2012 was a vibrant year in the dining community of Montgomery County. We saw the renovation or passage of many familiar facades, and the debut of many more. While maintaining the diversity that reflects our well-mixed demographics, this past year we welcomed more pedigree chefs building more and more scratch kitchens, serving more fine dining.
Chef Geoff landed his bacon bar and Sunday brunch program on Rockville Pike. Robert Wiedmaier expanded his grasp on North Bethesda’s palate by opening Wildwood Kitchen in the strip mall of the same name on Old Georgetown Road, while modifying the name of his Woodmont Avenue outpost, Mussel Bar to “Mussel Bar and Grille” in order not to be typecast as strictly about mollusks. Notably, Brian Voltaggio is bringing his brand of refinement and precision to the Chevy Chase Pavillion, opening Range on Dec. 18.
The cooks and staff at 8407 Kitchen Bar continue to prepare the finest dining in Silver Spring, even after the departure of Chef Pedro Matamoros. In other news about restaurants going by their addresses, Bethesda’s venerable Tragara has been renovated, and now goes by the name 4935 Bar and Kitchen.
Lobster rolls and clam strips from Down East see to be the new ethnic food, with last year’s arrival of Freddy’s Lobster Shack and Jetties, and this year’s addition of The Grilled Oyster Company on Tuckerman Lane and Luke’s Lobsters in Bethesda. Two more Boston flagships have also established beachheads in the area; Not Your Average Joes literally brings true clam chowder down from Boston, and Boloco (Boston Local Company) brings its globally inspired burritos franchise to Bethesda, along with extensive marketing that portends an invasion.
It’s a toss-up between Rockville’s Pizza CS and Pacci’s in Silver Spring for the title of best Neapolitan style pizza. Paisano’s pizza is the force to reckon with for good pizza delivered swiftly from their depot in Wintergreen Plaza. Haven brings upscale Connecticut style pizza to Bethesda; Frankly Pizza is hitched to the back of a truck and goes wherever it wants, while Crust in Rockville has apparently folded.
Bethesda’s Sweet Basil, Haandi, and the 26-year-old Foong Lin faced the wrecking ball to make way for more condominiums. Apparently, Fresh Grill across the street suffered some unintended collateral damage from similar wrecking balls and they are cordoned off until further notice. Persimmon restaurant is under renovation and will reopen in January. Masa Hibachi has taken over the promontory that was Ceviche in downtown Silver Spring, with their triple threat of eye catching sushi, well-made cocktails and hibachi stages.
Wheaton holds steady as the home to world class pupusas, no matter where Irene resurrects her kitchen. Limerick Pub’s Reuben sandwich is the one to beat, and the most exotic soup in the county is still the Floating Market soup at Nava Thai. Ren's Ramen left the relative homogeneity of Bethesda and is thriving on the diversity of Wheaton. In return, Wheaton Plaza’s Hollywood East has spawned Dumpling Dojo, in the Westfield Shopping Center at Montgomery Mall. Zen Asian Grill opens Burtonsville to the Orient.
Hip food lounges opened all around, including Quench in Traville Gateway Drive, and the casually delicious Sugo Cicchetti on Park Potomac Avenue, brought to you by the founders of Cava Mezze Restaurant. Vino Volo is a wine bar that populates large airports around the country, and apparently they have commandeered a mobile lounge from Dulles International Airport and parked it on Bethesda Row. Gilly's Fine Beer and Wine continues to morph into a neighborhood hangout as the tasting room becomes more and more lounge-like. Ted’s 355, which anchors Wintergreen Plaza on the Pike, is now open 24 hours on Friday and Saturday, and Hamburger Hamlet on Democracy Blvd is open 24/7. The classic urban lounge to beat is still Twisted Willow in the Doubletree Hotel in Silver Spring. The new beers and improved pub fair at Growlers in Gaithersburg are re-drawing a crowd.