Monday, February 28, 2011

Hill Country BBQ set to open March 12

A tweet from the Washington Post informs us that Hill Country is living up to its "Opening in Winter 2011" promise (after some many delays).

The Post reports the restaurant will seat 300 patrons and, as we know, will feature live music and late hours.

Previous Posts about Hill Country BBQ:

Recycling Dream Machines to be introduced downtown

A few months ago, the National Park Service partnered with Coca Cola to bring recycling bins to the National Mall

Pepsi, in conjunction with the Downtown Business Improvement District and the D.C. Department of public works, has decided to step up and bring Dream Machines to the Downtown area, according to Washington City Paper.

Dream Machines

Dream Machines are large recycling machines.  The difference in this and any other container is the technology in it: consumers can collect points for the items they recycle, which can be exchanged for rewards. 

Furthermore, Pepsi makes a contribution to the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) with every recycled item.

Look for these on downtown streets - but what will they do to the beauty of our neighborhood?


Former President Bill Clinton was spotted at the Verizon Center on Saturday afternoon at the Georgetown v. Syracuse game.

Yeas & Nays reports that he waved at the crowd and blew kisses to his fellow spectators.

Lady Gaga's best followers

If you were around Penn Quarter on Thursday night, you probably saw the hoards of Lady Gaga followers.  In fact, the people that stood out on the streets Thursday night were those that were not dressed up in some ridiculous costume.

Penn Quarter Insider has gone through the Washington Examiner's pictures and TBD's pictures to bring you a sample of the very best:

Sunday, February 27, 2011

District Architecture Center coming to 7th Street

The large space on 7th Street between D and E that used to house a souvenir shop has a new tenant.

The Washington, D.C. chapter of the American Institute of Architects will be filling the space.  As you can imagine, the space will be an architectural wonder:

Even though it's not a retail, it does bring some life to a stretch of 7th Street that is all-to-empty with the empty Wagamama Space, the empty Hill Country space, and this empty space.

The location will be used for Design professionals, consumers, patrons, visitors, students and community leaders to learn about and appreciate architecture.   As you can see from the footprint, the space includes a lot of classrooms:

You can learn more about the Institute and this space here.

A few more pictures of the renderings:

Friday, February 25, 2011

Austin Grill introducing a food truck

Penn Quarter staple Austin Grill is rolling out a food truck, according to TBD.

The truck will start heading out to the streets on March 1st, and will include a variety of items from the restaurant's tex-mex menu, including burritos, chicken sandwiches, and wings.

The truck's location will be posted on its twitter feed.  They also have a facebook page.

New Details on City Center

The 10 acre parking lot in the middle of town has left many yearning for new development.  Years ago, it was announced that City Center would be built there.  It is slated to be a mixed-use area with office space, residential condos and apartments, and retail establishments.  It was sold as highly "pedestrian friendly," which Penn Quarter residents tend to value.

The Washington Business Journal now gives us more details on the development, which has had its ups and downs since the announcement over 3 years ago, and has still not broken ground.

Construction is now slated to begin this April, and will (supposedly) be  completed by 2014.

Neither 10th Street nor I Street cut through the current parking lot, as they did not when the old convention center occupied that space.  Now, we hear that those streets will cut through the new development.

However, the complex will still maintain pedestrian-only connections (with fountains!) between the office and residential buildings, lining these passageways with stores and restaurants.

There will be a landscaped plaza between the apartment and condo buildings, as well as a park in the northwest corner, where it is expected many downtown events will be staged.

Lastly, there will be a hotel on the site, and two or three retailers will offer department store-style retail, which was once common downtown, but now leaves PQ residents streaming out to Virginia and Friendship Heights.

We will keep you up-to-date as they announce retailers and restaurants that will be filling the space.  The official City Center website is available here.

Previous drawings did not show 10th Street or I Street cutting through the complex

Ford's Theatre reintroduces walking tours

Summer is quickly approaching and the surest sign is Ford's Theatre is reintroducing walking tours in March.

The walking tours take patrons through Ford's Theatre, and then on a 1.5 mile tour throughout downtown.

There are two tours.  In one, you follow a detective around town as you learn about the investigation surrounding the Lincoln assassination.  That tour is two hours with eight stops.

The second tour is given by a character named Elizabeth Keckly, who bought her freedom and was friends with the Lincolns.   This tour is 90 minutes.

For more information on when these tours occur and to get tickets, visit this site.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

New mixed-use development coming to 7th and H streets (finally)

Since the CVS closed (ok since before the CVS closed) at 7th and H Streets, that corner has been a little empty.  Across from the AT&T mega-screens and the activity of Gallery Place has been an unsightly piece of property in our neighborhood's busiest and most defining intersection.

But today Douglas Development and McCaffery Interests, a Chicago-based development company, have teamed up to bring new development to the corner.

The new development will transform this corner into a brand new mixed-use building. 

Few details beyond the fact that the building has been bought by the joint venture and that a mixed-use building is planned.  What uses they will mix is a good question - will there be residences or commercial space on top?  both? a hotel?  Time will tell and Penn Quarter Insider will stay on top of the details.

The two companies seem to be very mindful of the unique nature of our neighborhood, especially at this entrance to Chinatown.

"We have a long and successful record of working within the neighborhood," said Norman Jemal of Douglas Development Corporation, "our team will ensure a development of the highest quality and one that is additive to the history and to the future of the area."

"Together we will strive to do a development that will enhance the intersection and enrich the wonderful ethnic diversity that now exists," added Juan Cameron, the Managing Director of McCaffery Interests.

This certainly seems like good news - let's hope they build quickly!

Update: We hear from McCaffery Interests that they are hoping for a single retailer at the corner, but if they don't get it, then the upper part of the building will likely be office space, and not residential.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Penn Quarter Neighborhood Association meets tomorrow

Tomorrow morning the Penn Quarter Neighborhood Association will hold its monthly breakfast meeting.

The meeting will take place at the Spy Museum at 9 a.m., with breakfast before starting at 8:30 a.m.

The focus of this month's meeting will be managing partnerships and changes in a competitive marketplace, and Karin Corbin, the Chief Operating Officer of Stir Food Group and the Spy Museum will be the featured speaker.

More information is available from the Downtown Business Improvement District here.

Blue Man Group coming to the Warner Theatre - for a very short period of time

The Blue Man Group is coming to Penn Quarter, though only from March 23 to April 3.  That's 16 performances on 10 days at the Warner Theatre.

This is the first time Blue Man Group has come to Washington.  This production features brand new material, so if you've seen the show before there might be motivation to go again.

The schedule is as follows:
  • Wednesday, March 23 - 7:30 pm
  • Thursday, March 24 - 8:00 pm
  • Friday, March 25 - 8:00 pm
  • Saturday, March 26 - 1:00 pm, 5:00 pm, 9:00 pm
  • Sunday, March 27 - 1:00 pm, 5:00 pm
  • Wednesday, March 30 - 7:30 pm
  • Thursday, March 31 - 8:00 pm
  • Friday, April 1 - 8:00 pm
  • Saturday, April 2 - 1:00 pm, 5:00 pm, 9:00 pm
  • Sunday, April 3 - 1:00 pm, 5:00 pm

Tickets are available through Ticketmaster, as well as LiveNation.  The Warner Theatre Box Office charges a $5 fee per ticket.

Gallery Place has the most crime of any D.C. metro stop; Metro Center is second

Metro has released a crime report, available here from the Washington Post.

The report states that Gallery Place places fifth in crime out of all the Metro stops in the region, and has more crime than any metro station in the District.  Number two, and sixth in the region, is Metro Center.

A graph of the amount of crime:

The biggest problem is stolen electronic devices.  In many cases, criminals are actually snatching iPods and iPhones out of victims' hands and running, just as the metro doors are closing.

D.C. Council quarrels over Verizon Center tickets

In 2007, the District agreed to give the Verizon Center $50 million for renovations here in Penn Quarter.  In exchange, or perhaps just as a gesture of goodwill, Abe Pollin gave the city a luxury suite for their use.

Then Mayor Fenty got into a feud with the City Council (and then-chairman Vince Gray) over who could use the box.  Ever-the-mediator, Abe Pollin simply gave the city another luxury suite, this one under the control of the Council Chairman.

That hasn't stopped the feuding, just changed its scope.  Kwame Brown, the current council-chairman embroiled in scandal over a couple luxury SUVs he leased for himself at city expense, is in charge of doling out the tickets, and other council members are not pleased with how he is doing it.

The city has access to 36 tickets now, yet can't distribute them fairly. 

Council Member Jim Graham has suggested just giving two tickets to each member of the council for every event.  Makes sense.  It has also been suggested that their Nationals Tickets be auctioned off to help budget shortfalls in the District.

Penn Quarter Insider says take away the tickets altogether.  If you're going to play like children, you can be treated like children.

Rasika opening a second location in the West End

We have heard for some time now that Ashok Bajaj, the restaurateur behind Rasika, 701, Bibiana, The Bombay Club, The Oval Room, and Ardeo + Bardeo, has leased space in the West End.

We are now hearing from the Washington Post that the restaurant to be opened there is going to be another Rasika location called Rasika West End.

Rasika has certainly been more than successful in Penn Quarter, even from its unassuming real estate on D Street.  We hope this doesn't mean the restauarant's frequent celebrity guests don't start going to the West End location.

The West End location will be housed in the luxury condominium building 22 West.  It will be about the same size as the Penn Quarter location, but will have a bigger kitchen, which Bajaj says will give them the opportunity to experiment.  A dedicated chef is expected from Mumbai or London.

Previous Posts about Rasika:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dan Rather to speak at the Newseum

Dan Rather is coming to the Newseum to speak at a public event.

On March 1st at 6:30 p.m., Rather will speak following a viewing of The Insider.

The Insider is a film about a tobacco executive, Jeffrey Wigand, who agreed to appear on CBS' 60 Minutes to reveal secrets and bad practices within the tobacco industry.   CBS then edited the interview and things went awray both for Wigand and the producer, Lowell Bergman, who had him on.

Russell Crowe stars as Wigand, Al Pacino as Lowell Bergman, and Christopher Plummer as 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace.

Following the viewing, Rather will discuss the film and take audience questions.

More information is available here from the Newseum; tickets are $15 for the general public and $10 for members of the Newseum.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Salt trucks are out in Penn Quarter

The roads are getting icy in Penn Quarter, but the salt trucks are out in full force.  PQ Insider saw several of them salting the roads of our neighborhood.

Be careful driving though, the ice is hard to see and is accumulating quickly as the freezing rain picks up.

Some sidewalks have been salted, but not all of them.  Be careful on foot!

Friday, February 18, 2011

PBS' History Detectives visit the Clara Barton

PBS's History Detectives visited the Clara Barton.  The filmed an episode in Clara Barton's old office, which is on the 7th Street Side of the building.

The premise of the show was to find out whether a letter found tucked in a book was actually written by Clara Barton.  The letter was found by a man in Oceola, Indiana.

The letter, dated July 1866, reports of the death of a man by the name of Israel Brown.

PBS has also put up a document from 1866 that Clara Barton published in an effort to locate missing men.  It is available here.

You can watch the entire episode online here (or embedded below) to find out if Clara Barton actually wrote the letter and to see the inside of the space in the Clara Barton that used to be her office.

Watch the full episode. See more
History Detectives.

Bill makes its way through Congress to move the FTC

There is a bill working its way through Congress to move the Federal Trade Commission out of its original building, where it was founded in the 1930s, on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The National Gallery of Art, which neighbors the FTC, would takeover the space and renovate it to become more gallery space.

The move is designed to save taxpayer money.  The FTC would move into a building the government already owns, and the National Gallery would use private donations to renovate their soon-to-be new building.

No word on where the FTC would re-locate, but Penn Quarter seems unlikely.  Government Executive reports that Federal Center Southwest and 1800 F Street are in the mix of possibilities.

Ollie's Trolley surprises with its hamburger

TBD's Michael Birchenall recently did a city-wide taste-taste of hamburgers after 40,000 votes were cast by readers of their favorites.

He ultimately picked Five Guys; but, Penn Quarter Insider has disqualified all national chains.  Thus the REAL winner is the close runner-up: Penn Quarter's Ollie's Trolley.

Ollie's surprised him the most, he said.  He wasn't expecting a great burger, but that's what he got.  “This has a gourmet kind of look to it. The tower effect,” Birchenall said.

An Ollie Burger, proudly listed on the menu as "our specialty," costs $4.79.

An Ollie Burger with Ollie Fries

Don't forget Metro delays this weekend

Don't forget about the track work this weekend causing major metro delays around Penn Quarter.

Our full previous post about it is available here.

The Federal Triangle and Smithsonian metro stops will be closed, causing reverberations throughout the neighborhood.

Bill Cosby honored at the Navy Memorial

Actor Bill Cosby was at the Navy Memorial yesterday being honored for his service, reports Yeas & Nays.  He was made an honorary Chief Petty Officer.

Cosby was wearing a Navy officer's jacket and hat, though he was humble about his service in the Navy.  He told a story about not making it through a fire drill -- "I was told, because it's a drill, to go over where the dead people were because I had walked through the fire," Cosby said.  He also told reporters, "This gives me a chance to go back in my life to my Navy days and pretend that I stayed in."

He then did a stand-up comedy routine to a group of sailors in attendance.

Cosby served in the Navy for four years.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Downtown Business Improvement District wants to hear from you

The Downtown Business Improvement District is currently conducting their fourth annual survey of those who live and work downtown.

They use the survey to show retailers, brokers, and businesses (new and existing) the demographics of downtown. 

Hopefully this will mean more establishments in our neighborhood that conform to our liking.

Not to mention, you can win some great prizes from filling it out.  The grand prize is a weekend stay at Hotel Monaco and dinner for four at a neighborhood restaurant.  The first place prize is a gift certificate to Cedar.

The survey can be accessed here.

HBO comedy sure to pass through Penn Quarter

TBD reports on the upcoming HBO pilot Veep, about a former Senator who becomes Vice President.

Sure to get some filming in D.C., Leslie Green, a spokesperson for the D.C. film office confirms that filming will take place March 4 through 5th.

No confirmation that the filming will take place in Penn Quarter, but Green said they do expect some "driving shots."  And what is situated directly in between where Senators work and the Vice President works?  Penn Quarter.

The series stars Julia Louis-Dryfus, of Seinfeld and New Adventures of Old Christine fame, and Tony Hale, of Arrested Development.

If it is picked up by HBO, you can be assured more filming will happen in Penn Quarter - how could it not?

Some of the best grilled cheeses are right here in Penn Quarter

TBD's The List has profiled the city's top grilled cheeses--and Penn Quarter took two of the top-ten spots, including the number one spot.

The number one spot was given to Michele Richard's Central, which has a Gruyere and wild mushrooms grilled cheese (for $16).

Coming at number 7 was Jaleo with their Manchego, Murcia, Valdeon, and goat cheese with truffle oil and honey alioli grilled cheese (for $9.50).


James Beard Foundation announces Semi-Finalists, includes many Penn Quarter restaurants

The James Beard Foundation gives out some of the most prestigious prizes for the restaurant industry.  It's the Grammys or the Oscars of dining.

They have announced this year's semi-finalists, which include nominees from all over the globe, and many of them are from right here in Penn Quarter.

Kushi Izakaya & Sushi, in nearby Mount Vernon Triangle (in CityVista), is a semi-finalist for Best New Restaurant.

Jose Andres is a semi-finalist for Outstanding Chef.  The nomination lists him as the Chef at Minibar--but he is the chef behind many Penn Quarter restaurants such as Jaleo, Cafe Atlantico, Oyamel, and Zaytinya.

Ashok Bajaj, has been nominated in the Outstanding Restaurateur category.  He is the man behind a number of Penn Quarter favorites including 701, Bibiana, and Rasika, as well as other D.C. restaurants.

Speaking of Bibiana, chef Nicholas Stefanelli picked up a nomination for Rising Star Chef of the Year.  And Rasika chef Vikram Sunderam, received a regional nomination for Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic region.

The full list of semi-finalists (from all over) is available here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

ELISIR to open in June

Enzo Fargione
Chef Enzo Fargione, who was previously the chef at Teatro Goldoni, is opening a new restaurant on 11th street called ELISIR.  The restaurant is on 11th Street at Pennsylvania, but in the same building as Central and Ten Penh.

Elle Magazine calls his new restaurant "power-lunch-appropriate Italian bistro," and Yeas & Nays now reports it will open in June (it was previously supposed to open in March).

The menu will be tasting menu style, which Fargione says is a booming style that he wants to capitalize on.  The kitchen will be semi-open, but the restaurant will also feature an observation deck equipped with high definition televisions that live-stream the meal preparation.

The price will depend on how many items you want to order, but will be about $80 for six to eight courses, $100 for 10 to 12 courses, and $145 for 14 or 15 courses.

Lunch will be slightly different to accommodate for its faster-pace.  There will be about 15 options on that menu for $15, including a glass of wine.

The restaurant will be over 4,000 square feet big, seating 90 patrons in the dining room, 20 in the bar, and another 20 in a private room, according to the Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What will closing Metro early do to the Penn Quarter night scene?

Closing 3 hours early on weekends = an extra day of track work each week.
By now you have probably heard that there is a proposal floating around to end weekend metro rail service at midnight instead of 3:00 a.m.

This would help address WMATA's $72.5 million budget shortfall by saving $5 million each year, and provide another day for track-work each week, making the metro more reliable during day-time hours and reducing maintenance on holidays and weekends.

But what will that mean for Penn Quarter?  We have every metro line within walking distance, making our neighborhood a convenient meeting place.

For one, it will be harder to get a cab -- the ease of which is a luxury we have become accustomed to.  There will be greater demands for taxis not only in Penn Quarter, but throughout the city.

Second, as the Washington Post reports, we may see more drunk driving.  People who work in Penn Quarter and stay to go out will be more likely to drive their car home, which can only add to our all-to-frequent pedestrian injuries and fatalities.

But it may also mean the vibrancy of our neighborhood will dwindle.

The Restaurant Association told the Washington Examiner that ending metro service early
"will seriously harm, if not kill, established and emerging entertainment districts" like ours.

Exaggeration?  Maybe.  But will metro closing at midnight hurt Penn Quarter?  Certainly most restaurants are already dwindling in crowds by that time; however, Penn Quarter has an ever-increasing night scene with a new bar every couple months.  Will metro's three hours change that?

Fire at Ronald Reagan center prompts evacuation

Shortly before 7 a.m. this morning, a fire broke out in the food court of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center at 13th and Pennsylvania, TBD reports.

The fire started in the kitchen of the Kelly's Cajun Grill, where grease buildup accumulated and caught fire.

There were no injuries and the fire is now out.  The D.C. Fire Department used thermal imaging to ensure there are no remaining hotspots.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Double loyalty stamps at Chop't starting today

Chop't is celebrating their 10th anniversary by double loyalty stamps from today until next Wednesday (the 23rd).

That means for every salad or wrap you order, you'll get TWO stamps.  So it only takes 5 for a free one.

Don't forget you can order online and skip the line once you get there (or have it delivered).

In other deal-related news, the Living Social deal today if for the Crime and Punishment Museum.  They are offering a ticket for $10 or a CSI Investigator Membership for $55.

New clothing store and tailor in Penn Quarter

A reader tipped us to the new retail on F Street called Andrew's Milano before it opened.  Of course, we had no idea what that was, though we had our suspicions.

The place is now open, and it is a men's clothing store and tailor.  The space is very small, which leads us to believe they do a lot of custom-made clothes.

It is at 11th and F Streets, next to the Pret A Manger.

Friday, February 11, 2011

901 Restaurant running behind schedule?

Penn Quarter Insider has discovered that an after-hours work permit has been issued for the Renaissance Hotel at 9th and H Streets.

While there is constant progress at hotels, and a large number of work permits have been issued there in the past, it is rare to see an after hours permit at a hotel.

Could this mean they are behind schedule for the new 901 Restaurant and are scurrying to catch up?

If so, we are glad they are scurrying - always ready for a new restaurant in Penn Quarter! 

The permit was issued on February 4th, 2011; the restaurant is scheduled to open this April.

Pi on Wheels began yesterday afternoon

While District of Pi has not yet opened in Penn Quarter, we are not left wanting for their well-known deep dish cornmeal crust pizza.

Pi on Wheels, a food struck serving the same pizza as their brick-and-mortar restaurants, began trolling the streets of Washington yesterday afternoon, TBD reports.

Yesterday they parked in the middle of Penn Quarter, near 910 F Street.  You can find out where they will be in the future here.

That will have to do while we wait on the Penn Quarter location, which is supposed to look like this:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

50% off at Funxion

Funxion, the hip restaurant/social scene at 13th and F Streets, is the subject of a What's the Deal today.

For $10, you get $20 worth of food and drink at Funxion.

You can get the deal here.

They are only giving out 205 deals - hurry!

The black boards on Seventh Street come down

For what seems like an eternity, plywood boards have covered the entrance of the space to become Hill Country BBQ.

Well the boards have finally come down. 

This gives us a glimmer of hope that Hill Country BBQ will open this winter, as the signs promise. 

While the boards are down, there is still brown paper covering all of the window space.  Penn Quarter Insider took a peek in between the cracks and can assure you, it's not opening this month.  There is still quite a bit of interior construction to go.  But 7th Street looks a lot better.

Previous Posts on Hill Country BBQ: