The neighborhood's breakthrough began in 1990 with Dot's Back Inn, when matriarch Cookie Giannini set the down-home tone for a popular watering hole and restaurant that still employs the original kitchen and waitstaff. (The spot has been a neighborhood landmark since the '40s.)
Now Dot's looks out onto a burst of new development along the block, including an antiques store set to open soon, a new yoga studio and the recent relocation of Carytown Books on MacArthur, whose owner, Rick Zander, says he became disenchanted with the "pouffy-ness and high prices" of Carytown, and moved in October. "The rents are much more reasonable here, and the neighbors are terrific," Zander says. "They've made a commitment to support us." Retailers tend to support each other, too, talking up the other businesses and putting out each other's business cards and menus to encourage cross-pollination.
Catering company Tastebuds at 4023 MacArthur sells prepared dinners to go, with such dishes as five-pepper chili with sliced beef over rice and gnocchi with butternut squash. Risotto-stuffed cabbage rolls are a specialty item on a menu that changes weekly. Owners Valentina and Andrew Wisniewski open for dinner-hour carryout sales Tuesdays through Fridays and offer catering and boxed lunches by reservation.
Down the street, Shenanigans is a steady draw with its solid live-music calendar; the place serves truckloads of working guys at lunch and attracts a local following for dinner. Stir Crazy Cafe, the coffee shop co-owned by Carytown's Tammy Rostov, also is a magnet for families and young professionals and adds to the sense of permanence that's emerging.
Once Upon a Vine bolsters the end of the strip with goods ranging from Armenian wines and Lebanese beers to Manchego cheese and pté. Nostalgic candies like wax lips and clove gum "bring back pleasant memories," says owner Bob Kocher.
His business, open nearly two years, began with some unorthodox market research. "I walked through the neighborhood," he says, "ten blocks in each direction, just to see what was in the recycling boxes on Wednesdays." He saw enough wine and imported beer bottles to know what would sell, and his regular wine tastings have become a neighborhood ritual for many customers. "People here want this; they want all of these businesses," he says. "This is a great area and a hot neighborhood, and look there's parking."
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