Last year I did a best and worst of 2009 on U street. Here is the same post for 2010. Please add your best/worst in the comments.

Best new restaurant: This might be a bold choice, given that I’ve only been there once and just wrote about it a week ago – but I’m going to go ahead and say it – Fast Gourmet in the gas station at 14/W. Yes, that’s how much I loved it. I will be going there frequently, happy to support a great locally owned restaurant. Call me crazy, fine – but have one of their sandwiches first.

Runners up: Estadio, Dickson Wine.

Who won last year: Masa 14/Eatonville.

Best new bar: Dodge City. This relaxed, effortlessly cool bar has been a go to meet up place for my friends and I since it opened. You can easily hang out and have a conversation downstairs, and if you’re in more of a wild mood, you can go up to the second floor and dance. Now in a bit of a no-mans land at U street and Vermont, the end of  U Street is quickly catching up with the rest of the corridor.

Runners up: American Ice Company (haven’t been, but know it’s gotten great reviews), U Street Music Hall.

Who won last year: The Gibson.

Best meal on U street: So I’m not talking U Street proper, but the greater 14th and U area. And if I give myself those parameters, I say there is a tie between Birch and Barley and Estadio. Birch and Barley’s dining room is beautiful, the food is impeccable, and the beer list – well it’s from Churchkey. Estadio is the hot spot in the neighborhood but it delivers wonderful Spanish food, somehow relatively affordably (at least when I’ve eaten there) with great service.

Runner up: Bar Pilar (you know I love me some Bar Pilar, and the quality has not gone down), Cork.

Winner last year: Bar Pilar.

Best new business on U street: Ginger Root. I’ve made friends with the girls behind Ginger Root/ReVamp Designs, and for good reason. They have a great vision for fashion, are eco-conscious, and are just friendly, nice people. Even though they are both recent imports from outside of the city, they just optimize the new, great DC that I hope we all love. If you haven’t stopped in and said hi at their basement shop at 15/U – please do so, now.

Runner up: Can’t really think of a good runner up for this one, maybe my bias for the awesome Ginger Root.

Winner last year: Mid City Caffe.

Best story of the year: Well jeez, this is hard. While plenty of wonderful things happened on U Street this year, they were overshadowed by the bad. I think a great thing that happened for the community was the movie series at Harrison Field this summer. It brought together the community in a wonderful way.

Runner up: Great sledding, snow ball fights in Meridian Hill Park following Snowpocalypse.

Winner last year: Obama coming to Ben’s Chili Bowl.

Worst story of the year: It’s a bit sad that there needs to be a tie for this. Between the horrific daytime shooting following the funeral of Ashley McRae, which lead to Jamal Coates’s death and the death of Ali Ahmed Mohammed outside of DC9, U Street didn’t have the best year. Both of these incidents were so shocking, saddening, and horrific that it really made me think of the state of U street. A reminder that we still need to work to improve our neighborhood, and to never get complacent about anything.

Winner last year: Nori Amaya’s death.

Sad to see them go: There are a lot of U Street area institutions that closed or left. I think HR 57, on lower 14th street, is the one I was saddest to see go. While it is reopening on H Street NE next month, I will still miss it as a place to stop in for great ambiance and music. A laidback, come as you are place that seems to be coming rarer in the neighborhood, HR 57 leaves a hole in the jazz scene on U Street.

Runners up: Cafe Nema, Polly’s, Axis.

Winner last year: Inspired Yoga (sniffle).

Via Aaron Morrissey, the editor in chief of DCist, there’s word that the rumor is true: Cafe Nema and MoMo’s are closing next Monday, the 11thTuesday, the 12th. They have signs on the door. Bummer. No word on what will be replacing these spaces. I encourage everyone to stop by and visit these places before they’re gone for good.

Cafe Nema is one of the pioneers of the revitalization of U street, it opened in 1995. With the loss of Cafe Nema, we’re losing what U street has been.

MoMo’s had been open since 2007, and is a popular sports bar.

After the news from the Mid City Business Association that there may be no new restaurants along 14th and U, many have linked to this update from DCRA – noting they are working to increase the capacity of restaurants/bars for the area.

Linda Argo, director of DCRA says:

Also, it is very important to note that the Office of Planning is finalizing recommendations to the Zoning Commission to increase the 25% cap on eating and drinking establishments, as well as how the cap is calculated. These proposed amendments will be submitted to the Zoning Commission by April 26, 2010.

I also need to make clear that although the Zoning Administrator must, pursuant to the zoning regulations, deny applications for a certificate of occupancy for any business seeking to open an eating or drinking establishment after the overlay district reaches the 25% cap, the applicant can seek a special exception from the Board of Zoning Adjustment. If the Board of Zoning Adjustment grants the special exception, DCRA will issue the certificate of occupancy and the business may open.

What are you doing on New Year’s? Need some ideas? I’ve compiled a pretty long list of events on U street if you need some ideas of how to ring in the New Year:

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

12th and U a year and half ago, approximately

12th and U a year and half ago, approximately

The other day I was looking at the Google street view for different intersections around U street (might have had some time to kill). While I’m not sure when the street view pictures were taken, they were announced about six months ago, and look to have been taken at least a year ago and a half ago (Pink November is still in its old location, Ulah Bistro isn’t open). It made me think about how much the ‘hood has changed just in the past year or so. When I moved here U street was a quieter, hipper alternative to other nightlife destinations. Now it seems to have become the nightlife destination.

12th and U now

12th and U now

It got me thinking. Just in the past two years U street area has seen the following places open: Chix, Nellie’s, Vinoteca, Italian Pizza Kitchen, Next Door, Ulah Bistro, Sushi U, U Street Cafe, Marvin, the Gibson, DC Noodles, Policy, Cork, Eatonville, Yes Organic Market, the CVSes at 14th and W and 10th and U, Georgetown Valet, Pure, Indulj, Almaz, Republic Gardens, Cafe Salsa, 1905, Station 9, Hamiltonian Gallery, Momo’s, Miss Pixies, and a little out of the neighborhood: Posto, Commissary, Pitango Gelato, ACKC… and I haven’t even touched Columbia Heights.

Meanwhile the following have closed: Cue Bar, Duke’s City, 14U, Pink November (relocated), George’s Shoe Repair (relocated), Bar Nun, Mocha Hut, Simply Home, Roha, Wild Women Wear Red, and I’m sure many more I’m currently forgetting. It’s at least nice that the places that have opened outweigh those that closed.

It’s one thing to think about how a neighborhood changes in the abstract, it’s another to see it in person. Share your thoughts in the comment section, if you please.

Other blogs have done a better job covering the various construction projects that are headed to the U street area than I have. Here’s a quick round-up of all of the projects:

It’s very interesting to see all of this construction in the neighborhood. My question is: will the declining economy allow for these projects to be finished when they would like to? Or will we see more half-renovated/half-constructed properties as funding for construction falls out.

MCCXXIII, courtesy of NCinDC (Flickr)

MCCXXIII, courtesy of NCinDC (Flickr)

OK, I’m the first one to admit that MCCXXIII was pretty lame, but as a college student it was pretty freaking cool, at least before I turned 21 and could go to a real bar (then it was the Georgetown bar scene, which is a whole other thing). It was in that repertoire of Home (closed), Tequila Beach (closed), Yuca (closed), Lulu’s (closed), Pearl (closed), Apex (gay club still going strong), that were very popular in the under-21 college crowd when I was in college 5 years ag0, or so. Nearly all of them, now including MCCXXIII, have closed.

I had some memories in those places (I was going to type “good” or “fun” memories but I realize that I really had neither) and even though I didn’t step a foot in any of them after I turned 21, it’s still a bit sad to see them go. They were the only places under-21, fake ID-less college student me could go.

I mean, remember Spank, the top level of MCCXIII that was supposed to be super-exclusive? I remember feeling so cool sophomore year when me and my friends managed to score the right wristband to get up there one Thursday night. I’m pretty sure I wore it the next day to classes to show off my coolness. Yes, I’m glad those days are over, but let’s take a moment of silence for those not-so-great clubs of our college years that are no longer with us.

Obama inauguration, courtesy of Tiff (Flickr)

Obama inauguration, courtesy of Tiff (Flickr)

It’s been a busy past few weeks, from a job search, to working part-time, to getting a job offer, to deciding to take the job offer, to all of the paperwork after accepting the job offer. I start my job later this week, and still have a million things to do before I go in for my first day. Then I get bombarded with questions from well-meaning friends and relatives asking me what my big plans for the inauguration are, and my response is, well you know I’ve been a bit busy, I haven’t really thought that out.

Of course, I’d love to see BRUCE perform on the Mall. Totally want to see Obama’s inauguration speech in person. Though it’s probably not going to be the best place to fully listen to his speech, that’s what YouTube is for after the fact. But, is the absolute mess that’s going to be the Mall, and about a 2 mile radius of it, worth it? I’m not sure I’m convinced. Not to mention, I’m not even sure I have Tuesday off, still working on figuring that one out.

After Bush declared a state of emergency for DC (that sounds scary, doesn’t it?) I started getting worried. I wonder if it’s really going to be the mess that people are predicting: friends have predicted gridlock and mayhem Friday night till Wednesday morning.

Then there’s the whole restaurants being allowed to be open 24 hours and bars serving liquor until 4 am which makes me feel like U street is going to be a 24-hour-party zone. Google Maps does a good job of showing which establishments are going to be taking advantage of the special inauguration laws that allow them to do so. Crazy party zone is great and all, good fun. Not so much when you live on U street and don’t have great sound protection from your apartment and are a light sleeper.

Maybe I should just go hide in the suburbs and wait for it to be over. Or maybe I should just embrace the madness and enjoy it.

Courtesy Mr. T in DC (Flickr)

Courtesy of Mr. T in DC (Flickr)

Solly’s is kind of my Cheers on U street. Yes, that old cliche, where everyone knows your name. Or at least, the owner, Solly (John Solomon) knows my name, and most of the bartenders recognize me.

I love Solly’s for everything it is, and everything it isn’t. It’s a relaxed, neighborhood spot, and it doesn’t try to be anything more. It’s where I go to get a $3 PBR and tater tots (yummy tater tots) with someone to have a quiet conversation. It’s my go-to place to watch football on Sunday, and it’s especially nice that they have a NFL sports package so I can watch my Patriots lose play even when they’re not on local cable. The bar doesn’t try too hard, some might call it a dive, but I just see it as more of a relaxed, neighborhood joint.

I like that Solly himself lives a few blocks away, and that I see him all the time in the neighborhood. I like that I see some of the same people there every Sunday for football. I like that the tables have old Sunday comics under the glass. I like that most of the time, when I walk in the door Solly is there to greet me. I like that they have fun events. And I like knowing that the good money I spend on PBR or Guinness, as well as tater tots and Buffalo wings, goes to a local business that I want to stay around.

A regular feature in which I spotlight local businesses.