Thursday, July 24, 2014

Yes, This Blog is Alive, and in Perfect Hibernation


When I first started this blog many moons ago, I had ample time and energy to give it the attention it deserved. Eight years and two kids later, I've found that blogging is one of a number of activities and hobbies that have ended up on the back burner. Even completing this simple post ended up taking me over a month.

However, I am not prepared to hang up the keyboard for good, and rather than continue to muddle along half-assing it, I am officially placing this blog on hiatus with a indeterminate return date.

In the interim, I have decided to focus my more limited resources on providing much more frequent updates via the Silver Spring, Singular Facebook page and SSS's long-dormant Twitter account. (According to some commenters, these would consist solely of crime reports.)

So, while there may not be as much detail or commentary as might be have been found on the blog, hopefully these will still provide outlets for discussion of Silver Spring-related subjects. Of course, the downside is that Bethesda Troll and other Silver Spring haters might be forced to create anonymous accounts on those services if they wish to continue to participate. It really wouldn't be the same without them, would it?

Also, I am open to the idea of an interim blogger who would take over the reins during my hiatus, with the option to stay on as co-blogger when I do return. I'm not exactly sure how this might work, but if you're interested, please feel free to email me.

Friday, April 11, 2014

RIP TDF

Thanks to WK for the photo!
 Despite repeated angry claims in the comments claiming it wasn't going to do so, Taco Distrito Federal appears to have closed. The Silver Spring location has been scrubbed from their website, and the space is for sale, as it has been for some time.

It's too bad, I actually rather liked the place, even if I only went there occasionally. They were always quite friendly, and kids got a plate of chicken, beans and rice for free. The restaurant's fate was probably inevitable since the day they moved in, as that location really is the worst. You could pass by dozens of times on foot or car and not notice it exists. I think whatever you put there, unless it's somewhere people need to go to in order to remain alive (like when they put a dialysis center in the old post office around the corner), it's going to fail.

I do think that TDF would have done succeeded were it on Ellsworth. Look at some of the middling places that have survived there for years.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Snow Day News 'N Notes

- ARGH! I so wanted to get a good picture of this guy riding down Sligo Creek Parkway, but alas, my phone focused on my filthy windshield instead. Is this what hipsters are riding these days? Have standard vintage fixed-gear bikes become passé?

 
- The reports of Kao Thai's death were greatly exaggerated, as the restaurant is scheduled to re-open today after being closed for a month due to unspecified "emergency repairs".

UPDATE: 

Here's a photo of a letter the re-opened Kao Thai has been including in its menus. Not sure if this clears everything up, but it's their own explanation. Thanks to reader BG for sharing.



- Dale Music, a Silver Spring stalwart since 1950, will close on June 30th.

- The restoration of the Metro's penguin mural that began in 2006 has finally been completed. It will be restored to its place on the side of the Metro station once the transit center is completed. In other words, never.

- Doug Duncan says it's "time for answers" on the Transit Center. No doubt if he were still County Exec, that concrete would have been poured properly.
 
- And Scion finally has proper signage:

Thanks to reader O.D. for the pic!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- There's a movement out there to convert a portion of the as-yet-undeveloped area adjacent to the Transit Center into a public park in lieu of constructing a hotel as originally planned. Let me be the one to say it: no. Just, no. Throughout history, very few things located next to bus stations have ever been described as "nice" (case in point: the McDonald's across the street), and I have serious doubts that a park in that location would be particularly appealing as a place to relax. The county needs to stick to the plan and accept the cash flow generated by the 7% hotel occupancy tax. Considering the money pit next door that a hotel would overlook, the last thing the government needs to do now is leave money on the table.

- Anyone have an update as to the status of Kao Thai? It closed for "emergency repairs" last week, and as far as I know has yet to re-open. The windows have been covered up with paper, which is a bit odd if it's just a maintenance issue. What's there to hide?

- Why does Scion, open for nine months, still have a vinyl banner hanging over its door rather than permanent signage? You'd never know it was there if you drive by at night, and even if you're looking for it, it's not easy to spot.

- I had wondered why St. Michael's church had posted large, ugly "no skateboarding" signs around its entrance until I happened by Sunday evening and saw a dozen skateboarders ignoring said signs and jumping off the church's front steps. (It's because we didn't build them a large enough skate park, right, Sk8ter Mom?) Since a lot of churchgoers ignore the "Parking for shopping center only" signs in the adjacent lot, I don't have a ton of sympathy. And yes, they do, because I see it with my own eyes as I sit idling in my car waiting for a spot to open. No offense to parishioners that obey the rules.

- There has been reportedly been an increase in graffiti in Silver Spring as of late, and I have noticed that a number street signs around my neighborhood have been tagged. At least if our "graffiti artists" had some sort of artistic talent or creativity, it might be interesting, but it's usually just a few hastily-sprayed letters. The only tag that is remotely memorable is the angular smiley face guy. And what is the point in tagging playground equipment? Is this some sort of toddler gang marking a slide as their territory? Should my two-year-old be watching his back after using it?


- This frequently-hit crosswalk sign on Sligo Creek Parkway lasted a bit longer than expected, but it finally succumbed to the effects of relentless vehicle strikes and has lain in pieces along the side of the road for a few weeks now. When it was in place, people would stop when they didn't even need to. Now drivers don't stop at all. I recently stood at this crossing with a stroller (something which usually compels people to brake) as half a dozen cars drove past.


- The sledding at Seven Oaks Park must be pretty brutal/fun, as melting snows revealed a muddy hill with shattered and broken remains of countless sleds strewn across it. Someday I'd like to create an exhaustive list of sledding hills around downtown Silver Spring along with ratings for each. When I was a kid, Holy Cross Hospital was the place to sled, but they ruined that hill with their expansion years ago.


Friday, February 14, 2014

OK, This is Just Egregious


I mean, come on, "Silver Spring" is half the name of your business! Maybe this is part of some mass conspiracy to troll me. That is the only reasonable explanation.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Cake Unloved


Last Wednesday Silver Spring's Cakelove location closed with little notice or fanfare. There was nary a mention of the closure on Cakelove's Twitter feed and only a last-minute notice sans explanation on their Facebook page. Cakelove had been in downtown Silver Spring for seven years, initially in FrozenYo's current spot, eventually moving around the corner to Fenton Street in 2011.

Will it be missed? I'm sure there were some loyal customers, but the store never seemed particularly inviting or busy when I passed by. I had one or two of their cupcakes over the years, and was unimpressed. Mediocre ratings (at best) on sites like Yelp! and Urbanspoon seem to show that my opinion wasn't outside of the norm. Given the proliferation of cupcake bakeries in recent years, it would seem that there's still money be made in the "overpriced urban bakery" segment if you're doing it right. As much as the place annoys me, if there were a Georgetown Cupcake in that spot I'd begrudgingly patronize it - provided I didn't have to wait in line.

So, what's next? Knowing DTSS, it's likely they already have a tenant lined up. I'm surprised no one has attempted to open another coffee shop - I'd think one would do quite a bit of business. Does Starbucks have an exclusivity deal with Peterson? Just don't let it be another mobile phone store. I believe Verizon is the only major carrier without an official store downtown, and I'm sure it's just a matter of time until they set up shop.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

We're Number 13/ Number 1!

While "best of" lists on the internet are generally nothing more than clickbait, it is still satisfying to note that the Movato Real Estate Blog recently rated Silver Spring the thirteenth "Most Exciting Suburb" in America. This ranking was higher than that of any other DC suburb, with Alexandria (#16) the only other one making the list. Bethesda, which failed to crack the top 50, was all like, "my mom says I'm cool!".

"Exciting" could mean a lot of things, but these were the criteria used to determine the rankings:

  • Nightlife per capita (bars, clubs, comedy, etc.)
  • Live music venues per capita
  • Active life options per capita (parks, outdoor activities, etc.)
  • Fast Food restaurants per capita (the fewer the better)
  • Percentage of restaurants that are fast food (the lower the better)
No doubt a number of frequent commenters will have have plenty to contribute regarding the quality of nightlife and restaurants in Silver Spring, but whatever. Sure, these rankings may be meaningless, but let's just enjoy it for today.


Via Curbed DC, which doesn't often acknowledge the existence of Silver Spring.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

mmmmmm....BurgerFi....

For reasons that have never been made clear to me, downtown Silver Spring is the only metropolitan area in North America that is not home to a Five Guys franchise. I don't fully understand the massive success of of Five Guys, though perhaps in many places it simply serves as a superior option to McDonald's. The good thing is that the absence of Five Guys has left the burger market in downtown Silver Spring relatively unsaturated, opening the door for a new arrivial like BurgerFi, which opened on Fenton Street last week. (Sure, there's a Fuddruckers around the corner, but I've never had the desire to step foot in there for whatever reason.)

In the world of hamburger chains, BurgerFi is probably closest in comparison to Shake Shack, though minus the insufferable hype that accompanies that chain. Like Shake Shack, it serves beer and wine, and seemed to have a relatively large selection of both, at least for a burger joint. The non-alcoholic beverage selection is good, too - not only are they equipped with the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines, they also offer the bottled HFCS-free Mexican Cokes and other imported bottled Coke products.

The menu consists of various hamburgers, hot dogs and fries, plus they have a variety of custard-based frozen treats. (Whatever you do, don't look at the calorie count.)

As to the quality of the burgers, I'll stick to a simple video review:



As far as its physical space, BurgerFi features a stylish, modern look, and has something that is severely lacking in Silver Spring: outdoor seating. And it's not just a couple chairs awkwardly stuck out on the sidewalk, either - there's a fairly large covered area with tables and chairs outside the entrance. Of course, this won't be usable for months, but it will be nice to have the option available when the weather improves.

The main downside I could find was that if you are coming from the direction of Wayne Avenue, you are forced to pass the entrance to Washington Sports Club, which could elicit a feeling of guilt about the thousands of calories you are about to consume...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

First Take: Urban Butcher

Thanks to an invite from the proprietors to last night's soft opening, I was able to get a sneak peak of Urban Butcher, which I hereby dub "UrBu", as it sounds more sophisticated and less gruesome. (Though I hesitate to coin nicknames, as I may end up getting mocked in a public forum years later for even suggesting that I came up with a nickname after it is appropriated by the entity owning the thing to which the nickname was assigned. But I digress.)

When I first heard of the concept of Urban Butcher, I wondered if it would prove to be more of a butcher shop with a restaurant or a restaurant with a butcher shop. It was immediately evident upon entering the premises that this was indeed primarily a restaurant, though one that features a fully operational butcher shop. The first thing you see as you enter is a cozy lounge area surrounded by floor to ceiling windows (and a glass garage door) that look out onto the Georgia Avenue streetscape.


Industrial chic?
As soon as you pass the lounge, the focus of the restaurant is immediately clear. To your left are glass cases displaying a variety of animal parts, while immediately in front of you is a large wood-lined meat locker where sausages and additional animal parts hang. This place is clearly designed to exhibit the maximum amount of meat possible. Personally, I don't need to see my meal before it's cooked (or read a file on the animal I'm eating), but it doesn't bother me, either.



To your right, there is a long bar which sits in front of more glass garage doors. They could really open this place up to the street when weather permits.


While their initial menu does feature a variety of meats (and fish), most of the food initially served last night was pig-based, and as I just don't dig on swine, I can't really speak to the taste. The opinions I heard were positive, however. I did eventually try the lamb empanadas that were brought around, and they were quite delicious.



They had copies of their menus floating around, and a quick scan identified quite a number of items I'd be very interested in trying. While vegetarians and vegans might not find a whole lot to eat here, that's not really going to be their core customer base. It seems as pescatarians will fare a bit better, as there are a few seafood items available.



Overall, I think Urban Butcher/UrBu has quite a bit of promise, as they have constructed a nice atmosphere in their space and have developed an intriguing menu. Their take-out butcher service should also be an nice option for those who opt to cook at home.

Unrelated, but on my way home last night I passed by Fire Station 1 at about 8:30 and it was packed. Despite being frequently maligned in the comments section of this blog, it must be doing a good business if that's what it looks like on a Tuesday night.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- I can't get over the fact that "Urban Butcher" sounds much more appropriate as a moniker of a brutal serial killer than as a name of a restaurant.

- Apparently the components of DTSS' new 'tree' were sourced from local yard sales:

Thanks to HK for the pic.

- I discovered this past weekend that the venerable Woodmoor Bakery in Four Corners now offers cronuts, and you don't even have to wait in an epic line to get one. I haven't had the original cronut so I can't compare the taste, but they don't look as pretty.

- Technically not Silver Spring news, but the Georgia Avenue Walmart in D.C. is set to open on December 4th. It's located about the same distance from downtown Silver Spring as the Target in Wheaton and a couple miles closer than the Cherry Hill Road Target. Of course, I imagine a lot of people in Silver Spring would choose to avoid Walmart on GP.