H Street Life

Ben’s Chili Bowl on H Street NE begins a new chapter for the venerable eatery. Photo: Ben’s Chili Bowl

August means the dog days of summer are here, and the temptation to escape the sweltering heat by staying indoors can be strong. To do so, however, would mean missing out on a ton of new fun local attractions. Pack your water bottle and head out to any of the following and you’ll be glad you did.


Ben’s Chili Bowl Opens on H Street NE Corridor

For many District residents Ben’s Chili Bowl holds a special place of honor. Since the first outpost opened on U Street NW in 1958, Ben’s has served up their legendary half-smokes to countless diners of all ages and backgrounds. Mayors, celebrities, and even President Obama have dined upon their dogs. In the fall of 2011 the owners of Ben’s Chili Bowl (1001 H St. NE, http://benschilibowl.com) acquired a building at the corner of 10th and H streets NE that had been home to the clothing store George’s Place. After much demolition, construction, and a wait of nearly four years they finally opened their doors in July with much fanfare. Mayor Muriel Bowser was among those present for the ribbon cutting.

The look and feel of the new Ben’s Chili Bowl is much like that of the original location. The menu features all of the familiar favorites. Only the first floor is up and running at the moment, but the second floor and rooftop will open in the coming months. The second floor will feature a full-service restaurant with a different menu (probably more similar to Ben’s Next Door, http://www.bensnextdoor.com), and the rooftop will include a bar. Ben's will keep the same extended hours as at the original location, opening early for breakfast every day but Sunday and closing at 2:00 a.m. on weeknights, 4:00 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and midnight on Sundays.


Escape the Classroom Opens at 1322B H St. NE

With the recent popularity of escape-the-room games it was probably only a matter of time before the H Street NE corridor sported its own incarnation. It’s arrived in the form of Escape the Classroom (1322B H St. NE, http://escapetheroom.today), a new venture that opened in July. The concept is simple: head into a room and search for clues that will allow your team of 5-10 players to escape from the room within the time limit.

Escape the Classroom offers two games: Escape the Classroom, designed for kids ages 5-8; and Escape the Oval Office for older children and adults. Escape games like these have become popular as team-building exercises as well as unconventional ways to celebrate a birthday for folks of all ages. Tickets for each experience are $15 per child and $25 per adult. You can also select a Clue Party or Puzzle Party Package for groups of different sizes. The packages feature 45 minutes of live play followed by 75 minutes for celebration, as well as the option to add pizza, cake, or T-shirts.


“Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” Screens under the Stars in Ivy City

Do you ever feel nostalgic for the days of watching 1980s movies on your old VCR tapes? Perhaps you were a fan of “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse”? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, consider taking in the upcoming showing of “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” by local group Playback the Tape (http://www.playbackthetape.com). This is the third in a three-movie series the group is screening outdoors in Ivy City (Ivy City Playground, northwest corner of Mt. Olivet Road and West Virginia Avenue NE). All Playback the Tape screenings feature home VCR recordings of old shows and movies. These events are free of charge and open to all ages. The festivities begin at dusk on Aug. 21.


Mobilizing Our Community Connects Residents and Art at the Atlas

The Atlas Performing Arts Center (1333 H St. NE,http://www.atlasarts.org) recently announced a new project called Mobilizing Our Community (www.atlasarts.org/mobilizing-our-community) that will connect over a thousand District residents of all ages and backgrounds with kinetic artist Kevin Reese to create more than 50 high-flying mobiles that will be installed and exhibited at the Atlas. The project’s theme is “balance and connection in our evolving city.” At several workshops, held both at the Atlas and in the larger community, participants will work under the guidance of the artist to draw, cut out, sand, paint, lay to wire, and balance the mobile pieces.

The final installation will open during the H Street Festival (http://hstreet.org/events/festival) on Sept. 19 and will remain on exhibit through Sept. 26 so that it might be enjoyed by attendees of the annual Art All Night event (http://www.thedcarts.com). The Atlas will hold workshops for those interested (best for ages 8 and up) from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 1, Monday, Sept. 7, and Saturday, Sept. 12.


Paws on the Patio Welcomes Dogs at Biergarten Haus

Biergarten Haus (1355 H St. NE, www.biergartenhaus.com) joins the ranks of dog-friendly local spots with a new weekly event that runs through the summer. Every Wednesday from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. you can enjoy happy hour on the patio with your four-legged friend during the Paws on the Patio event. Raise a glass while Fido or Spot enjoys dog treats.


Masseria Brings Italian Flavors to the Union Market District

Chef Nick Stefanelli, formerly of Bibiana, is betting big on his first solo venture in the Union Market District. It comes in the form of Masseria (1340 4th St. NE, www.masseria-dc.com), an Italian restaurant offering fixed-price multi-course meals. Masseria will accommodate 60 guests including seating on its patio. The involvement of head bartender Julien-Pierre Bourgon of the well-known cocktail lounge PX promises to keep imbibers well-satisfied.

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

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