Month: November 2020

Meet Me At The Heights

The District is a city of neighbourhoods, and on a Saturday afternoon, Columbia Heights exudes both the bustle of a big city and the charm of a small town. What better place to sit back, people watch, and take it all in than the Heights Restaurant? Located in the ground floor of The Kenyon condo building, the Heights feels like the cornerstone of the intersection, with panoramic views up 14th street and across Tivoli Square.

Meet Me At The Heights

Renee Pickard joined The Heights as a general manager in October following an ownership change at the start of 2015. In addition to aesthetic changes and a new logo, Renee and owner Ammar Daoud are working to make The Heights the neighbourhood bar of Columbia Heights.

“Our goal is to be the best neighbourhood restaurant in D.C. Columbia Heights is a neighbourhood unlike what you see farther down on 14th Street,” said Renee. “Down there you’ll see an occasional regular, but most people you see once or twice and never again.” At The Heights, there are regulars who come in 3 or 4 times a week—and Renee waves to them as they walk down Kenyon. “If you come in more than twice, we’ll remember who you are,” she said.

Not content just being in the centre of the neighbourhood, The Heights has been an active partner with the Columbia Heights Initiative and many other community groups. They hosted our March happy hour a few weeks ago, as well as a networking happy hour for the Latin American Youth Center and a fundraiser for playground builders Kaboom!

“What better place to have a community event than here?” Renee asks. Any inquiries from local charities or organizations, they do their hardest to get them in and support them, whether by providing meeting space or donations. At the Columbia Heights Tree Lighting Ceremony, The Heights provided gallons of hot chocolate throughout the night.

A partnership with the nearby GALA Theatre provides patrons with a discount on food and drinks before or after performances by showing a ticket or program. All Children’s Hospital staff receive a discount on food and drink as well, perfect since the employee shuttle picks up and drops off right at The Heights. There’s also the Saturday morning running club that starts at The Heights—and ends there with a 25% discount on brunch.

Describing their menu as “southern-inspired American comfort food” leaves a lot of room for the chef to get creative. If you’ve ever wondered about the “Gold Star Cincinnati Chili,” it’s a nod to owner Daoud’s roots as a manager for the family business, Gold Star Chili in Cincinnati. The crispy Brussels sprouts with maple mustard glaze are not to be missed. One of the most popular menu items is the fried chicken. Both the entrée and sandwich version is honey brined and beer-battered breast meat that stays moist despite not being dark meat. If you’re there for weekend brunch, grab a Bloody Mary and the French toast with caramel pecan sauce that has been voted best in the city.

A new spring menu is set to launch April 12, with a focus on seasonal, locally sourced and sustainable ingredients. The bar menu is also getting a makeover, with a greater focus on craft cocktails that are “innovative, yet accessible”—new takes on classic cocktails. Order a Manhattan or Old Fashioned—they barrel age them in house.

Regulars will still find old menu favourites, though maybe with a twist, as well as family-friendly service. Their happy hour was listed as one of the city’s most kid-friendly, and their outdoor patio has plenty of space to bring the dog. Most of all, Renee says, they are focused on being the neighbourhood place.

“We want to be a place you can bring the family and have a nice dinner but also a place that you can catch a game, bring a first date, have brunch and enjoy a laid back experience. We want to be part of the neighbourhood, not just in it.”

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The Airedale

The Airedale: Your Neighborhood Bar

“A pint is 16 fluid ounces,” says Ben Jordan, owner and general manager at the Airedale, a new gastropub on 14th and Perry NW. “Too many bars say they’re giving you a pint, but only pour you 12 ounces of beer. Every day Washingtonians are swindled out of four ounces of beer they paid for. We won’t do that to you. If you order a pint at our bar, you’ll get a proper 16 ounces. No exceptions.” At Columbia Heights Initiative, we appreciate Ben’s integrity, as we’ll be hosting a happy hour at his pub on Friday, January XYZ.

The Airedale

Last week I had the chance to meet Ben to ask him about the story behind the Airedale. The pub radiated warmth when I entered. Burgundy brick walls, rich wood floors, and abundant soccer (futbol) paraphernalia compelled me to hang my coat and get comfortable. On the top floor, I came upon a beer garden and a balcony overlooking 14th. It’s a dark yet cozy joint. It has a neighbourly feel to it. And it should feel neighborly because that was Ben’s intention.

“I simply wanted to create a neighbourhood bar,” said Ben, who shares ownership with his dad Harold, his twin brother Izaak, and friend Boback.

Ben hails from DC. His African American-Native American father and Finnish-Italian mother raised his brother and him at 17th and U NW. Before launching the Airedale in August, Ben taught TV production and photography for 11 years at TC Williams High School in Alexandria. So when he says he wanted to create a neighbourhood bar, he’s not an outside mogul capitalizing on market demand for this type of establishment; he’s a local guy who followed a dream.

I asked Ben about the European flavour in the restaurant, from the food to the decorations to the sporting bouts shown on the big screen TVs.

“During summers growing up, my parents took my brother and me to France,” Ben explained. “At a young age, I got a taste for both tourist Europe and everyday Europe. My parents now own a place in Paris, and my brother works in Germany. I’ve travelled to many other places in Europe as well. In short, European culture is ingrained in my family’s history.”

When I met Ben, he was wearing a black cap with the word “DEAD” stitched to it and a matching black sweater with “MEAT” patched to the chest in wool white letters. “Dudes Factory makes these,” he said of the ensemble. “They’re a German fashion company, but most of their product line is based on the work of French artist McBess.”

It was fitting that Ben sported Dudes Factory apparel because the brand influenced some of the visual concepts for the Airedale. The clothing company owns a bar in Berlin called “Dudes Delikatessen.” Bits of the Airedale’s interior echo that of the Berlin-based bar.

And no one will miss the pub’s religious fervour for soccer! English Premier League bouts monopolize the televisions. Stencilled team logos and woven banners occupy the walls. “I always thought of a local bar as a place you can go to watch a game,” said Ben. “I wanted to create a space for people to do that. Plus, I’m a big soccer fan, so I like having the games on.”

When asked about his favourite team, he steered my attention to a hidden Chelsea logo painted low on a wall in the corner. Enough said.

Ben is a laidback, friendly guy who I imagine could quickly become friends with just about anyone. He’s also a man of conviction. As it relates to his restaurant, he holds two convictions: 1) if you say you serve European pub food, then you should serve food that you’d actually find at a pub in Europe; and 2) beer should be served in the appropriate glass (e.g. Barley wine belongs in a snifter, not a pilsner glass. Anything else is an abomination).

Head chef Mark Lum – Ben’s cousin who moved from Hawaii to help him open the Airedale – makes most of the ingredients in-house and ensures that patrons get proper European cuisine. And if you don’t believe me about Ben’s zeal for beer glass precision, just order the Weihenstephan Hefeweissbier. See what happens.

We’re thrilled to get to host our January happy hour at the Airedale. Come meet your neighbours, hear more stories from Ben, catch a soccer match, scarf some Currywurst, and treat yourself to a beer at the right size in the right glass.

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Columbia Heights

Living & Loving In Columbia Heights

I love, live, and work in Columbia Heights and getting to be on the board and help out with Columbia Heights Day this year was such an honour. Columbia Heights Day is a reminder for me of why I chose to stay in DC. It’s the anniversary of the opening of the restaurant, The Coupe, where I have worked for three years now. I found a community I loved and a place to call home full of wonderful people. In DC, people tend to come and go but the people I have met stay in my heart, the new people I meet surprise me and help me grow, and the people I have yet to meet have me excited about what the future holds.

Columbia Heights

Being a part of the Columbia Heights Initiative Board has been full of fun and rewarding experiences and seeing Columbia Heights Day be such a success in spite of the rain this year was one of those. I was surrounded by my neighbours, co-workers, friends, and family and although it did try to rain on our party, the only result was meeting interesting people I might not have met if we hadn’t come together seeking shelter from the weather. Everyone who came out that day really wanted to be there and that was a nice feeling. We all came to celebrate a great neighbourhood with great people and awesome restaurants and other businesses and organizations. It was a day that showcased what makes Columbia Heights great and coming out in the rain was a testament to how much people wanted to be there.

I had always wanted to get more involved in my community and with Columbia Heights Day specifically. I had respected and admired the work done by board members in the past and was excited to do my part in continuing a neighbourhood tradition and helping to throw a block party to remember, so the opportunity to be on the planning committee as a board member truly touched my heart.

I love living and working in Columbia Heights. It is so nice to live in a city but still have a hometown feel. That’s how this neighbourhood feels to me. It’s the best of both worlds and it’s hard for me to imagine finding that in many other places. Columbia Heights Day is an opportunity to celebrate that feeling with other like-minded people in the neighbourhood and to introduce that feeling to new community members, and/or friends and family who don’t have the pleasure of living or working here.

Working together with the other board members to make this day happen was just as special as seeing it all come together, even with the weather not being on our side. The hard work and energy and unique capabilities that went into organizing this block party were truly impressive and I am so happy I was able to be a part of that. I can’t wait to see more to come.

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