After living on Barracks Row for 18 months, it is amazing to reflect on the changes in the neighborhood as I move a few blocks east. I wish there was some way to uncover recent photos of a less-developed neighborhood somewhere. Oh hey, Google maps hasn’t updated their street view for awhile…I promise, no rants here, just the facts on the restaurants which became my new neighbors. OK I lied, one semi rant. Also, check out earlier segments: Parts one, two, three and four.
This storefront is exactly why I got so disturbed when I received multiple mailings from select Capitol Hill NIMBYs. They were angry at the changing neighborhood, and how much it was inconveniencing them. In their mailings, directed strategically at buildings running along the spine of Barracks Row, they included their addresses, as if to give them some cache to complain and whine away the openings of new businesses that are creating jobs and raising rents.
Yeah, I got priced out of the neighborhood. That sucks, but it’s because Eastern Market/Barracks Row is an awesome neighborhood with limited housing…and a lot of demand.
I lived LITERALLY directly next to the storefront pictured below for 18 months. This is why I can confidently speak on this area’s changing face, and both why I think it is changing for the better and why I disagree so vehemently with those who want an alcohol moratorium on 8th Street.
Before: Who wouldn’t want to live next to a vacant storefront? We were so in love with this location that we looked past it, and in the end it was for the best — I truly loved living on E Street. I believe this building was a flower store before, though it was never open during my reign. What this building DID have was graffiti, broken windows, vagrants sorting through the dumpster (frequently…looking for lottery tickets thrown away in the adjacent liquor store) and a terrible vibe. I hated it, both for being empty and ugly and for drawing loiterers.
When I heard it was going to be a restaurant, I was concerned. When I saw them building out a huge outdoor patio, I was ready to split, break the lease, move to ManAssAss. Would I be able to sleep? Would there be people vomiting on the street? Would there be people throwing Pizza Boli’s boxes on my front lawn? Oh, hold up, they were already doing that. Onward.
After: The owners of The Chesapeake Room spent a lot of dough ON this place, adding a patio with heat lamps, redoing everything in the interior and making an all-hours racket during construction (I could hear electric saws through the wall at generally observed non-saw operating times). And the people that eat at the The Chesapeake Room spend a lot of dough AT this place. I am sure they enjoy that $15 bowl of stew, but since I can make a pot of stew for less, I abstained.
Crowds are sporadic here, but The Chesapeake Room definitely has periods of making tons of money, creating waits and filling the patio even in winter — though personally I hate the trashy covered patio look, truly an eyesore. Tunnicliff’s Taven, anyone? Still, it’s their eyesore, not mine. On the bright side, after the cover was installed I couldn’t hear any revelry, even when walking by.
I suppose one could argue it was my duty as a blogger to eat at all these restaurants, including The Chesapeake Room, but I found that counterproductive to my wallet. Besides, I think places like The Chesapeake Room are targeted at these Washington fatcats we are always hearing about; it would be disingenuous of me to attend.
Enough already, how was The Chesapeake Room as a neighbor? They were a fine neighbor. I always said “what’s up” to their executive chef, Robby, as well as the kitchen people on break. The worst part about living next door to this restaurant wasn’t the crowds and it wasn’t the vomiting. It was the fact that The Chesapeake Room had no alley access. And this meant the employees had no place to take a break, except for a foot away from my front stoop, where I enjoyed chilling in nice weather. And breaks inevitably meant cigarette smoking, which definitely did waft in through my door frequently and was a nuisance. I dealt.
But one of the new tenants in my old building smoked — and that is her right. And her smoking had exactly the same impact on my life that The Chesapeake Room had. The people that worked there were friendly and always greeted me warmly, though it could be unsettling to step out of my home into the path of smoking cooks. At the same time I had my own security team — nobody was breaking into our place, even if they COULD get through wrought iron bars. The Chesapeake Room was a good addition to the neighborhood, a pricey restaurant that I never ate at but got along with well. If a curmudgeonly journalist can make nice with an eatery, I hope that Capitol Hill NIMBYs can too.