To get a sense of The Greene Turtle's commitment to the neighborhood, one need only sit at the bar and look up. Dozens of mugs hang above the counter, emblazoned with the pub's logo and a unique number—each one belongs to a recurring patron. The Mug Club awards its members with draft-beer discounts and other specials, but more importantly, it allows loyal patrons to feel as though they own small slices of the venue without tattooing their names on the bartender's arm. This sense of shared familiarity is what fuels the entire franchise, which refrains from calling its locations "restaurants" in favor of friendlier terms: gathering places, communities, havens.
Many of the locations contribute more than mugs to their districts. Staff members who participate in the annual Tips for Tots program donate the entirety of one day's tips to a nearby Toys for Tots initiative, and Tuesday Funds for Friends events benefit local organizations. These efforts have been chronicled by press sources such as Food and Drink magazine, with features that liken The Greene Turtles' philanthropic generosity to the generous portions of comfort food that leave the kitchens.
From cheeseburger sliders and flatbread pizzas to handmade lump-crab cakes, the offerings on the menu embrace barroom traditions along with ingenuity. The steak and chicken entrees arrive with classic sides of green beans and yukon gold mashed potatoes, whereas the eastern shore mac ‘n’ cheese updates a comfort staple with chopped bacon, lump crab, scallions, and Old Bay seasoning. Diners can enjoy their meals by the glow of private flat-screen TVs—there's one in every booth—or beneath one of many larger televisions broadcasting sports games throughout the venue.
Husband-wife duo Julio and Lily Soto opened Azul 17 to celebrate not only Mexican cuisine, but to also embrace the culture through music, vibrant design, and a selection of more than 100 tequilas made with 100% blue agave. Their chefs all hail from Mexico and bring family recipes to the kitchen—including one chef's grandmother's recipe for black beans. It's “old world style with updated presentation,” says manager Peter Bonohue. Peter has been in the restaurant business since he could legally work, and to him, Azul 17 has an especially fun atmosphere. “I love tequila now,” he confessed.
While chefs simmer their signature mole sauce and servers add fresh lime juice to margaritas, guests recline atop white leather banquettes or modern chairs. Eyes dance with murals and shimmering blue-tile mosaics splashed against white walls. Those whites are illuminated with a multicolored neon glow as DJs spin club, house, and Mexican tunes starting at 10 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. On Thursdays at 8 p.m., guests can spice up their tired hokey-pokey routine with salsa lessons.
They’re a common food in several Latin countries, including Colombia, Puerto Rico, and Mexico, but empanadas are made a bit differently in Argentina. “We have an edge because we actually bake them,” Nicolás Ibarzabal, co-owner of 5411, told the Decider in 2009. ”Here in Chicago there are a couple of places that offer empanadas, but they’re pretty much all deep-fried. We like to think of ourselves as the new healthy frontier of empanadas.”
Along with pals and fellow Buenos Aires natives Mariano Lanfranconi and Andrés Arlia, Ibarzabal makes the flaky baked treats in nearly a dozen varieties. You’ll find traditional hand-cut beef empanadas as well as Americanized versions including barbecue chicken, which Ibarzabal admits is one of his favorites despite chuckles from his Argentine friends. The trio started 5411—a mash-up of Argentina’s country code, 54, and Buenos Aires’s city code, 11—in 2009 as a catering company before rolling out a food truck and finally opening a shop in Lakeview. That shop makes deliveries by the dozen, and the same pale-blue food truck—perhaps the catalyst for 5411’s success—still takes to the streets daily, urging office dwellers to emerge from their cubicles and horses to escape from their buggies.
Running every Saturday in 2012 from May through November, the Briggs Chaney-Greencastle Farmers' Market seeks to provide Silver Springs residents with increased access to fresh and healthy foods. In addition to a selection of local produce, meat, eggs, and cheese, the free-to-enter market hosts a variety of vendors, such as artists, jewelers, and bakers, as well as local chefs who demonstrate simple recipes using local produce and monosyllabic buzz words. To encourage visitors to purchase healthier food, the non-profit farmer's market matches WIC payments dollar-for-dollar, accepts SNAP payments, and matches a portion of Independence card benefits.
The market welcomes children as well, with a range of activities for young ones in its Kids’ Tent. Children can take part in a number of interactive showcases throughout the summer, such as a Railroad Exhibit from the Riverdale Railroad club, puppet theater stories from former Moscow Puppet Theater member Irena Kholodnov, and martial arts demonstrations by the Virginia Kenshinkai School of Budokai. A chess tent lets kids and adults unwind while playing the classic game against friends, family, and Bobby Fischer in disguise. Families may also enjoy live stage music in an audience seating area and feast on their fresh food purchases in a nearby dining tent.
Open year round, Capital Clubhouse is an all-ages, 90,000-square-foot facility wholly dedicated to sports and recreation. The multisport arena can easily transform into a soccer, volleyball, dodge-ball, or inline-hockey court, allowing it to host all manner of team-based events from intramural games to kids' parties. Dasher boards that spent their youth exchanging quick embraces with Washington Capitals players at the former US Airways Arena now comfortably surround Capital Clubhouse's NHL-sized ice arena, which is kept cold year round thanks to 11 miles of underground cooling pipe and a steady diet of popsicles. When not supervising skaters from the comfort of the heated balcony, guests can race lithe mountain goats to the top of the center's 30-foot rock-climbing wall, where five different routes offer challenges for wall walkers of all ages and experience levels.
A golf course is where players go to test their skills, but Arundel Golf Park is where those skills are formed. At Arundel's outdoor facility, instructors teach private and group classes and hold supervised practice sessions, in which they periodically check in with students as they drive ball after ball at a driving range protected from the wind and distracting cries of caddies. During "fitting days," golfers bring in their current clubs to have one of Arundel's pros determine their ideal length, loft, and other specs.
While golf remains the focus at Arundel Golf Park, the facilities have a couple of other ways visitors can work on their swings. An 18-hole mini-golf course shrinks the game down to a fun challenge of angles and finesse, and batting cages let players set aside the elegant, nuanced game of golf to simply enjoy bashing round things with blunt objects.