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Jun 17, 2012 10:26 AM

Weekday Lunch between BWI & Rockville Turnpike

Is there any place - - aside from multiple chains - - worth stopping for a quick lunch on this route? We must be at our final destination - - about 4 miles north of the Beltway on Rockville Pike - - no later than 2. Because of the time constraint it probably makes sense to stop after we get off I-95, perhaps someplace in the strip mall heaven of Rockville.

Mapquest yields a lot of tickie tackie choices, but surely there must be something better. For instance a good Indian buffet with vegetarian and meat options would be welcome. But other distinct ethnic cuisines as well are worth considering.

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  1. Checked a but bit further and found these options that seem viable.

    Temari Cafe, 1043 Rockville Pike, 20852, Rockville, MD (301) 340-7720

    Pho Nom Nom, 842-A Rockville Pike

    East Pearl

    On the other hand the Original Ambrosia, described as offering Sysco Greek, seems less appealing.

    My dining companions often crave salads and light food with veggie heavy menus so Vietnamese might work.

    I would particulary like to learn more about Temari Cafe and Pho Nom Nom.

    Given the generally high quality of Indian food in the DC area I was surprised to see no Indian restaurants mentioned for the Rockville area.

    1 Reply
    1. re: VivreManger

      Temari Cafe is pretty good, but very small, and a little bit daunting for those unfamiliar with homestyle Japanese food.

      East Pearl is fabulous Cantonese food. Service is excellent, and they'll get you out quickly for a weekday lunch. Highly recommended.

      Pho Nom Nom is fine, though I like the brand new Pho & Rolls in the Rockville Town Square more.

      For Indian, look at Bombay Bistro (on Rte 28 just west of downtown Rockville), and Spice Xing (like Pho & Rolls, in the Rockville Town Square). Both have very good buffets with substantial vegetarian choices.

      Rockville Pike moves very slow, even mid-day, so going up 270 and cutting east on Rte 28 might be quicker to get to your destination (and lunch) anyway.

      Other ethnic places in central Rockville to consider: Joe's Noodle House (Sichuan), Yekta Kabobi (Persian), China Bistro (dumplings), Pho 75 (best pho in the area, but only pho and cash only).

    2. Matchbox is about four miles north of the beltway and is open for lunch. Chowhounders gave it mixed reviews here:

      1 Reply
      1. re: GraydonCarter

        Oh, no, please don't go to Matchbox.

        If you want pizza, literally right across the street is Pizza CS, a small shop owned by a couple of guys doing it right.

      2. Get off the beltway at University Ave. and hit Wheaton. Much better options than Pike food. Ruan and Nava Thai are both fair better than the Rockville offerings. The shwarma at max's is the best in the metro. Kam Fong and Hollywood East are solid options. Sad to see the big Irene's Pupuseria on Georgia closed. Saigonese has been very solid lately for bahn mi and other lunches.There's a Pollo Rico right on University before the turn to Viers Mill.

        In Rockville, I'd second Bombay Bistro, but it's been a while.

        FYI, it's pricey without an EZ Pass, but have you considered taking the ICC from BWI? Saves a lot of time and stress.

        15 Replies
        1. re: repete

          I strongly disagree that Wheaton has much better choices than Rockville.

          Ruan and Nava Thai are better than Rockville's Benjarong for Thai food, but they are not nearly as good as they once were. I wouldn't recommend Max's before a business meeting - messy and no good place to eat. Kam Fong and Hollywood East have been easily passed by East Pearl for Cantonese. Pho & Rolls has very good bahn mi, a variety of rolls and noodles, and decent pho.

          Plus, adding a detour to Wheaton adds at least 20-30 minutes to the trip to Rockville. With unpredictable DC traffic, whether ICC or Beltway, eating near the destination in Rockville is much smarter.

          1. re: DanielK

            The only thing unpredictable about the ICC, especially midday, is how very empty it is.

            Veirs Mill to the pike is a quick trip, 15 minutes with options to many sections of the pike depending on where you head. Plus the worst traffic the OP will encounter is up and down the pike.

            East Pearl, meh ...must have hit them on a bad day ... and that was with a friend from HK ordering. I lost a lot of cred for taking them there -- my bad for not checking it out before.

            Disagree on Ruan especially. Amazing how they'd added tables without a drop off.

          2. re: repete

            Wheaton has some very strong choices.

            I second Ruan Thai, still great boneless spicy duck and fried watercress with shrimp, squid, and cashews and Nava Thai is still cappable of producing the single most impressive concoction around: their Floating Market Noodle Soup. Max's felafel bar is astounding, and Ren's Ramen produces a solid miso ramen.

            1. re: Steve

              I gave up on Nava Thai. Last 3 visits there have produced Floating Market Noodle Soup that is all sweet, not hot, even after asking for VERY HOT.

              1. re: DanielK

                Nava FMNS: I have alternated between sweet and not hot and so hot i couldn't taste anything. Also had som tum with mealy, almost rotten tomatoes.

                1. re: DanielK

                  My last experience was about two months ago, and it was as great as ever. I guess they are inconsistent.

                  1. re: Steve

                    The last time I drove from BWI to the Bethesda area, about a year ago, there were no toll roads.

                    I took I-95 to the Beltway and then, on that trip, Old Georgetown Rd. To get to the Rockville Pike I have go about the same route, but in this case, turn north.

                    I don't remember the ICC, does that have a route number? I gather it is a toll road. Does it make much of a difference in time or distance. Since I will have a rental car, I could take my EZ-pass from home to handle the tolls, but is it worth the trouble??


                    As for the choices, my inclination is to stick to the Rockville area, particularly since the 2:00 meeting is a funeral, not just a business meeting.

                    1. re: VivreManger

                      Going out on a limb here & assuming you may be headed to Pumphreys in Rockville.
                      If so, Bombay Bistro is within a couple blocks. I believe it was mentioned already. Very good Indian.

                      1. re: VivreManger

                        ICC is RT 200 and goes from 95 south of Rt 198 exit to 355 is at Shady Grove. This is probably a little north of where you need to be. The ICC is fast, direct, and worth it and quiet every time I have used it to go your exact route. It made me get an EZ Pass since there are no toll booths. On our beloved beltway you never know when it might slow way down and it is usually busy and frantic.

                        1. re: mscoffee1

                          It is well worth the trouble to bring your EZ-PASS for MD 200. You'll save 10-20 minutes and the worry of the uncertainty that something has gone wrong on the beltway.

                          1. re: GraydonCarter

                            I appreciate the many suggestions and I thank you for all your responses.

                            Bombay Bistro was close and a buffet is always quick so we chose it. I hope that the food on the regular menu is better since otherwise I would not rush to eat there again.

                            The best item was the tandoori chicken which for the most part avoided the typical problem of steam table chicken. With the exception of the legs most of it was pretty tasty and tender, not dried out.

                            The choice was impressive, but unfortunately most of the vegetarian dishes - - mushrooms, etc. tasted the same - - though the eggplant did manage to rise above the rest. The sambar was good, but I would have preferred dal pancakes to the uthappam to soak up the sauce.

                            For $9 a person the place is a bargain, but it is not the best Indian buffet I have ever tried.

                            Thanks for all the tips. You all have been very helpful.

                            BTW I bought my EZ pass, but in the end I was too far south in Bethesda for any easy way to get to the ICC since the main routes were all filled with rush hour traffic. However someone else leaving from the same point at about the same time using a new gps system with a feature that monitors traffic jams was able to avoid the worse by taking suburban roads chosen by the device. He managed the trip to BWI in about 75 minutes (!) using the ICC. Without a GPS and the ICC, but simply taking the main route 495 to 95 (mostly) it took me about 10 minutes longer.

                            1. re: VivreManger

                              Sorry for not seeing this until after your visit. But if you come back again, consider two Indian buffets in Columbia -- Mango Grove or Royal Taj. They're just west of I-95 as you're coming south. Both have great kitchens. Royal Taj has a pretty impressive buffet with lots of options. I haven't eat the Mango Grove buffet, but it seves great food -- with a separate vegetarian kitchen doing vegetable curries, dosas, and other southern Indian food.

                              1. re: HowChowBlog

                                The owner of Nava Thai, who used to sit up at the bar on the right, died earlier this year. Since then, they have become a Thai/Japanese restaurant with a sushi menu in addition to the Thai menu. I don't go often enough to tell whether there has been a decline in quality.

                                Penang in Bethesda is as good as the best Malaysian Chinese restaurants in New York City. The Chinese Malaysian noodle plates and noodle soups at Penang are comparable to the same dishes at the New Malaysian restaurant in the Bowery Arcade, my current favorite in Manhattan Chinatown. Oddly, they don't serve tea, and if you order tea, you get a Lipton teabag! If you're interested in Malaysian food, be sure to see the recent Malaysian Chinese film Nasi Lemak 2.0, which is playing this week at the Walter Reade Theater in NYC.

                                I tried East Pearl last month for the first time and was not impressed. I had a rice plate that was nothing special. About 1/3 of the menu is American Chinese. There are better, cheaper, Hong Kong style restaurants in NYC. When I'm in Maryland, I usually eat Taiwanese at Bob's Noodle 66 or Sichuan noodles at A & J.

                                1. re: john959

                                  Interesting, thanks for the tip. Haven't had Malaysian-Chinese; I really like Malaysian though. Any recs on what is good at Penang?

                2. re: repete

                  Irene's moved to Layhill and Georgia replacing a Chinese buffet. It is right next to the Staple's.