Thursday, May 06, 2010

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- I'm very happy for the denizens of Georgetown, whose "Social Safeway" has finally re-opened to much fanfare, but when does our nickname-less Four Corners Safeway get its long-overdue makeover? Is it on Safeway's renovation list, and if so, how far down the list is it? The downtown Silver Spring Safeway was renovated last year, but what about us in the 20901? This is the most convenient supermarket to my house, but due to its mediocrity I will only patronize it if I need something in a pinch. A makeover of the interior would be welcome, just don't touch the classic retro facade.

- Juvenile druggie survivalists setting up a (lightly) armed camp in the middle of Sligo Creek Park? Sure, why not. Reading this story resolved for me a mystery from earlier in the day of how someone reached this blog after googling the phrase "sligo creek golf gunmen".

- Jessup Blair mansion, which had been used up to a couple years ago as low-income housing, will be renovated and could potentially be converted into office space.

- This Saturday at Fenton Street Market: crepes.

- It seems like Pacci's has been quite popular since it first opened last Friday, and though I haven't been back since my sneak preview, I have had take out Pacci's since then. (Thanks to @ThayerAvenue.) My favorite pie so far is the quattro formaggi, since I love anything with Gorgonzola. For those of you who have yet to try the new pizzeria, here's a guest review of Pacci's submitted by a reader:

Pacci's Mini-Review

by AverageJoe

So it's thoroughly unfair to review a restaurant in the first half hour that they are open, but a lot of people were asking how the place was (and judging by the number coming through the door, quite a few took the initiative to go find out themselves), so here are a few first impressions.

First of all, their website still says that they are "opening soon", but does list a phone number. I called at 5:30pm to confirm that they were actually open, and got no answer, but decided to drive by anyway. Sure enough, there were large signs for a grand opening from 6-11pm today. Parking was tough in the service road that I normally use to park for Taste of Jerusalem, and the "drive through", which is familiar to many as a cut through to the Fenton Street Village Garage was completely blocked with four parked cars. Sure enough, the place was quite busy. Even though it was only 6:20, the staff seemed a bit frazzled. A "Welcome to the neighborhood, we're glad you're open" got a "Yeah, so are we." in return.

I took a look at the menu. Kudos to the staff for having TONS of takeout menus all around the long counter against the window, as well as a few large laminated menus for folks at the registers to order off of. I couldn't help but feel like I was in the way when looking at the laminated menu, but like I was getting out of line to look at the paper ones. Oh, the pressure!

All of the pizzas are personal sized, 12" neapolitan pizzas. My wife wanted a "Capriciosa", a red pizza with fresh mozzarella (more on that in a bit), mushrooms, ham, artichokes, black olives and basil. I ordered what may have been the first panini in the nascent history of the restaurant, with prosciutto, mozzarella, tomatoes and pesto.

A few more notes on ordering. Even though all of the toppings are out front, and made fresh to order in the wood fired brick oven that was running at 931 degrees, according to the digital display just below it, you cannot choose your own toppings. You must take one of the selections on the menu. With 26 very enticing options, that shouldn't be a problem. More importantly, the credit card machines have not yet arrived, so the whole joint is cash only. I didn't see anyone have major issues (there is an ATM on the block), but I was surprised not to see any signs, handwritten or otherwise, to that effect.

While I waited, I checked out the patio - a nice sunny area, but not too exposed, between Pacci's and the World Building. I can't wait to have lunch there on a warm day in the future. The restaurant is long and narrow, so the space seemed ample, even though there were just a handful of tables in the back. The bar was full, as was much of the counter that ran the length of the restaurant along the window. A nice cross-section of Silver Spring residents were enjoying the place, the crowd didn't skew particularly young or old. The decorations are still a work in progress, and I could envision Spiro going the DaMarco route with some quiet music and artwork on the wall, or the Roger Miller route, and having a big flat screen with soccer games on to go with the chatter.

The blog had mentioned that there will be early morning offerings of pastries and espresso, when I asked, they said "eventually." Right now, they open at 11am, and the menu is the same all day.

Possibly because of the historic panini (Paninis are made in the kitchen in the back, the brick oven pizza is up front), or possibly because my order got confused (a waiter walked off with "my" pizza), I ended up waiting almost 40 minutes for my takeout order. I'd never hold that against a brand new restaurant, but in the future, they'd do well to "take care" of folks that are kept waiting that long. At $11.50-13.50 for a typical personal pizza, they can spare a fountain drink to keep people happy. I was stuck awkwardly standing or sitting, pretty much in the way of the entire restaurant's comings and goings, for that time.

I got my pizza, and 10 minutes later, another woman brought the panini out, but the frazzled woman running the register wouldn't let either of us get a word in edgewise so that it could be handed over to me! I made it home with a lukewarm pizza (I live off of Sligo Creek Parkway, about 10 minutes away) and panini. The Panini was fantastic, the fresh mozzarella and the basil were both amazing, and the texture of the panini was just right. The salt of the proscuitto was balanced well with the sweetness of the tomatoes. At $7.50, I'd definitely go back for one at lunchtime. The pizza was...just okay, even if they had remembered to put the artichokes on it, which were the main reason my wife ordered the pizza. I chalk that up to a first day experience, and we'll give the pizza itself another shot in a couple of months. For now, if we want a true Italian pizza, we'll stick with the Roman pizza at DaMarco's on Tuesday nights. Their pizza is more consistent, (slightly) cheaper, lighter, and the service is far more friendly, all qualities I have no doubt that Pacci's will pick up as they start to get firing on all cylinders.

On the subject of reviews, this Yelp review of the Quarry House pisses me off more than it should. Note that the douchebag reviewer ripping on Silver Spring lives in Reston.


maralenenok said...

A friend and I got pizzas there at about 6:20 on Friday. Staff was frazzled and I agree that the Capriccioza was very average, but I did get my order pretty fast, and the Four Cheeses white pizza was really tasty. Would go again, and I'd love to sit on the patio.

Anonymous said...

Yikes, the Reston douche-bag is more gratuitously disrespectful than I anticipated:

Unexpected downside [re Quarry House]: We drove all the way out to Silver Spring and hung out in a basement and still paid DC beer prices.

I have a solution. Don't come back to Silver Spring. There, problem solved, no downside for you, pure upside for us.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, what a douche. Though it does annoy me that there isn't a single DTSS bar that has decent happy hour drink specials. The fact that I can get cheaper beer on any Bethesda block makes zero sense. Please change this Fire Station One! PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE?

CP said...

I've always called that Four Corners joint "The Soviet Safeway." On some evenings the stock recalls the Cold War, particularly Sundays when all the leftover produce has been interrogated by the Politburo with a backside slap from the KGB.

squirrelist said...

No, you definitely SHOULD be pissed about the QHT review. Seriously? Reston? He's from RESTON and he complains about our chains? Never mind that he was able to list almost every single restaurant chain in Silver Spring on a single line.

And the beer prices? Give me a break. Unlike some placesbrickskeller *cough* Quarry House's beer menu is constantly reprinted showing the enormous selection of fantastic craft beers they actually HAVE IN STOCK. They don't serve Miller Light or Bud Light, so of COURSE they cost more than $3 each.

And don't get me started on him dissing the tots.

Alex said...

The QH has a number of beers, some cheap (PBR and High Life are a couple of bucks) and some more expensive (pretty much any premium beer you won't find anywhere else). Truth be told, for what they serve, those are some really good prices at the QH. For example, try buying a four-pack of Unibroue anywhere around here. You'll find the QH mark-up is about three bucks on a beer that often costs $15-$16 for a 4-pack. There prices for Chimay are also less than you'll find in most places in DC. That's not too bad at all for those of us who enjoy good beer. But the jackass from Reston was probably hoping he could find a $2 Bud Light or Coors and was disappointed and the high-quality of beers at the QH. Like others have said, if he never comes back, us regulars won't mind in the slightest. Perhaps he could find the cheap Bud Lite he so desires at an Outback or Applebees in Reston.

Alex said...

Oh, and for DTSS happy hour specials, check out Austin Grill. Of course to do that you have to go to Austin Grill, which is never the most pleasing experience in the world.

Pete said...

Last year running on the Sligo trail one morning I saw some haggard bearded guys eating at a card table in the clearing where the trail runs right near Dale Drive. They had a mesh bag with something wriggling in it. I continued on my way. Same survivalists?

Re: DTSS happy hours, Eggspectations has half-price beers and appetizers. Nothing too too special, but a 20oz Sam for $3.50 (I think) is OK with me.

Springvale Roader said...

Like others have said, these particular criticisms someone who lives in the godforsaken suburban wasteland called Reston should not be taken seriously.

I also agree about the scarcity of happy hours in DTSS. Yeah, there's Austin Grill, but I'd rather share a Thunderbird with a streetcorner drunk than go into that place. Adega has a decent happy hour, but it's limited to wine.

You know what place really needs a happy hour? A place that is right near the Silver Spring Metro and whose name rhymes with NatePixYoHeaven. I and other commuters who get off the train would be far more likely to pop in there for our evening constitutional if we could get happy hour prices.

Anonymous said...

RE: Pacci's guest review--if you go to Yelp you'll see 9-10 very positive reviews that have come in since opening day (when the guest review is from). Apparently, on opening day, Pacci's was (according to the owner) caught way off guard by the throngs of customers who showed up. They served about 400 pies that day (and comped a lot of them because of slow service). I've been there since and while the service still has a few kinks to work out, it was generally OK. The appetizers, salad and pizza were delicious, though!

wombat said...

Went to Pacci's last night and the service still needs work. They've obviously been carefully trained to ask the right questions etc, but no amount of training by itself can teach how to prioritize under pressure. Hopefully it will come with experience. The obviously mean well and are trying hard.

We found that the pizza had all the right flavors but they need some work on the construction, as it was quite soggy. If you're going to make such a thin crust you need to go light on the toppings. I know that will turn off some customers, but you can't have it both ways.

They seem very ambitious, though, and are still new, so I am willing to cut them a fair amount of slack. We will definitely go back to try the other items.

Springvale Roader said...


I did my civic duty and gave ol' Scotty a what-for, as the English like to say.


Anonymous said...

Why don't we all give Scott S. a break. Despite his apparent disdain for the restaurants in DTSS, let's take a look at a sampling of his reviews on Yelp of restaurants in Reston:

- Chipotle
- Chick-Fil-A
- Potbelly
- Popeye's
- Dairy Queen
- Domino's
- Taco Bell
- Subway (3 reviews!)
- Uno Chicago Grill
- Rio Grande
- 7-11

Perhaps he deserves our pity more than anything else. Anyone who reviews multiple KFC locations on Yelp isn't someone whose opinion we should be worrying about.

I will give him a bonus point for the Riggo jersey in his user photo but negative points for posting two reviews of the Redskins on Yelp.

Danielle Meitiv said...

Wait a second - this guy was ragging on us and he lives in RESTON? And he says WE'Re 'stuck'? Puhleez!

Anonymous said...

to the poster above who wants cheap happy hour, check out Nicaro. It's actually really cheap. they just suck at marketing. my wife and i stumbled in there one night when Olazzo's was fully to wait for our table (olazzo will call your cell when ready) and couldn't believe the deal on HH beers.

Molly said...

Springvale: "NatePixYoHeaven" does have a happy hour - check out the lower right side of their website. Nothing amazing, but relative to their regular prices, it helps.

Anyone know if the Eggspectations happy hour is bar-only? It's a pity places like Austin Grill don't extend their specials to outside seating.

saucy said...

Huh. Those arrests clear up a mystery I've been wondering about -- I've spotted people, including police, going in and out of those woods for about three weeks now. There were six Park Police cars out there on Thursday, and on Friday I saw a police officer biking along Sligo Creek for the first time ever.

Good to know it was a survivalist camp back there -- I had assumed it was a meth lab.

lis said...

Molly, Eggspectations' HH is unfortunately bar-only. (I've come with a large group, 10 or so, and they have graciously seated us in the main area and given us the specials, but that's probably not standard procedure.) It's a shame that you pay a premium to sit outside during happy hour...

hockeypunk said...

"Downside that doesn't matter all that much: Tater tots are simply not an acceptable fry alternative."

On top of all the other stupid stuff that guy said, this outrages me the most! Tater tots are always MILES above fries. Go to hell Reston guy

Anonymous said...

Forget the Reston reviewer, the Quarry House Tavern can go to hell -- I now have a permanently ringing right ear due to the loud band playing there six months ago. The musicians had ear plugs; I should have known better.

Paulette said...

Finally went to Pacci's last night. The food was great,the wine was okay, and my server couldn't be nicer. The only real bummer was that I was with two other people, and when the check came, they said they could only split it between two credit cards not three. Thankfully one of us had cash. I've never had that happen before, and I hope they will change that policy since so many people use debit cards these days instead of cash.

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