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?