Container Cantina Spices Up the Capital

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A colourful new container taqueria is importing more than Mexican beers to the historic U Street Corridor in Washington DC.

Run by brothers Eric and Ian Hilton, El Rey is bringing the neighbourhood back to life.

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Fondly referred to as Black Broadway, the popular U Street precinct was once a thriving hub of African-American culture.

After the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., rioting left the strip in a state of turmoil and neglect.

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But the last decade has seen a string of new businesses occupying the abandoned lots that once lined the U Street Corridor.

El Rey, which means “the king” in Spanish, is the latest addition to the gentrifying neighbourhood.

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The eye-catching eatery joins a growing community of shops, restaurants, nightclubs, bars, music venues and art galleries that now call U Street home.

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El Rey is a 3,600-square-foot restaurant and bar made from 11 recycled shipping containers.

The Hilton brothers paid between $4000 and $5000 for each of the converted shipping containers.

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A fixed roof covers one third of the space and the remaining area is an all-seasons beer garden with a transparent retractable roof and outdoor gas heating.

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At this hip new shipping container restaurant, all of the covered areas – including the dining area, the bathrooms, the kitchen, and the bar – are carved out of cargo containers.

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Surplus container offcuts were used in the industrial design of the interior and exterior bars.

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And a street-facing taqueria window is cut into the container fa├žade for passing patrons, who want their tacos to go.