The Washington Post

Street Smart: What to do in Wheaton

The energy of immigrants drawn to the crossroads of Georgia Avenue and University Boulevard builds on those who settled one of Washington’s oldest suburbs. Latino boutiques, restaurants and services operate beside classic lunch counters and shops, while parkland beauty lies a short hop away.

Chuck Levin's Washington Music Center. (Photo by David Montgomery)

Chuck Levin's Washington Music Center
11151 Veirs Mill Rd.

A Wheaton landmark since 1968, the center has grown into a leading seller of instruments and equipment. Success meant capturing eclectic markets such as churches, schools, military ensembles and touring acts. But the emotional core is still what Adam Levin, 26, grandson of the late founders Chuck and Marge, calls "the coming-of-age-thing. It's time for you to get your first guitar. The father brings the kid to where he got his first guitar." Down every aisle is a spontaneous jam session.

The Toy Exchange. (Photo by David Montgomery)

The Toy Exchange
11265 Triangle Lane

Perry Mohney quit his commercial glass job in 1991 and "took a chance on making a hobby a business." His passion is vintage robots and space toys. But you'll also find his shop crammed floor to ceiling with Lionel trains, Matchbox cars, G.I. Joe figures, Star Wars collectibles, "a little bit of everything." Toys from the 1980s and early 1990s are hot, as new adults yearn for what they had as kids. "Every day is fun," says Mohney. "You're around toys all the time."

Brookside Gardens. (Photo by David Montgomery)

Brookside Gardens
1800 Glenallan Ave.

The colorful and fragrant 50-acre oasis features conservatories and winding paths leading to pleasing vistas. The Butterfly Garden is planted to attract many varieties of those majestic travelers. A major renovation is underway, but most of the grounds remain open.

Chicago Bakery. (Photo by David Montgomery)

Chicago Bakery
11266 Georgia Ave.

Juan Melgar kept the name when he took over in 2007 and filled the shelves with delicacies from his native El Salvador and Latin America, such as tres leches cakes and salpora de arroz cookies. Customers drive from Virginia for the quesadillas -not to be confused with Mexican quesadillas. The Salvadoran kind is a breakfast cake, to be dipped in coffee, and Melgar's are carried in 7-Elevens.

Intipuqueño Restaurant
2504 Ennalls Ave.

The name honors Intipucá, El Salvador, where the town square has a statue of the first Intipuqueño to come to Washington, around 1967. Many landed in Wheaton, where Telvis Elizabeth Alvarado opened her restaurant seven years ago. "When we come to this country, we save our money to have our own businesses," she says. Shoot some pool, then try the fajitas and the curiles, a Salvadoran shellfish.

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David Montgomery writes general features, profiles and arts stories for the Sunday Magazine and Style, including pieces on the Latino community and Latino arts.



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