By Nancy Lewis
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Of the hundreds of places to eat in Montgomery County, these are some of my favorites. This list is not encyclopedic. There are no rankings. These are just 10 places -- some are single restaurants and others are locations offering lots of choices -- that you should know about if you live here.Tower Oaks Lodge
Since it opened in October 2002, Tower Oaks Lodge has become the de facto social center of the county. It doesn't have the best food. It doesn't have the best service. But there is no more spectacular setting for dining. The Clyde's Group has recreated an Adirondack-style lodge adjacent to a 21-acre nature preserve. One of four dining rooms was constructed using a 200-year-old timber barn from Vermont. Another resembles a boathouse.
The myriad decorations and appointments (and crayons offered at the door) are more than enough to keep youngsters distracted for an hour or so, and the same appointments will impress most adults. Don't be surprised if on a summer night you see deer grazing just outside your window.
Reservations for Sunday brunch are necessary. Even at Monday lunch -- traditionally a sluggish time for restaurants -- Tower Oaks Lodge is apt to be full. Arrive at night, and there are thousands of twinkling lights to guide the way to this magical woodland setting. 2 Preserve Pkwy., Rockville. 301-294-0200. http://www.clydes.comSunshine General Store
There is nothing on the outside of this general store and service station to indicate the glories within. But past the refrigerator with plastic containers of night crawlers, the old-time cooler packed with glass bottles of Coke and the shelves of crackers and candy bars is the real glory of the place: the Sunshine burger. The tiny lunch counter has five aging chrome and vinyl stools, and a half-dozen chairs are pulled up to a linoleum-topped kitchen table. On the other side of the counter, two women work the grill, turning out perhaps the best hamburgers in the county.
These are giant half-pound beauties, patted out by hand and cooked to order, topped with your choice of embellishments -- raw or cooked onions, Swiss, provolone or American cheese, tomato and lettuce, mustard, ketchup or mayonnaise -- and then placed on a good-tasting kaiser roll. Be sure to get it cut in half, or it will be too much to handle.
The kitchen also turns out breakfast, starting at 5 a.m. on weekdays. The place shuts down by 6 p.m. on weekdays and 5 p.m. on weekends. But it's the burgers that construction crews and men in expensive suits line up for, and wait their turn with the locals.
22300 Georgia Ave., at New Hampshire Avenue, Brookeville. 301-774-7428.The Inn at Brookeville Farms
About 3 1/2 miles down Georgia Avenue, this 1919 farmhouse opened as a restaurant in 2000, after a massive renovation that added banquet space and a commercial kitchen. The inn suffered from a revolving door of chefs until Paul E. Hajewski arrived about two years later. His New American menu is rooted firmly in traditional Maryland fare and emphasizes local ingredients, but it is never mundane country inn food.
The dining rooms of the main house still bear the decorations from when it was used as a show house to raise money for the nearby Olney Theater. Comfortable Chippendale armchairs are pulled up to heavily clothed tables in rooms displaying handsome wooden floors. Fireplaces abound. It's a jewel worth seeking out.
19501 Georgia Ave., Brookeville. 301-924-6500. http://www.brookevilleinn.com.East Gude Drive, between Norbeck Road and Southlawn Lane, Rockville
This is primarily a light industrial area, with lots of auto body repair shops, building materials suppliers and wholesale showrooms. But this stretch also has bakeries, Salvadoran and Mexican restaurants, a soup shop, a barbecue place and two very good Korean restaurants.
Jon Won Restaurant (1613 E. Gude Dr., Rockville, 301-309-1870) and Arirang Restaurant (1326 E. Gude Dr., Rockville, 301-279-0023) both feature light wood in small, tidy spaces. Jon Won has tables with grills built into the middle for cooking Korean barbecue. Both specialize in Korean soups.
The seafood scallion pancake at Arirang was the freshest and best I have found in the Washington area, and the restaurant's version of dulsot bibimbap (rice with beef and vegetables in a hot stone pot) is not only generous in size, but the pot arrives at the table so hot that the rice forms the prized crust in the bottom of the bowl that is the hallmark of this dish.Fox Chapel Shopping Center, Germantown
Yuraku Japanese Restaurant (19773 Frederick Rd., 301-515-7440) would be reason enough to seek out this strip mall in Germantown, but it is also home to two other noteworthy restaurants, India Palace (19743 Frederick Rd., 301-540-3000) and Cafe Tacuba (19741 Frederick Rd., 301-540-8310). Yuraku has spawned a near cult following: The place is packed every night, long past 8 or 9 p.m., when many suburban places are clearing out. Cafe Tecuba serves Mexican specialties to almost as devoted a crowd. And India Palace offers not only a big buffet lunch but also exemplary dishes at dinner.Rockville Pike, from Twinbrook Parkway to Ritchie Center
This nearly two-mile stretch includes some of Montgomery County's best ethnic restaurants. Try Sichuan at Joe's Noodle House (1488-C Rockville Pike, 301-881-5518, http://www.joesnoodlehouse.com); Taiwanese dim sum at A & J Restaurant (1319-C Rockville Pike, 301-251-7878); Mexican at El Mariachi (765-D Rockville Pike, 301-738-7177. http://www.elmariachirestaurant.com); Spanish at Sol de España (838 Rockville Pike, 240-314-0202); Japanese at Temari Cafe (1043 Rockville Pike, 301-340-7720); or take a half-block detour off the pike and load up on barbecue at Urban Bar-B-Que Co. (2007 Chapman Ave., 240-290-4827, http://www.urbanbbqco.com). Ritchie Center's diversity also includes Indian, Korean, Japanese, Persian, Chinese and South American food. At Las Americas International Market (785-E Rockville Pike, 301-424-9550), you can choose seviche for lunch, some sausage for dinner or order up a whole roasted pig for a special occasion.Downtown SilverSpring
The two best restaurants aren't in the massive Downtown Silver Spring development but on the edges. Jackie's (8081 Georgia Ave., though the entrance is on Sligo Avenue, 301-565-9700) has a reputation as a party-in-progress, but there is serious, sophisticated cooking going on amid all the pink and shimmer in this former auto repair space. Chef Sam Adkins still turns out the pimiento cheese-topped Elvis mini-burgers and Wednesday night fried chicken, but dishes such as roast guinea hen, lobster pie and bay scallops baked in the shell show up with increasing frequency. At the other end of downtown, Ray's the Classics (8606 Colesville Rd., 301-588-7297) has a calmer palette and a sleeker decor. Here, owner Michael Landrum has given the area a classic American steakhouse, but with sensible prices. Starters and desserts are downright inexpensive ($4 for desserts must be a new low for such upscale places). Book in advance or chance a walk-in after 9 p.m.DowntownWheaton
Another polyglot of ethnic diversity, covering most Asian and Latin American specialties. Pearl Seafood Restaurant (11230 Grand View Ave., 301-962-8888) offers tapas and seafood in a supper-club atmosphere. Ruan Thai (11407 Amherst Ave., 301-942-0075) is especially popular with epicures. Lesser-known Nava Thai (11315 Fern St., 240-430-0495) is a clean and tidy restaurant in a tiny space behind an Asian grocery store, and its Thai dishes are dazzling.
And don't forget the kosher places, which first put Wheaton on the culinary map. Nut House Pizza (11419 Georgia Ave., 301-942-5900) is a longtime favorite for kosher vegetarian fare, and great french fries. (The name derives from the location's beginnings as a place to purchase nuts.) And Max's Kosher Cafe and Marketplace (around the corner at 2319 University Blvd. West, 301-949-6297, http://www.shalomgroup.com) has one of the area's largest selections of kosher food.DowntownBethesda
There are many restaurants here, but just a few standouts. At David Craig (4924 St. Elmo Ave., 301-657-2484, http://www.dcbethesda.com), the dining rooms are Spartan, but the fare is not. The food is complicated, but with few extraneous notes. The flavors shine through, whether the dish is a filet mignon sauced with a veal reduction, a butter lettuce salad with tart fried green tomatoes, or braised veal cheeks that are rich but never cloying. The chocolate bread pudding is one killer dessert. Persimmon (7003 Wisconsin Ave., 301-654-9860, http://www.persimmonrestaurant.com) isn't quite as sure-footed, but the food is always interesting, and the atmosphere is warm and joyful. Cafe Gelato (4823 St. Elmo Ave., 301-913-0050) is just a slip of a space, but it turns out hearty and interesting salads and sandwiches -- and homemade gelato.Two Wine Places
Montgomery County's laws that channel all wine purchases through the county government means there aren't a lot of wine stores with a great selection of wines. Finewine.com (20A Grand Corner Ave., Gaithersburg, 301-987.5933, http://www.finewine.com) includes a small wine bar that offers cheeses and other nibbles along with a changing menu of wines by the glass. And every Friday night, there are special wine flight tastings (small tastes of several wines). Adega Wine Cellars & Cafe (8519 Fenton St., Silver Spring, 301-608.2200, http://www.adegawinecellars.com) has morphed into more cafe than wine shop, with lots of sandwiches, salads, pizzas and burgers. There are also about 20 wines available by the glass each day, and there is enough wine stock to find an interesting bottle to take home.
If you have a favorite restaurant that you think deserves attention, please contact Nancy Lewis firstname.lastname@example.org.