Food  |  Shopping  |  Things to Do

Best of Silver Spring: Cool Spots

Locals recommend places that make their neighborhood special.

Novelist George Pelecanos goes to Hanagan’s Auto Body when his car needs a tuneup. Photograph by Chris Leaman.

George Pelecanos is a writer as well as a film and TV producer. He has written 15 novels set in and around Washington and contributed extensively to HBO’s The Wire.

Vicino (959 Sligo Ave.; 301-588-3372) is a little place that has really good, traditional Italian food. I’m like Michael Corleone with that place—whenever I have a meeting, it’s “meet me at Vicino.” Usually during the day I get the red pizza and a salad, and at night some seafood linguine.

The Original Big Greek Cafe (8223 Georgia Ave.; 301-587-4733) is a new addition to the neighborhood, and they do a real nice job. I had some great fish there.

I like Kefa Cafe (963 Bonifant St.; 301-589-9337). The women who run it, Lene and Abeba Tsegaye, are just beautiful people. It’s a nice place to get a cup of coffee.

I get my books at Silver Spring Books (938 Bonifant St.; 301-587-7484). It’s run by my friend Cynthia Parker, an ex–probation officer and a very nice person.

I go to Hanagan’s Auto Body (933 Selim Rd.; 301-589-2260) to get my car worked on. I grew up with the Hanagans—I played baseball with Tim Hanagan.


Valerie Tripp has written many books in the American Girl series, which accompanies a popular line of dolls. The 2008 movie Kit Kittredge: An American Girl was based on one of her characters.

The wonderful White Oak Library (11701 New Hampshire Ave.; 240-773-9555) has a children’s room, and one of my favorite things to do is to walk through and see the kids so engaged. I like to wander into the nonfiction section, where you can stand in the stacks and lose yourself in a book about Eleanor Roosevelt or Audrey Hepburn.

I love walking through Sligo Creek Park (7000 Sligo Creek Pkwy.; 301-650-2600; There are always families, people playing sports and running, and in the summer you can smell delicious food being cooked.

A friend and I walk every day around the track at Montgomery Blair High School (51 University Blvd. E.; 301-649-2800). On the weekends, there are people practicing Brazilian dances, which is fun to watch.

My family’s favorite restaurant is Mi Rancho (8701 Ramsey Ave.; 301-588-4872). It has a wonderful outside tent, and every time we go there we run into friends. It’s not a fancy place—it feels more like an extension of your own home. I always have the sizzling mesquite chicken with guacamole. It tastes like summer to me.

One of our greatest treasures is the AFI Silver Theatre (8633 Colesville Rd.; 301-495-6720). It’s wonderful for kids. You feel like you’re being transported back in time to the grand era of beautiful movie theaters, and it shows extraordinary films you couldn’t see anywhere else. In the summer, we love to go to the SilverDocs documentary festival.

John Harwood is chief Washington correspondent for CNBC and a political writer for the New York Times. He appears often on NBC’s Meet the Press and PBS’s Washington Week.

We have a world-class grocery store in Silver Spring: Snider’s Super Foods (1936 Seminary Rd.; 301-589-3240). It’s family-owned and has a tiny parking lot, but it’s so compact that you can get in and out really fast.

The best ice cream on the planet is at Moorenko’s (8030-B Georgia Ave.; 301-565-7804). It’s homemade. My favorite is the chocolate chip—the chips are shaved really finely, so there are a bazillion thin chips as opposed to a few big chunks. Whenever my daughters have friends over, we’ll go there and have an ice-cream party.

Manny & Olga’s Pizza (8107 Fenton St.; 301-608-8050) has wonderful delivery pizza—it’s richer than the usual takeout stuff, which can be kind of flat and tasteless.

Ceviche (921-J Ellsworth Dr.; 301-608-0081), in the redeveloped part of downtown, has a bar area where you can hang out on the sofas and get drinks.


Gillian Clark is chef and co-owner of the General Store and Post Office Tavern, a restaurant and bar in Silver Spring. She’s also the author of Out of the Frying Pan: A Chef’s Memoir of Hot Kitchens, Single Motherhood, and the Family Meal.

My favorite restaurant would have to be Thai Derm (939 Bonifant St.; 301-589-5341). I don’t think there’s anything bad on the menu. It’s very authentic food. It’s not fancy inside, but the staff is friendly and it has a very loyal following.

Golden Cleaners (918 Silver Spring Ave.; 301-587-4892) does a really good job. They never lose your stuff, and it’s always exactly as you want it. I bought my daughter a dress at Macy’s and the zipper was broken, so I took it there and they fixed it perfectly.

My daughter used to be interested in drama, so she took classes at Round House Theatre (8641 Colesville Rd.; 240-644-1100) and had a great time.

If I have a Saturday off, I’ll do dim sum at Oriental East (1312 East-West Hwy.; 301-608-0030). It’s an adventure—you never know what’s coming out, and there’s always a surprise.

Thai Market (902 Thayer Ave.; 301-495-2779) is the place to go for spices. Don’t pay $5 for a tiny jar of curry powder at the supermarket—you can get a big bag there for less than $3.

Michael Williamson —whose picks are in nearby Wheaton, where he lives—is a Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post photographer. In 2000, he was named photographer of the year by the National Press Photographers Association.

Dessie (2655 University Blvd. W., Wheaton; 301-933-5580) is one of the best Ethiopian dives. It can look abandoned if you don’t know it, but the food is classic Ethiopian, always fresh, and they’re ridiculously friendly. Two people can eat until they’re stuffed, and the check will be less than $20.

I’m a collector of vintage toys like old robots and tin toys. There’s a really interesting place called the Toy Exchange (11265 Triangle La., Wheaton; 301-929-0690). You can buy, trade, or sell, and it’s totally insider—the guy there can tell instantly whether something is a reproduction or the real thing. I never see kids in there, just guys like me who love toys.

Another place that mostly just folks around here know about is Wheaton Regional Park (2000 Shorefield Rd., Wheaton; 301-905-3040). They have a train that all the kids love and a backwoods trail to a lake, and it’s fantastic for walking. There are ball fields that are never full, an ice rink, and a good dog run.

The best Peruvian chicken place is El Pollo Rico (2517 University Blvd. W., Wheaton; 301-942-4419). You can smell it half a mile away. It just reopened after a fire and it’s not as divey as it was, but the chicken’s just the same. Other chicken places are good, but this one is juicier and it has amazing sauces, horseradish, and mustard.