Category Archives: Washington DC

Hailed a DC Taxi with Uber

Like everyone in DC, I have a story or two or ten of how a taxi wouldn’t stop for me, once I got in the car and told them where I wanted to go that they refused to take me there, or the car was just down right gross.

I was super excited when I saw a few weeks back that Uber was releasing an update to its service for hailing a DC taxi from their iPhone app.

Last night, as I was leaving the Action Design Meetup at NPR’s HQ, I decided to give it a whirl.  Within 5 minutes, the taxi was there to pick me up, it took me home, and that was that.   The payment and tip was all handled through my account with Uber.  The car was nice and clean.  I was really pleased with how it turned out.

Uber has added a level of dependability and consistency that the DC taxi system hasn’t had to date.   I’ll definitely be using it again.

People Flock to DC. Can DC Keep Up?

Read a story a few weeks ago that DC was one of the fastest growing metropolitan regions in the United States. It’s something I’ve seen first hand over the last 7 years with the DC tech scene. There are more people and more excitement than ever before.

But can DC keep up with the growing excitement and influx of residents? There was just a study saying that DC has the worst traffic in the country. I can also bare witness to this.

How do you build a city that scales?

As it stands, I’d imagine more & more of DC workers will live outside of DC and have some kind of serious commuting time. Heck I live in DC and it takes me 45 mins to get to work by bus.

Parking is a nightmare. The other day I drove to work cause I needed to drive somewhere after work. I had to hit 3 different garages before I found one with room. I missed our company holiday party because we spent 45 mins looking for parking and weren’t successful.

Seems like there’s some infrastructure that needs to be put into place for the city to live up to its promise.

Oyamel

It’d be an understatement to say that José Andrés is a powerhouse here in the Washington, DC area.  He practically owns half of DC’s Chinatown neighborhood with Jaleo, Oyamel, Zaytinya, and minibar and he’s quickly expanding to other parts of the region with Jaleo in Arlington, VA.

In the new year, Lauren and I are looking to eat a little healthier and to incorporate more vegetables into our diet.   It’s actually surprisingly hard to find that in a restaurant.  It’s hard to find something that doesn’t incorporate sugar, cooked in butter, or smothered in cheese.  After exploring some menus, we decided upon going out to Oyamel last night.  They do an incredible job of featuring lots of vegetables and lean meats.

Oyamel showcases José Andrés’ take on various Mexican regional cuisines served in a whimsical fine dining atmosphere served on small plates meant to share.  This is definitely not your neighborhood Chipotle.  It takes your idea of what’s possible for Mexican food to an entirely new level.

Of course, when you sit down, you’re given the requisite chips & salsa.  Because the seasoning, the chips are incredibly addictive but don’t eat too many.  You don’t wanna spoil your appetite for what’s to come on the menu.   The salsa was very thick and had this incredible smoke to it.

Additionally, as your appetizer, you have to try the guacamole.   For $12, it’s definitely not cheap and I’m not sure that it’s that much better than what you can make at home but you have to try it.  The novelty comes in that your server will come to your table and serve it to you table side.   It’s slightly entertaining and adds to the enjoyment of the dish.

Now, it’s on to the small plates…

Lauren got a ceviche.  I don’t remember which she got and I didn’t take a photo.  I just tried a bit of it.  It was crisp & refreshing.  Oyamel has its own ceviche bar where it’s fish masters dish out the evening’s delight from the sea.

These were little tortillas filled with turkey confit.  Had a nice spice.  There was a nice textual component from the pecans on top.

The thought of brussel sprouts makes most children shudder.  Somewhere in my adult life I learned that brussel sprouts can be delicious.  They were crispy and perfectly caramelized to bring out the sweetness in the sprouts.  They tasted like vegetable candy.

This was the taco with beef tongue.  I know you’re like “beef tongue” ?!?  Honestly, I don’t know if I was blind folded and fed the taco if i’d be able to tell the difference between it and any other kind of beef.    It was texturely pretty similar.

The finale was the pork belly taco.   What shall we say about pork belly?   It melts in your mouth.  It’s one of my favorite cuts of meat on the pig.

All in all, we left the night happy and full.  It was a delicious meal.  It continues to be one of our favorite restaurants and I’m sure we’ll go back many more times.  I’d recommend everyone making a reservation.

Thank you José Andrés & team for taking us on the continuing Mexican adventure.

Action Design DC Meetup

Have done a lot of community organizing in DC over the last 6 years.  Have been to & organized a lot of meetups, tweetups, conferences, and BarCamps all over DC for every possible topic.  Some of my most exciting recent work with some co-workers to form the Action Design DC Meetup.

The group’s about the study of how, as product designers, we don’t just make products for products sake.  We design products because we want users to take a certain kind of action that’ll better their lives.   And… day after day… week after week… we want more people to be using and benefiting from our product than before.

At the Meetup, we’ll be discussing past experiments/experiences, critique designs, discuss techniques, discuss the application of theory, offer external resources, and much more more.

We’re having the inaugural meetup on January 15th with the Director of UX from LivingSocial talking about their study of behaviors and behavior change and then a presentation about how to design experiments.

Definitely recommend coming out on the 15th.  Should be a fascinating evening!

If you can’t make the 15th or don’t live in the DC area, we have a Facebook Group for discussing Action Design online.

Shaw’s Tavern

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8478/8238725899_6838b5247f_n.jpgKind of seems like our friends and us have been doing a tour of DC neighborhood watering holes for dinner & drinks.  First it was Tunnicliff’s Tavern in Capitol Hill and then it was Mayfair & Pine in Glover Park.  This time we want to Shaw’s Tavern in DC’s Shaw Neighborhood.

Got there at 7pm for drinks before dinner and Shaw’s Tavern was already hopping.  Definitely a nice vibe.  Everything is very rustic with exposed brick.  Quite a few of the tables were communal, which was kind of cool and seemingly unusual for DC.

Grabbed a seat at the bar, while I waited for everyone else to show up.  Was impressed with their craft beers on tap.   I had the 3 Stars Brewing Company Lime Basil Session Saison.  It was delicious.  At first, I was nervous by the name that it’d be overly flavored but the lime & basil was very nuanced.  It was perfect.    I also had the Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA, which is solid.  Before having a beer, my friend Scott had their rye bourbon cocktail, which I had a taste of.  Delicious!

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8057/8235363712_7e5d36a4a5_n.jpgEventually, everyone got there and we got a table.  Unfortunately, it was near the door so it was a little chilly.  We were all starving so we got appetizers.  Lauren and I got the charcuterie plate.   What can I say, I’m a sucker for cured Italian meat, cheese, and bread.  That’s what they gave us. It was delicious.  The others got the fried green tomatoes and spinach & artichoke dip.   Both delicious staples of any good tavern or gastropub.

For entrees, despite there being a pretty diverse menu, we all got burgers.  I opted for the Bleu Burger.   It was delicious.  I love a good brioche bun.  The fries weren’t anything terribly new or exciting.   I got what I asked for and at a reasonable price.  Next time, I wanna to try the Catfish & Gritcake or Short Rib Ragu.

This is a solid place.   Had a fantastic time.  It had great food, great drinks, and solid & chill vibe, despite being packed.   I’d recommend it.

And yeah… it’s interesting how every neighborhood has their own bar or bars that really starts to become part of the identity neighborhood.   It’s where people come together and live life together.

Where are all the DC hipsters hiding?

Today, Lauren and I went to the Crafty Bastards craft show put on by the Washington City Paper. This year it was being hosted at Union Market in DC’s up in coming NoMa neighborhood.

There were 2 massive tents with booths occupied by handmade creators from up and down the east coast. (I wonder how many were from DC.) You could get everything from jewelry to bath products to tshirts to leather bags.  Everything is made in small batches by hand. It’s like an offline version of Umba Box.

And… It was packed. Not just crowded but annoyingly packed.  It was hard to get up to some of the booths because there were so many people.  AND… everywhere you looked there was plaid and a beard.

It made me wonder. Where are all these hipsters hiding? When you think of DC, you think of the government and people in suits. When you think of creativity, you think of Brooklyn or Portland. Does DC have a burgeoning creative class that’s just about to explode?

6 years ago a handful of folks felt a hunger for a technology & startup community and look what happened.

(Photo by Jason Rosenberg)

Office Layout Effects Office Culture

Right after Lauren and I left for California, HelloWallet moved into brand new offices on the West End of Washington, DC.  So, when I came back this week, it was my first time seeing everyone in the new space.  It really underlined for me how much the layout of your offices drastically effects your culture.

Our old offices had many different walled off sections or alcoves.  There was engineering, marketing/community, and business teams all hole’d off in their own parts of the office.   The people who you sat near are the people who you saw everyday.  They’re the ones that you socialized with and the ones that you became close to.

You could easily go weeks without seeing someone on one of the other teams.  Once, our director of engineering went on vacation for a week and I had no idea.  I just knew that I hadn’t made my way over into his corner of the engineering section in a while and I just hadn’t seen him.

It was bad.  Especially in an office of only 38 people, you want everyone to have the space they need to get their work done and be productive but you also want people to be bumping into one another.   There needs to be that cross pollination of ideas between people, teams, and departments.  Everyone should know what’s going on so we can all going about kicking ass to the best extent possible.

So I come back to DC this week and go into our new office, which is just one big open-pit with office along the exterior, and it’s a completely different vibe.  It really feels like a startup family.   Everyone sees everyone.   Everyone inevitably is going to walk past your desk throughout the course of the day.    Nothing can really happen in the office without you hearing about it or seeing it.

The executives who have offices only use them when they have meetings or calls.   Otherwise, they’re out at a big communal table in the pit with everyone else, which makes them feel even more accessible and avoids the ivory tower perception (which we didn’t have but is good to avoid).

Granted these large open pit-style offices presents a whole new set of issues.  I’d recommend it’s investing in a good pair of noise canceling headphones and having space in the office where someone can hole up when they just have to stick their head down & jam but net net… the office just felt different.  It felt like a different company.

As real estate developers and architects plan out what their new office spaces are going to look like, they need to think about what’s going to be best for the new workforce that’s cropping off.  Gone are the days of everyone having 700 square foot offices.  You now have a generation that more so enjoys working in noisy coffee shops.  In Washington DC a city known for its lobbyists & law firms, there’s especially a shortage of these kind open-work spaces.

What’s your office layout like and how does it effect your office vibe?