The first restaurant in a mini-empire that now includes Indique and Indique Heights, Bombay Bistro (98 W. Montgomery Ave.; 301-762-8798) is still turning out fiery Indian specialties at its 20-year-old downtown Rockville location. Simple dishes are often the best: smoky black dal, tender calamari spiked with shallots and hot peppers, and a whole rockfish redolent of ginger, garlic, and spices cooked in the clay oven. And don't forget the extras: Gently spiced raita and the overstuffed red-onion-filled kulcha are a revelation.
Whether you're looking for a shiny blue harmonica, a cartoony Kettler trike, or an oversize plush giraffe, you can probably find it at Toy Kingdom (36-C Maryland Ave.; 301-251-0220). This sprawling shop straddles new and old with such brands as Alex, Bruder, Playmobil, Ravensburger, and Creativity for Kids. The rack of Mad Libs books—On the Road edition, anyone?—is pretty impressive, too.
Stylish digs and clever cocktails make the New York import Sushi Damo (36-G Maryland Ave.; 301-340-8010) one of the livelier Japanese spots around. Offbeat rolls such as the Rockville, a briny-crunchy bite of shrimp, rice crackers, and crab, and the Blue Ocean, a mash-up of salmon, lobster salad, and blue curaçao-wasabi mayo, work well, as do more familiar takes on sushi, sashimi, and tempura. House-made lychee sorbet—really almost a granita—makes for a clean finish.
Keep the summer-house vibe going all year with accessories and linens from the Cottage Monet (36-H Maryland Ave.; 301-279-2422). Creamware pitchers, blue glass vases, jazzy printed cotton pillows, and aluminum serverware by such lines as Vietri, Mariposa, and CatStudio are all here. Our favorite recent finds: clear blown-glass salt and pepper shakers shaped like pigs and a tongue-in-cheek wooden sign with the words seas the day.
Oro Pomodoro (33-A Maryland Ave.; 301-251-1111) is the sort of casual-chic restaurant that children and their parents adore: fun wood-oven pizzas, savory pastas, interesting wines, and more than a modicum of style. We can vouch for lemony octopus carpaccio, robust fettuccine Bolognese, and briny spaghetti with clams. Pizzas sport well-charred crusts and toppings such as buffalo mozzarella and spicy salami. For dessert, consider the chocolate cake with one creamy layer of ganache and another of caramelized sugar and almonds known as croccante.
The Vietnamese sandwiches known as bánh mì at Pho & Rolls (33-E Maryland Ave.; 301-340-2856) make for a quick and portable meal. We like the classic with head cheese and Vietnamese ham as well as the grilled pork and beef versions. All are on crusty French bread with pickled vegetables. The cafe also has decent pho with assorted meats including brisket, eye round, tendon, and tripe to add to the anise-scented beef-and-noodle soup. Sweet Vietnamese iced coffee does double duty—as a drink and dessert.
The jammies are almost as wild as the pottery at the Friday-night Pajama Party at Color Me Mine (33-F Maryland Ave.; 301-251-2010). Popular with teens and families, Pajama Fridays mean if you show up in PJs between 5 and 8, the studio fee is waived (usually it's $7 to $10). The lineup also includes Ladies Night Wednesdays, Mommy and Me Mondays, and Two for One Tuesdays. The drill is familiar whenever you go: Pick your unpainted bowl or objet ($12 to $80). Gather paints and stencils. Create.
Red and purple lanterns glow in the two-story dining room at Thai Pavilion (29 Maryland Ave.; 301-545-0244), while metal and stone sculptures add urban edge. The showstoppers are duck rolls—the moist meat filling a crisped pancake—and black-pepper sea bass fragrant with sesame, garlic, scallions, and soy.
The oversize Saigon crepe stuffed with shrimp and chicken at Taste of Saigon (20-A Maryland Ave.; 301-424-7222) is a meal on a plate. You could stop there, but then you might miss other pleasures at this modern, color-splashed Vietnamese eatery. Clusters of crunchy chili and tamarind give fried calamari a new twist, and pork- and shrimp-filled dumplings are nicely crusted from pan searing. If you thrill to the low, slow burn of black pepper, ask for the eatery's signature dish: black-pepper shrimp—and tell them to turn the heat on.
Take a class, check out an exhibit, or duck into the studio of one of 19 resident artists at VisArts (155 Gibbs St.; 301-315-8200), a three-story nonprofit art space sponsored by the city of Rockville, Montgomery County, and private donors. In addition to changing gallery shows, there are classes in painting, drawing, photography, glass, and jewelry. Also check out Cocktails & Canvas, a regular event at which participants can enjoy wine and snacks while finishing partially sketched canvases inspired by artists including Georgia O'Keeffe and Vincent van Gogh.
Starting November 2, a 7,200-square-foot expanse of Rockville Town Square turns into the largest ice-skating rink in Montgomery County. Rent skates ($3) and arrange for lessons ($85 for five classes) at the Rockville Ice Skate Shop (131 Gibbs St., 301-545-1999).
Geared to the young and young at heart, Cloud 9 Clothing (130-B Gibbs St.; 301-340-1061) is the place to find trendy, bohemian frocks to wear on the weekend—and out on the town. Think uneven hems, strapless bustiers, and retro maxis, plus jewelry and accessories to finish the look. There are more-sedate threads, too: patterned button-downs, loose blouson tops, and jeans that work on just about everyone.
Craft cocktails are the draw at Quench (9712 Traville Gateway Dr.; 301-424-8650), which opened in May. A spritz of absinthe perfumes the wonderfully tart Corpse Reviver #2, made with gin and Lillet Blanc, while applewood-smoked cherries and a black-tea/cardamom reduction liven up a Maker's Mark Manhattan. Even the classic Hemingway daiquiri gets extra zing from fresh grapefruit.
Matchbox (1699 Rockville Pike; 301-816-0369) is a sprawling industrial space with a killer beer roster. Go for sliders on brioche buns (we like them with smoked Gouda) or tackle a full-size Angus burger with cremini mushrooms and melted Gorgonzola. Rib eye, rubbed with earthy porcini-mushroom jus, is a winner on its own, but spicy rapini and mashed potatoes loaded with bacon, sour cream, and cheese take the plate way over the top.
This article appears in the October 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.