H Street Life

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The band plays to the crowd for Dyngus Day DC at Biergarten Haus. Photo: D. Warner

Spring can be an elusive and short-lived season in the District. It is undeniably a time of fresh growth, but also a time of metamorphosis and rebirth. Along the H Street NE Corridor new restaurants sprout and bloom, a local pet business prunes the branch of its retail operations to redirect vigorous growth into providing services, and a holiday tradition with echoes of a fertility festival finds a home.

Metro Mutts Closing Shop to Expand Pet Service Offerings
Metro Mutts (http://metromuttsdc.com, 508 H St. NE) announced plans to close the H Street NE retail shop and shift full attention to the pet services business. The store will remain open through May 14. The greater focus on pet services will bring an expanded coverage area for the cat-sitting and dog-walking offerings. A statement posted to Metro Mutts’ website cited increasing demand for such services in the neighborhoods surrounding Capitol Hill as one reason for the shift. The brick and mortar store turned seven this year and was recently a runner-up for Best Pet Shop in a Washington City Paper reader poll. If you’ve been saving up your loyalty rewards points, use them now, as they will not transfer to the pet services business.

What’s next for the storefront space? It’s going to the dogs, literally. Spot on Training (https://www.spotondogtrainingdc.com, 508 H St. NE), which has operated out of the shop’s basement for years, will take over the first floor. With the additional space will come even more dog-training sessions and opportunities for local canines to socialize and improve their puppy manners.

Chick-fil-A Road Trip before May 18 Opening
If you are among the Chick-fil-A (https://www.chick-fil-a.com) faithful who cannot get enough of the chain’s chicken sandwiches, I have good news for you. The District’s newest Chick-fil-A will open at 1401 Maryland Ave. NE, where a Checker’s once stood. Opening day is Thursday, May 18. True Chick-fil-A fanatics can show up by 6 a.m. (but please not before 5:30 a.m.) on Wednesday, May 17, for a chance to join the First 100 Road Trip. If more than 100 eligible people are present at 6 a.m., participants will be chosen by lottery. Complete rules are available on the Chicken Wire blog (https://thechickenwire.chick-fil-a.com).

Participants will cruise around town on the Road Trip bus, stopping at set locations to participate in planned activities. Provided the riders abide by the rules, they will each receive a grand prize of one complimentary Chick-fil-A sandwich meal a week (a chicken sandwich, waffle fries, and a medium drink) for one year.

Local Spots among RAMMY Award Finalists
The Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW, www.ramw.org) recently named the finalists for this year’s prestigious RAMMY Awards, which are presented to members of the restaurant, food, and beverage industries. Several local establishments and associated individuals made the cut.

The full list is available on RAMW’s website, but here are some of the highlights. Miranda Rosenfelt, chef de cuisine at Sally’s Middle Name (http://sallysmiddlename.com, 1320 H St. NE), is in the running for Rising Culinary Star of the Year. If you’ve had the pleasure of dining at Sally’s, it’s no mystery why. Erik Bruner-Yang of Maketto (http://maketto1351.com, 1351 H St. NE) is up for Chef of the Year. Maketto also made the shortlist in the Casual Brunch of the Year category. Over in the Union Market area, Jemil Gadea of Masseria (www.masseria-dc.com, 1340 Fourth St. NE) is a finalist for Pastry Chef of the Year. The winners will be announced at the 35th Annual RAMMY Awards Gala on July 30.

Cava Grill Plans H Street NE Outpost
Fans of DC-born, fast-casual chain Cava Grill (http://cava.com) can go ahead and celebrate. The owners recently confirmed rumors that they plan to open a location at 523 H St. NE, formerly home to 6th & H Street Bar & Grill. Cava serves Greek and Mediterranean fare in a fast-casual setting. A wide selection of fresh ingredients makes it easy to create a healthy meal. Choose a combination of tasty spreads (options include harissa, red pepper hummus, and tzatziki), a protein such as falafel or braised lamb, toppings like sumac radishes or pickled onions, and to finish off your pita or grain or salad bowl, a dressing, perhaps the lemon herb tahini or spicy leek.

A Veggie Take on International Street Food
The Washington Post reported (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/going-out-guide/wp/2017/04/14/the-chefs-behind-the-best-vegan-food-in-the-country-are-opening-a-restaurant-in-d-c) last month that the team behind Philadelphia’s much-praised vegan restaurant Vedge will bring their popular V Street concept to H Street NE. V Street (http://vstreetfood.com) serves vegan takes on international street food in a casual setting. Peruse the menu for the Philadelphia location and you’ll find selections such as dan dan noodles ($13, five-spice mushrooms and zucchini with red chili-sesame sauce) and carrot asado ($11, red chili BBQ and smoked black beans with curtido and avocado). V Street will open in the Apollo building (www.theapollodc.com, 600 H St. NE).

Pierogies, Pazcki, and Polka for Dyngus Day
H Street NE saw its first official Dyngus Day celebration last month. Dyngus Day is a Polish-American version of the Old World holiday Smigus-dyngus (pronounced SHMEE-goose-DING-goose). Marking the end of Lent, it’s always held on the Monday after Easter. While its European inspiration called for boys to douse or soak girls they fancied with water and strike them about the legs with pussy willows, the Americanized version is a bit different. In cities like Buffalo, Cleveland, and New York, crowds gather to watch parades, eat Polish food, and dance a little polka. Onlookers might wave their pussy willows, and you are likely to spot water streaming out of squirt guns brought along for the occasion.

H Street NE’s first attempt to do it up Dyngus-style results from the efforts of Dr. Matt Antkowiak, a founder of Atlas Vet (www.atlasvetdc.com, 1326 H St. NE) and a native of Buffalo, which has a sizable Polish-American population and bills itself as the Dyngus Day Capital of the World.

In a quest to spread the Dyngus Day joy, Antkowiak convinced his friend Aaron McGovern, owner of Biergarten Haus (www.biergartenhaus.com, 1355 H St. NE) to give the memorably named holiday a chance. McGovern agreed, and Antkowiak set to work securing a polka band and making arrangements for pazcki, a sort of Polish donut, to accompany the better-known pierogies and kielbasa. A crowd of over 200 people turned out to celebrate as the band Die Zwei played in the background. Among the raised beers and plates of kielbasa there lurked more than one celebrant brandishing a loaded water pistol.

For more on what’s abuzz on and around H Street NE, visit my blog at http://frozentropics.blogspot.com. You can send me tips or questions at elise.bernard@gmail.com.