Archive for the ‘U St.’ Category

Ben Ali, 1927-2009

Today we got the sad news that Ben Ali, founder of DC institution Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street, passed away Wednesday night of congestive heart failure.   Ben and his wife Virginia opened the restaurant in 1958 and it quickly became a fixture.  Its casual atmosphere and unforgettable chili half-smokes have been a favorite of visiting entertainers, DC luminaries, and everyone else in the city for more than fifty years.  It’s been an attention-getter for decades, and was the only business to remain open through the 1968 riots — and has remained a force in the neighborhood, non-stop, through all the changes U Street has seen over the years.  One thing that hadn’t changed for the past twenty-plus years was the sign behind the counter that read:  “List of Who Eats Free At Ben’s:  Bill Cosby.  No One Else”; that is, until the sign was changed to add the Obama Family (with the notation “but he paid”).

Ben’s has been featured in just about every travelogue related to DC that one can think of!   Recent expansions include the new Nationals Ballpark and Ben’s Next Door.

We at DC Metblogs want to express our heartfelt condolences to the Ali family.  Rest in peace, Ben, and thanks for creating such a great place for us Washingtonians to love.

Bens on U Street (wikimedia).  Thanks for everything!

Ben's on U Street (wikimedia). Thanks for everything!

Watermain Break in Bullet Points

  • If you have to have a huge underground pipe break in your neighborhood, a warm spring morning is not the worst day for it.  If you live below grade, it’s still pretty traumatic.
  • I didn’t know pavement could do that.
  • The overall response from the City workers was great; the sad thing is that they’ve done this so often that they have it all down pat.   I wanted to kiss them for working through the 4-hour downpour that evening that I’m sure kept it from getting any worse.
  • The contractors were out in force; we had 3 business cards for specialists in water damage in our mail slot within 8 hours. 
  • Now I know what rush hour sounds like without traffic on Florida Avenue.   And that articulated Metro buses can back up very, very long distances.   
  • Life goes back to normal pretty quickly, all things considered.   Until the next one breaks…

Inauguration 2009: Weekend of Destruction Day 1

I almost feel like the CNN team with all the Inaugural posting we have going on right now. DC Metblogs certainly has things covered with our team captain Anthony throwing parties at midnight in order to stay up and try and get to today’s concert. We also have Metblogs creator Sean in town who’s also chiming in with his perspective.

That also means that I won’t be remaining quiet this weekend, in fact I’ve already declared my weekend a “Weekend of Destruction.” That means every day til Wednesday will probably be a day I will rock out- leading to a destruction of my health, morals, and what little social life I had to begin with. It only makes sense I declare this a Weekend of Destruction- after all DC is technically in a state of emergency.

So let me share with you my nightlife last night.

While DC has been pretty satisfied with the extended bar hours, the crowds are only starting to come out. On my way to Dupont Circle the metro was packed from the Caps game that just ended however I did see a lot more suitcases than usual in my crowded car. I also noticed that there were a whole lot of tour buses dropping folks off when I got to Dupont.

The Big Hunt was terribly crowded but I was out pretty early at the point- the crowds grew as the hour approached midnight- luckily there was still a whole lot more nightlife to go.

I met up with some friends at Columbia Heights house party which was ok but the keg was kicked soon after my arrival and my crew and I were soon walking over to The Wonderland Ballroom which would of been cool since I’ve never been there but when we arrived we found out they were one of the unlucky ones that decided not to go for the late night license.

That reminds me, make sure you check out the Washington Post’s list of bars open late so you don’t make the same mistake we did.

We ended up grabbing a taxi over to U-Street where Local 16 was finishing up a priviate Inaugural party on their deck (it looked really nice all tented and heated.)

It was great being able to stay out til 4 AM last night- what I didn’t like was trying to get a taxi to get myself back into Virginia. It appears that a few cabs that we stopped didn’t want to leave The District. Concerns over security? Did anyone else encounter this?

Well today should be a little more chill- unlike Anthony I won’t be heading out to the concert but I will be enjoying the Ravens/Steelers game tonight and maybe try out another neighborhood.

Make:DC, Gathering of Area Geeks

If you walked by Greater Goods, the all things eco-friendly store on U Street, tonight and glanced in the window you may have wondered what all those nerdy looking guys and girls were doing with soldering irons huddled around several large tables. They were doing what any self-respecting geek in DC could be doing on a Thursday night: attending one of Make:DC‘s first organizational meetings and putting together a tiny circuit board useful for controlling motors like those found in robots.

Make:DC is a new group organized by local mechanical engineer Adam Koeppel as an offshoot of the popular MAKE Magazine. According to the website, the group aims to “inspire and organize the Washington, DC community of makers for greater collaboration and learning.” From tonight’s meeting, it seems they’re well on their way.

I went into the meeting not having used a soldering iron since shop class in middle school, and through some expert assistance and liberal borrowing of tools, I was able to build one of the $20 DC Motor Driver Board designed by one of the group members. (If you’re not sure what a DC Motor Driver Board is, fear not, I wasn’t entirely sure either. But in future meetings, we’ll be using them to control motors, build small robots, and do other neat things with them.) If you’d like to find out more, visit the group’s website at The next meeting is June 19, and other activities are advertised on the website.


Words of wisdom from a bar owner? I’m probably not the first to feel this way about a guy promoting mood-enhancing libations. But if you’re looking for an interesting and possibly mind-expanding conversation, try Commy at the Saloon on U Street. He’s something else—and you’ll enjoy good beer at the same time.

Oh, turns out the City Paper featured him when they put out their “best of DC” issue last month. Photo and all.

Learn something

LearnapaloozaOne of the most fantastic things about the internet is the way it hooks us up with information and people. Want to know how to build your rain barrel? Instructables has several different articles. Trying to figure out something in Burnout: Paradise City? Watch one of the almost 3,000 videos on YouTube.

Or you can use it to connect a lot of people who want to teach others in person. That’s what the people behing Learnapalooza are doing. There’s currently over thirty sessions scheduled to happen on May 10th which will cover everything from geeky stuff like writing a Facebook application to more granola things like how and why to eat local food. If you wish you weren’t writing facebook apps you can learn some hip-hop dance or more general skills for dancing at a party. The schedule lists 31 events at the moment, all in donated locations.

I agree with their central idea – everyone has something to teach others – and think this is just a great idea. Get out and learn something!

DEKKA – DC Fashion Art Music

DCAFAM DEKKA is a new concept for U Street shopping. The boutique will be a co-op, bringing together work from local clothing and accessory designers, visual artists, and musicians. They also intend to be a space to host events for the art, music, and fashion communities.

A grand opening party on April 5th should give a good first look to see how well this all comes together. The party will go from 12 to 7, with shopping, cocktails, and music, and an official ribbon-cutting at 4:00.

DEKKA 1338 U Street, NW, 2nd Floor Washington, DC 20009

My thanks to hoogrrl for the tip.

Want a Wagon?

Now when was the last time you went cross town in a wagon?

I do not mean a little red wagon either, but a full sized, horse-drawn wagon from the wild west days.

From the looks of this carriage wagon just off Florida Avenue, it went cross town somewhat recently. I wonder why and how.

If you had a horse-drawn carriage wagon out front, where would you go? I think I would race through Rock Creek Park morning rush hour traffic with a grin.

U-CARE Fundraising & Shopping Social

Tonight will be a good night to do some holiday shopping at the U-CARE U Street Fundraising & Shopping Social.

The fundraiser is that 10% of proceeds brought in by the participating retailers will be donated to Sitar Arts Center which provides arts education to low-income young people in our community.

For those more interested in the shopping, 8 shops in the neighborhood are taking part, offering discounts and special promotions. Junction, the boutique stocking vintage and new clothing and goods, seems to be offering the most generous deal: 10% – 25% off your whole purchase.

Basically, this is a win-win: You get to feel good about supporting local, independant buisness people, donating a little bit to a local charity, and even save a little money in the process! The stores are even staying open until 10:00 for after-work shopping convenience.

U-CARE Shopping Social
Thursday, December 6th
6:00 – 10:00

A Light on 14th Street

I’ve just read the news that the lovely Noi Chudnoff, owner of one of my absolute favorite neighborhood stores, passed away on Tuesday.

Her cheerfully incandescent presence at Go Mama Go, her exquisite taste in art and artifacts, and her unwavering community spirit, will be very much missed. Over the years since she opened the shop, I’ve often browsed through its wonderland of goods to lift my mood. Many times she helped me out of a jam with gift suggestions, always bright.

I’m so sad I don’t know what else to say.

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