Bethesda Row is the downtown area's shopping and dining hub. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

Where to eat, shop, and play in Bethesda right now, including the newest things to know and our favorite classic haunts.

About Bethesda

Several new shops have opened recently at Bethesda Row. Photograph courtesy of Federal Realty/Carl Maynard

Close to DC—with lots of walkable shopping and dining, luxury apartments and condos mixed among single-family homes, and good public transit—Bethesda is one of those places that can feel equal parts sub- and -urban. And while there have been some closures amid the pandemic, new destinations have continued to open. Here’s what’s interesting right now.

Coming Soon(ish)

Fans of the Riggsby, Michael Schlow’s throwback Dupont dining room (temporarily closed), will have to wait a bit longer to get their martinis, deviled eggs, and chopped salads at the Bethesda spinoff. The restaurant, in the former Kapnos Kouzina space (4900 Hampden Ln.), is still happening, according to Schlow’s restaurant group, but has been delayed until next year. A surer thing: Virraaj (4914 Cordell Ave.), an Indian restaurant that replaces the Eritrean Delina.

Covid Closures

George’s Chophouse, the elegant Cordell Avenue steak place from chef/owner Ashish Alfred, couldn’t survive the financial losses caused by the pandemic. The restaurant, along with its upstairs events space, the Loft, shut down this summer. Another Covid casualty: 40-year-old French bistro Le Vieux Logis, a couple of blocks away.

For Yuppies and Their Puppies

The well-heeled and the four-legged companions at their heels will soon have a new hangout called Bark Social, a “dog bar”expected to open in North Bethesda’s Pike & Rose development in October (935 Prose St.). For a$365 annual membership or a $40 monthly option, humans and their pets will get access to a private 25,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor dog park with a coffee shop, a food menu by Union Kitchen, and 20 self-serve taps dispensing beer, hard seltzer, and wine. Treats, ice cream, and CBD products for dogs will also be on offer (obviously).

Bring Home the Beach

Serena & Lily, the California furniture-and-decor line, debuted its first Mid-Atlantic shop, at Bethesda Row, in August (7121 Bethesda Ln.). We’re talking 3,000 square feet of the brand’s ubiquitous dip-dyed wood stools, Riviera rattan dining chairs, coastal-inspired textiles, rugs, and other accessories. In the interest of social distancing, the store is, for now, open only by appointment.

Goodbye, Lord & Taylor

Lord & Taylor was the only survivor when White Flint Mall was demolished five years ago, but its luck ran out this summer when the chain announced that it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and shuttering 19 locations—the North Bethesda outpost among them. The closure follows years of litigation be-tween the mall’s owners, Lerner Enterprises and Tower Companies, and the department store, which alleged that the owners had breached their contract by closing the surrounding mall. During Amazon’s search for a second headquarters, the land was briefly considered a contender for HQ2. Since that fizzled, no redevelopment plans have been announced.

Quarantine Hair

This past winter will no doubt go down as one of the worst periods in history to have opened a new storefront. But Madison Reed’s December debut at Bethesda Row (7254 Woodmont Ave.) actually appears to have been well timed. The chain bills itself as a beauty-industry disrupter, selling at-home hair-dye kits that fall somewhere between drugstore boxes and expensive salon treatments. Customers can upload photos of themselves if they want a virtual stylist to help them choose a shade and offer application advice. While you can have a real-life stylist color your hair for you at the brick-and-mortar locations, you can also simply use them to pick up your at-home kit (or have it shipped to you). The company became an MVP of the pandemic, reporting a ten-fold business boost in the first month of the crisis.

The Call Your Mother bagel trolley. Photograph by Evy Mages

Carbs on Wheels

Call Your Mother, the popular “Jewish” bagel spot from the Timber Pizza team, expanded to Bethesda this summer with a cheerful pink-and-teal trolley. The mobile outpost has many of the same items as the DC locations—think wood-fired bagels stuffed with smoked salmon, pastrami, or whitefish salad. You can find the trolley hanging out in a parking lot by Suburban Hospital (8804 Old Georgetown Rd.).

Downtown Bethesda’s streetery. Photograph by Evy Mages

Street Food

In the Covid era, snarled traffic is out, pat­o dining is in. Hence the advent of the “streetery”—closed-down streets transformed into additional outdoor seating for restaurants. In downtown Bethesda, you’ll find one operating along Norfolk, Cordell, and Woodmont avenues. Tables for diners to enjoy a meal from nearby restaurants such as Barrel & Crow and Raku are all spaced at least six feet apart, of course. Most of the streetery, which is run by the Bethesda Urban Partnership, has been operating daily since Montgomery County’s phase-one reopening in June.

New Clothes

When it’s time to wear real clothes regularly again, two new women’s stores will await in Bethesda. Johnny Was, a California fashion-and-lifestyle brand, has already taken over the former Lilly Pulitzer space at Bethesda Row (4867 Bethesda Ave.). At the Wildwood shopping center (10241 Old Georgetown Rd.), Indigo Octopus, a boutique from Fenwick Island with brands such as Golden Goose and Cleobella, arrived this fall.

A “sushi cake” from Sushiko. Photograph courtesy of SushiKo

Let Them Eat Sushi

Birthday coming up? One new way to celebrate: a sushi cake. Yes, for $150, the Friendship Heights restaurant Sushiko (5455 Wisconsin Ave.) will fashion a “cake” from enough sashimi, shellfish, and sushi rolls to feed two to four people. Thank-fully, the only sweets involved are the (easily avoidable) white-chocolate chips used for garnish. The creations are available for pickup with 48 hours’ notice.

Dot-Com to Brick-and-Mortar

Washington got its first Amazon 4-Star in August when the store opened on the lower level of Westfield Montgomery mall (7101 Democracy Blvd.). As the name suggests, the concept sells only items—as varied as books, games, Kindles, and coffeemakers—that have at least a four-star rating on the Amazon website.

Lots of Vacancy

The past six months have been brutal for Marriott International, the largest hotel company in the world. In March, at the start of the pandemic, it furloughed thousands of employees, including about two-thirds of the corporate personnel at its headquarters in North Bethesda. In May, Marriott announced that furloughs would be extended. And in September, the company notified the state of Maryland that it planned to lay off 673 workers from its HQ by the end of October. Even so, construction continues on its new campus—and adjacent 244-room Marriott hotel—on Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Bethesda, expected to open in 2022.

Art and Park

Downtown Bethesda’s newest mural comes from Baltimore artist Megan Lewis, who finished the piece wrapping around a parking garage (8216 Woodmont Ave.) in September. Some 50 artists applied to paint the structure—part of an initiative by the Bethesda Arts & Entertainment District—but Lewis’s colorful, commuter-inspired design won out. It’s the fourth mural since the initiative started in 2015.

Double Scoop

Bethesda was never hurting for sugar-fix options, but there are a couple of fresh frozen-treat shops on the scene. Sarah’s Handmade Ice Cream brings its extra-thick shakes, sorbet floats, and ice-cream sandwiches and pies to a second Bethesda location (10241 Old Georgetown Rd.) in the Wildwood shopping center. And a branch of the Baltimore-based chainlet Pitango (4901 Fairmont Ave.), known for spinning local ingredients into decadent gelato, debuted this summer.

Where to Eat in Bethesda

New eateries, local favorites, and the very best places to eat around Bethesda.
An edible terrarium from Kobo’s vegan tasting menu. Photograph by Scott Suchman.
An edible terrarium from Kobo’s vegan tasting menu. Photograph by Scott Suchman

This section was not updated. Please double check all restaurants.

Alatri Bros., for wood-oven pizzas, veal and beef tortellacci, and cauliflower fritti. 4926 Cordell Ave.; 301-718-6427.

Bistro Provence. The place to satisfy your craving for something classically French, such as duck confit with lyonaisse potatoes and frozen nougat with blackberries and orange. 4933 Fairmont Ave.; 301-656-7373.

Chercher, the Bethesda outpost of the much-loved DC restaurant known for its tibs, Ethiopian beef tartare, and red lentils. 4921 Bethesda Ave.; 301-652-6500.

Dog Haus Biergarten, a California import with a roster of craft beers and dressed-up hot dogs such as the Sooo Cali, plus a more-than-respectable burger called the Little Mule. 7904 Woodmont Ave.; 301-652-4287.

George’s Chophouse, for a “bloom-in’ maitake mushroom,” sous-videsteaks, and chicken under a brick with chorizo-brioche stuffing. 4935 Cordell Ave.; 240-534-2675.

Gringos & Mariachis. This ongoing margarita-and-nachos party can be a tough ticket—especially on weekends, when waits can top an hour—but it’s worth holding out. Home in on duck nachos and smoky chicken mole poblano. 4928 Cordell Ave., Bethesda; 240-800-4266.

Hinata. A terrific Japanese market for miso paste and other pantry staples, plus sushi-grade seafood such as tuna and flounder. 4947 St. Elmo Ave.; 301-656-1009.

Jaleo. Some plates at José Andrés’s tapas spot are pure satisfaction, such as a pressed Manchego-and-Ibérico-ham “Bikini” sandwich. Others are tricked-out flavor bursts like the Ferran Adrià–inspired “liquid olives” served on a spoon. 7271 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda; 301-913-0003.

Kapnos Kouzina. Luxurious spreads such as taramasalata,vibrant vegetables, and inventive cocktails are pleasers, as are rustic dishes including fried chicken with burnt-honey harissa. 4900 Hampden Ln., Bethesda; 301-986-8500.

Kobo. The beauty of this 12-to-15-course Japanese tasting menu is its lyrical cadence, swinging from earthy (apple-smoked monkfish liver and caviar) to delicate (dashi-poached cabbage with cured roe) and back again. 5455 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase; 301-961-1644.

Luke’s Lobster. Al fresco picnic tables for lobster rolls, New England clam chowder, and lobster mac and cheese that will transport you to Maine. 7129 Bethesda Ln.; 301-718-1005.

Olazzo. This is the place to rediscover red-sauce retro classics—a robust lasagna, linguine with sausage and melty peppers, or eggplant and veal Parmesans dotted with cheese. 7921 Norfolk Ave., Bethesda; 301-654-9496.

Passage to India. The menu touches on a variety of regional cuisines, though deliciousness crosses all borders. Favorites include apricot-studded Parsi lamb stew and a casserole of tender baby eggplant in sesame-peanut gravy. 4931 Cordell Ave., Bethesda; 301-656-3373.

PassionFish. Few other restaurants serve pescatarians so well, and the kitchen excels with a wide range of styles, including New England–inspired fry-ups, ceviche, and sushi. 7187 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda; 301-358-6116.

Praline Bakery. French-style breads and sweets, including brioche sucre, framboi­sines, and walnut dacquoise. 4611 Sangamore Rd.; 301-229-8180.

Raku. Almost always jammed, thanks to its spicy coconut red-curry noodles, miso-marinated black cod, bento boxes, and sushi. 7240 Woodmont Ave.; 301-718-8680.

Sushiko. Don’t miss artful composed plates such as yellowtail crudo with orange-infused ponzu. Vegetarians, take note: The kitchen offers one of the best selections of meatless Japanese fare in town. 5455 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase; 301-961-1644.

TacoArepa and Frida Beer Garden, where the seven-mile taco, el agua arepa, and lime-spiked guac rule. 4905 Fairmont Ave.; 240-858-6975.

Tastee Diner. The only answer when you need a greasy breakfast and a chocolate shake at 3 am. 7731 Woodmont Ave.; 301-652-3970.

Tout de Sweet. For macarons in offbeat flavors, fudgy cupcakes, mousse cakes, and creative beverages including mint iced coffee. 7831 Woodmont Ave.; 301-951-0474.

True Food Kitchen, with its health-conscious grain and vegetable bowls, curries, and big plates such as Moroccan chick-en, along with vegan and gluten-free options. 7100 Wisconsin Ave.; 240-200-1257.

Vace Italian Delicatessen. Top-notch pizza and Italian sandwiches, plus pantry staples and house-made pastas and sauces. 4705 Miller Ave.; 301-654-6367.

Wildwood Kitchen. Robert Wiedmaier’s upscale-strip-mall bistro—with vivid Mediterranean cooking—is the coziest dining room of his empire. 10223 Old Georgetown Rd., Bethesda; 301-571-1700.

Woodmont Grill. Throwback spinach-artichoke dip, the best veggie burger around, and live nightly jazz. 7715 Woodmont Ave.; 301-656-9755.

Where to Shop in Bethesda

New shops to know, plus some local favorites.
Sassanova in Bethesda. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

This section was not updated. Please double check all stores.

Balducci’sA great bakery, well-stocked meat and fish counters, hard-to-find produce, chocolates, and a selection of prepared foods and house-made soups in one stop. 10323 Old Georgetown Rd.; 301-564-3100.

Bethesda Central Farm Market. A weekly Sunday market (open 9 to 1:30) with farm-fresh produce and other artisanal eats. 7600 Arlington Rd.; no phone.

Bethesda Chocolates, a chic chocolatier/cafe with rose-scented truffles, coffee drinks, and a standout hot chocolate. 8003 Woodmont Ave., 240-483-0877.

Bethesda Farm Women’s Market. A fixture since 1932, with an outdoor flea market on Sundays and indoor purveyors of local vegetables, homemade breads, quiches, quilts, and more. 7155 Wisconsin Ave.; 301-652-2291.

Bluemercury. A go-to stop, whether you’re after a complete makeover or just like to experiment with the latest beauty products. 7105 Bethesda Ln.; 301-986-0070.

Lou Lou. For a dazzling array of reasonably priced jewelry, bags, hair ornaments, hats, scarves, belts, and clothing. 7126 Bethesda Ln.; 301-652-0048.

Pampillonia, a fine jeweler with estate pieces and more modern designs. 7114 Bethesda Ln.; 202-363-6305.

Sassanova. A well-edited collection of women’s shoes, clothing, hats, and jewelry. 7134 Bethesda Ln.; 301-654-7403.

Target, a more compact version of the typical store but still with groceries, clothing, and home goods aplenty. 6831 Wisconsin Ave.; 240-781-3725.

Urban Country, the longstanding home-furnishings store, has landed in a new split-level, contemporary space. 7121 Arlington Rd.; 301-654-0500.

Warby Parker, for chic, not-too-pricey glasses and sunglasses. 4821 Bethesda Ave.; 240-614-4317.

Things to Do in Bethesda

All the best things to do and places to see in Bethesda.
Rooftop yoga at Truebody. Truebody photograph courtesy of Truebody.
Rooftop yoga at Truebody. Truebody photograph courtesy of Truebody.

This section was not updated. Please double check all things to do.

All Fired UpChannel your inner artist at this paint-your-own pottery shop that has fans of all ages. 4923 Elm St.; 301-654-3206.

Imagination Stage. For kid-centric but high-quality theater that’s also entertaining for grownups. 4908 Auburn Ave.; 301-280-1660.

Kidville. As the name promises—art, gymnastics, music, a salon, and a toy shop to keep little kids entertained. 4825 Bethesda Ave.; 301-656-5030.

Landmark Bethesda Row Cinema. Foreign and independent films, with a cocktail lounge. 7235 Woodmont Ave.; 301-652-7273.

Red Bloom Spa. A serene day spa that feels a million miles from downtown Bethesda. 7215 Arlington Rd., Suite 201; 301-907-9001.

Truebody, a fitness studio with Pilates, yoga, cycling, barre, tai chi, and other classes in the renovated historic post-office building. 7400 Wisconsin Ave.; 301-493-8783.

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