Archive for September, 2008

A and J Restaurant

1319-C Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20852
301-251-7878

Pros: Northern dim-sum taste, amazingly attentive staff

Cons: Does not accept credit card, might be intimidating for newcomers, extremely crowded

Northern Dim-Sum is an odd delicacy. If you are used to the more traditional southern Cantonese dim-sum variety, this is a very different taste. Dishes here are very meat-heavy, and vegetarian dishes are scarce.

For this amateur food critic, however, this restaurant brought back memories of weekend late-morning visits into San Francisco. The busy pace, ordering by checking off items on a list, and of course, the food. The fried dumplings were just like the ones my friend’s mom used to make. The zua bing, though a little crunchy for my taste, reminded me of the fun I had pulling endless threads of warm bing onto my plate. Then, there was the Za Jiang Mein, which has been a favorite from my youth. Memories flooded back as I ate here, taking me back to my youth. It was indeed a happy meal.

For those who are completely unfamiliar with this cuisine, I would definitely recommend coming here with someone who is well-versed in the cuisine, as the atmosphere can be a little intimidating. Nevertheless, the serving staff was amazingly attentive, especially given how busy the restaurant was. This is indeed a local favorite, so be prepared to almost literally rub elbows with your neighbors.

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Samos Restaurant

600 Oldham St
Baltimore, MD 21224
410-675-5292

http://www.samosrestaurant.com

Pros: Lean meats, grape leaves, spanakopita

Cons: No credit card, extremely crowded

We originally found this restaurant through a website that advertised the best cheap eats of Baltimore. If you go for the small items on the menu (e.g., pita wraps, gyro sandwiches, etc.), these are indeed pretty cheap, and a good bang for your buck. Other items, such as dishes off their Samos Platters sections are priced a little higher, but still offer a lot for your money. We tried one of their combination platters (Pekilia platter), so we got to taste a little of everything. We ended up eating one of the best meals of our lives.

The meal started off with a light salad, that had just enough feta cheese, that it was not over powering, and the greek salad dressing added quite a bit of zing to the flavor. The platter, itself, was amazing. The gyro meat was incredibly lean, and the chicken kabobs were grilled excellently. Each of the grilled vegetables in the platter (onions, red and green peppers) were amazing. Then there was perhaps the best spanakopita we had ever had. The grape leaves were amazingly juicy. The potatoes added an excellent texture to the dish.

This restaurant also offers pasta and pizza dishes, but we neglected these to fulfill our Greek desires. Based on the descriptions of these items, some might also offer a Greek twist. If you come to this restaurant, be sure to bring cash, as they do not accept credit card. Also be sure to come early, as the restaurant fills up quickly and could leave you waiting a while.

Eggspectations

6010 University Blvd.
Ellicott City, MD 21043
410-750-3115

923 Ellsworth Dr.
Silver Spring, MD 20910
301-585-1700

http://www.eggspectations.com

Pros: Amazing brunch menu

Cons: Extremely crowded

We found this place when we were desperate for a breakfast place. We couldn’t have asked for a place with a better breakfast selection. This place has a vast array of crepes and eggs benedicts varieties. If you can’t decide between the two, try a Breton Benedict, where you get a combination of the two!

Aside from your benedict and crepe dishes, the rest of menus is full of options. From pancakes to french toast to omelettes to…whatever your breakfast heart desires. The place has a traditional dinner menu as well, which we have yet to try. If the breakfast dishes are any indication, the dinner items will be just as delectable.

The restaurant is fairly popular, so be sure to arrive early or be prepared to wait. Even when we arrived there at just after 9:00 AM, we were given one of those fancy pagers to wait for our table. Like we said, however, the wait is well worth it, and this is definitely a place to bring guests for a healthy and delicious meal.

Red Snappaz

331 Montrose Ave
Laurel, MD 20707
301-776-1167

http://www.redspappaz.com

Pros: Excellent food, friendly service, jerk sauce has extra kick

Cons: A bit of a dive

Ever since getting our first taste of Jamaican/Caribbean food, we’ve been hooked, especially if it comes from a bit of a dive…you know, those less polished places that you sometimes wonder about at first glance. If this type of setting turns you off, then you may hesitate about visiting Red Snappaz. But once you taste the food, you will know that it was well worth it.

We were introduced to Red Snappaz through a Restaurant.com coupon. We can’t thank this site enough for leading us to this amazing find. If you order the entrees, as opposed to the “mini meals,” you will get sizeable portions that will likely last you a couple meals. Plantains are freshly fried, so you will be shaking off the last bit of oil before encountering the sweet crispiness. The oxtail was fabulous, and don’t be afraid to get your hands a little messy with this one. The jerk chicken packs a lot of taste, and don’t be afraid to grab a little extra jerk sauce, because you know you’ll be craving it later.

Unfortunately, our coupon limited us to non-seafood, so we will definitely be visiting again. Given that we’ve had relatively few encounters with Jamaican/Caribbean food, don’t hesitate to ask the friendly staff to help explain a few of the menu items. You will not find disappointed. If you will excuse me, I think I still have some leftover jerk chicken to finish up.