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Shopping and dining at Bethesda Row

Bethesda, located about 8 miles from downtown Washington, D.C., headquarters the National Institutes of Health and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. It’s also an attractive destination for a day of dining and shopping.

At Bethesda Row, a mixed-use development near downtown Bethesda, you can eat, drink, shop, visit the salon and catch an indie flick all in one place. The big draws appeared to be the Apple Store, Barnes & Noble and Georgetown Cupcake, of TLC’s “DC Cupcakes” fame. The original cupcake shop on M Street in the District’s Georgetown neighborhood is known to have hour-long waits (or longer), and this Bethesda location seemed to be following suit with a line out the door. As a D.C. area local, I’ve learned the trick: Order at least a half dozen cupcakes the day before, and you can walk straight past that crazy long line to cupcake heaven.

Boutiques galore

In addition to name brand stores such as The North Face and Lululemon Athletica, Bethesda Row is full of little boutiques carrying chic accessories, jewelry, shoes and clothing. At Lou Lou and Francesca’s Collections, you’ll find trendy costume jewelry and accessories perfect for the budget fashionista. Seeking an upscale look? Try Sassanova, where you’ll find stylings from Kate Spade, Michael Kors and L.K. Bennett — maker of the unofficially official nude pump of the one and only Kate Middleton. Or, are you a preppy sorority girl? Then you’ll love the Pink Palm, which is exploding in Lilly Pulitzer prints.

From top left, jewelry was buy two and get one free at Francesca's, Sassanova keeps it classy and Lou Lou has cheap and chic accessories.

From top left, jewelry was buy two and get one free at Francesca’s, Sassanova keeps it classy and Lou Lou has cheap and chic accessories.

More to dessert than cupcakes

Considering the monster line at Georgetown Cupcake, I was on the hunt for a different place to satisfy a sudden sweet-tooth craving. On Elm Street, we found Fancy Cakes by Leslie. French macarons and cupcakes filled the bakery’s case, while wedding cake designs lined the front window.

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Cake designs line the front window at Fancy Cakes by Leslie.

French macarons. So pretty.

French macarons. So pretty.

I tried a mini red velvet cupcake. No cream cheese frosting, but it was pretty good anyway.

I tried a mini red velvet cupcake. No cream cheese frosting, but it was pretty good anyway.

If you don’t find macarons or cupcakes appealing, I also noticed a YogiBerry frozen yogurt shop on Elm Street.

Mexican, margaritas and more

The Swirl is a frozen margarita mixed with sangria. Pour me another!

The Swirl is a frozen margarita mixed with sangria. Pour me another!

Among the many dining options at Bethesda Row is Uncle Julio’s Rio Grande Cafe. It’s a Mexican chain restaurant, but it honestly has some of the best chips, salsa, queso and guacamole. On a beautiful day, it’s nice to sit outside under an awning or umbrella and sip a frozen Swirl, a margarita swirled with sangria. Not a big margarita fan? You can reverse it to get more sangria and less frozen marg. You can also make it a “meltdown” by adding a shot of your choice.

In addition to Mexican, Bethesda Row’s diverse mix also includes Spanish tapas at Jaleo, Lebanese and Middle Eastern cuisine at Lebanese Taverna, Italian eats at Assaggi, New-York-style breakfast and deli sandwiches at Bethesda Bagel and Greek dishes at Cava to name just a few.

Wish you were here,

Erin

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