Monday, July 27, 2009

Schlotzky's becomes Acacia

I stuck by Schlotzky's side when lots of sandwich shop competition arrived in the neighborhood, but, alas, it was not to be and Schlotzky's departed. Now, Acacia Bistro has opened in the Schlotzky spot and it is good. A well-stocked bar (and this area could use another bar to belly up to) combines with a menu loaded with a variety of Mediterranean-based small plates plus a few big plates. Outdoor tables are also available.

Lots of small plates to choose from. There were four of us and we had meatballs, fingerling potatoes, a prosciutto, melon, mozzarella combination, and one of us had a big plate of steak and french fries. All good, all tasty, but we barely scratched the surface of the menu so we plan on returning to try other dishes. Those of you who have lived in the neighborhood for a while may remember Liliana's Trattoria in the place now occupied by the Italian Pizza Kitchen. Well, our waitress told us the owner of Acacia is Liliana's son and Liliana now makes the desserts for Acacia.

I think Acacia is a welcome addition to the area, plus they make paninis and other sandwiches which softens the blow of losing Schlotzkys. Now the Van Ness area has a good Indian restaurant (Indian Ocean) and a good Mediterranean restaurant. Let's hope they last a long time.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

ConnAve in the News

A little traffic-stopping drama in Cleveland Park this morning was all started, I believe, by a badly parked SUV blocking a lane of traffic. Who woulda thought? But something about this vehicle made the police bring the bomb sniffing dogs to give the vehicle the once over. The dogs, however, decided there was more interesting smells in a van parked nearby. That was enough to bring the bomb squad and to close down Connecticut Avenue between Porter Street and Cathedral Avenue.

I was getting ready for work this morning and the guy on the radio said, "The Cleveland Park Metro is closed!" I took that to mean no trains were passing through which is not good for me as I get on the train at Van Ness and get off at Metro Center. The voice also said shuttle buses were standing by waiting to whisk me off to Dupont Circle (via the back streets I assume).

I thought I would check the train first -- mainly because there was, of course, no sight of a shuttle bus -- and it turned out the train was the best choice. When the guy on the radio said Cleveland Park was closed, he meant closed to pedestrians because they couldn't get anywhere near the station. Trains were actually whizzing through the station.

Not only was there less drama than usual on the train -- there's usually some drama on public transportation -- but the train didn't stop at Cleveland Park or Woodley Park, thereby getting me to Metro Center even faster than usual. So what started out with me cursing public transportation at home turned out to be a decent ride on a nearly empty train.

The interesting smells from the van turned out to be some kind of cleaning solution -- it seems this can confuse bomb-sniffing dogs. Everything was back to normal a couple of hours later.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The cars return to Sam's Park & Shop

Two new stores in Sam's Park & Shop.A couple of new places opened up in Sam's Park & Shop recently: the Potomac River Running Store a couple of weeks ago and, next door, Yogiberry on Friday, November 21, 2008. They replaced Whatsa Bagel and Fosters Coffee respectively.

When I walked into Potomac River both the guy and girl behind the counter glanced at my face and then I saw both of them look down at my ratty old sneakers. Potomac River sells all kinds of sports apparel but specialize in shoes. There’s another shoe store just down the block called Foot Solutions so I guess we might have a little competition on our hands (or feet) in the Cleveland Park region.

I tried Yogiberry on Sunday -- two days after they opened -- and it's a cool looking place. Each wall has a different decor: vertical multi-colored stripes on one wall, a wall of things jutting out in a bas-relief that look like smoothed over stones for Braille readers, squares of mirrored tile on another wall and high and wide windows on the side facing the street. The floor wasn't overlooked by the designer either, it's all pebbles. Not loose pebbles, they're stuck in place, and they're all small -- very interesting effect.

The yogurt was good as well, I had the green tea yogurt with three toppings: blueberry, mango, and mochi. I forget what the guy said mochi was but it and the mango were chewy and flavorful and, combined with the blueberries, delicious. An 8 ounce tub was $6.75, with tax it came to $7:16.

We seem to be in the yogurt era at the moment with three shops opening in the Connecticut Avenue vicinity in the past few months. Despite the competition, I hope both Yogiberry and Potomac River Running are successful. After several months of looking at three holes in Sam's Park & Shop strip mall where businesses used to be, even if you hate yogurt and don't run, empty stores are good for no one.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

And it only took two years!

The brand spanking new plaza at Van Ness East condominiums.Two years later and Van Ness East's plaza has been unveiled. Well, mostly. The lobby area is now being renovated (good timing guys!) and so the main entrance to the building is still locked -- only one door is open into the building from the plaza. But hey, after two years of negotiating underground walkways and underground traffic and the hundreds if not thousands of times trying to get locked doors to open just to get out of the building, this is exciting stuff. No vehicles on the plaza for the moment either, they will have to keep going around to the back of the building until the lobby is finished.

Check out the curves on that baby!The plaza is on top of a two level garage and I understand that part of the reason for the re-do was to fix structural problems. There used to be a large shallow pool area in the middle of the plaza and I guess that pool water was what would hit me in the head when I was walking through the underground garage. I also heard that another objective was to "round off" the severe, squared-off edges of the roadway. I really didn't have any problems with hard-edged corners so I sure hope the structural difficulties were fixed during the last twenty four months.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

New Chinese Embassy Opens

The new Embassy of China on Van Ness St.The new Chinese Embassy on Van Ness Street and the corner of International Drive across from the Israeli Embassy and across Van Ness Street from UDC has finally opened after more than three years of construction. This is even longer than it's taking to rebuild the plaza in front of my building -- no wait, the plaza ain't finished yet.

The embassy is huge, and not too interesting -- at least on the outside. I haven't heard anything about the Chinese allowing the masses inside to check it out. I remember the Mormon Temple was opened to the public for a weekend before going into lockdown, maybe the Chinese will do something similar.

I wonder if this means the old embassy in Kalorama is now up for grabs? And I guess the Tibet situation protesters and Falun Gong practitioners will have to move up the road three miles.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

You cannot be Sirius!

Starbucks at Van Ness.What once was the Sirius coffee shop next to UDC in Van Ness is now the Starbucks coffee shop. I guess Starbucks is one of the few outfits that has no trouble paying the out-of-this-world rents around here. I know Sirius couldn't handle it, just like, according to the Washington Post, the Dupont 5 movie house couldn't handle it.

So now there's at least one Starbucks in most of the Connecticut Avenue neighborhoods: Chevy Chase, Van Ness, Cleveland Park, Woodley Park, Dupont Circle, and Farragut North all have at least one. Only Forest Hills is lacking, although there's a coffee shop in the basement of Politics & Prose. It isn't a Starbucks -- at least, not yet.

Monday, September 17, 2007

That cloud looks like an Irish bar

James Hoban's Restaurant and Bar.James Hoban's, an Irish restaurant and bar opened at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 17. I just happened to be wandering by about 4:15 and, in the interests of giving good blog entries of course, I decided to go in and sample the wares. The bartender asked me, "Is this your first time here?" Funny guy.

Hoban's is where Cloud used to be at 1 Dupont Circle and it's what an Irish born patron sitting next to me at the bar called, "an upscale Irish bar." And then he said, and I swear he said it, not me, "Now there's an oxymoron for you!"

The entire staff of about 30 people showed up that afternoon to get familiar with the place so they were tripping over themselves and certainly outnumbered the dozen or so patrons in the place when I was there. I had the Shepherd's Pie which was OK though a little dry and had obviously just been nuked because I singed my fingers on the plate. When one of the many black-shirted staff members asked me for about the fifth time, "Is everything OK," I told him about the dryness and he said, "Oooh, good feedback," and brought me a little bowl of gravy. Both the attitude and the gravy helped. The Guinness was good but, at six bucks a pint, too expensive.

The place looks like a lot of money went into the refurbishment and the owner, Patrick somebody, who came over to say hello, agreed. Though he lives in Ireland, Patrick owns restaurants in Philadelphia and Virginia and now D.C. So it's a brand spanking new restaurant with lots of light -- not filled with dark wood and twenty-watt bulbs like many so-called Irish bars -- friendly staff and a decent beer selection. I'm not sure which demographic they're after: it's not a sports bar, I only saw one television and that was tuned to golf during a Sunday afternoon filled with NFL games, it's not a bar with dart boards or pool tables, it's just a big, almost-in-the-round bar with lots of dining space and carpets on the floor!

Now whoever heard of carpets in an Irish bar?

Incidentally, speaking of Cloud, I was told the last entry in their log book was, "the police are on the way!"