Tuesday, June 16, 2009

68 things I love about east county (part three)

part THREE of a series adapted from Bethesda Magazine's "67 Things We Love About Bethesda" list. Got something you love about the east side? Help me get to 68 things by leaving a comment or shooting an e-mail to justupthepike at gmail dot com.

Hampshire Greens. Finally, a golf course community we can call our own. While you'd expect the snobbery of its counterparts in Potomac or Bethesda, the course is actually a public course operated by Montgomery County. No institutionalized racism here, thankfully.

Wheaton Regional Library. I basically grew up in this library, spending each Saturday morning in elementary school collecting a stack of books to tear through so I could get some more the following week. While I don't agree with the arguments against moving it into Downtown Wheaton, the old library still holds a special place in my heart.

The Chick-Fil-A at Ellsworth and Fenton. Without their window ledges, where would kids sit on Friday and Saturday nights - and, without them, who would security guards patrolling Downtown Silver Spring have to yell at?

The Silverton condos on East-West Highway. The only new condos in Silver Spring I kind of like, and only because it used to be a Canada Dry bottling plant. You wonder if anyone lives behind the neon "Canada Dry" sign over the entrance, and if they had to invest in really thick curtains.

Shabbat in Kemp Mill. Observant Jews - among them the large Orthodox community living in Kemp Mill - are prohibited from doing "work" from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, including driving and using electricity. The result is an urban planner's dream: a neighborhood where everyone goes for a walk after services and visits each other.

Upper Crust Bakery in Colesville. Mmm, baked goods. One bright spot in a shopping center dominated by chain stores (save for the adjacent Greek Village restaurant, which is so good that even deer are knocking down their door to get a table.)

Mayorga Coffee Roasters. It may have been a furniture warehouse in a former life, but this place is everything a coffeehouse should be: gigantic couches, a big room for socializing, smaller rooms for studying. (I'd comment on the menu, but I don't drink coffee.) My "artsy" friends in high school would take the Metro here (forty minutes each way, including the ride to Glenmont) to study.

Panera Bread on Tech Road. It's the closest thing to Mayorga we have above the Beltway. With big comfy chairs, [allegedly] freshly-made food and Internet access, Panera - like all of the other restaurants in the recently-opened Westech Village Center - has been a big draw for East County's rising yuppie class.

Duckpin Bowling in White Oak. The Glenmont Lanes have been closed for seven years, leaving this basement alley in the White Oak Shopping Center as the last outpost in East County for Maryland's unique brand of bowling. Of course, I have yet to actually go inside.

Pla-Za Art on Georgia Avenue. It's a chain, the prices are too high, and the selection isn't nearly as good as Pearl Art in Rockville. But this store in a converted house with its quirky staff and housecats calls to mind a time when "Silver Spring" and "Takoma Park" meant the same thing. Not to mention, of course, it's the closest art store to the University of Maryland and MC-Takoma Park, so art and architecture majors in a rush have no choice but to come here.

Carroll Avenue in Old Town Takoma Park. You may not agree with their politics, but you'll hopefully find it charming that a town would put a statue of a rooster in its square. You could easily lose a day poking through the concentration of consignment shops along this windy street.

Philly Steak Express in Takoma, D.C. The best Philadelphia cheesesteak you can find without driving to Pennsylvania come out of this literal hole-in-the-wall restaurant (you can probably fit two people standing up between the counter and the door) ran by a Nigerian family I went to church with growing up. Don't bother trying to find parking: it's less than a block from the Takoma Metro station.

Band stickers. If you've ever been to a drive-thru or gas station in East County, you've seen the stickers for local bands like The Spotlight and Lonely are the Brave, gracing the window frame just beneath the glass, invisible to those working inside. It may not win over any new fans, but it's a nice joke for those "in the know."

The "Highway to Heaven." Mr. Caulfield, my high school English teacher, gave this name to the stretch of New Hampshire Avenue north of Route 29 because it's lined with so many houses of worship, from the humble Jain Center to sprawling St. Andrew's. It's largely possible because of zoning that forbids large-scale residential or commercial development, keeping land prices low and within reach for congregations seeking to build a new home.

Lucero's Pizza in Fulton. Locally-owned, fresh ingredients and friendly staff: Lucero's is everything you could want in a pizzeria, not to mention their adorable website. They don't deliver south of Burtonsville, but it's worth driving up to Howard County to carry out or eat in.

The Ashton Meeting Place. Proof that even after years of tension and controversy, a developer and a community can find common ground. Ground hasn't been broken yet, but when completed, the project will create a green for a village that's been around for nearly three hundred years.

The National Capital Curling Center in Laurel. Curling is a sport on ice where skates aren't required, but a broom is, and the only moves are "Sweep!" and, well, just standing around. Stop by Thursdays from October to May for a pick-up game with the Potomac Curling Club; when my friends and I went for the first time three years ago, we ended up playing with writer Stefan Fatsis (of competitive Scrabble fame), who was doing some research before covering it at the 2006 Winter Olympics.


Sligo said...

I can't believe you've never been to the bowling alley.

mg said...

Dan, in regards to Canada Dry sign, I live in the Silverton, although not right behind the sign - above it. I think it is not the silverton resident who gets the worst of the red tanning light but the unit across in the newly constructed Veridian. When it was under construction I really wanted to see what the effect of the sign would feel like. I went into the unit facing the sign and took some photos. I posted them on Flickr and later got a cease and desist letter from JBG because the unit which faced the sign also happened to have some Swastica on the walls, which as any self respected photog I also documented. The sign is pretty "loud" for the people facing it. Reminded me of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer gets a tan from the Kenny Roger's chicken sign in his bedroom window.