Thursday, September 30, 2021

Olazzo reopens in Bethesda

has reopened for normal business hours at 7921 Norfolk Avenue in Bethesda. The popular Italian restaurant closed briefly Tuesday for some building improvements. It reopened for dinner last evening.

Simon Pearce to open store at Bethesda Row

Simon Pearce
, an Irish-American glassware entrepreneur, will open a new retail store location at Bethesda Row. Locally, Pearce already has a manufacturing facility in Garrett County, Maryland, and a store in Alexandria. His glassware includes dining pieces, home decor items, lamps and gifts. Simon Pearce will be located on Bethesda Lane next to Sassanova.

Photo courtesy Simon Pearce

The Salt Line coming to Bethesda Row

Big, big restaurant news in Bethesda this morning: The Salt Line is coming to Bethesda Row. One of the top dining destinations in the District, the seafood restaurant is familiar to Washington Nationals fans, who often pack the flagship location at 79 Potomac Avenue SE. The Bethesda Row location won't have those waterfront views, but it will have the cuisine that has earned The Salt Line a spot on the Washingtonian Top 100 Restaurants list, and several Rammy awards.

The Salt Line will be opening at 4900 Hampden Lane, an out-of-the-way corner of Bethesda Row that property owner Federal Realty wisely recognized requires a big brand or restaurateur name to draw a crowd, after Vapiano flopped there. Mike Isabella briefly delivered the latter, and big sales, there with his smashingly-successful Kapnos Kouzina. When Isabella's career imploded in 2018, Kapnos Kouzina went "poof" along with it.

Many in Bethesda were excited about another celebrity chef's expected opening of The Riggsby in the space, but Michael Schlow's restaurant group never began construction after its 2019 announcement, news of which I broke prior to the official announcement. Schlow did open Prima next door, but it closed after the pandemic hit, and the space got a hotter concept with CHIKO. Many were eagerly awaiting The Riggsby, and with good reason; let's hope Schlow can find another Bethesda space. But The Salt Line is arguably going to generate even more buzz. 

The seafood tower at The Salt Line vies for Instagram supremacy with Le Diplomate's. Besides the famous raw bar selections, other popular dishes include Rockfish Tartare, the Nashville Hot Soft Shell Crab, Baked Pimento Crab Dip, and the New England Smash Burger. 

This will be The Salt Line's first venture into Maryland. The growing chain also has a location in Ballston.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Bethesda construction update: Apartments at former Ourisman Ford site (Photos)

A Mars landscape is developing on the former Ourisman Ford property by Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. Excavation has advanced significantly, as workers prepare the site for a future apartment building. Several pieces of heavy equipment are being used. 

Urban Plates closes; Aerie, Marvel Adventure Lab open at Montgomery Mall

A second tenant in the most-prominent space in the Dining Terrace at Westfield Montgomery Mall has failed. Urban Plates has closed permanently, according to a sign posted at the interior entrance to the restaurant. The upscale buffet concept had the tragic timing to run head on into a global pandemic that idled buffets, and a shift to table service after the initial lockdown clearly failed to turn things around. One wonders how the chain will prosper at the struggling Collection at Chevy Chase if it flopped in a busy food court, but Clyde's has made it work, so let's give them a chance.

On the positive side, Aerie has opened on Level 1. It just missed the summer opening target as fall arrived at 12:00 AM last Wednesday. As a bonus, there is an Offline by Aerie shop.

Finally, there is a fun new attraction in the Dining Terrace near CAVA. The Marvel Adventure Lab is a photo booth that allows you to pose with your favorite Marvel Comics superhero. Or to insert yourself into a page from a comic book. The final product prints out for you to take home. Excelsior!

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Paris in Town coming soon to downtown Bethesda

The surfeit of French dining establishments in downtown Bethesda is expanding rapidement. Just days after I broke the news that the world-famous Ladurée Paris would be opening at Bethesda Row, signage has been installed for Paris in Town at 4903 Cordell Avenue. That the former home of Smashburger, beneath Tommy Joe's, and next to Dunkin' Donuts/Baskin Robbins.

That puts it diagonally across from the award-winning, full-service Duck Duck Goose, but Paris in Town has more in common with Ladurée. The cafe will serve breakfast and lunch, with a wide variety of French soups, salads, and sandwiches. Yes, escargot and croque monsieur are on the menu. No, I still don't know where in Bethesda I can buy today's edition of Le Figaro to read while dining.

Chaia opening today at Bethesda Row

looked about ready to open two weeks ago, and now it finally will today, Tuesday, September 28, 2021. The plant-based taco and street food restaurant is at 7237 Woodmont Avenue at Bethesda Row, formerly home to Haagen-Dazs, and next to the Landmark Bethesda Row Cinema. Don't forget, they have a convenient outdoor ordering and pickup window, if you want to avoid going inside.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Tavis Smiley weighs in on Bethesda cemetery controversy

Broadcaster Tavis Smiley is the latest prominent figure to weigh in on the controversy over the desecrated Moses African Cemetery in Bethesda. He interviewed the Rev. Dr. Segun Adebayo, pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church on River Road, and Dr. Marcia Coleman Adebayo, head of the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition on KTLA in Los Angeles. Both organizations are among the plaintiffs suing Montgomery County's Housing Opportunities Commission over the HOC's intent to sell the Westwood Tower property that includes the majority of the cemetery site to Charger Ventures. The suit alleges the HOC did not inform the descendants of those buried there - some of whom are also plantiffs in the case - of their its intent to sell as required by law.

Like many locally and nationally who hear of the cemetery history and more recent fight over it, Smiley was stunned that the County, HOC and other parties would persist in attempting to further develop the property after knowing a black cemetery was on the site. "Why are they continuing to plow forward, to push forward with their plans anyway, although they know now full well it is a burial ground?" Smiley asked. "Once you discover that, that should be the end of these things, to me."

"What is the government of Montgomery County saying or doing about this?" Smiley queried Coleman Adebayo. She accused County Executive Marc Elrich of writing letters urging others to ignore Coleman Adebayo, and "calling me all kind of vicious names." Elrich was previously one of the only elected officials to support cemetery advocates when he was on the County Council in 2017 and 2018, when the now decade-long controversy boiled over in multiple protests that garnered media attention.

Montgomery County's government has "locked arms with the developer against the community. We don't have one member of the County Council that has stood up to say this is wrong to sell the bodies of these Africans. We do not have friends in local government."

Coleman Adebayo said the County was trying to "erase not only the youth, but the ancestors of black people." Noting that "developers literally run Montgomery County," she recalled the history of the black community on River Road that was founded by former slaves from the Loughborough plantation. That community "basically was wiped out through developers and the coalition between developers and local government" by the late 1960s, and the only remnants left are the church and the cemetery.

"Montgomery County has been clear about the fact that it will control black bodies, both alive and dead," Coleman Adebayo added. She said Maryland ranks number one in America in the incarceration of young black men. The desecration of the cemetery during the construction of Westwood Tower in the late 1960s, and the belligerence of the County government in blocking all efforts to conduct investigations or restore it, are an extension of that racial bias, she argued. "This is a hate crime. We're talking about criminal activity."

Smiley praised the Adebayos' success in winning a temporary restraining order against the sale. A possible preliminary injunction against it is being argued in a Montgomery County Circuit Courtroom today. Their initial victory was remarkable, Smiley said, because "communities of color rarely prevail in court fights with multimillion dollar corporations."

Coleman Adebayo first came to prominence as a whistleblower who fought the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and won. That was also how Smiley first became aware of her activism and historic victory over the EPA. "I feel sorry for the folks and the developers who are trying to take over this cemetery," Smiley said. "She's in the history book. She is a warrior."

Smiley said the Moses African Cemetery battle is "one of those David vs. Goliath fights," and is "starting to make bigger news on the national scene." As the segment concluded, Smiley told listeners, "This is a fight that all of us have a vested interest in, whether our ancestors were buried in this plot or not, whether you've ever been to Maryland or Bethesda or not. If they can do it to them, they can do it to you, they can do it to us, so I am pulling and praying for your success on Monday and beyond, as you fight to save this precious and sacred burial ground."

Photo via Twitter

Car stolen from Friendship Heights garage

A shopper in Friendship Heights returned to the parking garage to find their vehicle missing early Saturday afternoon. Montgomery County police responded to a commercial parking garage in the 5300 block of Western Avenue for a report of a stolen car, according to crime data.

Planta applies for liquor license at Bethesda Row

, the new plant-based restaurant coming soon to Bethesda Row, has applied for a liquor license from Montgomery County. A hearing on the application before the liquor control board has been scheduled for October 21, 2021 at 1:30 PM. 

Planta is taking over the space at 4910 Elm Street, which was previously home to Cafe Deluxe. It had been expected to open this summer, but that has now been pushed to fall.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Marriott HQ construction update (Photos)

The Norfolk Avenue sidewalk alongside the Marriott International headquarters property has reopened to pedestrians, but its Wisconsin Avenue counterpart remains closed. Marriott's development partners have applied for a noise waiver from Montgomery County for milling and resurfacing work along the southbound lanes of Wisconsin between Cheltenham Drive and Commerce Lane, which will be performed between 9:00 PM and 7:00 AM Sundays through Thursdays through mid-October. Watch for southbound lane closures during those hours.

Work continues on the plaza between the office tower and the hotel. That is expected to be completed by the end of December. Marriott employees will relocate here from the existing corporate HQ in North Bethesda in 2022.