News & Politics

The Blogger Beat: Penn Quarter Living

This week, we take a closer look at the Penn Quarter neighborhood with PQ Living bloggers Andrew and Mark.

Mark and Andrew of PQ Living at the Shakespeare Theatre's Harman Center for the Arts. Photograph by Chris Leaman

When the neighborhood blog Penn Quarter Living launched in February 2006, Andrew, its founder, was just looking for a hobby. The blog was called Gallery Place Living back then, and it was intended to be a space for Andrew—under his online handle GPLiving—to log news about the neighborhood.

Fast-forward a few months. Mark, a fellow PQ resident—whose online moniker is just that, PQResident—started his own blog for the neighborhood but soon realized the time commitment required to keep it updated was more than he could handle alone. So the two partnered up and later took on a third writer, who goes by the moniker Columbo, to round out the core writing staff. In July 2007, Gallery Place Living was relaunched as Penn Quarter Living.

In the year and a half since the relaunch, Andrew and Mark have enjoyed watching their site grow. They have more than 1,000 readers a day, and earlier this year they saw their millionth hit on the site, a milestone for any blogger. The site has also recently taken on its first online advertiser with a small local business.

Their success isn’t without hard work. Both writers say they spend about ten hours a piece each week updating, planning, and improving the blog. And they hold down full-time jobs.

We caught up with the PQ gurus to chat about their neighborhood. Where to go for a good weekend brunch? Best rooftop for a view of the city? Biggest architectural eyesore? Read on for their picks.

Penn Quarter, Chinatown, Gallery Place—what’s the difference?
Andrew: “If you knew downtown DC prior to 2003, you called the barren land north of the federal triangle Chinatown. If you knew downtown DC after 2003, you might call everything Gallery Place (or maybe Penn Quarter, if you’re sophisticated). If you’re a realtor or live in some other city or country, you call everything Penn Quarter, but nobody ever knows what you’re talking about when you get here and start asking for directions. In a nutshell, they’re all describing the same boundaries: between 15th Street, Northwest, and the Center Leg Freeway (Interstate 395) to the west and east, and between New York/Massachusetts avenues and Pennsylvania Avenue to the north and south.”
Mark: “Penn Quarter is the broadest and trendiest definition of those three. Realtors love to attach that PQ name to their listings. You’ll also hear downtown, the East End, or Center City to refer to our area.”

Best reason to live in Penn Quarter:

Andrew: “Everything is at your doorstep: Shops, restaurants, major Metro stations, art museums, and the Mall are all right here. Residents start complaining if we have to walk to something more than four or five blocks away.”
Mark: “The wine (lots of great restaurants and nightspots), the women (lots of socializing and meet-up spots) and the song (the Verizon Center, theaters such as Shakespeare and Woolly Mammoth, and the museums all host fun events). Transportation access is unparalleled, with Metro lines, Reagan-National Airport, and the interstates all close by.”

Favorite spot for an after-work drink:
Andrew: “Bottled still water at home because I’m frugal.”
Mark:Poste or PS7’s are good spots because they have indoor and outdoor areas. During the summer, free jazz on Friday nights in the National Gallery of Art’s sculpture garden is hands down the best spot for a drink (and a picnic).”

Best restaurant on Seventh Street:
Andrew: “One thing that new PQ neighbors learn very quickly is that when you crave such suburban-fantastic establishments as Fuddruckers, you tell no one. When you buy a Fuddruckers malt shake, you make sure no one you know sees you. Want to watch a game at Hooters? Wear a trench coat and skull cap. California Tortilla? It’s best to try to blend in with the stream of tourists entering the restaurant directly from the double-parked tour bus. Ruby Tuesday? Nah. It’s okay, however, to admit to going to Dunkin’ Donuts. The only socially acceptable restaurants to dine at on Seventh Street are the ones between D and F streets.”
Mark: “This is a tough one. I’ve got to go with the District Chophouse for a Seventh Street address specifically. Great microbrews and traditional American menu choices. The desserts are not small, which is a plus in my book.”

Business you most wish would come to the neighborhood:
Andrew: “Banks, homeless shelters, teen nightclubs, councilmember campaign headquarters, ‘massage parlors,’ corner liquor stores.”
Mark: “I’d really like to see a Dairy Queen open up. The only time I can get a Blizzard is when I go out to the country; a McFlurry just doesn’t compare. Other than that, I wouldn’t mind a fine-quality haberdashery to complement Wm. Fox & Co. The women have Ann Taylor Loft, Peruvian Connection, and Benson’s Jewelers. Why can’t us guys get some retail love?”

Business you were most sad to see leave:
Andrew: “Businesses never leave PQ. They’re banished by Chuck Norris . . . and increasing rents.”
Mark: “The reasons I used to come to PQ before moving here were Polly Esther’s nightclub on 12th Street and Sunny’s Surplus on F Street. You never know when you’ll need a Swiss Army knife, an Army-green duffle bag, and a matching tent. Those places were institutions.”

Best rooftop view in PQ:
Mark: “I recently went to an Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting in the Newseum, and the south-facing view of the Mall and the Capitol from the Newseum’s roof is fantastic.”

Pick a theater: Shakespeare, National, Warner, or Woolly Mammoth.
Andrew: “I like them all for their productions, but the Shakespeare Theatre’s Harman Center for the Arts has the most striking aesthetics of them all.”

Favorite place to go to impress out-of-towners:
Andrew:Jaleo. It’s fun teaching out-of-town guests how to properly order and share tapas.”
Mark: “The National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum followed by a drink at the Source and dinner at Central. You get good exercise with that itinerary, too.”

One thing people would be surprised to learn about PQ:
Andrew: “PQ residents are all in on a secret competition with Georgetown. Flower baskets are coming very soon to PQ!”
Mark: “You really have everything you need to live a regular life in PQ. Anything beyond the routine is just a short ride on the Metro.”

Local leader who’s done the most to improve PQ:
Andrew: “The ANC 2C03 commissioner Doris Brooks. Lord knows, it’s proven to be impossible to vote her out of office. Now if only she can stay awake at meetings, imagine what more we could accomplish! By the way, congrats to the other three ANC 2C commissioners. We’re all looking forward to a productive and progressive ANC 2C!”
Mark: “I’d like to mention three people: Miles Groves, president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association; Charley Docter, commissioner for ANC 6C; and Jo-Ann Neuhaus of the Penn Quarter Neighborhood Association. They have all worked very hard to make life better for residents and businesses in the area.”

Biggest architectural eyesore in the neighborhood:
Andrew: “The J. Edgar Hoover FBI building and the low-resolution bolt-on electronic billboards at Seventh and H streets.”
Mark: “I agree with Andrew, though the Hoover building wouldn’t be so bad if they had some ground-level retail. The un(der)developed properties can be an eyesore, too, although there are fewer every year.”

Favorite place for a weekend brunch:
Andrew: “Just because there are a lot of restaurants around here, it doesn’t make us all foodies all the time! I prefer Cheerios, quickly followed by a ham sandwich. Made at home.”
Mark: Matchbox. Waffles plus almond gelato makes a Sunday stomach happy.”

Favorite neighborhood other than PQ:
Andrew: “Dupont Circle—the other Metro-accessible neighborhood with hot single women. Everything being relative, it’s also like a quick country getaway for me on the weekends or weeknights.”
Mark: “Capitol Hill for the running route, Friendship Heights/Chevy Chase for the shopping. I stay here to go out.”

Favorite neighborhood blog other than your own:
Andrew:Life in Mt. Vernon Square. It’s what a neighborhood blog would be if all of your online neighbors were perfectly self-moderating. Anyone can post a story on that blog, and I become nostalgic when I see posts like ‘I have a nice piece of furniture that I need to get rid of. It’s free to whoever wants to pick it up.’ ”
Mark: “I’ve been getting into the Shaw blogs (, OffSeventh, and InShaw) and the Triangle recently because there’s always something interesting going on to the north. Shaw also shares ANC 2C with Penn Quarter, which has an impact.”

Next week in the Blogger Beat, advice blogger Andrea Rodgers of Ask Miss A gives us a crash course in relationships 101. The blond bombshell tells us the best and worst dates she’s ever been on, her tips for getting a second date, and how to end a terrible date early. Check back on Wednesday for the interview!

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