Saturday, August 15, 2009

WASHINGTON DC - Day Two: Maryland

Beware.  

Tell folks in DC or Virginia that you’re venturing out into Maryland, and they look at you funny.  Nobody seem to cross the river without hesitation around here. For us Midwesterners who drive an hour on a whim, this is a bit odd.  My East Coast roots (I’m a Connecticut native) understand the culture, though.  Things are closer together here, so there’s less reason to venture afar.  

Ah, but
DestiKNITions is all about venturing afar.  We’ll get surprisingly exotic today, so get ready. Fire up your GPS and make your way to Hyattsville, Maryland, a suburb with an edgy, up-and-coming kind of charm you’d miss if you weren’t looking.  We’ll spend our time making several stops along Baltimore Avenue, otherwise known as Route 1.

First Stop:  Breakfast at

Shagga Coffee and Restaurant
6040 Baltimore Ave

Hyattsville, MD

(240) 296-3030


What’s more adventuresome that breakfast at a converted-donut-shop Ethopian coffee joint?  This place is one of the reasons I started DestiKNITions--I’d have never gone here without the sound recommendation of today’s yarn store, and the modest exterior might not draw you in, but don’t be fooled.  The food, great prices, and outstanding coffee make for a memorable breakfast.


If you’ve gotten a late start and it’s past 11, make another stop and discover:




Next Stop:  The Book Nook

5606 Baltimore Ave,

Hyattsville, MD 20781

www.booknookbookstore.com


Little independents--and this one is adorably “nook”ish--like this deserve all the business we can offer.  If there’s a little person on your gift list, they have a particularly nice selection.
When you’re ready, travel a little farther down Baltimore Avenue to today’s yarn destination:


Next Stop:

A Tangled Skein

5200 Baltimore 

Hyattsville MD

(301) 779-3399
www.atangledskein.com

Business partners Cheryl Hoffman and Larry Paulson--not married even though many people make that assumption and they did finish each other’s sentences during my interview--operate this thoughtful store with a startlingly wide variety of yarn.  It’s a huge but classic collection--you won’t find much in the way of novelty yarn here--designed to give knitters several price options within any given weight or type.  It’s a creative place, designed with community in mind, but not so hip you wouldn’t be caught here in sweats and an old t-shirt if you dropped eleven critical stitches on your day off from work.  It’s thoughtfully friendly, if that phrase makes sense to you.  Right nearby the University of Maryland, you can bet the conversation here is as fascinating as the fibers.  Cheryl refers to her staff as “bright, articulate, educated, and well-rounded,” which sounds like just the person you want guiding you through the dreaded Kitchner stitch on your first sock.    They’re spinner-friendly, too, with a monthly sit-and-spin (not the kiddie toy, the artistic gathering). Sunny windows look in on groupings of comfortable chairs, walls of yarn tempt you at every turn, books and gadgets are there to provide you with new toys for your next project.  Here are a few suggestions from Cheryl and Larry:



Tanged Cables Socks

Want a decidedly local vibe?  Opt for this exclusive design in the “Hyattsville” colorway from just-until-recently-local vendor Neighborhood Fiber Co.  I loved the vibrant colors of this yarn, and the highly-doable mock cables make it an excellent “step up” for new sock knitters.  They go from top down, so you get the mock cables under your belt before the heel flap and gusset rob your confidence.






Entrelac Scarf

Yes, I know entrelac makes some people break out in hives, but I think the effects--particularly with a yarn like Noro Silk Garden--are worth the extra effort.  This will be our Knit-Along from A Tangled Skein, so you’ll get to watch me wrangle diamonds and triangles in front of your eyes (or at least on your computer monitor).  






Cottage Creations Wonderful Wallaby Sweater

How can you resist a project with so charming a name?  If you’re no fan of finishing (like me), the near-seamless sweater with the cute name holds loads of attraction for you.  The pattern comes in a huge selection of sizes so you wan Wallabize your baby cousin right up to your linebacker boyfriend.  Any aran weight yarn will do, but Tangled Skein also recommends Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk or the Cascade Superwash in the new Tweedy Quatro.  Perfect for the knitter craving a bigger project.





If you’re like me, any yarn store visit takes multiple hours, so chances are you’re ready for lunch.  Luckily, lunch is ready for you, just across the street at this longtime neighborhood standard:






Next Stop:

Franklin’s Restaurant

5121 Baltimore Ave

Hyattsville, MD

www.franklinsbrewery.com

301-927-2740


Good food, microwbrewed beer, and a giftshop all in one-stop post-fiber perfection.  Franklin’s  is one of those neighborhood staples that deserves all the business it can get.  Our guide at A Tangled Skein recommend the veggie chili, fish and chips, chicken pot pie, and the meatloaf.  Come on, when was the last time you had really good meatloaf?  And it’s Friday if you follow our Thursday-Sunday model, so you’re just in time for the Friday’s Firkin an old English cask-conditioned ale.  Housed in the old Hyattsville Hardware Co. building, this is a one-of-a-kind place you might never find in the standard guidebooks.


Wander the gift store all you want after lunch, but save desert for our next stop, because we have a little more multi-cultural exploration to do.  Walk just a bit further down the block across the street to the intriguing storefront bakery:





Under the Coconut Tree

5124 Baltimore Ave

Hyattsville, MD 20781

240-764-8301

www.underthecoconuttree.com

Ever been to a Caribbean bakery before?  Now’s your chance.  The pennyloaf buns may be a specialty, but we were particularly fond of the Strawberry Shortcake Cake, a vibrant “velvet cake”-looking desert that had outstanding frosting and a to-die-for moist texture.  

The store boasts a friendly clientele--two customers struck up a conversation with us just to be nice--is as much fun as the unusual atmosphere.  Don’t you dare leave without trying a “Ting,” the grapefruit soda sold here.  My daughter and I loved it, and vowed to see how we could get our hands on some back in good old Chicago.  If you’re inclined to sit a while and cast on whatever fiber marvel your acquired in A Tangled Skein, or just get a few more rows done of anything, this is a colorful, friendly place to hang around.



Next Stop:  

Downtown DC

It’s Friday afternoon, so while the city empties out, you’ve got a good chance to start taking in some of the national monuments or museums you wanted to see while many of the littlest tourists have perhaps gone home to nap.    Ditch your car if you like at the West Hyattsville or Fort Totten Park and Ride stations on the green line, or get uber-brave and take your chances parking downtown (be prepared to hunt and pay dearly but the museums are free I think it evens out).  The city is stunning in the setting sun, no doubt about it.  According to one of our yarn shop owners, sitting on the Capitol steps watching the sun go down over the mall is one of the best free shows in town.  And speaking of Capitol Steps, if you are a fan of political comedy, do a little planning and get tickets for The Capitol Steps, a musical comedy group that performs live every Friday and Saturday night at the Ronald Reagan Building (1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW).


Tonight should have given you a first taste of downtown.  Tomorrow we do more!

3 comments:

Danica/Dream said...

So jealous!! I should've hung out with you. Sounds like a great day!

Lara said...

Sadly, the Book Nook is closing.

Allie Pleiter said...

That's too bad about the Book Nook. And Danica, you can hang out with me anytime!