Places to Go, Things to Eat

From the group behind CAVA, a new stand-alone restaurant in North Bethesda.

From the group behind CAVA, a new stand-alone restaurant in North Bethesda.

The Bethesda and Rockville edition, sponsored by EYA

By Susan Able

New favorites and old loves abound in the southern Montgomery County towns, and the rise of new apartment and condo housing with abundant new restaurant space has brought new clusters of walkable gastronomic exploration.

In the neighborhood now called North Bethesda, the retail and residential development has been nothing less than meteoric, as a recent walk-around revealed. Dine on aged prime steaks at Del Frisco’s, enjoy gastropub fare with Owen’s Ordinary, feast on fresh fish and more at City Perch and there are everyone’s favorite fast-casual spots in abundance. Throw in an 8 screen movie theater with a parking garage, this is a one-stop shop for entertainment, dining and shopping.

Summer House Santa Monica is a great place for breezy Californian food, as is its sister, Stella Barra, both from the well-known Lettuce Entertain You group from Chicago. But what has captured my heart (stomach?) and tempted me more than once to park illegally while I run in are these: Sourdough English muffins. Summer House’s bakery makes incredible muffins. Buy them, freeze them, thank me later.

And check out Julli. A new restaurant from the Cava Group, Julli is in its own small building, charmingly designed. Fresh entrée-size salads, smoked salmon tartine and the burger were all tops; it was a copacetic place to dine.

Just a mile up Rockville Pike in the Twinbrook area are several places worth checking out. First, my go-to market for Persian ingredients and all you need to cook Yotam Ottolenghi–style is Yekta Market, but Rockville is also known its bevy of very good Chinese restaurants (dumplings!). Urban Hot Pot is a shared experience of Chinese hot-potting with very fresh ingredients. A raised bar for small plates on the west side of the pike three minutes north from Yekta is A&J Restaurant; the noodle soups and fried chicken are worth the stop.

And just north is Pike Kitchen, a new Asian food hall, open daily. A fun, lively stop, it features food stalls with Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese and Chinese food. Street food fusion rules here: Think food on sticks, Korean tacos and (what everyone was in line for when I visited) the mochi doughnuts from Pike Bakery. I’m not sure I ate the healthiest food, but I was very happy.

Looping back south to Bethesda, if you haven’t tried Q by Peter Chang, make plans—especially with a group of friends to do the Dim Sum Brunch, Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 3pm. Inventive takes on standards and the Chang touch make this a standout, as well as the large, airy space.

An under-the-radar spot in Bethesda with an  interesting Italian wine list and crispy Neapolitan-style pizza is Pizzeria Da Marco. Lots of loyal customers, and you’ll see why. Attentive and knowledgeable staff when I’ve been there, and a deft hand at salads—simple, lightly dressed, perfect.

Finally, save room for dessert (or another meal) at Praline Bakery and Bistro. Praline Bakery has expanded to other locations, but the mothership in Bethesda is tucked away and a cozy spot to linger or pick up macarons and other French-style cookies, cakes and pastries to take home. Or to happy friends.

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