Love Cafe in 2006, courtesy of katmeresin

Back in 2006 and 2007, when I first started hanging out on U Street and then started looking for an apartment, there were few places to sit down and hang out with friends in the neighborhood during the day. Love Cafe was one of them – decent food, free WiFi (which became less available as it became popular), and a nice atmosphere.

When the cupcake craze started, Love Cafe was one of the first to peddle them. While not a huge fan of their rendition of the dessert, they certainly rose to popularity because of them.

Love Cafe is closing after almost nine years in the neighborhood at the end of the month. Cake Love, the bakery owned by Warren Brown, will stay open.

While Love Cafe might not have been the best place on U Street, it was always a reliable place to stop by and see friends, get a coffee or a sandwich. For people like me who came to the neighborhood five or six years ago, it was something of a gathering place, and I’m sorry to see it go.

The end of the year gives us a moment to reflect on all that has happened. For the past two years I have looked at the best and worst of what has happened on the greater U Street area, so let’s look at this year’s.

Best new restaurant: So neither of these restaurants are open yet, but they will be so soon – and they are filling in a much needed niche in the neighborhood – fast, affordable, but good food. The anticipation for Taylor Gourmet and Black & Orange is high, and I know they’ll meet expectations.

Runner up: Standard.

Who won last year: Fast Gourmet.

Best new bar: This was a hard one to figure out. There have been a few new bars open along the 14th and U corridor, but none are exactly exciting in the way that The Gibson was when it opened. I reluctantly bestow this on Blackbyrd Warehouse, mostly because this new bar is one of few you can go to on a weekend night and get a seat, a good drink, and be able to hear your companion.

Runner up: None.

Who won last year: Dodge City.

Best meal on U street: I’m a creature of habits sometimes. The restaurant/bar I continue to return to, no matter the occasion, is Bar Pilar for a great meal in the U Street area. The food is good, the atmosphere relaxed – you can come in for a drink and a snack or a full meal. The fact that they have been closed for renovations for the last month has been hard on me, friends.

Runner up: Cork.

Winner last year: Birch and Barley/Estadio.

Best new business on U street: Smucker Farms. While a few of us voiced some disappointment with their opening, I think the store has great potential, is a great idea, and I look forward to continue shopping there and see where they go. It’s great to see these kind of businesses – locally-owned, lovingly run – opening in the neighborhood. It also sets us apart from other neighborhoods, who else has a business similar to Smucker Farms?

Runner up: None.

Winner last year: Ginger Root.

Best story of the year: Pulp remains open. When the store announced it was closing, it was a bummer and a blow to locally owned, long standing business in the neighborhood. It was so wonderful to hear that someone had swooped in to buy the store and keep it open. The 14th and U neighborhood needs businesses like Pulp.

Runner up: None.

Winner last year: Movies at Harrison Field starting up.

Worst story of the year: This year on U street has been much more kind to us than last year, when the neighborhood was shocked by two violent crimes fairly close together (see below). I would say the worst story of the year isn’t one story, but the overarching theme of local business being closed for mega-developments like Utopia, the small guy getting pushed out for huge corporations and chains. While development is good, I also don’t want to lose what has made me love this neighborhood in the process.

Runner up: None.

Winner last year: Jamal Coates’ and Ali Ahmed Mohammed’s death.

Sad to see them go: Mid City Caffe. They were named my favorite new business back in 2009, and I loved their coffee, relaxed vibe, and good music. Such a shame to see them go, but the area was lucky enough to have Peregrine Espresso open nearby, filling our good coffee needs.

Runners up: Garden DistrictGo Mama GoMercadito Ramos.

Winner last year: HR-57.

I see many of you are googling options of New Year’s Eve parties on U Street and coming along my post for last year. Here’s what’s going on around U Street this year:

  • Courtesy of nerdcoregirl

    Same as last year, Black Cat is throwing their New Year’s Eve Ball with Peaches O’Dell and her Orchestra. Tickets are $25 and doors open at 8.

  • U Street Music Hall is having Moombahton Massive X with Nadastrom, Sabo, Jen Lasher, The Gent, and Cam Jus. The event is 21 years and older, with tickets $20 – which they suggest buying in advance.
  • El Centro D.F.  is offering a three-course Mexican tasting menu in the dining room, drink specials on the roof, and a DJ spinning in the basement tequileria. There will be two seatings – from 6-8:30, which is $40; and from 8 to closing, which is $60 and includes a champagne toast.
  • 1905 is having their annual New Year’s Eve dinner and party, including a three course prixe fixe menu ($55 per person), a champagne toast, and cash bar all night.
  • The Gibson is mixing things up this year with a Heaven and Hell themed NYE party featuring an open bar, catered food, and a champagne toast. Tickets are $150.
  • Eatonville is having two seatings for a prix fixe menu featuring live music: the first seating with three courses is at 6:30 for $39 and the second with four courses is at 9:30, and also includes a glass of champagne for $59. Live music will be provided from  NeoGroove Movement, a DC based retro-Modern jazz fusion collective.
  • Masa 14 will feature a DJ and two dinner seatings, similar to other area restaurants. From 5-8 you can get a $55 prix fixe menu and after 8 they are providing a 4 course menu with a midnight toast for $75. At the bar there will be $5 happy hour drinks all night.
  • Local 16 is having a big bash with an open bar from 9PM to 10PM, passed hors d’deuvres, and a champagne toast at midnight with music from DJ MiGG-L. You can buy tickets online for $35.
  • Go to Duffy’s for a more low-key New Year’s Eve celebration: no cover, $20 pitchers of  beer all night like Fat Tire, Chocolate City Cornerstone Copper Ale,  Port City IPA, and Washington’s Porter.
  • DC9 will be dancing the night away with 4 hours of open bar, 2 levels of dancing, the prerequisite champagne toast, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Coalition for the Homeless. Tickets are $55 if you buy online.
  • Marvin/Blackbyrd Warehouse will throw an Apocalypse Marvin party – featuring an open bar from 8 to 10, DJ Jah-Sonic spinning music, and drink specials the rest of the night. Tickets are $20.
  • Pearl Dive Oyster Palace is having a big party, with an open bar, passed hors d’deuvres, a raw bar, two DJs, and time to play on the bocce court if you want. Tickets are $150.
  • Unfortunately, ChurchKey’s New Year’s Eve Beer Bash is already sold out.

Know of any other special New Year’s events on U street? Let me know in the comments.

The Lincoln Theater, courtesy of Mr. T in DC

This is a wonderful idea. Financially-struggling Lincoln Theater will be screening its first movie in quite some time: Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, starting yesterday.

The Lincoln has Landmark Theatres to thank for these screenings (who doesn’t love E Street?). Screenings are at 1, 4 and 7:30 p.m. daily through Jan. 18. There will also be 11 p.m. showtimes on Friday and Wednesday nights.

I’m excited to see a movie in the Lincoln, and hope that this is something they will do on a regular basis.

It’s been a bit over a month since U Wine and Beer reopened following the fire they suffered over the summer. I am finally taking the time to show everyone how nice the upgraded store is. U Wine and Beer’s beer and wine selection keeps on getting better. The owner, Steve, is really great at finding new, interesting, and unusual beers to feature in his store. Hands down, he has the best beer selection in the U street neighborhood.

Best part of the upgraded store, beyond the pretty finishes, is the small selection of food – cheese, crackers, snacks – that U Wine and Beer is now carrying. I love that it’s becoming a one-stop shop for a drink and some nibbles. So glad to see them continue to flourish. Stop on by if you haven’t in a while, don’t forget this gem on U street.

Habitat closing

Too bad to see a local business closing on U Street. Habitat has been on the block for about ten years now. I wasn’t able to find out when they will be closing – but do stop by in the coming weeks to say goodbye.

Update: They will be closing at the end of January.

Courtesy of mag3737

About a year and half ago, rumors started up that a Trader Joe’s might open on U Street. At the time – the big question was, OK – but where? A grocery store of that size needs a space that the U Street area couldn’t appear to accommodate.

Fast forward to now – all of a sudden there are a ton of construction projects that plan to have sizable retail space all over the 14th and U corridor. Now the rumor is starting up again – specifically for the Utopia project that will be coming to the 14th and U corner.

Wonderful news for the hood – we could all use a central grocery store, and who doesn’t love Trader Joe’s. I will keep an eye on development and update when and if something becomes more concrete.

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