Friday, August 29, 2014


The Duball project is really making progress since my last update. A hybrid of a luxury apartment building (The Upton) and a hotel (Cambria Suites), the building is much more in line with Rockville Town Square than the hodgepodge of projects planned for Town Center Phase II north of there.
Rockville Town Center

The view along Regal Row

Lots of glass is in place

Catch the T2 to Bethesda,
Potomac and
Friendship Heights here

View toward the Regal Cinemas
from E. Middle Lane

Thursday, August 28, 2014


The latest casualties at Rockville Town Square are Carbón Peruvian Chicken & Grill, and the Hair Cuttery. Both have closed, with hairdressers at the Hair Cuttery leaving a calling card for clients to follow them to their new King Farm outpost.

Carbón's website is gone, and a call to the restaurant's phone number resulted in a message reporting it had been disconnected. I've heard a rumor it might reopen elsewhere, but have no solid information on that yet.

These closures follow those recently of Cosi, Pho & Rolls, and Oro Pomodoro at the town center.

Empty menu holder

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Rockville on August 24, according to crime data:

Stolen car. 800 block N. Stonestreet Avenue.

Assault. 200 block Rockville Pike.

Assault. 600 block Northcliffe Drive.

Assault. 1300 block Baltimore Road.

Theft. 1100 block Higgins Place.

Theft. 1700 block Rockville Pike.

Theft. 100 block Adclare Road.

Theft. Unit block of Blue Hosta Way.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Stanford Grill, from the creators of Copper Canyon Grill, will open a Rockville location in 2015 at 2000 Tower Oaks Boulevard. According to a press release, the hickory-grilled steakhouse will also feature live music nightly, a full sushi bar, a fire pit, a display bakery and a sizable outdoor terrace.

A signature cocktail line will round out the cuisine at the 400+ seat restaurant.

The restaurant will be located in the ground floor of a large office building.

Photo courtesy Stanford Grill

Monday, August 25, 2014


Should Rockville urbanize, or remain a suburban area with a vibrant commercial strip along Rockville Pike? There are dangers in chasing the latest trends, when making major planning and development decisions. While we're told White Flint urbanism-on-steroids is the future, it turns out the rumors of the suburban apocalypse were greatly exaggerated. Just two months after data showed more people again moving to the suburbs than to urban cities, sales of condos are being outpaced by single-family homes.

According to the National Association of Realtors, condo sales were flat last month, unchanged from the previous month. During the same period, single-family home sales rose by 2.7%, USA Today reported Friday. Southern and western states recorded the highest number of home sales, while the northeast had no growth over the previous month.

Apparently many Americans are still fond of trees, lawns and backyard barbecues.

Friday, August 22, 2014


The new Blaze Pizza at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda opened yesterday, and now you can watch my video review of the pizza. I also tested out their dessert specialty, the S'mores Pie.

For testing purposes, I usually stick to a cheese pizza to better analyze the sauce and crust. That was the case at Blaze Pizza, where I ordered the Classic Red Sauce and a combination of mozzarella and Gorgonzola cheese. The Gorgonzola did seem to go quite well with the flavor of the red sauce, so I would strongly recommend it. You can select whatever toppings you like, as you will see in the video, which shows you the ordering process. As you'll see in my complete video review, there is a nice char on the bottom of the crust.

The S'mores Pie has a nice twist here, replacing the standard graham crackers with McVitie's Biscuits from England. Prince William would approve. Also, I recommend you ask to have your S'mores Pie put into the open fire oven for a more authentic campfire s'mores experience.
That's not a bite out
of the S'mores Pie; I
dropped it on the floor
(it was in a wrapper,
fortunately), and
a piece of the biscuit
snapped off

The S'mores Pie has Hershey's
Chocolate, my favorite

Blaze Pizza has a convenient location, right inside the entrance of the Old Navy wing, across from Aroma Espresso Bar. Like Aroma, Blaze Pizza will have an outdoor patio. That wasn't open yet Wednesday, but the modestly-sized dining room seemed comfortable. You can also see the pizzas going into the roaring fires of the oven from the dining area. Service was excellent, particularly considering it was a soft opening.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Join me for a behind-the-scenes VIP hard hat tour of the future ArcLight Cinemas, and new Dining Terrace, at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. The sleek, modern dining terrace is just about finished, and the cineplex will open in late October.

It's a refreshing change to be reporting on a movie theater under construction, rather than theaters being demolished in the past (or, potentially, in the future, in the case of the Regal Cinemas in downtown Bethesda).
Eric Howard of Westfield Corporation
The future Valet station is in
the background

To the left is one of several
trees that balance the
modern architecture with
an organic element

Ultimately, the new cineplex/dining terrace addition is the most prominent manifestation of Westfield's $90 million upgrade of Montgomery Mall. While White Flint Mall's owners chose to pull the plug on their successful indoor mall to gamble on an urban, "town center" concept, Westfield went in the opposite direction, bringing Montgomery Mall up to the standards of its California properties.

As Westfield representatives explained during a press conference and hard hat tour yesterday, dining and entertainment are the prime catalysts for success in a competitive market like the Washington, D.C. area. Westfield Montgomery had been a runner-up to regional giant Tysons Corner for many years, with the latter boasting more - and more upscale - dining options and a far more ambitious multiplex theater.
Westfield Montgomery Marketing
Manager Diego Gonzalez-Zuniga

Gonzalez-Zuniga described
the ArcLight/Dining Terrace
addition as "the new front
door" of the mall

It's amazing what 18 months and $90 million can do. Westfield Montgomery has pulled just about even with Tysons in dining options, with new and future tenants like The Cheesecake Factory, Lobster ME, MET Bethesda, CRAVE, and Naples 45. If you consider that the last time I was at the movies at Tysons, the theater seats were stained with holes in the cushions, I would argue that a buzzworthy replacement for Legal Sea Foods could put Westfield Montgomery ahead of Tysons by a nose.
Ted Xenohristos, founder of Cava Mezze
Restaurant Group, said the chain's new
Dining Terrace location will have
several new features, including a
wood stone oven for housemade pita,
and local craft beer and wines on tap

That potential was only made possible by the 16-screen ArcLight Cinemas and the signing of many new upscale retail tenants like Lilly Pulitzer and True Religion. Some other longstanding complaints were addressed during this period, including closing the "Starbucks gap" when Westfield finally got the coffee chain on board. It also made sure that smaller dining tenants were unique, such as Dumpling Dojo, Wicked Waffle and Aroma Espresso Bar.
Zach Sussman of CRAVE Restaurants
says CRAVE takes sushi seriously

Along with the bigger full-service restaurants coming in the months ahead, these dining options were definitely not the standard food court offerings of average malls in the past. That's one reason Westfield Montgomery's food court is now called a Dining Terrace, not a food court.
The spectacular view from the
upper level in the Dining Terrace

Sarku Japan's sushi bar is
a centerpiece in the new
dining palace

The escalator that will bring patrons
up to more dining options, and the
ArcLight Cinemas

At yesterday's press conference, representatives of Cava Grill, Lobster ME, Blaze Pizza, CRAVE and MET Bethesda offered a preview of the menus and unique aspects of their respective restaurants. In the case of Lobster ME and Blaze Pizza, there was actually food to sample (stay tuned for a separate report on Blaze Pizza).
Gretchen McCourt, Exec. VP
at ArcLight Cinemas
McCourt said ArcLight patrons
won't be bombarded with
annoying ads before movies

And, as you will see in the video, ArcLight Cinemas promises to be a major boon for film buffs, in addition to satisfying the dinner-and-a-movie crowd. I like that the chain treats movies less as a commodity and more as the art form it is, with no advertising and a black box in-theater atmosphere. And it will be the only theater in Bethesda showing films of the past, an experience that currently requires a trip over to the AFI Silver Theatre in downtown Silver Spring.
McCourt leads members of the media
on a tour of one of the 16 auditoriums
under construction in the ArcLight Cinemas

Ultimately, we are witnessing the reinvigoration of the suburban indoor mall. Rather than dying out, Westfield Montgomery remains a major retail destination in the DC area. With the new multiplex and restaurants, it is now also an entertainment and dining destination. This comes just as the momentum and population growth is shifting from urban areas back to the suburbs across the country, making it perfect timing for the rebirth of the indoor mall.
ArcLight Cinemas' lobby will feature a
small cafe/wine bar

ArcLight's signature lobby image wall,
which will have changing displays
throughout the year, was being
installed yesterday

Lobby of ArcLight Cinemas

Another lobby shot

Jordan McMeen of
Blaze Pizza

Blaze Pizza opens today - stay
tuned for a review!
Chairs, tables and other
furnishes await placement
in the completed Dining Terrace
Sarku Japan's sushi bar

Where the press conference was
held earlier in the morning

Lobby of ArcLight Cinemas

Speakers are already installed in
this ArcLight Cinemas auditorium

Very dark shot looking
at the future seats from the
future screen
The corridor inside ArcLight;
note frames to hold
Coming Attractions posters
at left

Curved walls are a feature
inside all ArcLight cineplexes,
Eric Howard of Westfield said

Entrance to Auditorium 7,
where you may one day enter
to screen a movie

The escalators were running
after the hard hat tour; later
I noticed the escalator company
truck outside, meaning they
were probably testing it

But first, let me take a selfie
Now, watch this exclusive, behind-the-scenes video: