In a promising sign, Wunder Garten–the large proposed outdoor beer garden in NoMa–has applied for an alcohol license. You can read our preview post here.
Much has been said of the H Street Streetcar over the past several weeks and months (years actually). Often overlooked in that discussion is the impact the streetcar has already had on H Street restaurants and bars and the impact that it will have on them in the future. For restaurants that opened several years ago, they endured months of major business disruptions due to construction. For some of them, the road in front of their restaurants was torn up and completely blocked for months on end. For newer restaurants, many of them chose to invest their money in the H Street Corridor because of the promise of the streetcar running. We caught up with many H Street restaurants and bars–both brand new and those open for awhile now–to get their perspective on the importance of the streetcar opening and operating on H Street. *As you will see at the end, we did talk with one restaurant that has become frustrated with the D.C. Government’s handling of the streetcar and no longer supports it.
The Argonaut (1433 H Street): “10 years ago when Joe Englert and I (Scott Magnuson) opened the Argonaut, we had a grand vision of a packed streetcar bringing people up and down the street. This vision is something I latched onto as we struggled being the only business open at the time. We struggled through two and a half years of construction which had one side or the other of the Argonaut closed. Like many of the other businesses it was extremely painful to go through. City officials need to not only get the current line up and running ASAP, but they must finish the line downtown and to Minnesota Avenue for the streetcar to have a chance to succeed as a transportation option. Failure to complete the line will result in a failed streetcar. The one advantage businesses have with the current track is that it will bring people from NoMa to the bars and get them home. It will not be a valid transportation option until the line goes downtown. We are pro streetcar and can’t wait to see it up and running!”
&pizza (1118 H Street): “The streetcar opening up is important for H Street because it provides a proper means of transportation from a transit hub such as Union Station but also, further, it starts to lay the foundation for further means of transportation going east of H Street. I (Steve Salis of &pizza) believe that there will be a lot of development taking place east of H Street in the years to come and this is a great vehicle to support the maturation for those communities while leveraging the leisure components that H Street provides.”
Dangerously Delicious Pies (1339 H Street): “As a business that moved onto H Street in 2009, we, along with our fellow H Street businesses, have certainly dealt with some crazy challenges in general, but certainly in regards to the preparation of the streetcar in particular. Collectively, small businesses and local residents have put up with a lot and have paid out a lot in taxes and it only seems logical that we at least see the project through, now that we are so close to completion, as opposed to cutting some major losses.”
Driftwood Kitchen (400 H Street): “The streetcar, if implemented as promised, would really help do two things: connect the two sides of H Street for the consumer, and open the H Street Corridor up to Metro traffic by ease of accessibility. We would love to see Northwest D.C. have a convenient means to see what H Street has to offer. Connecting us to the rest of the Metro would simply be a boon for businesses in our neighborhood.”
Le Grenier (502 H Street): “The streetcar is a nice option to fix the parking issues that hurt business but above all, an easy, fancy, green way to go up and down the corridor and stop by any businesses. We will be proud to be part of the first (new) streetcar in D.C..”
Smith Commons (1245 H Street): “With the limited parking on H Street, the streetcar would provide travel from Union Station where guests could park and take the streetcar to all H Street locations.”
DC Harvest (517 H Street): “The opening of the streetcar would continue the revitalization of H Street and be instrumental in bringing more new people to our proud part of D.C..”
Micho’s Grill (500 H Street): “Most of us on H Street are mainly small business family-owned restaurants and (many) serve authentic international foods. We rely on foot traffic to keep us going. The streetcar will play a major role in exposing us to the rest of D.C..”
Sol Mexican Grill (1251 H Street): “The streetcar is very important to us. It will promote tourism in our neighborhood which means more business for everyone.”
Ocopa (1324 H Street): “(the streetcar will) increase traffic and broaden market audience for businesses in the neighborhood because parking is limited and difficult. Union Station offers great Metro access but is too far from most restaurants. It’s also (currently) challenging to keep employees who do not live in NE D.C..”
Tony’s Breakfast (1387 H Street): “It (the streetcar) matters because too much money went into the project (to abandon it), and because it is a good tourist attraction.”
Biergarten Haus (1355 H Street): Biergarten Haus has become frustrated with the D.C. Government’s handling of the streetcar and no longer supports it: “one more example of the lack of accountability, planning, and impact for the District of Columbia’s residents and businesses by the government in the District. Not to mention, the waste of 200 million of our hard earned tax paying dollars.”
Fare Well (406 H Street), the vegan bistro and bakery serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner by the owner of Sticky Fingers Bakery in Columbia Heights, is aiming to open by this spring or summer. However, before opening, the building needed a complete renovation and reconstruction. The building’s construction has significantly progressed over the past several weeks and a wood skeleton of the building is now up. There is still significant construction ahead, but the building is steadily progressing at this point.
As H Street begins to thaw out slowly from January and February, DC Harvest is beginning to transition to its spring menu. During the winter months, DC Harvest featured a delicious Arctic Char that was pan roasted and served with maitake mushrooms and topped with a smoked walnut romesco. Just a few days ago it was rotated off the menu to make way for a dish featuring ruby trout. Additionally, the vegetable pairing for DC Harvest’s scallop entree will change as winter vegetables give way to early spring ones. In the coming weeks, look for ramps, additional wild mushrooms, spring peas, and spring asparagus to be worked into the menu. Despite the seasonal changes, our favorite dish–the sous vide old bay fried chicken–remains a staple of the menu on Monday and Tuesday. The sides for the fried chicken do vary by season and are currently multicolored carrots.
DC Harvest is also now booking its upstairs rooms for large groups during the week. It seats up to 25 people and features a view of the open kitchen. Anyone who is interested can stop by or reach out to the restaurant.
Approximately six months ago, Driftwood Kitchen opened at 400 H Street. Their space has a large (dog friendly!) patio, first floor bar and dining area, and a large second floor with retractable doors for when it is nice outside. We enjoyed our early taste of the restaurant, and recently caught up with Eric Tollar, General Manager of Driftwood, to ask about the first six months of service.
District Cuisine: What has been the most popular dish so far?
Eric Tollar: Our gnocchi, caramelized brussels, and mac and cheese with house cured tasso ham have been very popular in regards to our smaller plates. For our larger plates we find that our guests absolutely love Chef James Duke’s bourbon glazed beef ribs, served with turnip greens and house made corn bread. People are also raving over our house made Honey Cheesecake from our pastry Chef Carrie Jenkins. (You can view the dinner menu here).
Since opening in mid-2014, Po Boy Jim (709 H Street, NE) has worked to attract people to the middle section of H Street. Unlike many of its peer restaurants on the eastern and western ends of H Street, until recently, Po Boy Jim did not have other bars and restaurants nearby to help bring in customers. To bring people in, Po Boy Jim has become known for its fun events, drinks, and quality food. For H Streetfest in the fall, Po Boy Jim held a po boy eating contest complete with a trophy. Recently for Mardi Gras, Po Boy Jim had a variety of drink specials and gave out king cake to everyone in the restaurant. In the coming weeks, the restaurant will have March Madness specials during the week.
Po Boy Jim has a nice selection of cajun food (view opening menu here). For starters, we enjoy the (admittedly non-cajun) wing flight and the crawfish spring rolls (the best selling appetizer at Po Boy Jim). Then depending on our mood, we will either grab one of their po boys–we prefer the fried catfish one–or enjoy the Gumbo on H, a traditional New Orleans gumbo which is filled with shrimp and andouille sausage. The Atlas Po Boy–bacon, chicken, and shrimp–is the best selling po boy on the menu. In addition to their extensive list of po boys, the restaurant also serves a variety of non-po boy entrees such as the gumbo mentioned above and the crab cake dinner which features panko crusted crab cakes with scallion rice and the vegetable of the day. Wash your meal down with either a hurricane served in a mason jar or Abita on tap, and it makes for a great evening.
Po Boy Jim is also open for lunch everyday, and they are considering delivery in the coming weeks. They will announce their frequent specials via their Facebook and Twitter accounts.