News & Politics

8 Things We Miss About Mazza Gallerie

The Friendship Heights mall as we know it is going away

Mazza Gallerie as we know it is going away. Plans for a major revamp were recently released, and the familiar white-walled mall in Friendship Heights will soon be transformed into a mixed-use development that looks nothing like its former incarnation. This is good news for the faded neighborhood, which could use all the help it can get. But for those of us who grew up riding our bikes to Mazza Gallerie, it’s a bit sad to see the place go. We asked a couple of Washingtonian staffers who spent time there in the old days for their top memories.

Buying Nice Price cassettes at the Disc Shop

It wasn’t one of the area’s best record stores, but the Disc Shop was a reliable place to pick up mainstream music if you lived nearby. Two things stick in my mind: The annoying plastic-enclosed conveyor belt that ferried cassettes to the front counter (to prevent theft) and the rack of “Nice Price” tapes of albums released by Chrysalis Records, which let me score Specials, Selecter, and Blondie albums for an amount that didn’t wipe out my entire allowance. (RB)

Springing for Club Seating at AMC Theater

AMC rolled out its fancy “Club Seating” at Mazza in the early aughts—a predecessor to all the theaters serving booze and offering lounge-like chairs. For an additional fee you could sashay past the regular moviegoers to an actual red-carpeted entrance that led to a dark, clubby (in an old-guy kind of way) bar. There was wine and liquor, and “nicer” concessions like salad (because that’s what you want while watching Gladiator for the first time…bourbon and lettuce). The seats were nicer, too—very La-Z-Boy-esque. (AS)

Scoring a Trivial Pursuit set at the Game Boutique

Back when Trivial Pursuit was a big thing and board games were considered a non-lame way to pass the time, Game Boutique—located on the far end of the lower level—was a must-visit during any Mazza excursion. In 1984, there was a long waiting list for Trivial Pursuit sets, as the Post reported at the time. But Game Boutique had plenty of other options—including, if I remember correctly, some rudimentary handheld video games. (RB)

Counting calories at Rock Creek

Long before “mindful dining” was a culinary catchphrase and calorie counts dotted every chain menu, there was Rock Creek—a health-centric, finer-dining restaurant that opened on the top floor of Mazza in 2007 (the flagship debuted in Bethesda two years prior). There was some star power behind the kitchen—Ris Lacoste was an early consultant—and dining room flair (a 22-foot faux oak tree at the center). But the goal, as Bethesda Magazine put it, “was to get you in and out with a maximum of 1,000 calories under your belt, including an appetizer, main course and dessert,” with the help of calorie counts and nutritional analyses on the menus. It was kind of fun to dig into a molten chocolate cake knowing you’re within the limit (300 calories!), but maybe the whole concept works better with a burger fix than steak tartare? It closed in 2009. (AS)

Failing to finish an Earthquake at Swensen’s

For wide-eyed kids, this super-popular San Francisco-themed ice cream parlor served one dish of intense fascination: an eight-scoop behemoth called the Earthquake. Few managed to convince their parents to let them order one; even fewer (none?) managed to finish the thing. (RB)

Free smells at Krön Chocolatier

This high-end chocolate shop opened in 1977 and seems to still be operating as a mail-order business. The Mazza Gallerie store had a sweet scent that I can still conjure up if I close my eyes. Did they also give out free samples? That seems right, but my memory is a bit foggy. (RB)

Taking the elevator inside the Pleasant Peasant

I remember little about this ‘80s restaurant, an outpost of an Atlanta chain. But I do vividly recall the entrance. You’d walk in from Jenifer Street, check in at the desk, then take a private lift up to the main dining room. Today this seems unremarkable, but when I was a kid, it felt incredibly glamorous. Post restaurant critic Phyllis Richman was a bit less impressed with the place. As she wrote in her mixed 1983 review, “It is just what you’d expect in a shopping mall with a McDonald’s at one end and Neiman-Marcus at the other: a restaurant that calls itself a peasant and serves two-digit entrees from veal to strip steak. The Pleasant Peasant, however, is only half misnomer; its two-story dining room, with pizza-pasta parlor downstairs and full-menu dining room an elevator ride away, is undeniably pleasant.” (RB)

Skipping Mazza and going to the American Cafe, Crown Books, and Herman’s instead

Mazza Gallerie was the area’s central attraction, but some of the best offerings were not inside of it, but around it. American Cafe was a hotspot for a time, and Herman’s World of Sporting Goods (below it in the same building) was the place for shin guards and softball bats. Crown Books, just down Jenifer Street in the same building that housed Q107, was great for book browsing—far preferable to Mazza’s offering, which was an understocked B. Dalton on the little-visited top floor. (RB)

Politics and Culture Editor

Rob Brunner grew up in DC and moved back in 2017 to join Washingtonian. Previously, he was an editor and writer at Fast Company and other publications. He lives with his family in Chevy Chase DC.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.