Himself and I don't eat here often. The atmosphere is a bit stark and confused. The cuisine demonstrates that confusion--down-home Southern, WV style, with Thai as an sideways alternative. The food I've sampled isn't terrible, just a tad on the bland side. On the whole, in our experience it offered neither a bad meal nor a memorable one--though the value for money spent is reasonable. We would return in a pinch, when our other regular hangouts are either closed of have long waits.
PROS: Not expensive, not terrible, good service
CONS: Not particularly tasty, no strong inducement to return
Abe's Jewish Bookstore is a smallish, cramped, somewhat musty shop located in an old-fashioned strip mall in Silver Spring. On the whole it has a decidedly Old World quality. Devoted to Jewish learning and Jewish living, it is crammed with books (old and new), music in many media, and made-in-Israel Judaica--mezuzot, menorahs, candles, Sedar plates, you name it.
Nothing in this shop is exactly tidy, but there's an underlying organization to everything that makes its merchandise pleasant to browse. I've never been inside when there were more than two customers--which is a good thing, given the closeness of the shelves and display areas.
I have many fond memories of time spent here--looking for books on Judaism and Jewish history, seeking out my own tapes of the Diaspora Yeshivah Band ("Live from King David's Tomb"), buying a new menorah, and looking for bar and bat mitzah gifts. I live further away now, and I don't get back often, but it's nice to know the old shop is still there.
I give it 4--partly out of sentiment and partly because it represents a way of doing business that is vanishing all too quickly.
PROS: Comfortable, old-fashioned, specialty shop
CONS: Musty, crowded, the end of an era
World Market offers a number of interesting items--rugs, dinnerware, furniture, mats of all kinds, holiday novelties, and a number of food and beverage items. I shop here occasionally, maybe four or five times a year. I go for the holiday novelties--often different from and better than the things I can find in Wal-Mart or Michael's--and for British food items. Specialty food items from France, Italy, Germany, and other European countries are also available.Need Cadbury? The real thing? Not the Hershey knockoffs? I go to World Market. I have to pay a premium price, but I can literally feed my Cadbury habit.Need HP Brown Sauce for my condiment cabinet? Not planning a trip to London in the near future? I'm off to World Market for a bottle or two.Need Bird's soft custard mix to go with my homemade Sticky Toffee Pudding? Off to Edinburgh to stock up? Well, that would be nice, but the World Market is a bit nearer at hand.World Market is great for filling a small but important nitch in my life, and I regard myself as a loyal customer. I wouldn't be likely to buy the furniture, but I do purchase an occasional odd kitchen novelty. For all that, it's the food items I come for: Cadbury, McVittie's, Walkers, Bird's, British teas, and HP Brown Sauce. As along as they have those things, I'll be their customer.
PROS: Hard-to-find European branded products
CONS: Sizable markups over European prices
I'm not a Wal-Mart fan, and I hated it when the chain decided to include my home town on its hit list. Now that it's here, of course, I have almost no choice but to do some of my shopping here. Too many of my old alternatives have gone out of business.
My local Wal-Mart here in Charles Town has a large in-store supermarket, and thus, unlike some other nearby stores, it actually does qualify as a supercenter. It's only a few years old, so it has not yet begun to take on that rather shabby look and feel that so many older stores in the chain exhibit. Well, maybe there's just a bit of that around the edges.
In terms of service, the famous Wal-Mart greeter is usually in place, but not always. As with most Wal-Marts, there are never enough people working the floor or the registers. There are times when aisles are crowded, and some items are in short stock. Lines for checkout are fairly common, but this store does does have the new do-it-yourself checkouts--which at least provides an option.
I come to my local Wal-Mart for the convenience of one-stop shopping. There are things I just can't get easily anywhere else, so I tackle as much as I can when I stop. (I don't love shopping.) The supermarket produce is resonably good and varied, but I'd rather not buy the fresh meats. Not that Wal-Mart's meat is bad, per se, but I can get better elsewhere--enough better to make the extra stop worthwhile.
My local Wal-Mart gets a "satisfactory"--in part because I think that's what it's earned and in part out of pure contrariness.
PROS: Wide selection, good prices, relatively well managed
CONS: It's a Wal-Mart
I establish at every opportunity that I'm not a Wal-Mart fan--yet I somehow keep being drawn back. Wal-Mart stores are everywhere, and their eclectic collection of merchandise keeps bringing many of us back against our will.The Martinsburg store, however, is an exception. It no longer pulls me back. It has been permanently (I hope) banished from my list. As it has no in-house supermarket, it doesn't qualify as a supercenter. And it is the most shabby of the Wal-Marts in my life. Indeed, it has been shabby for all the years I've known it. In terms of service, I'm not sure I've ever seen a greeter at this Wal-Mart. I've never been inside when things seemed neat. Still, the store seems crowded and much used. Whenever I drive by, the parking lot is overflowing and the in-and-out foot traffic at the doors is heavy. I'm not sure there would be turning around room if I did stop. However I might feel about Wal-Mart and its mass marketing, there are enough stores around to pick and choose which ones I visit. And this one, I no longer visit.
PROS: Can't think of a thing
CONS: Crowded, shabby, cluttered
Like so many others I know, I'm not a Wal-Mart fan--yet I somehow keep being drawn back. Wal-Mart stores are the very definition of ubiquitous these days. And whatever else we may say of them (and we say quite a lot), there are certain products and services for which they are quite dependable.
The Leesburg store has the unenviable distinction of having had its roof cave in a few years back--the result of a particularly heavy snowfall. Beyond that, it is a rather ordinary Wal-Mart. Since there is no contained supermarket (only a sizable collection of snackables), it doesn't qualify as a supercenter. Recently, its begun to take on that rather shabby look and feel that so many older stores in the chain exhibit.
In terms of service, even the famous Wal-Mart greeter is usually absent, at least during my stops. As with most Wal-Marts, there aren't enough people working the floor and there aren't enough checkers. This store does not have the new do-it-yourself checkouts, so lines are common. I avoid the bathroom if I can. I stop here from time to time because its handy on my path home from work, and it is generally less crowded than the Wal-Mart in my home town. I stop for personal/hair supplies or toys as gifts for one of the children in my life.
On the whole, however, I don't like Wal-Mart and its mass marketing. I dislike the fact that it displaces so many community businesses. Nonetheless, it seems here to stay. This one is "satisfactory" for the limited use I make of it--but only for that.
PROS: Least crowded of the Wal-Marts in my life
CONS: It's Wal-Mart
It's a small museum located off the beaten path. And when considered against the backdrop of the great museums of the Washington, DC, it may seem a bit inconsequential.
That would be a wrong assumption, by the way. B'nai B'rith's small, eclectic collection includes artwork, outstanding examples of a variety of crafts, and artifacts that extend over about 4 millennia of Jewish history. It also has an active outreach program to educate the local community, and proactively works to recover works of art stolen from European Jews during the Holocaust. I find the folk art and ceremonial pieces to be the most evocative
Given today's high security concerns, appointments are required to visit the museum. Hours are Monday through Thursday, Noon - 3 p.m. For reservations, call (202) 857-6583 or (202) 866-533-6249, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
PROS: evocative, eclectic collection of Judaica
CONS: small, with limited access
The White House is high on the agenda of most first-time visitors to the National Capital area. Is it worth a visit? Absolutely. Is it worth the trouble it takes to get tickets? That depends on the rest of your agenda.The standard White House tour is, like many similar tours throughout the world, strictly limited. You'll not see the heart and soul of the White House any more than you'll see the heart and soul of Buckingham Palace. Still, you'll see enough to whet the apetite and provide that one particular "tic" on your "life list."Tickets are most easily obtained through the White House Visitor Center. Service is by walk-up only. Or if you have 8 or 10 weeks lead time, you can get a ticket through your Representative or Senator. The Congressional tours are generally better--for one thing, the tangle lines with other tourists is much more limited.If you live near DC or have frequent access to the area, consider trying for a special event ticket, most notably the Easter Egg Roll in the spring. That offers really special memories for you and your children. We went to a special garden tour years back, and it is still a highlight of our DC-area touring.To go or not to go? That depends entirely on you and your priorities. There's plenty to see and appreciate, but you'll see only a small sampling of the White House--especially given the high security concerns of our times.
PROS: It's the White House, and there's only one like it
CONS: You'll see relatively little, and you'll see it in a very short timeframe
What can you say about this particular Borders that a visitor to any Borders wouldn't know? Not much. It has the typical blend of books, music, and coffee drinks found at most other stores in the chain. Current best sellers are plentiful and available at a substantial discount off the jacket price. Bargains galore are available on mass market books and past best sellers. Music CDs are available across a wide range of tastes. Childrens' books are presented in a way that appeals to the eye and scale of the "typical" child.The location of this Borders is wonderful--at the corner of 18th and L--though parking in DC is rarely convenient. Because this is the store located in the heart of the national capital, special events tend to get an extra kick, especially book signings. Political books also get a bit more hype here than at most other Borders,The store is currently finishing off a facelift, leaving all its offerings in a fresher frame.No doubt about it, this Borders is a small cut above most I've visited. Still, it is a chain, and its interiors, stock selections, and cafe menu all reflect that fact.
PROS: Loads of books--all within easy reach of POTUS, should he care to indulge
CONS: It's still a chain
Now and then a visiting friend asks for an excursion to the Hard Rock Cafe as part of their "Washington scene" experience. We accommodate, but I have to say that after the first time, the experience got old. The food is OK, even good--if you like burgers. The music is loud and appropriate for the restaurant's themes. The decor is well done. The memorabilia are fun to explore--at least on a one-time basis. But the waits tend to be long (both before and after being seated), and the service is mediocre. And of course, in downtown DC, parking is always either expensive or difficult--take your choice.
I've taken to responding to my Hard Rock requests with a bit more hesitation. "Are you after the experience, or do you want the pin and the shirt?" I now ask. If it's really the latter they're after, I recommend Ebay. But if the friend still wants the experience--well then, of course, we go. I gotta say, though--it just ain't as much fun as it's cracked up to be. After that first visit, it's just a spiffy burger joint.
But then, I'm getting old--I can actually remember Elvis.
PROS: Still a "tic" on the DC list of many visitors, tasty burgers
CONS: Noisy, crowded, slow service, difficult parking