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Hello, readers – sorry I haven’t written here in a while. Life has been quite busy, and something had to give – and that was my blog. But, I’m back and trying to focus on some interesting, longer form feature pieces right now, versus breaking news. Please follow me on my Twitter account for that kind of coverage.

Now, the topic at hand – BakeHouse, a bakery that will open on 14th and T this fall. I had the opportunity to meet up with the owners, Niall Cooper and Lindsey Morse, to taste some of the goods and talk about their business.  Niall and Lindsey live in the U Street neighborhood and have long dreamed of opening their own business. Lindsey had always considered baking a hobby, but started taking it more seriously the past few years.

Lindsey started working in professional kitchens and learning the lay of the land. Meanwhile, her husband Niall found that his Scottish citizenship meant his chosen career of museum management quite tough to pursue in DC (Federal government requires you be a U.S. citizen to work for them…) and they started seriously pursuing opening a bakery in the neighborhood.

Lindsey and Niall, a charming couple, say they foresee BakeHouse becoming a Baked & Wired for the U street neighborhood, a gathering place with delicious baked goods. They plan to be open in time for the morning rush and late enough to stop by for a sweet treat after dinner.

And sweet treats do they have. Lindsey prepared quite a spread for us and some other guests: among them delectable apple cider “doughnut” muffins, flaky and savory bacon and date scones, tastes just like root beer “float” cupcakes, and frothy  coconut and almond milkshakes. Everything we sampled (and we did sample everything) was delicious. My companion and fiance, a discerning sweet fiend, especially kept on going back to the perfectly paired strawberry and lemon cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

Niall and Lindsey talked to me about the need for a neighborhood bakery (oh do I agree), and the idea of a locally-owned spot is so appealing. While we know U Street doesn’t lack in bars, restaurants, and vintage stores – a simple place to stop in and get a snack, chat with a friend can be hard to find especially with the closing of Love Cafe.

Bakehouse is under construction as we speak, it will live next to the Post Office building on 14th and T which is set to become (at least for now) Taqueria Nacional, which is moving their Capitol Hill location to T street. While dealing with the slow permit process as well as the perhaps slower construction process has meant that BakeHouse won’t open as soon as Lindsey and Niall want, they do hope to open by Thanksgiving.

While we await the bakery opening in the hood, follow them on Facebook or Twitter for updates.

Last night, Black & Orange, the new burger joint on 14th just south of U Street opened. I swung by the opening party (yes, they were kind enough to invite me) and checked out the space. It is pretty large, with ample seating. I dig their minimalist decor. Checkout after the jump for a few more photos. (more…)

A few weeks ago, I stopped into Cork Market to buy provisions for a good panini. While there, I was greeted by Sarah of Gordy’s Pickle Jar, offering free samples of some of her pickles.

We got to talking, and Sarah explained that they had recently won second prize at the International Pickle Festival, and that they made their pickles right off of U Street. Intrigued, I met up with them last night to talk food in DC, pickles and U Street.

Both Sarah and her business partner, Sheila, live in the U Street neighborhood. Sheila has worked at Marvin (and now Blackbyrd Warehouse) since it opened back in 2007. Blackbyrd is now featuring their relish in a few dishes.

They launched their pickle business at a friend’s wedding in October, giving out pickle jars as wedding favors. The pickles were such a hit they decided to start selling online, and in a few area stores (you can pick them up at Smucker’s Farms and Cork Market in the U Street corridor). Soon they began selling to a few restaurants: you can get their fried pickle chips at Science Club. They are also selling their brine to a lot of area bars for cocktails.

Gordy’s Pickle Jar is named after Sarah’s late father – an affectionate tribute to a pickle lover.

As spring comes along, expect to see Gordy’s at a few area farmer’s markets, as well as some more interesting pickles. While winter has limited them a little bit (they try their best to just use local produce) they are looking forward to experimenting more as more produce becomes in season. The next thing they are working on is pickled fruit, they are currently experimenting on a few recipes.

And, if you want to get really experimental – Peregrine will be featuring their brine in their February drink – appropriately named “Love Potion Number Brine.” Sarah and Sheila assured me that it tasted really good, and the savoriness of the espresso was really cut by the refreshing quality of the brine. Check it out!

Photo courtesy of Mr. T in DC

I love Solly’s, it has been a favorite for meeting up with friends or catching a football game since I moved to the neighborhood almost five years ago.

Of course, back in the day Solly’s used to serve food – decent bar food that went well with beer. A few years ago they stopped, but now with their expansion into neighboring Madjet, Solly’s will be serving food again and hopefully gain some much needed space in the process. John Solomon, the owner, says that the renovation should take a month and could  be done as early as the end of February.

However, the question is: what is happening to Madjet? DC Eater (link above) called Madjet and the employee who answered the phone had not heard of Solly’s expansion. So we will see what happens with Madjet.

I was glad to see over at Washington City Paper’s Young and Hungry blog that Black and Orange has a new opening date. We had heard originally that they planned to open before Christmas, but that obviously didn’t happen.

They are having an opening party for VIPs only (no, yours truly did not get invited) and then will be open to the public around 9:30 that night. Anyone else really excited for awesome burgers on U street?

Cycling studio soon coming here

To keep up with this week’s apparent fitness theme (hey, New Year’s resolutioners!) I have word that a cycling studio is coming to 9th and U. Off Road Indoor Cycling will be on the second and third floors of 905-907 U Street.. They plan to open this spring.

Again, nice to see more work out options in the hood.

CrossFit Praxis, now open

Crossfit Praxis is now open at 14th and Florida. That didn’t take very long, as I first noticed the coming soon sign back in November. Most of you might already know this news, as the gym was profiled in the Express yesterday, but I’m more of a New Yorker reader on the Metro in the morning.

While I’ve never done a Crossfit work out, I know the gym has its devotees – so glad to see another gym option in the hood.

9th and U circa 1928

Thanks to Lydia DePillis for sharing this new blog, The Ruined Capitol, which shows before and after shots of the streets of DC. Above is 9th and U, click through after the jump to see some more shots of the greater 14th and U street area. (more…)

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.

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