Category Archives: Taste of Wheaton

Taste Wheaton This Sunday

In college, when we used to play cards or games or whatever and someone needed to take a quick break, that person would say “in but out” which loosely translated meant “I am coming right back so DO NOT TAKE MY SEAT” and it was surprisingly effective.  Everyone always respected the in but out.

Vis a vis the blog, I remain indefinitely in but out, for now.

However!  I would be even more remiss than usual were I not to note that this Sunday is the Taste of Wheaton 2012 — it would be odd and kind of gross if it were some previous year’s Taste of Wheaton — and I will attend as usual, at least briefly, even though most of the participating restaurants are the same as they always are.  Limerick Pub is a new addition, so that’s something.  Los Cobanos, Hollywood East, Saigonese, Moby Dick, and Marchone’s never get old, so all in all it’s still well worth a visit.  I cannot recommend eating anything resembling pizza while in Wheaton, even if you really like pizza.  Especially if you really like pizza. You have been warned.

Don’t forget your stack of dollar bills!

Taste of Wheaton 2011

Behold The Eatin' Wheatonians

Predictions of rain and thunder and frogs and locusts turned out as accurate as…[simile fail]…anyway, they’ve been inaccurate.  Rain still likely toward the tail end of the afternoon, but for most of the day we have had ideal Tasting weather, quite a bit of sun but not too hot, though a few degrees hotter (and sunnier) than last year.  Already was good critical mass at 11:30 AM, and by noonish lots of folks rolling in to the dulcet tones of Rocknoceros, power generators, and sizzling pupusa grills.  Good eatin’ and poor photographin’ to follow.

Los Cobanos Chicken Tamale

My favorite item today was the chicken tamale ($1) from Los Cobanos (11210 Grandview, conveniently located right behind their Taste of Wheaton tent), steamed in a banana leaf (and in foil), light and delicate but full of corn flavor and a decent amount of chicken.  I liked Los Cobanos last year too, but have never eaten a full meal there — apparently I need to do that, because their food is good.

Cobanos’ next door neighbor, both permanent location and today’s tents, is Pollo Sabroso (11216 Grandview), where I have also never eaten aside from the Taste, and they have pretty good food too: today I tried their lechon plate ($5), featuring tasty but fatty pork chunks with good rice’n’beans and very good plantain (I’m not a plantain guy but Mrs. Me liked it, so that’s the authority for that).

mmmmm...charcoal pork...

Sergio’s Place (11324 Fern) was the only notable new participant this year (I think?) so I made sure to try one of their offerings. I had never had a paselito ($1) before, and I liked it, sort of an empanada-samosa hybrid with a melange of savory pork, potato and carrot encased in a rich fried (baked?) masa dough. Heavy, but not greasy, and lots of flavor.

I tried to order differently than I did last year, but could not resist the charcoal pork from Saigonese (11232 Grandview).  $1 for a small skewer, irresistable.

Little Caesars ($1/slice) was beating Ledo ($2/slice) in a price war but neither had much of a line in the early going.  I didn’t notice any taunting or other psychological pizza warfare going on.

Pollo Sabroso Lechon Plate

Like last year, IHOP wins for most annoying booth, with people clowing loudly about the funnelcakes.  I guess there is a market for funnelcakes — I might even enjoy one myself from time to time — but the marketing tactics are counterproductive, for me.

Several places had pupusas among their items, all for $1 a pop, but only El Boqueron (2311 Price, aka La Rumba — identity crisis?) had a pupusa grill set up front and center (left-of-center actually) so you could watch your snack sizzling moments before you eat it. The pupusas from Los Cobanos and Sergio’s were sitting in piles in warming tanks; I suppose Cobanos was making theirs fresh in their regular restaurant, conveniently located right behind their tent, but Sergio’s Place is blocks away so not sure how they’re managing it.  Anyway, Boqueron wins for presentation and freshness.

Most of the participants are either chains or are based in the Triangle, either on Triangle Lane (Moby Dick, Marchones) or on Grandview as noted above.  I wonder how some of Wheaton’s other many excellent restaurants can be persuaded to participate in future years.  Would be nice to include, say, Thai and Peruvian and Korean and Irish/Scottish pub snacks, just to name a few.  Also, maybe, hmm, I don’t know, Caribbean…(!)

Longest lines were at Hollywood East and Saigonese, unsurprising: they had the most choices, almost all at just $1 apiece, and quality is high. Plus they festoon their tents with banners, grills, etc.; most tents are bare bones.  2012: more festooning, people!

All in all, despite similarity to last year’s restaurant lineup, another solid taste.  Here’s hoping the organizers do some outreach to other local restaurants to increase the diversity for next year.  Meanwhile, thanks to those that did participate this year, their community spirit is appreciated.

Taste of Wheaton Lineup (Finally)

Program is here (PDF).   As noted by BEI in comment to previous post, only 16 restaurants, mostly the same as last year, kind of a letdown.  Still, there will be plenty of tasty food at low prices from some of Wheaton’s top restaurants.  Can’t complain too much.

The biggest insult is the program brochure’s misspelling of Little Caesars — they have it as “Little Ceasars.”   No respect, to the pizza corporation or the historical figure.  The folks at Ledo will probably taunt the Caesars people all day.

Taste of Wheaton Within Sniffing Distance

Just four days away! This Sunday from 11 AM to 5 PM in the Wheaton Triangle, specifically. But I think it is really strange that the organizers have not released a list of participating restaurants.  Am I missing something? The entertainment is enumerated (Rocknoceros woooo!), why not the eatin’??

Even the Gazette apparently has not pried the list out of them. But they do have a nice article today about the owners of the new and awesome Island Hut — wonder if Gloria and family will have a stall selling Caribbean bites on Sunday?  If they do — and I hope they do — you will know it by the long long line.  And it will be worth the wait.

Two Great Tastes That Taste Great…Separately

Of all the days for all the food festivals in all the world, she schedules hers the same Sunday as mine. 

The Gazette warns us that Wheaton and Silver Spring have both scheduled a food festival for Sunday May 15. There is no truth to the rumor that representatives from each will meet halfway, in the Forest Glen Metro parking lot, and rumble the night before. Food fight!

Amazingly, this will be the 16th annual Taste of Wheaton, which has grown steadily in recent years.  Still no official list of participating restaurants as far as I know (wouldn’t it be great if Rick’s Cafe were one of them).

News Roundup

Best part of Amber Parcher’s article on the Taste of Wheaton is the great news that Marchone’s, and presumably other nearby spots, did a booming business on Sunday, outside of the festival.  Hopefully that will carry forward. Mrs. Me and I were in line behind Amber (and Mr. Amber?) when she interviewed David Kessler, waiting for fish pies.  Oh the exciting brush with MoCo celebrity! Alas, no photographic evidence.

Also in the Gazette, maybe good news about developer interest in various Wheaton sites.  It could be fabulous news, depending on deal specifics, future rents, environmental reviews (!) and so forth.

Wheaton Calling has a nice review of Cabanita, the Peruvian place we missed last time around. It’s on our list.

Fire Station 1, the long (long long long…long) awaited brew pub in Silver Spring on Georgia in the former fire house, is finally ready to open, probably next week, according to CityPaper (and h/t JUTP). Menu somehow manages to be both too big and too generic, but we keep our hopes tentatively high.

Wheaton Tastes Good

No surprise there. Overcast and 70 but no rain is not a bad way to spend a gluttonous weekend afternoon with thousands of our Wheaton friends and neighbors, at today’s Taste of Wheaton:

Taste of Wheaton 2010

Taste of Wheaton 2010

Lots of good and varied eatin’ opportunities among the fifteen food vendors, but even at $1 a pop it is difficult to sample a variety of dishes because even the cheap ones tend to be filling. I did what I could.

We skipped the chains in favor of local establishments, and so did most everyone else we saw. Such a culinarily enlightened crowd! IHOP had a big crew loudly but largely unsuccessfully pushing their hot dogs and funnel cakes — nothing wrong with the occasional funnel cake — and Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts had about what you would expect, but not many takers. Biggest lines seemed consistently to be at El Boqueron and Saigonese, but almost every food vendor was doing a solid business.

Los Cobanos (11210 Grandview) was the first vendor we saw, and therefore the first food we ate:

Los Cobanos Pupusa y Taco

Los Cobanos Pupusa y Taco

The pupusa was good but greasy, chicken taco was crunchy and pretty good although more of  a taquito than a taco. At $1 apiece, an outstanding start. Like several others (Pollo Sabroso, Umberto’s, Saigonese), Los Cobanos tent was set up right in front of their actual restaurant. I think the Grandview Avenue restaurants get the most value out of Taste of Wheaton because you taste their food, look up, and hey there’s the storefront behind the tasting tent. In most cases I think food vendors operate at a loss at the Taste, there is no way they make money charging $1 for pupusas or enchiladas or 1/4 sandwiches (Marchone’s). So participation is a huge point in all these places’ favor, in my book; it is of course a marketing opportunity but nevertheless a loss leader, and it also shows community involvement, and I like that.

So we meandered further up Grandview to the El Boqueron (2311 Price, next to the former Ferdinand’s space) tent where the long line gave us time to finish the Cobanos pupusa before ordering a Boqueron pupusa, plus an enchilada and tamale ($4 for the three, I forget which one cost $2):

El Boqueron

El Boqueron Do-It-Yourself Combo Plate

The enchilada was open-face and soaking wet, and it’s hard to tell in the photo but that’s the enchilada on the bottom and the pupusa (also wet thanks to slaw) on top. Pupusa was less greasy but maybe also not quite as flavorful as Los Cobanos’ version. Enchilada was okay. Mrs. Me and I both liked the corn tamale a lot, it seemed deep-fried not steamed but was fresh with great corn flavor. And I know it seems like pupusa overkill already, but I do love a good head-to-head taste test, plus how can anyone walk by an outdoor griddle full of fresh pupusas and not buy one?

El Boqueron Pupusa Griddle

El Boqueron Pupusa Griddle

Already we were getting full but onward! We tried some grilled beef at Saigonese (11232 Grandview) (excellent) and a saltena ($2.50) at Pollo Sabroso (11216 Grandview):

Pollo Sabroso Saltena

Pollo Sabroso Saltena

The saltena was right out of the oven, hot, and full of beef, peas, potato, and a scalding brown liquid that involved a flavor I couldn’t place. Not bad, and the dough was really good, perfectly cooked, but it was too wet inside (and outside, once bitten).

We bypassed old favorites like Moby Dick (11220 Triangle), selling various sushi bites for $1 apiece, and Marchone’s (11224 Triangle), selling sandwich sections and cannoli, and also skipped El Pulgarcito de Callao (11333 Elkin), where we recently lunched, and Umberto’s (11230 Grandview), where we ate right when they opened several years ago to only average results and haven’t been back — they seem to have dropped the Italian half of their menu and are focusing on Tex-Mex. We didn’t try their food today but it looked good, and we will eat there again someday. Overall, Grandview has a pretty good restaurant row going these days.

Mrs. Me wanted some Singapore Rice Noodles from Hollywood East but they ran out by 1 p.m. and were slow to replace them; lots of other good looking food at HE though. Need to try their new Wheaton Mall location soon, and maybe also their Mall neighbor Noble Roman’s, who appeared to be losing today’s Taste pizza battle to Ledo, which had a little line the whole time we were there. NR is really designed to be a “family” place (i.e. Chuck E. Cheese competitor) but if they have skee-ball we will brave the kids at least once, at least for a half hour.

Our final stop was the Global Cafe African Grill (11310 Georgia, in the Exxon station), which didn’t seem to have its act together. When we first arrived the proprietor was on his cell phone, ignoring us and everyone else who walked up. In his defense, I think he was on the phone with his parter trying to figure out where their food was, because it sure wasn’t in the tasting booth.  We came back later and some of the food had arrived, though there was no jollof rice (per the sign) and also no meat pies (not per the sign):

Global Cafe African Grill Menu

Global Cafe African Grill Menu

Their website (which I am shocked exists — Global Cafe seems least likely of all Wheaton restaurants to have a website, and it ain’t much, but it does exist, so more power to ‘em — better off spending time on food than HTML anyway) indicates jollof rice is their big specialty, so its absence was a bummer. In addition to missing dishes, they also had no change, frustrating would-be purchasers who only had twenties. The guy seemed pretty stressed out. We bought a “fish pie empanada” and the peanut butter soup stew — did they think “stew” would sell better than “soup” or was it just a typo? — and although my expectations weren’t that high, the fish pie was actually pretty good, with a nice pepper kick, although a bit dry inside. Peanut butter stew was okay:

Global Cafe Peanut Stew and Fish Empanadas

Global Cafe Peanut Stew and Fish Empanadas

The food makes me want to visit their restaurant in search of jollof rice, but their logistical problems give me pause. Anway, I don’t have to decide about whether to eat there right now, because I am done eating for at least the rest of today and possibly the first part of the week. This was mostly high-quality food, but also heavy and calorific.

Whew. Another successful Taste of Wheaton in the books.

Coming sometime in the next 48 hours, the results of yesterday’s pre-Taste warmup: the Good Eatin’ Banh Mi Smackdown, pitting Saigonese against Hung Phat in a delicious Vietnamese sandwich head-to-head (bread-to-bread?) taste test.

How Will Wheaton Taste This Year?

Resist the temptation to get down on your knees and lick the pavement on Triangle Lane, it could be a deadly or at least painful mistake. Um, not that I would know.

But do try the creations of this year’s Taste of Wheaton food purveyors, starting at 11 a.m. on Sunday: Ledo Pizza, Ming Tree, El Boqueron, Saigonese, Umberto’s, Pollo Sabroso, Los Cobanos, Global Cafe African Grill, Noble Roman’s, Hollywood East, Marchone’s, Moby Dick, Dunkin’ Donuts, IHOP, and Starbucks.

Kind of an odd list: nearly a third are in or at the mall (Ming, Noble, Hollywood, SBUX), three are huge national/global chains (I think you know which ones), and no Thai at all. Probably just as well, this will force me to try non-Thai items. I should probably be embarrassed to have never eaten at Pollo Sabroso or Los Cobanos or El Boqueron, so those will be at the top of my list. Also Saigonese, where I haven’t been for years, though I doubt they will be selling banh mi, subject of recent rave reviews. Also Global Cafe, which, if the food is good, will be a huge boost for gas station cafes everywhere (and Global Cafe in particular) — they are located in the Exxon station at Georgia and University. Anyway, looks like something for everyone.

Meanwhile, stop at the Wheaton Flea Market on your way to the Taste, now located in the Doomed Safeway parking lot across from the Metro. Wheaton’s farmers market will also be at the Safeway going forward, says the Gazette.

Taste of Wheaton This Sunday

I will now try to restore the GEIW karmic balance lost in the previous post’s negativity by pointing out that the annual Taste of Wheaton is this Sunday, May 16, from 11am to 5pm in the downtown triangle. I haven’t been able to find a list of which restaurants are participating this year, but it’s Wheaton, so you know there will be some good eatin’.  Tastes range from $1 to$5, and there’s plenty of free entertainment scheduled, from live music to peoplewatching. And as of now, the weather forecast says 77 degrees and mix of sun and clouds, which sounds pretty good to me.

Mid-MoCo Blog-O-Rama

Just discovered three fairly new blogs run by MoCo and/or Wheaton: Mid-County Director’s Blog (run by Natalie Cantor), Mid-County Citizens Advisory Board Blog, and Wheaton Urban District Advisory Committee Blog. First they need to work on those acronyms (MCCABB sounds like a Genesis song, or someone at the bar at Royal Mile. WUDAC? WUDAC say dey gonna beat dem Saints?). Very few comments so far, but maybe that will change as people discover the blogs exist. They should be a good source for information, if the powers that be keep them up to date and juicy with content.

I wonder if anyone has anything to say about Costco? Heh heh. Actually, it may not matter what we have to say, because according to today’s WUDAC blog post:

Members of WUDAC will discuss and decide their position on ZTA 10-04 (which if passed would allow Costco to build a gas station at Westfield Wheaton) at the WUDAC meeting on 4/9 at 5pm.

The public hearing for the ZTA will be held by the County Council at 7:30pm on April 20 at the Council Building, 50 Maryland Avenue, Rockville.

WUDAC will “decide their position” eleven days before the public hearing.  I guess technically the hearing is for the Council and a separate thing from the WUDAC decision, but still seems a little backwards to me.

Anyway. I also learned something food-related from the MCDB: Taste of Wheaton is set for Sunday, May 16.  Crowded, noisy, in the gritty Wheaton core, but always interesting to see which local restaurants are participating and what they’re serving, and who has the longest lines. Some good deals on tastes, too (and some less good).