Category Archives: Food and wine

Great Cheap Places to Eat in Rockville

Washingtonian 2015 JuneThe June 2015 issue of Washingtonian lists the top 100 places to “eat great cheap,” where all meals are under $25.  Nearly a dozen are in or near Rockville:

  1. A&J Restaurant, 1319 Rockville Pike (Chinese, Taiwanese dim sum)
  2. Bob’s Shanghai 66, 305 N. Washington Street (Chinese, Taiwanese) [note the street address because there’s a Bob’s Noodle 66 nearby and it’s a different restaurant]
  3. Bonchon, 107 Gibbs Street (Korean fried chicken)
  4. China Bistro, 755 Hungerford Drive (Chinese)
  5. China Jade, 1608 Crabbs Branch Way (Chinese)
  6. Honey Pig, Germantown (Korean)
  7. La Limeña, 765 Rockville Pike (Peruvian)
  8. Moa, 12300 Wilkins Avenue (Korean)
  9. Peter Chang, 20-A Maryland Avenue (Chinese)
  10. Tortacos, 9629 Lost Knife Road, Gaithersburg (Mexican)

Notice a pattern? Yup, it’s dominated by Asian restaurants.  Along with specialized grocery stores, Rockville is becoming the place for Asian food in greater DC.  The best Thai and Vietnamese restaurants seem to be in Wheaton and Falls Church, so perhaps ours will make the cut next year.

A couple restaurants merited special mention by the Washingtonian:

Favorite across-the-board Chinese:  Bob’s Shanghai 66: “Though slow to find its form, the high-volume, cash-only kitchen has been impressive of late, rendering its long list of Chinese and Taiwanese standards with a clarity and depth that most of its competitors can’t touch. The saucing is, almost without exception, clean and tight, making even a simple stir-fry—bean curd and pork, for instance, with long, thin bands of curd that have the slipperiness and chew of egg noodles, or tiny shrimp in a surprisingly balanced sweet-and-sour chili sauce—a memorable order.”

Favorite dumplings by the dozen: China Bistro:   “The best reason to come is the speciality of the house—fresh-made dough hand-rolled and stuffed with any of 16 filings (we’re partial to the combinations, such as shrimp-and-chive or beef-and-celery) and steamed till they’re plump and juicy. Make dumplings the centerpiece of your meal (they come  12 to an order), and augment them with small plates—garlicky cucumbers, for instance, and a bowl of cold sesame noodles with its numbing chili sauce.”

Asian Retail Expands in Downtown Rockville

This just in from the JBG Companies:  they’ve fully leased their retail space at 275 North Washington Street, a new mixed-use building in downtown Rockville anchored by Bank of America (where the Giant Grocery store once stood).

Reflecting the growing international flavor of the surrounding area, four Asian-owned businesses have signed for the remaining retail spaces adjacent to Rockville Town Square. They are French-Asian cafe Lavande Patisserie, Kung Fu Tea, Quickway Hibachi Grill and Amber Door Day Spa. In addition to 12,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, JBG’s 275 North Washington Street includes 12,000 square feet of available Class A office space on a second level.

“This area offers a unique multi-ethnic dining and shopping experience that adds flavor and choices. It’s a draw for Rockville residents and for those living outside the city,” said Anthony Greenberg, a JBG principal. “There are several Asian markets and authentic Chinese restaurants near 275 North Washington Street, and we are pleased to be a part of an organically emerging district.”

Lily Qi, director of special projects for the Montgomery County executive, said Rockville is known as the Chinatown of Montgomery County because of its high concentration of ethnic Chinese residents and Asian businesses. Rockville’s central location and accessibility makes it a magnet for amenities that cater to the everyday living needs of this population, as well as to the tastes of the broader community who enjoy a diversity of cuisines and retail choices.

Retailers are moving into their spaces this month and expect to open this spring. Bob Liang, founder of regional Quickway Japanese Hibachi, said he chose the location because of the area’s diverse demographics and proximity to Rockville Town Center. The restaurant, which features fast casual Japanese, will be the 10th to open in the D.C. region.

Lavande Patisserie, owned by mother and son Julie Yi and Andrew Liang of Gaithersburg, is a farm-to-table café and will serve breakfast, lunch and French pastries with an Asian twist, such as kumquat fruit tarts. Lavande will butcher its meat in-house, mill its own flour, make its own creams. “Everything is fresh and purchased within 50 miles, nothing is store bought or pre-processed,” said Liang. Kung Fu Tea is a national franchise from New York that serves specialty tea drinks. The Rockville location will be the first in the Maryland, D.C., and Virginia area. Amber Door Day Spa is locally owned and will offer spa packages that include massages, facials, body treatments, makeup and more.

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Rockville Rated Highest Per Capita in Chinese Dumplings

xiao long bao chinese dumplingsDCist recently listed the best places to get dumplings in the DC region, with seven of the nine restaurants listed in Rockville.  Although restaurants in Rockville are barely considered by the Washington Post and Washingtonian magazine, the food scene is growing deeper and bigger, which is evidenced in part by this dumpling study.  Many Chinese restaurants include dumplings on their menus, but these restaurants focus their menus around them or serve an extraordinary version of them.

If you haven’t tried Chinese dumplings, there are many types of choose from but usually are ground pork or shrimp wrapped in dough and then steamed.  The portions are usually big (think 6-12 dumplings per order) and I always bring my own bottle of sweet chili sauce to add some zing (these are simple homey restaurants, so they’re not offended if you bring your own condiments).

Here’s the line up from DCist:

  1. A&J Restaurant: 1319 Rockville Pike (in the green and white Woodmont Station shopping center down below next to Hertz car rental; cash only)
  2. China Bistro:  755 Hungerford Drive (in the blue and white Flagship shopping center)
  3. East Dumpling House:  12 N. Washington Street (in the strip mall downtown with Apollo and Woodside Deli)
  4. Bob’s Shanghai 66:  305 N. Washington Street (near Dawson Avenue, not to be confused with Bob’s Noodle 66 up the street)
  5. Joe’s Noodle House:  1488 Rockville Pike (along the side of the strip mall with the Yekta and Mi Rancho restaurants)
  6. Shanghai Taste:  1121 Nelson Street (in the Woodley Gardens shopping center with Good Times Cafe and Carmen’s Ice Cream)
  7. Sichuan Jin River: 410 Hungerford Drive (at the back of the office building next to the fire station)

Happy eating!

George Washington Ate Here

On June 30, 1791, George Washington wrote in his diary, “Breakfasted at a small village called Williamsburgh in which stands the Ct. House of Montgomerie County 14 M. from George Town.”  Williamburgh was later called Rockville, and Washington was  traveling from Georgetown to Philadelphia via Frederick and York.  Just to give you a sense of travel time in the colonial era, Washington left Georgetown at 4 am and arrived in Frederick at 7:30 pm.   So while Washington never slept here (as far as we know), he certainly ate here.  If you are having breakfast at Silver Diner, Broadway Diner, or First Watch this week, remember George Washington!

Farmers Market opens in Twinbrook on May 7

A weekday farmers market sponsored by The JBG Companies will open in Twinbrook May 7, bringing an array of new fresh food choices to the community and to the many daytime employees that work in the busy area.

First offerings in the market will feature farm fresh fruits and vegetables from Twin Springs Fruit Farm, handmade artisan breads from Upper Crust Bakery and traditionally cured meats from MeatCrafters. More farm vendors are expected, along with artists and their wares. The arrival of the farmers market will complement the growing presence of mobile food trucks, which are also adding new food options on weekdays in Twinbrook. Both initiatives result from the desire of Twinbrook residents and area workers for a variety of attractions as new offices and residential options arrive.

“Twinbrook is fortunate to have the bones of strong neighborhoods, good transit, roads and workforce,” said Rod Lawrence of The JBG Companies, a major real estate investment and development firm based in Montgomery County. “If we can contribute to the daily working and living experience here with new food options, that’s an extra dimension that makes Twinbrook an even better community.”

The new farmers market will be open from 9:30 to 1:30 every Tuesday, May through November in the courtyard between 5625 and 5635 Fishers Lane, just east of the Twinbrook Metro station.

JBG recently hosted a Saturday clean-up of Rock Creek Park at its Twinbrook edge, removing more than 5,000 pounds of debris from the stream bed and hillsides. The company has also scheduled a pit stop on Bike-to-Work Day on May 17, at the east end of Fishers Lane. More than 60 people have already signed up for that event and more are welcome by registering at www.twinbrookurbanbynature.com.

Rockville Sister City Fundraiser Exceeds Expectations

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Last night the Rockville Sister City Corporation held a wine-tasting at Glenview Mansion as a fundraiser for the longstanding non-profit organization.  Nearly fifty people attended, which was twice the expectations, delighting president Brigitta Mullican.  Among the attendees were Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio and Councilmember Mark Pierzchala, and two Council candidates:  Beryl Feinberg and Julie Palakovich Carr.

The paneled dining room of Glenview made for an ideal setting for socializing with a nice glass of wine while supporting a local non-profit organization.  The wine tasting was focused on white wines, with five selections from Germany, Spain, and the United States.  A blind tasting of a range from chablis to riesling to sauvignon blanc challenged people to use their senses to identify the wine. Thankfully, it was limited to five distinct wines and an identification list was provided so I had a fighting chance to get one right.

Fundraisers like this are becoming increasingly difficult for non-profits in Maryland.  Costs and regulations continue to increase, which is either eliminating these traditional community events or significantly reducing the income.  For example, health codes that affect restaurants are also applied to these one-time small fundraising events as well, so the traditional bake sale featuring homemade goods is nearly impossible and serving meals requires a commercial kitchen with three sinks (yes, three).  If this continues, I’m guessing that lemonade stands and pancake breakfasts will soon require health permits and liability insurance.  Let’s hope our elected officials in Annapolis and City Hall are watching this trend as much as they are watching casinos and traffic cams.

Rockville Celebrates 25th Annual Memorial Day Weekend Festival

The best Memorial Day party this side of the Bay Bridge is coming soon. Rockville’s Hometown Holidays will celebrate 25 years of music, food, and fun in town center next month. The weekend will include five stages with more than 30 bands, the Chamber of Commerce’s Taste of Rockville event with area restaurants participating, amusements and entertainment for children, and the Memorial Day ceremony and parade. Events start at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 25 and continue through Monday, May 27.  In the 25 years since Hometown Holidays began, 1.2 million people have enjoyed the event.

Performing on Saturday will be:

Performing on Sunday will be:

  • Christylez Bacon, a progressive hip-hop artist from Washington, D.C., performing at 6:30 p.m. on the Town Square Stage.
  • The Waiting, a tribute band to Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  • The Nighthawks, an award-winning DC-based blues and roots rock band

Watch Rockville’s Channel 11 for Hometown Holidays All Access, a show previewing some of the musical talent coming to Rockville this Memorial Day weekend. For updated information, visit www.rockvillemd.gov/hth.

The City’s Hometown Holidays Facebook page (www.facebook.com/RockvilleHometownHolidays) will be updated as the celebration nears, so stay tuned there for announcements of more bands and food vendors.

3 Rockville Restaurants Among DC’s 100 Best

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The February 2013 issue of Washingtonian magazine is devoted to the 100 very best restaurants in the DC region and three Rockville restaurants are included!  Here’s what the critics had to say about them:

  • Cava Mezze:  “Casual-rustic digs, clever takes on Greek mezze, and gentle prices make these eateries among the buzziest around [the two other Cava Mezzes are in DC and Arlington].  Sometimes the ktichen takes liberties with tradition–gyros, for example, are fashioned into sliders–but it’s usually to the good, and chef Dimitri Moshovitis understands that a bit of innovation goes a long way. And though it might seem there’s little reason to stray from small plates, a whole branzino crisscrossed with char marks convinced us otherwise.”  9713 Traville Gateway Drive (west of #270, just west of Shady Grove near a Giant grocery store).  Warning:  Traville Gateway Drive is a large loop that intersects twice with Shady Grove Road and nearby there’s a separate but similarly named Travilah Road–don’t the police and fire departments find these loose street-naming conventions a safety hazard?  And technically, this restaurant is outside of the City of Rockville (which ends at Shady Grove Road).
  • La Limeña:  “You can eat Peruvian chicken anywhere these days.  You come here to explore the multifaceted cuisine beyond pollo a la brasa–from tiradito (lime-marinated tilapia atop yellow-pepper sauce) to grilled beef hearts (imagine a hanger steak with slightly more chew) to rich aji de gallina (chicken in a sauce of egg, white wine, and garlic).  And don’t allow the steam of a sizzling steak trailing through the room divert you from the fish, particularly the ceviches and the whole fried trout blitzed with shaved almonds.”  765-B Rockville Pike (in the far corner of the Continue reading →

A Farmers Market for Winter opens in Sandy Spring

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You won’t find tomatoes or peaches, but there are plenty of other items available at the new Winter Market in Sandy Spring.  The year, the Olney Farmers and Artists Market has extended the season by moving east a few miles, finding shelter at the Sandy Spring Museum on Sundays from 10 am to 2 pm.

Last weekend I found nearly two dozen vendors selling a variety of produce (mostly squash, greens, carrots, radishes, apples), meat (chicken, beef, lamb), food (tea, sheep cheese, cupcakes, jams, Vietnamese food), plants,  handcrafted goods (soap, jewelry, quilted table runners, pet tags), and firewood.  It was good weather and many vendors were spread outside but during inclement weather, there’s plenty of room inside the museum (plus there are restrooms!).   And at noon, there’s typically a cooking demonstration by a local chef (last Sunday it was the former chef of the White House).

The winter market is every Sunday through April 29, when it shifts to its usual summer location in Olney.  If you’re not familiar with quaint historic Sandy Spring, go east from Olney past the Olney Theater Center and continue on Route 108 until you encounter a tighter cluster of housing and a small commercial district that includes an Urban BBQ (a branch of the Rockville restaurant).  The museum is on the left just past the gas station–if you pass Sherwood High School, you’ve gone too far.  Free parking is available on site.

Dawson’s Market Opens in Downtown Rockville

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After five years of work by the City of Rockville and Federal Realty Investment Trust, Dawson’s Market held its grand opening tonight in Rockville’s Town Square.  A grocery store had been slated as an anchor for the Town Square since its inception, but an initial tenant’s bankruptcy and threatened lawsuits by a competing liquor store caused delays, as well as finding a grocery willing to move into space smaller than is typical today.  Fortunately, Rick Hood, president of Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market in Richmond, was looking to expand and found an ideal location in Rockville.   The Richmond store is named for the two streets that intersect at that store’s location; the Rockville store is named for longtime residents of Rockville (e.g., Beall-Dawson House, Dawson Farm Park).

Dawson’s Market is now open and customers will find it emphasizes local and organic food, and discover such nice amenities as  beer and wine departments, juice bar, and a cafe.  Many people have compared it to Roots or a small version of Whole Foods.  Parking in Town Square is available free for two hours with validation and you’ll find the store at the corner of Washington and Beall, near the modernist Suburban Trust Bank building.

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