Friday, January 29, 2016

New condos planned for 14th and Spring: meeting Tuesday to talk about it

Developers are planning more condos for the 14th and Spring area: this time, at 3701 14th Street NW, which right now is a house and a barber shop.

The plan is for a 4-story building with retail on the ground floor. There's a meeting on Feb. 2 at 7 pm to talk more about it -- for example, I hope they don't just go for a national chain.

This is by my count at least the 4th new residential building in this area -- there's already ones on two of the corners of 14th and Spring, plus about a half block up where the new 7-Eleven is. The other corner is where Carolina is, the now-closed nightclub and restaurant that had a few problems with crime. The rumor is that corner will be condos too.

Here's more info from Zach Teutsch, ANC commissioner for the area:
ERB Properties (and their counsel Marty Sullivan) are proposing some changes at the northeast corner of 14th and Spring Streets NW. If you'd like to learn more, ask questions, share your concerns, or offer support (or some combination of those things!), this meeting is for you! It'll be 7pm on February 2nd at Premium Title. Full details are below. If you have any questions, please address them to Marty Sullivan, the event's organizer ( I asked Marty and his team to alert nearby residents who may not get these emails with flyers and they assured me that they have.

ERB Properties is proposing to redevelop the property located at 3701 14th Street, NW, at the northeast corner of 14th and Spring Streets. They are proposing to do a mixed-use development with ground floor retail use and residential use on the 2nd – through 4th Floors. ERB has applied to the Board of Zoning Adjustment for variance relief from the three-space parking requirement and for relief from the rear yard setback requirement. They have planned a meeting for the local community to discuss the project with representatives of ERB.

The meeting will be held on Tuesday, February 2nd, at the offices of
Premium Title & Escrow, LLC
3407 14th Street, NW
Washington D.C. 20010 
Event Organizers: Marty Sullivan
Martin P. Sullivan
Sullivan & Barros, LLP

Buses back on regular schedule, but with some delays

Good news for bus riders: Metro says they're back on their regular schedule on all routes -- no crazy detours or changes or cancellations. However, they did warn that there are still some delays due to road conditions but nothing in particular about any routes in our area. So that's good.

The bus stops, however, are in varying degrees of being dug out, so be careful out there.

As for Metrorail, they're back on the normal service too, though there are currently (at noon) delays on the Green line due to car testing. There's also track work on the Red line, but that is pretty much the normal situation on the Red line. Check back on their site to see if that gets worked out.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Magic Ground, indoor park and play area for kids, now open in DCUSA

If you've got kids, here's a good indoor option. The other day I was walking around DCUSA and saw a sign for "Magic Ground: now open."

Located on the top level, it's an indoor playground, game room, art space, and more for kids. There are ball pits, climbing areas, slides, trampolines, toy cars and trucks, swings, and such. There are also Nerf-type air guns, which to me sounds awesome.

It doesn't get great Yelp reviews, but I remember always enjoying these kinds of things when I was a kid, and my friend who has a three year old says he's been 6 or 7 times and she loves it. (He recommended bringing a friend, otherwise it's kind of boring just watching kids run around.) Others on Yelp said it reminds them of Discovery Zone, Port Discovery and similar things but can be a little chaotic.

It's $10 for an hour or $15 all day if the parent or guardian sticks around, and there's also a $20-two hour drop off -- although Yelpers say there aren't many staff so maybe dropping off isn't the best idea. There's also apparently a restaurant and coffee shop but reviewers report it not being open. They also host birthdays and other parties.

Magic Ground is on the third floor of DCUSA. Here's their website.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Plowing update: some streets between 13th and 14th done, many in Park View, between 14th & 16th not; sidewalks by some parks also not shoveled

Well, to their credit, the city plowed many of the small residential streets between 13th and 14th from Spring to Park. Myself and others tweeted up a storm about it to the mayor, DC 311 and others, and the mayor responded and said she was on it, but I'm not sure if that helped or not. Fingers crossed. However, many streets from 14th to 16th are still unplowed according to Tom Lee's plowing map, as well as some of those residential streets in Park View: Quebec, Otis, Lamont,  Keefer and 9th. They also got some of the southern Columbia Heights streets, but the 1400 blocks of Chapin and Fairmont still appear to be unplowed.

I also noticed that sidewalks adjacent to some city owned land hasn't been shoveled -- notably the triangle park at 14th/Otis/Ogden and around the Trolley Turnaround Park at 11th and Monroe. The 11th and Park dog park, which is owned by Metro, also hasn't had its sidewalks shoveled, and they were pretty bad. Metro responded to my tweet about it saying they'd forward it to their bus team, but I haven't heard back around Trolley Turnaround Park.

Thankfully it's sunny, so nature may do some of the job, but still, it's been 4 days. And my shovel is broken.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The city still hasn't plowed many streets in our area

Today I was walking around north of DCUSA and noticed that almost none of the streets had been plowed between 14th and 16th Streets: we already heard about Newton, but the same thing is afoot on Parkwood, Otis, Oak and Meridian, as well as the 1300 block of Otis.

I've been reporting them to the city via 311 and also emailing Councilmember Nadeau, but this is crazy. It's been three days and most of the main streets are already clear, where are the plows for the rest? It's been days.

I just had a brief walk, but from the cool interactive plow map that Mapbox's Tom Lee made, it looks like the city has skipped all or part of a lot of other residential streets between Columbia and Spring Road east of 13th: Quebec, Princeton, Otis, Newton, Morton, Lamont, and Keefer and 10th and 11th between Spring and Monroe. Farther south, parts of Gresham, Girard, Fairmont, Hobart, Chapin, and University are also unplowed. (On that map, the street color means how recently the street has been plowed: white means within the last hour, red is a while ago, and gray is not at all. So gray is bad.)

DCist reports that the city brought in contractors that aren't included in the map, but from my walk at least, those places weren't plowed at all, by anybody. That stinks.

And even some streets that are partially plowed are not in great shape: Spring Road, for example, has only one lane clear, but it's a two way street, and today two fire trucks heading east were stopped by a minivan heading west. For some reason the minivan driver didn't back up for a good five minutes while the fire trucks blew their horns and played their sirens, until finally one of the firefighters came over and told them to back up, so this can be a safety concern. The fire trucks ended up on 13th Street, which wasn't plowed at all.

It's a mess. The city needs more plows or better planning or something.

UPDATE: The city has apparently now plowed the streets between 14th and 13th, but between 14th and 16th still hasn't been, as well as most the residential streets in Park View.

Driving is tough out there: avoid residential roads (and Newton especially)

While some of the streets in our area are plowed, some are not. A reader just sent these pictures of Newton Street NW between 14th and 16th, which appears to have been virtually untouched. Cars have dug their own tracks and that's about it and lots are getting stuck. Here's more of what the reader has to say.
I've seen dozens of cars get stuck in the snow over the past several days. They are spinning out their tires and creating clouds of smoke. I'm really worried that a car might catch fire or someone will get hurt as they slid between parked cars, trying to gain traction. 
Here are photos of an at least 8 car jam I just took. 
Big kudos to the people who have helped these drivers out by pushing or shoveling, but it's just a street that isn't ready yet for traffic for most cars. Many cars have ended up backing upto get out of the pile up, which is also pretty dangerous since 14th
St is a busy thoroughfare.
Thanks if you can get the word out.
Many of our small residential streets are the same way -- so if you have to drive, try to stick to bigger streets, which is what the plows focus on first.

The city has a snow map showing where plows have been, and you can report streets that need to be plowed by calling 311 or using the 311 website.

Any other streets out there that are in bad shape? 

$2 burgers at Z-Burger today until 10 pm!

If you're working from home or around today, Z-Burger has an awesome deal: $2 burgers until 10 pm. There's no limit on burgers, which is awesome, and they actually suggest sharing with friends.
Toppings are free, except bacon and cheese.

Veggie and turkey burgers are $4 each as well. Here's the Facebook event for it. It's just valid at the Columbia Heights location at 14th and Park.

I'm a fan of their burgers, so I'll definitely try to stop by. The milkshakes are also pretty awesome, but maybe not a milkshake day today.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Tuesday transit update: Metro back open, Circulator running on 14th Street route, buses on severe snow service

If you're back to work, travel will be a little easier today, but not perfect. The Circulator has started running three routes again, including the McPherson Square-Adams Morgan route which goes up 14th Street.

Metro is running to all stations except the Orange line between Vienna and Ballston, but with 12 minutes between trains on each line -- which  means stations that have multiple lines, like Columbia Heights and Georgia Ave., will have a bit more.

As for Metrobus, they're still on what they call severe snow service: many routes aren't running at all, while some have detours.

The 52, 53 and 54 run their normal route until Missouri Avenue, when they detour over to Georgia Avenue, and also have a different route downtown, using Independence Ave.

The 70 bus is running as normal, the 74 isn't running at all, and the 79 won't be an express bus, it will serve all local stops.

On 16th, the S1 and S9 aren't running, while the S2 is following the S4 route, which is weird. The S4 is running as normal.

None of the H routes are running, nor are the 42 or 43 or the 60, 62, 63 or 64.

Pictures and videos of fun in the snow

I was out and about for most of the weekend, enjoying (and sometimes cursing) the blizzard. I went sledding at Wangari Gardens on Irving Street and at Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park, went to the big snowball fight there Sunday, and trekked around. Here are a few pictures and videos of the weekend.

14th Street on Saturday afternoon

Sledding on a tarp at Meridian Hill/Malcolm X on Saturday

The saucers were fast

The view from the second story of El Chucho on Saturday

Cute kid and dog on 14th, Sunday

Georgia Avenue, Saturday morning

Funny one on Kenyon near Wonderland

Bird trying to get out of the cold at El Chucho

Igloo building at Tubman School field

Skiing at Wangari Gardens

Bad neighbors: businesses that didn't shovel their sidewalks

The snow was fun, and now we are cleaning up. The law (and your civic duty) requires the property owner to keep the sidewalks and handicap access ramps clear starting at 8 hours after the snow ends -- including sidewalks fronting the property, even if you don't actually own the sidewalk. Tenants are usually required to as well.

But even if you're not required by law or your lease, you should shovel the sidewalk. It's difficult and dangerous to walk on packed snow, slush and ice. Not shoveling, especially if you're a business on a major street, is a dick thing to do. So thank you to everyone who did shovel.

You can report scofflaws to

And here are the places that hadn't shoveled as of 3 pm yesterday -- well after the snow was done. Any I missed?

CentroNia, 3400A 14th Street NW
Sprint Store, 3018 14th Street NW
Smile Center Dental, 2900 14th Street NW
DC Housing Authority, Columbia Road between 14th and 13th. They used a snowblower to clear internal pathways, but not the sidewalks on Columbia or 14th.
Greater Washington Urban League, 2901 14th Street NW
BP, 2600 14th Street NW. They shoveled the road, not the sidewalk.
Sherwin-Williams, 2511 14th Street NW
Sunoco, 2830 Sherman Avenue NWNehemiah Cooperative Estates, 2400 block of 14th Street NW


Friday, January 22, 2016

Panic: both Target and Annie's Hardware are out of sleds

If you're hoping to sled, you'd better improvise: Target and Annie's Ace Hardware have both been stripped of sleds by zealous fun seekers.

I've found that heavy black plastic garbage bags work well for sledding -- just get in it and zoom.

You might also try some kind of tray, or plastic garbage can lids, though I can't verify those will work. 

Anybody else know a place to buy sleds?

Photo by Kurtis Shank

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Acre 121 has drink specials for snowball fighters plus brunch and deals for everybody all weekend

Acre 121 is getting into the snow spirit with deals on food and drinks all weekend. They'll have $5 hot toddies and $7 spiked house-made cider from open Friday til close Sunday.

They'll have their brunch open at 10:30am on Friday with $18 bottomless mimosas, and lots of other deals for the pre- and post-game for the Sunday snowball fight at Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park -- plus happy hour all day. Read on for more!
Draft Beers | 5
Wines by the Glass (Daily Selection) | 5
Well Liquors | 5
Hot Toddy | 5
Whiskey, Honey, Lemon, Cinnamon, Water
House-made Hot Cider | 7
Spiced Rum or House Whiskey, Orange Twist, Cinnamon 
Sweet Potato Fries | 5
Deviled Eggs(v) | 6
Beer Battered Fried Pickles(v) | 7
Fried Mac & Cheese Balls(v) | 7
Pulled Pork and Cheeseburger Sliders (2) | 8
Acre 121 is on Irving Street just east of 14th, in the Highland Park Building.

The snowball fight, by the way, is up to 1,200 RSVPs and another 3,700 interested. It sounds like it's going to be monstrous. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Playback the Tape returns tomorrow with X-Files at the Coupe

If you like the X-Files or nostalgia from the 90s, here's an event for you: Playback the Tape, the recurring a really fun found VHS event, is back at the Coupe tomorrow, January 21st at 7 pm.

Playback the Tape collects VHS tapes, complete with old commercials, and their events are really fun -- they call it video archaeology.

Previously they've done holiday-themed events (like the Garfield Halloween special, including commercials for Teddy Ruxpin and GI Joes) plus others events around various themes. It's a lot of fun and a lot of nostalgia -- ads for things you forgot about, tracking and video squiggles from old tapes, and more. And they also have drink specials! What more could you ask for?

Here's more from them:
Hot on the heels of “The X-Files”’ forthcoming reboot, we present “THE TRUTH IS IN HERE” – a triple feature of favorite episodes from the 1990s television series, presented by PLAYBACKTHETAPE on Thursday, January 21st, 2016, 7:00pm at The Coupe (3415 11th Street NW, Washington, DC). 
The lineup is a flash back to seasons 3 and 4, with “Demons” (1997), “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space” (1996), and “D.P.O” (1995), all screened from 100% VHS recorded during original broadcasts (with vintage commercials intact). Guest stars include Charles Nelson Reilly, Giovanni Ribisi, Jack Black, and more. 
The Coupe’s mixologists are preparing a signature cocktail, The Cigarette-Smoking Man, specially for the event. The drink ($5) features rye whiskey, scotch, maple syrup, peychauds bitters and absinthe, served on the rocks. The restaurant’s full food and beverage menus will be also be available during the free-to-attend, all-ages event. PLAYBACKTHETAPE’s souvenir shirts, patches, and “mystery tapes” will be sold during the show. 
For more information and images, please visit 
PLAYBACKTHETAPE aims to preserve, promote, and present home-recorded vhs content, through an interactive monthly screening series that is free and open to the public.Submission guidelines and more information can all be found at

Huge snowball fight organized at Meridian Hill Park Saturday! Sunday!

UPDATE: it's now on Sunday. Same time.

The blizzard is (maybe) coming, and some folks have already started organizing a snowball fight for Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park on Saturday Sunday. The Facebook invite has 150+ RSVPs, plus 560+ people who have said they're "interested."

The fight is planned for noon to 3pm at the top of Meridian Hill Park, near the Joan of Arc Statue. A suggestion: bring waterproof gloves.

In 2010 during Snowmaggedon, the big February blizzard that hit our area, folks organized a snowball fight in Meridian Fill Park where 100-200 people showed up; it was awesome. People formed into opposing groups on either side of the Joan of Arc statue and then went bonkers, though in a fun way -- everybody was laughing and high-fiving and having the best time. I wore a horse head mask (before the Hurricane Sandy guy, I proudly add) and when there was a lull in combat, I ran between the two groups; pandemonium ensued.

Someone even brought a keg of beer, but I'd recommend against that this time.

Here's a video of that fight:

Top photo by Vincent Gallegos, second photo by Ruth Klotz-Chamberlin, video by me

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

What is our neighborhood missing?

One of the common topics of this blog in the past has been "What We're Missing," where I write about things we could use more of.

However, lately we've actually been getting a lot of those things: bookstores like Upshur Street Books and Walls of Books (plus the Barnes and Noble at Howard), movie theaters like the new Atlantic Plumbing Cinema near the 9:30 Club and the still coming Suns Cinema on Mt. Pleasant Street, and so on. There's also diners and sports bars: things that people asked for in the past.

So what are we still missing? I'd like to see more retail shopping, especially on Georgia and 14th Street -- I feel like Georgia could be a great spot for some interesting retail like Hampden in Baltimore or to some extent, U Street. Upshur Street has a little bit, but we could

I'd also like to have more coffee shops -- the ones around our area are often packed at peak times, especially Qualia, Tynan and Colony Club. (Coffy Cafe is a good alternative.) I feel like someone could make a killing opening a coffee shop somewhere around 14th and Spring, and maybe somewhere on 14th between Florida and Columbia.

One of the things I wrote about in the past was more child care: there aren't too many options and there are lots of new parents in the neighborhood.

But other than that, I don't have any good ideas. How about you? What are we missing? I made this survey and will do a post with some of the most interesting answers. And let us know in the comments too!

Create your own user feedback survey

Interview with Pablo Sierra, owner of Walls of Books, the new used bookstore on Georgia

Last week, we were pleasantly surprised with a used bookstore opening at 3325 Georgia Ave NW, Walls of Books. I reached out to owner Pablo Sierra to ask him more about it, and it sounds great -- and to address rumors that they were going to add a beer garden (sadly not true, says Sierra.)

I think a used bookstore is a great idea -- how did you come up with the idea?

I wish I could take credit for that. I've always loved reading and writing. After a few years in the Navy and a few years as a consultant, I needed to figure out what I was going to do when I grew up. I thought - How about a bookstore? It combines my love of reading and writing as well as my passion for business and project management. However, in doing a business plan, I realized, opening and running a bookstore is really hard - especially new retail books. Whether its knowing the industry, the capital investment or the on-going operations. In my research, though, I found a franchise dealing with books at used prices - Walls of Books. The owner and I talked and we shared similar visions and values for how a company should be run. After more due diligence, I made the decision and here I am.

How'd you choose this location?

I live in the Brightwood neighborhood and wanted to do something around there, Petworth, or Park View. We were able to get this space in Park View. It worked out.

Will the store specialize in any genres or types of books?

No. It's really just a general bookstore with used prices and great "Melissa & Doug" toys.

How did you get your collection to start off?

The franchise's book-buying department did most, if not all, of the work, to get a great inventory of books. We also have a "trade-in program for store credit" that I'm really excited about. People can come in, bring their books, I take a look, and give store-credit. What I'm excited about is that with the program and over time, customers get great books at great prices and the store begins truly representing the reading habits of the community, and ultimately represents the community at-large.

A reader heard from a staff member that you were planning a beer garden too, can you tell me more about that?

I wish. That's interesting...and a great idea! A beer garden? That's good and bad - I love beer and the temptation to drink on the job would be to great!

Will you have events like readings or meetups?

Yes. As part of our mission to support the reading and writing community, we plan on hosting events and programs such as children's read-along, workshops - you name it. If it fits with developing and encouraging reading and writing - we're open to see how we can support.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Help end homelessness in the city by volunteering for the homeless census on Jan. 27

Homelessness is common in DC, and the winter can be very dangerous for homeless people who have to sleep outside. One way to help is to volunteer with the "Point in Time" count, a census of the city's homeless population. The idea is to understand how many people are homeless and where, so the government and organizations can plan projects and understand the problem better.

This January 27th is this year's annual count, and they need volunteers to help conduct the census. It's a nighttime activity since the idea is to find the homeless as they are living outside. Here's more on the event.
On any given night in DC, about 7,300 individuals are experiencing homelessness and 1,600 are experiencing chronic homelessness. Have you ever asked yourself, “How do they come up with these numbers?” Every January, hundreds of volunteers hit the streets to count people sleeping outside through DC's Point in Time count. 
Will you join The Way Home Campaign on Wednesday, January 27th for a city wide effort to count our unsheltered neighbors? Volunteer teams will canvass the District to conduct a census and survey individuals who are experiencing homelessness. This annual activity is critical to ensuring that we have the numbers and information needed to end chronic homelessness in DC. REGISTRATION:
  • Please put “The Way Home Campaign” in the comments section so that we can track the number of volunteers who are connected to The Way Home.
  • Please note that you must attend a 90 minute training in order to participate in the count. Training times and locations can be found at
  • The schedule for the evening is as follows:
8pm: Activities begin (the location will be provided at volunteer training sessions) and volunteers will meet with team leaders to plan their coverage of the team's assigned neighborhood9:30pm Volunteers gather for remarks and reminders10:00pm - 2:00am: Point in Time count is conducted in volunteer groups. 
Please note that you MUST register for the count, attend a training, and arrive by 8pm in order to participate. 
You are invited to join The Way Home Campaign in a pre-Point in Time meal at 7:00pm in Logan Circle. If you are interested in joining us for dinner, please RSVP to Location details will be sent upon RSVP.

Fast casual Ethiopian restaurant coming to Señor Chicken space on Park Road

This sounds like an awesome addition to Park Road: a new fast casual Ethiopian restaurant will be opening in the old Señor Chicken space on the Park Road side of DCUSA.  Fast casual means something like Cava or &pizza: you line up and pick the veggies, bread, protein, sauces and so on.

Borderstan reports that it will be called Letena, which roughly means "for our health," and they're aiming for a spring opening.  It's right between Mattress Discounters and the parking garage entrance.

Letena is run by husband and wife team Bona Tilahun and Yamrot Ezineh, who will be using their family's recipes.

Señor Chicken was pretty tasty but sporadically open, then was replaced by People's Bao and Noodle Bar, a pretty delicious ramen and Chinese dumplings restaurant, but that also moved on.

The space has sat empty for at least a year, if not more, since then.

This also marks a return to the neighborhood for Ethiopian food, as Dynasty on 14th closed, as did the delicious Tegeste. Kokeb on Georgia is still around and pretty tasty, however.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Still got a Christmas tree? The city is collecting them through Jan. 23

If you're like me and don't take your Christmas decorations down right after Dec. 25, you're still in luck: the city is collecting Christmas trees and greenery from houses and at the Fort Totten dump until January 23.

You need to take off ornaments and such, and place them where your regular trash and recycling are picked up. You can also bring them to the Fort Totten Transfer Station (a dump.)

If your trash is picked up from an alley, don't put the trees on the street.

Here's more info on what to do, including the address for the Fort Totten dump.
DPW Continues to Collect Holiday Trees, Greenery through
Sat., Jan. 23 
(WASHINGTON, DC) The DC Department of Public Works announced today that employees will continue to collect holiday trees and greenery through Saturday, January 23. Trees and greenery should be stripped of all lights, ornaments and tinsel and should not be put in plastic bags. Trees and greenery should be placed where the resident's trash and recycling are collected. Residents also may bring their trees and greenery to the Ft. Totten Transfer Station*, weekdays between 1 pm and 5 pm and Saturdays between 8 am and 3 pm. 
Holiday trees and greenery are collected from DPW's trash and recycling collection customers who live in single family homes or multi-unit buildings with no more than three units. Buildings with four or more living units or buildings with both residential and commercial uses are required to engage private haulers for their trash, recycling and other collections, such as holiday trees. 
Residents may call 311 to report uncollected trees and greenery. 
*Directions to Ft. Totten, 4900 John F. McCormack Drive, NE: Travel east on Irving Street, NW, turn left on Michigan Avenue, turn left on John F. McCormack Drive, NE and continue to the end of the street. Directions from additional locations can be found at

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Whoa! Walls of Books used bookstore opens tomorrow at 3325 Georgia Ave

Holy smokes! A used bookstore is coming to our neighborhood: Walls of Books, opening at 3225 3325 Georgia Ave NW tomorrow, according to their Facebook.

The Post reports that the store is part of a small chain that started in Georgia, with 8 other franchise locations, including New Orleans. The Post's article is about the regrowth of used book stores in general, which is pretty interesting. I'm a fan of them, for one. I often stop at a huge one called McKay's when I visit relatives in Tennessee.

This Walls of Books is owned by Pablo Sierra, a Navy veteran and former government contracting worker, and their website says they'll take trade-ins for store credit, as well as selling toys and educational products by a company called Melissa & Doug.

The store's Facebook page says they'll have 30,000 books, and it looks like a big space inside. This is the former location of Planet Chocolate City at the corner of Georgia and Lamont, which was pretty small, so maybe they took over other stores nearby. inside the little strip mall next to the Post office just south of Lamont Street. I'm definitely going to pay them a visit soon.

The tree that ate a street sign

Today I was walking down Spring Road near 14th and noticed this interesting specimen: a tree that had grown around a parking sign. 

Pretty wild -- I wonder how long it had been growing like that? And the "no parking" sign was new, so the city must just reuse the same pole. (Sadly a few folks also used it as an above-ground trashcan.)

Pretty funny. I always like the weird things in our neighborhood. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Qualia Coffee has a crazy new automatic pour-over machine: "Robopour"

If you've been to Qualia Coffee at Georgia and Randolph lately, you may have noticed a new employee behind the counter: Robopour the robot.

The staff gave the joking name to a machine that automatically makes pour over coffee -- the type of coffee where you pour hot water into coffee in a paper or cloth cone, and it seeps through into a cup below. Coffee purists say pour over coffee has a better, richer flavor than regular coffee machines with less bitterness. The poured-over water reaches more of the coffee grounds than a traditional drip machine, and it doesn't sit there for a long period of time, which is one thing that causes bitter coffee.

However, it can be a little time consuming, especially multiple people are queued up to order. Enter the Poursteady machine, created by a Brookyln startup.

The idea is that the barista sets up multiple filters with different coffee, pushes a button and the machine automatically drips water into each, which filter down into mugs below. The machine's water spout even moves around in patterns the baristas can choose, assuring an even brewing.

It doesn't replace a barista -- they still need to grind and measure the coffee and set up the machine, but frees time for them to do other things -- ring people up, make espresso drinks, prepare bagels and such.

This is the first such machine in DC, and one of the first in the country, and it's pretty cool. The store is also offering a Robopour happy hour -- $1 off Robopour coffee after 2 pm.

And I tried it: the coffee is really good.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Are you ready for some football? Redskins Bud Light at Target

The NFL playoffs are upon us, and Target is getting into the spirit. The other day I saw limited edition Redskins Bud Light cabs with a special design that talk about the team's past Super Bowl championships. Kind of interesting that they do this, but good timing obviously.

And unlike the Bud Light you'd buy at FedEx Field, these aren't $9 each.

The team faces the Packers on Sunday at 4:40 pm.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Record player and record inventor, father of the helicopter's factory on Girard Street to become luxury condos

If you've ever listened to vinyl or flown in a helicopter, you at least partially owe it to Girard Street. A factory on Girard Street was the source of the phonograph record player, the phonograph record, and where practical helicopters engines were first developed.

And now developers are converting that old factory building at 770-774 Girard Street NW into condo units, as well as adding townhouses in an empty space on the lot.

The factory building, which is fairly nondescript, was used by inventor Emile Berliner to make the Victor phonograph, the first phonograph records and early helicopter engines. Berliner invented all of that, though later lost control of his records due to legal battles and theft by competitors.

The building was the headquarters of Berliner's Gyro Motor Company and the work he did at the factory led to rotary wings (i.e. helicopter blades) being used in aviation. Here's what Wikipedia has to say:
In fact between 1907 and 1926, Berliner dedicated himself to improving the technologies of vertical flight through the development of a light-weight rotary engine, which he improved upon throughout the 1910s and 1920s... 
His realizations allowed him to move away from the heavy in-line engines to lighter rotary models, which led to the invention of a 6-hp rotary engine for the improvement of vertical flight. It was these experiments that led to the formal creation of the Gyro Motor Company in 1909. And it was the creation the 6-hp rotary engine that initiated the use of rotary engines in aviation. The Gyro Motor Company manufactured these and other improved versions of the Gyro Engine between 1909 and roughly 1926. The building used for these operations exists at 774 Girard Street, NW, Washington DC, where its principal facade is in the Fairmont-Girard alleyway.
He also made the Victor record players and records in an adjoining building. He died in 1929 and is buried in Rock Creek Cemetery.

The condo development is going to be called the Helicopter Factory (though I've also seen it as Gyro Factory) and will incorporate the existing buildings on the site, dating from the 1910s up to 1945 plus 13 units in newly built townhouses on the property's old parking area. Washington Business Journal has the whole story.

Pretty interesting that this local history was right here all along! I hope they put up a plaque or other commemorative things.

Here's the building today, and some photos from WBJ of what the warehouse units will look like from their slideshow.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Twisted Horn cocktail bar on Upshur opening on Friday

Good news for cocktail fans or folks near Upshur Street: the Twisted Horn, the new cocktail spot from the people behind Hank's Oyster Bar, will be opening Friday, according to their website.

Owner Jamie Leeds formerly also ran CommonWealth at 14th and Irving, the tasty English gastropub. However, she closed that to focus on Hank's.

In addition to cocktails, they'll have snacks and bar food like crostini, charcuterie, Japanese rice balls, smoked salmon and other things. There will be 30 seats at the bar, 10 at tables, and another 40 at a future outdoor patio.

The small building is next door to Domku and used to be a little church.

Here's the full press release:
Restaurateur Jamie Leeds is thrilled to open The Twisted Horn in the Petworth neighborhood of D.C., which will be led by General Manager Megan Coyle of Hank’s Oyster Bar. 
The craft cocktail bar officially opens on January 8th, located at 819 Upshur Street, NW, 20011. 
The menu highlights seasonally driven cocktails made with local ingredients, house infusions and innovative combinations, in addition to a number of bar bites and locally sourced snacks. 
The opening beverage list features unique drinks such as Saboteur Sling, Ramp & Jalapeno Singapore Sling; Ghostwood Development, Jensen Old Tom Gin, Sapins Liqueur, Port, Salmiakki Dala Scandinavian Fernet, Whole Egg, Savory Spices; and Ideal Cocktail, Gin & Vermouths with Marcona Almonds on the side. In addition, the menu will include classic cocktails as well as rotating beer and wine lists. Bartenders will serve up craft beers such as Day of the Dead Hefeweizen or Atlas Rowdy Ryeand several varietals of wines will be available by the glass or bottle. 
Guests are invited to snack on small bites to accompany their carefully crafted beverages. Jamie Leeds has designed a menu consisting of bar favorites and colorful tastes, such as Assorted Pickles, from their neighbors Gordy’s Pickle Jar; Crostini, choice of Pimento Cheese, French Onion, Spicy Carrot, Chopped Chicken Liver; Onigiri Japanese Rice Balls, choice of Pickled Vegetable, Tuna Tartar, Smoked Salmon, Ume Plum Paste; and a curated selection of Cheese & Charcuterie. 
Designers Lauren Winter and Brian Miller of Edit, in collaboration with Streetsense, have transformed the space from a former church into a casual, inviting bar. The candlelit interior design and décor is edgy and industrial, while maintaining a neighborhood feel. The bar has 30 stools, with an additional 10 seats at high-top tables. There are also plans to house an outdoor patio with approximately 40 seats. 
The Twisted Horn is a neighborhood bar featuring seasonally-driven craft cocktails, classic libations and bar bites. The Twisted Horn is open Sunday through Thursday from 5PM to 1AM, and Friday through Saturday from 5PM to 2AM.The bar is located at 819 Upshur Street NW, in the Petworth neighborhood of Washington, D.C. For more information please visit our website at or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @TwistedHornDC.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Best Buy at DCUSA has some pretty solid deals for clearance and "open box" items

The other day I was at Best Buy in DCUSA and noticed a board near the door for clearance and "open box" items -- those are things that were returned after purchase, so they're for sale for less than their normal price. The board was totally full of things: laptops, tablets, TVs, phones and a lot more, some for almost $400 less than their regular retail price.

The signs are a little confusing, it shows the regular price in big text and then the discounted price in a little yellow box, and you have to scout it out each time you go as there will always be different things, but you can snag some pretty good deals.

They also sell some online, as well as refurbished items -- things that broke and they fixed, for example.

Bar and restaurant coming to old Getaway and Social space at 14th & Meridian

Looks like there might be a new tenant coming to the old Getaway and Social space at 14th and Meridian -- today I saw some workers there moving materials in, and they said it was going to be a bar and restaurant.

Over the past few weeks I've seen construction inside but I assumed it was related to the new architects' office on the top floor that replaced The Dunes: there haven't been any permits or anything in the windows, but there was a commercial inspection on Dec. 15, 2015. And now I know something's up! I didn't get any more information from them, but I'll be looking into it. The basement space has new red railings and what looks like an updated interior.

If you recall, the basement and first floor had previously been The Getaway, a Steve McQueen-70s car chase themed bar and restaurant that was pretty good, but closed after about two and a half years in business. Before that it was Social, another bar and restaurant with a weird vibe that closed, possibly related to some feud between restauranteurs. That one didn't last very long, and the Getaway folks improved the interior a lot, giving it a better feeling.

I hope the space isn't cursed or the rent isn't super high, as the Getaway seemed to do OK business. The first floor area is still a little odd though: it has really high ceilings and seemed more like some kind of lodge or lounge.

When I find out more about the new bar and restaurant, you'll hear about it.

Monday, January 4, 2016

7-Elevens now open at 14th and Florida, 14th and Spring

Well, now you won't have to walk more than 5 blocks to get to a 7-Eleven. The new locations at 14th and Florida and 14th and Quincy, just north of Spring, are open. (14th and Quincy is pictured above.)

Of course, those are in addition to the 7-Eleven at 14th and Columbia, the one on Mt. Pleasant Street, the one on Columbia Road, the one at 11th and U, and the one at Georgia and Shepherd, plus a couple others a bit farther afield. I mapped them out recently, there are eight 7-Elevens plus five CVS locations less than a mile from the new ones.

I've been complaining about this for a while -- I think we have plenty of 7-Elevens already, and really could use some other kinds of businesses that don't duplicate what we already have. Others have complained about loitering -- the Mt. Pleasant location is the hub for day laborers and I've heard that many people, women especially, get harassed outside the 14th and Columbia one. Outside the new 14th and Quincy location I once saw eight people hanging out, but another time I saw nobody, so they might have just been random.

In any case, they're here now. Not much we can do about it if you don't like it, aside from not shop there.