolls on a temporary sidewalk patio outside Liberty Tree or feast on Ethiopian dishes from Ethiopic, for starters. Something sweeter? The Rock & Roll Hotel is unveiling "crunkcakes" -- cupcakes made with alcohol -- on its patio. Wash 'em down with $2 PBR tallboys.

Think you've tried all the H Street dining places? Think again. Last year, Biergarten Haus made its debut on H Street by serving up brats and beer on the sidewalk a full nine months before the actual building opened. This time around, you can try food from several forthcoming restaurants. The British gastropub Queen Vic Cornish offers pasties and mini steak-and-ale pies; Smith Commons promises grilled tiger prawns, tequenos, burgers, sangria and a beer garden; Toki Underground, which will open above the Pug this fall, offers pho dogs and both veggie and beef dumplings, according to neighborhood blog Frozen Tropics, and H Street Great Street reports that the Atlas Room will be serving "Vietnamese banh mi sandwich with a smoked duck mousse."

Saturday marks the beginning of Munich's Oktoberfest, and the Biergarten Haus is celebrating in grand style. They're setting up a beer garden on the sidewalk with four taps, a grill for brats and about 100 seats. Oompah bands will perform all day on the back patio. And there will be 11 German Oktoberfest beers on draft, including such rarities as Weissenohe Monk Fest and Kulmbacher. (Prices are $12.72 to $17.27 per liter.)

The Rock & Roll Hotel is sponsoring two stages at either end of the six-block festival site. House and hip-hop DJs Keenan Orr and Metaphysical kick things off at noon at the 14th Street end, but the real acts to watch are the ridiculously catchy Funk Ark, which plays old-school Afro-Latin dance music at 4 p.m., and the punky reggae sounds of H.R., the founder and original vocalist of the legendary Bad Brains, at 5. At the other end of the street, hear long-running local gospel group the Tribe (2:30), the deep reggae of Lucky Dub (3:30) and funky Afrobeat from Elikeh (5). (See the full schedule here.)

Dance and theater
The Atlas Performing Arts Center, a key player in the revival of the neighborhood, will be a hub of activity. Take a free dance class from Step Afrika! and then watch the pros perform. Try free belly dancing, hand dancing, flamenco, hip-hop and modern dance classes. See acrobats from the Zip-Zap Circus flip through the air. Listen to musicians and the American Youth Chorus. (The full schedule is on the Atlas Facebook page.)

What we're looking forward to most: a 4 p.m. class from Joy of Motion instructor Quynn Johnson on how to dance like your favorite pop star. Johnson's previous workshops have included "Gaga 4 Gaga," which taught choreography from Lady Gaga videos. Expect this one to be crowded.

Perhaps the most eyecatching element of the H Street Festival will be the Art Cars -- drivable works of art that straddle the line between sculpture and functional transportation. More than a dozen customized rides will be at Gallery O on H as part of the new "The Way We Move" exhibit.

There's still time to enter the Dangerously Delicious "Hands Behind Your Back" Pie-Eating Contest and the British Ink Juried Tattoo Competition, although you have to hurry: Entry closes tonight. (You can download the necessary forms from the H Street Festival Web site.)

The tattoo contest has three categories: Best Overall, Most Original and, for those who regret the cheap-o tramp stamp they got at spring break in Fort Lauderdale, Worst. One man and one woman will win in each category. To enter, bring $20 -- donated to the Eastern High School Band -- to Dangerously Delicious Pies tonight. Only the first 30 entrants can participate. The best and most original winners get a trophy; the best "worst" tattoo gets a "tattoo re-do" from British Ink.

The pie-eating contest is a little harder to enter: You have to write a 100-word-or-less essay about why you should be allowed to enter. Bring that, along with $5, to Dangerously Delicious. Again, proceeds go to the Eastern High School Band, and the winner takes home a trophy.

-- Fritz Hahn

By Fritz Hahn  | September 17, 2010; 2:01 PM ET
Categories:  Events  
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