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by Tim Regan — December 2, 2016 at 2:45 pm 0

Funk Parade (Photo via Funk Parade)The organizers behind the annual Funk Parade celebration are asking for ideas as they plan out this year’s festivities.

The huge parade will roll down U Street on May 6, organizers announced this week. In previous years, the parade has attracted performers, colorful floats and thousands of people to the neighborhood.

What will this year’s event bring? That’s where you come in. Funk Parade’s organizers are scheduled to host a community input meeting at the Thurgood Marshall Center (1816 12th St. NW) on Tuesday, Dec. 13.

“Share your thoughts and hear others’ ideas for what makes the event great and how to make it better,” a Facebook event post for the meeting reads. “Learn about early plans and schedule for Funk Parade 2017. Get involved with planning, community organizing, fundraising or permitting.”

Those interested in attending the meeting should RSVP online first.

Photo via Funk Parade

by Tim Regan — November 29, 2016 at 12:00 pm 8 Comments

Wet Dog Tavern exterior, photo courtesy of Raj Lal

A new watering hole near U Street is set to start welcoming pups and people by mid-December.

Wet Dog Tavern, a new “dog-friendly” beer garden, is set to open its doors at 2100 Vermont Ave. NW in a matter of weeks, according to general manager Raj Lal. Though the bar was originally slated to open over the summer, some construction and permitting issues have delayed that process.

When the bar finally opens, it will serve beer, wine and seasonal cocktails. The idea, Lal said, is to keep things simple and unsophisticated.

“I want to focus on producing great, balanced cocktails that patrons can connect with and really enjoy,” Lal said. “I’m a huge fan of a well-made perfect manhattan, so you can expect to see something like that offered. Perhaps a twist on a margarita and a warm cocktail or two for our winter opening.”

The bar will also pour some beers “that are being brewed for us out of a Pennsylvania brewery,” Lal added. “For the rest of the taps and bottle choices, we’ll be focusing on nationwide brews, not just the same local breweries that are commonly found around this area.”

Patrons can sip their drinks in a heated outdoor beer garden that will be large enough for about 75-100 people. The tavern’s interior will hold between 35 and 50 people, Lal added.

As the name implies, customers seated in the outdoor area can bring along their canine companions.

“We plan on having tables outside where people can bring their dogs,” Lal told us in April. “You want to walk your dog, you can bring them here.”

Photo courtesy of Raj Lal

by Tim Regan — November 15, 2016 at 12:00 pm 0

The “home of the sweet potato pie” is back in business on U Street.

Henry’s Soul Cafe reopened its location at 1704 U St. NW this morning at 11 a.m. Today’s opening marks the first time the U Street soul food eatery has served customers since it closed after a fire in 2014.

A small handful of people gathered at the restaurant this morning to place their orders for pies, fried chicken and fish, mac and cheese, ribs and cornbread.

Owner Jermaine Smith said the reopening has been “pretty good” so far.

“We’re working out some of the kinks with the new system we have,” Smith added.

Locals can start picking up Thanksgiving orders on Sunday, Nov. 20. The store is open 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sundays.

Photos and additional reporting by Andrew Ramonas

by Tim Regan — November 7, 2016 at 10:30 am 0

2014 Grimke Redevelopment rendering, photo via Sorg Architects/Roadside DevelopmentU Street community leaders are asking a group of developers to get moving on a plan to redevelop the former Grimke School building and surrounding area.

ANC 1B last Thursday passed a resolution urging the developers to move forward on the redevelopment of the properties at 1923 Vermont Ave. and 912 U St. NW by Dec. 1.

Under the developers’ plan — first awarded about two years ago — two parcels of land containing the historic school and the African American Civil War Museum would be redeveloped for residential and retail use. The project would also include offices for local dance studio Step Afrika and approximately 10,000 square feet devoted to new African American Civil War Museum facilities.

But in the time since the project was awarded, little has happened with it. Now, members of of the local community are getting cold feet, the ANC’s members said.

“We don’t think that it is acting in good faith to delay projects as long as this one has been delayed,” said commissioner Robb Hudson. “You’re sitting on a project [and] you have other people that are waiting to move into the space.”

According to the resolution, the developer has until Dec. 1 to execute a deal related to redeveloping the site. If that deadline isn’t met, the ANC will ask the District’s general counsel or attorney general to “aggressively pursue legal remedy, fines, and penalties” and seek to bar some of the project’s developers from participating in D.C. Government sponsored real estate projects for years to come. The ANC would also seek to “reissue an accelerated RFP for a new developer for the Grimke Redevelopment that retains the proposed tenants” if the deadline isn’t met.

“We’ve kept these people on the hook for many, many months,” Hudson said. “We’re very serious about this.”

Though the ANC doesn’t have the authority to enforce those demands, it can “definitely shed some light on what’s happened here,” Hudson noted.

Despite the warning, the ANC’s chair, James Turner, said the resolution was meant to “help move things along.”

“We want to work with you to keep the Grimke School used,” Turner added.

Rendering via District Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development

by Tim Regan — November 4, 2016 at 3:45 pm 6 Comments

15th-and-w-streets-nw

A small group of people who live near Meridian Hill Park have banded together to speak out against a plan to put a bike-sharing hub near their homes.

About seven neighbors showed up to last night’s ANC 1B meeting on U Street to make their voices heard regarding a DDOT plan to install a new Capital Bikeshare station at 15th and W streets NW.

Over the past few weeks, the neighbors have debated with local leaders and DDOT officials over whether a new Bikeshare station should be installed at the southeast corner of the intersection.

Some locals, like Steve Fotiu, say installing the station there would be too noisy and could create safety problems for cyclists traveling through the area.

“This is a very dangerous intersection,” Fotiu warned, “and they’re going to ride right off of a sidewalk into the street to get to the bike lane on 15th.”

The station could also lower home values in the area and help set a precedent for more Bikeshare stations in other residential zones throughout the District, he added.

“If I was to go to DDOT… to put a hot dog stand at this location, DDOT would reject that request on an inappropriateness for this location.”

Fotiu continued: “If we had a referendum of homeowners in the city [asking] if you want a Bikeshare directly in front of your single-family home, I believe majority would say, no thank you.”

Not everyone at the meeting agreed with that assessment, however. Alex Lopez, who lives on the 1300 block of Belmont St. NW, said the neighborhood could use another Bikeshare station.

“There is a serious issue in our neighborhood of bike availability,” Lopez said. “In the morning, there are no bikes, and in the evening there are no stations to park your bike.”

Commissioner LaKisha Brown, who represents that part of the neighborhood, said she sympathizes with some of the neighbors’ concerns.

“I did agree with Steve that I personally wouldn’t want a Bikeshare in front of my home,” she said.

But Brown stopped short of saying she’d ask the city agency to reconsider its plans. Though DDOT was willing to look at several other potential locations for the stations, she said, the most “ideal” alternative spot was in front of the nearby St. Augustine Church.

“It’s a tough decision,” Brown said. “But the other alternative was to remove three parking spaces in front of a church… and I really didn’t want to do that.”

Ultimately, the ANC backed DDOT’s proposal by a vote of 5-1-1, “with the stipulations that DDOT install an angled docking station and reduce the size of the docking station to no more than 37 feet, which is the size of the existing planter.”

by Tim Regan — November 1, 2016 at 2:45 pm 0

Meridian Hill Park fountain on Aug. 12, 2016District residents will have the “rare opportunity” to talk directly to National Park Service officials during a town hall meeting on U Street tonight.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton is scheduled host a town hall meeting tonight regarding D.C.’s urban parks that are owned and maintained by the National Park Service.

The community meeting begins at the African American Civil War Museum (1925 Vermont Ave. NW) at 6:30 p.m. this evening.

Meridian Hill Park, Dupont Circle, Logan Circle and the National Mall are just a few examples of D.C.’s NPS-owned parks.

“In a rare opportunity to speak to regional NPS leadership, Norton will be joined by National Park Service (NPS) National Capital Region Regional Director Bob Vogel and four regional NPS superintendents to hear from D.C. residents on how NPS can work with the community to maintain D.C.’s NPS-owned neighborhood parks located in all eight wards,” says a statement about the meeting.

Read more in the Oct. 31 press release from Norton’s office:

(more…)

by Tim Regan — October 31, 2016 at 10:25 am 0

henrys-soul-cafe-new-bannerIt’s official: Henry’s Soul Cafe says it will reopen its U Street location in time to bake pies for the upcoming holiday season.

The local spot hailed as the “home of the sweet potato pie” is slated to open its doors at 1704 U St. NW on the morning of Nov. 15, according to a recent Facebook post.

“ARE YOU READY? Henry’s U Street will reopen on November 15th @ 11 a.m.,” the enthusiastic message reads. “Tell your momma, cousin, friend… everybody! See you there!”

Locals can start picking up their Thanksgiving orders five days later on Sunday, Nov. 20, a sign posted on the front door of the restaurant says.

Though Henry’s Soul Cafe is best known for its pies, the eatery also slings heaping helpings of fried chicken and fish, mac and cheese, ribs and cornbread.

by Tim Regan — October 17, 2016 at 12:00 pm 0

A beloved U Street restaurant may reopen in time to sell sweet potato pies for the upcoming holiday season.

A new sign posted at Henry’s Soul Cafe (1704 U St. NW), “home of the sweet potato pie,” urges locals to “place your orders before Thanksgiving.” The sign lists dates for picking up orders and includes two locations: U Street and Oxon Hill, Md.

“Hopefully, it’ll reopen by then,” an employee at the Henry’s in Oxon Hill told Borderstan this morning. The employee said no opening date has been set, however.

Though the U Street store closed after a fire in 2014, its owners have vowed to return to the neighborhood. A banner hanging in the eatery’s window says it’s “coming soon.”

For members of the surrounding community, the opening couldn’t come sooner.

“We are excited to see you moving in,” reads a note recently taped to the restaurant’s front door. “Looking forward to the famous sweet potato pie.”

Photos by Andrew Ramonas

by Tim Regan — October 13, 2016 at 11:35 am 1 Comment

U Street’s newest neighborhood bar is set to start serving seasonal cocktails and fried chicken sandwiches when it opens its doors next week.

Service Bar (928 U St. NW) co-owners Glendon Hartley, Chad Spangler and Chris Willoughby are scheduled to host a grand opening event next Thursday at 5 p.m., a representative for the company told Borderstan.

When Service Bar opens, its bartenders will shake, stir and serve a list of cocktails that includes classics like mint juleps, old fashioneds, and daiquiris alongside contemporary specialties such as the “Sumo Punch,” a concoction of clarified lime, yuza, smoked apple mint, Midori and Japanese whiskey infused with green tea and Asian pears.

The hangout’s food menu is composed of five chicken dishes. Offerings include a fried chicken sandwich on a pretzel bun, chicken quesadillas and fried chicken salad. Service Bar will also sell Good Humor ice cream cones and have a happy hour with $7 cocktails that “literally never ends.”

Read the full event listing for the grand opening below:

(more…)

by Tim Regan — October 7, 2016 at 2:50 pm 1 Comment

J's Steaks on 14th Street

Has this late-night cheesesteak joint near the intersection of 14th and U streets NW served its last sandwich?

J’s Steaks (1939 14th St. NW) was closed last night and earlier this afternoon when a Borderstan reporter visited the shop.

The business is also listed as “permanently closed” on its Google listing. Additionally, the eatery’s main phone line was disconnected when we called today.

Though it’s unclear when the business may have shuttered, an employee at next-door Boss Burger said the late-night restaurant has been closed for about two months.

We’ll update this story if we can confirm the closure.

Photo by Andrew Ramonas

by Tim Regan — October 5, 2016 at 3:55 pm 0

A U Street bar will celebrate a milestone birthday with copious amounts of beer and whiskey this weekend.

Solly’s, the watering hole located at 1942 11th St. NW, is scheduled to hold an anniversary party this Sunday at 8:30 p.m., said owner John Solomon. The party will include drink specials, a DJ, T-shirt sales and a raffle, with proceeds going to local nonprofits Washington Jesuit Academy and Hoops Sagrado.

Solomon, who first bought a house in the neighborhood back in 1999, has poured beer and whiskey behind the bar at Solly’s since he opened it in 2006. Back then, he said it was one of the only local hangouts of its kind around.

“It used to be, we were one of the only neighborhood bars on U Street or in Columbia Heights,” he remembered. “We even used to get people from Bloomingdale.”

But that has changed. Though Solly’s started as a sleepy neighborhood tavern, it’s now often packed with young fresh faces, especially on the weekend.

“Sometimes, it feels like Logan’s Run here on U Street,” Solomon joked. “It feels like the neighborhood is getting younger.”

Although Solomon has seen a lot over the years, his fondest memory remains the night District residents took to the streets in celebration upon hearing that Barack Obama was elected president.

“I remember just sitting and looking down at the people in the street just in awe,” Solomon recalled. “Everybody shut down U Street in celebration. Even now, thinking about it, I still get goosebumps.”

Solomon also remembers the night a taxi driver slammed his cab into the side of the bar and injured several people.

“We were pretty fortunate there were no serious injuries. It was pretty harrowing,” he said. “But in a weird way, that put us on the map.”

Above all else, Solomon said he’s looking forward to making some new memories as the neighborhood continues to grow and change.

“I’m looking forward to the next 10 years,” he added.

by Tim Regan — September 26, 2016 at 2:30 pm 0

Flier for Exiles 'Hootenanny'A hangout on U Street has plans for a big party next week.

Exiles (1610 U St. NW) is scheduled to host a “hootenanny” next Wednesday, Oct. 5, at 7:30 p.m. The party will include a pig roast, beer pairings, spiked apple cider and a family-style buffet, according to the bar’s co-owner, Brian Hillery.

“We will host the hootenanny on our back patio where our smoker Suzie Q lives,” Hillery said. “As we recently installed outdoor televisions, I was planning on screening The Last Waltz at some point.”

The event will also include games like cornhole and darts along with a chance for partygoers to make some music.

“We’re also encouraging attendees to bring along guitars, banjos, harmonicas, fiddles, and empty jugs with ‘XXX’ printed on them,” Hillery said.

Tickets to the “hootenanny” cost $45. Those interested in attending can email the bar to make reservations.

Flier courtesy of Bryan Hillery

by Tim Regan — September 25, 2016 at 9:40 am 0

jumbo-pizza-u-street-photo-via-google-street-view(Updated at 11:43 a.m.) An argument that began inside of a U Street pizzeria early this morning ended in a stabbing and an assault, D.C. Police said.

The stabbing and fight occurred outside of the Jumbo Pizza at 1344 U St. NW just before 4 a.m.

Two people got into an argument over skipping line to order pizza at the restaurant, according to a police report. The two people then took their argument outside, where one of them took a knife out of their backpack and stabbed the other.

The person who was stabbed, a man, retaliated by punching his assailant, knocking him unconscious, police said. One of the victim’s companions then kicked the suspected stabber in the head.

Police arrested the alleged stabber, 20-year-old Jose Nelson Melendez Rodriguez, and the person suspected of kicking him in the head, 20-year-old Justin Anthony McKinney. Information on either of their lawyers wasn’t immediately available.

The victim of the stabbing was taken to the hospital, authorities said.

ABC News reporter Mike Levine tweeted a photo this morning that appears to show the aftermath of the crime:

Photo via Google Street View

by Tim Regan — September 14, 2016 at 10:00 am 0

An Italian eatery and its “restaurant within a restaurant” are closed on U Street.

Alphonse Italian Market and Osteria (1212 U St. NW) and its upscale sister eatery, Nonna’s Kitchen, appear to have shuttered on Monday, according to signs posted to the front door of the business.

“We wish to thank you for your patronage and support and we will miss serving the U Street neighborhood,” the signs read.

Both restaurants opened two years ago.

We were unable to reach the owners of the restaurants to confirm the closure. We’ll update this story if we hear back from them.

by Tim Regan — August 26, 2016 at 2:30 pm 0

1700 U St. NW, photo via Google Street ViewA group of robbers stuck a knife to a man’s back while robbing him on the U Street corridor early this morning, according to D.C. Police.

The robbery occurred on the 1700 block of U St. NW just after midnight. The area where the crime occurred is roughly a block away from MPD’s Third District police station.

A man was walking away from his car when three people approached him from behind, according to a police report. One of the people pressed a knife to the man’s back and said, “give me all you got.” Another person from the group then went through the man’s pockets and stole his wallet.

The three thieves were last seen heading east on U Street, police said.

Authorities tweeted about the crime about an hour after it occurred:

 Photo via Google Street View

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