Neighborhood Guide: Silver Spring. Ice skating at Veterans' Plaza. Photograph by Philip Scalia/Alamy.
Silver Spring

The latest happenings, plus where to eat, shop, and explore around Silver Spring.

About Silver Spring

What you should know about the Montgomery County suburb right now.

Net-Zero Hero

After months of snarled traffic and construction dust, the biotech company United Therapeutics completed a high-profile expansion of its Silver Spring headquarters in September.

Dubbed the Unisphere, the 210,000-square-foot, elliptical-shaped building is net-zero, which means it leaves no carbon footprint. It’s powered by a litany of eco-friendly technologies, including 3,000 solar panels, 52 geothermal wells drilled more than 500 feet into the earth, electrochromic glass that changes tint to increase or decrease thermal energy, and a thermal pool on view in its atrium.

The Unisphere is the latest in a long list of projects slated to transform the face of Silver Spring. Several apartment buildings, mixed-use developments, and a hotel are still on the way.

Dumped by Discovery

After Discovery Communications announced last January that it would leave the place it helped revitalize in the early 2000s, Montgomery County set its sights on winning Amazon’s HQ2 to cushion the blow. A top Discovery executive even wrote to Jeff Bezos about the pros of choosing the area. That didn’t pan out, of course, so what will become of the old Discovery site once the company’s nearly 1,100 employees completely vacate the building?

Developer Foulger-Pratt and private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management bought the Discovery building in September. They recently secured a $97-million loan to reconfigure it into a space that can accommodate multiple companies. Several health-care tenants have reportedly expressed interest. Discovery will maintain a scaled-down presence at Silver Spring Metro Plaza, though the giant Shark Week head it became known for is presumably NYC-bound.

New Brew Crew

Since opening Silver Spring’s first successful brewery in 2014, the owners of Denizens Brewing Co. have successfully lobbied to erase restrictive local laws on businesses like theirs. The result? They’re not so lonely anymore.

In October, Astro Lab Brewing opened on Georgia Avenue, featuring four to eight beers, meat pies, and a shiny industrial space. Silver Branch Brewing Co. is scheduled to debut early this year. It draws influence from Belgium, Britain and Ireland, Central Europe, and the Americas—and features a flagship beer for each of those regions.

Right to Bike

Silver Spring has gotten a lot more bike-friendly. Starting in 2017, Montgomery County began painting the dedicated green bike lanes that now crisscross the area. In the past year, more lanes have been added to Second Avenue, Spring Street, and Wayne Avenue. There’s also a special “protected intersection” at Second and Spring, in which rounded concrete barriers separate cyclists from traffic and encourage turning drivers and bikers alike to slow down. The design is one of the first of its kind on the East Coast.

The Purple People Disrupter

Construction of the Purple Line, now in its second year, isn’t scheduled to finish until 2023 at the earliest. When it’s done, the 16-mile route will include five stops throughout Silver Spring. But before residents get to enjoy the convenience, they’re weathering the disruptions.

First, businesses in the Spring Center strip mall were forced out, then bikers and joggers saw much of their woodsy Georgetown Branch trail razed into logs. The Lyttonsville Place Bridge, a popular connector between Silver Spring and Chevy Chase, shut down for reconstruction in June and reopened only in January. And morning till night, people can hear—and feel—the tunnel under Arliss Street being excavated.

Pizza Desert

Armand’s went first. After 29 years of serving Chicago-style deep-dish out of its Silver Spring restaurant, the local chain shuttered the location—one of its only remaining two—over the summer. A few months later, Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza followed suit. Thankfully, help is on the way: Matchbox is opening a location in the Ellsworth shopping corridor early this year.

Where to Eat in Silver Spring

The best places to eat around Silver Spring.
Tacos, Tortas & Tequila serves cocktails and casual Mexican fare. Upstairs, sister restaurant Buena Vida offers a higher-end menu of small plates. Photograph of Tacos, Tortas & Tequila by Jeff Elkins.
Tacos, Tortas & Tequila serves cocktails and casual Mexican fare. Upstairs, sister restaurant Buena Vida offers a higher-end menu of small plates. Photograph of Tacos, Tortas & Tequila by Jeff Elkins

El Sapo Cuban Social ClubThe open-air design conjures sultry summer nights, though the ropa vieja and carefully curated list of rums warm the belly in winter. 8455 Fenton St.; 301-326-1063.

La Casita Pupuseria & Market. Comforting Salvadoran flavors in the form of tacos, enchiladas, pupusas, and soups. Save room for fried, sugary plantain empanadas. 8214 Piney Branch Rd.; 301-588-6656.

Mandalay Restaurant. Delectable Burmese dishes, with many vegetarian options. Don’t leave without trying the shweji dessert (coconut-flavored custard cake). 930 Bonifant St.; 301-585-0500.

Meleket Ethiopian RestaurantDespite the name, the cooking actually hails from Eritrea—a country whose cuisine is close to Ethiopia’s but with Italian influence. You’ll notice the subtle difference in flavors. 1907 Seminary Rd.; 301-755-5768.

Pacci’s Trattoria. It’s easy to mistake Pacci’s as another house in the neighborhood, but inside it’s a bustling Italian eatery serving house-made pastas, pizzas, and an extensive brunch buffet on weekends. 6 Post Office Rd.; 301-588-0867.

Parkway Deli. Lines at this Jewish deli­catessen/restaurant form early on weekends, but the pickle bar alone is worth the wait. Grab desserts, cheeses, beer, and wine on your way out. 8317 Grubb Rd.; 301-587-1427.

Quarry House Tavern. A 2015 fire couldn’t wipe out the beloved dive, now restored to its low-ceilinged, basement-bar glory. You’ll still find a jukebox, tater tots, and a long beer list. 8401 Georgia Ave.; 301-844-5504.

Tacos, Tortas & Tequila and Buena VidaTwo Mexican restaurants are a combined, two-story operation. TTT plays the part of lively downstairs bar with casual bites, while Buena Vida is a full-service sit-down affair with tapas. 8407 Ramsey Ave.; 301-755-6132.

Tastee DinerServing no-frills, traditional diner favorites since 1935, this is also a historic landmark that in 2000 was physically uprooted and hauled down the street to its present location. 8601 Cameron St.; 301-589-8171.

Where to Shop in Silver Spring

The best places to shop in Silver Spring.
Carrots at Silver Spring's FreshFarm Market. Photograph via Flickr user <a href="">Adam Fagen</a>.
Carrots at Silver Spring’s FreshFarm Market. Photograph via Flickr user Adam Fagen.

FreshFarm Downtown Silver Spring Market. The place to be on Saturday mornings. In addition to produce, dairy, and baked goods, expect a band, a juggler, and other street entertainment at the year-round farmers market. 890 Ellsworth Dr.; 202-362-8889.

Mrs. K’s Toll House. A private road-toll collector turned restaurant starting in 1930, Mrs. K’s still features heirloom tchotchkes, cozy tables, a wine cellar, beautiful gardens, and a luxurious menu. 9201 Colesville Rd.; 301-589-3500.

Snider’s Super FoodsA beloved neighborhood grocery store where regular customers are greeted by name and, in turn, staunchly defend against newcomers such as the Aldi across the way. Its charm lies in its retro vinyl flooring, neon lighting, deli counter, and wine aisle. 1936 Seminary Rd.; 301-589-3240.

A Wider Circle. Founder Mark Bergel says he won’t sleep in a bed until everybody has one. Donors to this charitable nonprofit can drop off unwanted furniture, housewares, or business-appropriate clothing seven days a week. 9159 Brookville Rd.; 301-608-3504.

Woodmoor Pastry Shop. With its beckoning displays of cookies, pies, frosted cakes, and doughnuts, this bakery has been satisfying Silver Spring’s sweet tooth since the 1950s. 10127 Colesville Rd.; 301-593-7667.

Things to Do in Silver Spring

Our favorite things to do in Silver Spring.
The AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center is partially housed in a restored Art Deco movie palace built in 1938. Photograph by Randy Santos/DCStockPhotos.
The AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center is partially housed in a restored Art Deco movie palace built in 1938. Photograph by Randy Santos/DCStockPhotos.

AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural CenterNot just a place to catch the latest indie movie—filmmaker interviews, panels, performances, and documentary festivals make AFI a destination for dedicated film lovers. 8633 Colesville Rd.; 301-495-6700.

Denizens Brewing Co. Silver Spring’s first brewery offers ten beers and seasonal brews plus sophisticated versions of pub grub. Dogs are welcome in the beer garden. 1115 East-West Hwy.; 301-557-9818.

The FillmoreLarger than a nightclub, smaller than an arena, the 2,000-person venue has put Silver Spring on the music map by attracting acts such as the Roots and Mary J. Blige. 8656 Colesville Rd.; 301-960-9999.

Interactive Fountain. As the centerpiece of the downtown shopping district, it delights and cools kids in summer while hosting Silver Spring’s artsy Christmas tree in winter. 916 Ellsworth Dr.

Kaldi’s Social House. Coffee shop by day, rooftop club by night, and a favorite among the work-from-home set. 918 Silver Spring Ave.; 301-557-9990.

National Museum of Health and MedicineNot for the faint of heart, it showcases curiosities dating to the Civil War, including organs, skeletons, medical equipment, and the bullet that killed Abraham Lincoln. 2500 Linden Ln.; 301-319-3300.

Silver Spring Ice Skating Rink at Veterans’ Plaza. Open through late March, the rink is mostly shielded from rain and snow by a funky, translucent roof. 8523 Fenton St.; 301-588-1221.

Silver Spring Library. Come for the books or just to marvel at the contemporary steel-and-glass design, which sets the tone for Silver Spring’s increasingly modern downtown. 900 Wayne Ave.; 240-773-9420.

Silver Stars GymnasticsClasses for gymnasts aged 18 months through high school; open gym is available at noon to kids under eight. 2701 Pittman Dr.; 301-589-0938.

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