MEALS ON WHEELS
Food trucks are an obvious choice for portable meals. But items such as crepes, gourmet hot dogs and sandwiches with fillings that turn bread to mush need to be eaten ASAP. Barbecue, on the other hand, is completely forgiving, reheating nicely in the microwave. However, that’s not the only option. Here are some of our favorite operators who cater to later.
Linda’s Luncheonette owner Linda Jo Kushner serves modern diner food in Montgomery County. Photo by Michael Ventura.
One of Corries Hardy’s trucks is a permanent fixture in the parking lot of the Montgomery Farm Women’s Cooperative Market in downtown Bethesda, but it’s only open when he fires up his outdoor pit smoker on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s too bad he can’t be doing business in Bethesda all week long, since Hardy’s smoked meats, slow cooked over hickory, oak and maple wood, are the best around. Ditto for the homemade sauces, particularly the mustard-based Florida Gold. If you call ahead, Hardy and his wife, Roxie, will assemble a family meal pack (see “catering services” on the website for details), which includes pulled meats by the pint, ribs, wings and whole chickens.
7155 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays, 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, www.hardysbbq.com, @hardysbbqdivine, 240-893-3182
Since 2011, the historic Bethesda Community Store has been offering pulled meat sandwiches and other barbecue items from a kitschy log cabin lookalike stationed in its parking lot. A Southern Yankee BBQ smoker at its side, fueled by red oak, turns out big slabs of meaty ribs, plus chickens that stay moist and smoky under their blackened skins. Traditional renditions of potato salad, coleslaw and cornbread taste like old-fashioned picnic fare. Beyond side dishes that can be ordered in family- or party-size containers, BCS also sells smoked brisket and pulled chicken and pork by the pound.
8804 Old Georgetown Road, Bethesda, 301-564-1009, www.bethesdacommunitystore.com
In addition to ready-to-cook crabcakes and salmon burgers, longtime seafood truck operator Missy Carr sells deconstructed lobster rolls (the lobster meat served separate from the roll), and fish taco and shrimp taco kits that are assembled right before eating. The kit containers come with two flour tor-tillas, cooked seafood (seasoned
mahimahi or shrimp) and individual lidded cups of lime-cilantro slaw, cheddar-jack cheese and chipotle aioli. They’re a good catch.
Silver Spring resident Linda Jo Kushner and her colorful polka-dot truck have been cheerfully delivering modern diner food to Montgomery County customers for the last two years. Kushner will pack her homey offerings in easy-to-reheat packaging, such as putting the sloppy Joes filling in a container apart from the bun, or selling separated family-size portions of turkey meatloaf, mashed potatoes, salads, and macaroni and cheese. “We want customers to have comfort food the way they like it,” she says.
DINNER IN A POCKET
Every culture has dough-pocket food. Rockville’s plethora of ethnic markets carry extensive selections of these last-minute dinners in their freezer cases. Here are some pockets and places to explore.
KIELBASA FACTORY – PIEROGI
Aside from a slew of sausages, this endearing Polish grocery has freezers full of pierogi, with mushrooms and sauerkraut among the fillings, as well as the more familiar potato and cheese.
1073 Rockville Pike, 240-453-9090, Rockville, www.kielbasafactory.com
MOTI'S MARKET – BLINTZES AND BOREK
Formerly called KosherMart, this shopping center supermarket stocks at least seven brands of frozen blintzes, with every imaginable filling (think vegetables with mushroom sauce), as well as a sizable selection of borek, those savory Turkish phyllo pastries often stuffed with spinach and feta.
4860 Boiling Brook Parkway (Randolph Hills Shopping Center), Rockville, 301-468-0400, www.motismarket.com
EUROPEAN DELIGHT – PELMENI
In addition to freshly prepared foods such as stuffed cabbage, beet salad and soups, European Delight carries several kinds of frozen dumplings, including Russian pelmeni. With thinner dough than pierogi, pelmeni can be boiled or pan-fried, and served in a broth or with sour cream.
1488 Rockville Pike, Rockville, 301-230-9371
GREAT WALL, KAM SAM AND MEIXIN SUPERMARKETS – DUMPLINGS, BUNS AND EGGROLLS
Stock your freezer for a dim sum dinner from any of these trip-worthy Asian markets, which are located within a couple blocks of each other. Great Wall, the most eye-catching of the stores, has the largest selection.
Great Wall Supermarket, 700 Hungerford Drive, 240-314-0558, Rockville, www.gw-supermarket.com; Kam Sam Supermarket, 300 N. Washington St., Rockville, 301-315-9558; Meixin Supermarket, 460 Hungerford Drive, Rockville, 301-279-0110
Five specialty markets that offer plenty of options for delicious meals to go
By evening, this deli known for its lunchtime sandwiches has transitioned to a dinner depot. If you find chicken stew on the hot food bar, get it; with carrots, Brussels sprouts, and soft pieces of poultry, it’s like a home-cooked meal. Refrigerator cases stock ready-made salads and assemble-your-own pho, plus all kinds of appetizers. The 90-year-old Wagshal’s institution also runs a small market in the same shopping strip as the deli that carries top-quality meats and seafood, and a new barbecue carryout, Pitmasters Back Alley BBQ, in an alley behind the shopping strip. And at press time, the deli was expanding into the space next door, with plans to offer more grab-and-go items.
4855 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., 202-363-5698, www.wagshals.com
THE BROAD BRANCH MARKET
You’ve got to love a corner grocery that sells lint rollers and laundry detergent along with organic quinoa and candy necklaces. The Broad Branch Market has all that and more, including a good-sized selection of homemade salads and main courses, plus fresh meat, seafood and produce. A fun place to explore, find a gift or grab some dinner, the market—and its adjacent ice cream and candy shop—is an after-school gathering place, and a neighborhood fixture. A market in various incarnations since 1919, it was bought and renovated in 2008 by Tracy Stannard and John Fielding, who expertly updated it for the 21st century.
5608 Broad Branch Road NW, Washington, D.C., 202-249-8551, www.broadbranchmarket.com
LITTLE RED FOX
The kitchen team headed by Executive Chef Anne Alfano at this charmingly rustic market whips up creative seasonal specials that just seem to click. Among the side-dish winners this past winter were slices of butternut squash layered with pomegranate seeds, dill and feta, and turnips roasted and swirled with pesto. The market offers at least four dinner options every day after 3 p.m., often devised from whatever local farmers have delivered, and there’s always lovely smoked tomato soup, roasted Amish chickens, macaroni and cheese, and beet and kale salads.
5035 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., 202-248-6346, www.littleredfoxdc.com
GEMELLI'S ITALIAN MARKET
Opened in February 2014 by Maurizio and Monica Calcagno, this traditional Italian market offers fresh pastas, sauces, sausages, frozen entrees, calzones, subs and marinated salads. The Calcagnos also make their own burrata and mozzarella, and a small grocery section carries olive oils, vinegars, coffee, condiments and a nice selection of Italian wines. There’s indoor and outdoor seating, so you can enjoy an espresso and a just-filled cannoli before heading home.
12169 Darnestown Road (The Shops at Potomac Valley), Gaithersburg, 240-246-7674, www.gemellisitalianmarket.com
PARKWAY DELI & RESTAURANT
The comforting fare at this venerable deli hits the spot on a rainy day. The hot food carryout counter is always stocked with roast chicken, matzo ball soup, stuffing, chili and vegetables; the mashed potatoes are terrific and chunky, and the creamy macaroni and cheese has lots of kid appeal. Better yet is the extensive carryout menu with items made to order, and the mesmerizing dessert counter will be difficult to resist. And yes, you can carry out pickles from the restaurant’s pickle bar—for $3.79 a pound.
8317 Grubb Road, Silver Spring, 301 587-1427, www.parkwaydeli.com
A TALE OF TWO MARKETS
“IT'S A SOAP OPERA. It could be a reality show,” says Tom Spencer, owner of Potomac Grocer, of the saga between his market and the one across the street.
The drama unfolded last fall, when Jeff Grolig, owner of the 16-year-old River Falls Market in Potomac, was undergoing a messy divorce. Before Grolig’s shop—which sold seafood and prepared foods—closed abruptly in October, three of his top staffers, including the executive chef, went to work at Potomac Grocer. The general manager and lead prep cook soon followed.
Then in December, Jim McWhorter, vice president of business development for Coastal Sunbelt Produce, and his wife, Yasmin Abadian, a Potomac real estate agent, took over Grolig’s lease and reopened the shop as The Market at River Falls. Four of those staffers who had gone to work at Potomac Grocer returned, as well as about a dozen other original employees, and it was back to business as usual. The general manager stayed at Potomac Grocer.
But since recipes traveled as well as staff back and forth across River Road, the result is that the two high-quality markets now sell many of the same or similarly prepared foods.
Nonetheless, there are differences. Potomac Grocer has a sparser feel; The Market at River Falls seems cozier and more fully stocked. Potomac Grocer sells sandwiches and boutique cheeses; The Market offers sushi and more fresh produce.
It’s probably too early to tell how it will all shake out, as McWhorter and Abadian have plans to host special events and expand catering. At press time, they had added more salads, local products and organic items, and were awaiting a beer and wine license. But the proprietors of both markets agree that there’s room for two specialty stores in a town that boasts one of the highest per capita incomes in the country.
We did compare the taste of a few items from the markets, but didn’t find significant differences. We slightly preferred our scoop of The Market’s Crunchy Vegetable Salad, with its more generous addition of cranberries, raisins and sunflower seeds, over the same salad from Potomac Grocer. And The Market’s chicken tenders, with their somewhat darker and crisper coating and creamier, less-sweet honey-mustard dipping sauce, won by a bite.
Both markets produce comparable crabcakes and salmon cakes, but those from Potomac Grocer had the edge, with more seafood and less filler.
Fledgling food artisans are increasingly selling their wares at farmers markets, and some offer delightful and unexpected dinner options. Most of these items are available frozen (or can be frozen), so you can stock up for easy, last-minute meals. While you’re at a market, grab fresh ingredients for a salad, which pairs well with these options.
GRANDMA VERA'S BAKERY – BRAZILLIAN EMPANADAS
Growing up in Potomac, Nathaniel Port would help out at his grandmother’s restaurant, Vera’s Bakery & Cafe in Severna Park, where he learned how to make her native Brazilian specialties. Port speaks fondly of his late grandma, and he’s done her proud. Replicating her fantastic dough recipe, he makes pretty, buttery empanadas packed with fillings such as corn, hearts of palm, Gruyere and smoked Gouda, or shredded jerk chicken, onions and tomatoes. The fresh spinach, potatoes, onions and Parmesan empanada sells well to parents, who tell Port it’s a hit with their finicky and normally veggie-averse kids.
www.grandmaveras.com. Markets: Kensington, Rockville, Bethesda Central, Shady Grove
SEXY VEGIE – VEGAN SOUPS
Add Ashwini Persaud to the list of artisan food producers who have ditched their office jobs for the kitchen. Persaud, a 10-year employee of Morgan Stanley on Wall Street, now makes vegan soups, stews and patties that are smartly jazzed up with a spunky name and logo. The flavors aren’t timid, either, whether it’s a Moroccan stew thick with chickpeas and portobello mushrooms, or an Army-green lentil soup simmered with cumin and coconut milk. Aside from several seasonal soups, Persaud sells a changing array of vegan patties, such as sweet potato and kale, or curried potato and chickpea.
www.sexyvegie.com. Market: Bethesda Central
LES CAPRICES DE JOELLE – QUICHE
Joelle Coats’ waffles sell like hotcakes during the morning at farmers markets, but it’s also worth thinking about buying one of the Belgian caterer’s rich and cheesy quiches for dinner, particularly the spinach version that’s made with Asiago, fontina, provolone and Parmesan. Although small, a single pie can feed two, especially with a side of Coats’ veggie-packed pureed leek soup, one of her top sellers.
www.les-caprices.com. Markets: Kensington, Chevy Chase/Broad Branch, Bethesda Central, Shady Grove
SOUTHERN CROSS BAKERY – AUSTRALIAN MEAT PIES
Through Facebook and by word of mouth, Aussies living everywhere from Pennsylvania to southern Virginia have discovered John and Julianne Clarke’s Southern Cross Bakery. The Clarkes, who live in Kensington, started the business last year as a “bit of fun,” plus they couldn’t find a decent meat pie or sausage roll in America, according to John. The pies’ delicate crusts hide chicken and bacon, minted lamb, chicken curry or bacon and egg; the one-person portions are homey and satisfying, even for those who don’t hail from Down Under. “We have a very dedicated band of locals who come back week after week,” John Clarke says. “Part of our mission is to get Americans to eat meat pies.”
southerncrossbakery.com. Market: Kensington
GUIDE TO FARMERS MARKETS
Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Chevy Chase/Broad Branch: 5701 Broad Branch Road NW (at Lafayette Elementary School)
Kensington: Train station on Howard Avenue
Rockville: Rockville Town Center, corner of Route 28 and Monroe Street (beginning May 16)
Sundays, 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Bethesda Central: 7600 Arlington Road (at Bethesda Elementary School)
Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., beginning May 6
Shady Grove: 9601 Broschart Road, Rockville
DINNER ON YOUR DOORSTEP
If you’re in the mood for a full-course meal, plenty of restaurants and delivery companies are willing to bring one to your home. With advances in technology and mobile devices, it’s never been easier. Spend a couple of minutes on a computer or cellphone, and then all you have to do is wait for the doorbell to ring.
We ordered meals for two from five delivery services—three online, two via phone apps—and found all to be mostly glitch-free, both in the ordering and the delivery. (That’s not to say that unpredictable traffic and weather won’t cause problems.) The selection of restaurants and the fees among the services vary (although there is some overlap), and the newer websites and apps tend to offer more bells and whistles.
WAITER ON THE WAY
This pioneering Gaithersburg firm, which opened in 1989, was the first food delivery company in Maryland and one of only a handful in the country at the time. Waiter on the Way drivers pick up food from about 60 restaurants in Montgomery County, most of which are located in Rockville, Gaithersburg and Germantown. About half of the company’s delivery business is now last-minute catering for office luncheons and meetings.
Restaurant: Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar, North Bethesda
Online ordering experience: The company called after we placed our order to say that the payment method we selected (by personal check) was no longer accepted, and a credit card number was needed. While we were on the phone, we alerted the caller that the online order said the food was coming from the Paladar in Gaithersburg, not North Bethesda, which was much closer to us. It’s unclear whether a change was made, but our order arrived 15 minutes late; the driver was very apologetic.
Rules and fees: $10 minimum order, $5.99 delivery fee, service fee (6 percent of both the food total and the delivery fee). Higher minimum orders and a $9.99 delivery fee, plus a service fee, may apply for residents who live outside the delivery area of restaurants on the roster.
Cost: $54.95 for food, $9.65 for fees, $3.52 tax, plus tip
How to order: www.waiteronthewaymd.com, call 866-546-7854 or fax 301-869-0604
This longtime delivery service, once a franchise operation, has an independently-owned location in Kensington that serves Montgomery County and Northwest Washington, D.C. Using contract drivers, the company makes about 1,500 deliveries a week, half of which go to Bethesda locations.
Restaurant: Trattoria Sorrento, Bethesda
Online ordering experience: The online ordering format is identical to Waiter on the Way, but with more Bethesda restaurants (as many as 60) included. Our order arrived 15 minutes earlier than the requested time, and the company called 10 minutes before delivery to say the food was on its way.
Rules and fees: $15 minimum order, $5.99 delivery fee, service fee (9 percent of food total)
Cost: $41.85 for food, $9.76 for fees, $2.51 tax, plus tip
How to order: www.mealstoyou.com, call 301-571-0111 or fax 301-571-0132
Founded in 2004, GrubHub operates in more than 800 U.S. cities, with a list of approximately 30,000 restaurants. Unlike Waiter on the Way and Takeout Taxi, GrubHub does not have a fleet of delivery drivers; it acts as an ordering intermediary, and the restaurant (or a third party) delivers your food. The behemoth’s brands include Seamless, DiningIn and Restaurants on the Run (other online delivery services), plus Allmenus and MenuPages, both of which are menu listing sites.
Restaurant: Brickside Food & Drink, Bethesda
Online ordering experience: There’s a selection of more than 60 restaurants in our area, accompanied by GrubHub and Yelp reviews, lots of filter choices, and lists of the most popular dishes at each restaurant. A cheerful confirmation email was received after ordering, plus a subsequent text message: “Our crystal ball estimates your delivery time between 8:10 p.m. and 8:20 p.m.” It arrived earlier, at 7:55.
Rules and fees: Depending on the restaurant, minimum order requirements range from none to $25. Delivery fees are up to the restaurant; some don’t charge.
Cost: $38.85 for food, $8.32 for fees, $2.33 tax, plus tip
How to order: www.grubhub.com; iOS and Android apps are also available.
ORDERING BY APP
Launched in 2011, this San Francisco company promises its contract drivers will deliver anything from food to flowers to first-aid supplies within an hour, while you track their location via GPS. Postmates became available in the Washington area in late 2013, and what makes it so different from other local services is the scope of the delivery area. We ordered dinner from a restaurant in downtown’s Penn Quarter.
Restaurant: Zaytinya in Washington, D.C.
App ordering experience: Fun! After placing the order at 4:40 p.m., we tracked “Siarra,” our courier (whose picture appeared on the bottom of the Google map), minute by minute before and after she picked up the order at 5:15. The promised delivery time was 5:40, but “Luke” from the company’s San Francisco headquarters called to say that Siarra was running late. It was rush hour and raining. When the app indicated “delivery in two minutes,” Google showed Siarra about two blocks away.
Rules and fees: It can be expensive. Delivery fees, which start at $5, are determined by the distance from pickup to drop-off. There also is a service fee totaling 9 percent of the food charge.
Cost: $31.50 for food, $23.12 for fees, $3.15 tax, plus tip
How to order: Free iOS and Android apps available on www.postmates.com
In February, Yelp bought Eat24, an online food delivery site established in 2008 with about 20,000 restaurants in 1,500 cities. Not surprisingly, each restaurant includes its Yelp star rating and reviews, and you can sort choices by “top-rated” and other filters. Each menu item includes how many people have ordered it. Like GrubHub, Eat24
depends on restaurants (or third parties) to do the deliveries, so there is some overlap in the selection of dining establishments offered by the two services.
Restaurant: Bethesda Curry Kitchen
App Ordering Experience: Most of the restaurants listed in our zone were for placing pickup orders; fewer provided delivery. A confirmation email included links to order status. Our order arrived 15 minutes late; South Street Steaks, next door to Bethesda Curry Kitchen, handled the third-party delivery.
Rules and fees: Minimum orders range from $10 to $20; delivery fees range from free to $6.49
Cost: $35.98 for food, no fees, $2.16 tax, plus tip
How to order: eat24.com/mobile/