Bloomingdale Bites

December 2017

The annual Chili Challenge at North Capitol and Florida Avenue. Photo: Taylor Barden Golden

Spicing Up North Cap
The second annual North Cap Chili Challenge was packed with flavor and fun, as nine competitors fought to win the prize for the best chili in the neighborhood. Jam Doung Style Cuisine came out on top for the first time, toppling this year’s odds-on favorite and last year’s winner, Boundary Stone.

It looks like a modest takeout joint on the outside, but local favorite Jam Doung Style Cuisine has earned serious credibility over the last year. It received the Key to the Corridor award at the annual Taste of North Capitol this year, and, while Jamaican cuisine is not known to include chili, it was able to sweep this year’s challengers with a unique Jamaican jerk chili.

“Featuring chili from our small businesses that don’t feature chili on their regular menus, but gives our local chefs room to be creative and serve something unique, is truly a special experience,” explains Ashley McPherson of North Capitol Main Street, which sponsors the event. “The corridor is making a mark and living up to its new popular hashtag, #NorthCapontheMap.”

North Capitol Main Street works to support the local business community that surrounds the District’s divider street, from New York Avenue to Rhode Island Avenue. The mission is to create a vibrant future for North Capitol Street and to revitalize the Bloomingdale business district at Rhode Island Avenue and First Street NW. This event is special to the organization, explains Executive Director Aisha Bond. “We haven’t had a lot of opportunities to highlight the different businesses that have been thriving in our community. This event is such a fun way to do that, and includes activities for the whole family. Even some furry friends enjoy the scene.”

Building a Wall at Crispus Attucks
The goal for this year’s fall fundraiser for Crispus Attucks Park was a simple one: the broken-down chain-link fence that has bordered one long edge of the park must go. It is one of the last elements of the park in desperate need of an update after years of renovation by the Crispus Attucks Development Corporation (CADC) and DC Water.

The annual cost for maintenance and operations is approximately $19,000, which includes landscaping, lawn care, watering and special projects. The park relies entirely on the fundraising efforts of the CADC and the hard work of the neighbors dedicated to act as the boots on the ground. The annual event is sponsored by the CADC, in the home of one of its members. This year’s efforts focused on raising funds for the repair and replacement of the crumbling retaining wall and chain link fence close to the western alley. The CADC surpassed its goal.

St. Martin’s Feeds Stomachs and Souls
St. Martin’s Catholic Church opened its doors to the homeless for Thanksgiving, as it does every year, giving out food and lifting spirits for the start of the holiday season. The event has been hosted at the church for over 30 years, but has evolved from a sharing of food to a sharing of joy and a celebration of community.

In his early years at St. Martin’s, recalls Father Michael Kelley, head of the parish, food was served on to-go trays and attendees were sent off to eat where they could. Now, participants are greeted with a warm smile at the door, guided to tables and presented with menus. Volunteer servers take orders and deliver the food to the tables, ensuring the attendees get exactly the sides they want with their large helpings of turkey. This year, a volunteer who happened to be a professional jazz pianist accompanied the party, giving the event a lively spirit. Tables were decorated with a fall theme, with fruits and other elements guests could take with them. There was also a table where guests could pick up a donated winter coat if in need.

The number of volunteers tends to grow each year. Father Kelley estimates that about half are members of the parish, while others are locals in the neighborhood or friends of parishioners who stay local for Thanksgiving. The volunteers serve as food preparers, servers and greeters. Once the guests are served, the volunteers sit down at the tables and join the conversation.

The parish also provided food that those in need could cook at home. In partnership with its sister parish, St. Mayfields in Rockville, St. Martin’s provided meals for 80 in nursing homes or other facilities where people can’t leave for the holidays. Even before the holiday weekend, the two parishes, with help from the 9:30, which donates turkeys every year, and Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie’s office, created 400 holiday baskets for pickup on the Monday before Thanksgiving. The baskets included a turkey plus ingredients for the traditional fixings.

These community events are how St. Martin’s “takes their faith to the streets” as Father Kelley explains. “We always want to get the message out there that all are welcome here, no matter your background or experiences.”

This year the church has seen an increase in donations for its local drives, such as the winter coat drive. “People seem to feel a greater need to step up to the plate this year,” explains Father Kelley. The dinner actually saw a decrease in participants from last year due to the increase in facilities serving Thanksgiving meals to the homeless. Father Kelley thinks that’s a good problem to have. All extra food was donated to a shelter.

Father Kelley is hoping that this year’s annual toy drive will also bring increased support. St. Martin’s donates 1,000 new toys to kids in need each year, with the help of Boundary Stone, which offers a special night of one free beer in exchange for one new toy. That event will take place on Dec. 14.


Taylor Barden Golden is a real estate agent with the Stokes Group at McEnearney Associates Inc. A former Hill staffer, Taylor lives in Brentwood with her husband, two dogs and a cat. She’s always on the lookout for new places to explore and ways to spend time outside. Get in touch:; @rtaylorb.