Photo courtesy of Tristen.Pelton

El Centro D.F. is making good on its promised Cinco de Mayo opening today. Stop by starting at 5 for:

– Live Latin DJ
– $20 Unlimited Antojitos
– Over 200 Tequilas & Mezcals
– Handcrafted Margaritas & Agave Cocktails

Their rooftop will be open, and it looks like tomorrow will be the perfect night to enjoy rooftop drinking. And, boy do I love a good margarita. If you stop by, please let me know how the place is in the comments.

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).

Demolition order

There are demolish notices all along the buildings on 14/S – they are making way for a new mixed use project from JBG. 14thandYou has the details, they spoke to the project manager of the development.

The project will have 125 condos (mostly 1 bedrooms and studios) and over 18,000 square feet of retail. The project will most likely feature two restaurants–one larger and one smaller. While we’re all clamoring for local businesses, the project has no mandate to include them, though JBG says they will try.

Demolishing will start soon, and JBG hopes the project will open in the spring or summer of 2012.

The pintxos from Estadio

Saturday afternoon, I headed over to Estadio (14th and Church) for some bites and drinks. Now, Estadio has a lot of buzz around it, both positive and negative. The reviews on Yelp are so uneven – some people had wonderful experiences and some were awful. I’ve read tweets raving about the food and experience and I’ve read tweets bemoaning the service, portion sizes, and the quality of the food. So, going into the experience, my expectations were not high.

We went around 5:30 and easily got a seat at the bar. The restaurant wasn’t very crowded at all. Thinking we’d get a few bites and a drink (PDF menu), we ordered two pintxos (skewered bites) – the chorizo/manchego/quince ($1.50 each) and jamon wrapped fig/cabrales/marcona almonds ($2.50 each). The bites were small but good. We also got a bocadillo (sandwich) that was tiny – maybe four bites, but a very good four bites. The chorizo with idiazabal cheese was warm and wonderful.

Still hungry from these tiny bites, we ordered the patatas bravas and tortilla espanola, two classics. The servings for these were much larger, larger than I was expecting based on what I’d heard about how small the servings are. The patatas were very good, not the complete classic version you’d get in Spain, but all the flavors are there. The tortilla espanola came with spicy sauteed peppers, which added a nice bite to the dish.

Warm peach cake dessert

As for drinks, we stuck with tinto de verano after hearing (and seeing) how tiny the much-vaunted slushitos were. For $9, I wanted more. Tinto de verano ($7), red wine with lemon soda, was refreshing and tasty. I’d say stick to the tradicionales section of the drink menu, where Spanish favorite calimocho sits. From my experience (one of my best friends lives in Spain), these are the drinks Spaniards actually drink, vs. sangria.

To finish, we were intrigued by the desserts and went with warm peach cake with goat cheese ice cream and thyme caramel. Yeah, it was good.

We ended up spending $30/person with 4 drinks – not bad but we didn’t have a full meal (though in fact, I just ended up having a small snack later in the night, I was pretty full).

I really liked the decor, part very medieval Spanish and part whimsical – the bathroom doors are adorned with the most beautiful (and married to each other) Spaniards – Penelope Cruz for women and Javier Bardem for men. And, the inside of the women’s bathroom at least has a huge mural of Spanish soccer players without their shirts on.

The verdict: I liked it a lot, but I think this is a place to go for early drinks and snacks instead of a full-fledged meal unless you want to a) drop a lot of money and b) be prepared to wait because they don’t take reservations past 6 for groups smaller than 6.

Have you been? What do you think?

I enjoyed a long weekend in Charlottesville  (kind of wishing I was still there). Here are some recommendations for the area: 

  • To see: UVA’s campus. It was fun pretending I was still in college walking around the campus with great buildings and views of the mountains. My favorite are the old residence halls that have rooms that all open to the quad (yes Edgar Allen Poe lived in one of them). The downtown mall area has a lot of cute bookstores, antique stores, and restaurants. The restaurants are a bit overpriced but the stores are super cute. Some of my favorites were Oyster House Antiques, Blue Whale Books, Sidetracks Music, and Timberlake’s: an old school fountain shop/drug store. If you’re there on Friday do Fridays after Five on the mall, live music, sitting outside: good combination. Oh and um, Monticello. Go there too.
  • To eat: It’s out of the way, but really good: Savour. A friend who spent 5 years in Charlottesville getting his PhD

    UVA

     

    raved about it, for good reason: $30 gets you 3 courses and one of my favorite dishes of the year so far: tomato sushi. A smoked tomato acts as the “raw fish” with oh so creamy mozzarella  as the “rice” and balsamic reduction as the soy sauce. Oh man. Go. Also enjoyed Boylan Heights – gourmet burgers for around $8 and a collegiate bar atmosphere (it’s right across the street from UVA). 

  • To drink: You gotta go to the wineries. Everyone raved about Stone Mountain Vineyards, but the drive up a mountain on a narrow, dirt road made me too nervous. I really enjoyed Barboursville – $5 gets you a wine glass to keep and 19 wines to taste. The owners are Italian winemakers and they grow some great Italian vintages. Plus there’s ruins on the site: Governor Barbour’s Jefferson-designed mansion burned down in the 1800s and is on site. Very cool.

You can view more photos from my trip on Flickr.

Seemed like everyone enjoyed my list of businesses coming to the U street corridor. A commenter suggested I write a list of recently opened businesses along U street, as they’re hard to keep up with (I agree!) – so here’s a list of businesses that have opened along the 14th and U corridor in 2010 (there are a lot more that opened in late 2009 – think Cork Market, Masa 14, JJ’s Philly Cheesesteaks):

  • Angelico Pizza at 14/U – Formerly drunk-haven Jumbo Slice, Angelico Pizza, a local pizza chain, seems to be catering to the same drunk pizza crowd. U Street Girl says that based on a small sample it’s still best consumed drunk.
  • Bistro La Bonne at 13/U – This French-themed bistro opened after Axis closed in January. The same owners bring you good French cooking, a great beer list, and a relaxed vibe  – U Street Girl hasn’t been to dinner yet but gives thumbs up to their brunch.
  • Cork &  Fork at 14/Church – this local wine store chain opened in May. A lovely French family with a history of winemaking sells affordable wines. U Street Girl was skeptical as Cork Market is so close by, but loves the passion and knowledge that the family behind Cork & Fork offers.
  • Dickson Wine at 9/U – This wine bar concept from the guys behind Marvin, the Gibson, etc. opened in March. U Street Girl says that the food was really good, atmosphere cool, and recommends you sit at a table not at the bar-like seating.
  • Dodge City at 9/U – this quiet bar opened in April. A good beer list, no frills, not crowded, dance bar on the second floor – U Street Girl says this might be the one bar on U Street where you can get a seat and hear your companion.
  • Homemade Pizza Co. at 14/Church – This take a premade pizza home and stick it in an oven store opened in January. U Street Girl says my bad, still haven’t been. I like my pizzas homemade or already cooked from Pete’s or Coppi’s but I’ve heard from a friend that the pizzas are good but pricey.
  • Patty Boom Boom at 14/U – This Jamaican-themed bar opened in January. U Street Girl says the bridge and tunnel crowd lines up to get in during the weekend, but the vibe inside is chill and the music is fun. Plus the patties are great.
  • Pica Taco at 14/Florida – the second outpost for this small taco restaurant opened in April. U Street Girl says tacos are good, cheap, and a great “I forgot to make dinner” solution.
  • Point Chaud at 14/S – this creperie opened in June, serving a long list of savory and sweet crepes. U Street Girl says it’s good but hopes service will improve as the people who work there get more experience.
  • Room & Board at 14/T – this national, high-end furniture chain opened in June. 4 stories of beautiful furniture and a great roof deck. U Street Girl says it’s pretty but she can’t afford it.
  • U Street Music Hall at 12/U – This DJ-haven dance club, again from the Hilton brothers of Marvin, etc., opened in March. U Street Girl says sorry, I still haven’t been! It’s not really my scene but I do want to check it out, it’s on my to-do list.

New restaurant coming here (courtesy of NCinDC)

 

Well this is exciting news for the 14th street corridor. Tom Sietsema reported in his weekly chat this morning that two new restaurants are coming to 14th street.  

Sietsema says Whisk Group and Abdo Development have partnered to bring Italian Shirt Laundry, at 1601 14th St. NW (at Q street) (named after the longstanding dry cleaners that used to be at the location).  Italian Shirt Laundry will be a combination pizzeria and bakery. 

The second restaurant will be Italian Cinema, at 1404 14th St., NW (between P and Rhode Island), will serve pasta, charcuterie and screen Italian films on the restaurant’s roof. 

The groups hope the restaurants will open sometime this year. Who’s excited?