Since January, 2003
            
 (a random before-and-after moment)
October 18, 2003
June 5, 2007
New Jersey at M, Looking South-Southeast (see more)

The word yesterday from the BID is that Justin's Cafe is opening today, and, if so, that means the neighborhood gets its first new restaurant in a long LONG time and what might be considered its first "real" bar. (For a new restaurant, you have to go back to the opening of Five Guys in 2005, if you're not counting the 2007 opening of Starbucks or the arrival of the restaurant and bar at the Courtyard by Marriott in 2007 or the Bullpen.) If you get there for some food or drinks, post your thoughts in the comments.
I'm thinking of maybe next Thursday, April 22, as an unofficial little JDLand Happy Hour? (In other words, I'll go have a drink or two, and see if anyone else comes along. :-) )
Also opening today is the new and improved Safeway at Fourth and M, SW. If you shop there, pass along what you see.
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Jim says: (4/16/10 8:41 AM)
Actually, there was a "sneak preview" at the SW Safeway yesterday from 4pm-8pm. It was packed with people, music, and free samples! And Safeway is offering 10% off everything.

The store is gorgeous, basically what you would expect from a new, modern grocery store. Given that it was a brand-new store, items were relatively easy to find. I especially like the new "grab and go" entrance area with separate checkouts.

What a contrast to the old "Safewait"!


Jim says: (4/16/10 8:43 AM)
Actually, there was a "sneak preview" at the SW Safeway yesterday from 4pm-8pm. It was packed with people, music, and free samples! And Safeway is offering 10% off everything.

The store is gorgeous, basically what you would expect from a new, modern grocery store. Given that it was a brand-new store, items were relatively easy to find. I especially like the new "grab and go" entrance area with separate checkouts.

What a contrast to the old "Safewait"!


Bob says: (4/16/10 1:37 PM)
Justin's had a few opening day issues - waited over an hour for a sandwich!


Ben says: (4/16/10 2:33 PM)
Seems like some waits and flubs are to be expected at this point. How was the sandwich?


Clayton says: (4/16/10 4:22 PM)
I will be there tonight, it's about time! Looks like they have a good beer list form what I saw on another website. Yes beer other than Miller and Coors! I will be sure to leave a comment afterwards.


Michael Letschin says: (4/17/10 8:34 AM)
Went to Justin's last night. Completely different beer list which was nice. I did not get food, it was after the Nats game. Not overly crowded but it might take a while to catch on. Couple things I think would be good. 1. They need a dimmer on the lights I think they realized it though since only about half the lights were on. 2. I think a loyalty card system or something like that would go along way with those of us that are a block away, it will easily get tough to swallow $5+ beers over time. and 3. I know he does not want it to be too much of a sports bar but one more TV so you can see the highlights after a Nats win would be good(I know it seems rare but hey they are playing 500 ball right now)

Overall I am just excited it is open and look forward to trying the food.


Local gal says: (4/17/10 10:52 AM)
We also tried out Justin's Cafe last night. The pizza's are GREAT and beer was nice. Very highly recommend the Wentworth four-cheese pizza. Fontina cheese!? Need I say more?

Personally, I don't think that $5 is too much for micro-pub nice quality beer in DC, but who knows. They had some really good IPAs on draft.

We also tried the Poinsette salad, which had a delicious tangy mustard dressing and was only lightly dressed. It was missing the pecans though, but since this was opening night, I didn't feel like saying anything.

The place was definitely trying to work out a few kinks last night, but I'm convinced this is normal and will adjust over time. On a perky note: the staff seemed super friendly and I will definitely be back! I'm sooo happy to have a neighborhood bar with good food. Now for those pecans...


Ed Kaminski says: (4/17/10 3:36 PM)
My wife and I went to Justin's last night, Nationals game played behind the bar. The atmosphere was friendly, great music played from the 60s and lots of conversation. The beer was good and cold and the pizza was excellent. We met friends from the Velocity and stayed for 2 hours. Recommend the Pinckney pizza: Prosciutto, arugula, candied figs, fresh mozzarella, and tomato sauce....we ordered three!


The Real JT (not the new impostor) says: (4/17/10 3:59 PM)
Went for lunch today.

First, the positives. Very friendly staff (introduced themselves, etc.). The beer list is great. On tap, they have Bear Repulic Racer 5 IPA (which I've had difficulty finding outside of California), Bell's Oberon, Great Lakes Eliot Ness Amber, and Founder's Red Rye. They also had a couple interesting bottled beers including a milk stout, another Great Lakes beer, and a couple canned Oskar Blues beers.

On to the less good stuff. I got a sandwich (the Bull) which was okay. The bread was good as were the sausages and peppers, but it was all a little dry and there was no sauce to pull it together. I got the sweet potato fries because I love sweet potato fries (who doesn't?), but these were (1) actually chips and (2) so soggy/flimsy that I only ate two of them. The lady a couple spots down from me didn't touch her sweet potato chips either, so hopefully the uneaten food will give some feedback to the kitchen.

On the whole, though, it looks like a great neighborhood joint, and I plan to go back many times. I may go with the pizza next time, though.


Eugene says: (4/17/10 7:24 PM)
I hope Justin's becomes a success. However, I must say we were very disappointed in the food and setup. I ordered the chicken sandwich and there was nothing special about it. Not much chicken on the sandwich. I agree with the sweet potato fries which they messed up the order because I ordered the house cut fries. My friend had the salad with granny smith apples which was terrible. The pita bread on the side was like a brick and the lettuce was not appropriately cut and tasted like dishwater. Our order took 20 minutes as it appears the staff caters more to the bar patrons.

The setup is awkward because the restaurant doesn't know if it's a bar or a eating establishment. It's like having a bar inside a small Quiznos. Nonetheless, I do understand these are opening day issues that could be a problem for many new restaurants. I really hope Justin's survives for the good of the neighborhood. Just my thoughts to help better a potential great hot spot.


AndyCHT says: (4/17/10 8:18 PM)
This pains me to write because I really, really wanted this place to be good, and maybe I'm more disappointed than I should be because I was so excited for its opening.

The beer list looks very intriguing, but my first trip there was for pizza. I phoned in my order and they said to come in 15 minutes; I did. I don't think they had even started my order yet even though they were not that busy as most of the baseball crowd had left. I waited another 15 minutes, which really is fine, because I worked in food service to pay for school and I understand that things are misplaced sometimes, especially with new workers. Also, the good selection of blues that was playing made waiting easier. Anyway, I was given my pizzas by a lady who sincerely seemed very friendly and I went on my way.

Since the pizzas smelled excellent, I didn't even bother opening them until I got home. When I did open them, I could not believe what I had had paid $25 for. They were so poorly put together I couldn't believe it: multiple pieces were approximately two square inches because they apparently couldn't take the time to cut the pizzas properly; there was no proportion to the pizzas in their shape or the placement of the toppings; the dough wasn't cooked all the way through, probably because I was there waiting for them; and one of my three pieces of salami was standing vertically on the pizza.

To their credit, they took the pizzas back and refunded the cost upon return without problem.

Like I said, I really wanted to enjoy this place. I have been telling many people about how this new pizza place in my neighborhood near the ballpark was opening soon, but I'm going to have to wait for a while if I'm ever going back so they can straighten things out.


MJM says: (4/18/10 10:28 AM)
While it wasn't the best experience I will have to wait for the kinks to be worked out before going back but nonetheless its nice to have a place in the 'hood.


John says: (4/18/10 12:58 PM)
Have to agree not best experience at all. I stood at the cash register and I believe Justin the owner was standing behind it on the phone and I calmly waited and after about a 3-4 min convo on the phone he told me to go place my order at the bar. Thanks for the hospitiality...


Jason says: (4/19/10 9:17 AM)
Biked down to the Safeway on Sunday to do a little shopping. It was nice and a 100% improvement over the old Safeway. Pretty much what you would expect from a newly opened Safeway. Well-stocked, clean, and plenty of cashiers.

They had bike racks out front and it is only 1 metro stop away, so I could see this becoming my regular grocery store. I rarely visited the old Safeway, preferring to take the extra time to get up to the Potomac Ave Harris Teeter.

Look forward to trying Justin's in spite of some of the iffy reviews. Will wait for the dinner hour on a non-Nats night.


Matt says: (4/19/10 10:23 AM)
@AndyCHT....you returned the pizza because it was poorly cut? Is that a joke? Salami tastes awesome vertically and horizontally.

How was the pizza? I dont care how it looks.


AndyCHT says: (4/19/10 10:39 AM)
@Matt

Hard to determine a pizza's taste when the dough isn't finished. Try it for yourself; I hope it works out better for you.

Like I and others said, I think they've got a few things to work out in the early days. They've already got something to build on with the nice interior, good music, and good beer selection.


E says: (4/19/10 12:13 PM)
On the New Safeway:
Very Clean and well laid out. An exponential improvement compared to the old. Some notes from my first and quick experience:
1) They will slice any loaf of bread from the bakery for you, and you can select the thickness.
2) As is usual for safeway, they are slightly pricier than other grocery store chains.
3) The staff was very friendly and helpful, but they had clearly staffed up for opening weekend (and had even brought in staff from other locations, according to one person), so time will tell if the old tricks return.
4) If you want to validate for parking it isn't obvious how. We asked the security guard upon leaving, and she did it for us at a nearby station. Wasn't obvious we were supposed to ask her; just got lucky. When you do validate, that is the only thing you have to do to exit the garage, a stop at the pay machine is not required (also not obvious).
5) They could probably use a second pay-to-park machine and a second validation machine. This could become a bottleneck if a machine is down or during busy shopping days.

Overall, a much better experience than we ever had at the old Safeway.


JATB says: (4/19/10 2:24 PM)
We checked out the new safeway on Saturday and it was very nice - the fireplace and lounge area are a great idea/addition. They had an awesome selection of fresh herbs in the produce department and a good selection in the international aisle.

Also, sorry to "The Real JT (not the new impostor)" - I just started commenting and haven't read through all prior comment sections to realize my initials "JT" were already in use. I've added an "A" in the middle and a "B" at the end to clarify and avoid confusion.


G Street says: (4/19/10 4:36 PM)
We went after Nats game SUN.

Pizza = quite good

Nice selection of brews (also has a full-service bar so everybody in JD Land won't have to just use the Marriott Hotel bar).

Staff = friendly

Had usual opening first week problem - cash register uncooperative - freezer on fritz - etc. but these I'm sure can be worked out.


MARK says: (4/21/10 3:14 PM)
Visited both---

New Safeway was large, clean and well laid out. A big improvement over the other space. The kiosks to order sandwiches at the deli are a bit much for this area and I don't think that they will get muhc use. It's nice that this location now sells beer and wine and they had a decent (albeit not great) selection. You can get parking validated by your cashier when you are checking out. They need to post signage to that effect. Also, an $8 minimum purchase in order to get validated parking for up to 90 minutes is a bit crazy. This is not a place to go to if you have to run in (and travel by car to get there) for a half a gallon of milk, loaf of bread and butter.

Justin's

HORRIBLE. The layout of the space is odd. The guy who is the owner stood behind the bar most of the night looking like a lost kid. His dad went around randomly and selectively talking to customers. I mean geesh, this place has been open less than a week--you'd think that they'd be going ga-ga over everywhere that came in the door! He should have been out welcoming customers. The place was not crowded at all. I did not order any food just mixed drinks. By the way, the drinks tasted watered down. They have an OK selection of liquors--not great. Oh yeah, and I need someone to explain to me how in the world does COUNTRY and BLUEGRASS music remotely fit this neighborhood? I likely will not be going back and not encouraging anyone else to unless it drastically improves. This places needs to figure out what it wants to be. Definitely not a destination spot and as a resident of 909, I am disappointed. I will keep trekking up to 8th street.


Chris in Eckington says: (4/22/10 9:35 AM)
What's wrong with Country and Bluegrass music? There aren't too many places in DC that play it, so it might actually be a draw, or it just might have been what was playing while you were there.


Paul says: (4/22/10 4:32 PM)
I don't know what people are talking about with Justin's Cafe. I went yesterday and placed an order for carry out. While waiting I had beer at the bar and watched the caps game. The food was pretty good. My girlfriend got a salad with chicken that she enjoyed. I had a sandwich which was good; nothing spectacular but for $8 its about what I expected. The atmosphere was really nice and I will definitely return.


Ben says: (4/22/10 5:14 PM)
My experience at Justin's mirrors Paul's. I've enjoyed the food and the drinks, found the staff to be friendly, and plan to return often.


SDH says: (4/27/10 10:50 PM)
Was at Justin's on Sunday around lunchtime before the Nats game, really friendly staff and nice relaxed atmosphere despite not being peak hours. Definitely plan to go back next time I'm in the area. Recommend having a different happy hour special each day for residents, perhaps a lunchtime special each day for the DOT workers and others in the area.


MARK says: (4/28/10 5:09 PM)
I got suckered into going here again last night with a new neighbor that moved in 909. There were about 12 people in there and they came at a steady clip. I actually ordered a pizza. It was OK nothing to brag about. Other than Ketel, they don't have any top shelf stuff (No Knob Creek, Maker's Mark, Goose, Patron etc) so, you may want to stick to beer. Justin still was standing behind the counter looking like a lost kid. He came out a few times to walk to the door and look out but not to THANK or talk to customers. Also, the Ipod as the music set up with the weird country and bluegrass music was playing again. I am not even sure that's legal. I'll defer to the folks of BMI/ASCAP. Also, I talked to a few residents of the other buildings and they mentioned that they did not receive any apecial coupons or offers. This was a missed opportunity in my opinion and a chance to build loyalty. I think I still prefer to spend my $$$ on 8th St or over at the Marriott.


Wes says: (4/29/10 6:46 PM)
Oh how I wanted to like this place... but my experience was a complete disaster.

Asked for two beers at the counter, after realizing no one comes to the tables. That took about 15 minutes to finally get the beer. It was full, but not packed. All I wanted was a couple beers but the bar tender was too busy chatting. He actually said to me, "I have a couple other things going on".... seriously? Excuse me for wanting a beer. Meanwhile, one cashier was slumped over the cash register; not really sure what the other was doing. The food was ok.. but all I can say is that for the most part, everyone was friendly but completely incompetent. It's pretty obvious that no one there has worked in a restaurant before. It wasn't just us... the table next to us had similar problems.

Justin... please, I want you to succeed... please go to a restaurant or cafe or whatever and learn what customer service is. It's not hard. Being the only place around will help you stay in business for a while but is not a recipe for long term success.

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