April 22, 2012

Rain on Earth Day

Here are some photographs from a rainy Earth Day taken in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC...

Rain on the Sidewalk

Urban Green

I submitted the top photo in EPA's Environment in a Day photo project.

April 8, 2012

Noodles for People with Patience

In my last post I started talking about H Street and the Atlas neighborhood here in DC. This is an up and coming neighborhood that has started to become gentrified in the past few years. Now I want to share my experience at Toki Underground, one of the more popular restaurants on H Street.

Toki Underground serves ramen. So before I go any further let me say one thing, I recently wrote about People's Noodle Bar in Columbia Heights. The urge to compare these two restaurants is tempting, however I am not going to do so. Yes, they both serve ramen, but the similarities stop there.

In the past month I have eaten at Toki Underground twice and each time we had to wait approximately two hours to get a table. (Thankfully there are several fun cafes and bars nearby.) Frustrating. While both times I had fun waiting, it is one part of the experience of eating at this restaurant that I would happily change.

That said, once we actually sit down at Toki Underground the service was fantastic. Both times we were seated at the counter by the front window. (Yes, I like window seats!) On our first trip to Toki Underground we shared vegetable and pork pan seared dumplings (just veggie for me) with our friends. They were very good, however when my ramen arrived I forgot about everything else. I got the masumi vegetarian ramen which had a rich broth and was filled with wonderful mushrooms. And the noodles were absolutely perfect. It was the homey, yet sophisticated, comfort food in a bowl. To finish the meal I had almond cookies and milk. Like the ramen, these were a delicious and modern take on a classic snack.

The second time we returned to Toki Underground we were seated at the same spot by the window. This time Jonathan and I shared seafood pan fried dumplings and then I ordered masumi vegetarian ramen and Japanese beer. Again everything was wonderful! The raman broth was amazing, the noodles were perfect, and the atmosphere was vibrant and fun.

Yes the wait for a table at Toki Underground can be long; but once you are seated the service is excellent. Our drinks and food arrived promptly after we ordered during both visits to the restaurant. And the food was amazing. So, if you are patient, this is ramen worth waiting for...

April 1, 2012

The H Street Scene

Recently my husband Jonathan and I have spent some time on H Street in the Atlas neighborhood of Washington, DC. This neighborhood is in the middle of an urban renewal and has become home to many fantastic restaurants, cafes, and bars. There is still a lot of construction and evolution going on - including the future arrival of a street car line to bring more visitors to this area of the city. However, in the midst of this great potential, there is already a vibrant scene and some great culture on H Street. There is a lot to say about this up and coming neighborhood, so I am going to share my experiences in a few posts. In this post I want to talk about the neighborhood vibe; in my next post I will write about Toki Underground (a ramen shop).

On our first visit to this area of the city, my husband Jonathan and I met some friends on H Street to check out the local scene, have a couple glasses of wine, and eat at Toki Underground. I have wanted to check out both this neighborhood and this restaurant for a while. (As I said above, I will discuss my experience - and the ramen here in my next post.)

We arrive at H Street and 13th Street Northeast just as the sun was setting and a blustery cold wind was picking up for the evening hours. Since we were early we decided to stop by SOVA for a glass of wine. This cute cafe has a coffee shop downstairs and a wine bar upstairs. The rustic, relaxed vibe reminded both Jonathan and I of cafes in the San Francisco bay area. We sat upstairs and had a glass of wine and snack while surveying the scene. We were both excited to be exploring an area of the city that was new to us. Next we headed to Toki Underground to add our name to put our name on the list for a table. (This restaurant is small, only takes reservations on City Eats before 6:00PM, and has notoriously long waiting times for tables.)

After securing ours table approximately two hours in advance we went to Smith Commons, a gastropub across the street. Here we met up with our friends and had a few drinks while we waited for dinner. Smith Commons is a vibrant restaurant and bar with a dining room on the first floor, a lounge and outside deck on second floor, and a third level that was closed for a private party the night we were there. My favorite part of the place was the large window on the street side of the second level overlooking the street. It offers a great view of the street scene below.

About a block away is The Queen Vic, a comfy British pub. On another visit to H Street Jonathan and I go here while waiting for our table at Toki Underground (again). Sitting at the bar here instantly brought me back to memories of England - the snacks, the menu, the beers on tap, and the simple atmosphere. Sometimes I think we try to hard to make a place somewhere that people will want to go when in reality simplicity and comfort are really what matters. Jonathan got a glass of wine, I ordered a Boddington's, and we got some nuts to share. As we sat there we chatted with the person next to us and talked about the time we shared together in London. As we sat there I realized something about this area of the city. While an establishment might work hard to be hip, it is the people of this neighborhood that make it a vibrant place to visit. H Street is fastly becoming one of my favorite places to go out in the city!