Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Help City Dogs Rescue on August 12 at The Heights and other restaurants

Here's a great option to help City Dogs Rescue, a local non-profit, just by eating at The Heights or other restaurants on August 12. You can also meet some local pooches.

Read more below!
Event Name: City Dogs Rescue EatWell Dining Night OutEvent Date: Monday, August 12, 2013Event Time: 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. 
Event Details: Come out to eat on Monday, August 12th and 15% of your bill will go to City Dogs Rescue, a local non-profit dog rescue organization saving dogs from high kill shelters to find them a permanent and loving home in the D.C. area. Participating restaurants are The Heights, Logan Tavern, Grillfish, Commissary and The Pig. Make a reservation for dinner or grab some friends for happy hour and help save some dogs in need. Adoptable dogs will be at each restaurant location the night-of, so come by to grab a drink and pet a pup! 
Reservation links: 
For more information visit or like us on Facebook at

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

New Mike Isabella sandwich shop/fancy Italian restaurant, G Sandwich Shop, open at 14th and W

Do you like sandwiches? (Who doesn't?) In celebrity chef Mike Isabella's latest bid to take over the corner of 14th and W, he just opened a half-sandwich shop, half-upscale Italian place called G Sandwich Shop, next to his new Greek restaurant Kapnos.

The idea is that it's a reasonably priced sandwich shop during the day, and a fancier Italian place at night. The sandwich shop opened on the 26th, while the tasting menu at night starts August 3rd.

The sandwiches are more economical than neighboring Kapnos -- the grinders/hoagies/subs/heros go from $8 to $13. There are three Italian subs, a chicken parm, meatball sub and Italian hero, some healthy ones like roast turkey with spinach, roasted cauliflower, and chicken salad with sprouts and avocado, plus two panini and fancier ones like a sucking pig sandwich, spiced baby goat, and lamb (which sounds similar to Kapnos next door.) There's also a "breakfast mac" with duck egg, house made taylor ham, muenster cheese, and duck fat English muffins, plus other items are available like salads, roasted vegetables and sweets. They also will serve beer and wine and house-made soda.

Then starting Aug. 3, they'll have a tasting menu at night for $40 with various non-sandwich Italian dishes, and Sundays there's a "gravy menu", also for $40, which doesn't seem to actually involve gravy.

In short, it sounds pretty terrific (and looks pretty terrific too, check out DCist's photo and the one on G's website, also pictured above.)

Something else cool about this is that it actually solves one of the What We're Missing ideas some commenters had mentioned -- a good Italian restaurant in the neighborhood.

G Sandwich shop is located at 2201 14th Street NW, next to Kapnos, and here are their hours:
Sandwich Shop: Everyday 11am-4pm
Tasting Menu: W-TH 5:30pm-10pm | F-SA: 5:30pm-11pm | SU Gravy: 5pm-10pm
Here's more about Isabella, who also owns Graffiato in Chinatown.

Monday, July 29, 2013

UPDATE: Cat is found. Missing cat at Meridian Place & Holmead: have you seen Rosie?

UPDATE: The cat has been found. Thanks all!

Uh oh, there's a missing cat from near Holmead & Meridian Place. Here's more info:
LOST - black and brown TABBY CAT

patch of white on upper chest
green eyes
Name: Rosiespayed female
Weight:  10-13lbs
Age: 13yo
Last seen:  Fri. afternoon July 26
Where: 1300 block of Meridian Place @ Holmead Place NW, north Columbia Heights
No collar, no microchip.

If you see her, please call/text Matt at 202-210-6069 or Laina at 202-390-3247.

We miss our cat and want her home.

Thank you.

Derby Prom at the Red Derby on Aug 10: cheap drinks, music, photobooth

This sounds like fun! The Red Derby is hosting Derby Prom on August 10th starting at 8 pm. There's going to be music and a photobooth, and the flyer promises a cheap date.

I haven't been to any of the Derb's events, but considering the place's usual laid back and fun vibe, I bet it'll be a good time.

The Red Derby is at  3718 14th Street NW.

What We're Missing: A coffee shop on Georgia Avenue

Starbucks This is kind of an interesting one -- a reader mentioned on the post about small business loans (want one? Check it out) that they'd like a coffee shop on Georgia north of Park Road -- so in Park View.

It's a good question. Columbia Heights Coffee and the Coupe are on 11th near Park, and Harrar Coffee Roasters is at Georgia and Harvard. Then farther up there's Qualia at Georgia and Randolph, so that does leave a bit of a gap, especially if you live east of Georgia.

Rock Creek Market at 646 Rock Creek Church Rd NW does sell coffee, but it's to-go, not an actual coffee shop.

I think a full service coffee shop in Park View would be great, what do you think? And can you think of other things that we're missing? You can see the full list here. Here's a map of the spots in that area.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Have or want to start a small business near Georgia Ave? Meeting tonight about getting city grant money

If you'd like to start a small business, or already own one, the city may be able to help. The Great Streets Small Business Capital Improvement Funding Program has grants of up to $85,000 for local small businesses. They have a number of meetings about the program, and one is tonight at the Banneker Rec Center, 2500 Georgia Avenue, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm.

The Great Streets program aims to improve a few of the city's main commercial corridors: "support existing small businesses, attract new businesses, increase the District’s tax base and create new jobs for District residents." Georgia Avenue/7th Street NW is the one in our area.

However, it doesn't just include those businesses on Georgia, it is actually a corridor -- the map is here. So if you have a business near Georgia, you may be eligible.

The city's flyer is here, which also includes future meetings (the one after today's is at Ft. Stevens Rec Center on August 5th), and here are some of the rules for who's eligible:
Eligible applicants must:
Own a retail or service business within the approved boundaries
Be a registered business in Good Standing with the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), the Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR), the Department of Employment Services (DOES) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
Own or otherwise possess site control of the subject property
Possess proof of property and liability insurance 
What businesses are ineligible?
Ineligible businesses include businesses not  within the Great Streets boundaries, liquor stores,
nightclubs, bars, banks, hotels, and non-profits

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Latin American restaurant El Atardecer coming to 14th and Otis has some local opposition

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a contentious ANC 1A meeting where some angry people came to protest against El Atardecer, a new Latin American restaurant coming to 3475 14th Street NW. You may remember that this used to be DC Fish Carryout, the restaurant that served as a front for a crack dealing operation.

In short, El Atardecer applied for a sidewalk cafe license and the ANC opposed -- not because the are against it per se, but because they wanted to negotiate with the restaurant for shorter hours, which is what normally happens. The city's laws say you can stay open until 2 or 3 am in some cases, but the ANCs negotiate that down, usually to around 11pm or midnight. That negotiation is presumably going on now, and they'll come back to the ANC in September.

The owner (a single mom who was at the ANC meeting) also owns La Morenita on Georgia Avenue so they've gone through the process before. The owner said El Atardecer would be a family restaurant, not a club.

However, some neighbors are opposed. One very angry guy who said he lives next door was worried about drunk people and rats in the property, noise and crime. He and another neighbor also said they can hear the music in the restaurant during construction, so he suspects it will be loud. When the owner said they applied to be open until 2 am, the angry guy yelled something about how is that for families? The ANC commish for the area, Laina Aquiline, attempted to defuse the guy's fury, saying she wasn't aware of these complaints, and that they should tell her so she can work with the owners.

The guy also said he was worried that crime would continue, that it was a crack den before and the people who use the drugs still hang out nearby. ANC commish Dottie Love Wade objected to that point, saying the new owners have nothing to do with the Fish Carryout, and that "if it was the [Meridian] Pint I don't think it'd be a problem," which drew applause from the crowd.

I think that's a valid point too, that just because a restaurant is in the same location as crime, it doesn't mean there's going to be crime. The implication Wade had was that if it was a place that catered to the folks who go to Meridian Pint rather than the largely Latin America target demographic of El Atardecer, nobody would complain. That's also true.

I think the angry guy also did himself a disservice by being so furious the whole time and attempting to question everything and everyone. He was the same angry guy complaining about the plan for the Coupe's sidewalk seating: when he asked about noise at 7 am, when they plan to open the sidewalk seating, the rep from the said she didn't think any rowdy people would show up. The angry guy screamed back, "well when do the rowdy people show up!!" The rep was confused and said there really aren't any rowdy people. A pretty bizarre outburst.

However, noise may not be the only issue. A neighbor emailed me the other day saying that La Morenita, the other place El Atardecer's owners run, has had some health code violations. I'm not sure this applies to the earlier complaints, aside from maybe the rat issue. Here's what he had to say.
Thanks for your coverage of the ANC meeting this week – you had a great summary of what went on.  As a follow up to your points on the “El Atardecer” restaurant, I wanted to share some information with you about the owners and their existing restaurant, “La Morenita.”First of all, just do a simple Google search (“dc department of health violations la morenita”) or “la morenita violations” and you will find tons of health code violations.  Check out these sources:
1.      Want to Know Where Not to Eat? New Tool Maps Restaurant Inspections and Health Code Violations, DCist, 
“Over the last year, for example, it's easy to discover that Chinatown's Bistro Med is the worst violator in town, with 56 violations and seven inspections. August 30, for example, wasn't a good day for the restaurant—it got nailed with seven violations ranging from no soap at a handwashing sink to live cockroaches. La Morenita on Georgia Avenue isn't far behind with 47 violations.” 
This story, specifically enumerated “La Morenita” as one of the top recent health code violators in the entire district 

2.      Pest Problems Among Food Violations That Prompt Closures in Washington Restaurants, WUSA9,
The DC Department of Health hit “La Morenita” with so many violations that the restaurant was forced to closed down as recently as May 29th because of the severity of these violations.  This story of “La Morenita’s” closing was featured as part of a news program on WUSA television – please see the embedded video in the 1:35 mark. 
You can also check out:  D.C., Md., Va. health code violations, The Washington Post,   

3.      Attached are two recent complaints from the DC DOH and you will note that.  You can see that, due to the presence of rodents, “La Morenita” has a history of violating Provision 36 of the DOH’s Good Retail Practices. (Here are the links to those, from 2012 and 2013.)

So there's that. In general I'm in favor of new businesses, and if this is a good neighbor and productive place that obeys rules and isn't noisy or messy, I say let them open. What do you think?

Power outages in the neighborhood last night: did yours go out?

Just after midnight today, there were some power outages in the neighborhood. Despite there bring no storms that I could see, my house and seemingly the block lost power. It came on again a few hours later, but then went out again and back on at maybe 5 am.

Kind of a sucky morning and night, and according to Pepco, about 120 customers are still without power. The most I saw during the night was 500-something, but I only checked a couple of times. Luckily it wasn't too hot overnight.

So did you lose power? If you do, there are a few ways to report it: if during business hours you can tweet at them, @pepcoconnect, and at any time you can call them, 1-877-737-2662, report it on their website, or use their mobile app. I used the website but it told me there were no current outages where I lived, so I tried the phone. It took forever and after using the automated system it put me on hold for an operator and after 15 minutes I gave up. 

Then today about 11 am I got a phone call saying it was restored. Weird.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Trying out Car2Go: about the same price as cabs, sometimes more convenient

A few months ago I signed up for Car2Go, the newish shared car service. It's sort of like Zipcar, you reserve a car for a short amount of time, but unlike Zipcar you can drop off the car anywhere in DC that's a legal parking space, and they charge you by the minute. They use only Smart Cars, the little bitty city cars, and you don't have to worry about gas or anything unless it's really low.

So far I've really liked it. I've done a few trips, and in each case it's about the same price as a cab. It seems to be more economical for longer trips -- I took one from Columbia Heights to 22nd Street NE via another friend's house, a total of 6 miles, for $12, which I would assume is cheaper than a cab. Other trips, from G Street downtown to northern Columbia Heights was about $12 (cabs are usually $11-$13 for the same trip), and from 13th and U to northern Columbia Heights for $9, so that's a little more than a cab.

They charge $0.38 a minute, or up to $13.99 for an hour. For longer trips, it goes to $0.45 a minute after 150 miles, or $79.99 for a whole day. You can drive them out of the city (so maybe good for a little road trip), but you have to park them back in the city. You can also park them in residential zoned parking spaces with no problem, they have a deal with the city.

The Smart cars themselves take a little getting used to, the gas and brakes are kind of herky-jerky, and the suspension is really bumpy. They also are quite small -- I had a tough time fitting a big box in the passenger seat -- so they're really only good for you and a friend to scoot around.

There's also sometimes a demand problem -- a buddy who takes them frequently likes to show a map that shows Columbia Heights in the morning as a donut hole where there are no cars. I haven't had a problem finding them, but I've also not used them in the morning rush hour. The evening one has been fine though, I've only had to walk a couple of blocks at most.

In short, I'm a fan. Have you used it? What do you think?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Jokes at Wonderland on Friday: Don't Block the Box Comedy Show

If you like jokes, get yourself to Wonderland on Friday for Don't Block the Box, a comedy night based in the neighborhood. It starts at 7:30.
It's that time again ya'll! Wonderland is the place to be for a great night of comedy, drinks and dancing.  
Randolph Terrance (XM/Sirius Radio,, BET) 
Ryan Schutt (Russia Today, Al Jazeera) Becca Steinhoff (Laugh Your Asheville Off Comedy Festival) Jose Sanchez (World Famous Comedy Store, State Theater)
HOSTED BYReggie Melbrough (PBS, DC Improv)

Cool old car on Spring Road: Chevy Monte Carlo

Cool car

So this might not earth-shattering news, but I thought it was a cool ride. I've spotted this green Chevrolet Monte Carlo on Spring Road a few times, and snapped a couple pictures today. Pretty awesome.

Thanks to Wikipedia, it looks like a 1973-1975 model, though I'm no expert. Anybody else care to weigh in?

Cool car

Monday, July 22, 2013

New antique and vintage furniture store, Urban Bespoke, opens in old Black Eyed Susie location on 14th

New shop

 It was too bad when local vintage store Black Eyed Susie at 14th and Meridian closed late last year, but this weekend I noticed a new tenant -- Urban Bespoke, which advertises "antique &; mid-century furniture and home goods." The sign I saw on Sunday said it was their grand opening.

I can't find much on them online, but there is an online business by the same name that sells a lot of the same things, so I assume that's them.

The Black Eyed Susie sign is still up, but I would best they'll put up their own shortly. It looks like they may be selling some of the clothes from Black Eyed Susie. They're located at 3443 14th Street NW.

UPDATE: I heard from them, they said they opened on Saturday and their core merchandise will be antique furnishings, art and home-ware, plus a bit of men's vintage attire. Their sign should arrive soon. Until they sell all of their clothes (which aren't Black Eyed Susie's, so my guess was wrong), there will be a $3 sale, which sounds like a good deal!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sunday is National Ice Cream Day: get $4 milkshakes and pie a la mode at the Coupe

Just in time for the terrible hot weather, the Coupe is taking part in National Ice Cream Day on Sunday. The deal is $3.95 milkshakes or pie a la mode. 

Sounds like a good one to me. They have some tasty pies, too.

The Coupe is at 3415 11th Street NW.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Banneker Pool open til 8:30 today

Thanks god! The Banneker pool at 2600 Georgia Ave NW (at Euclid) will be open late today to help you beat the heat. The city's Dept. of Parks and Rec announced that and extended hours for other pools.

It seems this is just for Friday and not Saturday, unfortunately.

And remember it's free for DC residents: bring your DC drivers license, voter card or utility bill with a DC address.

Guest post: Columbia Heights in 1998 and today

14th, Kenyon & Park in 2002 by Michael Wilkinson
by Omari Daniels

Columbia Heights? It’s great now, but no one used to live here!

Ridiculous assertion, but not an unfair one. To introduce myself, I’m one of those rare District people called locals. Yes, believe it or not- there are people who live in D.C. who are from here and did not just assimilate after graduating college, making them bona-fide experts of every nook and cranny of the city. We are indeed a rare breed.

Columbia Heights today is a bastion of shops, a dance center, restaurants and an increasingly diverse neighborhood, but this area did not always appear as vibrant. In fact, you could almost call it a ghost town. Don’t believe me? Well, a snarky local coming down on the optimistic tourist could make for a very grumpy read.

So let’s read.

I moved out to Columbia Heights with my folks in the first half of 1998 to start middle school at St. Augustine Catholic School. Folks lived along Irving or the surrounding streets, but driving through or riding the 52/54 bus through Columbia Heights meant passing giant holes in the ground, accompanied by “Coming Soon” signs. Two separate Green Lines existed at this time, with one going from Anacostia to U Street/Cardozo and the other from Fort Totten to Greenbelt. The Columbia Heights and Georgia Avenue/Petworth Metros were just far off dreams.

Victory Heights, 14th and Irving. Used to be a
spot where kids played. Now for adults.
Try and see it, or what would have been. No Target or Best Buy, no Z-Burger, no bars next to a convenient IHOP. You’d have to trek to Gallery Place or Foggy Bottom for your Chipotle fix. Want to take your kids out to the fountain at the Columbia Heights Civic Plaza? Have to make the trek up 14th street until you reached the pool at 14th and Colorado. On the off chance you wanted to move here, you couldn’t look up and see folks partying on the terraces atop The Heights. Children played in the vacant lot on Irving just east of 14th, which is now Victory Heights.

Interested in your child taking up dance lessons? Well, I'd have to give you directions since Columbia Heights does not have a studio up here. Cleaners? I believe one used to be at the intersection of 13th and U Street across from what is now the Dunkin’ Donuts, but nothing up here. Sorry.

Radio Shack? Bed, Bath and Beyond? Lime Fresh? Have to head up to either Tenleytown or Wheaton Plaza for your shopping needs. Oh, and waiting for the last Yellow Line of the night to take you up to Fort Totten so you can transfer to the Red Line? Or hoping the Rush Plus service will guarantee you a quick visit to Prince George’s Plaza? Sorry, kid, but this Yellow Line terminates at Mt. Vernon Square. And what the heck is Rush Plus?

Columbia Heights
Facade on Irving Street, 2006. Later part of DCUSA. Kyle Walton
Wait, come back! I’m not finished! Don’t turn away- look at it! It’s barren, isn’t it? Who indeed would choose to move here after graduating from college? Bet the giant price tags of Georgetown, Foggy Bottom or Dupont Circle look pretty appealing.

But this is what it was: Columbia Heights in a primitive state. You made the most of what you had and spent your money elsewhere.

However, I’m not always an unfair cynic when it comes to discussing my hometown and its overnight development. Given Metro’s still-relevant track record with delays while they continue to improve the Metro experience at the expense of your patience -- paraphrasing, but you get the point -- I did not expect Columbia Heights to flourish anytime soon. I have been proven wrong before: both Franconia-Springfield and Glenmont, two stations under development for as long as I could remember, opened after a long wait. Soon enough, the same happened with Columbia Heights.

And then someone hit the Fast Forward button on what you folks call a DVD player, but we refer to it as a high-tech VCR.

September 18th, 1999: Columbia Heights Metro station opens for the Green Line. With that brought new visitors to the area, but still nothing to call Columbia Heights a neighborhood where you’d want to live. The tourist still doesn't mark Columbia Heights on their places to visit, not because it’s not a booming residential area, but because it’s lacking in DC paraphernalia.

But if the living adverts in The Express are an indication of anything, a nearby Metro station means apartments and homes. And with apartments and homes come businesses. And with businesses come jobs.

DCUSA today
The idea of a Best Buy, Target or anything resembling a mall or shopping center in my neck of the woods still baffled me. Why here? There’s no market for a shopping center here since most folks shop elsewhere. No way could you get the popularity and demographics of, say, Georgetown or Foggy Bottom. No offense to residents of either of those areas- they’re fantastic places, but they’re also easy targets for an unsuccessful attempt to be snarky.

Another far off dream that would take years to come to fruition.

In his 2008 piece, entitled “A Rapid Renaissance in Columbia Heights,” Washington Post writer Paul Schwartzman started off by saying “To stand at 14th Street and Park Road in Northwest Washington is to behold a new world created at whiplash speed.” Whiplash is the correct word. Someone at DC USA saw something in Columbia Heights worth developing, but again, having a Metro station has to factor into that. Would stations like Gallery Place, Pentagon City, Silver Spring or Clarendon be as popular as they are if they were not surrounded by restaurants, apartments or bars and movie theaters? Doubtful.

The same I will say for Columbia Heights. Prior to around 2005 and 2006, the Metro station just provided a means to get from Point A to Point B, not to set up shop. Sure, the Tivoli Theater had a brief jolt when it reopened in the mid-2000s, before it housed the Z-Burger, but few businesses could open here and thrive unless they appealed to the base demographic living here at the time: a demographic that continued to find business elsewhere and handed its money to downtown DC or sought entertainment in Maryland or Virginia. That drove money away from Columbia Heights, so how indeed could such an area flourish if the few residents have no reason to invest?

You put a shopping center here, some apartments there, here a bar, there a restaurant, everywhere another car blocking the intersection at 14th and Irving and you get the Columbia Heights of today. The game changed and more folks flocked to the area.
You know the Giant at 14th and Park? Would you believe that a Giant used to exist where the Allegro Apartments stand right now? It happened.

Now the neighborhood is not flawless. We still had the shooting at the IHOP last March. Heck, just two Saturdays ago, as I walked home, I saw a group of women get robbed by a man who they said had a gun. He ran off toward towards the church at the end of 16th Street. Point is that despite the neighborhood’s development, the mixing bowl of races that have diversified what used to be a predominantly Black population; Columbia Heights still has a lot of the crime that makes people hesitant to move into these areas.

I’m reminded of native Washingtonian Dave Chappelle’s 2000 comedy special, “Killin Them Softly,” when he talked about leaving DC in the 1980s. Whites would look from their binoculars, afar in Virginia, and conclude that DC was still a dangerous place to live. Now folks ride their bikes and jog through Columbia Heights at night, take their dogs for walks, stop by FroZenYo for an afternoon treat before heading downtown to hit the clubs. Hint-hint, nudge-nudge, say no more, folks. You know what to do.

What’s happening in Columbia Heights is a trend I’ve seen expand throughout most sections of Northwest DC. When locals of the “Chocolate City” becoming more of a Swirl City, it’s evident just looking at whose moving into the neighborhood. The city that they and I have known for years is changing, but in my opinion, not for the worst. More money remains in the city and the District begins to look like a whole rather than just downtown symbolizing the District of Columbia.

Like everything else, here used to be nothing but empty space.
Columbia Heights is having its identity reshaped rather than removed altogether. I’ll admit it’s a prettier sight to see businesses bustling rather than signs telling me that Columbia Heights Metro station will be coming soon. Folks stick around here now. I’ve stuck around since 1998 and have enjoyed the neighborhood’s evolution. Despite having next to nothing to draw folks in, for me, it was a good enough place to live then and it’s a better place to live now.

Just not better than Georgetown or Foggy Bottom.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Free milkshakes at Z-Burger today from 2-6pm! Just say "ZHeatwave"

You don't need me to tell you that it's hot out there. Z-Burger, which has a location in the Tivoli building at 14th and Park, is trying to help -- they're giving out free regular-sized milkshakes today (Thursday) from 2-6pm.

I went to Z-Burger a bit ago and really enjoyed it, and they have 75 flavors of milkshake. I tried the mango kiwi one last time, and it was awesome. 

To get said shake, all you have to do is say "ZHeatwave." I assume that's like zee-heat wave, but maybe more like zeatwave or "sheatwave" but with a z instead of s. In any case I'm sure they'll know what you mean.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Street Booze: 1800 Coconut Tequila on Spring Road

Street booze on Spring

It's been awhile since we've done a Street Booze, where we document random booze bottles strewn about the neighborhood. Usually it's a beer or small bottle of booze, but in this case, somebody went upscale (sort of) with a big bottle (about a foot tall) of 1800 brand premium tequila.

It's kind of strange, in what circumstance do you sit on the street with your buddies, swigging from a bottle of fancy tequila. This block, the 1300 block of Spring Road NW, has alley trash collection too, so it's not like it fell out of a recycling bin.

And to make it weirder, it's coconut-flavored tequila. That sounds disgusting.

Curious about more Street Booze? Check out the archive.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Winston the Skateboarding Bulldog returns: an interview with his owner!

You may remember a few months ago when I posted about Winston the Skateboarding Dog -- a local bulldog, he rides around the neighborhood on his skateboard. Questlove of the Roots was in town a few months ago and spotted Winston, snapping his picture on Instagram. I dubbed him the coolest dog in Columbia Heights (or maybe the world.)

A bit ago, Winston's owner James Turner got in touch with me and agreed to answer a few question about Winston, how he learned to skateboard, and more. Thanks to James, and enjoy everybody!

How long have you had Winston? How did you find him?

Winston is seven, but don't tell him, and originally from Colombia, South America. He has three daddies and multiple uncles. His original owner passed Winston's care to Bruce Arnold and myself. After 20 years, I had little interest in a dog, but Winston quickly changed that opinion. Even as a puppy he had huge personality. Bruce lives at 1st and U St, NW, where Winston spends most of his time.

 Winston is well socialized and believes he has multiple homes. So spoiled that he will sometimes decide he wants to stay where he is visiting and pick him up later, especially with one of his Uncles with a pool.

How did you discover his skateboarding talents?

One evening, Bruce was over and we saw a skateboarding bulldog on TV. Thinking no one is smarter than Winston, we rushed to Target to get him a Spongebob skateboard. He immediately took to it, did not really know what it was, but he was determined to figure it out. Within a few weeks he was able to push himself along and to ride. His talents improved over time, he got better skateboards, and now his own custom-built.

You said he prefers the skateboard to walking, can you tell us more?

Skateboarding isn't his only sport. He loves playing ball -- well, taking the basketball or soccer ball and pushing it around. Bruce had taken him to the area near DCA, while getting out of the car and grabbing the skateboard, Winston saw a soccer game, ran onto the field and took the ball and began pushing it around. Needless to say, it stopped the game and certainly got attention.

I know Questlove from the Roots took a photo of Winston, have you had any other celebrity interactions or publicity?

Bruce and friends had stopped by Palace Five to get Winston's skateboard tuned-up. Just happened that Questlove was in the area. Did not know it was him until saw his posting. Videos and photos are the norm when he is out. Being the ham he is, he will almost stop and pose.

And how can somebody each teach their dog to skateboard?

Bulldogs, center of gravity, are naturals for all types of boarding. Some say it is just another way they find to avoid exercise and ride around.

 Winston was fortunate to also have a trainer, aka walker, who takes him boarding with a focus on improving his skills. Devin Miller, (, see banner photo,) is fabulous with Winston, and don't trust just anyone with the little fella.

I would suggest medical insurance not just for the usual problems but also sports injuries. Winston jumped while boarding and sprained wrist, (see picture) which took him out of commission for 8 weeks (and was he cranky).

The injury was last summer. He's now pawing through brochures for Alaksan Cruises.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pro-Walmart group passing out flyers at the Metro against Large Retailer Accountability Act, not identifying themselves

It seems a group founded and funded by Walmart is flyering our area against a bill that would force them to pay higher wages, but aren't identifying themselves.

This morning a friend went to the Georgia Avenue-Petworth Metro today and was asked to email the mayor "because the Large Retailer Accountability Act is driving a large retailer out of the city." It was unclear if they had a petition or not but my friend picked up a flyer (posted here, click it to read it.) My friend said it was obvious the lady with the clipboard was talking about Walmart but not actually saying it.

The sneaky part about this is the group doing the flyering: the flyer doesn't say anything about who is behind it, it just has a URL for a webpage where people can email Mayor Gray. The webpage is titled "Don't Block DC Progress," which it turns out was a group started by Walmart themselves.

The flyer basically says it's bad for the DC economy to pass the bill, which mandates that retailers that make more than $1 billion in revenue a year pay employees at stores larger than 75,000 square feet $12.50 per hour. That basically only applies to Walmart in the city, and in response to the DC Council passing the bill, Walmart announced they were not opening their three planned DC stores.

This tactic rubs me the wrong way. I think if Walmart wants to make this case, they should make it as Walmart, not as some shadowy supposed citizen's group.

Of course, this doesn't get to the issue of Walmart in the city in general -- it would be bad for local small businesses, but would arguably be more efficient in the grand scheme of things and would bring lots of jobs to those Walmarts. But would those jobs equal out the losses for low businesses? Would the workers be DC residents at all? I've seen a lot small towns with ghostly, vacant downtowns while there's a bustling Walmart at a highway interchange. Of course, you could argue that Columbia Heights doesn't have much local retail, but places like Mt. Pleasant and Georgia Avenue (especially in Petworth) do.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Meridian Hill Historic District: coming soon to a Meridian Hill near you?

Are you historic? This week there was a brief presentation at the ANC 1A meeting about an effort to declare the area around Meridian Hill Park a historic district. The idea would be to preserve a lot of the historic buildings there, places like the Josephine Butler Parks Center (pictured above in an old painting), current and former embassies on 15th and 16th Street, historic churches and apartment buildings, many from the 1950s or earlier, and Meridian Hill Park itself. (John F. Kennedy and his sister lived in apartment 502 or 542 in the Dorchester House, for example.)

The area was largely developed by Mary Henderson and her husband Sen. John Henderson, who wanted it to become Embassy Row, and even hoped the White House would move there. They were partially successful in the first, as there were and still are a fair amount of Embassies here, mostly Latin American (and as you may recall, Fidel Castro was at the park in the 60s visiting the Cuban Embassy, now the Swiss Embassy's Cuban Interest Section.) The Hendersons also built the huge Henderson Castle on 16th north of Florida. The castle is no longer there, but the red stone battlements and towers along 16th Street are a legacy of that.

There weren't really any questions from the crowd, and the ANC voted unanimously to approve a resolution supporting it. I was actually surprised nobody complained, since if you're in a historic district there are additional "historic review" rules about renovations, construction, additions and such. However, looking at the actual borders of the proposed district (see below) there are very few single-family homes in it.

The ANC also has a Powerpoint on the district, which you can download here. It has a few points as to why you should designate a historic area and why is historic review important?
Why Designate?
•Maintains Community Character and Sense of Place
•Promotes Rehabilitation and Restoration
•Allows for Community Involvement in Managing Change
•Promotes Civic Pride 
Why Historic Review?
•Helps to Ensure Compatibility with the Historic Character of the District
•Minimizes the Loss of Historic Building Materials and Fabric
•Helps Maintain Important Views
In short, I hope this goes through, as there is certainly a lot worth preserving. I'm not sure the actual process, the city's website isn't very clear on it, but I imagine it includes the Office of Planning and city's Historic Preservation Review Board.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Coupe looking to open up sidewalk seating

The Coupe

At last night's long and contentious ANC 1A meeting (more on that later) representatives from the Coupe spoke, mentioning that they were hoping to have sidewalk seating on 11th.

They're planning on 50 seats total in 25 tables and they're hoping for 7am-11pm Mon-Thu, 7am-1pm Friday, Sat 8am-1am and Sunday 9am-11pm. It wasn't clear if that would also be the alcohol-serving hours.

Some folks in the audience and commissioners asked some questions about it. One guy asked how many people who work there live in DC, and rep estimated that 92% are from DC and many live in Columbia Heights, Petworth, Mt. Pleasant or Adams Morgan. Another super angry guy took offense to the representative's statement that she didn't expect any rowdy people to be there in the morning. "So when do the rowdy customers show up!" the angry guy yelled. The rep was pretty confused and basically said that they don't have many rowdy customers, they do a good job making sure people are quiet and calm. The angry guy was there to protest against El Atardecer, a new Latin American restaurant coming to the old DC Fish Carryout space (more on that later too), so I guess he was already wound up, and he also had some outbursts at other things. Luckily most people just said "ok, noted" and went one with their business.

But anyway, back to the seats. I think it sounds great -- one neighbor said he goes there in the mornings for coffee and would really like to be able to sit outside. The rep said there would be 6 feet of space between the seats and the street, which is the same as Meridian Pint. There will be movable chairs, tables and barriers, and they'll stack them when they're done, like Meridian Pint and Room 11.

In the end, the ANC voted 5-4 to support their sidewalk cafe license application, which is only part of the process -- they still need an alcohol license for the sidewalk. The timing is up in the air too since it depends on hearings and such.

Photo by Evan Gray

Today is free Slurpee day at 7-Eleven until 7pm

Do you like free things? Do you like Slurpees? If you answered yes, you're in luck. Today is 7-Eleven's free Slurpee day (It's 7/11/2013, after all.)

And luckily there are a number of 11-Sevens around our neighborhood: 14th and Columbia, Mt. Pleasant and Kenyon, Georgia and Shepherd and 12th and U. But since they stop giving them away at 7pm, you better run.

And fittingly, the free ones are 7.11 ounces. I hope the 14th and Columbia store has more operating machines than usual -- most of the time I go in there (which admittedly isn't too often) most of the machines are either broken or just dispense watery juicy stuff.

But hey, it's free. Here's a map of all the 7-Elevens in the city:

View Larger Map

Columbia Heights Day is selling cool DC flag shirts, you should buy one

Columbia Heights Day, our neighborhood's awesome annual celebration, doesn't just happen -- it requires a lot of time and effort. And as a cool fundraiser, the organizers, the Columbia Heights Day Initiative, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, is selling DC flag tank tops. They look pretty awesome, so pick (or more) up. They come in both black and red and look great.

Seems like an awesome option for the super hot DC summer and at the same time help our neighborhood's festival continue to be fun for the whole family. That's a cliche, but in this case it's true -- previous fests have included food trucks and drink specials for adults, bands, cupcake eating contests, face painting, a petting zoo!? What more could you want.

You can read more about the event, which is in this year's planning phase, here. It'll happen Oct 5, 2013.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

9:30 Club owners take over Lincoln Theatre

Lincoln Theatre and Ben's Chili Bowl This is pretty great news for music fans in the area: IMP, the company that runs the 9:30 Club and  Merriweather Post Pavilion and books some shows for the U Street Music Hall, will be running the Lincoln Theatre on U Street.

The theatre, located next to Ben's Chili Bowl, was formerly run by various groups, and not very well -- it was dark most nights and closed after the city cut off subsidies because it was losing money.

The building itself is really nice, however: I saw Sigur Ros there a few years ago and it was really a good place to see a seated show, with ornate and impressive fixings and good acoustics (check out this photo for a better idea.) The few things it has hosted have included comedy shows and film screenings recently.

I'm pretty happy that it was IMP, which has proved to be a good local company. The 9:30 Club is a really well-run venue and often wins awards (although their beer is too expensive for me) and Merriweather Post is also a great spot to see a show. Their press release sounds like they're thrilled too.

They've already announced a few shows for the 1200-seat theatre, which seems like it would be a good spot for seated shows and things that would normally go to Sixth and I or maybe the Fillmore in Silver Spring. The first shows are Laura Marling, Travis KT Tunstall, Matt Nathanson, and Neko Case. Seems like a mellow/alt country vibe. I'd like to see Travis there, seems like a good fit. Hopefully no squid throwing, though.

Photo by NCinDC

The Sherman Ave. Streetscape reconstruction is done, and it's pretty darn nice

Sherman Avenue is looking a lot better these days. The city has just finished the Sherman Avenue Streetscape Project, where they added wider sidewalks, medians with baby trees, bike sharrows (the arrows that make it clear that cars should share the road) and other fixes to the formerly woebegone street. The improvements were on the entire length of Sherman, between Park Road and Florida Avenue.

The plan also reduced the number of traffic lanes from 4 to 2 in order to reduce the amount and speed of traffic on the street, which city officials described as a "raceway" before. (This is a pretty common method for traffic calming, as for some reason people drive slower on fewer, narrower lanes.)

There was a ribbon cutting on Tuesday, attended by Mayor Gray, Ward 1 councilman Graham, DDOT director Bellamy and various other local bigwigs.

I've only heard a few complaints from locals, mainly that some plants are already dead or need to be maintained better, but in general, this was a sorely needed fix -- Sherman was kind of a dump before.

And it seems to be helping (or at least not hurting), as a new restaurant, the Hilltop, is coming to Sherman and Georgia, and a lot of the abandoned houses are getting fixed up or torn down and rebuilt. Of course this isn't just because of the streetscape improvements, but the improvements do make it a lot nicer to walk around, and foot traffic is important for more local businesses to come in.

Jim Graham also posted a list of the improvements and some photos. Here are the improvements:
The following changes were made to Sherman Ave Northwest between Park Road and Florida Avenue:-Reconstruction of pavement between Barry Place and Park Road Sherman Avenue.
-Provide special higher visibility pedestrian crosswalks, new traffic signals and streetlights to improve pedestrian safety.
-Widening of sidewalks; new granite curbs and gutters where needed.
-Reconstruction of wheelchair ramps to comply with ADA requirements.
-The inclusion of curb bump-outs at intersections and the new median provide a shorter crossing distance for pedestrians.
-Construction of a “Green” median with trees and low maintenance shrubs, ornamental grasses and perennials.
-Utility upgrades include the installation of a new water main, service leads and meters.
-Streetscape features include trash receptacles, bike racks, and tree protection (fences).
-Wider travel lanes “Sharrow” to allow room for bicyclists.
-Installation of a new water main under the roadway.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

It's hot! Get your kids to the spray parks (and Columbia Heights fountain)

The weather is warming up, but we're lucky in that the city has not one but three spray parks in our area. The parks are basically outdoor places that spray water in the air for kids to play in.

The Department of Parks and Recreation's website has a map of the parks in the city, and the three near us are the Girard Rec Center at 1480 Girard Street NW, the Girard Street Park at the corner of 14th and Girard, and they consider the Columbia Heights Civic Plaza's fountain (at 14th and Park) one too.

Even more helpfully, they have hours for when the parks are open. Most are open during the day, which is good. The fountain, which is always fun to go to when it's on, as little kids having fun in the water is adorable, is open Sun-Fri from 10am-7pm and 3-7pm on Sunday. The Girard Street Rec Center's park is closed Sundays, open 11am-7pm Mon-Fri and 11am-4pm on Saturday, while the 14th and Girard Park is open every day 10am-7pm.

Should be a good option for those folks with kids (or I guess kids, if they read this blog?)

Where did you watch the fireworks?

Local fireworks The 4th, one of my favorite holidays, has come and gone. I was out of town for it, but wanted to see where people watched the fireworks in and around our area.

I wondered if a usual spot, 13th Street next to Cardozo High School, would still be a good one for fireworks since the construction going on there. Another good spot would be the Old Soldiers Home, who've opened up for a couple of years now. And of course, somebody's rooftop is always good.

But maybe there are other spots? Where did you go? Let everybody know in the comments.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The time Fidel Castro hung out in Columbia Heights

Viva la Revolucion en el Parque Meridian Hill!

That was the scene (maybe) in 1959 at Meridian Hill Park, when a 32-year old Fidel Castro paid a visit to DC. He was staying at the Cuban Embassy at 2630 16th Street NW, which is now the Swiss Embassy's Cuban Interests Section. Since the US doesn't have diplomatic relations with Cuba, the building is technically Swiss territory.

Castro was in town just a few months after the Cuban Revolution overthrew Fulgencio Bastista to meet with American diplomats and more. Ghosts of DC has a great post on the visit with photos via Old Time DC (a great Facebook group.) Above is the man himself holding a kid in from Columbia Heights in Meridian Hill Park, and below is a report from the Washington Post and Times Herald that Ghosts of DC dug up. Interesting stuff. 

Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro said yesterday the executions in Cuba are “a lesson for the future.”
The bearded, 32-year-old revolutionary said in an interview at the Cuban Embassy that the people’s faith that the Batista regime leaders would be pubished legally prevented great bloodshed in the final days of the revolt.
The interview took place at the foot of the long, marble staircase in the red-carpeted Embassy foyer, just as the weary Castro was hoping to escape to his room for a brief rest. Through the day, he had been interviewed almost endlessly, mostly by the Spanish press, lunched at the Statler Hotel with Acting Secretary of State Christian Herter, and returned to the Embassy for more interviews and for a walk.
At the luncheon, he told Acting Secretary Herter and others that he hoped the people of the United States would one day “recognize the whole truth of the revolutionary struggle” and said he saw now reason why relations between Cuba and the United States should not be “the best,” and he and Herter exchanged assurances of friendship.
Castro, smiling and at ease most of the day, though perpetually surrounded by a herd of Spanish and American reporters and photographers, was dressed in his usual offhand manner. The collar of his olive green shirt was open. He kept his Army hat on, and he carried a great big Cuban cigar that kept going out.
When he arrived at the Embassy, at 2630 16th st. nw., Wednesday night, he showed the same disdain for security regulations that he had at the airport.
Esther Guzman, Embassy attache, pointed to a crowd of about 150 persons–both Cuban and American and apparently not unfriendly–across the street. She suggested he go up to the balcony and wave.
“I’m no man on a balcony,” Castro snorted, and took off, dodging nimbly through the traffic, to meet the people.
Returning to the Embassy, where a crowd of about 200, all cleared by security guards, awaited him, he went to his third-floor room. flopped on a bed fully clothed, and announced, “I’m tired. Tired.”
And then he began practicing English with one of his party, He was awakened after only a few hours of sleep, at 3:30 a.m., for some more English practice.
“He just rolled over,” an Embassy worker said, “and went back to sleep.”
Up a few hours later, Castro, whose hair isn’t as wild as that of some of his followers found out he needed a comb and a toothbrush, and an aide was dispatched to the drugstore.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Howard University deans, trustees warn that the university is in serious trouble

Howard University It looks like things aren't going too well on the Hilltop.

A few weeks ago, a Howard board of trustees member sent a letter warning that the university, one of the nation's most prestigious historically black colleges, is in serious trouble due to financial and management problems and that "Howard will not be here in three years if we don’t make some crucial decisions now."

The Post reported that in response, Howard's president Sidney A. Rideau issued a statement saying in short, they are working to address problems. The president was unavailable for an interview because he was travelling.

Then earlier this week, senior deans alleged much the same thing, that "fiscal mismanagement is doing irreparable harm" and urging the firing of the chief financial officer and senior administrator Robert M. Tarola. The deans also said an October PricewaterhouseCoopers audit reported "grave concern about the quality of fiscal decision-making" at the university and that there were "certain deficiencies in internal control over financial reporting" and a problem with "internal control over compliance."

Rideau responded to the deans by saying "There is not any kind of mismanagement administratively or financially that is damaging the university. Unequivocally." The Post also reported that Tarola, an independent contractor, had earned almost $500,000 from the university for his services.

I'm no expert, but it seems to me if this many people are complaining about financial mismanagement, there's an issue somewhere.

Obviously I hope this can be resolved, as Howard is a very important part of our area, and has been since it was founded in 1867.

Photo by NCinDC

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Mike Isabella's new Greek restaurant Kapnos opening at 14th and W on July 5

the 14W building Celebrity chef Mike Isabella, who competed in Top Chef and runs the very popular Graffiato in Chinatown and used to be executive chef at Zaytinya,  is coming to our area. Eater reports that his new Greek-influenced restaurant Kapnos is opening soon at 14th and W.

The place is already pretty far along, I passed by this weekend and saw some people milling outside, so maybe they were doing a soft opening.

The website says it's already open, but a press release and Eater says it will be July 5. The press release adds that it's going to be northern Greek cuisine with spit-roasted whole animals and mezze share plates of various kinds. Goat and octopus are in the mix too. You can even get the whole animal brought to your table and carved for you. The menu is here, but without prices -- I venture that it won't be cheap.

There are 160 seats in the spot, which is located in the 14W building.

Drinks-wise, there will be three lemonade cocktails on draft, including one with grilled lemons, plus lots of wine: 150 bottles and 25 by the glass, many from Greece. There will also be house-made bitters and sodas for cocktails, many from regional ingredients, and some of the cocktails will come in jugs for the table. Sounds interesting -- I must admit I'm not super familiar with Greek cocktails.

The space looks pretty nice from their website and the Eater article. I'm definitely looking forward to it. It seems our area is getting to be more of a destination for fancy restaurants -- first Chez Billy, now Kapnos.

(And when I first saw it, I thought it said Kaponos, as in NBA player Jason Kapono was opening a restaurant. That would be pretty weird.)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Howard U. cancels Howard Town Center development agreement -- will it happen?

Mockup from 2009
Well, this stinks. The other day news came that Howard University has canceled the agreement they made with the developers for the Howard Town Center development.

The development would have brought in 445 apartments and 74,000 square feet of retail space, including a grocery store, to a parcel between 8th and Georgia and W and V Streets NW (see map below). Another description had the whole project at 500,000 square feet and $143 million. 

I haven't heard much about this development in some time (most blogs' last posts about it were from 2009, when it was going "lightning speed"), so maybe I should have expected some bad news. My last post about it was from 2009 too.

Howard University tells the City Paper that they had canceled the development contract with developer Cohen Cos. because Cohen had "failed to meet certain benchmarks." They didn't elaborate what those were, and a spokesperson said only "We are assessing to determine the most effective way of achieving the goals established for the Howard Town Center." The Wash Biz Journal adds a statement from the University that "The University's goal is to continue working towards the successful implementation and completion of the Howard Town Center."

Not good. If you were hoping for a grocery store down there, it looks like you had better keep waiting.