Tag Archives: Rockville

Appreciating Argentinian Cuisine in Rockville

We’ve got a lot of great Mexican and Salvadoran restaurants in DC, but not nearly as many South American hotspots.  Before you go pointing me to Fogo de Chao, let me specify—I mean non-chain, family-owned, feel-like-you’re-actually-in-Buenos-Aires type places.  (And I will say we are home to some great Peruvian restaurants).

El Patio

Nevertheless, I was excited to discover El Patio, a great Argentinian restaurant, café, and small market in Rockville.  Unassumingly located in a strip mall, El Patio serves up a wide variety of the country’s finest foods, like traditional barbeque (parrillada), carne salteada, and milanesas (friend or breaded meats).  The café in the back is the perfect place to snack on empandas, Spanish tortillas, and other baked goods.  And don’t forget a glass of malbec!

food

El Patio also hosts a small market featuring foods and wines from Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, and Uruguay. Looking for yerba mate, alfajores, or chimcurri sauce?  This is your spot.  You can even buy a guampa and bombilla for drinking the mate (the gourd and straw, for those not in the know).

mate

One of the best things about visiting El Patio is observing and interacting with its local South American crowd.  On the Sunday afternoon when I visited, my group was one of the very few speaking English rather than Spanish.  This is what I like so much about Rockville, Centreville, Annandale, and other suburbs teeming with ethnic restaurants:  not only is the food great, but because they are located in cultural neighborhood centers, you really do feel like you’ve taken a step into a different city, even if just for a short time.

restaurant

To visit:  5240 Randolph Rd Rockville Maryland, Loehmanns Plaza Shopping Center‎, (301) 231-9225.  M-Th 9am-9pm, F-Sat 9am-10pm, Sun 9am-8pm.  About a mile walk from the White Flint metro stop on the red line.

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A Colossal Warehouse of Books

Washington, DC is peppered with some excellent used bookstores, though not as many as one would hope.  The best close by is Capitol Hill Books, characterized by floor to ceiling book jumbles, handwritten signs with arrows in every direction, and a delightfully crabby proprietor.  Other good ones (and some of the only others) are Idle Time in Adams Morgan and Riverby Books on Capitol Hill.  But have you ever dared to imagine an enormous warehouse filled with used books lurking just outside our city?  Neither had I, until I was informed of Second Story Books and Antiques in Rockville (which claims the other Second Story Books on P Street in Dupont Circle as a comparatively miniscule offshoot).

The delight of Second Story Books, which truly is a located in a large warehouse, is first experienced by the used-book smell wafting out of the open garage doors upon your approach.  The place is home half a million books, according to its website, and the sheer variety could keep you browsing for days.  It is one of the largest used bookstores in the country, and not surprisingly, a good part of its business these days comes from online buyers.  It also deals with estate sales and individuals looking to sell books (though beware, similar to a consignment shop, you will get only a fraction of what the book appraisers believe they are able to sell the book for—you’re best off selling in bulk).

The buyer who ventures to the warehouse in person will find dozens of categories to choose from:  rare art, cookbooks, fiction, naval history, young adult, foreign languages, the list goes on.  The website has many of the titles available for browsing, if you are looking for something rare or unique.  The Washington Post pointed out one of the best (or most frustrating) features of the store—because of its sheer size, the title you are looking for may be found in one of a handful of sections.  For example, there are no less than three sections for cookbooks.  But this scavenger hunt is what ends up making the trip enjoyable in the first place!

Prices depend on which sales are going on, but there is no doubt that they are great deals, and better than you will find in the city.  Some trade paperbacks were going for as little as $.50 during my visit, but go up to $15,000 for extremely rare books online.  In order to consolidate space, there is currently a 50% off sale for the entire store (though unclear when that will end).

Second Story Books was started in 1973, and both the Rockville and Dupont locations have been in business for over 20 years.  There used to be a Bethesda until it closed a few years ago, and the original warehouse was located in Alexandria, Virginia.

The bookstore also sells posters, videos, CDs, paintings, and other collectibles.  Whatever you’re in the mood for, one thing’s clear—bring a large tote bag, because you won’t be going home empty-handed!

To visit:  12160 Parklawn Dr., Rockville, MD, (301) 770-0477.  Open Sunday-Wednesday 10-8 and Thursday-Saturday 10-9.  A medium walk from the Twinbrook Metro stop, but if you are planning on lugging anything back, a vehicle may be necessary!

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The Kielbasa Factory Offers a Taste of Polonia

While Washington, DC doesn’t rank high on the list of cities with a strong Polish immigrant population and influence (à la Cleveland or Pittsburgh), we are nevertheless fortunate enough to be home to a deli and grocery dedicated completely to the culinary whims of the area’s thousands of Poles and Eastern Europeans.

Nestled on the top floor of a strip mall in Rockville, the Kielbasa Factory is small yet offers a comprehensive selection of grocery items and ingredients, frozen and prepared foods (most made in New York, though some in-house), and deli meats and cheeses.  This family-owned store has only been open since late 2007, is the only Polish deli in the area, and as far as I can tell one of only two places in DC and its surroundings where you can get Polish food (the other being the restaurant Domku in Petworth).

Of course, the main attraction to the Kielbasa Factory is the kielbasa, and the store features many different varieties of these sausages.  Jars of pickles, preserved fish, and canned fruits and vegetables line the walls, along with Polish coffees, candies, wine, and other products that I’m sure must be a delight to find around here.

I took home with me a package of potato and cabbage pierogis, fresh sauerkraut, a couple of Żywiec beers, and Polish chocolate, and cooked up an excellent and hearty meal (though wish I had a “babcia” to make the real deal for me!)

I was disappointed that all of the Polish baked goods had sold out by the time I was there on a Sunday afternoon.  Apparently paczki (filled donuts) and other homemade pastries are delivered on Fridays from New York City, and are usually sold out by the end of the weekend.  So, my advice:  go early on Saturday morning if you’re looking for baked sweet treats!  (Meanwhile, watch this great clip about the paczki-making process and how a local Polish bakery in Detroit has become a staple in the community).

Also interesting about the Kielbasa Factory is that it has a shipping and parcel service to make sending packages to Poland and other Eastern European countries easier.  In addition, there are a number of Polish newspapers and magazines for sale.  It’s clear that the Kielbasa Factory is not just a place to get good food, but is an important part of Rockville and DC’s Polish community.

To get there:  1073 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland.  240-453-9090.  Hours:  Monday-Thursday 11am – 7pm, Friday 11am – 8pm, Saturday 10am – 6pm, and Sunday 11:30am – 3:30pm.  About 1.5 miles walking from the Rockville Metro station.  A handful of buses run up and down Rockville Pike to both Rockville and White Flint Metro stops.

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