Friday, September 29, 2006

Piratz Tavern Mini-review

As promised, here is my mini-review of the Piratz Tavern. Remember, I’m not a real critic, I only play one on a blog.

As you enter the Tavern, you are greeted at the hostesses’ podium with a small basket with pirate-related items that you can take, including eye patches and cool silver skull rings. Unfortunately for me, they were kid-sized, so I wasn’t able to enjoy them. My wife could fit the ring on her pinky, but that’s about it. Suggestion for Piratz Tavern: adult-sized pirate SWAG!

Right past that is a small kids area that is stocked with books about pirates and has a television showing children’s shows/movies. Presumably you can drop your kids off here, but does the staff babysit them while you’re back at the bar? They would be a few steps and one door away from Georgia Avenue traffic.

The decoration is what you might expect. Piratey/nautical stuff is all over the walls. There is one wall that is covered in wine corks. The back section was relatively small, yet full, and seemed a lot more fun than the front, which was fairly empty when I got there. There is a giant wood table just feet from the bar at which a large party was seated. Past that was the patio, which had a pleasant atmosphere. The fence is high enough to hide the surrounding area, which includes a parking garage, among other things. However, unless they set up some heat lamps, that section might not be open for much longer. The music was varied, ranging from familiar Bob Marley songs to what I believe were Arabic tunes.

I didn’t go into the bathroom, but my wife said the women’s facilities were “really nice”.

The service was pretty slow, as they let us sit for quite a bit before they came over and took our order (and it wasn’t very crowded). I got the impression that some of the waiters didn’t show up. They also seemed to be having trouble with the computerized ordering system. In their defense, I would expect this from almost any restaurant on opening night. Usually it is a good idea to wait a month or so before eating at any new restaurant, but I decided to make this one an exception.

I wanted to try the pirateiest thing I could find on the menu so I ordered the (single) Simon’s Smoked turkey leg ($10). The only other place I remember having whole turkey legs was the Maryland Renaissance Festival. It was pretty good (and spicy), although I kind of wished I had ordered two legs, as I was still a bit hungry. My wife ordered the Caribbean Sweet Corn soup and the Fresh Catch sandwich. I tried the soup and it was good, but my wife said the sandwich was a bit plain, although she thought the bread it came in was great. They never specified exactly what kind of fish was in the sandwich.

Note that the food here isn’t cheap. Unlike most themed restaurants (Planet Hollywood, etc.), Piratz fancies itself a more upscale restaurant, and many of the entrees are over $20.

Overall, I give it an “incomplete”. It’s tough to make a judgment about a restaurant on its first night. I’ll try Piratz again in a few weeks and see how it goes. If anyone’s been and would like to post their review in the comments section, please do.

Friday News 'N Notes

Ahhh, it's almost the weekend...

- The cranes to be used in construction of the Silver Spring Gateway building are going up this week. I've always wondered how those things get up that high. It's nice that they saved the facade of the Canada Dry building, but now it will be almost completely obscured by this new structure...

- Capt. Jack Sparrow relates in her blog her heroic efforts to prevent a drunk driver from creating massive carnage on the streets of downtown Silver Spring.

- Want to do something worthwhile this weekend? Help clean up Sligo Creek by volunteering for the Friends of Sligo Creek's 5th Annual "Sweep the Creek".

- Came across this photo on Flickr today of the Beltway Chevron on Georgia Avenue:

That gas station annoys the hell out of me. You can worship who you want or vote for who you want, I don't care, but it isn't necessary to shove it down everyone's throats. I remember for the 2004 elections they had a GIGANTIC Bush/Cheney sign attached to the station. I have refused to refuel there ever since. Hell, that's just bad business in Maryland. I'm surprised that this isn't actually forbidden in Chevron's franchise agreement.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- The Magical Montgomery Cultural Fair will be held this Saturday from 1-7 on Ellsworth Rd. in Downtown Silver Spring.

The Festival showcases Montgomery County's arts, humanities, and cultural organizations and give you the chance to experience the rich cultural heritage that continues to blossom in the County.

Here's a list of participants.

- The Gallery Restaurant and Lounge continues to get love from the Post:

Gallery has come out of nowhere over the past few months to become the key venue for house music in the Washington area. There are venues that are bigger, or more underground, or what have you, but not one is bringing in DJs that can touch the lineups at Gallery.

- There was a vicious Rottweiler attack on Tuesday in the "Good Hope" area of Silver Spring.

- Sicilian-style ice cream sandwiches (gelato con brioche) are now available at Moorenko's. Mmmmmmmmmmm Sicilian-style ice cream sandwiches.......

- I received a flyer in the mail yesterday from NVHomes about their new "Atwood Knoll" development. According to the flyer, THIS is the "Heart of Silver Spring", as opposed to, you know, downtown or somewhere.

Based on the house pictures on their website and those on the flyer, NVHomes is pioneer in the newest trend in home design: completely inaccessible garages:

One of the pictures on the flyer, which I didn't get the chance to scan, actually has a stone wall and a row of trees obstructing the garage doors.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Mica Condos getting increasingly desperate

I hate to keep picking on the Mica Condos, but they keep asking for it. I was driving into the District yesterday evening, and among the dozens of D.C. mayoral and council campaign signs at the Georgia Ave & Piney Branch/13th St. intersection, I spotted a "Mica Condos Sales Office ---->" sign in the median. Note that this is over a mile and half away from the Mica building, and the sign had no address or directions on it, only a simple arrow pointing right. This is something you would put around the corner from the office, not well across the D.C. border.

Do they expect someone to immediately hook a right and drive all the way up Georgia through about 50 traffic lights to Silver Spring to check out the condos based on this sign? Not that anyone would have any idea WHERE the Mica Condos were (or even what state they were in) or if the office open at the time. Sadly, I wasn't able to snap a picture of it because words cannot do justice to how pathetic it looked.

Monday Morning Notes

Monday mornings are much more bearable after a Redskins win...

- The Mica Condos, still struggling to clear out their inventory, have a new sales gimmick: they are hosting "football open houses" on weekends. It looks like this past June's crab feast wasn't as successful as they had hoped. Where do you watch the game, exactly? In the lobby? Presumably, you will be pestered the entire game about purchasing a unit. Exactly who is this supposed to appeal to?

I hear they've even got Gil pitching condos over at the Mica these days.

"Ohhh, Gil really needs this sale!"

If you can put up with this and already live nearby, you at least ought to show up and snag some free food and drinks.

- Saturday's Wall Street Journal has an article on Silver Spring resident Joseph Ngoupou, who works at the World Bank while also serving as the chief of Koupa Ngagnou, a village in Cameroon.

- Poor Piratz Tavern. It finally opens but is forced to close the next day due to an "electrical emergency". They are scheduled to open again on Tuesday. [Thanks to reader Nate for the tip]

I dined at the Tavern on Friday night. At some point soon, I'll be posting my mini-review.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Squirrel Gentrification in Silver Spring?

I don't know if I'm the only one who has noticed this, but it seems to me as if Silver Spring, or at least the part I live in, is home to a disproportionate number of albino squirrels. I've seen them scampering around for years. I saw one run by my window yesterday evening and was able to track it down and take some snapshots of it. I apologize for the graininess... it ran up a tree so I couldn't get really close enough for a proper portrait.

My photos make this one look kind of scary, but they are actually much cuter in person. Only one in 100,000 squirrels is born an albino, so one of these critters is a pretty rare site. Albino squirrels even have their own preservation society. Some towns take great pride in hosting white squirrel colonies, but Silver Spring has never been properly recognized for their albino squirrel population. We have the "pure" albino squirrels, too - the kind with the red eyes, not the inferior black-eyed white squirrels.

In addition to white squirrels, Silver Spring has LOTS of black squirrels, which until recently, I didn't even realize were uncommon. Someone had to get excited and say "wow, a black squirrel!" out in front of my house before I learned that this was an rare shade of squirrel. While not nearly as rare as albinos, only one out of every 10,000 squirrels is black. In my neighborhood, at least, black seems to be the predominant color of squirrel.

It turns out that Silver Spring's black squirrels are all descendants of 18 Canadian squirrels that were released at the National Zoo about a hundred years ago.

UPDATE: Unbeknownst to me, it just happens to be Squirrel Awareness Week!

Friday, September 22, 2006

News 'N Notes - Open Piratz Tavern Edition

- It seems as if Piratz Tavern FINALLY opened today! I may try to stop by if I can, but if anyone does go and can send me some pictures, I will post them for everyone to see. Also, please post your impressions of the Tavern!

Speaking of open restaurants, despite rumors to the contrary, The Quarry House is and has been up and running as normal.

- The Jemal Building on Colesville Road is to be converted into either a Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites or a Hilton branded hotel. [Via Silver Spring Scene]

What I find hard to believe is that Silver Spring-based Choice Hotels International doesn't have a single franchise in downtown Silver Spring, or Silver Spring at all, for that matter. There was a Comfort Inn for on Colesville Road for awhile, but that was ultimately converted into a Hilton.

- Metroblogging DC has a post today on Silver Spring's Tastee Diner.

- A reader sent me this photo of the zoning board sign for the planned office tower to be constructed on top of City Place:

I can only hope that this is a prank that somehow all planning commission employees have managed to not notice.

- Finally, the fountain is apparently been up and running, at least as of last night. Just in time to, ur, close for the winter...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Hump Day News 'N Notes

- Talk Like a Pirate Day has come and gone, and Piratz Tavern remains unopened. They are in danger of losing the buzz that they've been able to generate, in my opinion. I worry that Piratz Tavern may end up like Snakes on a Plane, preceded by a lot of buzz and opening to decent business but then quickly fading.

If the food is genuinely good and the atmosphere such that adults want to return, it might do OK. There's certainly an opportunity to attract some of the kids birthday party business during the weekends, but can it get the corporate crowds during the week?

UPDATE: A reader just emailed me about a recent pirate sighting.

Just FYI, coming home on Metro last night at 8:30, I rode with a couple wearing full pirate garb. When we got off in Silver Spring, I obviously knew where they were heading.

Indeed, when I walked by Piratz Tavern it was open for a private party. I peeked inside, and can report waiters wearing pantaloons and at least one with an eye patch!

- Speaking of restaurants not being open, has there been something wrong with the Quarry House lately? I tried to go there for lunch last week and it was closed due to "technical difficulties". A reader also reports that it was dark all weekend. Anyone have any info?

- The police in Silver Spring are "shorthanded" and there are "lots of
street robberies" in Downtown Silver Spring, according to this account of a meeting with the officer in charge of the Silver Spring CBD.

- Jamie Raskin's primary victory may have a negative impact on Silver Spring.

- Silver Spring has its own "School of Rock"

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Silver Spring is a Parkour Paradise

If anybody sees a group of people running around hurdling obstacles outside the Silver Spring Metro station, they're either running from the cops or participating in a parkour jam. What the hell is parkour, you ask?

Parkour is a physical discipline of French origin in which the participant — called a traceur — attempts to pass obstacles in the fastest and most direct manner possible, using skills such as jumping, vaulting and climbing, or the more specific parkour moves. The obstacles can be anything in the environment, so parkour is often practiced in urban areas because of many suitable public structures, such as buildings, rails, and walls.

According to this site, Silver Spring may be the best place to parkour outside France and the U.K. -"There are so many spots in Silver Spring that mirror parts of London". Really!?

Want to know when the next jam is scheduled? Keep checking the message boards.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Monday News 'N Notes

I hate Mondays, especially when the Redskins lose. Not that I can get a clear signal for any of The Danny's radio stations to listen to the games from where I live in Silver Spring.

- The Post has an article about the sale of the old Silver Spring Fire Department building.

"We're in no hurry," Heltzel said. "We're not having a fire sale here."
Pun intended, presumably.

- The White Oak McDonald's has thrown down the gauntlet in the ongoing battle with the downtown Silver Spring franchise for the title "Worst McDonald's Ever".

- From the police blotter:
On 09-04-06, at 12:30 a.m., a 23 year-old Lanham man was in the parking lot of the Galaxy Night Club in the 8000 block of Georgia Ave. in Silver Spring when a suspect in a white older model Chevy Tahoe drives up. The suspect is just slightly known to the victim. The suspect asks to see the victim’s watch and the victim complies. Then, the suspect drives away with the watch and in the process, tries to run over the victim. The suspect drove down East West Hwy. towards Colesville Road.

It's bad enough stealing a man's watch - is it really necessary to run him down as well?

- On Dr. Gridlock's Post chat today, there's a bit of discussion on commuting downtown on the Metro from Silver Spring vs. driving. The fact that there's even an argument for driving shows that the current Metro routes just aren't cutting it.

- Speaking of driving downtown, the guy who stormed the Capitol building is from Silver Spring.

- Stuckey's is headquartered in downtown Silver Spring? Who knew? (Or cared, for that matter.) That seems kind of random, seeing as there isn't a Stuckey's located remotely close to Silver Spring.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

S.S. McDonald's management one fry short of a Happy Meal

Not only is the Silver Spring McDonald's filthy and slow, apparently their management isn't particularly bright. I was going through some old photos and found this pic that I snapped while waiting at the light in front of the restaurant back in 2004:

Apparently someone skipped the day in kindergarten where you learn that midnight is 12 A.M.

[sign created at]

Friday, September 15, 2006

Friday News 'N Notes

- Is Piratz Tavern finally opening this weekend? Their website doesn't indicate anything.

- Diary of a Mad D.C. Cabbie relates a very unfortunate experience his cab-driving acquaintance had after taking a fare to Briggs Chaney in "Silver Springs". [Via FreeRide]

FLASHBACK: cabbie dishes out some street justice.)

- I didn't see any of this, but apparently on Wednesday a van crossed the median on Georgia Avenue and ended up on the sidewalk in front of the Langano Ethiopian restaurant. Anyone hear any details on what happened?

Minor, completely unrelated rant about Langano: I stopped going there awhile back because whenever I went and got their lunch buffet, the waiters would never refill my water, even when we were the only people in the room. They'd always be standing chatting in the corner as my mouth was being incinerated by Ethiopian spices. I don't know what it is, but I have a history of getting terrible service at Ethiopian restaurants in Silver Spring. Addis Ababa was also blacklisted after our waitress walked away from the table as we were giving our order. She just simply left in mid-sentence to go do something else. Needless to say, I just got up and left, never to return. Some people lament the proliferation of chains in Silver Spring, but even if the food isn't as good, I find that the service is often much better than that at their independent counterparts. If they want to compete, they need to step it up a bit. (Also see this earlier post regarding complaints about the service at Mandalay.)

- Check out the DC Labor Film Fest at the AFI Silver Theatre this weekend. This is a rare opportunity to see Office Space on the big screen.

- Read about the changing face of Silver Spring's "Main Street" in this month's edition of Silver Spring Then & Again.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Keys to election victory (and defeat)

We may not have full election results for a week, but at least one race in Loco MoCo seems to have been decided. Jamie Raskin has claimed a "smashing victory" over incumbent state senator Ida G. Ruben. Maybe I have a sick mind, but for some reason this sounds dirty to me:

‘‘I’m overwhelmed and humbled,” Raskin said. ‘‘Outside of certain private things, this has been the greatest experience of my life.”
I attribute his victory to the ├╝bercool and ubiquitous "Raskinmobile" maroon minivan. Here's a Pulitzer-worthy photograph of it taken using my cameraphone:

With all due respect to Mrs. Ruben and her thirty-one years of service, you can't go around using a black and white photo of yourself that looks like it was taken in the 1960's on your campaign signs and appeal to younger voters. In fact, it may well have been taken in the 60's...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The "Learning Cottages" at Highland View have got to go

Despite widespread reports of problems at polling places in Maryland, I experienced no issues whatsoever at mine. In fact, I was the only person in the entire room outside of the poll workers, so I got in and out of there really fast.

Really what I want to talk about is that it's pathetic that Highland View still has portable classrooms sitting in its front playground. I can understand that schools sometimes need to add classroom space quickly and cheaply, but for God's sake, they were using them when I went to Highland View... twenty years ago! When I started there, we used to play 4-square in that playground then they brought in the portables after a couple years, relegating play to the "upper" playground.

In all that time that has passed, they couldn't just build a permanent extension to the building? It is sad that in one of the richest counties in the one of the richest countries in the world, the kids have to go to class in a double wide.

Also, if anyone refers to them as "learning cottages" in front of me with a straight face I am going to laugh at and/or slap them. Let's call a spade a spade, OK?

Here's a quick lesson for confused students and school administrators:

This is a cottage:

This, not so much:

For years, I have loved this page on the MCPS website. (Note the use of the term "learning cottage".)

The fifth graders anxiously awaited the arrival and setup of their new classrooms - called learning cottages. They arrived as trailers on September 21, 2001 and were ready as learning cottages on October 18. The photographs below show the construction, moving in, and how we looked on that first day in our new rooms.
OK, granted I was in fifth grade a long time ago, but I am certain I would not have looked favorably upon my playground being covered with trailers disguised as classrooms. Wait, I was in fifth grade (OK, maybe it was fourth) when they did that, and it sucked!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- According to comments left on my earlier post about the fountain being repaired, skateboarders were not responsible the damage to the tiles. (My information originally came from a commenter who had spoken to one of the construction workers.) Apparently the real reason for the problem was that the tiles used in the initial installation were faulty.

- DCist calls the Colesville and Georgia intersection "one of the least hospitable corners in the Washington suburbs", whatever that is supposed to mean.

- Don't forget to vote today. Assuming you can, that is.

- Again, not Silver Spring related, but I blame bad karma emanating from Tom Cruise for the Redskins' unfortunate defeat last night. If you were watching on a high resolution television, you could actually see his aura affecting the trajectory of the ball.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Monday Morning Notes

- I didn't attend the Silver Spring Jazz Festival, but I could hear it from my house... a mile away. It was so loud, I could clearly hear the music from the concert over my stereo. It took me a few minutes to figure out where it originated, since it was bouncing off the house behind mine, making it sound like it was coming from the direction of Four Corners. I wonder if they got any complaints from people who lived closer to downtown.

Metroblogging Washington has a brief writeup of the event along with some photos.

- At about 10:50 Saturday morning I noticed a line down the block outside Oriental East, which hadn't even opened yet. I know that it's pretty good Chinese food, but is it that hard to get a table at 11 in the morning on a weekend? Is this Silver Spring's version of Adams Morgan's Pasta Mia?

- Amazingly, someone actually had something nice to say about Silver Spring on Craiglist's Rants and Raves board.

- For those curious about the hullabaloo at the Metrobus station on Friday night, it was due to a "suspicious package" being found and blown up.

- OK, this doesn't really have anything to do with Silver Spring, but go Skins!

(Sadly, Silver Spring's representative on the roster will be out for tonight's opener.)

Friday, September 08, 2006

Police Crackdown in Silver Spring

In response to the recent pedestrian fatality, police will be doing a "crackdown" on aggressive drivers in Silver Spring. Undercover cops will be hanging out on the corner and noting "conflicts between vehicles and pedestrians". I really hope one of their points of emphasis is on drivers doing a fast left turn off of Colesville onto Georgia to beat the oncoming northbound traffic. I’ve bitched about this before, so I won’t re-hash my argument, but mark my words: a pedestrian is eventually going to die crossing the street to get an overpriced Panera sandwich.

While they're in the neighborhood, here’s a couple other things I’d like the police to “crackdown” on in Silver Spring:

1. Parking in front of the Bank of America ATM at the corner of Georgia and Wayne.

How is it that drivers seem to be able to pull up in front of this ATM on Georgia Avenue, get out of their car, queue in the perpetual line that exists in front of the machine and finally perform their transaction with impunity? (Another blog has already dubbed this particular machine “The Slowest ATM in the World”. Simply putting on your blinkers does not make your actions legal. Neither does having your buddy stay in the car. People do this in the middle of rush hour, causing cars traveling in the right lane to get stuck in the intersection if they aren’t able to merge to their left. This is so obnoxious (and lazy), but I’ve never seen the police ever do anything about it. If you have to use this ATM, at least park your car around the corner on Ellsworth. If you are too lazy to walk around the block, just go down the street to the drive-thru B of A ATM. (Speaking of that bank, the guy who robbed it TWICE just got sixteen years.)

2. Parking on the last block of Georgia before the D.C. line during evening rush hour.

Speaking of parking illegally with impunity, there are always cars parked on the last block of Georgia Avenue before Eastern Avenue during evening rush hour. There is a whole row of “no parking” signs along this block, including signs with a little graphic of cars getting towed. I can assure you that NO cars get towed. Granted, the volume of traffic traveling in this direction is small compared to the other side of the street, but there is always a backup whenever a (large) Metrobus has to merge one lane over in order to bypass these unlawful parkers. I don’t know if for some reason this block falls into some sort of no-mans land or DMZ where Montgomery County police refuse to tread but I have NEVER seen a ticket on a single car. (And believe me, I’ve looked.) I’ve e-mailed the MoCo department of parking MULTIPLE times with zero response.

Other News:

- According to reader "cmcg", they called Piratz Tavern and were told the restaurant is set to open September 15th. (Sweet.)

- Don't forget: the Silver Spring Jazz Festival starts tommorow.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Thursday Night Notes

- It annoys me that the Silver Spring: Story of an American Suburb DVD is not available on Netflix. I want to watch it again, but I don't feel like paying $29.95 plus $8 shipping.

- Check out these post-operational, pre-condoization photos of the (former) Canada Dry bottling plant.

- Looks like the fountain in DTSS is about to make its return. Workmen were replacing the tiles this afternoon. It should be returned to normal, water and all, shortly. Let's hope the skateboarders don't destroy it this time.

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- Today's Washington Times has some details on the planned 8-story office tower to be built atop City Place.

"It's going to be a contemporary design," said Jim Denzler, project manager for Morris Ritchie & Associates. "We will incorporate some energy-conscious design components," probably including a "green roof" with vegetation to act as natural insulation.
I do hope that they somehow incorporate streamlined edges that compliment those of the old Hecht's building.

- There was a fatal car accident early Wednesday morning at University Boulevard East and Arcola Avenue. The MoCo police site has additional information.

- A Post writer describes a "World Cup Playgroup" at Silver Spring's "urban Astroturf paradise".

- Also in the Post: an article about all the recent grounbreakings/openings in Silver Spring.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- What's up with Piratz Tavern? It was certainly a popular topic of conversation around here for a while. Last I heard it was supposed to open at the end of August. Anyone hear any updates? One thing I can say for sure is that when it does open, these guys will be performing there.

- The dead jogger found in Fairland Regional Park has been identified. Question: a dead body found lying in a parking lot has "serious head trauma", yet there is "no indication of foul play"? I'm no Columbo, but something seems suspicious to me.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Long Weekend News Wrapup

I'm back. At work. :(

- This is old news now, of course, but in case you missed it a van drove through a group of schoolkids waiting for the bus last Friday in White Oak. MoCo Progressive heard a rumor that the driver may have been unlicensed but hasn't confirmed.

- In honor of the Crocodile Hunter, who was killed yesterday, Discovery will rename their garden the "Steve Irwin Sensory Garden". (Note that CNN says that Discovery's headquarters is in "Silver Springs".) I know they were in a hurry to find some way to honor him, but "Steve Irwin Sensory Garden" sounds a bit odd. To me, at least.

- Another pedestrian was struck at the Georgia and Forest Glen intersection a few hours after the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

- Yet another blogger gives us their impression of DTSS.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Stupid Helicopter Keeping Me Awake

In contrast to the clear skies over South Central L.A. referenced by Ice Cube in his song It Was a Good Day, there IS a "helicopter looking for a murder" (or something) over Silver Spring right now (4AM) and it's keeping me awake. The damn thing has been circling for an hour or so, and the center of its path seems to be Long Branch, if you can believe that.

I take back what I said earlier about never seeing "Ghetto Birds" over Silver Spring.

OK, it just flew away... maybe it ran out of gas or gave up or something. If anyone knows what was going on, let me know. I'll be combing the police reports myself. After I go back to sleep, that is.