Vote for the Hyattsville Wire in the Best of D.C.

You’ve told us you love the Hyattsville Wire, now is your chance to tell Washington City Paper for the Best of D.C. survey by voting for us as “Best Community Blog!”

In 2012, we started the Hyattsville Wire because we felt communities along Route 1 weren’t being covered well, especially online, where news about the area tended to focus on crime and politics. We wanted to change that.

Since we launched, we’ve written hundreds of articles focusing on dining, arts and culture, architecture, history, urban planning, and real estate and development all along the Route 1 corridor providing you with the latest news and sharing with the rest of the D.C. metro area what it’s like to live here.

We’ve broken news about about a lot of cool stuff happening in the area, we’ve added thousands of followers on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and hundreds of email subscribers (see the box in the lower right hand column to sign up). We even added a free events calendar for the community by the community, and asked you to help us find the Best of Route 1.

And just last month we received close to 20,000 visits to the site!

Now we’d like your vote for Washington City Paper‘s annual Best of D.C. reader poll “Best Community Blog.”

Simply go to the Best of D.C. survey, sign in using your Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn account and add “The Hyattsville Wire” under “Best Community Blog” in the “People & Places” section.

Voting ends 11:59 p.m. on March 4. Thanks for your love and support!

Posted in Brentwood, College Park, Hyattsville, Mount Rainier, Riverdale Park, University Park | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Momo Yakitori Opens This Weekend in Woodridge

yakitori meat skewers Japanese cuisine

Photo of yakitori by Leng Cheng

Route 1’s newest restaurant is the only one of its kind in D.C.

Momo Yakitori, which opens Friday in the space formerly occupied by Nido in Woodridge at 2214 Rhode Island Ave. NE, just south of Mount Rainier, is the first full-fledged yakitori restaurant in D.C., according to Washington City Paper.

The restaurant is run by Masako Morishita and Andrew Chiou, who also run a catering company called M’s Kitchen.

It aims for a more casual vibe, with skewers of meat priced at two or three dollars each and appetizers such as sesame cucumber salad going for four dollars.

There’s also a bar menu with Japanese cocktails, beer and wines chosen by a sommelier. One floor of the restaurant will eventually be turned into a cocktail lounge.

Reservations can be made on OpenTable, and it’s probably a good idea to check ahead to make sure the restaurant is open. For the first few months, the owners plan to just be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays 5 to 11 p.m.

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Duke Ellington’s Former Haunt Gets Restored

A once popular music hall and tavern off of Rhode Island Ave. frequented by the likes of Duke Ellington is being restored.

The town of North Brentwood and the Hyattsville Community Development Corp. are rehabilitating the historic Sis’ Tavern at 4516 41st Ave., a landmark of the first African-American community incorporated in Prince George’s County.

Constructed around 1912, the wood-frame building was originally supposed to be anything but a tavern. Under the terms of sale, the new owners were not allowed to sell  “intoxicating liquors” while the original owners or their children lived within a half mile.

At first, the building housed a grocery, but eventually owner Emma Hawkins (wife of North Brentwood’s first mayor) leased it to Marie “Sis” Walls, who ran it as a watering hole when the restrictive covenant no longer applied. Old-timers recall Ellington and Pearl Bailey dropping by to perform after their official shows at the Howard Theatre in D.C.

Sis’ Tavern closed in 1970, and the site was later run as Baby Dee’s Guest Club by Deloris Spriggs until 1996. It also housed a barbershop.

The building is considered historic because of the role it played as the first commercial building in North Brentwood, which was founded in the Reconstruction era by African-American veterans of the Union Army.

“Owned by local African-American residents, the property was an important commercial and social fixture in North Brentwood, first as a grocery and later as a tavern, and is still a recognizable landmark in the community,” notes the official historic property designation. “The property is also significant because it was a commercial building operated by African- Americans for African-Americans.”

The town and the CDC are using a $50,000 grant from Maryland’s African American Heritage Preservation Program for architectural design and interior rehabilitation; a grant from Prince George’s County to improve the facade; and smaller grants from Anacostia Trails Heritage AreaPreservation Maryland and the National Trust for Historic Preservation to restore signs on the site.

In 2015, the Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center also added a mural by Chanel Compton called “Play That Song, Mr. Ellington” to the site.

You can see a mix of recent and historic photos of Sis’ Tavern in this video by the Maryland Department of Planning.

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Route 1’s Biggest Kids’ Thrill

The Route 1 corridor has a lot of great activities for kids from art classes at Art Works Now, to skating lessons at Herbert Wells Ice Rink, to dance instruction at Joe’s Movement Emporium and more, but the biggest thrill might be just up the road at the ClimbZone in Laurel.

Located off of Route 1 a few minutes north of Ikea in College Park, the family-oriented indoor climbing center has 70 options for everyone from beginners to skilled climbers.

To add to the fun, each wall has a different theme, including King Kong atop the Empire State Building, Big Ben, a rocket ship and a map of the United States. For the younger kids, there’s a bouncy castle and two inflatable slides.

Trained staffers help each climber secure their harness, so safety is paramount, and every wall comes with a hydraulic belay system that allows you to slowly descend when you’re done on a particular wall.

ClimbZone is popular with both boys and girls — it’s fairly typical to see young girls there with shirts that say things like “Girls Can Do Anything.” Birthday parties are also popular, with pizza delivery for the food option.

Adults and kids under the age of six are $25 for three hours, preschoolers are $12 and kids under two are free.

The climbing center is also just around the corner from Dinosaur Park, a county-run outdoor fossil site with guided tours.

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Vietnamese Restaurant Headed to Riverdale Park

A Vietnamese restaurant is coming to downtown Riverdale Park.

An estimated 2,600 square feet has been leased from Douglas Development on the main floor of the red brick building at the corner of Queensbury Road and Rhode Island Avenue.

Described as an “upscale, fast-casual” restaurant, Banana Blossom Bistro will move into the Riverdale Park Town Center building sometime this summer, according to the Riverdale Park Business Association.

A California native, owner Annie Ha Esguerra is a third-generation restaurateur whose parents run five Vietnamese restaurants in Sacramento and San Jose.

In an interview with the business association, she said the restaurant will rely on “five or six family recipes” with a “modern, authentic” approach.

The 46-seat restaurant (with outdoor seating planned as well) could be a game changer for downtown Riverdale Park. Douglas Development, which owns the entire building, has been slow to lease it, with only the Bikram Hot Yoga studio so far.

The bistro’s size indicates an ambition to draw in customers from a broader area, and there’s certainly room for another cool dining option along the Route 1 corridor.

And the nearby Town Center Market, which is already a hotspot, plans to expand its outdoor seating soon.

College Park has four no-frills pho restaurants, mostly serving the university’s increasingly international student body, but a solid full-service Vietnamese dining option in Riverdale Park would be welcome by many area residents.

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The Future of the WSSC Could Be Decided Soon

Magruder Pointe WSSC Building Historic District Hyattsville

Courtesy of Werrlein Properties

The future of the former home of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission in Hyattsville could be decided in a matter of weeks.

The Hyattsville planning committee will hear from Werrlein Properties, a Maryland developer which has already built some new homes inside the historic district, on Tuesday, Feb. 27. The city council will hold a hearing in March, followed by a vote a week later.

The city is currently soliciting feedback from residents online, via email and even over the phone as well as at the upcoming meetings.

Public opposition has killed previous efforts to redevelop the site, with many neighbors arguing that the seven-acre property should be restored to the single-family homes it’s zoned for or that the building should be converted into a community center.

Neither of those options seems very likely at the moment, however.

The economics of infill development pretty much ensure that to be worthwhile, the site would need to include more than just bungalows similar to the surrounding area. And a community center would cost tens of millions of tax dollars, not to mention the ongoing upkeep and organizing that would require.

Werrlein seems to have split the difference in its “Magruder Pointe” proposal, putting 14 single-family homes along the two streets facing existing homes while putting the more cost-effective row homes along the streets facing Magruder Park itself. (You can see the proposal here.)

These upcoming meetings could determine whether the city recommends to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission — which has the ultimate say — to go ahead with the project, or whether it remains idle for another few years.

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How HB 1052 Could Hurt Hyattsville’s Boom

A proposed state law could put a crimp in downtown Hyattsville’s revitalization.

House Bill 1052 would restrict how much beer small breweries can serve in their taprooms, potentially hurting the upcoming Streetcar 82 Brewing Co, a Belgian-inspired brewery set to open along the Route 1 corridor later this year.

In a statement on Facebook, the owners of Streetcar 82 said the bill would be “a disaster.”

“This bill will stop us from making a profit,” they wrote. “The most alarming part is that taproom sales for us will be capped at of 25 percent of our production. For every keg of beer we sell, we will need to sell three to distributors. Distributors will NOT help us succeed when they will get more money from established out-of-state beer brands.”

The legislation has been criticized for holding breweries to different standards: Limits on smaller craft brewers would be lowered from 2,000 to 500 barrels, while larger brewers would stay at the same level.

As we’ve noted before, alcohol is fueling the rebirth of the Route 1 corridor, with everything from Franklins and Pizzeria Paradiso to an upcoming meadery and distillery to Streetcar 82 playing a key role. And craft breweries, as noted by James Fallows of The Atlantic, are a leading indicator of a vibrant local civic culture.

Even Guinness, the giant British-owned company building a destination brewery in Baltimore County, has come out against the bill, although it would not be directly affected.

“While we appreciate the support for our brewery project by the Legislature and the collective Maryland beer community, this bill will take us a step backwards from the category growth, beer tourism and job creation we are all working towards,” Guinness said in a statement on the bill.

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College Park Moves Closer to Opening Lidl

College Park is moving a step closer to opening a new alternative grocery store.

Demolition will begin soon on the old Clarion Inn building on Route 1, clearing the way for construction on the upcoming Lidl grocery.

The hotel at 8601 Baltimore Ave., which had been seen competition from newer chain hotels in the area, closed at the beginning of January.

There’s still no firm date on when the German chain (pronounced leedle) will open its College Park location, one of 100 stores planned along the East Coast as part of an ambitious $1.6 billion expansion into the U.S. market. Mayor Patrick Wojahn said it could come this year or next.

Lidl’s other stores in the greater D.C. area are in Virginia: Woodbridge, Fredericksburg and Manassas, with another to open in Ashburn in March.

But Lidl has canceled some planned store locations in recent months as it changed up its real estate strategy, so the demolition is good news that College Park will still make the cut.

Apart from being a beloved grocery chain in the vein of Trader Joe’s, Lidl is also expected to drive down prices in U.S. markets with its aggressive cost-cutting.

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How to Relive Route 1’s Streetcar Line

Courtesy of the National Capital Trolley Museum.

Route 1’s streetcar line last ran from Washington to Branchville on Sept. 7, 1958, but you can still see traces of it in communities throughout the corridor.

In a history of the Route 82 Maryland line written for the soon-to-open Streetcar 82 Brewery, Arthur J. Malestein lists some of the ways you can revisit the streetcar.

First, there’s the Rhode Island Avenue Trolley Trail, a bike trail that stretches from downtown Hyattsville to Greenbelt Road along the old Branchville Loop right of way.

The roundabout in the middle of Baltimore Avenue at Mount Rainier, now used as a bus turnaround, dates back to the City & Suburban Railway, which used it to turn streetcars around starting in 1897.

A passenger station for the streetcar line in Riverdale Park stands across from the Town Center Market and is home now to the Archie Edwards Blues Heritage Foundation. Another passenger station in Laurel is now the home of Oliver’s Old Towne Tavern.

And if you want to see the streetcar itself, the National Capital Trolley Museum in Colesville, Md., has Washington Railway & Electric #650, a car that was used on Route 82.

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Mount Rainier’s Newest Chef Changes the Game

Photo courtesy

Pennyroyal Station isn’t open yet, but the Mount Rainier restaurant is already on pace to become one of the D.C. area’s newest hotspots.

The chef for the new bar and restaurant planned for the historic Singer Building was recently included in Eater D.C.’s roundup of 11 D.C. chefs to follow on Instagram.

Jesse Miller (@jeszochef), who is also the executive chef of Bar Pilar, a farm-to-table restaurant in the 14th Street Corridor, has a great Instagram account for foodies, sprinkling dramatic pictures of dishes he’s working on like braised rabbit, a pig’s head and pancetta along with sneak peeks of Pennyroyal Station.

Eater also included Pennyroyal Station on its 2017 list of the “most anticipated restaurants” coming to the greater D.C. area. College Park’s new Kapnos Taverna at the Hotel at the University of Maryland, which opened in September 2017, also made the same list.

Miller has teamed up with Erin Edwards, also from Bar Pilar, and Passion Food Hospitality group alum Garrick Lumsden, to open the new establishment which is under construction and slated to open later this year.

The Route 1 corridor has greatly improved its restaurant game in recent years with the additions of places like Busboys and Poets, Old Maryland Grill, Kapnos Taverna and Burton’s Grill at Riverdale Park Station.

But Pennyroyal Station would bring a new level of attention from D.C. foodies and beyond.

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