Friday, July 29, 2011

Cameras on MetroBuses catch drivers chatting on cell phones

For anyone who has driven in the proximity of a MetroBus, it should come as no surprise that the drivers are doing a bad job.  New cameras installed in the buses for training purposes have caught drivers speeding, driving without seatbelts, running red lights (the most common violation), and even chatting on cell phones.

The Washington Examiner reports the cameras run continuously, but only retain 12 second chunks of video when the bus makes an unusual move, such as braking quickly or hitting something.  That means all those times the MetroBus just comes over in your lane, forcing you to quickly get out of the way sometimes at the risk of other cars, pedestrians, and cyclists, is not even being captured.

The cameras have led to 20 firings and 222 suspensions so far.  Furthermore, Metro used to say about 35% of crashes were their fault.  With the cameras, that number has increased to an admitted 40%.

Cameras were placed on Metro Access vehicles years ago, and have caught 87 drivers sleeping while driving in the past three years.

The cameras have caught some good things, too.  Such as a driver swerving--sending passengers flying--to avoid a four-year-old who had dashed into the street.

Hopefully these cameras will help drivers stay off their cell phones and safely behind the white line on red lights.  We have seen some crazy bus driving in our time in this city.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Grand Hyatt sold to Bethesda-based Host Hotels

The 888-room Grand Hyatt across from the upcoming CityCenter complex has been sold to Host Hotels, based in Bethesda.  The hotel went for $442 million, which may include the assumption of a $166 million mortgage on the property.

No word on any changes to come to the property, which has over 43,000 square feet of meeting space alone.

Capital Bikeshare's success causes its own problems

The Washington Times has an article about Capital Bikeshare and its success causing its own problems.  The article argues that the program is crippled by a lack of bikes when people want them and the particularly frustrating problem of a lack of spots to return a bike when you're done (and on the clock).

The article quotes an anonymous source saying a Living Social deal to join the bikeshare program really crippled them because it led to a massive influx of new users they couldn't handle.

Check out the full article here, which also talks about the camaraderie among bikeshare users.  It's worth a read.

Pay-by-Phone implemented city wide; are people still getting tickets?

Well Pay-by-Phone (see our previous post here) has been implemented city-wide now, and it seems to be very popular.

“As we’ve started rolling out this service, the adoption rate has been very high.  More than 30,000 people have already signed up and are using their phones to pay for parking,” said DDOT Deputy Director Gloria Jeff.  “They like the convenience.  For others who prefer to pay the old-fashioned way, they can still do that at a meter.”
But, have meter maids caught on?  We have our suspicions that when you pay by phone, meter maids are still handing out tickets for those without parking stubs on their dash.  DDOT says that the phone transactions are appearing in real time on the handheld devices used by parking enforcement.  Are they checking them?  Are drivers putting in the right zones when they pay by phone?  Or are they left thinking it worked when it didn't?

The fact that people are still getting tickets is unfounded, but we were surprised to get a card on our windshield while parked in Penn Quarter that said to place that card on our dash if we paid by phone.  That led us to believe that people were getting tickets when the meter maid noticed there was nothing on the dash.

DDOT does seem to be doing a good job of educating the public about the new program.  We also got this flyer on our windshield:

Chipotle at City Vista opening by August 30th

We have reached out to Chipotle about when the restaurant in City Vista will open, and they have told us "by August 30th."  They say:

"I am pleased to inform you that we have set a grand opening date for the restaurant to be by August 30th. Barring some unforeseen complications, you should be able to visit our restaurant by that date. Keep in mind that sometimes things can cause us to open earlier or later so it might be a good idea to sign up for our e-mail mailing list to help keep tabs on our progress."

So less than a month until we add another Chipotle location to this area.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Penn Quarter t-shirts and apparel

The Penn Quarter apparel is available in a new online store to display your Penn Quarter pride!  You can check it out here.

Some samples they have, among many other products:

You better get there, because we're about to load up on all they have.

Douglas Development looks for ideas

After tweeting "What is your favorite NYC restaurant that you would like to see open in #DC?" (hat tip: The Triangle Blog), Douglas Development has tweeted again asking what is Penn Quarter missing that you wish it had.

Looks like Douglas Development is trying to fill some of the empty spaces in our neighborhood, which would be more than welcome.  This is your chance to get those retail spaces filled with things you'd like to see.  Any ideas?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Kushi is open again

We reported earlier today that Kushi was shut down by the tax collector.   Eater D.C. reports that the restaurant owed $129,300.38 in back sales and use taxes - quite a chunk of change for local taxes.

The Washington Post reports that Kushi is now back open for business.

We know Kushi has some very loyal fans, so this is probably great news for many.  Always better to get shut down for back taxes than sanitation, we say.

A North Jersey perspective profiled 36 hours in Washington, D.C., with a heavy emphasis on Penn Quarter.  The only two museums listed are the Newseum and the International Spy Museum, both in our neighborhood.  You can check out the full article here, but perhaps the most interesting is the perspective on Chinatown:

Chinatown: The first thing I spotted while walking into Washington's small Chinatown was the Bed Bath & Beyond. Then the Urban Outfitters. Then the Loft. Then City Sports. If someone walking up Seventh Street thought they were in an open-air mall rather than an ethnic enclave, well, I wouldn't argue with them. This was about as far from Mott Street as one could go. I almost turned around when I saw the Legal Seafood chain restaurant with Chinese writing in its logo.

But we pressed on in search for authenticity. My wife is Cantonese and has deep roots in New York's Chinatown. We turned on H Street and reached this mammoth Chinese gate. More important, we found some mom-and-pop restaurants. We descended into a basement restaurant called New Big Wong where we enjoyed some of the best beef chow fun we've ever had topped off by some delicious fried vegetable dumplings. Redemption for Chinatown.

Matchbox expands to Logan Circle

Matchbox, the popular pizza eatery on H Street, has plans to open a fifth location, it's third in D.C.  Penn Quarter was its first, followed by Capitol Hill, and then Rockville.  Now, the restaurant is opening a location at 14th and T Streets N.W. in Logan Circle, reports Washington City Paper.

The press release from Matchbox says "The group, which history dictates its expertise in finding the next hottest neighborhoods in the district, has just signed a lease."  So I guess you should buy property around Matchbox locations.

They will soon also be opening a location in Merrifield, Virginia, which, along with its Rockville location, will make up the two non-D.C. sites.

A look inside Living Social

We have posted many times about how LivingSocial is rapidly expanding and taking over our neighborhood.  Now, The Atlantic has an article that takes you inside their headquarters.

The Penn Quarter-based company is high tech and trendy, as you might expect.  Open ceilings, white chairs, and Macs as far as you can see.  Check out the pictures here.


Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (and ex-boyfriend of Kathy Griffin) was in Washington, D.C. for the FOSE Conference and Exposition, and apparently spent enough time at Ruth's Chris in Penn Quarter to become mayor of the establishment on Four Square.

Glittarazzi reported his whereabouts after seeing a tweet from him announcing his ouster of the former mayor.

Don't be fooled, there is (obviously) a fake Steve Wozniak on Four Square.  But the real one has this unflattering picture:

Graffiato offers a twist on the matchbox

You're not allowed to smoke in D.C. bars or restaurants, but some of us still collect matchboxes.  Mike Isabella, in his usual creative fashion, has the answer.

Graffiato is now offering matchboxes at the hostess stand, but they are filled with toothpicks, reports Washington City Paper.

Isabella says he doesn't smoke and doesn't want to encourage others to smoke, but you don't have to smoke to carry a matchbox.  He says he uses toothpicks often, though.

To see a picture of one, click here.

Founder of Bar Method coming to teach Bar Method

You may not be familiar with the Bar Method, but it's a workout method that is sweeping the nation.  Penn Quarter just got a Bar Method facility, which we reviewed here.

Bar Method was founded by Burr Leonard, and she is coming to Penn Quarter to teach a class.  She will be teaching two classes: one on Sunday, July 31 at 12:00 p.m. and another on Monday, August 1 at 12:00 p.m.  So this is your opportunity to get a lesson from the person who started it all. 

If you're not sure about this whole Bar Method thing, then you can take a free class from their teachers in training to try it out.  There are two free classes coming up: Friday, July 29 at 5:30 p.m. and Wednesday, August 3 at 6:00 a.m.  You can sign up for them on their website here.

Kushi Suspended by Tax Collector

Kushi, the very popular sushi restaurant in City Vista, has been closed by D.C. authorities, reports The Triangle Blog.

A sign was posted in the window that said in large red letters "SUSPENDED" with smaller print underneath that reads "NO RETAIL SALES CAN BE TRANSACTED."  A picture is available here.

The notice is signed by the Chief of the Collections Division at the Office of Tax and Revenue - uh oh, looks like someone is in tax trouble.

Kushi has posted on twitter that they are "taking the weekend off" and will be closed until "early next week."

Brace for heat in Penn Quarter Metro stations

If you're riding Metro to or from Penn Quarter today, brace for the heat.  While temperatures outside have cooled down a bit, the Judiciary Square, Gallery Place, and Archives-Navy Memorial Metro stops are all blazing hot. 

Apparently all three Metro stops operate on a single "chiller," and that chiller is broken.

"It can be uncomfortably warm, there's no doubt about that," Metro spokesperson Dan Stessel told My Fox D.C.

Judiciary Square also has broken escalators, so riders are breaking a sweat before they even get down there.

You may have noticed Metro stations are hot lately anyway.  The "chiller" operates by running air over cold water.  This brings temperatures down about fifteen degrees.  There is no thermostat and the fifteen degrees is constant despite the air temperature.  So if it's a 90 degree day, it will be a comfortable 75 in the Metro station; however, if it's a 115 degree day, it will be 100 degrees.  The chiller systems are old and have not been properly maintained.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Redline makes for unofficial Jazz in the Garden after party

Jazz in the Garden on Friday nights at the Sculpture Garden is not what it used to be, with the new crack down on outside alcohol.   Express, therefore, recommends that you not drink at Jazz at the Garden.  But they do suggest you drink afterwards.

Apparently, the new unofficial happy hour is at Redline

On Fridays at Redline if you mention the name of the musician who played in the garden, you'll get a free glass of champagne or beer.  Not a bad deal. 

Skipped the sculpture garden?  Don't worry, here are the names of the musicians:

  • July 29 - Incendio
  • August 5 - Alan Wonneberger and Company
  • August 12 - Chuck Redd
  • August 19 - Alex Brown
  • August 26 - Bill Burke
  • September 2 - Bruno Nasta
  • September 9 - The Greg Hatza ORGANization

Friday, July 22, 2011

More metro delays this weekend

Once again, Metro will be performing Red Line work in our neighborhood, single tracking between Dupont Circle and Judiciary Square, causing delays like last week.

There will be work on all lines this weekend, so expect some delays, but the red line will be the biggest delay right here in our neighborhood.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Le Pain Quotidien coming to Penn Quarter

Many thanks to reader Amber for this tip - it looks like Paul is getting some competition.  French bakery Le Pain Quotidien is coming to Penn Quarter at 10th and F Streets N.W., right next to St. Patrick's Church

Their bread is made with organic stone-ground flour, salt, and water, kneaded and shaped by hand. 

Their menu includes many different types of bread, as well as tartines, salads, and other specialties.  The bakery also offers bakery classes at their other U.S. locations.

The bakery already has a presence in Washington,with locations on 17th Street N.W., and in Georgetown, Dupont Circle, Capitol Hill, Alexandria, Bethesda, Spring Valley, and Clarendon.  About time they made their way to Penn Quarter!

We will let you know more about opening dates and details as we know them.  Thanks for the tip, Amber!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Still not much action at Elisir

After Elisir filed for a liquor license and published a flashy website proclaiming "the culinary journey begins late summer 2011," we started to get excited.  They have already posted happy hour times and have pictures of the food on the website.  After all, the restuarant was supposed to open in June.

But a quick peek inside the space to be Elisir shows that it is far from complete.  The restaurant is going to take quite a bit of work to put in an semi-open kitchen (with HDTV's live streaming the meal preparation) as well as a full dining room.  The space is far from that now:

We are very anxious for Elisir to open, and were so enthused by late summer 2011 after being teased with a June opening--but is that really realistic?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Victor Garber, the star from Alias and Titanic was seen dining at Rasika on Saturday at about 6:30 p.m, reports Yeas & Nays

He was apparently joined by three other people.  No word on why he was in town or who he was with.

After the Women's World Cup on Sunday Afternoon, Malia and Sasha Obama had dinner at Carmine's.  They were with two friends and two adults, but the President and First Lady were not present.

Monday, July 18, 2011

450K apartments expanding their footprint

The planned apartments for 450 K Street are apparently going to be bigger than first expected.  The developer has purchased two adjacent properties to expand the development, meaning not only more residential units, but more ground-level retail, reports The Triangle Blog.

The two new buildings are in the historic district, so the facades will stay the same, but the back will be demolished.

This may change the latest rendering of the project:

Riot Act gets ready to open, releases schedule

The Triangle Blog has been keeping on top of Riot Act developments and led us to their new and improved webpage

They now have more information about their Comedy School and a schedule of comedians coming to the club in the opening weeks. 

Here's what you have to look forward to:

  • Charles Fleischer - August 11 - 13 ($17 - $20)
  • Open Mic Night  - August 16 ($12)
  • Todd Rexx - August 17 - 21 ($15 - $17)
  • Allan Goodwin - August 24-27 ($15 - $17)
  • Dick Gregory - August 28 ($20)
  • Michael Brooks - September 1 - 4 ($15 - $17)
  • Gay-larious - September 7 ($15)
  • Rob Cantrell - September 8 - 11 ($17 - $20)
  • Allah Made Me Funny - September 14 - 17 ($20)
For the complete 2011 schedule, click here.

Wearing a Riot Act t-shirt on Tuesdays (and other "special nights") gets you in for free.  To sign up for open mic night, click here.

Clint Eastwood joins National Law Enforcement Museum efforts

For now, it's just a pain as you drive down E Street.  But soon, underneath the Law Enforcement Memorial will be a National Law Enforcement Museum.   That effort, of course, is not that cheap.

But over $43 million has been raised for the museum and construction is already underway.

Now, the Washington Business Journal reports, Clint Eastwood is joining the effort as its honorary chairman.

The museum is expected to raise $80 million and be complete by the end of 2013.

Bank robbed in Penn Quarter, FBI still looking for female suspect

Last Thursday at 2:30 p.m., Independence Federal Savings Bank at 1006 E Street N.W. was robbed by a suspect who took an undetermined amount of money and fled on foot.

The Washington Examiner reports that police are still looking for the suspect.  She is a white or Hispanic female, 5 feet, 6 inches tall, 140 pounds, and about 40 years old.  Here is her picture:

At the time of the robbery, she was wearing a white National Mall T-shirt and khaki pants, while carrying a white canvas bag.  

She is considered armed and dangerous and the FBI is asking that you call Special Agent John Dunham at 202-278-2000 if you know anything about who she is or her whereabouts.

Union Station Capitol City Brewing Company closed

Capitol City Brewing Company's location at Postal Square next to Union Station has closed.  However, the restaurant still has their location at 1100 New York Ave N.W. and this fall will open a new location inside Union Station.

The new location is supposed to open in October, reports Washington City Paper.  And the big tanks will be gone.  Brewing operations for all of their locations -- including New York Ave and the new 901 Restaurant -- will take place at their Shirlington location.  If you want any of their old stuff, you can buy it here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Roti coming to Union Station?

We reported in April that Roti - the mediterranean version of Chipotle or Merzi - is coming to 13th and F Streets, in the old Organic-To-Go space.  And it's still coming, but now the Washington Business Journal reports Roti is also considering a location in Union Station.

That location will likely come after the F Street location.

Free Capital Bikeshare for Hotel Monaco guests

The Transportation Department has teamed up with Kimpton Hotels.  Guests at three of their hotels, including Hotel Monaco, will receive a free 24-hour membership to Capital Bikeshare.  They will also receive helmets, safety guides, and additional information about Capital Bikeshare.

Maybe this will cut down on the tourists driving around Penn Quarter, though having them on bikes might be equally disastrous.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

D.C. uses fire department to quell crime

The firefighters aren't happy about a new D.C. policy that deputizes them as police officers.

For the past three weeks, and expected to continue at least through next spring, D.C. firefighters have been told to park their trucks in high crime neighborhoods and sit in them.  If they see any suspicious activity, they are supposed to call 911, reports NBC Washington.

The firefighters, however, see this as a "disaster."  They aren't paid to be law enforcement, and they have no weapons or law enforcement training.  Yet they are being asked to stake out some of the most dangerous parts of town.

D.C., on the other hand, says that no one will commit a crime in front of a group of firemen. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pepco is America's most hated business

Residents on the 7th Street side of the Lansburgh may not be surprised to hear this: Pepco has been named the most hated company in America by The Atlantic, reports The Business Journal.

19 companies made the list, but number one was Pepco with a satisfaction score of 54 out of 100.

Number four was Comcast, and the rest were mostly airlines, utility companies, and banks.

You can see the full list here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Long delays on the red line

Also be aware of the extremely long delays on the red line today.  Trains are single tracking during rush hour because the extreme heat caused the rails to expand, so trains cannot use them (we had trouble believing it, too).

12th Street Tunnel and Bridge closed because of a suspicious package

Many thanks to our readers who alerted us that the 12th Street Bridge is closed.  We have looked into it, and D.C. Fire/EMS says that there is a suspicious package in the 12th Street Tunnel.

Avoid 12th Street and that route to I-395 if you can.  There is a police officer blocking the bridge where it splits into the 14th Street Bridge and 12th Street Bridge.  If you're coming toward Penn Quarter stick to the left and take 14th Street.

Graffiato had a star-studded oven-warming party last night

TBD reports that Mike Isabella had an "oven-warming" party last night to celebrate the debut of his new restaurant, Graffiato.

Many of Isabella's Top Chef friends were in attendance, including: Jen Carroll, Spike Mendelsohn, Kevin Sbraga, Dale Talde, Carla Hall, and Stephen Asprinio.

There were also many other area chefs there, such as Joe Palma from Westend Bistro, Adam Sobel from Bourbon Steak, and Victor Albisu from BLT Steak.

Some photos of the event are available from Eater DC.

America Eats in Review

To be a restaurant whose theme is America, America Eats Tavern is not very American.  They charge you for bread, for example.  Eight dollars for something we're used to getting unlimited amounts of for free.  The portions are also incredibly small.

You get to America Eats and notice that it is Cafe Atlantico with the walls stripped.  There are a few hung canvases and the centerpiece, which we wrote about previously, is new--it features hung windows and images from the National Archives.  Otherwise it is bare, but not unpleasantly so.  There is a certain character to the place, and it is not stuffy - the crowd is very lively.

The first thing you notice is that the menu is very difficult to navigate.  The front has two sections "Oysters" and "To Follow."  The back has "Soups, Salads, and Sandwiches" and "Meats & Fish" as well as a box describing the large number of catsups they have - from Jack Daniels to Blueberry.  Each item on the menu has an historical story below it instead of a description.  This is fun at first, but it gets annoying after you realize you don't know what many of the dishes are.  It is also unclear how much you're supposed to order or how big the portions are.

The service is excellent.  The wait staff is more than happy to walk you through the entire menu item by item, and they are knowledgeable about each dish, even so soon after opening.  They are courteous and professional.  The wait staff really added a lot to our experience.

We started with the "peanut soup," one of the dishes we had to ask about.  It is 100% peanuts.  With different types of peanuts in a bowl, most of it is liquid, but there are crushed peanuts and peanuts made into a spread.  The soup is served cold.  It was interesting and worth trying, but gets to be a little too much after a few bites.  It's not something you'd order twice.

We also ordered the gazpacho.  The gazpacho was fine, but wasn't really chilled.  More "room temperature" which takes the fun out of it.  The flavor didn't make up for it.

The Crabcakes.  Two for $18.

We then ordered our entrees.  One in our party ordered the crabcakes, which were pretty standard.  Not bad, but nothing amazing about them.  The type of crab cakes you'd expect as a minimum from any restaurant, but not the type that are going to blow you away and, let's be honest, we expect to be blown away by Jose Andres.

Fried Chicken comes in four balls for $12.

Another in our party ordered the fried chicken, which comes with blueberry catsup.  What came, however, were more like chicken croquettes.  The chicken was of extremely low quality (we have seen better meat at fast food restaurants) and the fried batter had an odd texture on the inside.  The chicken was red and pinkish on the inside, and was very fatty.  Here is the fried chicken, which came in small fried balls, cut open:

The meal left us hungry and disappointed.  The atmosphere is interesting and the staff is fantastic; but the food makes the entire experience really unbearable.

Dates announced for Arts on Foot

The date has been set for the 2011 Arts on Foot, Penn Quarter's fall festival that debuts the upcoming performing and visual arts season.

The festival is free and includes a fine arts market, crafts, theatre, dance, film, food, and wine.  It takes place at 7th and F Streets N.W. in front of the Portrait Gallery.

The festival will be September 10th and 11th.  It starts at 11:00 a.m. each day and ends at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday and 6:00 p.m. on Sunday.

Mini-bar imposter coming to 9th and N

Chef RJ Cooper, formerly of Vidalia, is opening a new restaurant at 922 N Street N.W. called Rogue24.  The restaurant is based on the mini-bar concept.

You have to call one month to the day in advance to get a reservation, though the restaurant is 52 seats (not 6 like Minibar).  You must put down a credit card and can only cancel up to 72 hours in advance.  The directions state that you must disclose any food allergies at the time you make the reservation.

Then you get a 16-course "progression menu" or a 24-course "journey menu," for $100 or $120 respectively ($145 or $175 with beverage pairing, respectively).

The kitchen is on display as a stage.

The mixologist, Derek Brown, came from the Columbia Room, and the reservationist, Bonji Beard was previously the lead reservationist for Minibar.

The restaurant opens on July 27th.  Reservations for opening day will be accepted on July 14th.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Cuba Libre celebrates Ernest Hemingway with daiquiri specials

Ernest Hemingway was born and died in the Month of July, leaving Cuba Libre to name this month Ernest Hemingway Month.

According to Washington City Paper, the restaurant is commemorating Hemingway with his favorite drink--the daiquiri. 

Cuba Libre will introduce a new daiquiri each day in July, and tonight's is Kiwi.  Tomorrow is blackberry-cranberry.  Here are the flavors the rest of the month:

On July 21st (Hemingway's birthday) during Cuba Libre's early happy hour (4:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m.), you can get Papa Doble daiquiris, Hemingway's signature drink, for just $5.

District of Pi Pizzeria opening next month

While the website and the windows still say "coming soon," as they have for awhile now, Pi Pizzeria is apparently planning to open in August.  At least that's what they told the Washington Post.

Their food truck has apparently been a success while the $2.1 million construction project is underway on F Street (the truck, meanwhile, only cost $30,000.  And brings in about $1,000 per day).

Friday, July 8, 2011

America Eats menu

We have the menu for America Eats for you - its' two pages and a dessert menu (click to enlarge).  Each selection comes with a history lesson: