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.

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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.

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.

The farmers' market last fall, courtesy of M.V. Jantzen

This always makes me sad. This weekend is the last for our farmer’s market at 14th and U: so stop by to stock up for the winter, pick up Thanksgiving day supplies, and say farewell to the vendors. The market will be back next May, but you can stop by the Dupont market in the interim, which is open all year.

Chidogo's closing

The closing of Chidogo’s was inevitable, with the Utopia project coming to the southwest corner of 14th and U. Neighboring restaurants had already closed, and Chidogo’s will shutter its doors November 11. The hot dog spot opened in November of last year – I had only stopped in a few times but appreciated a non-McDonalds fast food option for a late night snack.

Chidogo’s will be opening other locations in the area, but it’s not clear if they will be returning to their 14th and U location after construction finishes at the Utopia project.

The Lincoln Theater, courtesy of Mr. T in DC

This is just getting to be too much. The Lincoln Theater, on the National Register of Historic Places, is in danger of closing. While perhaps not surprising, given the Lincoln Theater has relied on funds from the DC government to stay alive and hasn’t been profitable, it’s still a blow to the area. Jim Graham and theater leadership have had emergency meetings regarding the theater’s funding and the feasibility of it staying open. Graham announced via Twitter last night that they will hold a meeting announcing the future of the theater today at 1 pm.

Stay tuned folks, we’ll see what happens.

UPDATE: Aaron Morrissey, editor of DCist, is tweeting from the meeting that the Lincoln Theater will close at the end of the year if they don’t received additional funding.

Pulp, courtesy of tyarab77

It’s an unfortunate reality in a neighborhood that might have gotten to popular for its own good. Businesses that helped make the neighborhood popular in the first place get pushed out because of increasing rents. We’ve seen, on the 1800 block of 14th street, Go Mama Go, Ruff n’ Ready, and Garden District close. Now Pulp, the quirky cards and gift store that was the best place to browse and shop, is closing as well. Borderstan broke the news last night, Pulp will be closing its location in November.

The store opened in November 2002, so it will be closing after 9 years in business. The original owner, Ron Henderson, died in February of 2009, and Borderstan reports that the business deal to sell the store to new owners fell through. While Pulp doesn’t appear to be a victim of increased rents, it’s still sad to see a store that helped the neighborhood become what it is close. Show some love to Pulp before it closes, and let them know how important they have been to the neighborhood.