Archive for the 'American' Category

Black Hog BBQ & Bar

118 South Market St
Frederick, MD 21701
301-662-9090

Pros: Amazing BBQ menu!
Cons: Packed on a Saturday evening!

Yes, it’s been a while since we’ve added to our list, as real life has often intruded on our ability to really try out new restaurants. It must have taken something really momentous to have us resume our list, and we have found it!

Our friend led us to the Black Hog BBQ & Bar during an outing with friends, and we can’t thank her enough! We don’t often venture out in Frederick, MD, but this is one of the restaurants that we would happily return for. On second though, maybe for our cardiovascular health, it’s probably a good thing that this restaurant involves a bit of a trek for us.

The restaurant has a very nice neighborhood feel. As we waited for our table, we got to chatting with another customer who claimed that he would dine at the Black Hog a couple times a week ever since it had opened. With an endorsement like that, that just made us salivate even more. My wife and I shared the BHB Triple, meaning we got a taste of 3 different animals on our platter: cow (beef brisket), chicken (grilled quarter chicken), and pig (ribs)! I normally need to go for some BBQ drenched in sauce, but due to my wife’s current dietary restrictions, we tried to minimize that and go for something a little more dry-rub based. The ribs and chicken really did not need an extra sauce, as they had an amazing dry rub that just helped bring out the flavor. The table was equipped with a few sauces to add on; my favorite was blending a bit of the Carolina vinegar-based sauce with some of their mustard-based sauce and with a bit of their smoky-flavored sauce. This really added to the brisket and the ribs that were already amazing! The sides that we chose for our platter (beans & rice and southern greens) were equally excellent!

Though we did not try it ourselves, some friends ordered some chicken wings that they said could have used a little more salt. Fortunately, they seemed to be appeased by the choice of sauces.

There’s very little not to love about this place. There is some parking, albeit limited, in the back. Our friend wanted to watch a rugby game on the television, but it happened to be on a channel that the restaurant/local cable did not carry, but these are just minor quibbles for an otherwise amazing BBQ restaurant. And my wife was worried that she wouldn’t ever find a BBQ restaurant that she would enjoy as much as the one we frequented when she’d visit me out in grad school…

Black Hog BBQ Bar on Urbanspoon

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Shanty Grille

3410 Plum Tree Dr
Ellicott City, MD 21042
410-465-9660

http://www.shantygrille.com

Pros: excellent seafood, friendly service, gluten-free items

Cons: a bit pricey

This place was formerly known as the Crab Shanty. So far, we have made 3 visits to this restaurant, twice when it was the Crab Shanty, and once as Shanty Grille. The name change was presumably to attract a more upscale clientele and perhaps allude to some of their food options beyond just seafood. Regardless, with each visit, we enjoyed a predominantly seafood-laden menu and great service each time. We actually enjoyed the restaurant so much that we chose to have our rehearsal dinner at the restaurant, and several of our guests commented how much they enjoyed the food.

With a name (admittedly their former name) like Crab Shanty, you can bet that their crab cakes are excellent. They may not be on par with the renowned Faidley’s crab cakes, but they are impressive nonetheless. This most recent visit, I had their Crab Cake Cordon Bleu, which tasted so good it brought tears to my eyes. Crab cake aside, the vegetables and potatoes were excellently prepared and were a wonderful balance to the exquisite crab cake pastry. My wife put together a meal with their Maryland Crab Soup, Chopped House Salad, and Saffron Mussels (normally an appetizer). Of course, the mussels were the centerpiece of her meal, and was so good, that we saved the remaining broth in a to-go container.

Don’t forget about dessert! Although we enjoy a range of desserts, we keep going back to the New Orleans Bread Pudding, which will take your mind swimming into paradise.

Another nice little feature is that the menu clearly labels food items that are gluten-free, so you can dine along with those who may have sensitive stomachs and a few food allergies.

Reviews on other sites (e.g., Yelp, Urban Spoon, etc.) have commented on the restaurant having inconsistent service. We might have been fairly lucky that we got excellent service with each of our visits. Our only complaint is that food items can be fairly pricey. A few items, that you might expect to be complimentary with the meal, such as bread, tend to cost extra. With this in mind, we might save our trips to the Shanty Grille just for special occasions. Regardless, our visit to the Shanty Grille made this pair of foodies very happy.
Shanty Grille on Urbanspoon

Rudy’s Mediterranean Grill & Bar

7185 Columbia Gateway Drive
Suite D
Columbia, MD 21046
410-290-2004 / 410-290-2010

http://www.rmgrill.com

Pros: Doner kebabs, seafood

Cons: Other dishes may need more flavoring

We have been longing for a good diner in Columbia, and we may have finally found one. I have to admit that it took us a few visits to really fall in love with this place. One thing this place suffers from is the standard Columbia curse: hard to find. You really have to hunt for this one, but we hope word of month will help them out.

We tried first some of the more standard and some not-so-standard diner dishes. The crabcakes, and stuffed mushrooms, and calamari were quite tasty, but sandwiches and wraps were thoroughly mediocre. A lot of the side dishes could use more flavoring; the table-side salt and pepper will be your friend for the lentil soup and breakfast potatoes.

The dishes that finally won us over, however, were the doner kebabs. For dinner, the Famous Iskender Kebab is pretty close to perfection. Think of it as an open-face gyro pita sandwich drenched in a tasty tomato sauce. The garlic yogurt helps balance out the peppers on the dish. The gyro, itself, is perfectly prepared, and the toasted pita adds a welcome crunchy texture.

The place does quite well with its seafood, such as the Crabcake Benedict and Fried Calamari, but the doner kebabs are what have my taste buds talking for days.
Rudy's Mediterranean Grill & Diner on Urbanspoon

Elevation Burger

Wheaton Mall
1160 Veirs Mill Road
Wheaton, MD 20902
301-933-0333

(and several other locations)

http://www.elevationburger.com

Pros: very much the same feel as In-N-Out

Cons: not enough locations as In-N-Out

Ask just about any Californian, and he/she will tell you that the pinnacle of fast food burgers is In-N-Out. As a Californian transplanted here on the East Coast, I have longed to find something comparable. Whereas some East Coasters live and die by Five Guys, I actually feel overwhelmed by their burgers and fries. The lone FatBurger in Columbia, MD definitely comes close to that West Coast magic, yet they are rather limited in their burger toppings.

Enter Elevation Burger, which we found by way of Groupon. The Wheaton Mall Elevation Burger definitely feels like In-N-Out with a different color scheme. You get the added bonus that all ingredients are organic, and they boast an environmentally-friendly agenda, something that these two quasi-hippies definitely appreciate. And their toppings…you actually get a pretty wide array of toppings, probably a little bit more than your typical fast food place. You also have the opportunity of stacking your burgers with a customizable number of patties and slices of cheese (up to 10 each). So the In-N-Out’s double-double (aka Elevation Burger) is a standard menu option, and you can add on more, if you choose to. All in all, I still prefer the taste of the meat patties from FatBurger, but there’s not much to really complain about with Elevation Burger’s actual burgers; they are beautifully juicy and hand-rolled! The fries are very thinly and freshly cut. The olive oil base for the fries makes it wonderful for my wife who has peanut allergies (look a little more deeply, and you’d be surprised by how many places boast frying their fries in peanut oil).

I have not yet tried to find out if Elevation Burger has a secret menu much like In-N-Out’s not-so-secret menu. They definitely have the ingredients to simulate “Animal Style,” but they probably would look at me weird if I requested my fries such. Still, I would welcome readers to let me know if there is some comparable secret menu.

For this West Coaster transplanted to the East Coast, Elevation Burger is definitely approaching the feel that I grew up with, especially with an environmentally-friendly and organic kick.

Founding Farmers

1924 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20006
202-822-8783
http://www.wearefoundingfarmers.com
Pros: Fresh and local, healthy, lots of vegetarian and vegan options
Cons: Long waits
If you are a student at George Washington University, this place needs to be on your list of local restaurants to frequent. So far we have only had the breakfast, but if that is any indication, the lunch and dinner options should be amazing!
This is located not too far from GW campus, and the location is perfect also for the local government and office workers. You can tell that this is likely a place where a lot of schmoozing happens, and with good reason! They offer a huge range of drink and dessert options for the casual eater. Likely because of this, be ready for long wait times. But don’t be too shy, because the wait time is definitely worth it.
If you are a fan of healthy and locally grown/harvested food, you will not be disappointed with this restaurant. They actually pride themselves on their green attitude and their mission towards local sustainability. You can taste the freshness in each dish too. If you come here from breakfast, one dish that absolutely MUST be on your order is one of their New Orleans-style Stuffed French Toast dishes. The brandy-creme that lies inside each french toast is painfully addictive. Fresh strawberries on top provide an excellent complement to the french toast. If you want to become delightfully overwhelmed with sweetness, try covering your french toast with bananas foster, and you will drift off into a blissful heaven. If you decide not to indulge in the french toast, another recommendation is the Fried Chicken, Eggs, & Waffles. This is a southern dish at heart. You’d be amazed how well fried chicken tenders, waffles, fresh maple syrup, and gravy go together!
We cannot wait to come back here to try lunch and dinner dishes. With the promise of freshly baked bread everyday and handmade pasta, it won’t be long before we get these into our mouths.

Blue Moon Cafe

1621 Aliceanna St
Baltimore, MD 21231
410-522-3940

Pros: Food Network approved, breakfast dishes

Cons: Long wait

Who are we to argue with the Food Network? Guy Fieri reviewed this place on Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives (DDD), and with good reason. The food is absolutely unbelievable! Not only does this restaurant get the Guy Fieri stamp of approval, but during our visit, Duff Goldman (of Food Network’s Ace of Cakes) stopped by. On DDD, Guy raved about the Captain Crunch French Toast, which is heavily featured on the front of the menu. We were craving protein during our visit, so we decided to save the Captain Crunch French Toast for our next visit. Instead, we ordered a Crab, Tomato, and Cheddar Eggs Benedict and a Country Breakfast Burrito. Both dishes were simply amazing. The benedict was absolutely perfect! For the breakfast burrito, think about everything you love about breakfast stuffed in to a tortilla shell. You had eggs, sausage, and hashbrowns dripping out of a burrito topped with sausage gravy. Simply breakfast heaven!

Given that this place has gotten quite a bit of exposure from the Food Network, business is not-so-surprisingly booming. Expect long wait times. And on the weekends, expect LOOONG wait times. Even in the morning just barely after it has opened, people are often already lined up. But if you can get in, be prepared for breakfast paradise!

Bon Fresco

6945 Oakland Mills Rd
Columbia, MD 21045
410-290-3434

Pros: Amazing bread, great prices!

Cons: Slightly hidden location

Yes, it has been a while since we’ve added anything to our list. We took a break and wanted to return with a place truly deserving to be on a best of list.

Who doesn’t love a good sandwich? And what you will find here are some phenomenal sandwiches! The bread alone is worth the price admission! The bread is made fresh daily, and you can taste the freshness. We’ve made a few different visits here to try a breadth of different sandwiches and bread types. Even with flatbread, which I normally don’t expect much from is just amazing. Your sandwich will be packed with different ingredients, and feel free to ask to customize your sandwich a bit. Given how good the bread is, we really need to go back to try some of their baked desserts. They usually offer some sides along the lines of chips, lentil salad, and potato salad. The potato salad’s ingredients are very subtle, to the point that you would swear that you are simply eating freshly made mashed potatoes (which I actually loved).

Truthfully, in trying to come up with some cons for this little restaurant, I was hard pressed to find anything wrong with them. Their location is a little out of the way and hidden, but honestly, what isn’t hidden in Columbia? On a good spring day, Bon Fresco is the perfect place to pick up a couple sandwiches to take for a picnic.