Last Saturday, my incredible brother took Evi & I out for a truly amazing lunch experience. He lives in Frederick, which means he’s now been to the increasingly famous dinner spot, Volt. Made famous by Top Chef winner Bryan Voltaggio, the food is amazing but also super expensive. Perhaps with that in mind, the innovative chef opened Family Meal. Originally open only for dinner, we happened to visit this diner-inspired spot on the very first day that it was open for breakfast/lunch.
We started with the quarter of deviled eggs (paprika, smoked trout roe, bacon, chives) which we loved so much that we ate them too quickly to take pictures. Perhaps not shockingly, the bacon was our hands-down favorite. The filling was super smooth and absolutely perfect tasting. Not too salty, not too sweet. The roe was surprising too, with just a hint of seafood flavor that added a nice dimension to the egg. We also decided it was egg-ception, since it was eggs on an egg filled with egg.
We also got the duck fat fries (in the pic), which came in a pretty sizable container with two dipping sauces. Essentially the fries and sauces tasted like fries, ketchup, and tartar sauce… if all of those things had been MADE BY GOD and dipped in AWESOMESAUCE. It’s tough to describe how exactly they were so different, especially since the regular peanut oil fries were pretty incredible too, but these were top notch and WILL be ordered the next time we go.
For our meals, my brother got the chicken club sandwich with avocado and herb aioli. It was, as pictured, very tasty. It was a sizeable sandwich, making up for the lack of sides accompanying it. My brother is not a small guy, and he was totally satisfied with it. The aioli really added serious flavor to an already wonderful sandwich. Evi got the cheeseburger kids meal, which I’ll talk about in a minute, and I got the macaroni and cheese and the fried green tomatoes. Sadly, the macaroni and cheese (click for a pic) was just… alright for me.
Now we need to talk about the fried green tomatoes. Seriously. My mother is from south Georgia. Fried green tomatoes and I are good friends. Generally speaking, they are only acceptable when coated in cornmeal and salted. While I love them anyway, I’m pretty picky when they don’t come that way. These? No cornmeal. In fact, they were almost panko crusted? However, the quality and flavor of the tomatoes was excellent, and the buttermilk sauce underneath (which tasted to me like high quality goat cheese) was a perfect compliment to the slightly salty tomatoes. But then on top? Carmelized bacon candy.
CARMELIZED BACON CANDY.
Carmelized bacon candy. There is nothing not good about this stuff. I could have happily eaten it with a spoon all on it’s own. Salty, sweet, chewy, crunchy… the perfect flavor dimensions to take the food from good to mind-blowing. I watched, totally amused, as another woman at a nearby table ate hers with repeated expressions of utter bliss. My brother assures me I made the same silly-happy faces the whole time.
The only negative part of the whole experience, aside from the forgettable mac & cheese, was Evi’s cheeseburger kids meal. It came out on a toasted bun with a generous serving of fries and some great pickles. She LOVED the fries, thankfully. The burger though? Missing the cheese for starters, and despite being requested medium well, it was charred to bitterness on the outside and medium red on the inside. Not a burger I want my kid eating, which worked out since she thought the char tasted awful anyway. It was definitely a negative, and next time we’ll stick to the kids grilled cheese or pasta since those seem simpler.
Fortunately, there was more good to come with our dessert options. We had a really hard time choosing between the Smiths Island cake, a local specialty neither of us long-term Marylanders had heard of, and the brownie sundae which came with a scoop of the restaurant’s nearly legendary house-made ice cream. We consulted the kid, since who better to decide on dessert, and ended up going with the Smiths Island Cake… but couldn’t forego a chance at the ice cream so also shared a vanilla milkshake, which happens to be my very favorite flavor of shake.
The cake was smaller than I was expecting, so I started out a little disappointed since we’d planned to share it among the three of us, and Evi can really put away some cake. In case you don’t know (and we didn’t) Smith’s Island Cake is thin layers of yellow cake with thick fudge layers and, at least in this case, pieces of Heath bar (chocolate & toffee) inside. It was awesome. Super rich, very sweet, plenty for sharing thanks to tons of flavor. The super thin layers made the texture really interesting and Evi loved the stripes. We would definitely get this cake again, and now I’ll be on the lookout for it elsewhere too since we’re not too far from Smith’s Island.
Finally, with all of us feeling pretty close to maximum capacity, we finished things up with a house-made vanilla milkshake. I am easily impressed by vanilla milkshakes, but this one blew me away.
The whole thing started with toasted-on-the-spot marshmallow replacing the traditional (and not my favorite) whipped cream. We obviously ate that and drank a fair bit of the shake before I remembered to take a picture. The texture was unmatched, with a super creamy mouth feel that gave the shake an amazing texture. Sweet, but not crazy sweet and with zero of the artificial flavor of more commercial (think fast food) milkshakes. The homemade aspect was readily apparent and made the shake worth finishing despite none of us having an ounce of room for more incredible food.
All in all, we’ll be back as soon as we can. The meal was affordable (not cheap, but not steep), and Bryan Voltaggio did an incredible job ratcheting up the quality of recognizable foods to make the totally unforgettable. The restaurant had a great vintage diner feel, and is located in an area of the city that is easy to find and could really use a little pick-me-up from a great eatery. Definitely worth a try if you find yourself in Frederick.