Photos courtesy of Rio Washingtonian Center and Smart Urban Living
I spend a lot of time in the Rio Washingtonian Center and Downtown Crown (located across the street from each other in Gaithersburg). I live nearby and I think they're both perfect places to go for a walk, eat some good food, or grab drinks with friends.
With that said, Rio lost Macaroni Grill a little over 2.5 years ago (it hasn't been replaced), Cafe Deluxe closed almost 2 years ago (it hasn't been replaced), and just a couple days ago; Joe's Crab Shack closed permanently.
Over the course of the last year, possibly 6 months, Crown has lost Smashburger, Voniks, and Yogiberry. Venti Tre, the restaurant that described itself as the "Italian Chipotle," closed less than a year after opening in Downtown Crown (that makes two different fast casual restaurants that have opened and closed in the same location in Crown in ~3 years).
Both areas are usually swarming with people, so what's the issue? Is the cost to lease these locations too high? Is there too much competition? Are the places that are closing simply not that great? Isn't it better to bring someone in at a lower price than to have the buildings remain empty for years?
In Rio, Guapo's and Uncle Julio's are almost always packed...even during the week. Nando's does pretty good business as well. In Crown, Coastal Flats and &Pizza seem to be doing really well. Mezeh Grill also seems to have a steady rush throughout the day.
Last night, I asked The MoCoShow Twitter followers what they would like to see take over the empty locations in Rio. Here are just some of responses:
Major chains are the most likely future tenants in Rio, but I think a smaller local chain like Cava Mezze could work (maybe a move from the Travilah location to the Joe's Crab Shack or Cafe Deluxe spot...those patios are amazing). Finally bringing an Olive Garden to MoCo and placing it in the old Macaroni Grill building is definitely something I can see succeeding.
The empty locations in Crown are a bit smaller and I think a place like Venti Tre had the right idea, but it just wasn't that good. One of our readers mentioned a Ramen spot a couple months back, and that's something that isn't too common in the area. How about a cookie dough parlor where Yogi Berry was since cookie dough seems to be on the rise and the fro-yo boom seems to be coming to an end? Maybe a little Bubble Tea shop where the Voniks was?
What realistic options would you like to see come to Rio and Crown?
News Around MoCo...8/28/17 Edition
Joe's Crabshack in Rio has closed permanently. Thanks to Ebrahim Rahmani for sending in a picture of the sign posted on the door.
A $1 million dollar Powerball ticket was sold at the Shell gas station across from Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg. One of our twitter followers let me know that a local teacher was the winner.
Le Madeleine in Pike & Rose closed permanently on Saturday according to a sign posted on the door.
A new bike share program is now available at Black Hill and Wheaton Regional Parks. You go, borrow a bike for free, and return it before you leave ($3/hour after first 2 hours)
The Purple Line is scheduled to break ground this morning, according to a tweet from Just Up The Pike.
PJ's Bar & Grill to take over the spot formerly occupied by Buffalo Wings & Beer in Germantown.
I spoke with someone in the know that told me Tilted Kilt in Wheaton Mall will not open anytime soon and will likely never open at all (signage for the "breastaurant" has been visible for almost 2 years).
Honey Pig, currently with one MoCo location (Germantown), is coming to Rockville...just a couple miles from competitor, Iron Age.
A group of about 50 people protested against racism on the corner of 108 and Georgia Ave. in Olney last week.
Bob Evans in Germantown closed permanently.
4935 Bar & Kitchen in Bethesda has closed. They'll be rebranding as George's Chophouse.
Rumors of Urban Bar-B-Que (Sandy Spring) closing or moving to Olney were brought to my attention last week. The restaurant has said they are not doing either.
Cheeburger Cheeburger in Olney will be closing at the end of this month. The Falls Grove location will remain open. This is the rumored location of the IHOP that could come to Olney.
Jerry's in Falls Grove (Rockville) and in Firstfield Shopping Center (Gaithersburg) will both be closing permanently this week.
Addie's has (re)opened in Park Potomac. It used to be located on Rockville Pike from 1995-2013.
Two hate groups can be found in MoCo according to this article by mymcmedia. Both are located in the Silver Spring area.
A couple days ago on Twitter (@TheMoCoShow), I shared three of my least favorite parking lots in MoCo. This led to quite a few replies containing some of the worst parking lots in the area. Based on that I decided to create a list of some of the absolute worst. It's kind of a mix of my personal opinion and the opinions of some of our Twitter followers.
I'm sure there will be a bunch of terrible parking lots that I'll miss (this isn't a list of every single bad parking lot, just a lot of the worst ones). I'm also pretty sure that some of these parking lots aren't too bad at certain times, but when they're bad...they're the worst.
Since there are a bunch of these that could fit, I'll mention Wheaton strip mall parking lots and Bethesda parking garages before going into the more specific list.
Costco on a weekend and the Amish Market on a Saturday are also very bad, but we're going for more consistent awfulness here.
10. Montgomery Hills Shopping Center (In Silver Spring where Goldberg's Bagels and Tropical Ice scream Cafe are)
9. Montgomery Village Crossing (In Gaithersburg across from Lakeforest where Trader Joe's is)
8.Potomac Village Shopping Center in Potomac
7.The Strosnider's/Whole Foods parking lot in Downtown Silver Spring
6. Germantown Plaza (where Planet Fitness/Lotte are and the other side where Picca is)
5. Leisure World in Silver Spring
4. Federal Plaza in Rockville (where Silver Diner and Chuy's is/where Ruby Tuesday was)
3. Aspen Hill Shopping Center
2. Falls Grove in Rockville. The entrance when there's any kind of rush might be the worst I have ever seen.
1. Wildwood Shopping Center in Bethesda. I experienced this unfortunate parking lot during lunch time for the first time earlier this week. Unbelievably bad.
A few months ago we wrote that Lakeforest Mall was facing foreclosure.
Yesterday, the once-great mall was sold at auction for $19.1 million, a fraction of its former worth according BizJournals https://www.bizjournals.com/baltimore/news/2017/08/22/gaithersburgs-lakeforest-mall-sells-at-auction-for.html?ana=e_du_prem&s=article_du&ed=2017-08-22&u=PStc0FDDRxlswl2ZiLhz7w0f9c8187&t=1503431887&j=78732181
No word yet on when/if the mall will close.
I have lived in Montgomery County for all of my 34 years without ever taking a walk in Wheaton, so yesterday I decided to do just that.
I parked in a smaller lot next to where the larger lot used to be (now unavailable and under heavy construction). Here's the mural that was visible on the side of the building as I exited my car.
I walked towards Filippo's, formerly Marchone's, one of the most popular delis in MoCo. As I approached, I noticed the lights were off. I was an hour too late-- the deli closes at 2pm on Sunday. As I was reading the store hours on the door a gentleman walked by and said "They have the worst hours...but I'm addicted to their subs." The plan was for my friend and I to get a little bit of food at a couple places. Unfortunately, my streak of not eating their Italian sub continues (6 years and counting).
I walked across Georgia Avenue, made a right on Price and a left on Elkin Street. To my right I saw Legends Billiards. I want to say it has changed locations a few times, but I just don't remember. What I do know is that a lot of my friends from the Wheaton/Silver Spring area would spend countless hours shooting pool at Legends when I was growing up.
When I reached University Blvd. I saw the Wheaton Shopping Center. Though I'm sure a lot of the shops have changed, the look of the shopping center itself has not changed since as long as I can remember.
Mì La Cay was the first official food stop of the day. It came highly recommended by many of our Twitter followers, so I had to give it a shot. I asked our server what the most popular plate was and she recommended the Pho La Cay. In my relatively limited experience with Pho, it has tasted about the same almost everywhere I've tried it. This was different, it was exponentially better. I tried my best to not eat the entire bowl so I can save some room for a few more spots.
Max's Kosher Cafe was next on the list. I was told I had to try their shawarma so I stopped by and tried two of their most popular dishes-- the shawarma and the falafel, both in a pita. We had the gentleman at the counter prepare it however he thought was best. Both tasted great.
I wanted to give Ren's Ramen a try, but they were closed between 3-5pm so I had to move on. Many said it's the best ramen in the DMV, and that's saying a lot considering some of the spots that can be found in D.C. Next time, Ren, next time. I also heard great things about their neighbor, Ruan Thai.
Next on the list were pupusas. A lot of people were raving about Irene's, but many also told me it was overrated. I decided to check out Pupuseria La Familiar based on recommendations, Yelp, and proximity to where I was. I didn't regret it. It reminded me of the type of restaurants you find in non-touristy areas of vacation spots. Seemingly quiet on the outside, but packed when we walked in. The servers were some of the nicest people I've encountered in a while, and it was just a cool experience. We had the queso, bean, and pork pupusas.
I would have gone to Seoul Food, the gas station gem of Wheaton, but it's closed on Sundays and Mondays. Instead I decided to get a quick picture of the Anchor Inn sign. The sign is the only part of the Anchor Inn that's left. The iconic restaurant operated in the heart of Wheaton from 1954-2004. Anchor Seafood Place has opened nearby. It's not related to the Anchor Inn restaurant.
Had to end the afternoon a sweet note. It's summer, so ice cream was the obvious choice. I went to Yummy In My Tummy. The owners were making new ice cream and boxing some up for Whole Foods when I walked in. All of the ice cream is made in the store and most flavors contain zero added sugar (taking the flavor of whatever fruit is in the ice cream). I had pistachio and rum raisin. It was tasty, just the right amount of sweet, and was a perfect end to the afternoon.
I asked for food recommendations on the Twitter account (@TheMoCoShow) about an hour before I went to Wheaton. By the time I arrived I had a list of over 20 places that I "had" to try. I couldn't get it done in one trip, but I can guarantee you I will be back. I really enjoyed my afternoon in Wheaton.
MoCo Hidden Gem: Athens Grill (Montgomery Village)
For over 25 years, Athens Grill has served Upper Montgomery County with some of the most delicious Greek food in the area.
I have friends in Silver Spring that drive across the county on a monthly basis just for a taste of one of their famous gyros.
Pictured you'll see their gyro platter, which includes gyro meat over fries, Greek salad, and pita bread. The gyro is always sliced fresh for every order. They have a variety of desserts as well, but in the pictures you'll see the classic baklava.
Their popularity has even led to them creating their own line of sauces, Angeli Gourmet (also pictured).
Having grown up in Gaithersburg, I've been going with my family since they opened in 1991. Athens Grill is always in the conversation when it comes to best Greek restaurants in the area. You won't find servers either...order straight from the counter and either take it to-go or dine in.
Love this place.
The Montgomery County Agricultural Fair is officially back (started yesterday and runs until the 19th).
The rides and games have pretty much remained the same since I was a kid, but one thing that has definitely evolved is the fair food.
As always, you can have the more traditional funnel cake, lemonade, hot dogs, corn dogs, nachos, etc.
If you're feeling a bit adventurous, or just love to eat things that taste amazing and aren't necessarily good for you, you can try some of the following at this year's fair:
•Elote loco (crazy corn)
•Fried mac n cheese
•Bacon wrapped smores
•Deep fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich
•Krispy Kreme burger. An actual burger with a glazed donut bun.
•Chocolate covered bacon on a stick.
•Deep fried Reese's butter cups, snickers, and twinkies.
•Grilled cheese sandwich wrapped in bacon.
•Deep fried veggies (okra, zucchini, jalapeños, etc.)
•Fried cheese on a stick
•Bacon wrapped corndogs
•Jumbo turkey legs
•Old fashioned soda served from a barrel
You can even have more popular favorites from places like Chick Fil A, Mamma Lucia, and Firehouse Subs.
Niche.com has come out with their 2018 school nationwide public school rankings (the 2018 list is based on the 2016/2017 school year).
Per their website "The 2018 Best Public High Schools ranking is based on rigorous analysis of key statistics and millions of reviews from students and parents using data from the U.S. Department of Education. Ranking factors include state test scores, college readiness, graduation rates, SAT/ACT scores, teacher quality, and high school ratings."
Nationwide, Poolesville High School is the highest ranked MCPS high school coming in at #61.
MCPS is the second ranked school district behind Howard County Public Schools in the state of Maryland, however, 7 of the top 10 public high schools in the state are schools in Montgomery County.
Here's how MCPS high schools rank within the state (along with their Niche grade):
1. Poolesville (A+)
2. Whitman (A+)
3. Churchill (A+)
4. Richard Montgomery (A+)
5. Wootton (A+)
7. Walter Johnson (A+)
8. Blair (A+)
13. B-CC (A+)
17. Northwest (A+)
19. Quince Orchard (A+)
31. Sherwood (A)
35. Damascus (A)
36. Rockville (A)
42. Paint Branch (A)
43. Magruder (A-)
44. Clarksburg (A-)
50. Blake (A-)
55. Wheaton (A-)
65. Einstein (A-)
72. Gaithersburg (A-)
75. Springbrook (B+)
89. Seneca Valley (B+)
99. Watkins Mill (B)
110. Northwood (B)
* 128. Kennedy (B-)
*rankings end at 119, so 128 is where Kennedy would have landed on the list if they continued.
There are 323 public high schools in the state of Maryland.
The full list from Niche can be found here: https://www.niche.com/k12/search/best-public-high-schools/
There are currently 25 high schools in Montgomery County (not counting specialty or alternative programs), but some of our schools have been around before much of anything else was. Here's more about the three oldest schools in MoCo.
Richard Montgomery High School, then known as Rockville High School, is the oldest high school in Montgomery County (established in 1892). So there's no confusion, the school known as Rockville High School today was founded in 1968. Richard Montgomery was simply known as Rockville High School until 1935 when they changed the name of the school so that it could be distinguished from Rockville Colored High School, which opened in 1927.
The second oldest high school in the county is Gaithersburg High School (established in 1904). When the school first opened it was known as "Gaithersburg School" and offered grades K-12. The school was located where Gaithersburg Elementary School is currently located. The signage on the elementary school still reads "Gaithersburg School."
The third oldest school is Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring (established in 1906). The name Sherwood comes from the farm the school was built on, which was named after Robin Hood's Sherwood Forest. The original building was replaced in 1950 and then renovated between 1989 and 1991.
Silver Spring based Discovery Communications (owner of Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Oprah Winfrey Network, TLC, etc.) has agreed to purchase Scripps Networks (HGTV, Food Network, Travel Channel, etc.) for $11.9 billion. How cool would it be to see some of those HGTV shows here in MoCo?
Enjoy tax free shopping in Maryland from August 13-19th. More info here: http://comptroller.marylandtaxes.com/public_services/agency_information/office_of_the_comptroller/comptroller_initiatives/shop_maryland_tax-free_week/
Silver Spring Books on Bonifant Rd. has closed permanently.
A bit late with this one, but the Gaithersburg and Germantown Buffalo Wings and Beer locations have closed. Cloverly location remains open (thanks to Jack Guzman for letting me know about the Germantown location).
Mamma Lucia in Falls Grove and Bethesda are both hiring servers and counter staff. Feel free to give either of the restaurants a call for more info.
For the second time in the last few months, I have heard a rumor that Ted's Bulletin in Gaithersburg may convert to a Matchbox Pizza (Matchbox Food Group owns both brands).
Teavana stores in Montgomery and Wheaton Malls will be closing, as Starbucks has announced they'll close all Teavana locations.
MCPS is looking for school bus drivers. Apply here: http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/departments/careers/
There have been talks about MCPS possibly restarting a 'recovery school' for students recovering from addiction. A similar type of program previously existed as a part of MCPS Alternative Programs until 2013.
A toxin was found in Lake Needwood and Lake Frank in Rock Creek Regional that can be harmful to humans and possibly kill dogs.
The new H&M location at Pike & Rose will open at the end of this month.
Quarry House Tavern in Silver Spring is getting closer to re-opening according to the owner.
Gaithersburg is joining Germantown and Silver Spring in trying to get into the medical marijuana dispensing business (businesses located there, not the places themselves).
Washington Wizard All-Star, John Wall, spent a Friday night at Lucky Strike in Montgomery Mall two weeks ago. The Potomac resident chatted, took pictures with fans, and hung out for a few hours.
Popular Netflix show 'Last Chance U' stars Gaithersburg High School alum, Kam Carter, in the newest season.
As you may have noticed, almost everyone in MoCo has headed out to Poolesville to take pictures in the sunflower fields (McKee-Beshers is probably the most popular spot). You have another few days of peak bloom season to go!
The old Sports Authority location in Gaithersburg will become a 99RanchMarket, one of the largest Chinese-American supermarket chains in the United States. They've told me they plan on opening early this Winter.
This edition of 'News Around MoCo' has been brought to you by Trapezaria Greek Kuzina in Rockville Town Square. $5 Gyros every Tuesday (carry-out only).