Old, New & Fun: Best of Silver Spring
Silver Spring has been transformed from an aging suburb to a lively hub of nightlife, dining, and entertainment. You’ll find great ethnic spots, a new concert venue, and a terrific seafood joint that hasn’t changed in 50 years.
Photograph of Joe’s Record Paradise by Erik Uecke
Photograph By Erik Uecke
1 Chef at Work
Pedro Matamoros makes June Cleaver look lazy. At his 8407 Kitchen Bar (8407 Ramsey Ave.; 301-587-8407), he handmakes everything from pickles to pastrami bacon. We like his heartier dishes, such as the Cuban sandwich, lamb Bolognese, and grilled rib eye.
2 Clubby Cool
In the mood for steak—or a quick bite before a show at the AFI or the Fillmore? You’ll find one of the best deals in town in the front lounge at Ray’s the Classics (8606 Colesville Rd.; 301-588-7297), where the mood and the prices conjure a bygone era. For $22.99 you get a cup of lump-meat-packed crab bisque, a flavorful hanger steak, and sides of mashed potatoes and creamed spinach. The kitchen also slings the most popular burgers from sister restaurant Ray’s Hell-Burger in Arlington.
3 Films Galore
The AFI Silver Theater (8633 Colesville Rd.; 301-495-6720), the cultural center of the American Film Institute, is one of our favorite places to catch a movie. Three theaters play a mix of mainstream, art-house, classic, and seasonal films. But the biggest draw is the festivals. Every June, Silverdocs brings the world’s best documentary filmmakers together for a week of screenings, panels, and special events. Also popular: September’s Latin American Film Festival and the European Union Showcase in November.
Photograph by Scott Suchman
4 Terrific Thai
Some of the area’s most vivid curries can be found at Kao Thai (8650 Colesville Rd.; 301-495-1234), a cheerful slip of a dining room. Temper the spiciness with soothing wonton soup and sticky rice with mango. Or ramp it up with an order of larb, the fiery minced-chicken salad.
5 Killer Music Hall
Open since September, the Fillmore (8656 Colesville Rd.; 301-960-9999) has brought the likes of Blondie, Deadmau5, and Mary J. Blige to Silver Spring. Taking its cues from the historic San Francisco Fillmore, the venue can hold 2,000 and is decorated with vintage rock posters and four purple chandeliers. Many concerts end in time to take the Metro home, and snacks such as duck-fat fries and pork pot stickers are easy to munch during shows thanks to Chinese takeout containers.
Photograph By Erik Uecke
6 Arthouse Chic
Metamorphosis Wardrobe & Accessories Boutique (811 Wayne Ave.; 301-588-8901) is filled with good options for the artsy shopper. Draped skirts, sweaters, and jackets come in warm shades of red, burnt orange, and brown, and the demurely cut cocktail dresses rely on bold patterns and color to catch attention. A collection of one-of-a-kind hats ($90 to $300) perch on cast-iron stands in one corner; at the checkout counter, you’ll find oversize cocktail jewelry with an African vibe.
7 Fun for Fido
The cheery pet boutique Living Ruff (8517 Georgia Ave.; 301-495-7833) has great finds for dogs, cats, and the people who love them. The focus is on organic and natural food (all products are wheat-, corn-, and soy-free), but you’ll also find a selection of toys, training equipment, dog coats, and a few gifts for owners.
8 Delicious Dive
When you walk into the basement-level Quarry House Tavern (8401 Georgia Ave.; 301-587-8350), all signs point to a classic dive bar: graffitied bathrooms and honky-tonk and garage-rock bands on the small stage. But the menu is a foodie’s delight. Overseen by Jackie Greenbaum of nearby Jackie’s Restaurant, the kitchen serves delicious house-made chips and organic-beef burgers, and the rotating beer list runs about 300 deep.
9 Red-Sauce Staple
With its exposed-brick dining room and flowing Chianti, Olazzo (8235 Georgia Ave.; 301-588-2540) feels more Little Italy than bel paese. Plates come heaped with such checked-tablecloth staples as mozzarella-laden garlic bread, lasagna with red sauce, fried calamari, and chicken Parm’. On Monday night, bottles of wine are half off when you order an entrée.
10 Vintage Records
Spotify-spurners and iTunes-haters, here’s the shop for you. In business since 1974, Joe’s Record Paradise (8216 Georgia Ave.; 301-585-3269) is a gigantic, pink-walled music-and-media emporium that moved from Rockville to Silver Spring two years ago. You’ll find records, CDs, even cassettes and VHS tapes (remember those?) from all genres and decades. In the “cheapie” section, records go for $1 to $3.50. For those who prefer to keep their tunes on an iPod, Joe’s is also a great source for retro wall art.
11 Creative Cocktails
At the glam-punk lounge Sidebar (8081 Georgia Ave.; 301-588-0899), the walls are painted black, sparkly chandeliers hang from the ceiling, and the craft cocktails—normally $9 to $11—are $6 during happy hour. The drinks are a mix of old classics such as the sidecar and more creative concoctions including the duck-fat-infused Quack-Quack-Erac. Chef Diana Davila-Boldin’s menu changes often, but you’ll likely find the Chicago-style hot dog and truffle-oil popcorn for a savory snack.
12 Local Flavor
The kitchen at the Eastern Shore-style Crisfield Seafood Restaurant (8012 Georgia Ave.; 301-589-1306) might not be quite what it was a few decades ago, but with checkerboard floors and paper place mats, the 67-year-old neighborhood institution gets the atmosphere right. And it’s worth grabbing a stool at the convivial horseshoe-shaped bar if you stick to the simple stuff: buttery crab Norfolk; a cold seafood platter heaped with shrimp, crab, and lobster; baked stuffed shrimp; and slightly sweet slaw.
13 Latin Tastes
At the Latin dining room Samantha’s (631 University Blvd. E.; 301-445-7300), look past the fajitas and enchiladas—they’re fine, but the real riches can be found in the house-specialties section of the menu. Go for the generous masitas de puerco, a Cuban dish of crispy pork with a whiff of citrus, or pan-fried Salvadoran-style trout.