Very few visitors know of Wheaton, much less make it out to this Maryland suburb of D.C. in Montgomery County. It has D.C.'s best ethnic dining scene period amidst what is probably the most diverse neighborhood for 100 miles in any direction. The Washington City Paper's 2009 critics' choice for best Thai in the whole metro area went to both Nava and Ruan. And it has the legendary Peruvian pollo a la brasa joint: El Pollo Rico.
Wheaton finds its origins during the 1700s. It was named after Union General Frank Wheaton, who defended nearby Fort Stevens and D.C. in the Civil War in July 1964. The land was originally owned by the Carroll family and named after Balamona after the Carroll holding in Ireland.
At the cross section there were three roads that cut through the farmland, where a small business section was created. The north/south being Brookeville Pike, now Rt. 97 Georgia Ave, ran from Washington D.C. to Baltimore. Veirs Mill Rd. was used a coach road with sections of plank road, which ran from Wheaton to Rockville. Lastly, the third road was Old Bladensburg Rd., now University Blvd, that connected Bethesda, Chevy Chase, and Bladensburg.
Before 1947 only 29,000 people were living in Wheaton on farms and large estates, however in 1950 and 1960 the number of residents increased tremendously, which led to the widening of Georgia Ave, also known as the “Avenue of Progess”. Since then there has been a tremendous amount of businesses that have blossomed such as the Wheaton Plaza Shopping Center in 1959, and Wheaton Regional Park in 1958.
However because Wheaton is so close to the large Silver Spring area many residents were unhappy because of their loss of identity, therefore in 1965 the community residents of Wheaton and Kensington gained permission to use Wheaton, MD for specific zip codes such as 20902 and many others. The area has developed extremely since its humble beginnings and is now known as a central business area with a diverse community surrounded by major roads and transit systems.
Coming out of the Wheaton Metro station on the Red Line, admire that escalator—it's the longest in the Western Hemisphere, taking over four minutes to ascend!
The main streets running through the downtown are Georgia Ave, Veirs Mill Rd, and University Blvd—the area where they converge (and the disorganized strip malls just east before the Metro stop) is the center of commercial activity, and is cram packed with great cheap restaurants.
Downtown Wheaton, as shown in the map to the right, is very compact and dense with shops and restaurants, and is easily walkable from the Metro. Bus service is extensive throughout the area. To get to Brookside Gardens by public transport, get off the Metro at the Glenmont stop, then take Metrobus #C8  towards College Park. Get off at Glenallan Ave and walk 3/8ths mile south to the Visitor Center. You could also just walk the whole way (south on Georgia Ave, left on Randolph, right on Glenallan), which is about a mile. (From Wheaton Metro you could take Metrobus Y5, Y7, Y8, or Y9  up Georgia Ave, and then transfer to #C8 at Randolph Rd or just walk the rest of the way, east on Randolph, then right on Glenallan.)
- 1 Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Ave, ☎ . Sunrise-sunset daily; conservatories and visitor center to 5PM. Beautiful and expansive botanical gardens improbably located in Wheaton. Anyone will love the butterfly pavilion in the summer months—otherwise just take the opportunity for a romantic stroll. Gardens: free.
- 2 Wheaton Regional Park, 2002 Shorefield Road, Wheaton, MD 20902 (playground, train and carousel). A large regional park with a playground, picnic areas, miniature train rides, carousel rides, stocked lake for fishing, botanical gardens, nature center, hiking trails, riding stables, campground, ice skating (year-round), tennis courts, covered fields, and a dog park. Free.
- 3 Wheaton Veterans Park. Created in remembrance and dedication to the veterans who served their nation in the military. It is located at the intersection of Amherst Avenue and Reedie Drive. The park was acquired in 1978.
- Taste of Wheaton: Annual event held in the downtown area of Wheaton in the Wheaton triangle near the metro station. There are a variety of booths and activities that display talents of the area, food samples from a variety of Wheaton’s best restaurants, as well as live entertainment. Family friendly event with activities for all ages, including face painting and balloon sculptures for children while parents can enjoy the sultry music provided by the dj and live bands ranging from hip hop to jazz, to country. There are also performance from a variety of organizations in the area, such as the Wheaton Studio of Dance.
- Wheaton and Kensington Chamber of Commerce Holiday Mixer: Celebrate the season and join in on the festivities of the season such as the Annual Children Holiday Toy Drive. Food and drinks are served and it is an opportunity for participants to network as well as meet new people in their community. Seasonal activity
There are plenty of shopping centers that are in the Wheaton area. Wheaton is filled with stores of all different kinds for all specialities such as, retail clothing, shoes, etc, drug stores, entertainment, electronics, etc.
- 1 Wheaton Mall, 11160 Veirs Mill Rd, ☎ . M-Sa 10AM-9:30PM, Su 11AM-7PM. Part of the Westfield shopping center chain, right by the Metro. The mall is filled with a variety of retail shops and department stores. Shops include: Victoria Secret, Express, Bakers, Forever 21, Foot Locker, American Eagle, FYE, Men's Wearhouse, etc. Some eateries include: PJ's Rice Bistro Bar and Sushi Bar, Popeyes, Ruby Tuesdays, Crispy and Juicy, etc.
- 1 [dead link]El Pollo Rico, 2517 University Blvd, ☎ . 10:30AM-10PM daily. Universally acclaimed in local, national, and international food circles is Wheaton's El Pollo Rico, serving unbeatable pollo a la brasa—Peruvian chicken roasted over smoky wood charcoals to just the perfect point at which a slight crisp falls upon the skin, over succulent, moist white and dark meat, and the spice fiesta of salt 'n pepper, huacatay, aji, cumin, achiote, garlic, and lemon magically penetrates the meat straight into the bone. EPR for a long time ran out of a can't-see-your-hand smoky little take-out only shack, but that burned down, and it's now in a cheery little eatery with tables for the few who aren't taking the bird home to the family. Lines are long, but move fast. Placing your order is simple: yell whole, half, or quarter, and then enjoy the sound of the lady's meat cleaver hitting the counter through the meat. Chicken: $5.30-14.20.
- 2 Full Key Restaurant, 2227 University Blvd, ☎ . 11AM-2AM daily. So this is where the Chinese fled to from the now Disneyfied Chinatown downtown! It's an unassuming but pleasant little eatery, offering Hong Kong cuisine into the wee hours of the night—wonderful noodle soups, soup dumplings, congee, and barbecued meats—the roast duck tends to run out, but you can call ahead to reserve a portion for a late night visit. $3.50-20.
- 3 Moby Dick, 11220 Triangle Ln, ☎ . M-Th 11:30AM-9:30PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-10PM. Odd name for a Korean-run Japanese place. Korean-run Japanese restaurants are usually a lesson in cross-cultural misunderstanding, but this is an exception, run by an eminently competent and seasoned preparer of Japanese cuisine. Three reasons to come: great tempura, good sushi, and impressively low prices. $7-15.
- 4 [dead link], 11301 Fern St, ☎ . Su-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-10:30PM. Served in a space that is comically and unmistakably a former cheesy Tex-Mex restaurant, Nava Thai's food is incredible, with a menu full of items Thai food lovers of the Western variety will not recognize. Dishes range from those ablaze with chilis, garlic, and curries, to those with a more subtle cilantro or perhaps pig's blood. The sweet and sour squid is famous, but if you want to play it safer, the husband and wife team here are experts with the noodle dishes, and you'd have trouble finding a better pad thai anywhere, except Ruan, of course. $6-20.
- 5 Paul Kee Restaurant, 11305 Georgia Ave, ☎ . Su-Th 11AM-1AM, F-Sa 11AM-2AM. Delicious, authentic Cantonese food served to a mostly Cantonese clientele. The service and ambiance are also authentically Cantonese, which is a bad thing, but they are also hallmarks of a place that serves great food at low prices. The roast and crispy meat dishes tend to be especially good bets. $5-25.
- 6 Ren's Ramen, 11403 Amherst Ave, ☎ . D.C.'s ramen scene is not as well-developed as New York, but this place comes pretty close. Very flavorful broth and delicious chewy noodles, no matter which variant of ramen you choose. The dumplings are also tasty. $10.
- 7 Ruan Thai, 11407 Amherst Ave, ☎ . M-Sa 11:30AM-10PM, Su 4PM-10PM. Trying to decide whether to eat at Nava or Ruan is best decided by a coin flip—they are both fantastic, small, and as authentic as they come. Aside from walking distance, Ruan is a little divier and marginally less expensive, which is either a plus or minus depending on your outlook. It also serves an incredible smoked eggplant salad, a fiery crispy whole red snapper, and killer larb. $6-18.
- 8 [dead link]Sergio's Place, 11324 Fern St, ☎ . 7AM–whenever the Salvadoreños have their final beer at night, daily. The pupusas here are magnificent, with perhaps the best Salvadoran style tortillas you'll find outside of the motherland. And they come in an unusual range of stuffings like chicken, carrots, crab meat, jalapeños, etc.—you can even get one made with a rice tortilla! Otherwise, there are a number of Salvadoran soups, Guatemalan dishes, and great Cuban sandwiches to keep the adventurous palate engaged. Live (and very loud) entertainment F-Su nights. $5-15.
- 9 Max's Cafe, 2319 University Blvd W, Wheaton, Maryland, ☎ . S-Th 11am-9pm; F 11am-2pm. Kosher meat restaurant with a selection of deli food as well as Israeli and American food.
- 10 Nut House Pizza, 11419 Georgia Avenue, Wheaton, Maryland, ☎ . Mon. 11:30-9:00, Tues. 11:30-9:00, Wed. 11:00-9:00, Thurs. 11:30-9:00, Fri. 11:00-9:00, Sun. 11:00-9:00, Sat. open 1 hour after sundown until 1:00AM; F 11am-2pm. Kosher dairy restaurant with pizza and vegetarian mock meat.
- 11 Ben Yehuda Cafe & Pizzeria, 1370 Lamberton Drive, Wheaton, Maryland, ☎ . Sun. - Wed. 11:00 - 8:00, Thurs. 11:00 - 9:00, Fri. 11:00 - 2:30, Sat. 90 minutes after Shabbos until midnight. Kosher dairy restaurant with pizza and vegetarian mock meat.
Rare is the restaurant in Wheaton that doesn't have a full bar, and even the shopfront dives tend to at least serve bottled beer.
While you're here, why not try out the various exotic drinks around the various international restaurants and markets. The Asian markets usually carry great looseleaf teas at bargain prices; Thai restaurants serve Thai iced coffee and tea; the Latino places have tasty tamarindo juice, horchata, and even delicious atoles, the fabled warm, thick corn drink of the Mayas; the Ethiopian restaurant has honey wine and great coffee; Middle Eastern markets have great Turkish and Iraqi pomegranate juice; etc. You'll find new things as soon as you begin poking your nose around downtown Wheaton.
- 1 Legends Billards, 11317 Elkin St, ☎ . M-W 11AM-10PM, Th 11AM-midnight, F-Sa 11AM-2AM, Su noon-11PM. Legends Billards is a sports bar, pool hall, and good hang out spot open to all sports fanatics as well as pool players. Pitchers of beer and rounds of pool are notably cheap! The bar offers specials to their regulars as well as drink specials on certain nights. They host parties for all sporting events year round such as March Madness, and Superbowl Sunday.
- 2 Royal Mile Pub, 2407 Price Ave, ☎ . M-Th 3:30PM-1AM, F-Sa 10:30AM-2AM, Su 10:30AM-1AM. A fixture of Wheaton for the past twenty years, this is an authentic Scottish pub. It's authentic not for the imitation decor omnipresent throughout fake Irish pubs the world over, but rather for the feel of a real pub—an open, community-oriented, and family friendly restaurant and watering hole. The food ranges from average to quite good, with an exceptional upscale preparation of haggis (really, try it!). The beer menu is respectable, and the scotch list is top-notch. Most days see specials: M half price bottles of wine, W wines by the glass, Th scotch-tasting nights, and Sat. night live entertainment. Food: $15-30.
- 3 Uno Billards. While Uno is not primarily a bar, it does offer a great variety of food, attracting all types of crowds. This friendly spot located in Wheaton is one of the few locations that is family-friendly, while providing entertainment for the 18 and over environment. They offer a variety of food to complement their wide range of draft beers and liquors, while their most famous speciality is Uno Pizza.
Wheaton does not have any nice hotels to stay in. If you are looking for a place nearby for your visit, Silver Spring is just south on Georgia Ave and the Metro Red Line, and has plenty of nice hotels.
- If you have a car, a trip east along University Blvd to Langley Park's International Corridor is a fun way to discover restaurants sporting cuisines from throughout Africa, Latin America, and Asia.
|Routes through Wheaton|
|East End ← Silver Spring ←||S N||→ END|