Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Coveting thy Neighbor's Restaurants & Retail (Part 2 of 3)

After an extended delay, here is part two of my series on businesses presently enjoyed by our neighbors in Bethesda that I'd like to see opened here in Silver Spring. You can read part one of this three-part series here.

A Sports Bar

One type of establishment whose absence from Silver Spring has been lamented ad infinitum in the comments section of this blog is a sports bar. While there may indeed be bars and restaurants in the downtown area at which one can view sporting events, there isn’t a proper sports bar. I am referring to the kind of bar that is decorated with jerseys, pennants, etc. and which caters to guests who come for the primary purpose of viewing sporting events. In my opinion, a sports bar should offer the following:

- Adequately-sized televisions within line of site of all areas of the restaurant. Little mini-TVs in the booths are great, too.

- At least one large, pull down screen on which the featured game can be projected.

- All or most TVs at the bar should be showing programming in high definition. A major pet peeve of mine is going to a bar to watch a big game and finding out all they have is high-def sets displaying a stretched-out standard definition picture, which is actually worse than watching it on a standard TV. This scenario happened to me recently at a certain location in Silver Spring, but by the time I realized it, I had already committed. Why buy the HDTV if you don't get the HD service? (Kudos to places like Olazzo, though while small, still have a proper HD setup.)

- A Golden Tee machine.

- Not a requirement, but a major plus: televisions positioned above the urinals, à la the defunct Willie & Reed’s.

Caddie’s on Cordell in Bethesda certainly qualifies as a "real" sports bar, and as a bonus it even has an outdoor seating area. Caddies may devolve into Douchebag Central on weekend nights, but it’s still a great go-to place for big games. I don’t know of anywhere in Silver Spring that would come close to classifying as such.

Interior of Caddie's on Cordell

So where exactly in Silver Spring would this hypothetical sports bar be located? A custom-built space in a revamped City Place? (hah!) How about the building in East Silver Spring most recently occupied by the Gallery Restaurant and Lounge? Not the optimal location, perhaps, but hey, it's a good space and it's available.

The interior of Gallery. Whatever happened to all those Eames chairs?

I grudgingly accept that any new sports bar in Montgomery County would quickly be commandeered by carpetbagger football fans with their Steelers, Red Sox and (vomits in mouth) Cowboys loyalties, but that's something I'm willing to live with get a place to watch games. That's just an unfortunate fact of life in modern-day metropolitan Washington.

Design Within Reach

(Pauses to allow laughter subside) Of course, this is just pure fantasy – even more so than Steve Jobs opening an Apple Store on Ellsworth. But whatever, this is the my list and I appreciate modern furniture. It's quite enjoyable to browse through Design Within Reach and masquerade as someone interested in buying a $10,000 sofa. Mostly, it'd be a good prestige store for Silver Spring to have. We've had high end retail before - remember our Marimekko store? On second thought, bad example.

DWR usually tries to locate their showrooms historic or unique properties. It's a little late now, but the old fire station, now home to the Fire Station 1 restaurant, would have been perfect.


While there already exists a CVS in the Blair Plaza Shopping Center, this pedestrian-unfriendly location isn't particularly convenient for those of us who reside on the eastern side of Georgia Avenue. Plenty of vitriol has been spewed against CVS, and while much of it deserved, CVS is useful because in addition to prescription drugs it offers a wide variety of other merchandise. As things stand right now, where in or immediately around DTSS can you quickly run in and get a candy bar?* Imagine being able to buy a box of Junior Mints across the street from the Majestic to sneak into a movie? Not that I would ever advocate such a deplorable act, of course.

It's not as if there's no precedent for a CVS. For years there was a drug store located in the area that the DTSS development now occupies. Most recently there was large Rite Aid in the Silver Spring Shopping Center, and before that there was a succession of drug stores in that same shopping center.

Circa 1970's Drug Fair in the Silver Spring Shopping Center, now part of DTSS.

I realize many people cherish the concept of a mom and pop pharmacy, but some of the comments left on this blog regarding the now-departed Upscale Pharmacy illustrate that perhaps in practice such a business is not ideal. How about throw a CVS into City Place? That's the type of business with universal appeal that would actually get people through the doors.

*I do not count the $3 chocolate bars at Whole Foods.


Mike said...

I've always had a hankerin' for a Hard Times Cafe just so I can get Cincinnati-style fix taken care of (well, it's as close as I can get around ehre).

Todd said...

I would trade Firestation 1 for just about anything, including Design Within Reach!

Anonymous said...

CVS? um.. Safeway? Its a supersized CVS. A CVS inside City place doesn't make any sense. Wheres the convenience in having to park in a multi leveled car garage, walk over a bridge, go on several escalators to buy pharmacy goods?

Sligo said...

My point was that you don't have to drive to go to a City Place CVS. It would be extremely convenient were you already down around DTSS for whatever other reason (movies, dinner, etc, etc.) If I was driving I'd go somewhere else entirely.

Springvale Roader said...

I would love to have a CVS to walk to. The defunct Hollywood Video across from Whole Foods seems like a good fit.

And I second Mike on a Hard Times Cafe. DTSS does need that kind of restaurant, and they make great vegetarian chili.

Now if only we could make the ideas on this blog a reality...

Anonymous said...

Hard to imagine CVS opening another branch with one in Blair plaza and another less than a mile up Georgia Ave., but maybe a competitor. I've actually had fairly good experiences watching sports at Galaxy billiards; two big pull down screens and a staff that didn't really hassle me for hanging around for three hours eating a plate of appetizers and a beer.

Old Timer said...

Businesses such as you all mention clearly aren't interested in Silver Spring's CBD or they already would be here. And when they look at stories about the recent mass-mugging (and see from all our posts that no solution to the "thug" problem is likely, because most Springers are not interested in an oppressive police presence) they are even less likely to invest here. (Why invest in a place where many potential customers are afraid to go, or at least find distastful?) Better for us to wish for more small, independently owned businesses like they have in Takoma Park -- and like we already "enjoy" at City Place.

hugo said...

Galaxy is my go-to place for sporting events as well. They've got a good setup, reasonable prices and plenty of space. I'd go there long before Caddie's, though the outdoor seating there is nice.

Terry in Silver Spring said...

Honestly, both Galaxy or McGinties are loading with TV's showing sports. You could probably talk the McGinities guys into putting up a few jerseys and such on the wall but they may end up being from Irish rugby teams. :)

Regarding CVS, I have a love hate relationship with that store. OMG, pretty much any CVS store I've been in around the country is CHAOS at the check out. It's like the planned it that way. I also hate how they leave the boxes in the aisles from which to stock the shelves...right where they get in the way or are trip hazards. The staff tends to be surly, too. But....they do tend to have what you are looking for and their store club card gets you some good deals. I shop at RiteAid there by Kinkos/FedEx for the most part. Nice staff, store tends to be tidy, I can understand the check out arrangement better. But they don't carry quite as large a range of items.

I would love to see a Target in City Place, but agree with the point in an early post to the blog that since there's a store in Wheaton Plaza and one on Cherryhill Road that it doesn't make sense to put one here.

A CB2 store would be great, it'd be the first in Maryland and the DC area ( It's a furniture branch of Crate and Barrel that sells furniture and housewears at better prices than Crate and Barrel.

It'd also be nice to have more clothes stores. Ann Taylor and NY&Co are fine, Mens Warehouse, too. DWS is a good place. Put some more quality clothes stores in, perhaps in City Place. Get a critical mass of clothes and shoe stores to draw in more traffic. I miss Nordstrom Rack, btw.

What about a couple more art galleries? I love the Pyramid Arts shop but it could use some company.

Anonymous said...

I loathe CVS. But I do sort of have a crush on one of the guys who works at the one in the Blairs (hi, Logan...)

WashingtonGardener said...

I suggest DWR move into the old Gallery space, which does have an interesting history of its own* and is a perfect showcase for them.

CVS, schmee-be-s. How about a Walgreen's just so we have some choices around here. And locating it in Hollywood Videos old spot is a good idea.

PS Personally have no need for a sports bar, but what is wrong with Galaxy Billiards set up?

Sligo said...

Galaxy is a billiards hall that shows sports, not a sports bar/restaurant. It does have plenty of TVs, but it's not oriented for big crowds watching games.

Gnu said...

@Terry: I remember reading long ago on a design blog that a CB2 was being opened downtown somewhere... my heart lept with joy but I haven't heard anything about it since. It's really just fancified Ikea but they do carry some interesting stuff.

Anonymous said...

My votes:
-Gap and Gap Kids. Not local small business, but broad appeal. They'd make a killing.
-Bike shop. Long ago there was one where Qdoba is now.
-An expanded Adega. They need a bigger space with better design. They could carry more wine (more chilled white!), sell good deserts to go, have more seating.

Anonymous said...

Sports Bar?! Cool suggestion Bro!

Pete said...

Agree that McGinty's and Galaxy are not ideal for big game watching. Adequate, but not ideal.

CB2 would be a good fit and a destination, I think. The new Room and Board down on 14th street has a similar demo (altho R+B is a little ritzier) and it's always packed.

(Side note, if you like vintage mcm furniture, Doug at Modern Mobler on Georgia Ave near Walter Reed is great!)

A bike shop would be great, but Silver Cycles just up Georgia has always been good to me. And there's a bike shop in the Parkway Deli shopping center...

Anonymous said...

CB2 is supposedly going to Georgetown (or possibly 14th street logan circle) for their first DC store. I think they would be a huge draw to City Place but I can't imagine their first foray into our market would be in Silver Spring (you never know...stranger things have happened). The DC market surely can support more than one CB2.

I recently went to a CB2 in San Francisco and was very pleasantly surprised at the quality of their merchandise. I was expecting the same thing as West Elm (Pottery Barn's version of CB2) but it is much higher quality with similar lower prices.

Maybe if the SS blogosphere started a write-in campaign to the new owners of City Place we could influence the kind of retailers/services they went after. Who's in it with me?

Sligo said...

I was just at the SoHo CB2 this past weekend. The stuff is particularly good for apartment living. It's like pricier IKEA furniture that may last more than 3 years.

Anonymous said...

I think Fire Station 1 could be a good sports bar if they simply installed more TV's on the first floor and put in a big pull-down screen that goes over the big front window (this would also keep out the light so we could actually see the game). It is already a very open layout and it doesn't seem as if it would be too hard to do - You would not need that many TV's to enable everyone to see the games. I agree that a drug store is needed. I hate haveing to go to the CVS or Rite Aid on the other side of the train tracks if I need to get something. Other places I would like to see:
1. A French/Belgian Bistro. Something with the Quarry House's beer menu but with bistro food (mussels and fries, hanger steaks, etc). It could also serve brunch. Think mannequin pis in Olney.
2. Sur la Table - Would fit nicely in the American Apparel space, no?
3. If no Sur la Table, I agree with previous commentators that a Bed, Bath and Beyond would be great.
4. Gap/Gap Kids - Is there anywhere in downtown that sells men's jeans (Marshall's is to hit or miss for it to count).

Anonymous said...

Folks, don't get your hopes up too much for the type of retail we'll see in City Place. Take a look at the "key tenants" for some of the other properties managed by the Hutensky Group:

Terry in Silver Spring said...

I just read the Hutinsky Group page at the above URL. Grocery stores, those locations are probably strip malls.

But that got me thinking. If I had a slew of money, I think it would be neat to rework the City place shops into the heart and soul of organic, earthy crunchy, earth friendly shopping, eating, and living. Recruit shops that fit in with a green life style. You have folks already going to Whole Foods catty corner across the street. Turn the stinky old mall into something that would appeal to those people, hipsters moving into N.E., Takoma Parksters, and even some people from the other side of Rock Creek Park. It would be unique in the area.

Anonymous said...

Sligo, I'm surprised no one's given a shout out to the Corner Pub (off Colesville Rd in 4 Corners). Excellent draft beer (best in the area really), lots of sports memorabelia, lots of well positioned TVs, and Keno to boot. Even has some proper tables in the back for large parties. Granted it's not "downtown," but it's a quality sports bar in the area with decent bar food.

Patrick Thornton said...

The issue with City Place is not the tenants, but rather the building itself and its setup. On all sides of City Place there are better tenants and people enjoy the experience. You're never going to get high quality stores in a tiny, poorly designed urban mall, especially one surrounded by an area like Downtown Silver Spring. People want the DTSS experience, not the City Place experience.

Instead, City Place needs to be redone into something like the rest of Ellsworth. Once you do that, and keep all the walking on the outside, instead of inside like City Place, you'll attract quality tenants.

People don't go to places like Ellsworth to go inside. They want to be outside with the crowds.

Never worry about tenants. Those are always short term. What you really need to be concerned with is the quality of the buildings and the setup.

City Place could not honestly be a worse fit. I don't think it would cost that much to retrofit it (it is, after all, already a retrofit), but it needs be redone.

If City Place was redone to be like the part of DTSS attached to it, it would do much better. Then I would work on converting that attached parking garage to something more productive.

Sligo said...

Re: Corner Pub

Yes, Corner Pub is a classic old school bar, but I was speaking in the context of downtown Silver Spring. Corner Pub is definitely one of those locals-only type of joints.

JPB said...

As for a sports bar, are the spaces formerly occupied by Ceviche and Hollywood Video adequately sized/located for such? I'd think somewhere within a 5 minute walk of the Metro would be ideal for anyone returning from work and wanting to catch the game. Doesn't seem feasible for any new construction at the moment.

Already cluttered with chains, I'd like to see a Jason's Deli go in at the Hollywood Video locale (don't know what's in there currently). Also, a Rita's may fit in nicely somewhere with its small footprint and high pedestrian traffic customers (although seasonal).

Edeep said...

Even if a Design Within Reach was placed in Silver Spring it would be just as sparse as the one in Bethesda.

Most of the stuff at DWR can be found at Room and Board, Millennium Decorative Arts, or hell even Macy's has similar items that are sourced from the same design houses as DWR.

Sligo said...

I'd be fine with a Room and Board too.

Nancy said...

Walgreens not CVS. I think CVS by design is customer unfriendly. For a chain store Walgreen's is incredibly pleasant.

@Anonymous a bike store would be great. SS has 2 but none in the heart of DT. One that would specialize in outfitting commuters and would make all cyclists feel comfortable and welcome would be great.

In addition to the home furnishing retail, a place like Sur La Table would be great

Anonymous said...


My Christmas Wishlist for Silver Spring:

1. A strip club on Georgia Ave.
2. A couple of XXX-theme shops on Fenton.
3. A small venue music club that caters to fans of punk, heavy metal, and gangsta rap.
4. A night club some where in south Silver Spring to replace The Gallery.

Who needs a "family-friendly" Silver Spring. If you want a family environment, go to Bethesda for boring family dinners and movies.


Anonymous said...

I've been to the pool hall to watch games.

That awway with Piratz and open it there.

Or give me a real bar in Blair Plaza.

Anonymous said...

We need a G St Fabrics-just think of the traffic that would bring!

Terry in Silver Spring said...

Actually, a high quality fabric place isn't a bad idea. It would be nice to capitalize on the Pyramid Arts store (and even Plaza) and get some kind of critical mass going for local arts and quality crafts. It would suit the funky Silver Spring atmosphere, too.

Springvale Roader said...

Do away with Piratz? Over my dead body, ye scurvy scallywag! Sports bars are a dime a dozen, but Piratz is a Silver Spring treasure.

Show me another bar where people wearing authentic pirate gear will wander up to your table and sing a genuine shanty. Better yet, Piratz not only allows you to linger as long as you'd like with a board game on your table, but they encourage it. Some of my best drinking nights have been when a pirate joined me and my wife for a round of cards or dice games. God love 'em.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy looking at this blog. After living on the edge of DTSS for over twenty years, I did the unthinkable. I moved to (gasp) Virginia - Alexandria to be precise. Reading this blog post moving always reminds me how much nicer life is here, even if our politicians in Richmond are fascists. Come on - all you well educated and embattled SSr's - do yourself a favor and carpetbag on down here to a better quality of life. If enough of you do, maybe we could even get some centerists elected to state office next go round.

Anonymous said...

Tear it down or rehab it into somethiong like Bethesda Row (in Bethesda)

Anonymous said...

"do yourself a favor and carpetbag on down here to a better quality of life"

I lived in Virginia for 5 years before moving to Silver Spring, and I loved it. However, for how bad the red line can be, I would never live in Virginia again just to avoid the horrendous orange line (though the blue and yellow aren't fun either) and the unbelievably bad traffic, which is much worse than MD. I also enjoy the diversity in Silver Spring better than the segregated neighborhoods that exist in Virginia.

Patrick Thornton said...


Congrats on creating a Christmas wish list for how to ruin DTSS. It takes a lot of skill to come up with that many bad ideas that quickly.

Springvale Roader said...

At Anonymous in Alexandria: How is the quality of life better in NovA than in Silver Spring? Please elaborate.

Personally, while I recognize the problems Silver Spring has, I also recognize how many great things we enjoy here. The AFI, one of the greatest movie theaters on Earth. A metro stop we can walk to. Interesting local shops (Alliance Comics, Silver Spring Books). Crossings, for Tai Chi and similar classes, and Willow Street, for yoga. Sligo Creek Park and a path that leads to Brookside Gardens. Tennis courts. Soon, an ice skating rink.

And since I'm a foodie, restaurants galore. This Saturday night my wife and I walked to Mandalay. We sat there, and I remarked how fortunate we were that within 10 minutes walk all around us were not only this terrific Burmese restaurant, but African, Thai, Indian, Ethiopian, Italian, Chinese, gourmet pizza, a pirate bar, a dive bar, a wine bar, and upscale joints like 8407, Jackie's, and Mrs. K's (glorious French wine cellar).

Sure, we could use better stores and fewer hoodlums, but as you pointed out, we also do not have religiously insane fascists running our state.

All in all, I really enjoy living in Silver Spring.

Anonymous said...

Better quality of life in Virginia? No thanks. The lack of urban planning that NoVa has for its business centers is 3rd worldly.

Anonymous said...


Me thinks Patrick Thornton does not understand dark humor too well.


Anonymous said...

Me thinks you have the word "hate" in your name for a reason.

Patrick Thornton said...


I'm torn about you. I'm not sure if you really hate yuppies or if you're really a 20-somesomething hipster/yuppy who likes making comments in the mold of Stuff White People Like.

Anonymous said...


-Not a hipster.

-Not a yuppie.

Just a dude who thinks we live in a bull shit world where capitalism and government authority keeps the little man down so rich people can get all of the rewards.

People write about stores and restaurants coming to DTSS and this is supposed to make a big difference in our lives????? Who fucking cares. We are slaves and consumers who do nothing to stop the Capitalists and Governments from destroying our planet and our freedoms. But hey, if an Apple Store or a Bed, Bath & Beyond coming to DTSS gets people excited in this blog, kudos to them. I wish I could live in denial and ignorance just like everyone else.

I could put "IHATECAPITALISTS" as my new name but that would offend even more people.


dark said...

I am really tired of people obsessing over a "Target" and "CVS" as if they are the end all, be all of retail/pharmacy. We have a convenient Target in Wheaton and Cherry Hill road, and downtown silver spring is just not retrofitted for a huge big box store like Target. CVS is every where, on every block in DC and there is 2 within 5 minutes of driving from city place. WALGREENS just opened in White Oak and another location would be perfect where the Ruby Tuesday's departed.

Anonymous said...

IHY I think you should move to a country without capitalism as it's fundamental market principle and see how much you like the compromises you will have to make in order to have financial "equal opportunities". You can rule out most of North & South America, Western Europe, Japan, South Korea or virtually any of the other developed nations of the world. Go for it and report back on the Utopian conditions you find.

Anonymous said...

City Place ought to do what was done to Mazza Galleria in upper NW DC. When built, it was a mausoleum, with virtually no windows. It was completely uninviting to sidewalk pedestrians. They opened up the facade and foot traffic was much better. I realize City Place's bizarre design will make this difficult. If not a viable option, just implode the damn thing. It is an eyesore.

A Michael's Craft store would be a good addition to DTSS.

Has this community ever though of actually lobbying for specific stores? I believe that the neighborhood was instrumental in reviving the strip mall on Rt. 29, near Burnt Mills. They presented prospective tenants with cold, hard numbers. They snagged the Starbucks and Whole Foods. I'm not a fan of either store, actually, but they do bring in customers.

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