Friday, February 28, 2014

Reader question: what are some good CSAs to get produce?

stoneledge farms CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Local Farming Week Twenty-Four CLS_6174

The other day a reader sent me a question --what are some local farms that do CSAs, community supported agriculture, where you subscribe to a farm and regularly (usually weekly) you get a box of food -- veggies, fruits, and sometimes meat, eggs or dairy too.

In the past I've used both Orchard Country Produce and Earth Spring Farm, and generally liked both. Earth Spring had a pickup in Mt. Pleasant while Orchard Country had one convenient to my coworker's office, and both had a lot of good stuff. Of course, I'm no wiz in the kitchen, so it was sometimes tough when we got a whole bunch of some ingredient I didn't know how to use. I like dill, for example, but have no idea what to do with a pound of it. (My solution was to add it to ramen, which probably automatically canceled out any health benefit.

So that's where I ask you all for some more suggestions -- what are other good CSAs you'd recommend, or even not recommend?

Photo by stoneledgefarms

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

More on 3 Salsas, the new taco spot at 3439 14th Street NW

The other day I wrote about 3 Salsas, a new takeout taco spot on 14th Street NW. I actually got the address wrong, it's 3439 14th Street NW (basement) and owner Luis Gonzalez reached out to me with some more info:
My brother and I were born and raised in Mexico, this give us a huge advantage about the product we offer, we are not a Salvadorian/Tex-Mex place. No disrespect to these flavors but not close enough to call them "Mexican". As any other business the opinion of our clients is really important and we are trying to improve every day on every aspect for a better service.
He said they're working on their website, which isn't live yet but will be at and their hours are as follows:

Tuesday to Friday 10 am to 9 pm
Saturday 10 am to 10 pm
Sunday 10 am to 8:30 pm
Closed Mondays

So far I've heard good things from commenters and they have two good reviews on Yelp (though the map there is wrong.) If you've been, let us know what you think in the comments!

Monday, February 24, 2014

First look at Lyman's Tavern, the new neighborhood bar coming to 14th and Quincy

by Jacqui Burger

Lyman's Tavern, which we've mentioned before, is well on its way to opening in March. It is located next the the Red Derby, at 14th and Quincy St. NW, and will offer a new alternative to the popular area.

On Saturday I got a chance to stop by. Featuring an impressively long 36' wooden bar on the inside, there's also a bar built into the wall behind the indoor bar that opens up to the patio (see above). The patio will extend most of the length of the bar and be enclosed in a fenced-in area (but will not wrap around to the front of the building at the time of opening, as that requires extra permits that Lyman's is not yet pursuing.) A fresh coat of paint will give the former graffiti-strewn laundromat an entirely new look. Despite rumors, there are no plans for a roof deck at this time.

Lyman's is named after the owner's grandfather, and there are some framed photos on the wall featuring his father, including one of him posing with Mike Tyson and Don King. Homey touches like a fireplace mantle and cabinets culled from a remodeled home on 11th Street add to the rustic charm of the place. In a modern touch, there are outlets located along the bar for people to charge their phones.
There will also be hooks to hang jackets and bags under the bar, which in my opinion is the first sign of a great bar.

There is a small kitchen in the back, which they stress is not a full kitchen, that will offer a selection of bar food.

Lyman's will have three pinball machines, a CD jukebox, and a stage for musical performances.

There has been a lot of anticipation surrounding this place, and it will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

Plugs under the bar for customers!

Zeba Bar launches weekly Cards Against Humanity games on Mondays

This is a pretty clever idea -- a reader let me know that Zeba Bar, the laid back spot at 3423 14th Street NW, is starting a weekly game of Cards Against Humanity every Monday starting at 9pm.

If you aren't familiar, Cards Against Humanity is a hilarious card game, sort of a dirty/offensive version of Apples to Apples. One person picks a card, like "science will never explain _______" (to pick a relatively clean one) then the players pick other cards to fill in the blank.

It can get as lewd or awful as you want, or could remain fairly tame -- up to you. I picked this relatively PG-13 one from their website.

Sounds like a fun time. If you haven't been before, Zeba is a chill spot during the week and also has big dance parties and bands on the weekends. Worth checking out.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Why don't DC pools have snack bars, vending machines or allow food?

Inspired by a tweet from former DCist editor and current WAMU report Martin Austermuhle, I got to thinking: I love DC public pools, especially my go-to of the Banneker pool at Georgia and Euclid, but why don't they offer or allow food?
I don't know about you, but I often get hungry at the pool. Maybe it's from lounging around or splashing or whatever, but I would absolutely buy a burger or ice cream or something at the pool. Or even if there were a vending machine, I'd buy a Coke or something. Now you can't even bring in food -- in my experience, if they see you they make you put it away. They're even supposed to do that for water bottles and Nalgenes, which seems kind of silly if you're in the sun for hours.

To me it's very strange. I remember when I was a kid, the public pools I'd use had snack bars with the usual grub you'd expect -- burgers, fries and so on. It would be a great way for the city to make more than $31.85 from their pools, and would also give young people or others some summer jobs. What's to lose?

The only drawback I could see would be making sure the food doesn't get in the water (Caddyshack style) and people don't get cramps from swimming after eating, but then that's what life guards are for, to make sure people don't do dumb stuff and to rescue folks.

I suppose there are also permit issues, but I hope those could be surmounted.

What do you think?

Everybody hates the Washington Sports Club in DCUSA

It seems like the Washington Sports Club in our neighborhood is almost universally hated. I've heard bad things from friends and acquaintances who go, but then I decided to check out the Yelp reviews -- and yikes. Not good.

The place has an average of 2.5 stars out of 5, and it seems to be worse lately -- almost every review from the past few months is 1 or 2 stars (you can't give zero) with a lot of similarities -- people complain about hidden fees, like a $40 "rate lock fee" that you automatically pay to keep your rate from changing, and other cancellation fees and getting charged for training sessions they never took. Folks complain they aren't told about these fees and have a terrible time trying to get them fixed, getting the runaround on the phone and with management.

People also report unfriendly staff (at best) and lots of broken machines -- wear and tear is to be expected at a popular place like this, but people report machines being broken for a long time. One reviewer described it as the "McDonald's of gyms," meaning that you shouldn't expect much, which is kind of funny -- though I feel like a trip to McDonald's at 3 am on a Friday night would be more fun than many of these reviews.

One person even mentioned birthday clubs for kids, which is kind of bizarre -- and actually does even sound like McDonald's. I hope they get those Mickey D's character animal crackers that they gave away, those were pretty tasty.

It sounds like our area is ripe for another gym, since the only other one nearby I can think of is Vida at 16th and U and then the personal training on farther down 14th.

Have you used this WSC? What do you think? Any other gym suggestions?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Some local residents want a juvenile justice facility on upper 14th Street closed

The other day I got an email about a petition: some people want to close Alternative Solutions for Youth at 5808 14th Street NW, which the petition organizers call a jail.

The city, however, calls it a community residential program, sort of a halfway house for juvenile offenders. Youth live there and have counselors who work with them with the idea to prevent future crimes and reintegrate them into society.

Here's the text of the petition:
To cut a long and convoluted story short, “Alternative Solutions for Youth” at 5808 14th St. NW is running an atrocious mess that they call rehabilitative services, but what DC classifies as a jail. An older neighbor confirmed that they did not consult or even notify the neighborhood before creating this monstrocity. They also do not even have the proper city permit to be in operation in Sixteenth Street Heights, as confirmed by our ANC rep. However, we´ve just discovered that their property is conveniently cut out of what should be governed by SSH.
Steve Baynes, DYRS
Vincent Gray, Mayor of Washington, DC
Neil Stanley, DYRS
State Sen. Muriel Bowser, District Of Columbia-004
Close the dangerous "jail" at 5808 14th St. NW. We need an investigation into the shoddy safety measures (barbed wire, falling down fences, boarded-up windows) and possible abuse happening in this "rehabilitation center."
It is a direct danger to us neighbors and a detriment to our community, not just because of the associated criminal activity, previous escapes, and arson, but also harassment, littering, and obscenities yelled by employees.
Please help protect the young children, elderly neighbors, and all of us neighbors.
[Your name] 
Organizer Chancho Peludo says on the petition's site that the facility is in violation of five code codes. I reached out to the organizers to ask for some documentation of that and the other claims in the petition, that there is arson and littering and that they don't have a proper city permit, and am waiting to hear back. I would also assume that they didn't consult the community about it because they didn't need to, because zoning permits this use. And from what I can tell, DC doesn't consider this a jail, unless you consider a youth halfway house a jail.

The facility does have lots of fencing and barbed wire, but according to the petition, after they posted pictures of the backyard, ASY cleaned it up.

Two juveniles who were at the facility have been killed while in the facility's care, though city officials noted it's normal for youth who are there to be out on the street, maybe going to or from school or work -- another example of how this isn't a jail. Another youth cut off his GPS tracking bracelet and escaped, but was recaptured. Peludo cites these as examples that the facility is substandard, but I'm not sure I agree. Having two youth killed is obviously terrible, but isn't necessarily due to something about the facility. And I'd have to see how many youth escape from similar facilities to see if one escaping is rare or actually below normal.

It's an interesting situation. Obviously I support juvenile justice programs and arresting criminals, I hope this sort of program is effective, and I'm not sure I'd want a similar facility as a neighbor, but I'm not yet convinced to agree with this petition. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Evil snowman scaring passersby outside DCUSA!

This is pretty awesome.

A reader sent a picture of a giant snowman outside DCUSA:
"Just passing along a strange sight in Columbia Heights yesterday... A person in a snowman costume posed like a statue outside the DCUSA center yesterday evening and then randomly lunged towards passersby trying to scare them. There were many screams and laughs!"
I've seen a similar prank online in videos, and doing a little bit of research it looks like some folks did the same thing in 2012 at the Columbia Heights Metro with a giant Santa. Pretty funny. I wonder if those were the same folks.

Best way to avoid expensive cabs from U Street?

The other day a reader sent me a question on Twitter: what's the best way to avoid an expensive Uber ride when it's a weekend night on U Street? Often there are lots of people looking for cabs, which means more expensive Uber rates. Here's some of my suggestions, but please leave your own in the comments!

For one, I'd suggest UberX -- I've heard it's a lot cheaper than even regular cabs, let alone Uber. UberX is sort of like Lyft, where people sign up and use their own cars to cab people around. They're vetted and things, it's not just any person off the street. I haven't used UberX but a few friends love it. And a related note, Lyft is the same idea -- you may have seen their pink mustaches on the front of cars. I also use the MyTaxi app, which works like the Uber app but is for regular cabs. I've had luck with it in the past, and rates are the same as it would be if you hailed a cab on the street.

And when the weather is nicer, there's always Capital Bikeshare, though riding up the hill sucks. The hill is less steep on 11th Street and Georgia Avenue than on 14th and 13th, however.

So those are my suggestions -- how about yours?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Pollo Campero is closed, but just for renovations

Twitter user @MrTinDC put a scare into some folks yesterday when he tweeted that Pollo Campero, the Central American chicken chain on the Civic Plaza, was closed. Ward One council candidate Bryan Weaver and Adams Morgan ANC commish Mindy Moretti both were worried, but soon we learned that they were just closing for a renovation.

Phew. I like that place, and we've already lost a few Mexican places lately, like Lime Fresh and Alero (which was admittedly replaced by another Mexican place, El Tio.)
Fun fact about Pollo Campero -- there's one right outside the airport in San Salvador so that people can buy huge bags to carry back with them.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Alero on 14th becomes El Tio Tex-Mex Grill

Well, this is interesting. Alero, the Tex-Mex place at 3345 14th Street NW, has changed to El Tio Tex-Mex, a chain based in Virginia. A reader sent me this photo the other day, though it's kind of strange -- why would a place change from one Tex-Mex chain to another?

Alero's website no longer mentions the Columbia Heights location, though El Tio's website doesn't mention it either -- they have locations in Falls Church, Gainesville and McLean, all of which get 4 stars on Yelp. Alero only got three stars, so maybe this is a step up for Tex-Mex fans.

I can't say I ever went to this Alero, but it was automatically a step up from Rumbero's, which was in the spot before Alero came. That place had terrible service and crummy food (in my opinion.) Alero had a bit more of a bar-lounge vibe from what I could tell walking by.

Have you been to either El Tio or Alero? Is this a good thing?

Condos, 7-Eleven coming to 14th and Quincy, site of burned sketchy hotel

Looks like more residents will be coming to the area around 14th and Spring, plus a convenience store.

You may recall that in March, the C&K Hotel at 14th and Quincy burned. The hotel, made up of a few adjoining rowhouses, was vacant but had housed a transient hotel and had been the site of prostitution and drug use. After it burned, the building was demolished and now Elevation DC reports that the building will have 20 condos, 16 of which will be two bedroom two bath, plus a 7-Eleven will be located on the ground floor.

The developers, Zusin Development and Sivan Properties, just got a permit last week, so this may be a little ways off.

In any case, nice to see some more folks coming to that area, especially replacing a vacant lot that used to house a sketchy business. The 7-Eleven is decent, I guess.

And this is the second residential project in that area, with the other coming to the southeast corner of 14th and Spring, taking over a couple of buildings. That area might gradually start to look like 14th Street a few blocks south.

Below is a photo of the front of the building after it burned, taken by ANC commish Lisa Kralovic.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Abita beer happy hour today at Acre 121: try some delicious Louisana brews

Acre 121, the southern restaurant at 1400 Irving Street, is hosting an Abita beer happy hour tonight.

Abita is a Louisiana brewery that makes good stuff, and from 5 to 9 pm Acre is pouring $5 pints from three firkins (a type of small keg): Restoration Ale (hopped with additional Amarillo hops,) Purple Haze, their popular raspberry beer, and Grapefruit Harvest.

I'm not a fan of fruit beers (aside from Belgian lambics) but I do like these Abita beers. They're subtle enough to not be cloying but still have a hint of the fruit.

So check it out!

Georgia Avenue Streetcar meetings coming up, Feb. 18-20

The much ballyhooed Georgia Avenue Streetcar, which is supposed to connect Takoma with the Anacostia River, is making some progress -- in the form of plans and meetings (you can see the schedule for the first phase of planning at right.)

And we're in luck, DDOT is holding three community meetings to brief community residents on the progress and their plans, all coming up in about 2 weeks. Here's a lot more on the planning process from Greater Greater Washington.

Here's more info on the locations and times for the meeting:
DDOT News/Updates - 2nd Series of Public Meetings for North-South Corridor Planning Study Announced
Check out this link for additional information: The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is in the middle of a planning study to examine opportunities for public transportation improvements in the North-South corridor through DC. Over the next year, DDOT will be working in collaboration with the community, area businesses, government agencies, and other stakeholders to identify and evaluate above-ground, high quality transit service. The study area is focused on a 9-mile, North-South corridor that connects the Takoma/Silver Spring area to the Buzzard Point/Southwest Waterfront area. The study area extends east to west from about 16th Street on the west to approximately one-quarter mile east of Georgia Avenue. 
Tuesday, February 18, 2014; 3:30pm-8:30pm. Presentation at 4:00pm and 7:00pm DCRA- 2nd Floor Community Room – 1100 4th St SW 
Wednesday, February 19, 2014; 3:30pm-8:00pm. Presentation at 4:00pm and 7:00pm Banneker Recreation Center – 2500 Georgia Ave NW 
Thursday, February 20, 2014; 3:30pm-8:00pm. Presentation at 4:00pm and 7:00pm Emery Recreation Center – 5701 Georgia Ave NW
While the streetcar may seem far away, remember that the H Street line is already undergoing testing with actual streetcars. That said, I imagine the Georgia Avenue line will be a year or so in the future, at least. DDOT seems to be avoiding mentioning any timetable. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Bike advocates push for repaving Rock Creek Park trail

Rock Creek Park Trail-10

If you're a bike rider in DC, odds are you have ridden in Rock Creek Park at some point. The park's roads are closed off during the weekend for bikers and runners, and I've heard it's a great spot for both.

Today I got an email that the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) is asking the city to repave the trail, complete with a petition. Here's their argument and petition:

The Rock Creek Park Trail is, literally, falling into the creek.

In fall 2013, the National Park Service had to put up a fence along a section of the Rock Creek Park Trail to keep its users from slipping into Rock Creek. Repaving, rehabilitating, and upgrading the trail—as WABA has called for NPS and the District Department of Transportation to make moves to do—could have prevented this. But NPS and DDOT have moved extraordinarily slowly on matters related to Rock Creek.

In June 2013, we posted an extensive progress report on the project's status to the WABA blog. There has been no public movement on the Rock Creek Park Trail since December 2011. We are still waiting for a Final Environmental Assessment to be released, more than two years since the last public meeting regarding the trail. Enough is enough.

WABA is calling on its members and supporters, along with community members and leaders, to sign a petition to fix the trail. We have waited too long for the Rock Creek Park Trail to be repaved and upgraded.

The spring riding season is almost upon us. It's unfortunate and the fault of NPS and DDOT that the region's riders will go another year of biking in the nation's capital with an crumbling, inadequate, and unsafe Rock Creek Park Trail.

Sign the Petition NOW

Thank you for helping to make the Washington area a more bicycle friendly community.
Greg Billing
WABA Advocacy Coordinator

Photo by TrailVoice

Monday, February 3, 2014

Locals organize Pete Seeger singalong in the Civic Plaza this past weekend

As you may have heard, folk music legend Pete Seeger passed away earlier this week. Some music lovers organized an impromptu singalong via Facebook this past weekend, with dozens of folks coming to the Columbia Heights Civic Plaza to celebrate some of his best known songs, like "This Land is Your Land," "The Hammer Song," (aka "If I had a Hammer,") and more. Over 200 people RSVPed on their Facebook page, and by the looks of WTOP's recap, about 50 showed up -- a good crowd. Some folks brought banjos, guitars and other instruments came too.

Pretty cool to see this kind of thing, and I hope more events like this take place on the Civic Plaza. Photo by Heidi Thompson via Facebook

What's it called? ANC votes for a Columbia Heights Civic Plaza sign


In the past I've written a few times about how some people call the Columbia Heights Civic Plaza by the wrong name -- they might say Tivoli Plaza, the triangle, where the fountains are, and so on. I like the official name, and decided to suggest that we put up a sign with the name on the Plaza, and I just learned that the local Advisory Neighborhood Association passed a resolution in favor of it.

I emailed North Columbia Heights Civic Association president Brittany Kademian, and she said one of the NCHCA board members, ANC commish Patrick Flynn, decided to propose it to ANC 1A, which represents the area. It passed 5-0 (with 4 abstentions.)

Here's the text of the resolution:
Whereas, the public space at the intersections of 14th St, Park Rd. and Kenyon St, NW is currently commonly known by a host of different names such as “The Plaza,” “The Fountain,” “Tivoli Square, and “The Square,” among others.  
Whereas, clarity for the community and information to visitors would be greatly helped by the erection of a sign with the space’s proper and legal name, “Columbia Heights Civic Plaza,” 
Whereas, a unique opportunity for community creativity exists in the design of said sign,  
Be it resolved: Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1A is in favor of initiating a dialogue with the Columbia Heights community and the District Department of Parks and Recreation (“DPR”) for the purpose of erecting a sign at said public space, in accordance with all regulations and guidelines for such signage, as set forth in the District of Columbia Municipal Code.  
Be it further resolved: Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1A asks that DPR give permission to the ANC or a community group, such as the Columbia Heights Civic Association, to commission and design the same, with the full and complete permission of DPR and any other affected District of Columbia Government Agency.
Sure, it's not exactly ground-breaking legislation or a pressing issue in the community, but it's something nice and just goes to show that if you suggest decent ideas to people, they might run with them!

(And if you don't believe me, here's a couple of official sources for the name.)