Friendship Heights has been synonymous with shopping for some time—Lord & Taylor opened in 1959, followed by Saks Fifth Avenue and, in the ’70s, Neiman Marcus. Yet it wasn’t until the past few years that the Red Line-accessible neighborhood straddling DC and Maryland really upped its game with a slew of designer boutiques and restaurants. Still, it retains that high/low mix that defines fashion right now: Along with one-percenter stores such as Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton, and Dior are bargain places like H&M, Nordstrom Rack, and T.J. Maxx.
Shops are clustered mostly along a walkable half-mile stretch of Wisconsin Avenue, from Harrison Street to Somerset Terrace. Start the day at Sweet Teensy Bakery (1 Wisconsin Cir.; 301-656-0809) with an Illy espresso downed Italian style at the bar. One of the flaky ham-and-cheese scones made in-house wouldn’t be amiss, either.
Then indulge in a little fantasy shopping by heading north on Wisconsin to the fun-to-even-just-look-at addresses at the Collection at Chevy Chase. You might pop into French jeweler Cartier (5471 Wisconsin Ave.; 301-654-5858) to slip on Juste un Clou, the edgy “bent nail” bracelet favored by actress Kristen Stewart, or check out the wrap-around wristwatch at Bulgari (5481 Wisconsin Ave.; 301-986-8610) worn by Vogue Japan editor at large Anna Dello Russo. If shoes are your thing, don’t miss the chance to ogle the butter-soft suede loafers at Gucci (5481 Wisconsin Ave.; 301-986-8902) and the sexy stilettos at Jimmy Choo (5481 Wisconsin Ave.; 240-223-1102). And you needn’t channel Audrey Hepburn—chignon, cigarette holder—to relish a turn through Tiffany & Co. (5481 Wisconsin Ave.; 301-657-8777).
A block up awaits Saks Fifth Avenue (5555 Wisconsin Ave.; 301-657-9000) and its 6,000-square-foot shoe department with such brands as Christian Louboutin and Miu Miu. “It girl” denim and contemporary designers—Alice and Olivia, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Vince—are on the lower level, too. Cross the street and you’ll come upon De Pandi (5518 Wisconsin Ave.; 301-718-1901), a trove of Italian designer suits, shirts, and ties as well as custom menswear by owner Eduardo De Pandi (father of Giuliana Rancic of E! News).
The snug boutique Sylene (4407 S. Park Ave.; 301-654-4200)—known for swimwear, sweet and sexy lingerie, and saleswomen who can fit a bra—is a short detour onto South Park Avenue. Back on Wisconsin, you’ll see the elegant facade of Santa Maria Novella (5454 Wisconsin Ave.; 240-743-4949), one of five of the Florentine shops in the US, filled with deliciously scented soaps, candles, shaving cream, potpourri, and the namesake cologne created for Catherine de Medici in the 1500s. Gifts are lavishly wrapped for free.
Time for lunch? Head to The Shops at Wisconsin Place (5310 Western Ave.) and go casual at Le Pain Quotidien (202-499-6785) with a curried-chicken tartine or lentil-avocado salad, or more formal with the $18 lunchtime two-course “plates” menu at the Capital Grille (301-718-7812). We recommend the potato-leek soup and lobster roll.
Both places are a stone’s throw from Bloomingdale’s (5300 Western Ave.; 240-744-3700) and its smartly edited smattering of everything: housewares, men’s clothing that skews classic, an infant and children’s area, and an array of not-too-pricey party dresses. The second floor really shines, with cool-girl labels such as Maje, Sandro, and Tibi.
Mazza Gallerie (5300 Wisconsin Ave., NW) is next. Catch your breath at low-key Tabandeh (202-244-0777), known for one-of-a-kind fine and costume designer jewelry and accessories. Neiman Marcus (202-966-9700) has three floors devoted to of-the-moment shoes and bags, stylish menswear, high-end women’s wear from names like Brunello Cucinelli and the Row, infant and children’s clothing, and home accessories. Worth seeking out are Neiman’s own line of cashmere and the Cusp boutique, full of trendy denim and date-night clothes. Also at Mazza is Saks Fifth Avenue Men’s Store (202-363-2059), all about stylish sportswear, shoes, and accessories on the first level—look for names like Theory and Rag & Bone—and elegant power suits from the likes of Boss and Salvatore Ferragamo on the second.
Time for cocktails? You could go for a skinny or traditional margarita along with guacamole made tableside at Rosa Mexicano (5225 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-777-9959). Or head to the lively happy hour at Lia’s (4435 Willard Ave.; 240-223-5427) for truffled popcorn, $6.50 burgers—with fries or greens—and a well-priced roster of beers and wines. The sunken white lounge at Sushiko (5455 Wisconsin Ave.; 301-961-1644) is perfect for sake and spicy tuna hand rolls, both happy-hour picks. Well-sourced sushi and sashimi and creative takes on Japanese classics make it a good option for dinner, too.
Craft cocktails are the thing at Bryan Voltaggio’s Range (5335 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-803-8020) in Chevy Chase Pavilion. Stay for dinner and choose from the raw bar, salumi, pastas, wood-oven pizzas, and other entrées, all with a modern twist. Or go more formal and intimate at Aggio—Voltaggio’s restaurant within Range—a serene oasis of Italian fare. It’s just the sort of cosseting you might crave after an all-day shopathon.
Friendship Heights freelancer Cynthia Hacinli writes about food, fashion, travel, and design.
This article appears in our April 2015 issue of Washingtonian.
Correction: In a previous version of this article, we recommended going to Chevy Chase Plaza (5310 Western Ave.) for lunch at Le Pain Quotidien and the Capital Grille. The correct location is The Shops at Wisconsin Place (5310 Western Ave.).