Category Archives: Restaurant Reviews

Pittsburgh Food Blogger Meet-up!

Last Thursday night Greg and I attended a Pittsburgh Food Blogger meet-up, hosted by Mike from Foodburgh, at Bocktown Beer and Grill. We too shared the same apprehension as Nicole, but figured why not give it a go and so we went.

 We made the drive out to the ‘burbs, winding around all the classic American chain stores and restaurants and found Bocktown, tucked away in a rather small, dead looking strip mall in the land of strip malls, Robinson. We walked in and bee-lined it for the bar… it was a Thursday after all. Greg got a pumpkin beer, called the drunken pumpkin, and I got strawberry wheat ale. We found our group and introduced ourselves. A few minutes later, Lauren joined us and she ordered the same pumpkin beer that Greg got but hers was rimmed with sugar and cinnamon. YUM! I definitely got one of those for my second drink and it was AWESOME. Greg got a crème brule beer for his second and it was very sweet and almost tasted like coffee he said.

…anyway, on to the food! It was the night of the first pens game and so they had some pens inspired menu items. Not to mention that their regular menu is quiet big too so it was really tough to make a decision. Word from our fellow diners was that everything was good, even the salads, and particularly the burgers were great. One of their specialties is also their hand cut fries, which you can order with a variety of toppings. Greg wasn’t too hungry so he ordered a small order (which was anything but small) of fries topped with beer cheese and jalapeños. I ordered the Geno Burgher, which was a burger on marbled rye with sautéed onions, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing from the special menu. This “burgher” was inspired by Evgeni Malkin, affectionately known as Geno in Pittsburgh who is Russian, hence the burger’s toppings. I cut it in half and gave Greg half of my half and ended up taking the other half home for Friday’s lunch. Between the beer, ¼ of the burger and a ton of his fries I was stuffed.

 A few notes on Bocktown. First off, I was very impressed with the service. Our waitress was really fun and Bocktown even gave our table a large, specialty bottle of beer to try out, which was really tasty. The menu was big and it sounded like almost everything anyone has ordered off it is solidly good. According to Mike, they also try to be as local and sustainable as possible and even the takeout containers were mindful of these concepts, how nice. Lastly, Bocktown is into the whole social media thing and is pro bloggers, which is very cool. The only negative for me was the drive out there, but even that wasn’t too bad.  

 The experience of meeting up with the fellow bloggers was really great too. It rekindled some food blogging excitement for me and inspired me to resume writing our restaurant reviews again since we were talking about so many great restaurants. I am already looking forward to the next meet up and the potential for a really great meal!


Restaurant Review: Greek Islands Grill (Silver Spring)

Greg and I found the Greek Islands Grill restaurant via a penny saver type magazine several years ago and have been enjoying it on occasional Sundays ever since. They were advertising a Sunday brunch Greek buffet. What could be better we thought. We were pleasantly surprised with the buffet’s offerings- though there were not countless dishes available, the ones they did offer were fabulous and hit the spot for the Greek food craving we have so regularly. According to their website the buffet is also offered on other days besides Sundays-  “All you can eat buffets Wednesday (5 to 9 p.m.) and Sunday (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) are $13.95. Thursday’s lunch buffet (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) is $9.95.” . It’s a slight hike out there to the restaurant (technically it’s in Cloverly) but we have found it to be very worth it! Almost every time I go, it’s the only meal I eat all day.

On my plate pictured above (last crappy iphone photo I swear!),  I have Greek Salad with feta and house made Greek dressing, Gyro meat w/tzatziki, dolmades (stuffed grape leaves with a creamy sauce), pastitsio (yum if you love bechamel as much as me), house made hummus, and spanakopita. I’m not going to go into details, but trust me, everything was divine! Also on the buffet were meatballs in a tomato broth, orzo and vegetables in tomato sauce , a chicken dish, and probable a few others I can’t remember. They also have a couple of sweet offerings, which I never get to because I am always so full, that include baklava and one other pastry offering. (as you can see I sort of lost focus on what else was offered once I started eating 🙂 )

For the Marylanders out there, Greg and I definitely recommend this place. We have never ordered anything off the menu so I can’t speak much for that.  However, the buffet gives you the chance to try several different things at once and it has always been very fresh and hot. They change out the food regularly and the service is friendly and prompt.

I hope you like it as much as we have– we will miss it!

Greek Islands Grill

15410 New Hampshire Avenue

Silver Spring, MD 20905

Restaurant Review: Cava (Rockville)

For my birthday dinner Greg took me out to Cava in Rockville. Cava is a cool little spot to get some really great Greek mezze (small plates like tapas). I really enjoy the idea of small plates versus large entrees because you can get a little taste of several different dishes and it can be a little less filling. Can be. We ended up ordering 4 mezze (I think they recommend like 2-3 per person) and I left feeling VERY full. Cava, which means cave in Greek, has a really cool interior and chic lounge-like feel to it. The lighting is low and the decor is wine cellar-esque. The food is modern Greek, so it’s fun and different but also doesn’t veer off too much from the traditional Greek dishes that everyone loves. It’s a nice balance and a really great idea for a restaurant! The Rockville location is in a strip mall so parking was abundant and easy.

Cava does not take reservations, but we were able to get a table right away (by the time we had finished, around 8 or so, people were waiting). Once we sat down, the server brought over a basket of toasted flat bread and a trio of olive oil, sun dried tomato tapenade and some kalmata olives. Everything tasted fresh and delicious and I always love when restaurants give you something to munch on while you peruse the menu.  We went on a Monday night, which was half price martini night. As I mentioned, it was my birthday so there was no excuse not to get one! I got the “Van Gogh Mango”, which was Finlandia mango vodka, mango liquor, and orange juice. It was super tasty, but not very strong so I only got one. I’m glad it was only half price.

As we began to look at the menu a waiter lit a plate of cheese on fire at the table next to us (/practically on our laps– the restaurant is tiny!). We knew immediately that we’d be getting that. Flaming cheese, yes please! It must be one of their most popular dishes as we saw cheese being set on fire several more times throughout our dinner. I definitely recommend this dish. I can’t remember exactly what type of cheese it was, possibly cypriot, but it had a mozzarella-type consistency and so it was creamy, slightly stringy, and maintained a nice golden brown “crust” upon being engulfed in flames. It was really, really good.

We decided upon three more mezze and thought we could order more if needed. As mentioned previously, this was not needed, though we did eat up everything we were given. We ordered lamb stew, braised beef, and scallops mushroom risotto. The lamb stew was lamb that had been, you guessed it, stewed, in a tomato broth and was served over orzo. The braised beef was served over french fries with a sprinkle of feta cheese on top and the scallops were served over mushroom risotto. The stewed lamb and braised beef had similar flavors and textures. They were both perfectly cooked and tasted traditionally Greek with cinnamon hues throughout. They weren’t particularly amazing, but tasted good and homey. The scallop dish was a little disappointing as the scallops appeared to be deep fried as opposed to seared. Though I usually enjoy deep fried foods, scallops are not so good prepared in this way. I ‘d much prefer a good sear to a deep fry for my scallops and they were a little on the dry/rubbery side. They were served atop a delicious mushroom risotto that was creamy and soft, which made it all better.

All of the food served to us  was very tasty but also extremely salty. We went through a lot of water! There were also very few mezze options that included vegetables. It’s more of a meat and starch focused menu. Though the plates are labeled as “small” the portions are actually very respectable and pretty big. The scallop dish, for example, came with four scallops and a large bowl of risotto. Overall, it was an enjoyable dinner though and was certainly a special treat.

Restaurant Review: Moby Dick (Wheaton)

Sushi and road trips don’t usually go hand in hand, but on Saturday when Greg and I were on our 5-hour journey back home from the outer banks it was all we could think about.  It came up innocently enough… a reasonable deceleration about how much time had lapsed since the last time we had sushi and how we would like to have it again some time.  The trip wore on and we grew increasingly hungry. Fresh memories of what poor food decisions were made all week were still fresh. It was the perfect storm.  Sushi take out for dinner it was!

Greg and I have been big fans of Moby Dick (no website; 11220 Triangle Lane)  a little, family-run sushi joint in Wheaton, for years. It is our go-to sushi spot and despite what anyone says, it’s perfect (for us, at least). It’s not overly fancy or trying to be anything it’s not (cough, kaz sushi bistro, cough ) and we always leave stuffed and very satisfied.

I always start off with miso soup whenever I get sushi. Moby Dick’s is great in my eyes and very traditional. Sorry, no picture. I inhaled it. I was very dehydrated!

We typically over order with sushi and spend a lot of $, which is one of the reasons why we don’t eat it too often and mostly save it for special occasions or wagers on large bets. I thought we did a fairly decent job of ordering this time.

Starting from top right (above): spicy salmon roll, crunchy spicy tuna roll, yellow tail roll, rainbow roll, and mackerel nigiri.

Pictured below: dragon roll.

Doesn’t the second tray look like a face?!

Every single piece of sushi I ate was absolutely divine. The star, however, was the crunchy spicy tuna roll. Its essentially a spicy tuna roll covered in tempura flakes (= fried goodness) with a spicy sauce (siracha + mayo) on top.

If you go to Moby Dick you MUST order this roll. You can thank me later.

This sushi restaurant is easy to overlook, but please don’t! The downsides are that it’s not fancy or that innovative (= traditional), the restaurant is small (though they do have seating at the sushi bar), the service can be a little rough (as the family that owns it also runs the show), and it’s in a dumpy area. The upsides are that the sushi is really good, they sell massively large cans of Japanese beer, you are helping out a small business in Wheaton, and if you go enough, they will remember you!

Check it out!

Restaurant Review: Hong Kong Restaurant (Kensington)

You may have never noticed this place as it is in a little strip mall behind what used to be a bank (and is now an urgent care) and a gas station. It’s behind and to the right of the strip mall that houses continental subs and pizza, if you are familiar with that (if you are not familiar with that, you should be!). Anyway, Hong Kong, has pretty good, reliable Chinese food and on Sunday they have a “family buffet”. Now, it’s important to note that this is not your typical buffet where in the center of the restaurant there are large trays of food that you pick from. No, not here. This “buffet” is really food served family style, meaning that as you finish a dish, they will bring you more of the same. Each person gets tea, their choice of soup and an egg roll. They brought Greg and I three entrees- one chicken, one beef and one shrimp. We were simply told what they were and there was no choice in that department. Luckily, we were fine with just about anything they could have brought.

When we walked in we were the only customers in the restaurant. The decor is a mix of old and new and the waitress was a bit odd, but whatever. We were promptly served tea and crunchy noodles with duck sauce, mmm. (Pictures are from the iphone- sorry!)

and then like five seconds later we got our soups. I got hot and sour and Greg got wonton.I usually judge a Chinese place on their hot and sour soup. This soup was solidly good. Nothing to go crazy over, but good, standard hot and sour.

(note: steelers shirts make good backdrops for photos!)

Like I mentioned, we also got egg rolls (unpictured).The egg rolls were super good, deep fried, deliciousness.

Next, came our entrees.

More specifically, we got shrimp with vegetables, Hunan chicken, and beef with broccoli (I think).

Of the three dishes, ironically the chicken was the best! Usually I don’t order chicken when I am out because I eat so much of it at home. This dish was really excellent though and it was the only one we forced ourselves to finish so we could get another serving of it. It was really tough, let me tell you.  The beef and shrimp were pretty standard really. I can’t remember the exact pricing, but this deal is quite a steal. This place also delivers and we have had pretty good success with them. Again, it’s not gonna rock your world, but it should satisfy your Chinese food cravings!

Restaurant Review: Black Market Bistro

I have been talking about going to this restaurant for quite a while, but we finally made it there last night! I had the dubious honor of paying for the meal since I lost (on a technicality) our NFL playoff pool. For those of you who are unfamiliar, BMB is on the bottom level of a house in a residential area of Kensington. The neighborhood itself was quite astounding and we were quite awed by the million dollar homes we passed. The restaurant has a farm house or New England-esque feel to it, but it is certainly fine dining with a casual flare. The menu is rather small, with one dish for each type of protein (chicken, beef, pork, seafood, etc), with several appetizers and Italian style pizzas also on the menu.

They had very fresh and delicious bread on the table of two varieties, one sweet with raisins and one Italian style white. We started off our meal with two appetizers: the soup of the day, which was a tomato bisque with pesto creme fraiche and pine nuts, and the Thai style Prince Edward Island mussels, mussels in lemongrass, chiles, ginger, coconut and cilantro. What a great start! The flavors of both of these dishes were so intense and delightful. The soup was very rich, creamy, and hearty and the pesto creme fraiche and the pine nuts added that little something that made it amazing. The mussels were perfectly cooked and the broth was divine. I could have happily ate that broth as a soup by itself it had so much flavor.

For our entrees we decided to go with the special, which was braised veal shank with risotto, including kale, pearl onions, and crimini mushrooms and the Pineland Farms hangar steak, a hardwood grilled all-natural hanger steak with whipped potatoes, fresh vegetable of the day, chimichurri & crispy onions.

When the veal entree was placed before me, Greg thought that they would come running back to grab it as they had seemingly forgot to place the meat on top of the risotto. Well, that was not the case. Apparently, the meat had been shredded and mixed in with the risotto and there wasn’t very much of it.  We had envisioned a veal shank on top of some creamy risotto. No. This was risotto with the little bit of meat mixed in along with what appeared to be a brown gravy and it was very salty. I have to say this was a disappointing dish. It was all one texture, one note of flavor, and just wasn’t that interesting. Did I mention it was salty? I woke up several times last night with some serious thirst! Luckily, the hangar steak was PERFECT in every way. It was grilled exactly right with a nice crust on the outside and still red and juicy on the inside. The veggie of the day was kale, my new fave, and the potatoes were melt in your mouth good. They served it with a TON of fried onion rings, which were sliced very thin, so they were crispy and a good accompaniment to the other textures. This was a great dish. We did not have any room for dessert, but I did take a peek at the menu. Nothing too exciting, except for the root beer float, which a table near us got.

Overall, we were very pleased with our experience at BMB and would definitely go back for another special occasion. The staff were all very nice too, although our waitress went MIA after our meals were served, and it wasn’t really that expensive considering the quality and the portions (although we did not have any leftovers 🙂 ). It was worth losing the playoff pool for, I will say that.

Sorry for the lack of pictures, but this place was fancy!

Restaurant Review: The Big Greek Cafe (downtown Silver Spring)

We have been wanting Greek food for a few weeks now and decided to go out for lunch this weekend and try a new Greek place in the area. I remembered that there was a place in downtown silver spring that could possibly cure our gyro craving: The Big Greek Cafe.  We decided to go for it and give it a shot.

It was a little tough to find at first, as their sign is on the small side. I was pretty sure we passed it when we saw a blue and white facade. There is another Greek restaurant about two block north on Georgia Avenue as well, but we stuck to our original plan to go to this one.  The set up is such that you order at the counter and they have a good amount of seating for you to choose from. It was very clean and inviting and the guys behind the counter were really friendly and attentive.

and check out  my eating partner! Look at this guy…

Anyway, back to the food. The menu was nice and large but we both wanted gyros. I went with the gyro salad (a “big greek salad” with gyro meat) and Greg went with the Gyro platter- which came with a gyro, salad, and choice of sides (he picked fries). Once we sat down I took a further look at the menu and found another 5 or 6 things I wanted. Guess I will have to go back!

The food was as impressive as the menu.

Here is my salad. It was huge! It had so many herbs and spices and it was absolutely perfect. They served it with a house  “opa” dressing (which was garlicky delicious) and I also asked for tzaziki on the side, which was equally delightful and no extra charge. I saved the pita for the birds and squirrels in our backyard and ended up taking half of the salad home. I couldn’t finish this salad, despite my Saturday afternoon appetite, but it hit the spot!

Here is the gyro platter- also a nice, big serving. The fries were soooo good! They had that beer battered crunch on the outside and they put tzaziki on top, which is genius. Our only complaint was that the gyro meat was a little dry. Believe me, we still ate it, happily, but that would be the only critique. We assumed that maybe we got meat  from the end of the rotation and wasn’t as fresh as it could have been.  For both of our meals and two drinks it was $22.00, which is pretty ridiculous for the quality and size of the meal.

Overall we were pleasantly surprised by this place as we have sort of come to expect the worst from many local places we try. I would definitely come back here though and try some other menu items! Check it out and let me know what you think!

Mussels Marinara

Ever since dining at Granville Moore’s in DC we have been hooked on mussels. They’re actually quite easy to make and you can make them in many different styles. Usually we try to emulate GM’s Moules formage bleu because it is delicious and we have gotten pretty good at making it, but tonight we decided to try our hand at mussels marinara. I had the idea in my head for this dish for the past few days and wanted to try to make a spicy tomato broth. Overall, I am pleased with how they turned out, but our mussels to broth ratio was not exactly what I had in mind. I wanted it to be more brothy and less chunky and the ratio of sauce to mussels was off but it was still a good dinner.

First, the mussels. We bought way too much as always- 2 2lb. bags of live mussels.

The mussels need a good rinse so they can release any sand they have inside.

…and now for the broth. We started off by sauteing some minced garlic in olive oil and adding white wine and seasonings, including red pepper which is optional if you don’t want any heat. We added a large can of crushed tomatoes and made sure to get the temperature really hot.

We have learned from experiece to get the broth very hot (up to a boil) so the mussels can cook quickly. Somehow that soothes the guilt we feel for killing them, but let’s not focus on that! The next step is to add the mussels and stir and stir and stir until they open up. You can also put the lid on to get it nice and hot in there.

(You can see the other bag in the background awaiting a similar fate)

Once they have opened up you can serve them.  Just remember that you are not supposed to eat the closed ones!

We served our mussels with some fresh Italian bread so we could soak up the remaining broth.

I seasoned the sliced bread with olive oil (via the misto), italian herbs, garlic powder, and salt and pepper and baked them in the toaster for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees.

Another alternative to the bread, or in addition to it, would be pasta or rice.  Or you can just eat them by themselves, which we have done many times before. We ate this meal as a main course, but it makes a great appetizer as well. Next time we make mussels we will probably return to the formage bleu so you will get to see that as well, hopefully soon!

Recipe for Mussels Marinara

Urban BBQ

On Sunday we had lunch at Urban BBQ and it was awesome! This is a very small chain (only three restaurants) in the Silver Spring/Rockville area. The creators/owners also have another restaurant in the area, urban burger, which is also very good! I was very impressed with the BBQ today! It was also nice to help out a local restaurant that is serving such good food . I have to say that it is one of the best restaurants in this area for some real good American comfort foods.  (I took these pictures with my iphone, which is not very adept at close-ups, sorry!)

Front to back: Texas Steakhouse Salad, Beef Brisket Sandwhich, and Chili Cheese Fries

I had the Texas Steakhouse Salad: Fresh iceberg, romaine, chopped brisket, crispy potatoes, bleu cheese crumbles, bacon and diced tomato. I can’t see a way this would not be good but it was even better than I expected. The meat was really tender, juicy, and had a great smokey flavor. Also, it was nicely coated in BBQ sauce which worked well with the sharpness of the bleu cheese. The warm meat and potatoes on top of the cold lettuce and tomatoes also provided a nice contrast. It may look small, but it was more than enough and very filling. All in all, I would definitely recommend this and have it again.

Texas Steakhouse Salad

Greg had the beef brisket sandwich, which was basic but complemented nicely by the the BBQ sauces and hot sauces available from the condiment counter.

Beef Brisket Sandwich

We also got an order of the chili cheese fries: House-cut fries smothered in Redneck Fondue. What is redneck fondue? It’s a three cheese dip blended with their Two Step Chili and it’s so good (to eat, not for you) that you must give it a try and I would recommend doing this over french fries. I mean, how can you go wrong!

Chili Cheese Fries

Friday night

Ahh yes it is Friday, finally. They can never get here too quickly and it was especially exciting because tonight we went out for dinner  to Cristina’s in Wheaton. This place has GREAT Italian food and we can walk there from our house, which is an added bonus. It is so nice to leave the car behind sometimes.

Cristina’s has a charm about it that you don’t see a lot in this area. The owners were there seating people and checked in with us to ensure we enjoyed our meal. There appears to be a good crowd of regulars and we found ourselves to be some of the youngest people there (it was before 7pm!) at first, but as it got later some younger people did come in as well. It’s nicely lit and small enough where you may need a reservation, but big enough where you probably won’t. It’s a great date spot, but would also be nice to go with others. Overall, we just love it and food wise it always delivers a great meal.

We started off with La Caprese Completa: Fresh homemade mozzarella served with fresh sliced tomatoes, basil and olive oil. I don’t know how they always manage to have these delicious ripe tomatoes, but they do. Also, the olive oil they use is out of this world. This was a great way to start off the meal.

Both of our entrees came with salads (house or cesar) and we both chose cesar. You can’t go wrong with either choice here. Of course there was some fresh bread that accompanied the meal, including a rosemary focaccia-type bread and a classic italian white.

For our entrees, Greg ordered the Vitello Benito: Tender slices of veal sauteed with shallots, balsamic vinegar and marsala wine topped with asparagus. I praise him for branching out and trying this dish. The veal was very nice and tender and had a marsala based sauce. It also came with linguine. I don’t know if they make their pastas in house, but they taste so fresh that they must be homemade. The pastas are so tender they just melt in your mouth. For my entree I did not branch out and ordered something I had before and loved. I had been thinking about all day and was not deterred by the big menu! I had the Gamberi Florentine: Fresh jumbo shrimp stuffed with spinach, feta cheese and fresh herbs. Topped with lemon-butter sauce and broiled to perfection. Served with linguine. This dish is absolute perfection in my opinion. I really want to try to recreate this at home some time soon!All in all, we had a fantastic meal at Cristina’s tonight and I already cannot wait to go back again. I have not yet become comfortable with the idea of taking pictures of my food in public so sorry for the lack of pictures! Maybe I will get there one day…

After dinner we checked out Dad’s Pub in Rockville, mostly due to the fact that it’s close and has live music. We have been there once before and I think the crowd really makes a difference here. Tonight, it was rather small and was most likely the spill-over of the happy hour crowd (ie: people were pretty nice and toasty by the time we got there). Also, it was apparent that there was a caps game that just ended as several people meandered the bar in their obnoxious red jerseys. Sorry, I could live without caps fans in my life. Anyway, we called it quits pretty early and headed home… looking forward tomorrow night’s “winterfest” at our house!