Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Is Leave the Zone Alone the New No Train on Wayne?

It may not be common knowledge to outsiders, but along with being required by law to own a second generation Prius with an Obama bumper sticker, all residents of the neighborhoods immediately surrounding downtown Silver Spring must clearly display yard signs supporting/opposing at least one local issue.

Based on my recent observations, it would appear that "Leave the Zone Alone" is the new NIMBY yard sign du jour.

If, unlike me, you don't happen to live in the Seven Oaks-Evanswood neighborhood, you probably wouldn't know what the hell this means. Even if you inspected the sign closely, you'd probably still have to Google "R-60". Rather than being an obscure droid from the original Star Wars films that George Lucas dredged up to sell more action figures, it's actually one-family residential zoning in Montgomery County.

Sure, the phrase rhymes, but what does it mean to the citizen who lives his life without joining the local listserv (God forbid). How is he to interpret this message? Are you upset the ESPN Zone closed? Is someone messing with the Langley Park AutoZone? At least be clever and upload a "Leave Britney Alone" parody video to YouTube. Or how about one with an enraged Hitler learning about the rezoning of the Chelsea school site? I'd link to that one in a heartbeat.

Personally, I find that this signage falls short of the standard set by No Train on Wayne. I may not agree with that particular position*, but at least with that sign everyone got the message: You don't want no damn train to be on Wayne. That and purple is a much friendlier color. The red and black color scheme of this new sign is just so angry.

(My memory may be hazy, but I swear I once saw a sign where someone had covered up the word "NO" so that the sign just read "Train on Wayne", which made me laugh. Or it didn't. What would have definitely made me snicker is if a pro-purple line group had produced a sign that read "Run a Train on Wayne". Of course, this would be slightly less amusing were your name Wayne.)

I guess it's still better than "Access for All". I suppose nothing really rhymes with bridge, though. Points for anyone who can come up with a good pro/anti-library bridge rhyme.

*After commuting from downtown Bethesda via East West Highway a couple times in the past few weeks, I have come to better appreciate the urgent need for the Purple Line.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Free Chompy!

Bad news out of Discovery HQ: no Chompy (it's not "Chompie") this year. Sir Chompsalot made his triumphant return to Silver Spring last summer after a four year absence, but shall remain ignominiously deflated during this year's Shark Week.


Why no Chompy this year? Cost cutting? Perhaps the $2 million Discovery paid Sarah Palin could have been better spent on Chompy.

Hopefully next summer he will be back where he belongs, this time riding on an inflatable elephant's back, the pair just trampling and eating everything they see.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday News 'N Notes

- The Fillmore Silver Spring is no longer just a hole in the ground fronted by a facade - it has now started to take the form of the music hall it will ultimately become. Check out a set of construction pics recently posted on Facebook.

- The Gulf station parking lot continues to be the epicenter of food truck activity in downtown Silver Spring. Here's the scene last Friday, where there were at least three active trucks (and one inactive) parked there at lunchtime.

Photo via Twitter user @coderbrown.

- Most amusing street name in Silver Spring: Bieber Place.

- offers a quick look at the newly-opened Charm Thai, which replaced the short-lived Mr. Chicken restaurant on Georgia Avenue. (Good news: they deliver)

- While Shitty Place continues to rot, Wheaton Plaza is adding retailers like H&M. Wheaton can support this kind of store, but Silver Spring can not?

I'm beginning to think Shitty Place's only function is as some sort of corporate write-off, passed along from company to company when it outlives its usefulness. When the sale to Petrie Ross Ventures happened four years ago, the chairman of the company claimed they had "an exciting merchandising plan to create a prime destination for shoppers as well as current and future retailers.” Obviously, that particular plan was never implemented. Last summer it was bought by Hutensky Capital Partners, and they haven't done squat either. Unless Westfield or another real mall company buys it, nothing will ever change.

- Pacci's gets a rec in Bethesda Magazine.

- Finally, please refrain from having emergencies in Downtown Silver Spring until further notice.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Screaming for Ice Cream?

Today's weather may indeed be quite agreeable, but the unfortunate truth is that the balance of summer days in this area will be closer in nature to the sweltering heat we experienced last week. Remember how fun that was?

The only real benefit to be derived from this hellish weather is that it provides a excellent excuse to go out and consume some ice cream or comparable frozen treat. We are fortunate in that downtown Silver Spring and the immediately surrounding areas provide a number of options to those seeking to satisfy their summer sweet tooth.

Here's a brief rundown of local ice cream dispensaries. If there are any I've neglected to mention, let me know in the comments.

Tropical Ice Cream Cafe
9324 Georgia Avenue

This may be my personal favorite of the bunch, and I've been getting cones here since it opened over 25 years ago. Until fairly recently the shop was known as York Castle Ice Cream.  I don't know why the name changed after so many years, though I recently visited the actual York Castle and the location didn't exactly scream tropical flavors to me.

This shop may have the most interesting assortment of flavors in this group, as it features ice cream made with many tropical fruits of which I've never heard, including mamey sapote, atemoya and cherimoya. Located in a small strip mall on Georgia Avenue near the entrance to the Beltway (the same one as Goldberg's Bagels), the location isn't the most convenient, particularly if you are coming from the direction of downtown.

8030 Georgia Avenue

This South Silver Spring creamery features locally-produced ice cream in a variety of unique flavors. As with the Tropical Ice Cream Cafe, the only real downside might be the location, which is great if you live in South Silver Spring, but somewhat challenging for those driving due to limited parking.

Ben & Jerry's
903 Ellsworth Drive

Getting ice cream at Ben & Jerry's may be one of those rare occasions when you actually step foot in City Place.

Like Baskin-Robbins, everyone has likely had B&J countless times. Their ice cream is good enough, but you can go to Giant and pick up a pint of most of the flavors available at a B&J's retail outlet. I have noticed the employees are unusually friendly and helpful at this particular store, which in my experience is rarity at similar chain food service locations around here.

(Also, don't be fooled by their folksy presentation, hippies - they aren't owned by those dorky guys in City Slickers, but rather by giant multinational conglomerate Unilever.)

Coldstone Creamery
821 Ellsworth Drive

Based on the lines that form on hot summer evenings, this appears to be the most popular ice cream shop of the group. Either that, or they're really slow.

If you want to indugle in an extremely decadent desert, this is your place. The portions are giant and they will mix like what seems to be a pound of candy in with your ice cream. Cold Stone even has the distinction of having the unhealthiest drink in America, which puts it high in the runnin' for unhealthiest worldwide.

I think Aziz Ansari's take on Coldstone pretty much says it all. (Totally NSFW.)
Aziz Ansari - Cold Stone Creamery
Aziz Ansari Stand-UpAziz Ansari JokesBuy tickets to the New York Comedy Festival

935 Ellsworth Drive 

This local frozen yogurt chain just opened their Silver Spring location last month, and after a few visits it is starting to grow on me. There are quite a few flavors to choose from (red velvet is delicious) and the self-serve toppings bar allows you to be creative with how you supplement your yogurt.

Since you initiate the yogurt-buying process by picking up a giant empty cup, there exists a distinct danger of going overboard. Some combination of frozen yogurt and candy has to fill that cavernous void. Frozen yogurt is nominally more healthy than ice cream, but the differential can easily be erased at the aforementioned toppings bar.

8639 16th St

What can you really say about Baskin-Robbins? It's the biggest ice cream franchise in the world, and odds are that wherever you originally hail from, there was at least one outlet. In the Olden Days, I often frequented the Baskin-Robbins on Piney Branch Rd. While that location may be long gone, but there's still a BR located in the strip mall on 16th St.

The last time I went to BR was a couple years back in order to satisfy a nostalgic craving for peanut butter & chocolate ice cream, but I was disappointed to discover that my ice cream was tainted by freezer burn. I can do that myself at home.

If nothing else, you should sign up for their Birthday Club to take advantage of your annual free cone.

The Ice Cream Man
No Fixed Address

If you think about it, the Ice Cream Man was probably the original food truck. Sadly, he never patrolled my neighborhood when I was a kid. Perhaps that is why I am now obsessed with hunting him down. Like one of Pavlov's dogs, I will come running out of my home after hearing just a few distant notes of "The Entertainer". Unfortunately, I always seem to cross paths with ice cream trucks when I am out for a walk and don't have any cash on me. I suppose I could ask for a loan, but one of many things I learned from Friday is that you shouldn't be in debt to the Ice Cream Man.

The problem with a lot of the ice cream trucks these days is that their owners do a half-assed job of dressing up their vehicles. Like most of the cabs in D.C., they are simply older vehicles sloppily re-purposed, and frequently the owners don't do much to hide the truck's former function aside from haphazardly slapping on a few Good Humor logos. It makes them look sketchy even when they are perfectly legit.

Outside of the standalone shops mentioned above, there are also a handful of other frozen treat options in Silver Spring, including Whole Foods (gelato), Kefa Cafe (gelato), Mama Lucia's (gelato), Potbelly (cones and shakes) and Nando's (bottomless soft serve).

Sadly missing from the list is Dairy Queen. There are days where I would literally kill for a Blizzard or a soft-serve cone dipped in chocolate. For whatever reason, Dairy Queen locations are few and far between in MoCo. The closest (non-mall) DQ is in Twinbrook, and you have to deal with miles of slow-moving SSINO traffic to get there.

Did I miss anything?

Friday, June 03, 2011

Friday News 'N Notes

- The Moroccan restaurant located at the corner of Georgia and Thayer is now open for business, though unlike originally reported, it is not a pseudo-reincarnation of City Place's erstwhile Taste of Morocco. Rather, it is an all-new restaurant named Marrakesh. Interestingly, the restaurant only serves a seven-course meal priced at $29. There's no menu. I suppose this might be a nice option if you're in the mood (or hungry enough) for that sort of thing, though the time I visited actual Marrakesh, I always ordered from a menu. I'm curious to see how this format works out for them in the long run.

- As they promised when they first opened, Pacci's has begun offering curbside pizza pickup. A bit of advice: if you opt for takeout from Pacci's, consider ordering a white pizza. In my experience the pies with tomatoes, while great when eaten promptly in the restaurant, tend to get a bit soggy on the ride home.

- Society Restaurant has received its building permit, so expect renovations in that space to begin shortly. Not sure what type of upgrades they are planning for Society, but I imagine a decent amount was already invested in construction when Nicaro initially opened a few years back.

- To follow up to my earlier post on Silver Spring's International Style homes, there's another house built in this style hidden away on Renfrew Road of which I was previously unaware. I drove by to check it out but neglected to snap a pic. (Thanks to commenter Olya Dougherty for the tip.)

Also, the new owners of the house on Flower Avenue that recently sold are in the process of restoring it and have even started a blog detailing their efforts. Check out the photo tour. Clearly, it's a bit of a fixer-upper but it has potential.

- Silver Spring's inaugural Ethiopian Festival is scheduled for June 25, from 3-9 in DTSS. From the press release:

The festival is an Ethiopian inspired event featuring educational, cultural and contemporary components such as: art walks, fashion features, traditional music and folk dance, coffee ceremonies and contemporary music headliners.
I went to the recent Indonesian Festival in DTSS and the food they were selling smelled wonderful. Unfortunately, the lines were 30+ deep and Sligo Jr. didn't have the patience for those wait times so I ended up missing out.

- Silver Spring Library's budget: not cut as threatened. I find it amazing that despite that our current library facing massive budget cuts, there still exists a large faction out there that thinks it's a reasonable idea to drop $800K on a library bridge. This ain't 1999, people.

- Is your antiquated Gateway i386 PC still gathering dust in the attic? Now's your chance to dispose of it properly - the county is sponsoring a electronics recycling event this Sunday in the Montgomery Blair HS parking lot. Details here (PDF). (I love that the county also puts out its flyers in Amharic.)

- A menu from Silver Spring's Luau Hut is now a part of the Smithsonian collection. Really. (h/t  Washington Gardner)

It's no Amityville Horror House, but its history makes it creepy nonetheless.
- The story of Silver Spring's "Homicide House" (As Pat Collins likes to call it) has gone international, with recent mentions in both Canadian and British newspapers. If the bank can get its asking price of $515K for a 1,408 sq. ft. murder house, you know the DC housing market really is as strong as reported. In related news, the attorney for one of the men convicted in the most recent murder there believes his client's sentence is "unjust"...