Longest Line: The Baked Bear
Long lines are the norm in North Bethesda for The Baked Bear’s custom ice cream sandwiches, made with cookies, brownies and doughnuts, or a combination of two. They’ve got all your standard cookie flavors (chocolate chip, M&M, oatmeal) and some that aren’t classics (red velvet, funfetti). Try the signature “Bear Batter” ice cream—cyan-colored cake-batter with brownie bits mixed in—hot-pressed between a doughnut and a chocolate chip cookie. If you want to take it over the top, add a topping of Fruity Pebbles, hot fudge or Nutella. The sandwiches are large enough to be shared; most people eat them with a knife and fork.
Most anticipated new restaurant: Julii
Named after the dynasty that bore Roman dictator Julius Caesar, Julii opened in early December. The North Bethesda restaurant is the latest venture of the three CAVA founders who grew up together and still live in Montgomery County. Julii’s menu includes popular dishes from France and the Mediterranean region such as salmon crudo and Moroccan lamb tagine. “We’re doing our favorite things in a style that’s new and approachable,” says Executive Chef Sasha Felikson. The restaurant’s interior features an open concept with three walls of glass and draped LED rope lighting.
Smash hit: Pinstripes
Not your average bowling alley, the 37,000-square-foot Pinstripes in North Bethesda boasts a full-service restaurant, 10 indoor and outdoor bocce courts, a ballroom that can seat up to 240 guests, and 14 bowling lanes. The upscale venue is a popular spot for weddings, bat and bar mitzvah parties, and meetings. High-end menu offerings such as jumbo lump crabcake, filet mignon and gnocchi with ahi tuna attract guests just for dinner. This isn’t a place for sweatshirts and beat-up jeans. The bowling alley is packed on Friday and Saturday nights with well-dressed patrons of all ages. You’ll need to book a reservation in advance.
Best Marketing Ploy: The Beach
Federal Realty created a whole lot of buzz last summer when it brought “The Beach” to North Bethesda. Pike & Rose’s Instagram “reveal” got the most likes out of all its photos in 2018. The Pike & Rose developer shipped in picnic tables, umbrellas and 252 tons of sand to transform a parking lot behind Rose Park. Brightly colored green and purple cabanas and a beach-scene mural completed the space. To further enhance the draw of a beach just off the Pike, Federal Realty organized pop-ups throughout the summer, including group fitness classes and “The Beach Bar,” complete with orange crush cocktails. About 10,000 people visited The Beach over the summer, according to Mickey Papillon, vice president and general manager of Pike & Rose. The community space was such a hit that it will return next summer.
Hippest Space: Canopy by Hilton
Likely the only hotel in the county to sell pickled okra at the reception desk, the North Bethesda Canopy hotel opened in early 2018. The Canopy style, developed by Rockville-based integrated creative agency HZ, is equal parts industrial and eclectic. Exposed ductwork and accordion lights are balanced by pops of electric blue and floral patterned furniture. The lobby features a two-story moss wall and a chandelier made with pages of National Geographic. Guests can take a lap around Pike & Rose on complimentary Creamsicle-colored Canopy bikes. Made to feel like a neighborhood spot, the hotel bar and café serve bread and pastries from Fresh Baguette in Bethesda, and charcuterie from MeatCrafters in Rockville. 7 Locks Brewing in Rockville and Waredaca Brewing in Laytonsville are included on the beer list.