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!"

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Another Restaurant for Cleveland Park

Sabores.A new tapas restaurant called Sabores (Spanish for flavors) opened last week in Cleveland Park. It's slap bang next to Dino's, and how happy can Dino be about that? In fact, the outdoor Dino crowd was close enough to the (partially) outdoor Sabores customers to hold an inter-restaurant conversation. Unless or until Sabores gets a bigger sign they could well be thought of by passers-by as an extension of Dino.

Sabores is a pretty cool place: white marble tables with black chairs, subdued fluorescent lights that are always changing colors, and private enough to ignore your neighbors if you wish. There are flowers around the adjacent parking meters and that’s not a common sight. They have hot small plates, cold small plates, and large plates. They've also got a fairly long bar if your a bar stool person.

The space occupied by Sabores is an extension to the building (3435 Connecticut Avenue) which sits out on the sidewalk of Ordway Street. The space was, most recently, the Park Bench Pub and to go from the Bench to Sabores is quite a jump. If you were into college football and you didn't care about uneven, sloping floors then the Park Bench Pub had its charm. But, sadly, the Bench passed into history and was removed from the sidewalk. Now, the much classier Sabores is here, and yes, the floor has been leveled and evened out. Just as the Park Bench was both upstairs and down, so the Uptown Tavern folks (downstairs) are also the owners of Sabores (upstairs).

One side of the restaurant (the long side) was open to the street -- a great thing on a warm evening. The staff is friendly and welcoming, the food was tasty and varied, and the Argentinean wine I had was red, dry, and interesting. I'll go back for sure because I like the variety possible with small plates and, like I said, it’s a cool place, but I still miss the Park Bench -- and Bricks of course. Don't you?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What about us?

New Chinese Embassy.It seems that every neighborhood of a block or more has a group these days where the residents can share information, experiences, and expertise. Every neighborhood, that is, but the Van Ness area. I know, I know, there is no "Van Ness" area, I believe its official name is North Cleveland Park though I can't imagine why. Why
isn't Cleveland Park known as South Van Ness? But wait, maybe that's another blog entry.

Inside the Van Ness Metro station.
The Van Ness area I'm speaking about is, not surprisingly, around the Van Ness Metro station. There's a lot of houses and mounds of apartments in this area and, therefore, there's a lot of institutional knowledge residing in the neighborhood that could be shared.

So I've created a group for Van Ness area residents and you can find it here. You'll need a Yahoo email address but that's something you can easily get when you're joining the group. So don't hold back, come and share your neighborhood experiences.

Join vannessdc!
Join vannessdc!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Wearing of the Red

The way it was.The way it is nowNanny O'Brien's was bought by Bedrock Companies earlier this year and a few changes have occured since then: the smell has pretty much gone, the stage is no longer level with the center of the bar, it's been moved down to the corner, and the exterior has been spruced up: the sign is now level and the place is a shiny shade of red. All they need now is more customers, I was in on a Saturday night about 9:30 and there was less than a dozen people drinking. So get in there for some fish and chips and a pint of Guinness, they could use your help.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Dive into the Indian Ocean

The Indian Ocean restaurant near the Van Ness Metro station.Don't look now but the Indian Ocean on Connecticut Avenue in the Van Ness area has opened for business! Based on the way things have gone since Reidel's left, it's anyone's guess how long it will stay this way so get in there fast if you're a fan of Indian food. I first wrote about this place back in January when it was -- briefly -- the Coat of Arms. But as of Sunday, August 5, 2007, there it is: all the "North Indian Cuisine" you can shake a stick at. I hope to get in there later this week to give it a try so I'll add my thoughts to this entry by next weekend.

OK, here's the addendum. I'm not a food reviewer by any means, but folks, this was good. I'm told that Heritage India in Dupont Circle is one of the best Indian restaurants around and Indique in Cleveland Park is right up there as well while "Dhaba" as in Delhi Dhaba means "diner" or something like that, but the Indian Ocean was delightful. The menu is restricted for the first week or two -- about five entrees -- but is going to get a lot bigger as time goes by. Presently, the menu is a good introduction to north Indian cuisine. The owner, Raj, emphasized they use a healthy style of cooking; the portions were not huge, yet filling. On an important note -- for me -- they have wine and beer. Although the menu only lists wine bottle prices, you can buy by the glass -- for about seven bucks each.

You'll have to wait for a sensible review until Sietsma or some other foodie goes there but if I had to summarize -- and I do -- I would say this is a fairly upscale place -- for Van Ness anyway -- and if you like Indian food you're probably going to like this place -- get over there and give it a try. It was worth the wait.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

No more Candey for you young lady!

When a business goes away there's usually a certain amount of speculation among the local populace about what will be the replacement. One type of business often wished for is a hardware store. Candey Hardware in Dupont Circle.Well, we've only had two hardware stores in recent memory on or near Connecticut Avenue -- one left a few weeks ago and the other has just announced they are also calling it quits. True-Value Hardware was on P Street at Dupont Circle and they moved out a few weeks ago. Now Candey Hardware on 18th Street also at Dupont Circle is going away. What happened? Did we stop needing hardware? Or did Home Depot take all the customers?

The usual course of events, at least in this neck of the woods, is that the lease expires, the rent is jacked up to something other worldly, and the business either closes completely or moves. That's not the case with Candey, the family owns the building -- and now they plan to sell it. According to Candey owner Gwen Lofton in an interview with the Washington Post, the store has been losing "a hundred customers a day in the past few years." I don't know how you figure that out, but, regardless, it doesn't sound good.

Maybe some of these big drug stores could incorporate some of the more commonly needed hardware items into their inventory. Maybe CVS could lose some toothbrushes and sell some nails instead. How about dumping some of the thousand different tissue brands and getting some paint in their place? Maybe get rid of a few hundred types of deodorant and put in a few power tools.

But certainly, unless you're Home Depot, it's enough to give potential hardware store owners pause about taking the risk of starting up a business in the city.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

One Video Store = One Sandwich Shop + One Bank

Wachovia Bank: Coming Soon.
What used to be the Video Warehouse in Van Ness is going to be the home of two businesses: Potbelly, which is already here, and Wachovia which is "Coming Soon." We know it's coming soon because the writing is on the wall. Why we're getting another Wachovia when there's already one three doors down is anyone's guess. Maybe they're out to eliminate that Sandwich Shop Capital of the World" moniker that the area is deservedly proud of and change it to, "Van Ness: it's a Wachovia World."

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Nanny O'Billiards?

The venerable Nanny's.
January 30 is the last night for Nanny O'Briens bar in Cleveland Park. They're being taken over by Bedrock Companies, owners of Bedrock Bars. Bedrock already own Atomic Billiards and Aroma on the same block as Nanny's so maybe one day the strip will be called Bedrock Row. They also own Buffalo Billiards in Dupont Circle and lots of other places locally and around the country.
A Nanny's bartender said that Nanny's will be closed on Wednesday and back open on Thursday so don't look for wholesale changes. All they have time for I guess is to clean up a little and try to do something about that smell that's taken over since the smoking ban. Well something more than just leaving the front door open anyway. And maybe straighten the Nanny O'Brien's sign above the entrance. The word is that the St. Patrick's Day Parade fundraiser scheduled for Saturday, February 3 will go ahead as planned.

I never much cared for the name Nanny's although it's certainly recognizable -- there's only one Nanny's. Still, when I've said "I'm going to Nanny's" or "I spent the night at Nanny's last night," it always sounded to me like I'd been spending an inordinate amount of time with my grandmother. As long as they don't go through the identity crisis that the Four Provinces/Four P's/Four Green Fields/Ireland's Four Fields did across the road.

Bedrock claims they're going to keep the Irish music -- something I can happily live without -- but I can put up with it as long as they keep the Guinness. I'm going to take a stroll down Bedrock Row this weekend and check it out.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Coat of Arms pulled out of Indian Ocean -- signs of life detected

Coat of Arms - for the momentI hate to keep writing about the same place but this is an odd duck. The Coat of Arms which, after being open for about a month, became the Indian Ocean, is now back to being the Coat of Arms again. Well, that's what the sign says, I couldn't actually find anyone to talk to about it. The awning people must be making a fortune off these folks.

I wonder what February holds.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Coat of Arms sinks into the Indian Ocean

Coat of Arms, soon to be Indian Ocean In what may be one of the fastest company turnarounds in Connecticut Avenue history, the Coat of Arms restaurant in Van Ness was bought out before it even opened. The Coat of Arms owner told me that a few days before the place was due to open, someone stopped by, took a look at the decor, and, "made an offer I couldn't refuse." That was in early December. The Coat of Arms opened on December 16 and the new place, Indian Ocean, opens January 5, 2007. So we're going from British food -- and I was there on opening day and had a very tasty shepherds pie --to Indian. The sign in the window says "seafood/Northern Indian cuisine" to be precise.

At least that's the way it was this afternoon, by the time you read this it might be a Taco Bell.