Cafe 227

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Bar Louie Coming to Clarendon North

Erin Killian from the Washington Business Journal reports that the Chicago-based chain Bar Louie will making its debut in the Washington, DC area when it opens its mammoth, 10,000 square foot restaurant/bar in the-neighborhood-formerly- known-as-Chinatown later this year. The article doesn't specify, but I'm sure there will be tacky Chinese lettering above the entranceway as a meaningless (if not somewhat disdainful) nod to the neighborhood's previous incarnation. I'm sure that within a year, Bar Louie will win a Rammy award for the area's "hottest bar scene" and will top the list of nominations for "best neighborhood bar" in the Washington Post's "Best Bets" survey.

Seriously, is there a more contrived, corporate, chain-dominated neighborhood on the east coast? I was going to suggest that it be renamed "Clarendon North," but that's no longer a fair characterization of Northern Virginia. I've repeatedly come to the defense of DC in those tired yet ubiquitous DC-vs.-NoVa arguments by arguing that DC's neighborhoods are so much more unique and diverse and hip, but my position is becoming increasingly indefensible. My own neighborhood, U Street - once the most dynamic neighborhood in the city - has largely been transformed into a soulless abomination. At the same time, I keep discovering hidden gems in NoVa that are flourishing. For instance, the same issue of the Washington Business Journal that trumpets the arrival of Bar Louie also briefly mentions that Del Ray was recently named one of the 10 best "cottage communities" in America by Cottage Living magazine, partly because of the neighborhood's quirky, independently-owned businesses such as The Dairy Godmother. Or, take a more obvious example - if you really wanted an authentic Asian shopping/dining experience in this area, would you be more inclined to hop on the green line to "Chinatown" or take a drive out to Eden Center?

Now, I'm willing to admit that the development around "Chinatown" following the construction of the MCI/Verizon Center has been a net positive for the city. I used to frequent Casbah and The Bank (now Home and Platinum respectively, I think) a decade ago as a young and clueless undergrad, and I even occasionally worked the door at Coco Loco (now RFD) for a promoter named "Umberto." It was scary down there - broken windows on empty storefronts, no signs of life whatsoever. The development of the neighborhood over the past decade has been nothing short of remarkable.

That said, the largely corporate origins of the overhaul has left the neighborhood sterile, contrived, and rather devoid of character. Hopefully, current development efforts in other DC neighborhoods will be more organic and less run-of-the mill. Early signs are promising...


  • "Seriously, is there a more contrived, corporate, chain-dominated neighborhood on the east coast?"


    Times Square.

    The Inner Horror--er...Harbor

    But Gallery Place...yeah, gettin' bad.

    By Blogger The Deceiver, at 3:44 AM  

  • Ok, maybe it was an exaggeration. Entire cities in Florida are more contrived, and that's technically the East Coast. But whatever, it is getting bad down in Chinatown.

    By Blogger Johnny Shades, at 9:26 AM  

  • I second "the deceiver"!

    Answer: Times Square.

    Times Square is more chain-dominated than Gallery Place. I don't why why people think Gallery Place is so bad. It draws in the tourists and other patrons, and people like the neon. And, it is also popular among people who actually live in DC. Some in DC need to stop trying to be the elitest! There should be just as much space for chains as there is for locals. The elitest and NIMBY attitude is what kept any mass retail away from many DC neigborhoods for years.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:58 AM  

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