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by Aaron Kraut — March 31, 2015 at 10:05 am 194 0

Not Your Average Joe's taking over the old Hamburger Hamlet spot in Bethesda

The casual dining chain taking over the old Hamburger Hamlet spot in Bethesda is doing a complete remodel before an anticipated summer opening.

Not Your Average Joe’s said last summer that it was coming to the 8,500-square-foot space at 10400 Old Georgetown Road.

Signage is now up and a significant redesign is underway inside, with new walls, a new design and the teardown of what used to be Hamburger Hamlet’s bar area.

Not Your Average Joe's taking over the old Hamburger Hamlet spot in BethesdaBethesda-based real estate firm Streetsense helped put the deal together with property manager Vornado. The firm also helped Massachusetts-based Not Your Average Joe’s build out its Gaithersburg location.

Hamburger Hamlet closed in December 2013 after fellow California-based chain Du-par’s attempted to revive it by making it a 24-hour diner and eatery.

Original Hamburger Hamlet owners Marilyn and Harry Lewis opened the restaurant — the chain’s first location on the east coast — in 1973.

Not Your Average Joe’s features mostly American style items, with salads, pizzas, burgers, sandwiches and pasta dishes for less than $20. It also features a gluten free section.

by Aaron Kraut — March 30, 2015 at 4:55 pm 755 4 Comments

Markham's Bar and Grill will become Villain & Saint in BethesdaA Bethesda restaurant is partnering with chef Robert Wiedmaier to bring a new concept heavy on live music to Wisconsin Avenue.

A rebuild is underway to transform Markham’s Bar and Grill (7141 Wisconsin Avenue) into Villain & Saint, the latest new Bethesda restaurant from the RW Restaurant Group.

Wiedmaier is partnering with Markham’s owner Steve Markham on the project. The restaurant closed today for the rebuild and plans to open back up on April 16.

“It’s about the musicians,” Wiedmaier said Monday. “We just happen to have good food.”

Chef Tom Meyer, who worked at Wiedmaier’s Brasserie Beck location in Gaithersburg, will helm the kitchen. He’s been on board at Markham’s for about three months, so Markham said not to expect much to change with the menu. The new restaurant will feature an expanded alcohol selection.

The major changes will come in the front of the restaurant, where on Monday a stage was being installed. Markham said the restaurant plans three or four live original acts a week.

“Robert, his other passion is music,” Markham said. “We felt this would be a great spot for that.”

Most of the other changes will be cosmetic, with new wallpaper and art and a collection of guitars signed by various famous musicians.

Markham said all the acts will be filmed for an archive on the restaurant’s yet-to-be-launched website. The bar and outdoor patio area will remain. The booths will be replaced with high-top tables.

Wiedmaier, who lives in Kensington, is also nearing an opening at Urban Heights, at the space that used to house Roof. The RW Restaurant Group also operates Mussel Bar and Grille (7262 Woodmont Avenue) and Wildwood Kitchen (10223 Old Georgetown Road).

by Aaron Kraut — March 30, 2015 at 9:00 am 614 5 Comments

Rendering via Alain Cohen

The owner of a yoga and fitness studio set for the former Bethesda Post Office is promising new life for one of downtown’s oldest buildings.

Alain Cohen, who with his brother Marc will open Bridges Fitness & Yoga there later this year, said the all-in-one yoga studio, gym and health center will benefit from the historic nature of the building.

“You feel grounded, connected a little bit more to the things that are stable,” Alain Cohen said. “It’s stable. It’s an old building. It’s more connected to the earth and has that feeling of something genuine as opposed to something newer and more artificial. It doesn’t really have to be spelled out for people, but I think they can relate to it.”

The building (7400 Wisconsin Avenue) opened in 1938 as part of the New Deal and was a post office until 2012. Citing financial difficulties, the United States Postal Service sold the building for $4 million. That same year, Cohen and his brother sold off their Bethesda-based software firm for $1 billion.

Alain has turned his attention to health. He’s practiced yoga for about 15 years and said he doesn’t think he could’ve found a better spot for Bridges in downtown Bethesda.

The Neo-Georgian stone structure has been designated historic and must remain intact. Cohen said the roughly 5,000-square-foot main floor will serve as the main yoga and fitness studio. The roughly 5,000-square-foot downstairs will have locker rooms, massage treatment rooms and some individual training rooms.

The major change to the building will come on the back loading dock, where Bridges will build a modern-looking structure to house a health cafe that will be open to all — not just members of the gym.

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by Aaron Kraut — March 27, 2015 at 3:25 pm 1,472 8 Comments

Photo via Old Angler's Inn

A popular Potomac restaurant and event venue wants to get back to its roots.

The Old Angler’s Inn (10801 MacArthur Boulevard) filed a zoning application this week with Montgomery County for a “Country Inn” designation.

That change would allow the historic Potomac property to add eight overnight guest suites, a feature that would harken back to its very early days when Civil War officers would stay overnight.

The facility doesn’t include guest suites now. It’s a restaurant, beer garden, wedding space and popular spot for hikers after a walk along Great Falls or the C&O Canal.

The plan is to put in a ballroom and the upstairs rooms in the next two years, according to an employee.

Mark Reges, whose mother Olympia ran the business for decades, took over the operation with his brothers and his wife after Olympia’s death in 2005. They reopened the back garden, reconfigured the interior and set out changing up the restaurant with a new chef.

The Angler’s Inn has been open since 1860. According to the restaurant, it opened to serve those traveling into the nation’s capital and many of the wealthy families which set up estates in Potomac and the rest of the Maryland countryside.

During the Civil War, couriers, officers and soldiers from both the North and South would stay at the Inn.

In 1957, prominent Washington attorney John Reges bought the Inn, which is when his wife Olympia restored it.

Photo via Old Angler’s Inn

by Aaron Kraut — March 27, 2015 at 2:00 pm 527 2 Comments

Bethesda's 'Madonna of the Trail' statue

With this week’s news of a new tenant at the historic Bethesda Post Office, some have asked about the story of another historical landmark just outside the building.

That would be the “Madonna of the Trail” statue that stands on the Wisconsin Avenue sidewalk between the Hyatt Regency hotel and the soon-to-be-filled 1938 post office structure.

Regional Services Center Director Ken Hartman passed along this history of the statue in his latest email newsletter, courtesy of the Maryland chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The DAR erected the statue in 1929 and 11 others like it in 1928 and 1929:

The Madonna of the Trail is a pioneer woman clasping her baby with her young son clinging to her skirts. The face of the mother, strong in character, beauty, and gentleness, is the face of a mother who realizes her responsibilities and trust in God. It has a feeling of solidarity — a monument which will stand through the ages.

The figure of the mother is of heroic proportions — 10 feet high with a weight of 5 tons. The base upon which the figure stands is 6 feet high and weights 12 tons. This, in turn, rests upon a foundation that is placed on the ground, standing 2 feet above the level which makes the monument 18 feet above the ground.

The figure and the base are made of algonite stone (a poured mass) of which the Missouri granite is used as the main aggregate, thus giving the monument a warm, pink shade which is the color of the Missouri native granite. It was thought and expected that this stone had admirable aging qualities and, with time, would improve in color and solidarity.

On the two sides of the base are to be found words of historical data or local commemoration. These inscriptions are of the Revolutionary period or the early history in respective localities. These monuments were erected in each of the 12 states through which the National Old Trails Road passes.  The design of the monument was that of sculptor August Leimbach of St. Louis and was offered by Mrs. John Trigg Moss, Chairman of the DAR national committee.

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by Aaron Kraut — March 25, 2015 at 4:50 pm 2,729 21 Comments

A new fitness and yoga center will move into the historic old Bethesda Post Office building

The historic old Bethesda Post Office has a new tenant.

Bridges Fitness & Yoga, from the brothers who founded Bethesda-based software firm Opnet, will move into the historic building that was built in 1938 and sold in 2012 to the Donohoe Companies.

Donohoe Development Senior Vice President Jad Donohoe confirmed the fitness and yoga studio would be moving in. A website for Bridges Fitness & Yoga says it will open in downtown Bethesda in September 2015.

Alain and Marc Cohen, owners of the gym, couldn’t be reached for comment on Wednesday afternoon.

In 1986, the Cohen brothers founded Opnet, an application performance management firm. In 2000, the company went public and eventually grew to 700 employees. About half of those employees were based at Opnet’s Bethesda headquarters.

In 2012, the brothers sold Opnet to San Francisco-based Riverbed Technology for $1 billion. Riverbed maintained the firm’s Bethesda Row office location.

The gym is part of the Cohen brothers’ Cobro Ventures Inc. The website promises yoga, cardio and strength training in a state-of-the-art facility and “a beautiful, inspiring, and calming setting — an oasis in busy downtown Bethesda.”

It will be quite a departure from the old Post Office building, which has been designated historic. It was built in 1938 as part of the New Deal. 

Today, it occupies a spot in the center of downtown Bethesda, next to the Hyatt Regency hotel and Bethesda Metro station.

Facing financial troubles, the U.S. Postal Service sold the building to the Donohoe Companies in 2012 for $4 million.

Few interior modifications have been made since.

by Aaron Kraut — March 25, 2015 at 2:45 pm 2,648 27 Comments

Sheriff's office shuts down Pitzze in downtown Bethesda, Photo via Mike Landsman

A Bethesda pizzeria with a history of changing ownership was shut down on Wednesday by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.

Bethesda Magazine reported the restaurant — Pitzze at 7137 Wisconsin Avenue — was being evicted for failing to pay rent and two deputies told employees it would be closed immediately.

The restaurant opened as Haven Pizzeria in 2012. Original owner Tiger Mullen sold it to a group of minority investors at the end of 2012 but then bought it back early last year.

Mullen then rebranded it as Pitzze, claiming the previous owners “were absentee owners who really didn’t understand the concept.”

The restaurant had a 100,000-pound coal-powered oven, used to cook up its New Haven-style pies.

Mullen opened the concept in February of 2012. Mullen said some of his partners soon wanted to expand. With a general disagreement about how to move forward, Mullen agreed to sell his majority share of the restaurant to his partners, who he said went to a new manager and slowly lost what the original Haven Pizzeria was about.

Customers were starting to notice. Online reviews claimed the pizza and service had gone downhill. In the fall of 2013, Mullen began talks to reacquire ownership of the restaurant, a deal that was completed in time to put him fully in charge starting in April 2014.

Mullen couldn’t be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Photo via Mike Landsman

by Aaron Kraut — March 25, 2015 at 12:15 pm 640 3 Comments

A boxing and kickboxing devotee decided to open his own Bethesda gym once the one he went to abruptly closed.

Ken Gear joined the UFC Gym on Cordell Avenue two years ago. Coming off two knee replacements and looking for a new kind of workout, the Potomac resident and municipal finance officer quickly became a regular.

Then, in January, the chain announced it was closing the Bethesda location.

“There was a huge void and initially I talked to some people about investing,” Gear said Wednesday. “I started to figure out, well, if I’m going to put all of this money in, I need to be involved and I wanted to be.”

So Gear, along with some trainers who worked at UFC Gym, have opened the Bethesda Boxing & Kickboxing Academy at 4940 St Elmo Avenue.

The 2,000-square-foot space, in what was last a shoe store, has a personal training section in the front and a back studio with 18 heavy punching bags, two “peanut punching bags” for precision punching, a speed bag and space for a long roster of boxing, kickboxing and specialty classes.

Through the end of March, the Academy is offering free classes.

To make it all come together, Gear is actually leaving his job with the D.C. government. The self-described gym rat is the owner, operator and “motivator” behind the concept.

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by Aaron Kraut — March 25, 2015 at 11:00 am 906 5 Comments

Urban Heights is taking over the former Roof spot in Woodmont Triangle

Urban Heights, the Robert Wiedmaier restaurant coming to the former Roof space in Woodmont Triangle, is holding a job fair ahead of its opening later this spring.

The restaurant, which will take over the second- and third-floor rooftop bar space at 7940 Norfolk Avenue, is looking for bartenders, servers, hostesses, line cooks and prep cooks.

It will be doing interviews Tuesday-Saturday, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. throughout the rest of the month. Last week, the county’s Board of License Commissioners granted Urban Heights its alcohol license.

Roof, from Tommy Joe’s owner Alan Pohoryles, closed in November 2014 after a little less than a year in operation.

News that Wiedmaier’s group would be taking it over came early this year. Bethesda Magazine reported former Matchbox and TenPenh chef Cliff Wharton will helm the kitchen.

If interested in a job at Urban Heights, email garth[at]urbanheightsbethesda[dot]com.

by Aaron Kraut — March 23, 2015 at 10:00 am 451 3 Comments

A Kendra Scott jewelry boutique is coming to 4835 Bethesda Avenue, via Google MapsA jewelry boutique will replace the former space of a frame shop on Bethesda Row.

Kendra Scott, the Texas-based jewelry design shop, is expanding its nationwide collection of stores and will open at 4835 Bethesda Avenue at a yet-to-be-determined date.

The boutique’s website lists Bethesda Row as a location coming soon and Bethesda Row property owner Federal Realty now names Kendra Scott on its list of tenants.

The store used to be home to the Picture Frame Shop, which had been in Bethesda since 1991 until it closed at the Bethesda Avenue space last summer.

Scott says she started her own mini-jewelry collection in 2002 with just $500, according to the store’s website. Her products are now sold at major department stores and she “has become a household fashion name to women around the world,” with celebrities like Sofia Vergara and Hillary Duff sometimes wearing her jewelry.

Joining Kendra Scott in the next wave of new Bethesda Row tenants will be Williams-Sonoma, which last week confirmed it’s taking over the Parker’s and Tara Thai restaurant spaces.

Photo via Google Maps

by BethesdaNow.com — March 20, 2015 at 12:05 pm 0

Roti Mediterranean GrillIn a few hours, we’ll randomly select six lucky winners of a free meal at Roti Mediterranean Grill, opening next month at Pike & Rose.

Email news@bethesdanow.com between now and 4 p.m. and we’ll automatically enter you into a drawing for a meal card that will get you a free sandwich, salad or rice plate at any of the restaurant’s D.C. area locations (including at Westlake Crossing in Bethesda).

We’ll also automatically subscribe all those who enter to our Afternoon Update email (if you’re not already subscribed).

by Aaron Kraut — March 20, 2015 at 10:00 am 1,143 3 Comments

Announcement on Tara Thai Bethesda door

One of the two Bethesda Row restaurants being replaced by Williams-Sonoma says it’s moving to Westfield Montgomery mall.

Tara Thai (4828 Bethesda Avenue) posted a note on its door announcing its last day of business at Bethesda Row will be Saturday, March 28. Bethesda Magazine reported that Tara Thai’s lease is up at the end of March. The same is true for next-door restaurant Parker’s.

Tara Thai announced it will relocate the Bethesda Row location to Westfield Montgomery mall sometime in the fall.

Williams-Sonoma, the upscale houseware and furniture retailer, confirmed earlier this week that it’s moving into the two vacant restaurant spaces. There is no opening date yet.

by Aaron Kraut — March 19, 2015 at 1:00 pm 1,264 6 Comments

A local couple let reality TV show cameras follow it around for its entire first year of marriage.

Kirk and Laura Knight, via BravoKirk and Laura Knight are one of the couples featured on Bravo’s “Newlyweds: The First Year,” a show that claims to capture the ups, downs, arguments and other drama of a new marriage.

A prominent storyline has Kirk, owner of a commercial real estate company, and Laura, owner of an insurance brokerage company, struggling over whether to have kids.

Kirk, who already has two teenage sons, is against the idea and enjoys his condo, bachelor-pad lifestyle and fish.

Laura would like to have a baby, start a family and buy a house.

The show airs on Tuesday nights at 10 p.m.

Photo/video via Bravo

by BethesdaNow.com — March 18, 2015 at 4:20 pm 152 0

Via Roti Mediterranean Grill

To celebrate its opening at Pike & Rose, Roti Mediterranean Grill is giving away meals to six lucky winners.

The falafel, kabob and salad fast casual concept is set to open next month at 11586 Old Georgetown Road.

Email news@bethesdanow.com between now and Friday at 4 p.m. and we’ll automatically enter you into a drawing for a meal card that will get you a free sandwich, salad or rice plate at any of the restaurant’s D.C. area locations (including at Westlake Crossing in Bethesda).

We’ll also automatically subscribe all those who enter to our Afternoon Update email (if you’re not already subscribed).

Photo via Roti Mediterranean Grill

by Aaron Kraut — March 18, 2015 at 11:30 am 168 0

National Cherry Blossom Festival display set for Westfield Montgomery, via Westfield MontgomeryWestfield Montgomery mall will take part in the National Cherry Blossom Festival starting this Friday with special pink lighting and events.

The mall (7101 Democracy Boulevard) will illuminate some of its exterior walls with the lighting and a National Cherry Blossom Festival logo. It’s one of about 20 D.C. area landmarks and buildings that will do so as part of the Festival’s “City In Bloom” program.

Inside the mall, stores Lilly Pulitzer, H.Bloom and Lobster ME will host floral arrangement classes on March 29, with food provided by the fast casual lobster and seafood eatery. Professional floral designers will provide instruction. More details and a registration form will be available soon on Westfield Montgomery’s website.

There will be cherry blossom trees inside the mall — with anticipated peak bloom on March 29. The Tidal Basin trees are expected to reach peak bloom some time from April 11-April 14. In the Kenwood neighborhood of Chevy Chase, that likely means a April 14-April 18 range for peak bloom.

The “Petal Pass” program will offer deals such as a complimentary branded tote bag and discounts from retailers.

Photo via Westfield Montgomery

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