Fall Festival, Business Expansion and Outright Jubilation

Barracks Row News

Chesty At Ease - Fall Festival

Many on Barracks Row were happy to hear that restaurateur Xavier Cervera, former owner and developer of nine Capitol Hill restaurants (five on 8th Street, SE), was returning as a management consultant. Cervera and an investor group announced the sale of the restaurants in spring 2013. As part of that transaction Cervera stayed with the group as founding partner but day-to-day direction reverted to a separate corporate team.  Many personal changes were made. Some of the areas’ favorite bartenders and chefs were replaced.  

I was in Molly Malone’s, 713 8th Street, SE, recently when a woman dressed in an interview-blazer emerged from the back office. “I’m back,” she shouted to Tommy Brown, one of Molly’s long-time bartenders. The place erupted into hugs and kisses from both customers and staff when they heard that Billie Jo Huber was returning as manager of Molly Malone’s. “Xavier and I had a good relationship,” she said. “He called me out of the blue about coming back and I was happy to hear from him.” Saul Canesa, Executive Chef at The Chesapeake Room agreed, “I like to work for Xavier-- he really understands people -- he hired me for this restaurant - I’m here two years now-- he put me in the right place!”

The restaurants in the Barracks Row Entertainment Group include The Chesapeake Room; Molly Malone’s, Senart’s Oyster & Chop House, 520 8th Street, SE; Lola’s, 711 8th Street, SE; Pacifico, 514 8th Street, SE, all on Barracks Row; Box Car, 224 7th Street, SE; Hawk ‘n’ Dove, 329 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, and Park Tavern, 200 M Street, SE. Willie’s Brew and Cue will be open soon in the Boilermaker Shops at 300 Tingey Street, SE.

Not for Little Kids Only

When it opened a few years ago Playseum, 545 8th Street, SE, was hailed by DC concierges as the answer for visiting families whose 2 - 4 year olds often required an emergency play break after days of museums and sightseeing. Since then Playseum has become a stop for everyone with preschoolers, tourists and residents alike.  Often local families return several times a week to enjoy playing with their kids in a dozen distinct activity areas ranging from the kitchen where cookies can be made, to sand box, to shopping in a pretend grocery store, to the costume room where kids instantly become super heroes.

Recently owner Gina Seebachan announced after-school classes for older kids at the Capitol Hill Playseum beginning this fall. The program, which has been successful in the Bethesda Playseum, will require students to be dropped off and picked up. The cost is $120 for an eight week series of one hour classes on Wednesdays and Fridays. Classes so far include:  Baking 102, Soap Making, Art That Teachers Don’t Teach and Riot Kids, to name just a few. For details contact gina@playseum.com.

Festival Traditions Renewed

Barracks Row Fall Festival began in 2002 as a tiny one-block long fall celebration featuring hay bales, kids on bikes and close-out tables set up by merchants.  From 2007 to 2009 an Oktoberfest theme was followed, complete with oompah-band, but by 2010 Fall Festival had evolved into a true Capitol Hill event, no longer in need of an off-shore identifier to build attendance. Part small town fair and part urban adventure, there is nothing like Barracks Row Fall Festival anywhere because there is nothing like Capitol Hill anywhere.

On the day of the festival Barracks Row from E Street, SE, to I Street, SE, is closed to traffic. The Military Chef’s Cook-Off, sponsored by the Military Hospitality Alliance has been the anchor at the south of the 8th Street midway for years.  By 7:00 a.m. chef teams are busy cooking in tents set up in front of Marine Barracks Washington, competing for the title of Top Chef in the US Military.

The Cook Off is a black box event - each team is given the exact same set of required ingredients which must all be included in their entry. Visitors watch from the sidelines and there is a play-by-play announcer. Typically, there are three chefs per team in five cook tents multiplied by two rounds of competition equaling thirty chefs competing all day long. When the judges impaneled deep inside the barracks declare a winning team the Commandant of the Marine Corps (or one of his generals) hands out the trophy at center stage located at the intersection of 8th and G Street, SE.

Further Marine Corps support for Barracks Row Fall Festival includes tours of the Home of the Commandants from noon until 4:00 p.m. The barracks itself is also open for tours. This year there will be a mid-afternoon performance by the world-famous Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon. Trapeze School New York will be back - up in their tree top apparatus near Senart’s Oyster & Chop House – floating through multi-person circus routines. For the youngest fairgoers the petting zoo will return with llamas, piglets, and rabbits as part of the Kid’s Zone hosted by National Community Church, 525 8th Street, SE and Playseum. Like the Military Hospitality Alliance, DC State Fair is another participating festival partner. In the DC State Fair area you’ll be able to admire the weirdest vegetable grown in DC, buy slices of pies and cakes, many created by the winners of the Best-Homemade-In-DC contests, and view the Best Bike Accessory Invented in DC 2013.

New Attractions at Barracks Row Fall Festival

But each festival is a little different and this year there will be two brand new attractions: art and beer. As part of Cultural Tourism’s Art 4 All, a three week long city-wide art promotion, there will be two art venues at Barracks Row Fall Festival: the Shakespeare Theatre Rehearsal Hall and tabula rasa. At each location artists will showcase their art or perform throughout the day.  Programs of performances by time / by artist will be available.

The Matchbox Food Group, well loved in the area for bringing us Ted’s Bulletin, 505 8th Street, SE; DC3, 423 8th Street, SE; and Matchbox, 521 8th Street, SE, decided this year to participate in Barracks Row Fall Festival in a very big way. Plans are presently underway to utilize the parking lot next to Nooshi and Tash, 545 8th Street, SE, to create a beer garden during the festival. Details are still developing - consult your Barracks Row Newsletter or www.barracksrow.org for more information. To volunteer at the festival call 202-544-3188; email info@barracksrow.org.

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