Masa 14: Latin + Asian – club music = lovely brunch

So as you know, I rarely do restaurant reviews on ispy. Mostly because I would classify myself as more of a “snack enthusiast” than a “foodie.” However, Masa 14 legitimately surprised me, so I had to DISCUSS.  You see, I was suspicious of Masa at first. I mean, it’s Latin-Asian fusion, which is inherently dubious due to the word “fusion” and becomes even more dubious when it’s applied to brunch, and it’s also MUY trendy, which basically means stupid music and long wait times. So yes, I braced myself… 

Suspiciously modern LAMPS

 … for no reason. Okay, SPY was wrong. We got to Masa 14 at 11:30am on Sunday and were seated immediately. Point. The normally abrasive club music was turned down to a nice volume, so that I could enjoy my alcoholic mango-blood orange breakfast beverage in peace. Another point. Finally, since Masa 14 serves SMALL PLATES (my favorite), I could try numerous things, like THIS: 


(photos of 2 random Masa 14 menu items: too busy snacking to take a pic) 

Best of POINTS. My favorite brunch plates were the the cerrano ham flatbread and the quiche of the day (oaxaca cheese-shrimp-red pepper), while the runner up was the pan dulce, which is a bit sweet given the pineapple topping, but delicious if you like that sort of thing. Underwhelming? The beef sliders and the smoked salmon omelet. They were just…okay. 

God. I knew I should have gone with the tuna sliders. I mean, my head said beef but my heart said, well, 


SNACK AWAY THE PAIN. Enrique is Latin-Asian fusion. Well, Spanish-Filipino (and Spain sort of owned the Philippines so it barely counts, but honestly who else is there?). He loves tuna sliders. And knit hats in the desert. Go to Masa 14.

Exploring Room & Board, the most fancy of IKEAs

So awhile back I blogged about 14th Street’s vintage furniture stores. I also blogged about rckndy, a very cool décor store at U and 15th streets. SO now, to solidify14th street’s status as the mecca of DC furniture, I am blogging about their contemporary furniture stores, starting with the newest addition: Room and Board.

A 4-story furniture warehouse at 14th and T streets, Room and Board’s layout is basically IKEA. Namely, tons and tons of different model rooms with furniture displayed, including a beautiful outdoor patio on the top floor to display the outdoor furniture options. The building itself was actually built in 1919 and used as a Ford Model T showroom.  Some pics of their style:


Nice no? Very good staples. However, unlike IKEA, this furniture is not built for the transient. There are different upholstery options, it’s not assemble-yourself, and the nice leather chairs are closer to $800 than $200. So as poor SPY in a nice store, I basically spent my time trying out every chair and sofa, in a sort of mental ‘form v. function’ cost-benefit analysis.

My conclusion? An early-1960s Mad Men inspired living room is simultaneously the most awesome looking and the most uncomfortable, while nothing beats a hideous old-man leather recliner for comfort. You’re welcome.

Uncomfortable but so bewitchingly stylish!

 Anyways, after like 45 minutes, I found myself simultaneously coveting a new DC townhouse to decorate (so many color palette options!) and Swedish meatballs. NO, don’t hate on the meatballs. They are delicious and you probably haven’t tried them so have no right to judge.

With Swedish lingonberry snacks!

God, now I am hungry. Crappy breakfast yogurt time. Happy Monday!

Room and Board, 1840 14th St. NW, DC, 20009, 202-729-8300, website (with more pics!)

Big cats obsessed with Calvin Klein fragrance and other District news

Okay. I know it’s not district news, but just give it a read. According to the Wall Street Journal, scientists have been testing different perfumes on big cats in order to lure them towards hidden cameras/snacks and other things in zoos. Most perfumes, like Estee Lauder Beautiful, have failed miserably. However, Calvin Klein’s Obsession for Men, a cologne branded as “the pure essence of masculinity,” has proven intoxicating to cheetahs, jaguars and all kinds of big cats. Apparently the fragrance uses synthetic animal scents (like civet), to make it’s musk. Ew.

However, Darwinians rejoice. Because you know who wears the pure essence of masculinity, alternating between that and AXE body spray??? THIS guy:

Jon - Kate - 8 + tiger man shirt

Oh how perfect. Could you imagine?? Jon sauntering through the zoo, man-earring glistening in the sun, then suddenly gets maul-loved by a random tiger while wearing an obnoxious shirt of a tiger, all because he used stupid ‘essence of a man’ cologne that is basically artificial civet musk??



Okay, I am done. Here is some other District news:

The owners of Politics and Prose are SELLING the store after 26 years. It will still operate as Politics and Prose (it BETTER dammit) but it’s tough news, especially given the uncertainties of the industry (Washington Post)

The massive old laundry store on 14th street is set to be turned into a massive new Italian restaurant (PoP)

East Falls Church wants a waterfront district. Problem? They don’t have water (Greater Greater Washington)

DC Dept. of Transportation (DDOT) is launching a blog.  Gentlemen (and women), arm your complaints! (DCist)


News roundup replaced by new restaurant roundup today because food is delicious

Willkommen new DC beer garden!

So basically, news this week has not been that interesting. It has either involved bodies (on the side of the road, in the Potomac, in overturned vehicles etc) or Fenty. All suboptimal. So instead, I have decided to round up the restaurant buzz! Here are some restaurants that are going to be opening around town:

  • Point Chaud (14th Street): A new creperie on 14th and S St. Soft opening set for today or this weekend. 1734 14th St NW (PoP)
  • Beir Garten Haus (H Street): Damn straight DC is getting a new beer garden. It’s Grand Opening has been postponed, but the owners promise it WILL be opened by 6/11. Yes, the World Cup. 1355 H street NE. (
  • Cuba Libre (Penn Quarter): Mojitos, salsa and patio dining come to Penn Quarter. Cuba Libre has successful locations in Philly, Alantic City and Orlando. Set to open in June. 801A 9th St. NW (Zagat)
  • Carmine’s (Penn Quarter): The famous NYC eatery is opening a new 700 seat location in Penn Quarter. It is slated to open by late summer. 425 7th St. NW (Washington Post)
  • Lupe Mexican Cuisine (Dupont Circle): Will replace Sesto Senso next to public bar. No information on the new place. Prince of Petworth asks a good question, did anyone ever eat at Sesto Senso? 1214 18th St. NW (PoP)
  • Uniontown Bar & Grill (Anacostia): Yes, Anacostia. The first sit-down eatery in one of it’s poorer neighborhoods. Antibiotic-free meats, fresh juice mixers, sandwiches and beer. But will the business model work? (Washington Post)

Oh, and one rumor I had to pass along. Trader Joes may open a location near 14th and U St. I KNOW. But this is hearsay. A guy at Prince of Petworth asked the manager and he said they were actively looking for space at 14th and U St. Would REVOLUTIONIZE spy shopping. Get excited!

D.C. Church makes U.S. List of Most-Endangered Historic Sites

Ah, Wednesday. The week is halfway over, the Wizards got John Wall (i.e. the killer of NCAA brackets), and I am trying desperately to see Jakarta before I leave on Friday. However, as I was googling various ways to see Jakarta’s historical sites, as Jakarta is officially the most pedestrian unfriendly city in the PLANET, I came across this Washington Post article on one of DC’s own landmarks: The Metropolitan A.M.E. Church.

Photo by Ricky Carioti-Washington Post

The Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church is on M Street near 15th Street NW. The oldest continuously black-owned property in DC’s original 10-mile area, it is about to be named one of the nation’s most endangered historic sites by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Fredrick Douglass prayed there,  Rosa Park’s funeral service was held there,  Booker T. Washington and Eleanor Roosevelt spoke there; it was a center for integrated worship in a time where segregation was very much alive.

Scaffolded and sandwiched between offices

And have I been there?  Sigh. No, I haven’t. I don’t know what it is about people that makes us go to every length imaginable to see even the most mediocre of sights in a foreign city, while never really thinking of discovering our own. It’s not like when I moved to DC, I couldn’t have benefited from a guidebook. I just never thought to buy one. I mean, I was a local, why would I need to?

But now, looking at the church’s predicament, I feel like I neglected my town. Metropolitan A.M.E needs $11 million to repair the water damage, collapsed roof and a whole host of other problems in order to stay open. $11 million it doesn’t have. So yes, I think I am going to visit, give my meager donation and show some support. You should too.

You should also look at the other 10 nominees to the most-endangered list. One of which, the Wilderness Battlefield, is also close to home and in danger of being torn up by… you guessed it, Walmart. Because who needs history when you can buy guns and cheese puffs at bargain basement prices?

A lovely 14th Street vintage furniture roundup

GoodWood via

Morning DC friends. So, for some reason traveling abroad always leaves me coveting vintage furniture. It’s just something about the worn wood, mix of local and colonial influences, the allure of the impulse buy that leaves me needing that 1800s Indonesian ottoman. Is it really antique? Don’t know. Don’t care really. I just imagine a Dutch explorer sitting on it in some ungodly hot tropical place, exporting local culture while importing Christianity and smallpox, and think how perfectly it would look beside all the little books in my studio.

So yes, with antiques on my mind, I present the U Street antique store roundup. As I mentioned in my Ruff and Ready post, U Street is a vintage furniture haven where you can purchase affordable things that are not Mary Todd Lincoln colonial style or Louis XIV imperial style or a zillion dollars. The stores are also within walking distance of one another. There are 3 main stores (photos after the jump!):

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Mind the Gap: the 14th Street Zoning Dilemma

So I guess this is an unconventional day for my little blog. First, a non-local news post and now a somewhat serious post (gasp!) about neighborhood politics. I know, but bear with me. This is a neighborhood blog after all.

So my U Street area, known in zoning speak as the Uptown Arts Overlay District, has gotten it’s fair share of press in recent years. The New York Times wrote about it last month. Restaurants like Marvin, Masa 14, and Birch & Barley have received strong reviews across the board, rents have skyrocketed. But I feel with all the hype, people forget one thing: that it’s not quite “there” yet. So yes, 14th street has  a great deal of this:

Churchkey (photo from New York Times)

But it also has great swaths of this:

14th Street (Ohad photography)

In effect, gaps. Sure the vacant storefronts are charming in their own way (we know  they give hipsters a sense of place) but they also reflect the area’s transitioning nature.

It’s these gaps that make the recent Zoning Commission decision so puzzling. Namely, on April 5th, the Commission ruled that the amount of linear storefront space devoted to bars and restaurants within the Uptown Arts Overlay District cannot exceed 25%.  Given that the area is at 24.88% right now, the ruling basically prohibits new bars and restaurants (save those currently pending). Ridiculous? Perhaps. But it becomes even more bizarre once you see what the Uptown Arts Overlay District encompasses:

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Earth Day and other events in the District

Now I know I normally do not comment on events. It’s because I am NEVER aware of anything in time for people to actually plan for things. However, since it’s Earth Day on Thursday (go planet!) and the DC international film festival and I am sort of “between” jobs (cough), I figured I would help you plan your week. You know, list 4 things to check out and 4 things to miss….

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Food trucks and fish tacos in the name of journalism

Good morning readers. Figured I would start the terribleness that is Monday morning with a post about something delicious. Namely, gourmet food trucks.

So hot right now. For those that don’t know, these trucks roam around DC tweeting their locations, building hipster armies of followers with their witty foods and phrases. The most famous in DC is Fojol, i.e. the “traveling culinary carnival” or, as most people know them, the costumed Indian food truck guys. Many trucks have been in DC since early last year, but since tweet-following requires a degree of planning that I truly do not possess, I only finally visited one this weekend. It’s called Sauca and I ran into it by chance:

Sauca has only been open 2 months. It is owned by an former global investment banker, driven by a former international communications officer and it’s foods are inspired by different international cuisines. So, butter chicken from India, Pork Bahn Mi from Vietnam, and dessert waffles from Belgium, among others. The menu changes. In the name of investigative journalism, I ordered a Mexicali fish taco. DELICIOUS. It looked like this:

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Legendary Beast and a love of vintage

I have a soft spot in my heart for costume jewelry. I really do. Bold necklaces, clip on earrings, statement pieces that people like Rita Hayworth could wear the living hell out of, like this:

Sigh. If only I looked like that. Because you see, although I love costume jewelry, I rarely wear it. I know, I should carpe my style or whatnot, but it’s just that my head is SO small and spherical. I’m serious. It’s literally like a PERFECT sphere. A tennis ball. So when you put a massive necklace on the neck of a tennis ball, it looks ridiculous.

(Oh, and for those of you that say “no SPY, Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s had a small head and wore that massive necklace.” Look. The smallness of the head was balanced by the height of the hair and we all know I’m not going to beehive it and go to Cosi. It’s not halloween)

However, at Legendary Beast on U Street I felt at ease trying on ridiculous things. Part of it was the $8.50 bin, which was front, center and easily accessible. Part of it was the massive amount of inventory, which reminded me of my mom’s/ grandmother’s jewelry box times 5000, like this:

And part of it, a large part of it in fact, was the owner. Anne Fox, who owns Legendary Beast, was previously the longstanding owner of Meeps, the Adams Morgan vintage stronghold before she moved on to jewelry. Fox has a wonderfully dry wit, knows her vintage pieces inside and out, and leaves you to browse as you please. It’s overall very relaxing, as the hunt should be.

Legendary Beast is only open from 12-5 on the weekends, including Friday, so such limited hours should attract hipsters. It’s mostly pre-WWII pieces, with a lot of inventory coming from the rust belt days of Ohio and Western Pennsylvania, places near and dear to my heart. For the mens you have cufflinks and apartment odds and ends, many of which are spiritual in nature. However, in all honesty, this is place for the womens. And it is a wonderful place indeed. Visit.

Legendary Beast, 1520 U St NW 2nd FLOOR, DC 20009, 202-797-1234