Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Black Friday at DCUSA is almost here: beware (unless you love it)

Being one of the main shopping areas around, DCUSA is often bonkers on the day after Thanksgiving. Unless you enjoy waiting in lines or are bargain crazy, I would suggest you stay far, far away.

It's frequently been bonkers -- huge lines around the building starting going from Irving to Park, people getting in line days before and camping out, and so on. A few years ago the Washington Times wrote about some folks who actually ate Thanksgiving dinner in line -- to me, that's too much.

In previous years they would (smartly) only allow so many people into the building at once, so there wasn't a huge rampage in the doors. There have been musicians and entertainers sometimes as well.

Here's a few other photos and tweets from years past, some from the day before (Thanksgiving Day.) At the very bottom is a good video from the Times as well.

Are you heading to DCUSA this Black Friday, or staying the hell away? If you do, dress warmly!

Wonderland Circus today at Wonderland: music, comedy, burlesque, more

If you're in town this holiday weekend, check out Wonderland tonight for an event. Sounds fun.
A reminder that The Capital City Showcase returns to The Wonderland Ballroom with their latest installment of The Wonderland Circus this Wednesday, November 26th at 8:30pm!

The Wonderland Circus is the variety show where anything goes! See a wide variety of performers do their stuff. Much like any circus, expect thrills, chills, and amazement! The show is Free Admission, though donations will be collected for the artists.

The November Circus will feature (in alphabetical order):

comedian Andrew Bucket
musician Harris Face
comedian Natalie McGill
burlesque artist Hell O'Kitty
comedian Pat Riley

Doors open at 8:00pm, show starts at 8:30pm. Seating is on a first come, first serve basis. Full bar service is also available!

For more info, call 202-431-4704.

Step Right Up!

What: The Capital City Showcase presents The Wonderland Circus
When: Wed Nov 26th @8:30 pm
Where: The Wonderland Ballroom - 1101 Kenyon Street NW, Washington DC 20010
Tickets: FREE ($5 suggested donation)
Info: Call 202-431-4704

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What crappy chain restaurant will open and close next in Columbia Heights?

With the recent news about Ruby Tuesday closing and TGI Friday's possibly never opening, I got to joking around with some friends: it seems like lots of lame chains come and go in our area.

Aside from those two, Richmond supermarket chain Ellwood Thompson's flirted with coming to DCUSA for years, saying they were ever so close to opening many times, then changed their mind and opened in Rockville (of all places.) Lime Fresh Mexican, another chain restaurant, opened and closed in DCUSA, as did Tasti D-Lite, the frozen custard place, and Rita's Water Ice on the Civic Plaza.

So, since it's almost the holiday, I figured it was time for a joke poll: what crappy chain will open and close next in Columbia Heights? (That said, I really liked Lime Fresh and was sad to see them go.)

If you have other ideas, leave them in the comments!

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Marion Barry mural goes up at 14th and Randolph

New Marion Barry mural, 14th and Randolph

There's some updated public art in the neighborhood -- soon after his death, Marion Barry was added to the mural at 14th and Randolph on the Washington Pizza and Rib Pit buildings. The mural, titled "Black Rock Star Super Hero," was originally painted by Pahel Brunis for the release of local musician Head-Roc's album of the same name.

It's a modified version of the Washington Pizza mural by Decoy, which featured a person eating pizza, three houses, and a family.

Marion Barry went on top of the houses, some graffiti text reading Head Roc covers the family, and a likeness of Head-Roc, who organized the project, covered up the cool pizza-eating person.

Mercifully, they also covered up the scrawled "Washington Pizza parking only!" text that the owner of Washington Pizza added, and which looked bizarre (and like crap.) 

Here's a few photos I snapped last night, and compare them to the original mural.

New Marion Barry mural, 14th and Randolph

    (the original mural)

New Marion Barry mural, 14th and Randolph

New Marion Barry mural, 14th and Randolph

Ruby Tuesday is permanently closed, is TGI Friday's next?

Looks like some of the chain restaurants in our area are no more. PoP reports that Ruby Tuesday at 14th and Monroe is permanently closed, and when I stopped by last night I saw the sign stating just that. The entire place is empty as well.

Apparently this is part of their plan to close 30 stores around the country that aren't doing well, and this one didn't seem to be -- whenever I walked by, it was nearly empty.

A friend raved about their deals, but that same friend hadn't been in quite some time, and the crowds seemed to have declined signifcantly from when they first opened. It also was also located a little outside the most populous area of the neighborhood -- you wouldn't stumble upon it unless you were looking for it, unlike say Starbucks or IHOP.

At the same time, PoP posted a rumor that TGI Friday's was no longer coming to the corner opposite Ruby Tuesday. Rather than running with a rumor, I reached out to Kent Boese, the chair of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, who said he thought it was on hold:

"It's my understanding that Fridays is in the midst of some type of corporate restructuring. I'm not sure of all the details and haven't found anyone who can answer my questions. So, I think it safe to say that yes, TGI Friday's is 'on hold.'" In addition, there is still a for rent sign on the space.

If you remember, the restaurant chain was arguing with residents of the Samuel Kelsey building where the store was to be located, which is a home for the elderly. Those residents were concnered about noise and foot traffic, while others nearby were concerned about garbage. Some of those concerns seemed a little far fetched to me -- this is TGI Friday's, not a bumping nightclub, after all -- but at the same time I can see why living above a restuarant might not be ideal for senior citizens. 

The restaurant reached an agreement with the ANC, but maybe that argument casued TGI Friday's to put the brakes on their plans, or maybe seeing the lack of success of Ruby Tuesday had something to do with it. And that would be fine with me, I thought it was a pretty lame addition to the neighborhood. Maybe people actually do prefer local restaurants like the Heights and Acre 121 to chains?

I've reached out to TGI Fridays, will let you know if I hear back.

But in any case, goodbye, Ruby Tuesday.

Monday, November 24, 2014

What to do on an unseasonably warm day like today?

It's an unusually warm day today, the high getting up to 70. So what's there to do in the area to take advantage, especially since it might be the last warm one in a long time?

For one, there's all the patios and outdoor spots along 11th Street, like Wonderland, Room 11, Red Rocks and the like. They might be crowded, but some let you feel like you're outside while inside, like El Chucho and Meridian Pint with their big windows? There's also more relaxed patios like Looking Glass, DC Reynolds and Mothership on Georgia Ave.

If you're looking for something that isn't eating and drinking, why not take a walk -- maybe to check out all the murals in the neighborhood? Or just go to a part of the area you don't frequent. I'm always surprised when I stumble on a nice little street I haven't seen before, like Keefer Place near Georgia or the little warren of streets around Meridian Hill Park.

Which suggests another: go to the park! Bring a picnic or bocce or a frisbee. It might be the last time you can do any of them for months. 

If you're looking for something a bit more rugged, the hiking trails at Rock Creek Park are great -- keep in mind it gets dark early though. Or just explore the neighborhood on bike -- yours or Capital Bikeshare.

Unfortunately there isn't a ton of neighborhood retail around, but a walk to the U Street shops could be a nice one too -- there are some vintage shops between 14th and 16th that I like. Or check out the  14th Street strip from Florida to U: there's furniture at Mara, clothing at Federal and Palace 5ive, and more. 

If you haven't been to Upshur Street, check it out: there's the new Upshur Street Books, plus a couple cool and funky vintage shops there too, and the popular Domku, Crane & Turtle and Petworth Citizen.

Got any other ideas? 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mapping out the murals of Columbia Heights

Bloombars mural

A couple of days ago I wrote about the awesome tin-can telephone mural that went up a few months ago on 13th Street, one of a number of murals in our area.

While researching that mural, I found a great blog post from Curbed DC mapping out 11 other murals in Columbia Heights. Most of them I'm familiar with (like the mural on BloomBars above), but a few I'm not, like Chuck Brown and MCA from the Beastie Boys, both of whom died in the past year, in an alley off Sherman and Columbia -- I'll have to check that one out.

What do you think, are they missing any? The list doesn't include the weird and great Washington Pizza mural at 14th and Randolph by the artist Decoy, but that's a little north. I'm a particular fan of this one at 13th and Park, also by Decoy. Can't beat dad humor.

Spotted: punk lyrics carved into the sidewalk, RIP warm weather

It's super cold out there. So it's kind of funny that I stumbled upon this carved into the sidewalk a bit ago near 13th and Spring: it reads "We've been livin' a thrill in the blink of an eye, but baby, we too are running out of time /  End of summer 2010" with some hearts and a cassette tape. And it's true, we're out of time, warm weather is long gone.

I wasn't familiar with the words, but it sounded like lyrics, and sure enough they're from the song "Running Out of Time" by Dead Moon, a punk band active from the 80s to 2000s. It's not bad: kind of a Cramps meets the Replacements vibe for me.

I always like seeing funny stuff carved into the sidewalk -- I wonder if these folks were also behind the waffle-eating dinosaur I spotted a few years ago.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

First taste at Thip Khao, Laotian restaurant coming in Dec. to 14th Street

A few weeks ago I wrote about Thip Khao, the Laotian restaurant coming to 14th and Parkwood, where Thai Tanic II used to be. The restaurant's chef is Seng Luangrath, who also runs the popular Bangkok Golden Thai and Laotian restaurant in Seven Corners. Thip Khao has had a few soft openings lately and I got a chance to go try the food before their official opening sometime in December.

The food was completely new to me, spicy and tasty, though a little confusing: I hadn't tried Laotian food before and the menu didn't explain many items, and our waiter wasn't too good at it either. Then again, it was a soft opening, and the whole idea of that is to work out some of the kinks.

We started out with sai oua, Laotian sausages. I didn't know there were Laotian sausages, and being a fan of encased meats, I figured we had to get it -- and it was great, herby and a little spicy with lemongrass and ginger and a spicy sauce. They came with a couple of hardboiled eggs too with that same spicy sauce -- the sweetness of the eggs was a nice compliment.

For our main dishes, we got beef laab, a traditional Laotian minced meat salad with mint, fish sauce, lemon and more, and chicken orm, a curry stew. Other dishes included grilled or steamed fish wrapped in banana leaves, grilled pork shoulder, and more. Many come with multiple meat, tofu or veggie options. (You can see the whole menus below.)

This is where we ran into the first confusing part of the menu: some of the items had an option to "go to the jungle" for an extra few dollars. We asked what that meant and didn't really get an answer from the waiter, who did not speak great English; I figured it meant spicy. So I'm not sure if our dishes actually were "go to the jungle" or not. The laab was interesting, it was minced meat with veggies, and was very aromatic and quite spicy. We also were given a plain salad, but no dressing. I asked what it was and the waiter, who did not speak great English, said it was supposed to go with the other dishes. We weren't sure what to make of that -- alongside? Mixed in? We mostly left the salad alone. 

I preferred the orm, which was a curry dish with lots of dill and other veggies. It had a building spiciness but a great flavor (I really like dill.) 

Each dish also came with little woven rice baskets with sticky rice -- the titular Thip Khao are those baskets. They were full of sticky rice, which again we weren't exactly sure what to do with. The waiter made a motion like you use the rice to pick up the rest of the food, but it was sort of tricky to do that, so mostly we just ate some on their own. It was welcome through to cut some of the spiciness of the rest of the dishes. 

They also brought over an avocado rice desert, which was delicious, more like a sweet custard, and also helped our mouths return to normal.

They're in the process of getting their liquor license, so we tried some non-alcoholic drinks. The iced longan juice, a type of fruit, was pretty good, but the sour ice tea was great -- sweet and sour and very refreshing. I'm looking forward to having a Beer Lao or cocktail there in the future, too.

In short, it's an interesting restaurant and I definitely want to trying some of the other dishes like the fish or the crispy rice salad, which the City Paper and others recommended from Bangkok Golden. I hope they do a bit more to explain the dishes on the menu or have the waiters explain them as well, as it's a new cuisine with a lot of new items, but in all, I'm excited for it.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Awesome new mural on 13th Street: Tin-Can Telephone

Awesome mural on 13th #mural #columbiaheights

The other day I was walking up 13th Street near Otis and spotted this great mural of two kids talking on a tin-can phone. PoP has some more background: the building, which is a small condo, reached out to DC Murals, a group that finds artists to put up murals. And this is the awesome result.

The artist is James Bullough, who is from DC but now lives in Berlin. It's almost photorealistic, aside from the white and turquoise slashes.

I really like it, it's probably my favorite mural around the area. It makes me want a mural, if I ever had a wall for it.

Here's a few other shots from Bullough's site.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Bake sale hosted by local middle schoolers for So Others May Eat at Annie's Ace Hardaware this weekend

Well, this is adorable. This Saturday and Sunday, middle schoolers from the Washington Latin Public Charter School are holding a bake sale at Annie's Ace Hardware (1240 Upshur Street NW) to benefit SOME (So Others May Eat), which works with DC area homeless and poor people.

Proceeds from the sale will go towards compiling boxes full of toiletries, hats, gloves and other necessities for those in need this winter. The kids will be out from 2-5 pm both days serving up hot cider and chocolate, and fresh-baked cookies.

Sounds like a fun thing. It's great to see kids getting involved and doing something good for the community.

Fundraiser, documentary film screening for local boxing gym and mentoring program for youth next week at GALA Theatre

Here's an interesting event, a file screening and fundraiser for Lime Lote Boxing and Fitness, a nonprofit gym that teaches young people boxing and fitness skills and provides mentoring. It sounds like a worthwhile project with two interesting films! Read more below, and check out the two trailers at the bottom.
On Thursday November 20, at 7:30 at Gala Theater (3333 14th St NW), join local filmmakers, boxing stars and musicians for a benefit film screening and after party featuring stories from the world of Lime Lite Boxing and Fitness, a Columbia Heights based non-profit gym and youth program that trains champions and mentors young people.

Into the Lime Lite follows two-time USA Boxing National Champion Malik Jackson as he prepares for a tough match in the Belfast Beltway Classic. Out of the Basement follows Greg Newby as he embarks on a pro-boxing career after a fall from grace. Jackson and Newby train at Lime Lite Boxing and Fitness, a small gym in the heart of Columbia Heights DC that is 100% fueled by local volunteers, grassroots fundraisers and community support. Both films (documentary shorts) feature music from local musicians including Brendan Canty (Fugazi, DeathFix) The Evens and Buildings. The films were made by possible by the Documentary Center at GW and The DC Arts and Humanities Commission.

The after party features food generously donated by The Coupe (Lime Lite Boxing's neighbor) and music from local DJs. Doors at 7:30. Tickets are $10 and all proceeds will benefit Lime LIte's boxing and mentoring program.

Buy tickets or make a donation.
Facebook invite
Watch an Out of the Basement trailer
Watch an Into the Lime Lite Trailer
City Paper Article about Out of the Basement
A folder of photos

50 sec spot Into the Lime Lite from Natalie Avery on Vimeo.

OUT OF THE BASEMENT - 1 Minute Trailer from Natalie Avery on Vimeo.