Several Hyattsville Restaurants Get Noticed


Several Hyattsville restaurants have gotten attention in recent days, adding to the area’s growing reputation as a foodie haven.

Shagga Coffee and Restaurant in Hyattsville again made the Washingtonian‘s list of the Best Cheap Eats in the D.C. area, earning praise for its “culinary exuberance” and a “a more varied menu than many other Ethiopian spots in the area.”

Just up the road in Hyattsville, Taqueria El Mexicano got similar praise on the list for being a cut above. “No other restaurant in Washington serves Mexican soul food like this unassuming place,” the Washingtonian noted, praising the restaurant’s daily specials.

The taqueria also earned praise from the Washington Post last year, which praised its mole poblano in reverent terms.

Meantime, the Washingtonian also highlighted Franklin’s Restaurant, Brewery and General Store on a separate list of great kid-friendly restaurants in the D.C. area.

“The jam-packed shop features a rainbow of candies, tons of toys, and endless tchotchkes that will somehow end up in the shopping basket – plus beer, wine and hot sauce for mature patrons,” it said.

Across the street, Senegalese restaurant Chez Dior got a shoutout from the Washington City Paper for a dish on its kids’ menu: “spaghetti and hot dog with cheese.”

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Hyattsville Macy’s Adds New ‘Backstage’

Photo courtesy of http://bit.ly/2tKzE8a.

The Hyattsville Macy’s is adding a new discount area to its store, the third in the D.C. area.

The new Macy’s Backstage will be located on the department store’s third floor at the Mall at Prince George’s, with an opening on Aug. 26.

The store-within-a-store is more like a T.J. Maxx, offering discounted items to draw in bargain hunters. Since it takes up space previously occupied by home furnishings, which don’t get as much foot traffic, it improves the store’s sales, and a broader mix of items keeps it from cannibalizing the main store downstairs.

After testing the concept in New York, Macy’s has already brought Backstage to the D.C. area at Dulles Town Center and Lakeforest Mall in Gaithersburg.

The Prince George’s mall is a natural fit, since it’s already home to a Marshall’s, a T.J. Maxx and a Ross Dress for Less and is undergoing a $30 million renovation. It’s also a positive sign, as Macy’s has considered closing stores in other parts of the country.

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How Route 1 Honors Jim Henson

Jim Henson memorial Hyattsville Muppets statue

Jim Henson has three separate memorials along the Route 1 corridor.

The creator of the Muppets spent his early childhood in Leland, Mississippi, which has a small welcome center with educational displays, memorabilia and a gift shop. But his family moved to University Park in the 1940s.

Henson’s career started here, beginning with him falling in love with television and checking out books on puppetry at the local library. He made the first Muppets in his parents’ home at 4002 Beechwood Dr., then took them to WTOP for his first job.

Three local towns along Route 1 honor Henson’s legacy in some fashion.

University Park, where he lived, has a tree stump in its town park that’s been carved into a likeness of Kermit the Frog.

Hyattsville, where he went to high school, has a large planter at Magruder Park with images of characters from “Sam and Friends” and several nearby benches with quotes from Henson.

And College Park, where he went to college, has a statue of Henson talking with Kermit the Frog on a bench outside the student union.

In 2016, the Hyattsville memorial was added to Magruder Park—recently voted the best public park in the first Best of Route 1 reader poll.

Artist Bill Culbertson, who designed the memorial, visited the original puppets at the Smithsonian and worked with Bonnie Erickson, who designed and created Miss Piggy, to ensure the sculptures would be accurate.

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Route 1 Will Be Fine Without the Purple Line

Rendering of proposed public art at Riverdale Park station courtesy of Purple Line Transit Partners

The outlook for the Purple Line looks grimmer than ever.

The proposed 16 mile light-rail line running from New Carrollton to Bethesda has faced repeated setbacks, including a federal judge’s decision to strip the project of federal approval.

In an appeal, the state said it needs to make a final decision on the project around Aug. 1.

On the project’s side, it has the support of the University of Maryland, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, most of the communities it would connect and various business, labor and civic groups. On the opposing side: the Chevy Chase residents suing to stop the project, the federal judge who has sided with them and the mass transit-skeptical Trump Administration.

With $900 million in federal funding at stake, the odds seem stacked pretty heavily against the Purple Line pulling through at this point.

The University of Maryland already seems to be planning for alternatives in case the Purple Line doesn’t come through. Riverdale Park and College Park would benefit from the added transit option, but both communities are already growing.

The Purple Line would help the Route 1 area become less suburban, more surban and more walkable, allow students, workers and residents to commute more easily and bring back a touch of the area’s long-lost streetcar flair.

But those broader trends are already underway on Route 1. If the Purple Line fails, it will be a missed opportunity, but it won’t be the end of the Route 1 renaissance. From Studio 3807 in Brentwood to the new Pizzeria Paradiso in Hyattsville to Riverdale Park Station and the Hotel at the University of Maryland, there’s already a lot of momentum.

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Meet the Winners of the Best of Route 1 Poll

Best of Route 1 Hyattsville Wire Reader Survey PollThe Hyattsville Wire has announced the winners of the first-ever Best of Route 1 reader poll.

A few local favorites did well, as expected.

Vigilante Coffee won best place to get a cup of coffee, while Diane Contreras won best barista. Franklin’s Restaurant won best restaurant and best place to get a beer on tap. Busboys and Poets won best Sunday brunch.

There were also some winners you should know about if you don’t already.

The College Park Aviation Museum took the top spot for best place to take the kids, while Indian Creek Playground was picked as best playground. Readers chose Tanglewood Works as the best locally owned shop, and ECO City Farms as the best community-supported agriculture.

But there were also some surprises.

Bird Kitchen and Cocktails in Mount Rainier was picked as best place for date night. OpenBarre Studios was selected as best hidden gem and best fitness studio. And the bear at Riverdale Park Station was chosen as best piece of public art.

To see the complete list of winners, click here.

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Pizzeria Paradiso Makes Its Debut

Pizzeria Paradiso held a soft opening Friday night.

Hyattsville’s newest pizza place is officially opening for business at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, but the staff was serving pizza and beers a day early to a small, enthusiastic crowd.

The 2,000-square-foot restaurant has outdoor seating that will prove popular during the warmer months, including several tables good for date night in the front and two picnic-style benches perfect for larger gatherings on the side.

The best seats, however, may be a set of five outdoor stools at a large open window looking into the bar. They offer the convenience of sitting at a bar, without all the extra elbows, plus the possibility of a nice breeze.

As with the Pizzeria Paradisos in Georgetown, Dupont Circle and Old Town Alexandria, the Hyattsville location has a well-curated beer menu that will also prove a draw.

Pizza Paradiso and Art Works Now, the nonprofit arts education organization for all ages, both share the former Marché Florist building at 4800 Rhode Island Ave.

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Why Route 1 Is Getting Another 7-Eleven

7-Eleven Riverdale Park Maryland Route 1 Baltimore AvenueThe Route 1 corridor will get yet another 7-Eleven, and it’s a good news/bad news kind of development.

The new convenience store at 6315 Baltimore Avenue in Riverdale Park is about a third of a mile north of one in Hyattsville and about a mile south of one in College Park.

On the one hand, that’s not surprising. There are more than 60,000 7-Elevens in the United States alone, and many of them are similarly situated.

The town fought hard against the new store, which it argued did not meet the design specifications of its Mixed Use Town Center standards, even pursuing a judicial review at one point. One major criticism was that the design lacked windows that would make it appear inviting to pedestrians—the developers responded by adding fake windows.

The site, just south of Riverdale Park Station, was previously home to a dentist’s office and, before that, a gas station. Since the new development didn’t increase the square footage dramatically, county planners overruled the town.

While the 7-Eleven is not the kind of new development that residents want to see more of, it’s also worth looking at the bigger picture. The site is too small and nearby traffic too heavy for it to have been much more than a convenience store, and the fact that 7-Eleven wants yet another store in this area is a sign of the growth underway in the area.

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Study: Demand for High-End Retail on Route 1

Prince George’s County has an unmet demand for more high-end retail, but the Route 1 corridor remains a bright spot.

A study by the county planning department found that Prince George’s could generate $1.4 billion more from retail sales if it had a better mix of shops. But the study’s authors singled out the area on Baltimore Avenue from Mount Rainier to IKEA as promising.

“The Baltimore Avenue Corridor is healthy with strong growth potential,” the study notes. “Development is already underway along much of this corridor and it will increase the area’s appeal in the near-term.”

In particular, the study notes that high-end retailers prefer to locate in “vibrant, unique lifestyle centers and ‘town center’ type locations,” such as the Arts District in Hyattsville, Riverdale Park Station and the new retail-residential complexes in College Park.

For now, the area seems to be doing best with restaurants, with a wide range of interesting options at different price points from Sweet & Natural in Mount Rainier to the upcoming Pizzeria Paradiso in Hyattsville (opening July 15) and Burton’s Grill in Riverdale Park.

There’s also a good mix of salons, from Ivy Lounge in Hyattsville to the upcoming Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa in College Park, and gyms, including an upcoming Gold’s Gym at Riverdale Park Station. And as we’ve noted, there’s a boom in grocery stores, including Whole Foods, the new Safeway, Yes! Organic Market and the upcoming Lidl.

Still, there’s more demand for high-end shopping. Though the Mall at Prince George’s has added H&M and will soon open an 11,000-square-foot Ulta Beauty and a 16,000-square-foot DSW as part of a $25 million upgrade, the new developments on Route 1 haven’t attracted many shops yet.

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Salvadoran Restaurant to Take Benny’s Spot

A Salvadoran restaurant will move in to the spot formerly occupied by Benny’s Chinese restaurant just outside Hyattsville’s Arts District.

Las Comadres will serve dishes from El Salvador as well as Tex-Mex and American food such as hamburgers and salmon.

Loosely translated as “the godmothers,” the women-owned restaurant aims to be a casual, family dining place serving breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner and will be open until late.

Renovations are underway at the restaurant on the corner of Route 1 and Madison Street in Riverdale Park. Owners Sara Reyes and Claudia Cubyas said they are currently planning to open sometime in August, once the interior work is completed.

Given the success of El Comalito just north of the restaurant, Cafe Azul – Caracas de Ayer just south of it, and the large Central American population in the area, Las Comadres should do pretty well.

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Solar Power Grows on Route 1

Studio 3807 Brentwood apartments solar panels

A new apartment complex will be the greenest yet along Route 1.

Studio 3807 in Brentwood will have solar panels on the roof that will reduce consumption by almost 80 percent and charging stations for electric cars in the garage. It will be built to LEED Gold Standards, the second-highest rating for energy efficiency.

The complex, slated to open next spring, is being marketed as “sustainable, solar-powered, energy efficient living.”

While this project is a leap forward for environmental design in the area, the amenities are part of a broader trend in Route 1 communities.

Mount Rainier City Hall has solar panels on its roof. The Renaissance Square Artists Housing in Hyattsville has solar-heated water. And residents of Hyattsville have banded together to buy solar panels in bulk to install on their roofs.

Other buildings along Route 1 with solar power systems include University Park Elementary School, the University Park Church of the Brethren and Franklin’s Brewery, Restaurant and General Store. University Park Elementary School is the first public school in Prince George’s County to host a rooftop solar project. The University Park community even established a solar power generation plant for residents.

One proposed project would go even further.

Flywheel Development, which aims to be the “Tesla of home building,” has put in a proposal for the 4310 Gallatin Street redevelopment that would build 31 townhomes designed to such high efficiency standards that the solar panels could power both the house and an electric car.

The developers are currently building four townhomes in Mount Rainier as a test case, as explained in a recent story in the Washington Post:

The 1,800-square-foot homes would be built under stringent European energy guidelines seldom attempted in the United States that cut energy use to about one-fifth that of a standard house and would generate as much energy as they expended thanks to rooftop solar panels. They would pack twice the insulation of a standard code-built home and feature a combined green roof and solar panel system that had never been installed in an American dwelling. This development would not only launch Flywheel, they hoped, it would help turn sustainable building from a boutique industry into a mass movement.

More could be done. The Flywheel Development project in Hyattsville has not yet been approved. Townhome projects in the Arts District, along East West Highway and at Riverdale Park Station would be perfect for rooftop solar, and more homeowners and public buildings should join the trend.

But it’s already clear that Route 1 is ready for more solar power.

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