H Street Life – March 2017

Sospeso’s bar buzzes with patrons during a soft opening.

Spring is nearly upon us, trees are budding, shoots are poking their heads up, and local gardeners are already hearing the siren song of soil and seeds. Whether your thumb is green or decidedly brown, the warmer weather’s a great excuse to get out and explore the neighborhood.

Whole Foods Sets Up Shop
The long-awaited Whole Foods Market (600 H St. NE, www.wholefoodsmarket.com) will welcome its first customers on March 15. The 40,000 square-foot store will offer much of interest to local shoppers. One highlight is a new and expanded version of Paper Horse from Chef Erik Bruner-Yang of Maketto (1351 H St. NE, http://maketto1351.com). This Paper Horse location will introduce a larger, Chinese diner-style menu that will feature Asian comfort foods.

Whole Foods Market plans to collaborate with local beer maker Atlas Brew Works (2052 West Virginia Ave. NE, www.atlasbrewworks.com), including a first-to-market Home Rule brew and fresh-baked breads made from the brewer’s recycled grains. Shoppers will also find exclusive local products such as sauces and spice blends from Maketto, sauces from Cava, and vegan “pork rinds” from District-based Snacklins. There’s also an outdoor patio and a mezzanine pub with 16 local beers on tap, wine by the glass, and a gourmet hotdog cart.

Whole Foods Market invites community members to celebrate its grand opening with a bread-breaking ceremony at 8:45 a.m. on March 15, accompanied by door-buster deals and product demonstrations and samples.

Two Boots Steps away from H Street NE Location (for Now)
The New York-based restaurant Two Boots (http://twoboots.com), known for its funky pizzas and po’boys, was slated to sling pies out of 1025 H St. NE but has now canceled plans for an H Street location. The owner told a Washington Business Journal reporter (www.bizjournals.com/washington/news/2017/02/16/two-boots-bailing-on-d-c-cava-for-capitol.html) that the chain simply has too much on its plate at the moment to focus on a DC location, but expressed interest in opening an H Street NE shop in the future.

Sospeso Offers Coffee & Mediterranean Fare
Mediterranean restaurant Sospeso (www.sospesodc.com) opened its doors last month at 1344 H St. NE. Stop by for breakfast and try the fried egg and capicola sandwich with provolone, garlicky toum, and arugula served on warm focaccia bread ($7), or enjoy the simit, a sesame-seed-encrusted Turkish bread ring ($1.50). The coffee bar is open all day, with hot chocolate or chai tea for those who eschew espresso drinks.

Lunch options include Ras el Hanout soup with cauliflower, potato, tomato, ginger, rose, and cayenne ($8), and mercimekli kofte, a dish of lentil and bulgur fingerlings served on a bed of greens with a lemon wedge ($6). Other options are a couple of light salads and ciabatta sandwiches served with herb salads, among them the vegetarian open-faced sebze with hummus, olive tapenade, fried roasted red pepper, and arugula ($13), and the grilled chicken breast with sumac onions, arugula, and saffron aioli ($13).

At dinner you might dine on moussaka (layers of ground beef, potato, and eggplant with a bechamel sauce, $16) or a roasted leg of chicken with toasted faro, sauteed greens, gremolata, and preserved lemon ($22). I suggest ordering the fabulous grilled octopus served on a warm potato salad with sumac onions as an appetizer ($13).

Sospeso boasts a full bar with an impressive lineup of amaro, for those with a taste for the bitter or herbal. The wines hail from southern Italy, Greece, Lebanon, and the Balkans, with many selections available by the glass. The draft beers are mostly local, with the bottled selections from further afield. The specialty cocktails ($11) will please those who like to keep it simple, as well as drinkers who search out new experiences. The signature drink, the Sicilian Mourner, includes squid ink among its ingredients.

Sospeso is equipped to serve your younger dining companions. It offers highchairs and can accommodate the sometimes fickle palates of younger eaters.

Sospeso opens early (7 a.m.) and closes late (midnight, Sunday; 2 a.m., Monday through Thursday; and 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday), making it a perfect go-to spot when plans are fluid.

Get Growing with Cultivate the City & W.S. Jenks & Son Hardware
As the days lengthen and the temperatures rise, the urge to have a little fun in the garden can become irresistible. Luckily, W.S. Jenks & Son Hardware (910 Bladensburg Road NE, www.wsjenks.com) has everything you need to get started. They’ve got plenty of garden soil, mulch, and tools as well as seeds and plants from Cultivate the City (www.cultivatethecity.com), a local enterprise focused on sustainable farming practices emphasizing vertical growing techniques.

Cultivate the City works with local schools and communities to increase awareness about urban agriculture and methods for raising food even in small spaces. It sells equipment for those interested in doing a little gardening of their own, be it vertical or a more traditional format. Enjoy fresh produce, but don’t enjoy digging in the dirt? Consider supporting Cultivate’s efforts by signing up for their community supported agriculture (CSA) offerings.

Ben’s Upstairs Launches a Book Club
Ben’s Upstairs (1001 H St. NE, Second Floor, http://bensupstairs.com), which serves a menu drawing on both Southern and Caribbean influences, recently launched a book club. The first selection is “The Family Tree: A Lynching in Georgia, a Legacy of Secrets, and My Search for the Truth” by local author, and veteran journalist, Karen Branan (www.karenbranan.com). The Washington Post called the book the story of a “family secret that leads to revelations of racial brutality.” The new club will meet on March 4 and 18 to discuss this book. Contact the restaurant for meeting times.


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