Wheaton Rules, Bethesda Drools*

* — I’m just summarizing, don’t shoot the messenger.

In Sietsema’s weekly WaPo chat today someone asked for Bethesda dining recommendations and he was typically negative about the B-da options, but did suggest Passage to India or Tavira (coincidentally the subject of today’s Wheaton Gazette restaurant review — Brian Patterson likes it too). Then someone else wondered why Bethesda has “such mediocre restaurants” especially compared to Wheaton and Silver Spring.

First, I think Bethesda is getting bashed a little too much here; there are good eateries there, like (apparently) those mentioned above, where I have never eaten, and also Nest Cafe, or Rio Grande, which has the area’s best Tex-Mex (admittedly that is a low bar).  Redwood was a mess when it opened but reports have been better lately (I haven’t been lately). Ren’s Ramen (at Bradley/Arlington in business park) is a more Wheatonesque spot that gets good reviews all over the interwebs. I know there are other examples. But it is true that there are plenty of restaurants in Bethesda that aren’t worth the price of admission.

That’s true of Wheaton and Silver Spring too — we have our share of ratholes and overrated spots alike. But in terms of overall food value per dollar, the eatin’ is better on our side of the county. I don’t think that’s strange, as the poster suggested; I think it’s normal, a function of cheaper rents and small restaurants owned and enthusiastically, expertly operated by local families who know their audience. Don’t most urban areas have some great restaurants in the downtown core, but when you get out to the exurbs/suburbs, the best food tends to thrive more amongst the feral urbanism rather than the domesticated gentrification?  Fancy ≠ best, necessarily, and even often.

Then again, with Fire Station 1 and Red Lobster, Silver Spring may be the next Bethesda! Heh heh. Wheaton of course has IHOP, but it has been there forever, it’s a classic!  You can eat at IHOP and feel at least some ironic detachment; Red Lobster fosters only shame and regret.


4 responses to “Wheaton Rules, Bethesda Drools*

  1. OK, I’m going to take the bait and weigh in on the whole Bethesda, Wheaton, Silver Spring debate by way of a World Cup analogy. The way I see it each jurisdiction resembles in some way one of the teams playing – they each have their strengths and they each have their weaknesses. If one wants to consider the forwards in a soccer team as being represented by high end restaurants (fine dining), the mid-field by mid-priced restaurants, and the defense by good cheap eats then I think we’re ready to start pairing up the towns with the countries (for the sake of argument the goalkeepers are represented by a good dive bar).
    I would argue that Silver Spring is probably the United States of this bunch – fairly good in all positions, but not a lot of depth. Up front they could start 8407 and Mrs K’s. In mid-field I’d have Olazzo, Cubano’s, Ghar E Khebab, and Jackies. In defense I’d start Mandalay, Kefa Cafe, Thai at Silver Spring, and Pacci’s Pizza. In goal of course would be Quarry House Tavern. The problem with Silver Spring (and the US) is that if anyone closes down (gets injured) then there’s really nobody on the bench worth a damn to bring in.
    Bethesda is the France of this bunch. Supposedly solid up front and in mid-field, but with a very suspect defense and a crap goalkeeper. The biggest problem being that it is doesn’t always perform up to expectations.
    Wheaton is the North Korea of the tournament (yeah, I said it). Excellent defense that really shines, but nobody up front to do any damage. Even the mid-field ends up playing defense most of the time. Not sure who would be in goal for Wheaton (Royal Mile isn’t exactly dive-y enough to qualify).
    Of course DC would be the Germany or Brazil of the group – a lot of depth in all positions.
    If you want to send along your starting line-up for Wheaton (or Bethesda or even DC) I’d be interested.

  2. Hmm. Do we have to call Natalie Cantor Dear Leader? If forwards are fine dining, I think Wheaton is going to have to play an unconventional 5-5 striker-free lineup. Attack midfield would be Nava and Royal Mile, other midfield might include Full Key, Moby Dick and Woomi Garden. Defense could be Irene’s III, Saigonese, Ruan, Hollywood East’s dim sum, and New Kam Fong. I’d put Antipuqueno in goal — total dive with fabulous pupusas — but Legends would be a good grungy backup keeper. And you’re right, a deep bench as good as most starters.

    I’d like to try more of those SS starters you mentioned, I’ve only been to K’s, Jackie’s, and Mandalay, but just eatin’ in Wheaton is plenty time-consuming. It really is kind of a world cup of food around here.

    • Hmm, might have to rethink my Germany reference – I think the DC restaurant scene is better than Germany was today. While the US pretty much proved my point – I feel like we started Red Lobster and Fire House 1 in the first half, but came back with some good performances by Olazzo (Donovan) and Jackie’s (Bradley) in the second. The ref (Tom Sietsema) had a nightmare game.
      Yep Wheaton could use a decent striker, but they certainly have depth in the backfield.

  3. As a former Silver Spring resident, I’d like to add my two cents to the S.S. places mentioned. I really liked the food at Cubanos (and the sangria and mojitos!), but it was a little pricey so we reserved it for nicer dinners. I’m also fan of the grungy atmosphere at Quarry House, the always-interesting people that hang out there, and the yummy burgers and tater tots.

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