Friday, December 30, 2011

Coffy Cafe creperie on 14th opening in February, soft opening in Jan.

I just heard from Philecia Harris, the owner of Coffy Cafe, the new creperie coming to 3310 14th Street NW, just north of Park: they're looking to open soon.

You may remember when I interviewed Philecia a few months ago, and they'll be serving made-to-order sweet and savory crepes priced from $4.50 to $9 (smoked salmon) plus baked goods from family recipes and coffees. Their new website has the menu.

It's going to be a mod/60s themed place (hence the name), which sounds pretty fun. Philecia also sent along some photos of the space in progress, which you can see below and here. I'm looking forward to it!

What are local bars and restaurants doing for New Year's?

New Year's Eve is upon us, and we have lots of options in the neighborhood, both of the fancy and the laid back varieties. There's no cover unless noted.
  • Mama Chuy DC, the new taqueria on Georgia that I really liked, is having some fun stuff: two seatings with drink specials and pinatas. It's $15 in advance or $20 at the door, and that pays for the food and a glass of sangria

  • Acre 121 has a $60/$100 three course dinner, or a $10 cover for midnight champagne toast, with a bluegrass band. More here.

  • The Heights has two different packages, three courses for $37 and $49

  • Wonderland has DJ Maestro starting at 10 pm

  • Looking Glass has a similar deal, DJ Itchy Mitch starting at 10 and a champagne toast at midnight. I hope he gets some lotion.

  • The Washingtonian (which has a list of no-cover options) reports this about Room 11: “We’re anti-cover,” says Room 11 chef-owner Ben Gilligan, when asked about the NYE plan this year. “I think Dan is making a big bowl of punch.” Their website elaborates:

  • Join us New Year’s Eve as we celebrate with St Germain! No Cover! No Prix Fixe! Expect cocktail & punch specials, St. Germain giveaways, half bottles of Champagne, and several of Chef Ben’s tasty food specials! More details to come…
    And then on New Year’s Day, join us for our Hangover Brunch!  We will be open from noon to 9pm, serving food till 8pm. It will surely help your aching head!
  • Red Derby is doing nothing, aside from opening their roof deck, so that's a possibility for those not into craziness. Last time I was there they also offered a free champagne toast. They're having a "hair of the dog" brunch too.

  • Update: Red Rocks has a $50 dinner for two with a bottle of wine, starter, two pizzas and a dessert

  • Update #2: Lou's City Bar is doing $5 Absolut drinks and no cover, thanks to commenter Jon
  • Meridian Pint, Red Rocks, Lou's City Bar and Zeba Bar don't seem to be doing anything
And if you know of any other options, let us know in the comments.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Checking out Z-Burger coming to the Tivoli: design, the old downstairs, ghosts?

Last week I had a chance to go over to the Z-Burger coming to 14th and Park in the Tivoli building, where I talked to the owners and took some photos (there's a slideshow at the end of the post). The place looks and sounds like it's going to be pretty impressive. I also got a chance to see the Tivoli's downstairs, which looks like it hadn't been used in decades, and heard a ghost story about the space. More on that later.

Peter Tabibian, one of the owners, told me he hopes to open in mid-February. He said they could have opened earlier, but there's another location opening in Southwest and he wanted to focus on one location at a time. It seems that's a good idea, as the plans for the place look more like a nicer burger place than fast food -- think something like Good Eats rather than Five Guys.

There's definitely a lot of work going into the space. It looked more open than the old space when it was Nori and Mayorga, which is good, as it was kind of awkward before. Also, the interior details are being preserved -- there's a lot of fancy molding, chandeliers and murals around the space (see artists at work to the right.)

When I was there, a couple of artists were working on painting the molding and were discussing color schemes (reds and golds, mostly). There were some nice tiles going in and a red tile "carpet" from the door back to the dining area -- Peter said it was going to be an old movie theater theme.

As part of that, the marquee signs outside will be lit up and the old ticket booth will be a milkshake stand, where folks can order from both outside and inside. In a funny quirk, there's a webcam going in over the outside part of the milkshake booth so people can log on and see the line and the Civic Plaza.

There's also an outside seating area with about 40 seats -- there was disagreement with the city because there's already a concrete bench outside, though Peter said he thought DPW would resolve the issue soon. We'll see. There looked to be almost as much seating outside as inside.

Main dining area
As for the food, it's burgers and hot dogs grilled in front of customers, plus a separate steak and cheese grill, fresh-cut fries, and 75 flavors of milkshakes. He said they use only fresh ingredients. You can see the whole menu here.

Peter was pretty proud of the massive grills installed behind the counters, which will also have some touchscreen PCs for ordering, kind of like Sheetz if you've been there. There's also going to be two Coke machines where you can make yourself 130-something flavors -- I think like this machine.

Yelp folks like the other Z-Burger locations in the area and talk about the onion rings and milkshakes too.

According to the plans, there are some small tables in the middle, plus bigger seating areas in the back which will have big, curving benches. Peter talked about putting in new windows as well for more light, which is good, as there really weren't any before. The upstairs part of the space, which was Nori's sushi bar, has been closed off and was rented to someone else by the owners of the Tivoli. Peter hoped to use the staircase that went up for music or performers, but that was still in the idea phase.

There's also a downstairs. As mentioned, it hasn't really changed much in what looked like decades. Peter said part would be used for storage and offices, and maybe the rest could be an internet cafe, but that would be a ways off. The downstairs was pretty cool, it was like a step back in time. There was a big room with a fireplace and mirror (see  below -- it reminded me of that room in The Matrix where he takes the pill), white and blue mosaic tiles, an old phone booth, tiled bathrooms, and a bunch of small, creepy corridors. Peter didn't know what the downstairs had been used for in the past, but considering how nice it was, it almost looked like some kind of house or fancy dressing rooms.

But that's not all. Peter mentioned that he'd heard some ghost stories, and Oscar, one of the artists working on the molding, elaborated. He said he was there working at about 7 am on a Saturday morning before anyone else had come in. Soon he saw two ladies and a man in front of him, dressed in what looked like nice Victorian clothes (corsets, big dresses) coming down the staircase.

They said "hello" in a kind of drawn out, quiet way -- "hellooooo" -- and he said hello back, and then they seemed to leave. Shortly after that the boss came in and Oscar told him some people were looking for him. The boss was confused and didn't know who they might have been. Oscar and the boss then looked for the three people, not finding anyone, and then they went out to the sidewalk, which was deserted. In hindsight, Oscar said he thought they might have been actors from the theater. When I asked if he was scared or surprised, he said not really, they were nice and didn't bother him. Peter said he'd heard many similar stories about the place for awhile. Pretty interesting stuff, if you believe in that kind of thing.

So who knows about the ghosts, but the rest of it sounds good to me. I like burgers and related food, and it's not your average burger place. Peter also talked about how the company does a lot of charity and he hoped to do more in Columbia Heights, which I can always get behind.

Here's all the photos.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Three Kings Day fiesta takes place Jan. 8: live animals, procession, more

This is always a fun, interesting event, which celebrates the Epiphany. There's a procession, live animals, and a bilingual presentation (see photo above from 2009.)
Celebrate the Holidays with the Three Kings Fiesta
at GALA Hispanic Theatre

Free for the entire family!

Washington, D.C. – For more than 35 years, GALA has celebrated the holidays with its traditional event for the community, Fiesta de los Reyes Magos/The Three Kings Day Celebration. GALA will again relive the age-old story of the The Magi with song, dance and storytelling on Sunday, January 8, 2012 at 2 pm. This bilingual presentation for the entire family preserves one of the most popular celebrations of Latino cultures. 

Fiesta de los Reyes Magos takes place at GALA Theatre, 3333 14th Street, NW. Admission is free, but a small gift for a child is suggested. Tickets for the event will be distributed at GALA’s Box Office starting at 12:30 pm on a first-come, first serve basis. Discounted parking is available in the Giant garage on Park Road, NW (validation at the theater). A procession/posada with the Three Kings and live animals, including donkeys, goats, and sheep, will begin at 1:30 pm at the corner of Park Road and 14th Street, NW. 

The 2012 Fiesta de los Reyes Magos features community activists Roland Roebuck as Balthasar and José Sueiro as Gaspar, and artist/activist Quique Avilés as Melchior. The celebration will kick off with a special performance by members of the National Symphony Orchestra. Other featured performers include Los Quetzales, a youth Mexican dance company directed by Laura Ortiz; the Spanish Dance Society; and the popular dance group Alma Boliviana. The event also will include the traditional Nativity and the giving of gifts by The Magi. Alejandro Negrón of La Nueva 87.7 is the Master of Ceremonies. Churros and hot chocolate will be served following the performance.

This program is made possible with generous support from the Inter-American Development Bank-DC Solidarity Fund/Share the Magic Campaign, Fiesta DC, Churrería Madrid Restaurant; Washington Hispanic, and the Leesburg Animal Park.

For more information, call 202-234-7174 or visit\

Photo by Mr. T in DC

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fox News picks up on IHOP: "pancakes for yuppies"


Honestly people. Like I said, you could argue that it's not a valid investment (though the money went to a local family who runs the franchise and over 100 people got jobs.)

However, all these people (here's another) are basically just reporting what somebody else wrote without actually looking into it. These are full-time journalists.

I have a feeling we're going to hear more from this.

Oh, great, more press. Fox News reporter outside IHOP

A tipster just sent this in:
Sitting at Panera in Columbia Heights.  Just saw this guy walk by with a camera crew.
Be on the lookout for the hit piece on our neighborhood and our tasty, tasty IHOP on Fox News soon. 
Jenkins is a Fox News producer. The Coburn-IHOP-"toney neighborhood" story is starting to get sort of big, it was picked up the the Post, City Paper, Media Matters, HuffPost, etc.

Although at least Jenkins actually came to the neighborhood, since it's clear Sen. Coburn, CBS's Kathy Kristof and the Examiner columnist did not. Let's see if he walks a block to the housing projects or just shows the nice stuff.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Reporters, Senator say Columbia Heights is not "underserved," is "toney," doesn't deserve money

Here's something you don't hear everyday. According to CBS reporter reporter Kathy Kristof, Columbia Heights is not "underserved," it's a "toney area" that shouldn't get any government money. Clearly, she has never been there. 

Her source was Senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma, who recently wrote a list of what he thinks are the biggest examples of government waste. Kristof basically posted his list word for word.

One of Coburn's items was money for IHOP, though he didn't use the the word "toney," that was Kristof. Here's her blurb:
$765,828 for pancakes: Federal funding went to the Anacostia Economic Development Corp to build an International House of Pancake franchise (and train its workers) in an "underserved community." The underserved community, however, turned out to the a toney area of Washington D.C. - Columbia Heights, which is termed "one of Washington's more desirable neighborhoods."
Coburn says in his list that "The new IHOP is not located in an underserved community but a popular Washington D.C. neighborhood." And he has a source listed for "underserved": this Examiner article complaining about the money. The reporter also makes the argument that Columbia Heights is fancy: 

The new IHOP is part of the DCUSA shopping center. Nearby are Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, Best Buy, Giant, Starbucks, Staples, FedEx Kinko's, Five Guys, Potbelly's, Chipotle, and Commonwealth Gastropub, just to name a few.
The nearby Heights restaurant serves a "goat cheese sun-dried tomato burger," but you might have to wait 20 minutes for an outdoor table.A few blocks to the northeast are Meridian Pint, with an impressive selection of foreign beers that go for $7 to $8 a pint, and Room 11, where you can spend a day's pay on microscopic portions of savory jamon Iberico, olives and Rioja wines.
Yes, there are nice places here. But there are also housing projects and murders. And clearly the reporter has never been here, or he'd know that. Plus he has clearly never been to these places. Meridian Pint only serves domestic beer, for example. I bet Coburn has never been here either.

Now I don't want to talk about either party, but this kind of stuff makes me mad, using our neighborhood as some kind of political pawn. You could make the argument that the IHOP (which is a franchise owned by a DC minority family) shouldn't have gotten money. But if you don't think the area is underserved, come live here. Visit the people in Columbia Heights Village and the other subsidized housing in the area. Visit some of the recent immigrants to this country. Ask them if they think they're toney. Ask them if they're "extremely well-served" as the Examiner reporter says.

Watch out for scammers at Giant and around the neighborhood

Just spotted this on the MPD 3d Listserve (which is a good resource if you haven't joined):
Some months ago, I was scammed out of nineteen dollars by a bill-switching scammer in the CH Giant. He asked for a twenty in exchange for two tens, then claimed that I had given him a one-dollar bill, not a twenty. Only later did I realize that he had palmed my twenty and switched it with a one-dollar bill. 
A similar thing might have happened to me today, I'm not sure. After being asked for the same exchange -- a twenty, for two tens -- the guy started to protest that I hadn't given him -- well, it's not certain, but I reacted pretty strongly to what appeared to me to be the same bill-switching scam. Then he said that I had indeed given him a twenty, but he had asked for twenty ones, not a twenty-dollar bill. (Not very likely, I think.) 
I wonder if this bill-switching scam is going around 3D. Is this something that we should all be on the alert for?
I've noticed this before elsewhere, but still worth being careful when people ask for change. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday carnival for families on Wednesday

Just spotted this on the listserves: sounds neat.
The Rita Bright Family and Youth Center will host a Holiday Carnival on Wednesday, December 21, 2011 from 4:00pm – 7:00pm. 
The Carnival will include ornament decorating, games, presents, cookie decorating, pizza, sub sandwiches, jewelry making, gift wrapping, and more! 
All children and families are welcome. 
The Center is located at 2500 14th St. NW. 202-645-7111manni@layc-dc.orgOn Twitter @RitaBrightFYC and on Facebook

Seriously, enough with the phone books

Over the past few weeks I've noticed that tons and tons of phone books have been delivered to houses in the area. Many are still sitting outside the houses where they were delivered, and many more (like mine) are just sitting inside our foyer, never to be used.

I really think in this era of the internet and smartphones, phone books should be something people request, not something that just gets dumped and ends up being litter. I know some people do need them, and I am obviously more techie than some people (I run a blog after all) but I can't even think of the last time I used a phone book. Many, many years. It's a shame to see so much paper wasted and trash created for this artifact.

I tried to find a way to stop delivery, but the page that is for stopping it doesn't include DC as an option. Weird.

UPDATE: I found the site where you can opt-out of the phone books. Finally.

New restaurant, Maple, coming to 11th in Jan/Feb; help decide what to serve!

I recently got a press release about Maple, a new restaurant coming to 3418 11th Street, next to Columbia Heights Coffee. It will be run by a husband and wife team, journalist Lori Robertson and architect Eric Gronning. Gronning makes furniture and designed Jack Rose, Commonwealth, Marvin, Cork, Pizzeria Paradiso and more, so it's probably going to look pretty cool.

Lori tells me they're aiming to open in late January or early Feburary. It's going to have Italian and European-influenced food with local ingredients. Below is the press release that says more about the place.

But what's interesting is that they're taking ideas and votes for what to serve, from a new website called Popularise was launched by some local realtors, and the idea is for people to vote on what should go into certain spots. The website buys the spot (like one on H Street) and then people suggest and vote what should go it, and then Popularise helps that happen. In the case of Maple, they're taking suggestions for menu items: currently a wood-fired grill and a user submission, grilled cheese sandwiches, are leading. (Although the user submission was by the founder of the site, but hey.) It's an interesting idea, and will be more interesting to see what comes of the idea. To join in, just go the website and request an invite.

But whether you vote or not, it's great to see something new coming to 11th, especially in what was an empty space.

Maple, a new restaurant and bar, to open on Columbia Heights’ 11th Street Set to open in early 2012, Maple will be a cozy and casual restaurant and bar on Columbia Heights’ vibrant 11th Street. 
The restaurant will feature a modern American menu with Italian influences -- bruschetta, salads, sandwiches and panini, pasta and grill specials – as well as an extensive selection of wine. The full bar also will highlight craft beers and specialty cocktails. Maple, at 3418 11th Street NW, will have indoor seating for approximately 45 people and outdoor seating for eight to 10.It will be open seven nights a week for dinner, and for brunch on Saturday and Sunday. 
The design is clean and modern, with a 20-foot-long bar as the focal point. The restaurant’s name comes from a beautiful piece of tiger maple that will be used for the bar top. The growth rings and “tiger” streaks in this sustainably harvested wood give it a rich texture, and it will create a warm, welcoming atmosphere. 
Maple will be a lively neighborhood place with affordable food, wine and drinks. The kitchen’s philosophy is that fresh, quality ingredients go a long way toward making a great meal. The menu will feature simple dishes with gourmet ingredients, and borrow heavily from popular Italian and European cuisine. Maple will also partner with local farms for produce, meat and cheeses. 
Maple is the creation of architect Eric Gronning and journalist Lori Robertson. Gronning has been the architect for several successful Washington, D.C., restaurants, including Jack Rose, Marvin, Cork, Pizzeria Paradiso and the Palena expansion. He is also a licensed general contractor, specialty metal fabricator and furniture designer. He will be personally fabricating many components of MapleRobertson, currently an editor with the website, has been a journalist for 15 years, writing about politics, the media, travel and health issues. Gronning and Robertson have lived in Columbia Heights since 2005; this is the husband-and-wife team’s first restaurant venture. 
As Gronning and Robertson finalize the menu, they’re soliciting neighborhood advice. They encourage residents to visit, a new online platform that, for the first time, allows the local community to be directly involved in the development process. Maple’s owners are excited to have the opportunity to use to engage with future customers. 
Columbia Heights’ 11th Street has become a destination for dining and entertainment. The area was featured in a Feb. 20, 2011, New York Times article that called it “Washington’s hippest new strip.”

Monday, December 19, 2011

Lots of art classes for adults at LAYC

Want to learn Photoshop, painting, print making, jewelry design, music software ProTools, video editing and more? The Latin American Youth Center's Art + Media House, located in our neighborhood, is offering a bunch of cool-sounding classes for adults.

The classes are 6 weeks long and cost $150, which is a pretty good deal. Plus you're supporting LAYC's programs for local youth, of which there are a lot!

I've written about LAYC and the Art + Media House a lot in the past, here are some of the projects they've been doing.

See below for more info and a list of all the classes (and click it for a bigger version.)

Wreath-stealing Grinch on the loose

Who steals a Christmas wreath? That's the question I'm wondering after somebody took a nice wreath off a door on Spring Place NW. Pretty lame.

The wreath-owner thought maybe it was because there were gold bells on it, but it's a reminder that if you have decorations to somehow fasten them down.

My friends had a similar problem during Halloween when somebody stole some decorations, and they caught some kids in the act trying to steal more.

Where's your holiday spirit, people?

At-large council member parks illegally on 13th

Yeah, this is sort of like "dog bites man" -- on Saturday I spotted this Jeep with DC Council At-Large plates parked illegally on 13th Street at Girard (you can click it for a bigger version.)

Not sure who it was, but there are four possible culprits: Kwame Brown (who has had his own SUV problems), Phil Mendlson, David Catania, Michael Brown, or Vincent Orange. I don't think it's Kwame, as he was driving a mail truck after the big scandal from his previous ride.

As you can see, the car is almost totally past the No Parking sign and outside the painted box. It also has Redskins and Under Armour decals on it. There weren't any tickets on it when I saw it.

UPDATE: A tipster says they think it's Michael Brown.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Scratch that -- Z-Burger aiming for February, not 3-4 weeks

Well, that takes care of that.

I just spoke with Whitney Stringer, who is doing PR for Z-Burger, and she said they're aiming for early to mid-February to open the store in the Tivoli, not within 3-4 weeks as PoP reported. It's possible he got confused with another Z-Burger location in Southwest, which is supposed to open in January.

As for why it's taken awhile, Whitney said it was because the space required a lot of buildout and that the permits have taken some time. I'll be visiting on Saturday so we'll see what else we learn.

So, disappointing news for burger fans, but February isn't that far away.

Z-Burger opening in 3-4 weeks

UPDATE: This is not opening in 3-4 weeks, but mid-February. See my newer post.

Local burger chain Z-Burger, along with the Grocery Store Who Shall Not Be Named, has been one of the great mysteries of Columbia Heights. When are they opening? What's the deal? They were supposed to open last Summer, and in September, and I think some other times. But there may be some good news coming for burger fans.

I've tried calling and emailing them before to ask what's going on, with no luck. Just today I worked through some contacts to get a hold of a PR agency who works with them, and while they were helpful, they didn't know anything. They did give me the owner's phone number, and I called him... and his mailbox was full. End of the road? As luck would have it, he called me back, so I'll be heading over on Saturday to take a look.

And then I came across a PoP post from yesterday where he got a preview of the burger joint with lots of interior photos. It looks pretty darn nice inside, there are some nice murals that one commenter says are original to the building, though I don't remember seeing them when it was Nori or Mayorga. Maybe they were covered up. They told PoP they're opening in 3-4 weeks, although a commenter on my previous post says a local business owner was told it would be February. We'll see!

Speaking of Nori and Mayorga, the closed sushi place and coffee places: let's hope the spot isn't cursed and Z-Burger lasts longer than they did. Glad to hear they're close to opening.

And something else -- if you are a new local business and would like some press, email me. Seriously, it's easy. I want to support you, I want to write about you. Don't make me hire a private investigator to get an update.

CANCELED: Carols, candlelight and cocoa at the Civic Plaza next week

UPDATE: This event has been canceled. Here's a note from the District Church:
"Unfortunately we are cancelling the event tonight due to the weather. We will however be having a Christmas Eve service with carols and candlelight at 5pm on 12/24 at Capital City Public Charter School (3047 15th St NW, Washington DC 20009) for the community. Hope you can join us."
Unfortunately there won't be a Christmas tree on the Civic Plaza this year, but the District Church is holding a cool event next Wednesday. Check it out:

Hello Columbia Heights Community!
Please join us for Candlelight, Carols and Cocoa on Wednesday December 21st at 6:00 pm at the Columbia Heights Plaza and Fountain on 14th and Park Street.
This is a special way to celebrate this holiday season, spend time with friends and make new ones. Come, bundle up, and get your voices ready to sing. 
Hot Cocoa and candles will be provided.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cool spot for gifts, art: Pleasant Plains Workshop

The other day I went to a friend's poetry reading on Georgia Avenue, in the Pleasant Plains Workshop, and I must say, I was impressed by the space. I wrote about them opening but hadn't had a chance to stop by.

Basically it's a small gallery and art space with a couple resident artists, but they're also hosting "Present Day," a holiday gift shop with a lot of neat things by local artists: tote bags, small paintings, hand made post cards, and a lot more. I was impressed by a screen-printed poster with a halfsmoke on it that said something like 100% beef, 0% representation in Congress (obviously it looks cooler than my description.)

Most of it was reasonably priced and it's always nice to help out local artists. I plan to go by and get some Christmas presents, plus some presents for myself.

They're located at 2608 Georgia Avenue NW (between Euclid and Fairmont) and are open Thursday and Friday from 2-7 pm, Saturday 1-6 pm, and Sunday 12-5. They're also on Twitter.

Where to volunteer in the neighborhood?

Just got this question from a reader, and it's a good one. Please post your suggestions in the comments!
I'm wondering about whether there were organizations in this neighborhood looking for regular volunteers. I moved to Columbia Heights in March of 2011 and now that I’m fully settled, I’d like to get more involved in my neighborhood. Do you know of any organizations in need of regular volunteers?
Off the top of my head I can think of Martha's Table, and 826DC might, but last time I checked they had a huge waitilist. Any other ideas? 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

If you are missing a tank tread, please go to Sherman and Girard

Are you missing a tank tread?

A few weeks ago I saw this tank tread at Sherman and Girard. I figured maybe somebody was using a Bobcat or other small construction machine and the tread fell off, but they'd be back to get it. But weeks later, it's still there.

One would think this is something you'd need, or if you didn't need it, you'd throw it away. If not, it's the weirdest case of littering I've ever seen.

First look at Mama Chuy DC: good stuff

Last night a few buddies and I decided to check out Mama Chuy DC, the new taqueria at 2620 Georgia Avenue NW. We were really impressed. It turns out their soft opening was on Sunday, with a surprise opening on Friday. There were a few kinks that still needed to be worked out with the place, which is to be expected -- but not with the food, which was great.

The place is run by a brother and sister team, Joe and Din, who are from Chicago but whose family is from Guadalajara, Mexico. Both came out to chat with us and both were really nice. Joe is the chef, and some of the menu is based on their grandmother, Mama Chuy, but with Joe's flourishes.

The food was traditional, inexpensive, and really well done. There are some appetizers and small plates, then a number of tacos, which come in pairs. For antojitos (appetizers) we tried the papitas fritas, French fries which came with Mexican cheese and lime and were crispy and good. The guacamole was also really well done, and came with homemade fried tortilla chips. Jose brought us a couple other things to try (we were the first people there), like a vegetarian quesadilla made with mushrooms and a cold asparagus salad. All well done.

Then came the tacos, the main course. They come in pairs, and you can choose either tacos, sopes, which are basically a flat, fried tortilla, or a plato (platter) with rice, beans and guacamole. The first thing we all noticed were the tortillas, which were really nice. One person in our party said they were better than Taqueria Distrito Federal's. The fillings were good too: we had al pastor (roasted pork), Milanesa, which is breaded beef, carne asada sopes, and vegetarian, which is made with three kinds of mushrooms. They were all delicious. My vegetarian friend loved the veggie tacos and the other vegetarian options, and we debated which was best, the sopes or tacos. They're small, but they're also inexpensive, $3-$4 for 2, or about $11 for the platter (which we didn't try) so you should get a bunch. There's also birria tacos, which is a traditional beef stew from Guadalajara, but they didn't have it yet. Next time.

One of the sopes
The place does have a liquor license, and they have a lot of Mexican beers from $2.50-$4, which is great. They also have domestic beers and liquor. Din said she made the margaritas herself and they were really good, but we'll have to find out for ourselves later. In all, the place was a good deal, about $60 for four of us, including about 8 beers. Can't beat that.

As for the restaurant itself, it's pretty cozy, with about 6 seats on the first floor about 20 upstairs, plus a patio area in the front. There's some nice, tasteful decor. As for the patio, we all agreed it would be a great place to go after hitting the Banneker pool: sitting on the patio, having a couple tacos and some margaritas. It was pretty cold inside during our visit, Din and Joe explained that their new boiler broke and they had been working on it all day. They expect it to be fixed soon.

The menu is smallish for now, but Din said they're planning on adding more as time goes on. She mentioned tortas, a type of sandwich, and that they might try brunch once a month or so to gauge interest -- traditional Mexican fare like chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, and so on. They'll also have carry-out and delivery.

It's hard not to be too laudatory for this place -- it was really good. I'll be back soon, highly recommended.

Mama Chuy DC is at 2620 Georgia Ave NW. They're open for lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday. Here's their Twitter and blog.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mama Chuy, new Mexican place on Georgia, is now open

Well, this is a surprise! Mama Chuy, the "modern Mexican taqueria" on Georgia I wrote about in May, is now open. The place is run by a brother and sister, they'll have patio seating (although I would assume not in winter), and are using recipes passed down from the restaurant's namesake, their grandma.

Looks like Twitter folks are abuzz with positive things to say about the spot. I hope to go there soon.

They had been hoping to open in June, but later is better than never!

The picture above is from Google Street View, they're in the place with the red, white and green awning, which used to be the Philadelphia Water Ice Co. They're located at 2620 Georgia Avenue NW, just north of Fairmont. Here's their blog.

Growlers coming back to D'Vines?

You may remember a few months ago when local beer store D'Vines started selling growlers of beer -- that is, you choose a keg of fresh beer and they pour you a bunch in a large, resealable bottle. It was a neat idea, but unfortunately, was illegal due to the city's (I would argue antiquated) alcohol laws.

However, it looks like sweet, sudsy relief is around the corner: Ward 6 councilman Tommy Wells introduced legislation to allow growlers. I don't see who would be opposed to this. To me, any worry about being buying them to loiter and get drunk is kind of silly -- who buys fancy pale ale or stout to get drunk outside when they can buy much cheaper stuff?

Friday, December 9, 2011

In case you missed it: Room 11 brunch starts Sunday the 11th

There's soon to be another brunch option in the neighborhood. Room 11, the nice little wine/cocktail/food spot at 11th and Lamont, is opening for brunch starting this Sunday. I posted a menu a couple weeks ago, though it may be tweaked a bit (that was a soft-opening test menu) but the City Paper reports that they will have green eggs and ham from the soft launch.

Looks good to me!!

14th and Girard gang members indicted for killings, other crimes

While I don't usually write about crime on this blog, here's something of interest: members of a gang based at 14th and Girard Streets NW were just indicted for 80 crimes including three killings, one of which was in the neighborhood. Let's hope they go to jail for a long, long time (assuming, of course, they are guilty.)

There were a total of seven men indicted, ranging from 19 to 24 years old, who were allegedly part of the 14th and Girard gang, also called G-Rod or the Cut Crew. Two of the men were already in jail, two more were arrested Monday, another is in custody, and police are still looking for Marcellus Jackson, 23; Keir Johnson, 21. Here's more from the Post:
According to the 80-count indictment, members of the 14th and Girard gang, also known as G-Rod, 1-4 and the Cut Crew, were responsible for a series of attacks including three slayings; the Jan. 9, 2009 fatal shooting of Paul Jones, 17, in the 1300 block of Columbia Road NW; the Aug. 11, 2010 fatal shooting of Sean Robinson, 19, in the 2500 block of 17th and Euclid Streets NW and the Sept. 28, 2010 fatal shooting of Jamal Coates, 21, in the 1300 block of U Street NW. Coates had attended the funeral of Columbia Heights resident Ashley McRae, 21.
Last summer, Damon Sams, 21, ofthe District pled guilty to involuntary  manslaughter for accidentally shooting McRae in the forehead while trying to put the safety on the gun he was holding. He and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Authorities said the three male victims, Jones, Robinson and Coates, were allegedly members of rival gangs. Officials say the gangs had a long history of terrorizing the neighborhoods.
MPD officials and councilman Jim Graham said they hope the indictments help end gang violence in the neighborhood.

Jamal Coates, one of the victims, was killed while attending the funeral of his cousin, McRae. Former Ward 1 council candidate Bryan Weaver had known Coates for a long time, and was working with him through a foundation he helps run, Hoops Sagrado. Weaver said Coates had started trying to turn his life around, and others said he had tried to calm down people during a confrontation at the funeral, the confrontation that led to his death.

Penultimate weekend for Community Marketplace: Christmas trees still available

The Columbia Heights Community Marketplace is nearing the end of its season: the last day will be Saturday, December 17th. However, they're still open, with lots of good food, crafts and gifts for the holiday, and more Christmas trees if you haven't already got yours.

Here's more on the trees from Chelsey Farms:

Back at it again this weekend…The snow hasn’t slowed us down at all…We will be cutting Christmas Trees later today and tomorrow for this weekend’s farmers’ market (Columbia Heights Community Marketplace), Saturday, December 10th, 9am-2pm. Want to make sure that you get exactly what you want…email your order ahead of time to:  Canaan Fir, & Douglas Firs @ $10/ft. Fraser Firs @ $12/ft. See you Saturday!!! Last week, we had COMPLETE sellout so please order ahead or come early! And, the elves in Santa’s sweatshop (I mean workshop) have been busy!!!  Be sure to check out all of the beautiful wreaths, arrangements and swags too!!!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

National Symphony Orchestra comes to Columbia Heights: Jan 3-9, tons of events and concerts

This is really neat: the National Symphony Orchestra chose Columbia Heights for their NSO in Your Neighborhood program. They'll be coming to the neighborhood, performing numerous times, meeting with local groups, teaching and presenting to school kids, and a lot more. It's a really great program and we're lucky to get a world-class orchestra in our neighborhood.

 The NSO has been talking to local organizations, schools and businesses for some time, getting ideas for what to do, and now they're ready. See below for more on what they're doing -- lots of concerts! There's a big public concert at the Columbia Heights Education Campus (16th and Irving) on Jan. 6 at 7 pm.


"Please share the following link that will register those who would like to reserve tickets for the events which require tickets. If you have already requested tickets through an email to Warren do not register again through EventBrite."

1112_PMD_NSO_IYN_8-5x11 NSO IYN Brochure Use

Holiday concert from DC's Different Drummers on Sunday

Another neat holiday event from DC's Different Drummers,
DC's Different Drummers Holiday Prism Concert - Sunday, December 11th at 3pm
DC's Different Drummers will host our Holiday Prism Concert is this Sunday, December 11, 2011, at 3pm. The event will be held at the Columbia Heights Education Campus Auditorium(CHEC), located at 3101 16th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 
Tickets are available via band members, at the door during the event and our online store. They are $20 for adults, and $10 for Seniors and students with a valid student ID. For more info, visit
What is a Prism Concert, you may ask? It is a unique performance in which our different participating groups rotate sets throughout the show, allowing you to encounter each group on different "moods" during the program. Another key element is that the music is continuous; the performers are set up in different positions throughout the space, and as one group finishes, the next begins, and the sound does not stop until the end of the show. 
This performance will be a culmination of DC Swing!, the Capitol Pride Symphonic Band, and several of our small ensembles - from our clarinet choir to Sax and the CityThe Mad Hatters and more! 
We look forward to seeing you at this special, holiday event on Sunday, December 11th!
And here's more about DCDD:
DC's Different Drummers is the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area's music organization for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, family and friends with several performing groups including the Capitol Pride Symphonic Band (CPSB), Capitol Pride Winds, DC Swing! big band, DCDD Marching Band, Pep Band, and several small ensembles. We welcome all of our friends and supporters in our 31st year! 

Street Booze: pony beer bottle at Georgia and Harvard

Street booze

Spotted this Street Booze on Georgia Avenue near Harvard, it's a pony-sized bottle of Heineken. I guess there are some times when a full, 12-ounce bottle is just too much, you need 7 or 8. Hopefully not while working on the construction next door, however.

As for the small bottles, I haven't been able to find much about them. Rolling Rock was known for their pony bottles, also called nips or other nicknames (the small booze bottles you get on airplanes are also called nips), and Corona has them too, labeled as Coronita. There are pony kegs too, a kind of small keg. Aside from this blog post, I got nuttin. Wikipedia had nothing on the subject until I added a small blurb. If you know more about the pony bottles, let us know in the comments!

Curious about more Street Booze? Check out the archive.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Oscar-nominated director Chris Weitz screening a new movie at the Gala Theater on Wednesday

Just got some info about this really cool sounding screening organized by the Center for American Progress with director Chris Weitz. Always cool to have famous folks in the neighborhood (even if he did direct a Twilight movie.) It's at the Gala Theater. And it's free!

A Better Life

A Reel Progress Screening

December 7, 2011, 6:00pm – 9:30pm

About This Event

Join award-winning director Chris Weitz and star actor Demian Bichir in a special screening of A Better Life, a heart breaking tale of the lives of today’s immigrants.
From Chris Weitz, director of About a Boy, The Twilight Saga: New Moon and The Golden Compass, comes A Better Life – a poignant, multi-generational story about a father’s love and everything a parent will sacrifice to build a better life for his child. This highly acclaimed film puts on the silver screen the perils and tribulations that immigrants face every day across our nation.
Carlos Galindo (Demian Bichir) dreamed of good things for his wife and future son when they crossed the border into the U.S. But after years of hard work and little reward, Carlos’ only goal became to make sure his son Luis was given the opportunities he never had. After everything he’s worked for is suddenly taken away, father and son embark on a physical and spiritual journey where they discover something more important – that family is the most important part of the American dream.
The Center for American Progress, with special thanks to the Gala Hispanic Theater, presents a special screening of A Better Life, followed by a panel discussion and Q&A session featuring Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan, Chris Weitz, Demian Bichir, and Angela Kelley.
Welcoming Remarks:

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
Distinguished Panelists:

Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan, Ambassador of Mexico to the United States
Chris Weitz, director, A Better Life
Demian Bichir, actor, "Carlos", A Better Life

Angela Kelley, Vice President for Immigration Policy and Advocacy, Center for American Progress
There will be a reception with light appetizers and a cash bar starting at 6:00 p.m.


RSVP for this event
For more information, call 202-682-1611


Gala Hispanic Theater
3333 14th St. NW
Washington, DC 20010
Map & Directions external link icon
Nearest Metro: Green/Yellow Line to Columbia Heights

No news is bad news: work at 1483 Newton, but it's still condemned

1483 Newton is on the left
A couple of weeks ago, a local resident noticed some scaffolding and work at 1483 Newton, the abandoned, dilapidated apartment building that's been the subject of a dispute between owners -- one wanted to sell it and get it developed, others didn't. It's been sitting there looking absolutely terrible for some years now. That led to some hope that they were finally doing something with it. Unfortunately that wasn't the case.

The always responsive Reuben Pemberton at DCRA's Office of Vacant Property had this to say when I emailed him:

So it seems that they are simply securing the property as the BCIB ordered them to do.  I have no new news on a sale but I can try to contact the agent.
A "condemnation order" doesn't mean they are tearing it down, as Reuben explained: 
Condemnation simply orders the property to be made secure, so that no one can get in or out.  The owner must then make a decision to either render the property sanitary, or raze it.  In some cases if he does not fix the property the city will raze it, but those generally are only instances where the property id imminently dangerous to the public.
Here's the whole sad, sorry story of the building. In 2009, I wrote about it being vacant. Later I learned that the owners owed $130,000 in back taxes (!), which led me, Jim Graham and others to hope that it would go to tax sale, meaning somebody who actually would redevelop it could have a chance to buy it. I then learned that the owners had died, and it went to two sisters, who disagreed on what to do with it -- one wanted to sell it and one didn't. That's why it sits abandoned.

There has been some crime in the building, as well. Then we learned that unfortunately, the owners paid the back taxes in May 2011.

In all, it's a sad story. Here's a big building that could be really nice (see above) sitting empty in a neighborhood with a real need for more houses. I hate that this kind of crap happens.

DDOT fixing unclear/wrong parking signs on Columbia & 11th

You may remember last week, when a resident on Kenyon wrote in complaining about parking signs being wrong on his street -- they said to park on the opposite side during street sweeping, and he and his neighbors did, only to get ticketed.

I sent it to DDOT's Twitter, and it looks like that helped. Twitter user misscaterina reported last night that workers were removing the signs around 11th and Columbia, but hadn't yet replaced them.

I'm following up to see what else is getting changed and what the replacement signs will be. Just goes to show you that raising an issue with the city can sometimes get fixed quickly!

Here's more from DDOT's Twitter: "If we're talking about the same signs, they were installed 2 match the street sweeping signs. As you know, there's no street sweeping in the winter, so we are removing the signs which have caused some confusion. We will be reworking them with @DCDPW"

Monday, December 5, 2011

Cardozo's "Last Curtain Call" event this Friday, with Chuck Brown concert, Marvin Gaye events

Sounds like a really neat event: Jim Graham posted this on the Ward One listserve, an event celebrating Cardozo High School's history and its renovation. Chuck Brown, if you're unfamiliar, is the Godfather of Go-Go, DC's home-grown funk music style. One of his big hits was "Bustin' Loose," which was later reinterpreted as "Hot in Herre" by Nelly. I also like a newer song, "Block Party" -- see the videos below. There's lots more good videos on Youtube. Marvin Gaye went to Cardozo, as well, and there are some Marvin Gaye-themed events on Friday too.
Dear Friends:
I am happy to invite you to the Cardozo High School “Last Curtain Call” concert on December 9 with DC’s Chuck Brown and Cardozo‘s home grown original Marvin Gaye’s group that started on Cardozo’s stage in the 60’s, The Marquees.
The event will take place in the Historical Cardozo Auditorium on December 9, 2011 from 8:00 until 11:00 p.m. to commemorate the modernization and closing of the 95 year old Historic School on the Hill until it re-opens totally revitalized in August, 2013.
Tickets are just $25 in advance and $30 at the door and can be purchased at Cardozo High School (1200 Clifton Street, NW –202-673-7385) and at the African American Civil War Museum (1925 Vermont Ave, NW – 202-667-2667).
  • Doors open at 6:30 p.m. -- Open Seating -- Vendors, Food, CD’s, Meet our Guests
  • On the Stage Starting at 8:00 p.m.
  • The Cardozo High School Marching Band’s Tribute to Chuck and Marvin
  • Tribute to Marvin Gaye—The Original Marquees and Paul Waldron
  • Cardozo Thespians—If Marvin Gaye had Met Chuck Brown at Cardozo…
  • Chuck Brown and the GOGO Sound
    Thanks to Principal Grant and  Cardozo High School for extending an invitation to this celebratory and fun-filled event.
    Bests, Councilmember Jim Graham