Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wonderful Wheaton

No, you didn't read that wrong. In 5 years you'll be calling me a genius. You heard it hear first, Wheaton will be a hot place to hang out (with or without kinder in tow) in no time. Yes, there is some gentrification going on, though so far as I can tell that hasn't even spurred the local Safeway to spruce up. It has mainly been confined to nicer rental housing on and around Georgia Avenue. There is new retail space opening up at the corner of University and Georgia with a few new restaurants, but you still have your choice of a number of places to have your check cashed.

Until recently I thought Irene's pupusas was the only good thing to eat in downtown Wheaton. And the Irene's on University although very good, isn't exactly a fun spot to eat out. Great for take-out though. More on pupusas in a later post. The point is, I was wrong. What there is: a lot of great food from around the world. What there isn't: fusion food.

And everywhere you turn you find a community - or a slice of the larger Wheaton community. There is a Latino bakery that serves gluten-free pastries, an African-American barber shop that is always busy, several great Thai restaurants, an Italian grocery... I could go on. The melting pot is here. And they are melting up something tasty every night of the week (plenty of parking too!).

Take for instance our latest discovery. Just a few weeks ago Basil and I were wishing for a real pub. Not a bar that's open at 11:30AM with one dedicated alcoholic posted on a stool, and a Lotto machine blinking away in the corner. A pub like the ones in Britain - good beer, good food and everyone (the whole family) welcome. One day later Basil ran into our neighbor who informed him of just such a paradise - in downtown Wheaton. I was skeptical because, frankly, I haven't found such a place anywhere that we've lived and downtown Wheaton seemed an unlikely place to finally find the illusive public house.

We took off one night with sketchy directions and drove up and down the few streets that make up downtown Wheaton. After returning home and consulting Google maps - we found The Royal Mile. Jovial retired neighbors sat outside sipping a beer and opening the door for us. Could it be? Inside is a comfortably noisy and busy dining area. The menu is much more than pub grub and includes mid-Atlantic regional dishes that most British pub-goers wouldn't recognize.

There is a children's menu with all the usual suspects and, our choice, a delicious kids' size fish and chips. Make sure you explain the "chips" part prior to the arrival of food though. The fish is light and crispy and doesn't leave that veneer of grease bad fried fish does. The fries are boardwalk style. Heaven.

The beer menu is very good though it doesn't go to the absurd lengths some do. Basil was able to find a few beers he'd never had - and that requires a beer list with some depth - including a stout from a Pennsylvania brewery that I quite liked. The Scotch menu is extensive as well, by the way. Good thing the Metro is close by.

Best of all, the price point is very reasonable.

We could use more walkable downtown areas that are outside of downtown DC and I think this one is on it's way up. It isn't as clean as Bethesda, but it also doesn't have that ersatz feeling our wealthier neighbor to the West does. The food is just Thai, just Chinese, just Salvadorian. You can rip the hyphen key right off your computer. You won't need it.

Did I mention there is parking?