Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Coveting thy Neighbor's Restaurants & Retail (Part 1 of 3)

Silver Spring and Bethesda are southern Montgomery County suburbs with downtown shopping and entertainment areas separated by just five miles of East West Highway. As a result of their proximity, they have inevitably been compared with each other over the years.

I know that in the minds of some Silver Springers, downtown Bethesda is the Anti-Silver Spring and that admitting anything they have there is superior would be tantamount to sacrilege, but the truth is that while my loyalty remains with Silver Spring, I am a bit envious of some aspects of downtown Bethesda.

With that in mind, I drafted a list of the top ten things that the denizens of Bethesda presently enjoy that I’d love to see us also have in Silver Spring. This list will be presented in three parts, and the items on it are in no particular order. It may be completely unrealistic to ever expect certain things on the list to ever materialize in Silver Spring, but others seem like obvious holes in our downtown shopping and dining landscape.

I should also mention before I proceed that there are retailers in Bethesda that I never want to see in Silver Spring, such as bakeries for dogs or something called "Sassanova".

So without further ado, the first three items of my list:

1. Rita’s Crepe Stand

Sometime last year, Rita’s Crepes opened in downtown Bethesda at the corner of Bethesda and Woodmont Avenues. What I wouldn’t give for something like this in Silver Spring. I’d trade the Auntie Anne’s pretzel stand on the Promenade for this in a heartbeat.

There are few foodstuffs I covet more than a fresh Nutella-filled crepe. Aside from being delicious, they evoke fond memories of Paris. Mmmmmmmmmm…crepes.

Photo from Rita’s Crepes Facebook Page.

Sure, there is a crepe stand at the Fenton Street Market, but the market is only open on Saturdays from 9-3, and only during the warmer months, so crepe availability is fairly limited. The beauty of crepes is that they make a great cold weather dessert - kind of like ice cream for the winter.

2. City Sports

I just noticed for the first time last week that downtown Bethesda now has a City Sports store. How is that downtown Bethesda has two sporting goods stores (they also have a Modell’s) while Silver Spring has zero? Are you telling me that downtown Silver Spring can’t support a proper sporting goods store?

I recently wanted to purchase some new gym clothes and had to travel all the way up to the Target and Kohl’s in SSINO to find what I needed. Side note: I love the fact that that if you Google the phrase “Sporting Goods Silver Spring”, Atlantic Guns is the top result.

Sure, there’s a Pacer’s Running Store in Silver Spring, but their inventory is limited to merchandise for a single sport. Where does one go around here if they want to purchase a soccer ball or perhaps a Stephen Strasburg jersey? Bethesda, I suppose.

3. Apple Store

While I may classify myself as a mid-level Apple fanboy, I freely admit that an Apple Store is totally superfluous. Outside of iPhone launches, I’m not sure if anyone actually buys anything at them despite their being packed wall-to-wall with people from open to close. Apple Stores just seem to attract hordes of iPad gawkers using some mystical marketing tractor beam. I would even venture that placing an Apple Store inside Shitty Place could even get two - perhaps even three - dozen people to venture into the mall each month!

Even if you are not enamored with Apple products, you have to admit that having an Apple retail location in your town brings with it a high level of prestige. To be touched by the Hand of Jobs means that where you live matters.

To be continued...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Another City Place Fail: Gold's Gym

This happened a few days ago, but for those of you unaware, the Gold's Gym in City Place has permanently closed.

I'm not sure what the attraction of Gold's was when compared to WSC and LA Fitness, other than perhaps a cheaper (?) membership fee. The complaint I always heard about the City Place Gold's was that it was a franchised location and the membership wasn't good at any other area Gold's locations.

Thanks to reader GC for submitting the photo.

Langano Getting Kicked to the Curb?

It's interesting the bits of information you can glean from commercial real estate sites such as LoopNet. For one, there is the fact that the Silver Spring post office intends to relocate in the next couple of years.

It would also appear from this listing that Langano, the Ethopian restaurant on Georgia Avenue will be "removed" as soon as their landlord can find a tenant to replace them. It'd be unfortunate to lose a pre-Silver "Sprung" restaurant, but that's the nature of the business, I suppose.

Admittedly, I haven't eaten at Langano in quite a few years. My personal embargo stems from an unfortunate lunch buffet incident involving a particularly spicy dish and the wait staff's complete disinterest in refilling my water glass or generally providing any customer service whatsoever.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

You Will Never Have Your Fillmore

Hahahhahahah remember just last week when you thought the Fillmore was a done deal after the project was approved by the county planning board? Don't be so naive. Now IMP (the 9:30 Club) is suing the county to stop it:

The lawsuit against the state, filed this week in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court by the club's parent company, IMP Inc., and that company's co-owner Seth Hurwitz, challenges the state subsidy for the project; Montgomery County is also spending $4 million in county funds. The suit says state officials would be breaking the law by paying the subsidy because Montgomery has provided only "skimpy" information about the project's costs, despite requirements by the General Assembly for more information.
The MF'n saga continues.

Some Fillmore Flashbacks:

Straight From the Other Horse's Mouth

Live Nation Q&A

Live Nation: Straight From The Horse's Mouth

IMP = Total Hypocrites

Beating a Dead Horse

For Sale: The Post Office

Hey look: Silver Spring's main post office on 2nd Avenue is for sale. Presumably they will be moving elsewhere. Where, I have no idea.

Here's the key component of their sales pitch: "A major attraction of this area is the transformative City Place".

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hump Day News 'N Notes

- Silver Spring's favorite/only Burmese restaurant, Mandalay, is expanding - opening up a second location at 9th & P streets in the District. How could this development positively affect you as a patron of the Silver Spring location? According to Washington Business Journal, the owner will "travel to Burma to get input on the new menu, with the hopes of adding 30 new dishes and a refined cocktail menu". Let's hope these new dishes are adopted at the existing Mandalay, as well.

Mandalay will join Mi Rancho and McGinty's (and others?) as restaurants which have opened new locations around the region after establishing themselves in Silver Spring. And yes, I do know that Mandalay started in College Park, but it moved here long before expanding.

- And here's a backhanded compliment on our restaurants taken from Tom Sietsema's "Ask Tom" chat on the WP website today (emphasis mine):

Q. Bethesda's mediocrity: Any theories why Bethesda has such mediocre restaurants? It's strange, considering. Wheaton and Silver Spring seem to do a lot better, and they're less well-off.

A. Tom Sietsema writes: Money does not buy taste. It amazes me, too. What say the chatters?
- Beginning July 1, Starbucks will begin offering free wi-fi at all company-owned stores. The DTSS location will then join Borders and Eggspectations in offering complimentary access along The Promenade. Sure, there's long been Silver Spring's free wi-fi, but that service never seems to work quite right for me. I can get what appears to be a slow connection on my phone, though most of the time there barely seems to be any data sent or received. I'm usually better off suffering with my craptacular AT&T 3G service.

- There was a great crowd at McGinty's for the USA-England World Cup match this past weekend. By the time the match started, it was standing room only in the packed upstairs bar. That being said, Silver Spring still really needs a proper sports bar, something I know readers of this blog have long coveted. Optimally, this bar would have a large projection screen, a feature essential to hosting large crowds for sporting events.

- A reminder: check out Bravo's Top Chef D.C. premiere tonight for a possible cameo from our local Whole Foods. Not sure if it will appear in this particular episode, though they did film at least one segment there.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday News 'N Notes

- The seemingly never-ending saga of the Silver Spring Birchmere Fillmore took another step toward conclusion this week, as the Planning Board approved the plan for the music hall and the office and hotel projects that go along with it.

- In other good news, Sligo Creek Golf Course will remain open "indefinitely", though it's not entirely clear what that means. At least through the end of this year's golf season, and "most likely" for the next few years, though the course's long-term future remains a bit hazy.

I have have yet to receive an explanation as to why the Revenue Authority can't go ahead and build mini golf courses on the grounds. Were the mini golf and lighted driving ranges a package deal? Surely, neighbors can't reasonably protest the presence of mini golf alone, or would these, too, require disruptive lighting? If these courses could bring in additional revenue as the Authority originally claimed, why not just add them in the absence of the proposed driving ranges that would have accompanied them?

- Our local food blogger SoCo Eats recounts his first visit to Fire Station 1.

- Fenton Street Market: now with more Theremin!:

Arthur Harrison, formerly of DC’s favorite steampunk band The Cassettes, will be on hand to entertain with his amazing [theramin] skills.
Ok, A. Were there multiple steampunk bands in D.C.? And B. will he be taking requests? If so, here's mine:

- Just a reminder, the designated (by me, anyway) place to watch this Saturday’s U.S.A. v. England match in Silver Spring is McGinty’s. Even if you aren’t into the sport of soccer, go for the nationalism. The match starts at 2:30, but I’d recommend getting their earlier to try and secure a table. I’ve been surreptitiously watching today’s games via streaming video at work, though ESPN’s page seems to have crapped out so I've been forced to watch the afternoon game en EspaƱol via

Monday, June 07, 2010

World Cup. Saturday. McGinty's.

As I’m sure you’re acutely aware, the upcoming weekend marks the start of the FIFA World Cup, the quadrennial sporting event that manages to slightly pique Americans’ interest in international soccer (“football”) for about a month. To make things particularly intriguing this year, Team U.S.A. has drawn an opening match against The Three Lions on Saturday afternoon.

Such an event is of course significantly more enjoyable to view as part as a partisan crowd, so I figure those of us in Silver Spring who are interested should congregate in a predetermined place to view the match. With that in mind, by the power invested in me by no one, I hereby declare McGinty’s Public House the Official Place to Watch the World Cup in Downtown Silver SpringTM. At least for this Saturday. Sure, it may seem like the obvious choice, but where better to root against England than in an Irish pub? I briefly considered the brand new Fire Station 1 with its 16 6 brand-new televisions as a venue. However, due to their hiccups over opening weekend, I figure they need a little seasoning prior to hosting an event of such magnitude.

The match begins at 2:30, but I would strongly advise arriving somewhat in advance of that time to get a decent spot. Hopefully the U.S.A. will inflict a defeat so devastating that Wayne Rooney and his mates will be relegated to residing in a trailer park.

For fans of England, the viewing party will be held at the bus station on Fenton Street.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Friday News 'N Notes

- So Fire Station 1 may be open today. Or not. If anyone can swing by today and confirm its status, please do. If it's up and running by next weekend, it may serve as a good venue for a U.S. v. England World Cup match viewing party. More to come on that.

- Silver Spring's unfortunate Murder House was the subject of a recent article in the Los Angeles Times.

- On the subject of killings, someone beheaded a chicken and left its rotting corpse at the corner of 16th St. and 2nd Ave. Do we have active practitioners of Voodoo in our neighborhood?

- Sadly, unlike Krispy Kreme and Dunkin' Donuts (neither of which we have), The Fractured Prune does not appear to be participating in today's National Doughnut Day. In their defense, some locations did give away free doughnuts on Memorial Day. Of course, you could just go in there today and demand a complimentary doughnut. Let me know how that works out.

- Set your DVRs: the new season of Top Chef begins June 16th. Now, why should one watch this for any other reason than to ogle Padma Lakshmi? Because reportedly segments of this latest season were filmed in our neighborhood Whole Foods.

- So now that Rue McClanahan has passed away, should we expect a zombie Blanche at this year's Zombie Walk to go along with the zombie Dorothy and Sophias?

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Homicidal Dwarf on the Loose in Silver Spring

The prime suspect in last week's recent murder on Georgia Avenue? He's 3'11".

(And just to preempt any unwarranted P.C. criticism - here's the definition of dwarf from the Little People of America website.)