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Monday, April 10, 2006

Serving It Up Southern Style @the Ohio

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I met one of the new owners of the Ohio Restaurant (14th & H) this weekend. It seems that an Ethiopian (I think) couple has purchased the place. Apparently they have kept some ot the same cooks, but also have some new staff (including other family members). She said she does not really know precisely how the business was run before, but they will run a clean & welcoming operation. The menu will continue to focus on southern cuisine & the old school jukebox features hits by the likes of Ray Charles & Sam Cooke.
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Iv'e added these photos at the bottom to better illustrate Omar's comments (click on the comments to this post) about the exterior of the building. The dirty looking bricks are actually covered in soot from a fire at the Ohio a few years back.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I hope they change it to an Ethiopian restaurant. H street could use a good Ethiopian place.

inked said...

She described the inside as diner like. I'm intrigued by this place. She did also mention that she knew someone who was wanting to open up an Ethiopian place nearby. We'll probably get an Ethiopian place at some point, but if you can offer me a place that serves southern food in an old school setting, it is very appealling.

omar said...

Thanks for bringing attention to this place, Elise. I also spoke with one of the new owners over the weekend at RnB and was encouraged to hear her plans for the restaurant going forward. I’m confident she will improve the product offering and make this a terrific place for all on the corridor to enjoy. Although I am by no means an expert on facade improvement, and I realize all improvements cost money that a new business may be too strapped to invest immediately, perhaps a few improvements can be performed in the near term. For one, eliminating the bars on the windows of the second floor would make things look a lot more inviting. I understand the need for security, but bars on the second floor of a building facing a high traffic area like H Street may be overkill (having bars on alley windows is a different story). Perhaps the brick, especially near the roof and under the window sills, could be cleaned. Also, a new coat of paint for the roof trim, around the windows and around the casing for the signs will do wonders. Regarding the signs, I would definitely keep the original ones in place. I think the retro, old school signs are great and shouldn’t be scrapped in most situations if at all salvageable. The signs could probably just stand some cleaning. Maybe even repainting the vent duct a more earthy tone to blend in with the brick facade would be helpful.

Improving the building’s exterior would make this place look a lot more inviting and will likely help the business attract many customers who would otherwise avoid it. The streetscape improvements next year will complete the exterior’s package. Of course, the work doesn’t end there, but it may be a good start. I believe the owners plan to renovate the interior, and I’m not sure how good the food is, but I’m confident the owners will make sound decisions on that front as well (I hope they will continue to serve Southern food). In my opinion, this is a great candidate for some of the services offered by the H Street Main Street program. The Ohio can be a perfect example of what we all want for H Street. An established, neighborhood restaurant (The Ohio has been around on H Street since the 40s) getting a makeover and being a real asset to the community (think website, branding, marketing, H Street tradition/history, Ray Charles and Sam Cooke playing on the jukebox, etc.). This will demonstrate to the existing merchants on H Street that the revitalization isn’t just about new businesses coming in. And that they too can benefit from the changes coming to the corridor if they step up to the plate and seize the opportunity as the owners of The Ohio are poised to do.

inked said...

She did say that they were on a somewhat limited budget, but definitely plan to renovate. I have never tried the food, but I'm willing to give it a chance. I sympathize a bit with the bars on the second floor because of the way that parts of the first floor jut out. But then, a restaurant is probably not going to have inventory lying around that would be as much of draw for thieves as the inventory of a clothing/music store. It would certainly look a lot better without the bars & with cleaner bricks.

aesma_deva said...

Not necessarily. Some of that kitchen equipment is pretty expensive.

inked said...

VEry true, but probably harder to unload than clothes, or cds.

Richard Layman said...

1. There is $550,000 in in-kind and cold hard cash supposed to be available for facade improvements on H Street. I ought to know considering I was integral in achieving both ($200K related to the Station Place zoning approval; something like $25 less than $350,000 from a HUD-derived CDBG grant, also written by Brendan Danaher, Dru Tallant, and I think Sheila White...)

2. Relating to the points about facade improvement, see this old blog entry, Passion and Vision: The Real Building Blocks of Revitalization.

Rob said...

Wow, kudos on getting that money available.

I have friends in town and it happens they saw the Ohio and mentioned it, asking how the food was. Since I don't know this post was very timely...

inked said...

I forgot to mention that the owner, who mostly grew up in Virgina, actually compared the food to what you might find at a Waffle House, but with a slightly more southern flavor.

Alan Kimber said...

I'll definitely have to give the place a try--and certainly the benefit of the doubt.

Richard, would it be possible for you to drop off information about the facade grants to the new owner? It's possible they do not know about the program.

The biggest thing that could be improved, I think, would be relocating the vent that runs up the front of the building, and replacing the signs with ones that are in keeping with the H St overlay / HSMS sign guidelines. Painting or restoring the exterior to be more uniform would also help--the differing materials detract from the likely original uniformity of the building facade.

Based on the comment that it is like a Waffle House with more flavor, I'm there!