Phyllis Skipwith works behind the counter at Horace and Dickies, a takeout place near H Street owned by Dickie Shannon.
Long before H Street Northeast was defined by dance and theater companies, high-end residential development, music clubs and gastro pubs, Dickie Shannon opened Horace and Dickie’s, a takeout spot specializing in fried fish that became a local landmark.
About 22 years later, the menu is still simple and dirt cheap. The jumbo fish sandwich is $5.80. The six-piece fish plate with two sides is $9.40. The crab cake is $8. There’s more fried stuff — chicken, catfish, croaker.
None of it is particularly healthy, and the fare defies foodie trends that fetishize local ingredients.
“I get the whiting from Argentina, the sea trout from Uruguay, the croaker from Uruguay,” Shannon said.
But there’s always a line, and that’s just the way Shannon likes things as he contemplates the future of the neighborhood and his business.
“I’m 75. I’m still working. I enjoy what I’m doing. I see different people every day,” he said in a recent interview.
The H Street area, also called the Atlas District after the refurbished theater that now houses a live drama and performing arts center, has boomed in the past 10 years, revamping a commercial corridor that was ravaged by the 1968 riots.
“It was literally overnight. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Karina Ricks, a principal at Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, a transportation consulting firm.
She helped lead the city’s redevelopment efforts when she was at the D.C. Office of Planning from 2000 to 2005. “Change happened so fast, which is remarkable for planners to see,” she said. Ricks explained that the surrounding neighborhood organizations brought a simple message to city planners in 2000: “We need you to fix H Street.”
The city’s H Street revitalization plan really got moving in 2002. The area continues to grow, as anyone looking for a parking space or a reservation at Granville Moore’s can attest.
It’s hard to imagine, in an area that now boasts such development, how different it once was.
“When I was first elected six years ago, H Street was characterized by chaos and disorder,” said D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells, who represents the area. “It was known to be not safe. It used to be you parked on the sidewalk of Horace and Dickie’s, then went inside and ordered your food.”
Shannon opened shop in May 1990. In the years before that, the area just to the north of H Street, Trinidad, was the base of operations for Rayful Edmond, who introduced crack cocaine to the city and ran his criminal enterprise out of the neighborhood.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.