Wednesday, December 11, 2013

First Take: Urban Butcher

Thanks to an invite from the proprietors to last night's soft opening, I was able to get a sneak peak of Urban Butcher, which I hereby dub "UrBu", as it sounds more sophisticated and less gruesome. (Though I hesitate to coin nicknames, as I may end up getting mocked in a public forum years later for even suggesting that I came up with a nickname after it is appropriated by the entity owning the thing to which the nickname was assigned. But I digress.)

When I first heard of the concept of Urban Butcher, I wondered if it would prove to be more of a butcher shop with a restaurant or a restaurant with a butcher shop. It was immediately evident upon entering the premises that this was indeed primarily a restaurant, though one that features a fully operational butcher shop. The first thing you see as you enter is a cozy lounge area surrounded by floor to ceiling windows (and a glass garage door) that look out onto the Georgia Avenue streetscape.

Industrial chic?
As soon as you pass the lounge, the focus of the restaurant is immediately clear. To your left are glass cases displaying a variety of animal parts, while immediately in front of you is a large wood-lined meat locker where sausages and additional animal parts hang. This place is clearly designed to exhibit the maximum amount of meat possible. Personally, I don't need to see my meal before it's cooked (or read a file on the animal I'm eating), but it doesn't bother me, either.

To your right, there is a long bar which sits in front of more glass garage doors. They could really open this place up to the street when weather permits.

While their initial menu does feature a variety of meats (and fish), most of the food initially served last night was pig-based, and as I just don't dig on swine, I can't really speak to the taste. The opinions I heard were positive, however. I did eventually try the lamb empanadas that were brought around, and they were quite delicious.

They had copies of their menus floating around, and a quick scan identified quite a number of items I'd be very interested in trying. While vegetarians and vegans might not find a whole lot to eat here, that's not really going to be their core customer base. It seems as pescatarians will fare a bit better, as there are a few seafood items available.

Overall, I think Urban Butcher/UrBu has quite a bit of promise, as they have constructed a nice atmosphere in their space and have developed an intriguing menu. Their take-out butcher service should also be an nice option for those who opt to cook at home.

Unrelated, but on my way home last night I passed by Fire Station 1 at about 8:30 and it was packed. Despite being frequently maligned in the comments section of this blog, it must be doing a good business if that's what it looks like on a Tuesday night.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- I can't get over the fact that "Urban Butcher" sounds much more appropriate as a moniker of a brutal serial killer than as a name of a restaurant.

- Apparently the components of DTSS' new 'tree' were sourced from local yard sales:

Thanks to HK for the pic.

- I discovered this past weekend that the venerable Woodmoor Bakery in Four Corners now offers cronuts, and you don't even have to wait in an epic line to get one. I haven't had the original cronut so I can't compare the taste, but they don't look as pretty.

- Technically not Silver Spring news, but the Georgia Avenue Walmart in D.C. is set to open on December 4th. It's located about the same distance from downtown Silver Spring as the Target in Wheaton and a couple miles closer than the Cherry Hill Road Target. Of course, I imagine a lot of people in Silver Spring would choose to avoid Walmart on GP.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- The Pacers running store on Fenton has closed. The fact that a City Sports opened just a block away couldn't have been good for business. Plus, in the era of sites like Zappos I wouldn't put too much stock in the long term prospects of athletic shoe stores. I don't know what the primary factor in Pacer's closure was, but it's not as if there aren't plenty of joggers around here.

- My Line is Red has a Q&A with one of the owners of of Citizens Brewing Company. In it, the location at 1115 East-West Highway is described as 'ideal'. Let's hope that's the case.

- One place with a less-than-ideal location is Taqueria Distrito Federal, and a commenter in a previous post noted that this space is currently for sale. Hopefully this isn't the end of TDF in Silver Spring. While not perfect, I've eaten there a number of times and have had some decent meals. They are also really good with kids, always offering a complimentary plate of chicken, rice and beans. I'd be a little bummed if they left, but that location is a killer. On paper it's in a good spot, being just a block from DTSS with a large garage located across the street, however it's not particularly visible to passing cars. I've noticed they've recently put up signage in every window in an attempt attract attention.

There's been times I've gone during lunch hour and there were no other customers the entire time I was there, so it wouldn't surprise me if business was too slow to sustain that location.

UPDATE: Per a commenter who spoke with the owner, TDF is not planning to close. I have no idea what this real estate listing is all about, then. There's no other restaurant at that address, and it's very similar to the one posted last year after Skew Works left.

- There's a new Pho place opening on Colesville next to the county liquor store.

Thanks to Mr. C for the photo.

- The Post has plenty of details on Urban Butcher, scheduled to open next month on Georgia Avenue.

- A woman killed herself by standing in front of an oncoming train at the Silver Spring station on Saturday.

- People are unhappy that the lone post office servicing a major commercial and residential area is located at the end of a crappy strip mall outside of downtown? You don't say.

- I was recently in a Silver Spring business (which shall remain nameless) and noticed it had an entire wall of counterfeit designer handbags for sale. The bags even still had price tags in Chinese. I guess Silver Spring is still wild west enough to openly commit IP infringement. (And it wasn't in City Place, either. I just take it for granted that this type of thing accounts for half the revenue in there.)

- And while no one would any reason to remember this, years ago I posted that I really liked the street lamps outside the First Baptist Church. Well, one is now in my garage. Thanks, FBC!

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Can Brewpub Break the Streak at 1115 East-West?

Big news for those of you have been pining for an (actual?) brewpub in Silver Spring - Citizens Brewing Company has announced it will open at 1115 East-West Highway, occupied previously by Gallery, Babe's, and Fajita Coast. 

Beyond the location, details are limited at this time, but you can get updates on their progress via Facebook and Twitter. More to come.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- Romano's Macaroni Grill, located at the top of DTSS since the development first opened, has closed without fanfare. I was never a fan, and based on the number of one star Yelp! reviews, neither were most people. I'm not sure I ever ate there when it wasn't an unfortunate choice for a work lunch. That's a big hole to fill, so hopefully Peterson has something new (and far better) lined up. Something along the lines of a Gordon Biersch would probably succeed in that spot.

- While it received a reprieve and was allowed to open for two nights this year, the Haunted Garden is not out of the (haunted) woods yet. There is a hearing scheduled for November 5th where a judge will rule on whether it will be permitted to operate in the future. I went on the first of the two nights it was open, and the line to get in stretched down the block. There's no way to say for sure if all the publicity drastically increased attendance, but I wouldn't be surprised. We had someone at our house the week prior giving us an estimate on some work, and he was asking if the Haunted Garden was nearby, as he had heard about it on the news (and this guy was from NoVa).

- DC is considering extending streetcar service to Silver Spring. This seems like a no-brainer to me, so hopefully MoCo will work with the District to make this happen ASAP.

- You'll soon be able to hit the hookah while enjoying Premier League matches at Zeke Hookah Lounge, coming soon to Thayer Avenue. Incredibly, hookahs have somehow remained legal in Montgomery County. Presumably this establishment is related to Zeke Sport Cafe, the hookah bar located just across the District line on Georgia Avenue.

Thanks to MG for the photo.

- I appreciate all the work the county has done of late related to pedestrian safety, but this sign recently installed near my house was ill-conceived. It's one thing if you construct a new median at a crosswalk like they have done in many places, but just sticking a sign in the middle of the street isn't the best idea. If I stand by and wait a few minutes, I will usually witness at least one car plow over it. Somehow it has remained standing after all this abuse, but it can't last much longer.

You should see the pedestrian.
- Not your traditional fall foliage, but the ivy Virginia Creeper on the side of this office building near Fenton and Silver Spring Avenue is a bit of natural abstract art.

Kaldi's - the Coffee Shop Silver Spring Has Been Waiting For

Since it has gotten to the point where I am being shamed by commenters into posting, I am finally starting to work through my backlog of planned posts. Here's the first...

Kaldi's Coffee Bar, the new café on Silver Spring Avenue, has been open a couple weeks now, and based on the brisk business it's been doing the handful of times I've stopped in, seems to quickly be building up a customer base. (It's been getting excellent reviews on Yelp! and elsewhere, not always the case with newly-opened businesses.)

The quality of coffee is excellent - they serve Counter Culture Coffee brewed through a cutting-edge "Steampunk" system. However, the highlight for me thus far has been their selection of pastries and other baked goods, made in-house daily. I'm encouraged to keep going back simply to sample more of the enticing items in their display case. I've certainly taken maximum advantage of the sample tray that sits on the front counter.

How many can you jam in your mouth before the barista turns around?
There's a good-sized seating area with decor that is perhaps a bit more unconventional than that of its local competition (in a good way). There seems to be a mix of opinions on the large wooden chairs, though they were comfortable enough for the short spans I've sat in them. Also, they have free Wi-Fi, which isn't always a given.

Photo from Kaldi's website

I'm not sure how their background music is chosen, but the last time I was there they were playing very dramatic orchestral music, which, thanks to SoundHoud, I was able to determine was from an action sequence in Pirates of the Caribbean. A bit odd for a coffee shop (or anywhere), but I'll chalk that unusual selection up to a flaw in a Pandora algorithm or something. There's also a TV, though I find this a bit distracting, as I lack the ability to look away.

Kaldi's is a welcome addition to Silver Spring, and despite not being in close proximity to DTSS, still seems to be doing a good business, boding well for its longevity. It certainly beats Starbucks, and while some may remain loyal to more established Silver Spring coffee shops, I highly recommend giving it a try.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Haunted Garden Returns, in Highly Concentrated Form

The battle's done, and it kind of won, so the Haunted Garden sounds its victory cheer. The Garden (In our house it's the "mushroom house with the itsy bitsy spider") has received the go ahead from a county judge to operate on two nights - the 25th and 26th of October.

Have their efforts to suppress the Haunted Garden backfired on The Community? Sure, they may have ultimately gotten the number of nights down from the planned five, but now the event has been been widely publicized through multiple newspaper articles, local TV news, popular drive time radio programs and national morning TV shows. So now we're taking all the original visitors, adding all the ones made aware of the Garden through this whole process, and putting them on the street over the course of just two nights. Should be fun.

As a nearby neighbor, I was okay with the original plan, but to be honest I'm starting to get a bit ambivalent about the whole thing. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Love Triangle Leads to Stabbing Death at the Blairs

Early Sunday morning, an altercation between two high school friends at the Blairs left one dead and the other charged with murder. Mark Waugh, a Georgetown law student, was allegedly stabbed to death by his friend Rahul Gupta, reportedly after Gupta walked in on Waugh with his girlfriend. There's no need for me to rehash the entire case, as you can read all the sordid details here and here.
On a side note, this sentence in the Post article stood out to me (emphasis mine):

The case began for police at 3:25 a.m. Sunday, when they were summoned for a report of unknown trouble inside an apartment in the high-rise in Silver Spring’s revitalized downtown.

I find the authors' need to qualify downtown Silver Spring as "revitalized" in this context somewhat strange. Is the implication that, based on common misconceptions of Silver Spring, readers might expect violent crime to be commonplace? Are they assuring them that "no, no, it's really not the 'hood anymore"? I await the day when Silver Spring finally get to shed this qualifier - the "revitalization" has been going on for more than a decade now. Of course, in the same article they used the phrase "bloody stabbing", so it wasn't the only superfluous adjective to be found.

Separately, the Daily Mail managed to make this double blunder when referring to Silver Spring. One half is expected, the other one may be a first.

Thanks to MV for the heads up on the Daily Mail article.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Neighborhood Spat Now National News

Of course, this is really just a promo for Modern Family disguised as a news story.

Surprisingly, they didn't end the segment with "reporting from Silver Springs, Maryland".

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Haunted Garden Episode IV: The Community Strikes Back

It's October, which means it's time for another battle in the ongoing war between The Community and The Haunted Garden. For those unfamiliar with the The Haunted Garden, it's a Halloween event which has been held each year since 2010 in the yard of a house at the corner of Worth and Hamilton Avenues in Silver Spring. Since the beginning, The Community has sought to shut down the Garden, claiming that it is a commercial enterprise in disguise that creates traffic and parking headaches throughout the surrounding neighborhood.

This year The Community was prepared, launching a preemptive strike by proxy in the form a restraining order from the County requiring that the event be cancelled immediately. The event is now in limbo until a hearing scheduled for October 15th. Though it affects a fairly small number of households in Silver Spring, this is clearly a divisive issue, as evidenced by the number of comments on this Washington Post story.

As someone who lives fairly close by, I agree that it does bring a lot of cars into the neighborhood, and on a few occasions I have returned home to find all the spots in front of my house occupied. While somewhat annoying, it's only for a few days a year, and to their credit the organizers implemented significantly improved traffic management last year. And while there may or may not be some advertising benefit to the organizers, ultimately it's, you know, for kids. I took my one-year-old last fall, and while some of the scarier areas might have been a bit too much for him, they did have activities and treats available for little ones. I was looking forward to taking him this year, but who knows if I'll be able to. We drive by it twice a day on my commute and I've been pointing out to him the giant mushrooms they've constructed on the front lawn. Now I may have to tell him he can't go. (Of course, The Community feeds on baby tears to maintain their eternal youth, so they will be delighted.)

One has to wonder if all this could ultimately result in a kind of Streisand Effect, where the publicity resulting from opposition to the Garden could attract even more visitors to the event, should it be allowed to proceed. It's already made the Post (again) and the local newscasts. If The Community is successful in keeping the Garden closed, this will be the kind of Big Win they've been looking for after their defeat over the Chelsea School townhouses.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- The Action Committee for Transit is holding a contest to estimate the opening date of the Transit Center. The prize is dinner at 8407, though you have to pay for a membership to be eligible. They will probably have to pony up for a lot of meals if "never" proves to be the correct answer. (Which it is.)

- Substations needed to power the Purple Line (also never happening) may be disguised as single family homes along its route. People are complaining, of course. This idea is nothing new, as there's a number of Pepco substation houses scattered around the area, some of which are now occupied by actual people.

- Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the Mini Maker Faire at the Civic Building last weekend, but by all accounts it was a smashing success, with over 10,000 attendees. Let's hope they bring it back next year.
- A woman from Silver Spring was one of the survivors of last week's terrorist attach in Nairobi, Kenya.

- Kaldi's, the new coffee place on Silver Spring Avenue is now open. Has anyone tried it yet? They have a Facebook page, were, strangely, they have posted a Starbucks promotional video.

- The AFI Silver Theatre is offering free popcorn to furloughed government workers. I'd certainly be catching up on movies were I forced to stay home this week. (Though today I'd be at the Majestic for Gravity on IMAX.)
- Adios, Quiznos. The Fenton Street location has closed after ten years of operation in downtown Silver Spring. I don't particularly like Quiznos, but at one time it was the few options in that immediate area prior to all the DTSS restaurants opening, so I have eaten there a few times.

That block just won't be the same without dozens of Quizno's banners and signs, including the "grand opening" sign that was displayed for years.

- Remember how Pedro Matamoros (formerly of Nicaro and 8407) was going to buy the Golden Flame Restaurant? Not so much. Not only did he not buy the place, he's not even the chef there anymore.

- There was a AMA (ask me anything) on Reddit yesterday with Bar Rescue host Jon Taffer, who famously failed to re-brand Silver Spring's Piratz Tavern. He had a few choice words regarding the Piratz Tavern management (who, to their credit, are still there).
Q: Which bar rescue was the most difficult one for you?

A: Pirates comes to mind because it was so bizarre, and uncomfortable every minute I was there. I can't really say this about any other bar that I've rescued, but I did not like those people, candidly. And I did not enjoy one minute that I was there. It was my most difficult in that regard.

Q: Who was the most entertaining owner to work with? Do you keep in touch with any owners long after the shows?

A: I've developed very good friendships with some of them. With the exception of Pirates, I've left everyone in a good relationship.
He did get called out by a few commenters for purposely antagonizing the owners with his selection of a "corporate" theme for the revamp. I do agree that he must have been trolling them.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- The transit center could be open next summer. I'll take the over on that one.

- This Sunday marks the 75th anniversary of the 1938 opening of the Silver Theatre, and they are offering a free screening at 2:00 of Four Daughters, the very first movie ever shown at the theater.

- The proprietors of the future 923 Sligo Cafe look like they intend to invest some real money into refurbishing the nondescript commercial property they are converting into an eatery, at least based on these renderings.

- Apparently the former Stage Burger Lounge location on Skid Row is set to be the home of a new sushi restaurant called "Zen Sai". More on that as info becomes available.

- Chef Theo's, which had been serving greasy Greek and other comfort foods for ages from their location in the corner of the White Oak shopping center, has closed. Not sure how long it's been gone, since it's been awhile since I've been over there, but reportedly the restaurant is now vacant. I used to have lunch there once in a while when I worked over in that area, and it was usually fairly busy. Regrettably, I never got the chance to inquire as to whether Kevin Costner actually dined there.

- The Stuckey's mystery has been solved - the chain is owned by former congressman W. S. Stuckey, Jr., who still lives in the area and who moved the company HQ here when he bought back the chain in the 80's. His parents were the founders, but for a time it was owned by a company outside the family.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Something Maybe Actually Kinda Happening With City Place?

"No, really, hear me out. City Place is going to be GREAT!" - Developer, 1989

After years of false starts and empty promises, it looks like something might finally be happening with City Place ("Ellsworth Place"?). A development application sign has been posted outside announcing changes to the facade and streetscape. I searched the plan number on the county's development website, but no results were returned.

Thanks to reader E.T. for the photo.

Hopefully this is a signal that Petrie Ross Ventures' announced makeover of City Place is finally underway. Let's just hope that things will improve on the inside, not just the outside (insert "lipstick on a pig" reference here). I'm still waiting for the announcement of the great new tenants they supposedly have lined up.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Majestic Isn't Perfect, But It's Probably Not Racist

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I have my issues with the Majestic, however I feel like I'm obligated to defend it from accusations that have been leveled against it this week. In case you haven’t seen the story, a patron who attended a showing of Lee Daniels’ The Butler at the theater this past weekend was shocked to see armed guards working security in the lobby and in the theater, and believed that the security was somehow targeting this particular film's predominately African-American audience. (You can read her whole series of tweets here.)
She did mention this was her first time at the Majestic, so she wouldn’t have any way of knowing that this is par for the course for the theater on busy nights. There are always off-duty officers handling security on the weekends. In fact, when you are attending a popular movie like this one, you probably want the extra scrutiny – without it, you’d have people purchasing tickets for other films taking up seats in your sold-out theater. This will leave some of those with valid tickets without a seat – I’ve been in overcrowded theaters where legit ticketholders were stuck watching a movie from the steps because so many people had snuck into their show and taken up seats. Why they have security guards instead of ushers handling this responsibility, I don't know.

It does seem somewhat ridiculous that a movie theater would need guards packing heat, but I suppose off-duty police officers with sidearms are more likely to deter potential troublemakers (or take down crazed gunmen) than toothless mall cop security guards. Maybe the "optics" are bad if you take the whole scene out of context, but having been to this theater countless times, I'm just accustomed to it. I guess it makes a good story for the media, though.

I'm sure the theater would rather not have to cover the costs for extra security guards, the wages of whom are likely far more than those of revenue-generating positions like concession workers. God knows they could use more of those

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- Some changes are afoot at a couple of established Silver Spring restaurants: Ed Witt is out as chef at 8407, to be replaced by Justin Bittner, most recently of Bar Pilar in the District. Expect a revamped 8407 menu in the fall. Meanwhile, 8407's original chef, Pedro Matamoros, is to become part owner of the longstanding Golden Flame Restaurant, where he had already been named executive chef  back in March. 

- I had been looking for a photo of this classic graffiti on the Forest Glen railroad bridge for quite some time, and finally found it posted on the Old Time D.C. Facebook page. The current, shortened version which simply reads "Surrender" has somehow managed to survive for quite a few years without being removed.

- I believe I may have mentioned this before years ago, but one of the enduring mysteries of Silver Spring (to me, at least) is why the World Headquarters of Stuckey's is located in the nondescript office building at the corner of 16th and Spring Street. There are zero Stuckey's in Maryland and the nearest location is three hours away. On the off chance that an employee of Stuckey's corporate reads this blog, could you please explain how the chain came to be headquartered here?

 - A Silver Springer's kitchen remodel is featured in the current edition of Dwell magazine. Kudos to the magazine's editors for not pluralizing Silver Spring, as is the norm. I will even forgive their transgression of indicating on the cover that the house is "in Washington".

- I had heard that Frank Lloyd Wright's son once lived in my neighborhood, but had never seen any evidence to verify that assertion. However, there's an interesting document for sale on eBay right now - the original specifications for a house Wright designed for his son in Bethesda. (His grandson now lives there.)

Of course, the document identifies the client (Wright) as a resident of "Silver Springs, Maryland"

Though interestingly, they managed to get it correct elsewhere:

The document is a bit confusing, as it seems to incorrectly indicate that the house was to be built in Silver Spring ("Springs"), which unfortunately was not the case.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Welcome BurgerFi: Like Shake Shack, but Hopefully Without the Lines

Not long after the departure of the generally-unloved Stage Burger Lounge comes news that another burger joint is moving in to to downtown Silver Spring. According to the Peterson Co.'s map of DTSS, the space on Fenton Street most recently occupied by Family Dry Cleaners will be home to BurgerFi, a Florida-based chain whose representation in the DC area is presently limited to Leesburg, where it gets OK but not great reviews.

Photo by Flickr User santheo

I've never heard of BurgerFi until now, though a quick search returns a more than a few accusations that the chain is a Shake Shack clone. Considering their offerings are nearly identical (burgers, hot dogs, frozen custard, plus beer & wine), the allegations aren't baseless. I think I shall dub it "Fake Shack".

Also, the fact that they have a "secret menu" leads me to believe they are also attempting to emulate In-N-Out Burger to some extent, though it's a bit disingenuous to claim that menu items are "secret" when you have them openly listed on your website.

So, yeah, maybe not the most original of concepts, but that doesn't mean their burgers aren't tasty. Their unique angle appears to be their claim that they are the "greenest" of burger chains, using only grass-fed beef and appointing their restaurants with recycled furniture.

Not sure what the timeline is for opening, but I'm looking forward to giving it a try. The burger options downtown are somewhat lacking at present.

Thanks to commenter Perry for bringing this to our attention.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Two New Restaurants Coming for You to Complain About

The first harbinger of a new restaurant opening is often a bright orange liquor license hearing notice appearing in the window of an unoccupied space. A couple more of these notices have recently popped up around downtown Silver Spring, though they provide little indication of the nature of the planned establishments outside of their names.

First, there's "Urban Butcher", set to occupy the first floor of this building at the corner of Georgia and Ripley. Sounds a bit serial killer-y to me. Perhaps the name is meant to be ironic and it will actually be a vegan restaurant.

UPDATE: Reader JW did a little sleuthing and found the Maryland trade name application for Urban Butcher, which included a few bits of new information. First, the name is being registered by Raynold Mendizabal, presently the executive chef at the Lima Restaurant in the District. Also, there will be both an operating butcher shop and a restaurant on the premises. If nothing else, you know your meat will be fresh.

There's also a notice posted in a window of this nondescript building located at 923 Sligo Avenue for an eponymously-named "923 Sligo Cafe".

I have no other info on either of these establishments, so if anyone has any details, let us know!

Thanks to MG for the tip on Urban Butcher.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- So Pete's Apizza is fully operational, and has just introduced the "Silver Spring" pizza, which "reflects the cross section of cultures both in our kitchen and in the surrounding neighborhoods". If they really wanted some local flavor, they should offer beef tibs as a topping. I'd buy a slice of that in a second. Pete's pizza is good, but it doesn't come cheap - I ordered a Margherita, basically a fancy cheese pizza, and it cost me $30 with delivery - and that was pre-tip.

- "Here is Ray's the Classics - now, plain The Classics." (Ref) Sadly, this pretty much eliminates the prospect of the former Stage Burger becoming a Ray's Hell Burger. We'll have to see if "The Classics" can succeed where other local restaurants that lost their founders have failed.

- After ten years, Round House Theater will give up management of the black box theater located next to the AFI. Admittedly, this is an area of which I have little knowledge, though the initial response to this move appears to be quite positive. Apparently it will give smaller, competing groups more opportunity to stage productions in this space.

- So the Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control wants to know what it can do to foster nightlife in the county? How about eliminating itself?

- I was somewhat confused last weekend when I saw a food truck operating directly outside Fire Station 1, apparently with the full consent of the restaurant. I would think encouraging food trucks to park outside your restaurant would generally be considered bad for business, but it turns out that this particular truck was Tikka Tikka Taco, one of the competitors in Food Network's Great Food Truck Race, so I expect FS1 had an arrangement with the network. Presumably the show is shooting here for the upcoming season (which begins August 11), so look for Silver Spring to make an appearance whenever the episode ultimately airs.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

 - Pete's New Haven Style Apizza has announced that its new Silver Spring location will officially open for business this this Wednesday at 11AM. They've also posted some photos of their completed kitchen and dining areas as well as a map of their delivery area. You can't go wrong opening a pizza joint these days - Americans love them some pizza.

- The Parks Department has proposed the construction of a downtown Silver Spring dog park in the section of Ellsworth Park immediately adjacent to the current Silver Spring library. You can view the complete proposal here (pdf).

- Curbed DC, a website which generally doesn't acknowledge the existence of Silver Spring, has elicited the usual ignorant anti-Silver Spring vitriol in the comments section of a post reporting on something that is not in Silver Spring:

Granted, the photo chosen to lead off the post is a poor representation of Downtown Silver Spring, though it does have Matthew Lesko in it.

And I've got some bad news for you wanna-be hipster Silver Spring haters currently residing in imaginary places like "NoMa" or "The Atlas District": once your children start approaching kindergarten age, you'll be moving out here with us and will learn to appreciate what we have.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

YOU CAN'T HAS CHEEZBURGER: Exit Stage Burger Lounge

When it opened on Skid Row early last year, The Stage Burger Lounge had plenty of promise. With the Fillmore having recently opened down the block, a place nearby where one could grab a quick bite before a concert (or a movie across the street at the AFI) certainly had potential. However, after subsequent changes in ownership and format, the Lounge now seems to have been shuttered for good.

I personally hadn't been in quite some time, but the transformation that apparently occurred since my last visit seems bizarre, to say the least. What started as a limited-service burger joint in the same vein as Five Guys transformed over the course of a year to a table-service restaurant with a full bar. According to one Yelp! review, they would even at times have a dance floor and a bouncer standing guard outside. I don't know what precipitated these changes, but clearly the strategy shift doesn't appear to have proved particularly effective.

While the restaurant closed down only recently, their online presence faded away some time ago, with a defunct Facebook page and a website that has been down for some time. Their Twitter feed has been silent since July. Neglecting these things is probably not the best marketing strategy in this day and age.

So why not just open a Five Guys in the same spot? From what I can tell, it'd be like printing money. Their burgers aren't all that great, but they seem to be available everywhere in North America outside of downtown Silver Spring. Five Guys even seems to thrive out on the west coast, a place where people have the option to go to the In-n-Out. Why no one has yet franchised one here is beyond me. A BGR would be even better than Five Guys.

Unrelated, but I have to give some credit to Piratz Tavern, which is still open in spite of many dire predictions made following their disastrous appearance on Bar Rescue last year.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- On a recent flight I was thumbing through the airline's in-flight magazine when I came across a large "Special Advertising Section" promoting Maryland tourism. This content would have to have been commissioned, if not produced by the state government, yet through however many stages of proofreading they still managed to get the name of one of the state's largest metropolitan areas wrong:

- Even if this type of vehicular advertising is somehow legal, it's still obnoxious. The van and its banners seem to be parked next to Veterans Plaza every weekend. MoCo regulates everything - there must be some ordinance relating to this type of visual pollution, seeing as you apparently need to obtain a permit to erect any type of signage. I expect this even qualifies the vehicle for a business tax deduction.

- The Starbucks located in the Sheraton on Georgia Avenue is open as of today, though their official grand opening (the one where they give you free stuff) isn't scheduled until the 25th.

- Has anyone tried the new curbside pickup service offered by Whole Foods? Might be a good alternative to trying to park in that lot at peak times.

- In crime news, a man was arrested for flashing women in the elevator of the Wayne Avenue garage and a suspect has been arrested in connection with the sexual assault that occurred last month behind the Four Corners post office.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

United Therapeutics Continues to Spread Through Silver Spring like a Welcome, Aesthetically-Pleasing Cancer

Over the past few years United Therapeutics has significantly expanded its footprint in downtown Silver Spring, though as its campus sits at the fringes of the Silver Spring CBD, you might never notice. They clearly design for an audience, and have one of the cooler public spaces in town - a large plaza featuring a giant TV screen with a cool double-helix skybridge looking down on it.

Now Unither is trying to outo itself with a new office building planned for the corner of Colesville and Spring Streets. Once built, the thousands of drivers entering downtown Silver Spring via Colesville each day will be greeted by a large ultra-modern spaceship-like building rather than a disused parking garage. The new structure will replace the crumbling Garage 21, which United Therapeutics purchased from the county last year.

The building will serve as a workspace for about 150 employees and is as planned as a net zero structure, meaning all energy used will be produced on-site, primarily via the solar arrays positioned on its roof and elsewhere around the building.

It will include ground-level retail and landscaped public areas, hopefully drawing more pedestrians to the surrounding streets. There will also be a new pedestrian walkway (to be dubbed the "BioPath") that will run along the edge of the building and connect Colesville and Cameron streets.

Of course, many grandiose plans around here don't ultimately come to fruition. Remember when the Chelsea School commissioned Studio Daniel Liebskind to design a replacement for their aging campus? That was bold, but unrealistic. Eventually they just sold out to developers, which was probably the logical thing to do in their case.

Even more modest proposals often get significantly changed (for the worse) before any ground is broken. For example, here's the original 2008 proposal for a residential building at 814 Thayer Avenue. Like it or not, at least it's distinctive.

 And here's the current, watered-down proposal - a nondescript generic structure. *Yawn*

This particular development has mirrored the glacial pace of a lot of other local projects, as the existing office building at that address was purchased way back in 2006 and still stands empty today.

Of course the difference in United Therapeutics' case is that the building is for them and they need not worry about things like vacancy rates and price per square foot. If they have the money, they can do whatever they damn please. I'm really glad that someone is building new office space rather than more apartments.

I can't even envision The Community fighting this one, though one should never underestimate the power of the Dark Side.

Thanks to JT for forwarding me these plans!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- Not technically Silver Spring, but might as well be: Harris Teeter is going to open a location on the ground floor of a new development planned for the intersection of Georgia and Eastern, just across the border in DC. The store is tentatively scheduled to open in Fall of 2016, which seems a long way off, but when you take into account the pace things happen around here, that can be considered 'soon'. Remember when we were hearing about the Harris Teeter that was going to be part of the Falkland Chase development? That was 2008, and that project still hasn't broken ground. I think it's safe to assume now that it will ultimately not include a Harris Teeter.

- According to Twitter, Scion Restaurant's Silver Spring location opens today at 5.

- Not open yet, but hopefully soon: Pete's New Haven Pizza. They've already installed their six pizza ovens.

If you join their email list, you have the chance of being invited to their 'practice run' before they open to the public.

- I don't know exactly when they made the update, but Google has recently refreshed their Street View imagery for Silver Spring. I believe the actual photos may have been taken last summer. You can now use it to see the Transit Center prior to Foulger-Pratt taking down their corporate banner in shame. (Just kidding - they clearly have no shame.)

- If you can stomach reading even more about the Transit Center, here's another extensive article on this CF from the Post.

- Perhaps having to repeatedly stop and look at this depressing and lifeless Transit Center on a daily basis was what drove this poor Metro car to commit suicide by self-immolation last week.
Thanks to BG for the pic.

It's certainly not the first suicidal/homicidal transit vehicle in Silver Spring.

Bethel World Outreach Center Out, Undisclosed Project In

Washington Property Co. has purchased the buildings at 8242 and 8252 Georgia Avenue and the adjoining parking lot from the Bethel World Outreach Church. The new owner hasn't yet released any firm plans regarding how they plan to develop the parcel, but have indicated that they are initially considering  residential, office and hotel space.

My money's on apartments... that's what nearly all projects end up as these days, as Silver Spring seems to have been officially designated a bedroom community in developer's minds. What was the last major office building constructed in downtown Silver Spring that wasn't part of the United Therapeutics complex? I may be mistaken, but believe it was 8515 Georgia, across the street from Discovery, and that opened nearly ten years ago.

This is a good development, as this will better tie together the density of downtown Silver Spring with all the new construction in the so-called "Ripley District". (By the way, what ever happened to Ripifant Street? It doesn't seem to have made it on the map yet.)

While no longer recognizable as such, longtime residents will recall that the building at 8242 operated for many years a movie theater, originally as the Seco Theatre and then later as Roth's Silver Spring West.

Photo via Cinema Treasures. Note Dale Music, still in the same spot.
8252 was originally constructed as a bank, and served as one for many years until Bethel World purchased the property. 

If I'm interpreting the property records right, the church bought the theater in 1996 for $435,000 and the bank building for $760,000 in 1997, so even with the cost of any improvements, I expect they are realizing quite a tidy profit from the $8.2M sale price.

I wonder if they ever succeeded in selling the original bank vault doors. They were trying to do so on eBay for years.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- Latest Transit Center Fiasco news:

Metro: "Don't want it."
County: "Too bad."
Transit Center Inspector: "Not our fault."
MoCo Inspector General: "More inspections/money, please."

- Why don't any of the DC to New York buses depart from Silver Spring? There are two bus lines with pickups in Bethesda and another with one in Rockville. Silver Spring seems like a logical place for an operator to use as a starting point.

- I have seen plenty short and pointless sidewalks in Silver Spring, including many that simply dead end into a tree, but this one near Colesville Road and Highland Drive is my personal favorite:

Apparently no one involved in the planning or construction process ever said, "hmmm, maybe we should save the concrete on this one." Well, at least it's ADA compliant, so the wheelchair-bound can roll into someone's driveway from the side should they really need to do so.

(Recall that Silver Spring was also once home to what was judged to be the "Stupidest Bike Lane in America", though it has since been upgraded.)

- Speaking of concrete, look who's building the Holy Cross Hospital expansion - it's our old pals from Faccina Construction, concrete-pourers extraordinaire!

 If whatever ailment you checked in for doesn't kill you, the collapsing ceiling will!

- Last month Channel 9 News looked into some suspect towing practices in the small parking lot at the top end of DTSS. I'm a little skeptical of all the protestations of innocence regarding having time left on the meter, but still, these towing operations are a total racket. (And if you are going to tow people, PLEASE tow those using the Whole Foods lot for church parking.)

- Anyone have any info as to what business is going in where the 16th Street Blockbuster Video used to be? There's workers doing something in there. Judging from the rest of the strip mall, probably nothing great, but who knows.

UPDATE: It's going to be a Patient First medical center. That is actually a logical use for that space. Thanks to DT for the tip.

- FYI, there's now a Silver Spring Reddit.

- Finally, this is awful: a woman was sexually assaulted in a Four Corners backyard. I would never consider that a dangerous neighborhood, but there does always seem to be a lot of transient folks milling about there - perhaps a lot of people switch buses at that intersection.