Essential DC, People, The Features, Where We Live, Why I Still Love DC

Why I (Still) Love DC: Ben

Full disclosure: I really wanted to title this article “Why I (Still) Love DC: Take Two (or Ten)” but Jenn wouldn’t let me. (Something about ruining the pattern or other such reasonable editorial argument.) If you’re a long-time follower of We Love DC, you’ll know I wrote a similarly titled piece back in 2013 after this site’s fifth anniversary.

And then suddenly, here we are not two years later and the party’s over.

Back in the fall, when it was discussed about putting the old gal to rest, I didn’t really want to let it go. I’d hoped that a fresh generation, newer (or older) blood would pick up our baton, and sally forth. But alas–and unlike our lovely Congressmen and Senators on the Hill–our grand lady would not blather on about nothing, limping towards digital obscurity.

And I’m okay with that.

This will be my 647th and final post here at We Love DC. (And, for giggles, that’s about half-a-million words.) I never thought I’d be saying good bye, both to our readers and to the site.

It’s a bittersweet milestone for me, particularly.

2015 marks ten years -half my married life!- since I moved to the Metro DC area. My wife and I escaped a wretched employment outlook in Pittsburgh when the International Spy Museum took a chance and hired me to help run their retail shop. Brenda Young, my manager at the time (and she’s still there, I believe), was a true District resident from Capitol Heights and during our downtime in the office, would tell me all about this city and its secrets. Actually, considering where I worked and who I rubbed shoulders with on a frequent basis, I learned about a lot of secrets in the District…

Anyway, it was during my time there that I stumbled over Tom and his merry band of Metrobloggers. I applied to write, figuring I could bring a ‘fresh-behind-the-ears’ view to the team (only having been here two years at that point). I showed my bona fides and I was in.

And plunged straight into the depths of rebellion. Continue reading

Food and Drink, The Features, Where We Live

Best Rickey: DC Craft Bartenders Guild @ Jack Rose Dining Saloon–8/3/14

Dustin Beruta of Cashion's Eat Place created a yummy vanilla Rickey.

Dustin Beruta of Cashion’s Eat Place created a yummy vanilla Rickey.

Sunday was a perfect day to stand alongside a bar on a roof and drink a refreshing beverage, maybe something a little sweet, maybe something a little fruity.

Seven of the top bartenders in the city were happy to oblige as they faced off under the auspices of the DC Craft Bartenders Guild for the title of best Rickey at the Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Adams Morgan. The seven Rickeys came in a variety of mixtures, and included recipes made from gin, bourbon or rye.

The arrangement for the 2014 contest was simple and effective. Three bartenders with gin-based Rickeys served their creations upstairs at Jack Rose, while the whiskey-based Rickeys were served by their mixologists downstairs. A reasonable $35 provided unlimited access to all seven Rickeys, allowing the audience ample opportunity to judge their own personal favorite from among the competitors.

The judging panel for the Rickey competition awarded best Rickey to the gin-based “Supafly Rickey,” created by Lukas B. Smith of Daikaya. It consisted of Half Moon Orchard Gin, cured sweet potato soda and a drop of rose water, garnished with a lime and a spray of lemongrass. It was pretty damn easy to drink, and it was probably the freshest and most memorable beverage among an excellent lot. The bartenders ran out of the ingredients for the Supafly Rickey well before the conclusion of the four-hour event.

Daikaya vows to display the Best Rickey Trophy at the bar for the next year, and perhaps they will continue to serve their winning cocktail as well.

Continue reading

The District, The Great Outdoors, Where We Live, WTF?!

How to Dress for the Cold Snap: Advice from Northerners

With the latest blast from the Arctic slated for DC tomorrow night – and forecast to bring single digit temperatures and below-zero wind chills – I thought to myself: how the hell do you dress for that level of cold? I grew up in the Central Valley of California; we didn’t spend a whole lot of time below 32°F, let alone down below zero with the wind chill. My mother’s family, though, grew up on the shores of Lake Superior, and some of them have ventured further north into Alberta, Canada. My uncle would regularly work in Fort McMurray, Alberta, four hours north of Edmonton at 56 degrees north latitude.

I asked them to help us stay warm this week, and they came back with the following:

Continue reading

Five Favorites, The Features, Where We Live

Five Favorites: Neighborhood Elements

Photo courtesy of
‘Colors!’
courtesy of ‘kimberlyfaye’

For the past year and a half I wrote the Where We Live feature for We Love DC.  Every edition would take me to another neighborhood in the city, where I’d talk to residents and find out what makes that neighborhood a great place to live. And while every neighborhood was different, and there were some unique characteristics of particular neighborhoods (like the neighborhood rooster in Takoma), there were a lot of similarities too.  After a while, I’d hear the same things over and over again as the main things that people love about their neighborhoods.  Here are some of the elements common to our favorite neighborhoods in the District.

Continue reading

The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Cheverly

Cheverly - The Cheverly Sign - 11-11-07

Welcome to the last regularly-scheduled Where We Live.  We’ve had a great run over the past year and a half, profiling dozens of neighborhoods in the District, Maryland, and Virginia.  But all good things must come to an end (especially when we’re running out of neighborhoods to profile!).  So while Where We Live won’t disappear, and you can still expect more neighborhood profiles on occasion in the future, this will be the last regularly-scheduled one you’ll see for a little while.

And we’re wrapping things up with the lovely suburb of Cheverly.  Cheverly, known as “the hidden jewel of Prince George’s County”, is an idyllic little town right outside of the District.  It sounds too good to be true– tree lined streets, a small-town atmosphere, and beautiful, affordable housing close to a Metro station.  As it turns out, it’s all true.  So let Where We Live fill you in on one of the Washington region’s best kept secrets: Cheverly.

Continue reading

The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Takoma

Photo courtesy of
‘Takoma DC Public Library’
courtesy of ‘Mr. T in DC’

I went into this week’s Where We Live with limited knowledge about Takoma– I’ve visited a few times, swam at the pool, walked through the pretty tree-lined streets. I knew that Takoma was a beautiful neighborhood, filled with residents who really love living there.  But the Takoma I discovered while writing this feature was just flat-out awesome: it’s a neighborhood  that feels like a small town within a big city, with community events all the time, and even a neighborhood rooster.  Seriously.

History: Takoma got its start back in 1883 as a commuter rail suburb of Washington, offering clean water, fresh air, and a semi-rural lifestyle with access to the city.  Back then the community, which straddled the DC/MD line, was known as Takoma Park.  The area attracted a good deal of residential growth with some smaller commercial areas.  The area eventually took on two names– Takoma (a neighborhood in Washington DC) and Takoma Park (a city in Maryland).  There’s a shared identity between these two parts, and the area has come to be known for its active residents.  Residents successfully joined together to oppose the North Central Freeway Project in 1964, and they had a significant impact on the Takoma Metro station (which sits on the Washington DC side, thus the name) back in the 1970s.  Initial plans called for high-density commercial and residential development around the station and a 500-space commuter parking lot, but residents organized a group called Plan Takoma that developed the alternative of what you see today: a public park, a 100-space parking lot, and the retention of medium-density houses and shops.

Continue reading

The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Tenleytown/AU Park

Photo courtesy of
‘Reservoir Watchtower’
courtesy of ‘Kevin H.’

Welcome to another edition of Where We Live!  This week we’ll be taking a closer look at Tenleytown/AU Park.  Even though this neighborhood surrounds American University, it’s not just college students who live there– the beautiful tree-lined streets and great transit access attract people from all walks of life.

History: This part of town has a pretty cool history.  Tenleytown originally got its name back in 1790, when residents took to calling the neighborhood “Tenally’s Town” after tavern owner John Tenally.  Fort Reno, as the highest natural point in the District, was part of the Civil War Defenses of Washington.  After the Civil War, Fort Reno was a free black community, but you wouldn’t know it today– the remnants of this neighborhood were wiped out when several schools were built in the name of urban renewal.  The area became a commercial center in 1941, when Sears opened a huge store there (the site of the Sears was redevelopment and now houses the Best Buy and Container Store).  The area developed throughout the twentieth century with the help of the streetcar and its proximity to American University (which admitted its first class in 1914).

Continue reading

The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Brightwood

Photo courtesy of
’1329 Missouri Ave., NW’
courtesy of ‘rockcreek’

There are some neighborhoods in the District that residents just love.  Southwest Waterfront has a very strong sense of community, Bloomingdale residents love nothing more than sitting on their stoops and talking to neighbors, and now we’ve got another addition to the super-passionate neighbors list: Brightwood.  I sent out a call for Brightwood residents to tell me about their neighborhood, and when I got an e-mail with the subject line “WHY I LOVE BRIGHTWOOD!” I knew this neighborhood was special.

Continue reading

The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Bloomingdale

Photo courtesy of
‘DSC_0940′
courtesy of ‘mediaslave’

Thanks to your great suggestions telling me where you live, we have several more neighborhoods in the District, Virginia, and Maryland to profile over the coming weeks.  This week, we’re heading back in to DC to look at a very neighborly neighborhood: Bloomingdale.  It’s a beautiful neighborhood close to the center of town but it feels worlds away.  Read on to find out what makes Bloomingdale a great community, and the number one thing that residents love about the neighborhood.

History: Bloomingdale wasn’t part of Pierre L’Enfant’s original plan, and started out as a pretty rural area.  It was next to the planned suburb LeDroit Park, and didn’t really see much residential development until the 1890s when streets were paved and a streetcar connected through the area.  Bloomingdale quickly became home to rowhouses, churches, and schools, and it has remained a quiet residential neighborhood ever since.   More on the history of Bloomingdale over at Bloomingdale DC.

Continue reading

Alexandria, The Great Outdoors, Where We Live, WTF?!

Nature’s Fury: Braddock Road Edition

IMG_1158
photo by author.

Alexandria got hit hard by yesterday’s freak storm.The worst hit area seemed to be the North/South stretch of Braddock Road between Old Town and Route 7. That stretch looked like it had been hit by a mini-tornado; trees down, roads closed, cars and homes struck. In the several hours it took me to drive home from DC last night, I got a tour of some pretty spectacular storm damage. Here are some shots I took that I think give a pretty good impression of how strong this storm was.

Stare in awe at the aftermath of nature’s fury.

Continue reading

The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Rockville

Photo courtesy of
‘RV’s New Town Square & Beall Ave 6-09′
courtesy of ‘brad.rourke’

We’re heading back to Maryland this week to check out a DC suburb that has grown to become the second-largest incorporated city in Maryland: Rockville.    Read on to find out what Rockville residents like about it, and why it’s worth a visit.

History: Rockville was one of Maryland’s oldest towns and had an important role in the Revolutionary War.  It got its name in 1801 because of its proximity to Rock Creek, and developed slowly for most of the 1800s.  In 1873 the B&O Railroad came through town, and the area grew even more.  But the real surge in growth in Rockville didn’t happen until after the 1950s, when the population increased sevenfold in thirty years.  Today Rockville is home to over 60,000 residents.  For a more detailed view of Rockville’s history, check out the city’s historic preservation website.
Continue reading

The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Columbia Pike

Photo courtesy of
‘STRENGTH_13′
courtesy of ‘Arlington County’

For those District residents who don’t own cars and don’t like MetroBus, the extent of the Washington region is limited.  Sure, you can get to a lot of major attractions via MetroRail, but you’re missing out on a lot too.  Take Columbia Pike for example– it has a vibrant, fun “main street” feel to it, but many Washingtonians haven’t been out there (except maybe to catch a movie at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse).  Even though there isn’t a Metro station nearby, this area is definitely worth a visit.

History: Columbia Pike has always been a major thoroughfare through Arlington County since it was chartered in 1801.  It was originally a streetcar suburb, with a streetcar stop at the intersection of Walter Reed Drive and Columbia Pike and a direct bus connecting to the District.  But during the 1940s, the area became much more suburban and car-friendly, with lots of car dealerships and gas stations.  This pattern of development continued for the next fifty years.

The important thing to note here is that many of the neighborhoods in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor developed similarly, but they got Metro stations in the 1970s.  This led to a surge in land value, which then led to compact development and reinvestment right around those stations.  Columbia Pike didn’t get a Metro station, so there was no catalyst for urban development.  But the story isn’t over: a streetcar is coming to Columbia Pike in the next decade, which can finally bring the reinvestment that the area has been waiting for.

Continue reading

The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Crystal City

Photo courtesy of

‘Crystal City – Lightning Ball’
courtesy of ‘Mo Kaiwen è�«æ¥·æ��’

Welcome to another edition of Where We Live. This week we’re hopping on the yellow line, crossing the river, and checking out Crystal City.  When I started looking into Crystal City for this feature, I wasn’t too sure what I would find– a neighborhood named after a chandelier that claims to be Arlington’s largest downtown?  All I knew of it was that there were lots of hotels and office buildings.  But what I found was a lot of people who absolutely love living in Crystal City.  Read on to hear what’s great about Crystal City, as well as some recommendations about what to check out next time you’re in the area!

Continue reading

The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Clarendon

Photo courtesy of
‘IMG_0001′
courtesy of ‘blakespot’

In this week’s Where We Live, we’re venturing back out to Arlington into the heart of the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor. Clarendon is one of those places that always has something going on, and with a wide selection of bars, restaurants, and shopping, you’re never at a loss for something to do. But it’s also a great place to live– our very own Patrick says moving to Clarendon was the best choice he ever made! Read on to find out what’s so great about Clarendon.

Continue reading

The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Shirlington

Photo courtesy of
‘Village at Shirlington’
courtesy of ‘Arlington County’

Welcome back to Where We Live, your bi-weekly tour through neighborhoods in and around the District. This week: Shirlington and Fairlington! For those of you whose understanding of the DC area relies on a Metro map, you might not be too familiar with this area. But you’re missing out!  While there’s no Metro station nearby, this is a very cool area filled with plenty to do.

Continue reading

The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: College Park

Photo courtesy of
‘Moon Setting over Byrd Stadium’
courtesy of ‘pthread1981′

College Park is best known for the University of Maryland and its 36,000 students, but there is so much more to this community than just the university.  College Park is full of great restaurants, shops, running trails, arts and cultural opportunities, sporting events, and more.  Sure, it’s got a lot of students, but it’s not just riots and frat parties.  And since I’ve mostly only seen the riot/frat party side of College Park while visiting friends who attended the university years ago, I’ve asked our friends at the fantastic planning and development blog Rethink College Park to tell us what’s great about their community outside of UMD.  Read on to find out what College Park residents love about their community, and what you’ll have to check out next time you’re in the area.

Continue reading

The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Silver Spring

Photo courtesy of
‘Downtown Silver Spring’
courtesy of ‘METROgrl’

Most Where We Live features focus on neighborhoods of a couple thousand people, but this week we’re tackling the third most populous place in Maryland: Silver Spring, a community of over 76,000 people. So while half of Montgomery County seems to have Silver Spring mailing addresses (making the city larger than any other city in the state except for Baltimore), we’ll just focus on the urban area of Silver Spring around the Metro station. But that being said there are lots of cool other areas in Silver Spring, from the park-like residential neighborhood of Woodside Park to the urban-suburban blend in Wheaton.  As Dan, author of just up the pike and life-long Silver Spring resident, says, “In Silver Spring, you can go from a busy urban center to pick-your-own farms in just a few miles, all with the same address.”

Continue reading

The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Ballston

Photo courtesy of
‘Night at Church’
courtesy of ‘oparrish’

Welcome to another edition of Where We Live. This week we’re focusing on Ballston, the western end of Arlington’s fabulous Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. Ballston offers a great balance between access to Northern Virginia (like Tysons/Fairfax/Farlington) and access to DC, and it’s actually a pretty cool place to live and hang out.

History: Ballston was a major crossroads during the eighteenth century, and it was named after the Ball family (whose family cemetery is in the neighborhood). In 1896, the Washington, Arlington, and Falls Church Electric Railroad (a streetcar) was constructed along what is now Fairfax Drive, and the area developed as a streetcar suburb. In 1951 the Parkington Shopping Center opened where the current Ballston Common Mall is, and the area became known as Parkington. The area declined in the 60s and 70s as it was really just a retail-dominated suburb, but Metro came along in 1979 and changed that. Since the opening of the Metro station, the area has continued to redevelop, replacing the suburban sprawl of the 50s and 60s with more compact urban development. Today Ballston is a thriving retail, office, and residential center.

Continue reading

The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Old Town Alexandria

Photo courtesy of
‘View down King Street’
courtesy of ‘CathyLovesDC’

Alexandria is an independent city in Virginia that measures 15 square miles and includes over 100,000 residents (which is much larger than the typical neighborhood that we profile in Where We Live), and includes distinct neighborhoods like Arlandia, Rosemont, North Ridge, Del Ray, and West End.  This profile will mostly focus on the civic and commercial heart of Alexandria in Old Town, but it should be noted that Alexandria is made up of charming neighborhoods outside of that area that are definitely worth a visit.

History: This is a town with a lot of history.  Here’s the short version– Alexandria was originally a Native American settlement, then a major port, then part of DC in 1789 (only to be retroceded in 1846), then a quiet southern town frequented by tourists in the early twentieth century, then a growing suburb, and finally in the 1960′s the Old Town area was reborn as a commercial center and civic heart of the city (though many original historic buildings were demolished to make room for this ‘progress’).  The long version can be found on the Lyceum’s website about Alexandria history.

Continue reading

The Features, Where We Live

Where We Live: Bethesda

Photo courtesy of
‘Monday Afternoon’
courtesy of ‘SWP Moblog’

It’s time Where We Live ventured into Maryland. And where better to start than Bethesda, the DC suburb that feels more like a city than many parts of DC. Bethesda is the perfect balance of city life and access to suburbs for its residents, and it has so much to offer that it’s a destination for even downtown DC residents. Read on for Bethesda’s best kept secrets and what you should check out next time you’re in the neighborhood.

History: Bethesda originally was a small settlement along a trade route that connected to Georgetown.  It got its name from Bethesda Meeting House, a church built in 1820.  There wasn’t much in Bethesda until the streetcar system connected the neighborhood to DC in the early 1900s.  The streetcar encouraged a boom in suburban development in Bethesda, which continued throughout the twentieth century.  The area got its office boom during World War II, when the NIH and National Naval Medical Center relocated here.  Bethesda continued to grow, and in 1984 the Bethesda Metro station opened, which led to even more high-density development and redevelopment.  Building on the office and residential concentrations located here, Bethesda has recently defined itself as a retail destination and lifestyle center with projects like Bethesda Row.

Continue reading