Just had a delightful lunch at Acacia courtesy of Frederick restaurant week. For those of you whose experience with this establishment has been limited to looking at the small area visible from the sidewalk on Market Street you should know that Acacia is truly a lovely space. You will also be surprised by how large it is. Tastefully decorated in muted, contemporary tones, the space continues back through two more separate dining areas and culminates in a beautiful courtyard. The food is contemporary American mixed with Asian influences. I know the term fusion has become a clichéd term in food circles, but Acacia does it well and does it authentically. I also really liked that they try to use all local and natural meats. Their menu states they use all natural pork products from Dorsey’s Meats of Woodsboro and local grass fed beef from Hedgeapple Farm of Buckeystown. There was also at least one vegetarian option for each course of the restaurant week menu.
Since this was restaurant week the worst part of the meal was having to choose only two courses out of appetizer, entrée and dessert. I opted for the appetizer/entrée option and started with the seared brussels sprouts. Wonderfully charred with just the right amount of salt and oil they were spectacular. I would have been satisfied to stop right there. Bravely, however I soldiered on with the Kung Pao chicken. The menu describes this dish as :”natural raised chicken stir fry, spicy hoisin glaze, peanuts, jasmine rice, black sesame-pea shoot salad.” It was perfectly spicy with delicious bits of chicken in a savory brown sauce. I also sampled the Jagerschnitzel- wonderfully crispy breaded pork tenderloin. The red cabbage marmalade was a terrific accompaniment to this dish.
Any food blogger can take a picture of the dish before you eat it. The remains of my Kung Pao chicken
I would also be remiss without mentioning that they had an excellent and varied wine list. Also available were nearly two dozen wines by the glass. I had a the top-notch Dr Loosen Reisling. It was great with the appetizer, but completely overpowered by the spice in the chicken. The negatives? First I thought the service was a trifle slow. The only complaint with the food was the pre-appetizer bread they served. Both I and my companion thought that it was not as fresh as it should be.
Overall I give Acacia high marks. It certainly is in the top tier of dining in Frederick . The ambiance is quite romantic and it would be a wonderful place to take a date. I plan on going back and enjoying the patio area once the weather warms up. I would also like to visit the bar one afternoon- their collection of scotches looks excellent.
Just a reminder in honor of Frederick’s restaurant week that the master list of my restaurant reviews can be found on FredList HERE. Please feel free to leave feedback!
I’ve been meaning to review this place for a long time. There’s something about Firestone’s that seems to slide under my radar, and it really shouldn’t and I can’t give no good reason why it does. Perhaps its just my radar is off? It has certainly had its’ share of accolades: Firestone’s is one of the few Frederick area restaurants to hold a Wine Spectator Magazine Award of Excellence. Not only that but they’ve done it for eight consecutive years! It is consistently mentioned in the top restaurants in Frederick Magazine’s annual awards. Anyway on a recent afternoon I went there with two friends for lunch. The first thing that strikes you is the space: it has a beautiful old feel. Lots of dark wood and brick. Large two-story windows overlooking Market street prevent the space from feeling too dark. The bar is a masterpiece of woodwork. There are tables on the bar level and on a mezzanine level that overlooks the bar level. The whole effect is making the place feel cozy and inviting in an old-fashioned way without the slightest hint of cliché or kitsch.
The food is what I’d call classic American. On the day I visited I sampled the pulled smoked pork shoulder sandwich, the grilled free range chicken breast sandwich and the smokey grilled cheese sandwich with bacon and tomato. They were all quite good. If I had to pick my least favorite it would have been the chicken. I was a trifle bland and overcooked. The accompanying sides were excellent. You had the option of fries, but also a pasta (orzo) salad (really good) and a cucumber-vidalia onion salad (also excellent). Unfortunately after two Flying Dog K-9 Cruiser Winter Ales I was too full to sample anything else, and also completely useless for the remainder of the afternoon.
And speaking of drinks the drink selection was top-notch: They have something like eighty beers and a constantly rotating selection of drafts. Also as expected from a Wine Spectator Magazine Award of Excellence winner a great wine list. About 20 of those wines are available by the glass. I was also happy to see that nestled amongst the world spanning list they have a Maryland wine or two. Wine prices were decent.
Overall a place I have been to before and will continue to visit in the future. A great place to take guests since there really is something for everyone on the menu (vegetarian options as well). Next time I think I’d like to go back and sit at the bar and sample some of their wines and appetizers.
Firestone’s Culinary Tavern. 105 North Market Street, Frederick, Maryland
It has been a little over a year since I reviewed the Wine Kitchen in Frederick. I am happy to report that having eaten lunch there this week they are as strong as ever. I sampled the beet salad, butternut soup, fish and chips and curry chicken salad sandwich. All were very good. On the drinking front their flights of wine have changed, they’ve added flights of whiskey and bourbon and their cocktails are delicious. I especially liked the Sparkling Good Time (cava, lillet rose and orange bitters). My companion had two Vida Locas -their version of a margarita .
There have been lots of reviews and accolades for Bryan Voltaggio’s take on a diner, Family Meal. And tons has been written about the beautiful space and wonderfully appointed touches that make Family Meal not your average diner. But I’ve seen very little about their breakfast, so in the interest of thoroughness I just had to check it out. While I am a pretty adventurous eater, when it comes to breakfast I have to admit I am somewhat of a traditionalist. I purposefully did not look at the menu beforehand so I was not sure what to expect. Was I in for deconstructed french toast? Nitrogen grits? As it turns out, no. I am happy to report that the touches you expect from Chef Voltaggio are where they should be- on the periphery of wonderfully cooked and executed breakfasts. For example my omelet was perfectly cooked and filled with ham, cheese, onions, peppers and tomatoes. The accompanying rosemary home fries were absolutely scrumptious; big rough cut hunks of potatoes dusted with just the right amount of salt and rosemary. The eggs florentine was likewise excellent and the homemade tomato relish and crunchy (hominy?) topping really elevated the dish. I also have to say the bourbon sticky bun rocked. Just the right amount of sweetness with balanced with the undercurrents of bourbon and made for a treat. My companion who claimed she was too full and “only wanted a bite” ended up eating more than half of the bun. I should have got two. There are lots of other items on the menu I would like to try, so it’s definitely worth a return visit. When I was there the restuarant was not crowded so breakfast might be an excellent way for a quick bite there without the hassle of crowds.
Website is HERE
I have updated my FredList page with a master list of most of the restaurant reviews that I have done here over the years. Check it out.
Little old Frederick is now big enough to boast two Cuban restaurants, which I have ignored long enough. I decided to dip my toe into the world of Cuban cuisine by starting at Sabor De Cuba, located at 9 East Patrick Street in downtown Frederick. Let me first digress by saying I don’t have much experience with Cuban cuisine, so is Sabor authentic? I really can’t tell you that. Is is good? The answer to that is a qualified yes. Like any restaurant it had its pluses and minuses. The restaurant is tastefully decorated in muted beige, white and brown tones and projects a casual atmosphere. When I was there the noise level was on the low average side. On the walls hang photographs of the classic 50′s cars that Cuba is known for. There is a small bar in the center. My one complaint? You can probably guess if you are a regular reader: the TV above the bar which was on. A pet peeve of mine. In a sports bar? Sure. But in a restaurant, not appropriate.
The service was attentive and timely. As we were seated the waiter noticed a crumb or two on the table that we had not seen. He immediately apologized and corrected the mistake. We started off with a mojito. Sabor had an interesting twist; the mint was pulverized into small flecks in the cocktail. However, I am sorry to say that I was disappointed in the mojito. I found it to be way too sweet, which overpowered the lime and completely obscured any mint flavor. At $8 a pop I’d give it a pass. Hope springs eternal so I would be willing to give the Cuba Libre a try. Alas my sobriety was required so I limited myself to one cocktail. While we are on drinks I was disappointed by the wine selection which was listed on the menu as simply Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Grigio etc. That is usually a warning sign to me and a source of great frustration. Why more smaller restaurants don’t just list a few specific wines is beyond me.
On to the food. Honestly I believe we made a mistake. No one with me was extremely hungry and we did not order any appetizers. I have since heard from several people that the empanadas are one of their best items on the menu. We went straight to the entrees. The first thing that struck me when the food came was how monochromatic it was: everything on all three plates were shades of brown, with some white and black thrown in. But, as they say, the proof is in the eating. The Ropa Vieja (pulled flank steak) was good. The conji (cuban rice) and plantains were flavorful. The Pollo al la Plancha was excellent and by far the best out of everything I sampled. The dish consisted of a breast of chicken, pounded flat and marinated in citrus. The citrus flavors really came through. The pollo was accompanied with some white rice and black beans which were underwhelming. The plantains were also pounded flat and fried, but I found them to be rather tough and chewy. The final dish sampled was the picadillo (cuban chili), which was also good, but very mildly spiced.
VERDICT: The food was good and different. The prices were average. Not a bargain but not what I’d consider expensive either. I am intrigued by this cuisine and there is also plenty more I’d be happy to sample on a return visit.. How does it stack up to the other Cuban restaurant in town? Stay tuned.
UPDATE: Check out Jan’s comments. They are very helpful. As I mentioned I really have no baseline to determine the authenticity of their cuisine. All I can say is what I like.
The official grand opening of JoJo’s Restaurant and Tap House was this past weekend. They had a soft opening a couple of weeks ago. Occupying the space formerly known as Patrick’s Pub I wish them the best of success and will check it out. Anyone go and have any first impressions?
Frederick Maryland Online has an update (with pictures) on the new East Street restaurant Family Meal. They must be getting close. I drove down East Street on Thursday around noon and it looked like they were having some sort of staff meeting/training session inside.
I saw that Bryan Voltaggio’s Family Meal restaurant has been interviewing two days last week for help. That must mean they are getting close. I drive by the location on East Street several times a week and it still looks to me like they have a ways to go with the construction. Last week when I drove by Chef Bryan was outside gesticulating wildly at some workers. I would also note that the website now says opening Summer 2012. I’ll pass on more information as soon as I have some.
Here is a picture of the construction going on inside that Chef Bryan posted on his twitter feed. The look is definitely not what I expected in a diner, but I doubt this will be your usual diner.
Just noticed that the Volt blog was updated with some information and pictures on the new diner project that they are working on. Interesting transition from car dealership to diner. Blog entry here.
Just wanted to say that I’ve been on an Asian kick lately. In the space of a week I have eaten at both Lucky Corner and Sumittra. I’ve reviewed Sumittra before and found it to be excellent. I been back at least half a dozen times since that review and it has never disappointed. It has become our go to Thai place in Frederick (Sorry Thai Rice!). However, this was the first time that I had been to Lucky Corner and I had to wonder what took me so long. I sampled the chicken Pho, mango chicken, veggie egg noodles and veggie hot pot. I don’t have time to do a full review, but the food was uniformly delicious, the menu was filled with dozens of things I would have been happy to try, and the service was perfect. I’m curious as to how it stacks up to the other two Vietnamese restaurants in Frederick? Comments anyone?
Word is that Lunchbox opens tomorrow. I will stop by next week and let you know. Anyone care to post any of their impressions in the comments?
Word is that the team of Voltaggio and Staples are opening a new restaurant in early December on Carroll Creek. From the description its going to have to be on one side or another of the Wine Kitchen. It will serve sandwiches, soups, salads and desserts in a casual setting. Here is the website. Not much to see right now.
UPDATE: Hadn’t seen this when I wrote the above entry, but Tom Sietsema of the Washington Post has a more in-depth article here. BV is going to be busy next year! He also reports on some major changes at Volt:
Come January, Voltaggio plans to introduce some significant changes at his flagship restaurant. Volt will dispense with its a la carte menu and offer instead a four-course list for $80 that will completely change at the start of each month. Lunch service will be cut back to Saturday and Sunday, a move that will help Voltaggio and his team “push Volt to the next level” — finetune dishes, prepare additional canapés, re-write those menus — since the kitchen space will be free weekdays.
Wherein I break my own rule and review a chain restaurant. I know this does not really fit my criteria of a chain: there is one Wine Kitchen in Leesburg and they opened one in Frederick last month. If you have been paying attention to my twitter feed you would know this review was coming. First impressions were very good: the space is tastefully decorated in what I’d call semi-modern style with lots of wood and metal. Plenty of tables overlook Carroll Creek and in the other direction the open kitchen. There also was a private room which looked like it could easily seat twenty or so. When I was there is was still under construction.
The food was very good. I started with the butternut squash soup which turned out to be the highlight of my meal. Rich creamy soup with fried goat cheese balls and a drizzle of olive oil. I came close to licking the bowl on that one. I also sampled the sheep’s milk agnilotti, the heritage pork belly and the Border Springs Farm lamb flatbread. All three of which were delicious. I cannot stand overcooked pasta and I am happy to report that the agnilotti was cooked perfectly. The pork belly had a nicely crisped exterior and a juicy inside. The menu is not huge, but there is plenty to choose from.
Of course, like the name implies this place is about wine. The best way to enjoy this is get one of their flights. These are groupings of three wines, thematically tied together. They come in high quality glassware and each flight was accompanied by a little set of cards explaining the three different wines. I ordered the Italian Renaissance, which was the only flight that had both white and red wine. I had the white (Fuso Verdicchio) with the soup, which made for a terrific pairing. The other two were reds. The only down note was that I felt like the last wine of the flight, the Marabino Noto Nero D’Avola, was a little old and flat tasting. I always have a little bit of a concern about freshness in places that have a lot of wine by the glass available on the menu, yet just keep the partially full bottles out on the counter with the corks stuffed in them. On the plus side there are lots of interesting flights to try: Pinot Evil and a flight of three bubblies caught my eye.
The service was good and the lunch with appetizer, entrée and a flight of wine each came to about $40 each including tip. All of us agreed that it is well worth a return trip. On the way out we noticed a nice set of leather sofa surrounding a fireplace. That would be the spot to while away some time while sampling their wines!!
Just saw that Danielle’s restaurant at Shab Row shut its doors for good. There was some indication they were going to try something different but apparently now they are just plain closed. I remember when the space was occupied by Tauraso’s. It seems to me that local restaurants who are serving higher end ”American” cuisine are having a harder time of it than some other more specialized restaurants. What do you think?
UPDATE 10/26/11: The Frederick News Post is reporting that the restaurant owed more than $353,000 in sales and witholding taxes. Ouch!
In Frederick is now open. I hope to give a review soon, but have an impending vacation looming. We’ll see.
It has been a little over three years since I first reviewed Nilgiris Indian Sizzler. Well their website may still be up for now but the restaurant is gone. Yesterday I drove by and noticed it was closed. Sad to see that since it was my favorite lunch buffet. With the demise of the Bombay Grill a year or so ago that leaves only the Clay Oven on the Golden Mile as your source for Indian dining in the Frederick Area.
UPDATE: There is a sign in the window that says Delhis will be opening soon.
The other day I stopped by the new Frederick Wine House location at the Wegman’s shopping center. I’ll do a full review of that later, but while I was there I noticed the Coal Fire Pizza restaurant located just a few doors down. I’ve been talking about this place since December 2009 and alas they are still not open. They have a hiring and opening soon sign out front but it is still clear that construction is going on. I will definitely review this place once it opens. Perhaps it will give Il Forno a run for its money as the best pizza joint in Frederick? We will see.
I have never been to Thailand. I have never stayed at a Holiday Inn Express either, but I have eaten a lot of Thai food around the United States. It is my favorite Asian cuisine hands down. The reason why I feel I have the need to say this is that I have always had the suspicion that maybe the Thai food I am used to and like is an Americanized distant cousin of authentic Thai food. Sort of like what happened to Chinese cuisine when it came here. I wouldn’t know the difference. But I do know what I like in Thai food. Anyway, with this disclaimer out of the way if you are still interested here are my impressions, likes and dislikes of Sumittra:
I have now eaten twice at Sumittra and am delighted to report that since my first experience the service has improved markedly. They appear to have gotten their sea legs. During my most recent visit the service was right where it should be. During my visits I sampled a number of their offerings. Some items I really loved and some not so much. The highlights were the fried tofu appetizers: perfectly crispy and not greasy. The drunken noodles- I loved the flavors and the heat; and their sweet and sour stir fry. The latter was filled with perfectly cooked, yet still crispy, vegetables and covered with an excellent sweet and sour sauce. The sauce was perfect. Not too sweet and not too vinegary. I used every last grain of rice soaking up all the drips of that sauce. However, the dishes I wasn’t crazy about (the chicken satay and the Pad Thai) were all because of the same fault: they were just too sweet. I found the sauce on the satay to be too much sugary coconut and not enough peanut flavor. The Pad Thai was, in the words of my dining companion, “cloyingly sweet.” Having tasted it I would certainly agree. I don’t think I could have eaten a whole plate of that. Thai Rice on the Golden mile still has the best Pad Thai in town as far as I am concerned. On the plus side the menu is large and there are easily a dozen or more dishes I am really eager to try. I definitely will be back to try them. I haven’t even gotten to the curry section yet! Also of note is that almost every dish they offer can be made vegetarian. No liquor license yet and both times I’ve been too stuffed to try dessert.
The restaurant is very tastefully decorated in oranges and blacks with tons of exposed brick. It projects a modern, hip vibe. My only beef with the ambience was that the last time I was there is was loud. I mean really loud. I think this was primarily due to one eight person group that was so raucous they bordered (the wrong side of the border too) on rude. This certainly isn’t Sumittra’s fault so I can’t hold that against them. In hindsight I had no problems the first time I was there with the noise level.
To sum it up Sumittra Thai is an excellent and much needed addition to the downtown dining scene. However, beware of dishes that have sweet flavors. The chef just seems to go overboard with that taste. They are located at 12 East Patrick Street. No website that I am aware of.
Il Porto reminds me of a good offensive lineman: just solidly doing their job over and over without much flash or fanfare. I’ve eaten at Il Porto twice in recent months and both times came away with the same attitude: good solid Italian-American comfort food. From the gnocchi, to the baked ziti, to the eggplant parmesan to the salmon picatta everything I have eaten or sampled there was good. Not sublime, not terrible, but solidly good. There is nothing fancy about their food; no avant garde foams or weird dishes, but what they do serve comes out just the way you expect Italian-American food to be. I was also very surprised how reasonable their prices were. Most entrees were in the $9-13 range. The other thing that really stood out was the service. It was impeccable both times we were there. The wine list is decent. They have a house red (which I did not try) and several wines by the glass. The only quibble I have is that they didn’t have many reds by the glass available. They did have a prosecco by the glass which was a pleasant find.
I also really like the ambiance of the restaurant. It struck me as one of those neighborhood places you find in Boston or New York. I think it’s due to the fact that when you look out the front windows all you see are trees and residences and no other commercial property. It really makes it feel like a cozy neighborhood joint, which is exactly what it is!
Il Porto: 200 South Market Street, Frederick, MD 21701-6527 Phone: (301) 620-7480
First of all I really had no intention of doing this review. A full review on a brand new restaurant isn’t fair to anyone. However last Thursday we were walking downtown, hungry and decided to see if the new Thai restaurant that has been slowly assembling over the past couple of months was open. Lo and behold it was, so we stopped on inside. At that time we had no idea that this was their first day open. The place was fairly empty when we first arrived but soon it was packed. About ten minutes after we were seated it became apparent that the staff (looked like one waitress for all 72 seats) was in the weeds. It took an hour and a half for us to get two appetizers and two lunches, for which the waitress apologized profusely. At one point people were giving up waiting to be seated and were leaving.
On the plus side we both felt the food was very good. I had the drunken noodles which were pleasantly spicy with lots of perfectly done vegetables. The fried tofu was light and crispy. The spring roll was delicate, airy and full of crunch. The only complaint I had was I felt that the noodles in the drunken noodles dish were a little overcooked and mushy. Anyway I’m going to give them some time to get their rhythm and then I’ll be back.
Sumittra Thai Cuisine located at 12 East Patrick Street.
UPDATE: Added full review on May 16th.
More closings. Proof the bakery/sandwich place on East Patrick Street is closed. The windows are covered with paper. The good news is that the sign says a Thai restaurant will be opening soon. I look forward to giving it a try.
Several restaurant closings recently all in the Rt85/355 triangle area. Perkins, Houlihans and Philly’s Cheesesteak. A discussion about this at Frederick Maryland Online.
Two blog entries in one day. A FF first! Just wanted to let you know that rumor has it that Bryan Voltaggio is in the planning stages of opening a second, more casual restaurant. My source tells me it will be in Middletown at the site of the old Ingalls lumber building.
Remember you heard it here first!