Category Archives: Restaurant Reviews

Cupcake Wars Frederick Style- Sweet Angela’s Cupcakery

For years Frederick managed to survive without a single cupcake store, but now we find ourselves in the enviable position of having two within 400 yards of each other.  I reviewed the original cupcake bakery, Angelcakes, here about ten months ago.  Since that time a newcomer opened up:  Sweet Angela’s Cupcakery.  Of course this begs the question;  which is better?   To answer that pressing question I first had to try the wares at Sweet Angelas.  Whereas Angelcakes is chrome , white and Tiffany blue the minute you walk in to Sweet Angela’s you are greeted by a sea of pink. It reminded me of a nursery of a couple who are expecting their first daughter: pink on the walls and bright pink boxes.

Pink is the theme at Sweet Angela’s

I picked up a four pack of their chocolate-chocolate, chocolate peanut butter, Southern Belle (red velvet) and yellow cake with chocolate frosting.  Cost $10.  On their menu they have five daily flavors and had a dozen specialty flavors but on the day I visited the only specialty flavor available was the chocolate peanut butter.  Drooling I headed for the office where we conducted a taste test.

I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to get all four on film.

I found the cupcakes to be incredibly moist. The icing was very sweet  but there was slightly less on the the cupcakes than Angelcakes which I liked (see my review of Angelcakes for my feelings on icing).  Two of the cupcakes, southern belle and chocolate peanut butter had  cream cheese based frosting as opposed to the standard buttercream. So who’s best?  Here is my take you decide what’s important to you:

Color:                                                     AC (What can I say?  I’m a guy I prefer blue)

Cupcake                                                  SA (Much moister than AC)

Icing                                                         SA

Price                                                         Tie ($2.50 each at both places)

Selection                                                 AC (seven standard varieties and specific rotating daily specials)


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Delicious Asian

Just wanted to say that I’ve been on an Asian kick lately.  In the space of a week I have eaten at both Lucky Corner and Sumittra.  I’ve reviewed Sumittra before and found it to be excellent.  I been back at least half a dozen times since that review  and it has never disappointed.  It has become our go to Thai place in Frederick (Sorry Thai Rice!).  However, this was the first time that I had been to Lucky Corner and I had to wonder what took me so long.  I sampled the chicken Pho, mango chicken, veggie egg noodles and veggie hot pot. I don’t have time to do a full review, but the food was uniformly delicious, the menu was filled with dozens of things I would have been happy to try, and the service was perfect.  I’m curious as to how it stacks up to the other two Vietnamese restaurants in Frederick?  Comments anyone?

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The Wine Kitchen

Wherein I break my own rule and review a chain restaurant.  I know this does not really fit my criteria of a chain:  there is one Wine Kitchen in Leesburg and they opened one in Frederick last month.  If you have been paying attention to my twitter feed you would know this review was coming.  First impressions were very good:  the space is  tastefully decorated in what I’d call  semi-modern style with lots of wood and metal.  Plenty of tables overlook Carroll Creek and in the other direction the open kitchen.  There also was a private room which looked like it could easily seat twenty or so.  When I was there is was still under construction.

The food was very good.  I started with the  butternut squash soup which turned out to be the highlight of my meal.  Rich creamy soup with fried goat cheese balls and a drizzle of olive oil.   I came close to licking the bowl on that one.  I also sampled the sheep’s milk agnilotti, the heritage pork belly and the Border Springs Farm lamb flatbread.  All three of which were delicious.  I cannot stand overcooked pasta and I am happy to report that the agnilotti was cooked perfectly.  The pork belly had a nicely crisped exterior and a juicy inside.   The menu is not huge, but there is plenty to choose from.

Of course, like the name implies this place is about wine.  The best way to enjoy this is get one of their flights.  These are groupings of three wines, thematically tied together.  They come in high quality glassware and each flight was accompanied by a little set of cards explaining the three different wines.  I ordered the Italian Renaissance, which was the only flight that had both white and red wine.  I had the white (Fuso Verdicchio) with the soup, which made for a terrific pairing.  The other two were reds.  The only down note was that I felt like the last wine of the flight, the Marabino Noto Nero D’Avola, was a little old and flat tasting.  I always have a little bit of a concern about freshness in places that have a lot of wine by the glass available on the menu, yet just keep the partially full bottles out on the counter with the corks  stuffed in them.  On the plus side there are lots of interesting flights to try:  Pinot Evil and a flight of three bubblies caught my eye.

The service was good and the lunch with appetizer, entrée and a flight of wine each came to about $40 each including tip.  All of us agreed that it is well worth a return trip.  On the way out we noticed a nice set of leather sofa surrounding a fireplace.  That would be the spot to while away some time while sampling their wines!!


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Coal Fire Pizza Mini-Review & Vacation

I am out of here until August!  Did eat at Coal Fire over the weekend.  The Margherita was outstanding; worth the trip alone.  I just love that thin, charred, crispy crust pizza.  Tons of fresh basil and the cheese was superb.  They make all their mozzarella in- house.  An absolute home run in my book.  Not as thrilled with their spicy sauce but maybe that was because I didn’t have anything on the pie but cheese.  I think with the right combination of toppings it could be better.  Pleased to see they have some local beers available as well.  See you in August.

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Sumittra Thai Restaurant

I have never been to Thailand.  I have never stayed at a Holiday Inn Express either, but I have eaten  a lot of Thai food around the United States.  It is my favorite Asian cuisine hands down.  The reason why I feel I have the need to say this is that I have always had the suspicion that maybe the Thai food I am used to and like is an Americanized distant cousin of authentic Thai food.  Sort of like what happened to Chinese cuisine when it came here.  I wouldn’t know the difference.  But I do know what I like in Thai food.  Anyway, with this disclaimer out of the way if you are still interested here are my impressions, likes and dislikes of Sumittra:

I have now eaten twice at Sumittra and am delighted to report that since my first experience the service has improved markedly.  They appear to have gotten their sea legs.  During my most recent visit the service was right where it should be.  During my visits I sampled a number of their offerings.  Some items I really loved and some not so much.   The highlights were the fried tofu appetizers: perfectly crispy and not greasy.  The drunken noodles- I loved the flavors and the heat; and their sweet and sour stir fry.   The latter was filled with perfectly cooked, yet still crispy, vegetables and covered with an excellent sweet and sour sauce.  The sauce was perfect.  Not too sweet and not too vinegary.  I used every last grain of rice soaking up all the drips of that sauce.  However, the dishes I wasn’t crazy about (the chicken satay and the Pad Thai) were all because of the same fault:  they were just too sweet.  I found the sauce on the satay to be too much sugary coconut and not enough peanut flavor.  The Pad Thai was, in the words of my dining companion, “cloyingly sweet.”  Having tasted it I would certainly agree.  I don’t think I could have eaten a whole plate of that.  Thai Rice on the Golden mile still has the best Pad Thai in town as far as I am concerned.  On the plus side the menu is large and there are easily a dozen or more dishes I am really eager to try.  I definitely will be back to try them.  I haven’t even gotten to the curry section yet!  Also of note is that almost every dish they offer can be made vegetarian.  No liquor license yet and both times I’ve been too stuffed to try dessert.

The restaurant is very tastefully decorated in oranges and blacks with tons of exposed brick.  It projects a modern, hip vibe.  My only beef with the ambience was that the last time I was there is was loud.  I mean really loud.  I think this was primarily due to one eight person group that was so raucous they bordered (the wrong side of the border too) on rude. This certainly isn’t Sumittra’s fault so I can’t hold that against them.  In hindsight I had no problems the first time I was there with the noise level.

To sum it up Sumittra Thai is an excellent and much needed addition to the downtown dining scene.  However, beware of dishes that have sweet flavors.  The chef just seems to go overboard with that taste. They are located at 12 East Patrick Street.  No website that I am aware of.

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Il Porto

Il Porto reminds me of a good offensive lineman:  just solidly doing their job over and over without much flash or fanfare.  I’ve eaten at Il Porto twice in recent months and both times came away with the same attitude:  good solid Italian-American comfort food.  From the gnocchi, to the baked ziti, to the eggplant parmesan to the salmon picatta everything I have eaten or sampled there was good. Not sublime, not terrible, but solidly good.  There is nothing fancy about their food; no avant garde foams or weird dishes, but what they do serve comes out just the way you expect Italian-American food to be.  I was also very surprised how reasonable their prices were.  Most entrees were in the $9-13 range.  The other thing that really stood out was the service.  It was impeccable both times we were there.   The wine list is decent.  They have a house red (which I did not try) and several wines by the glass.  The only quibble I have is that they didn’t have many reds by the glass available.  They did have a prosecco by the glass which was a pleasant find.

I also really like the ambiance of the restaurant.  It struck me as one of those neighborhood places you find in Boston or New York.  I think it’s due to the fact that when you look out the front windows all you see are trees and residences and no other commercial property.  It really makes it feel like a cozy neighborhood joint, which is exactly what it is!

Il Porto:  200 South Market Street, Frederick, MD 21701-6527 Phone: (301) 620-7480

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Sumittra Thai Cuisine

First of all I really  had no intention  of doing this review.  A full review on a brand new restaurant isn’t fair to anyone. However last Thursday we were walking downtown, hungry and decided to see if the new Thai restaurant that has been slowly assembling over the past couple of months was open.  Lo and behold it was, so we stopped on inside.  At that time we had no idea that this was their first day open.  The place was fairly empty when we first  arrived but soon it was packed.   About ten minutes after we were seated it became apparent that the staff (looked like one waitress for all 72 seats) was in the weeds.  It took an hour and a half for us to get two appetizers and two lunches, for which the waitress apologized profusely.  At one point people were giving up waiting to be seated and were leaving.

On the plus side we both felt the food was very good.  I had the drunken noodles which were pleasantly spicy with lots of perfectly done vegetables.  The fried tofu was light and crispy.  The spring roll was delicate, airy and full of crunch.  The only complaint I had was I felt that the noodles in the drunken noodles dish were a little overcooked and mushy.  Anyway I’m going to give them some time to get their rhythm and then I’ll be back.

Sumittra Thai Cuisine  located at 12 East Patrick Street.

UPDATE: Added full review  on May 16th.


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Shab Row Bistro and Wine Bar- Ouch

Wow- the Shab Row Bistro and Wine Bar, which I talked about here, got a not so kind review this past weekend by Tom Sietsema in the Washington Post.  You can read the full review here, but I think you have to be a subscriber (free) to read the whole article.  Some highlights:

[Referring to French Onion soup] …but the bowl’s thin broth, minimal onions and cap of blond cheese distance themselves from the classic.

Even sorrier is the cassoulet, which does a great imitation of a vegetarian casserole. We dig and dig and dig for any sign of meat and come up with just a morsel of shredded pork.

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Shab Row Bistro and Wine Bar

A few days ago Mrs. F and I had a rare childless evening.  So we decided to try someplace new.  Any place with wine bar in the title gets our vote so off we went to the Shab Row Bistro and Wine Bar on East Street in Frederick.  This newer restaurant was once the tasting room for Frederick Cellars, but they split the building.  Now  Frederick Cellars has its facilities completely on one side and the new restaurant on the other.

The owners have made some changes and the eating area is stylishly decorated with muted earth tones, pictures by local artists and a zinc bar.  They also have a four table outdoor dining area overlooking East street, but on the day we went it was just too darn hot to sit there.  They are serving a limited menu right now, but their website indicates that they plan to expand it in the fall.  We had a cheese plate, the crostini, a caprese salad special and the vegetable flatbread.  Plenty of food for two moderately hungry people.   The food was quite good.  They have a nice selection of cheeses to choose from and the three spreads that came with the crostini were excellent.  The flatbread was nice and I really appreciated that the vegetable topping had not been cooked into mush and was still crispy and flavorful. The service was also very attentive.  They had about 40 wines by the glass and Mrs. F and I had fun picking and sampling a variety.

While I thought the food prices were a little on the expensive side the wine prices were excellent.  Everything they had by the glass was available in 2 or 6 ounce pours and the wines by the bottle were really a good value.  Most restaurants sell wine by the bottle for double or even triple retail.  Shab Row’s prices were significantly less than that.  Furthermore they have a wine store in the back and they will pour you anything there for a $9 corkage fee.  I didn’t explore the wine store as we were having too much fun with the wines by the glass.  Their website also lists their happy hour times which look worthwhile.

Bottom line:  If you think of this as an excellent place to drink some wine with some decent finger food on the side you won’t be disappointed.


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Moxie Bakery & Cafe

Had a wonderful mid-morning bite to eat last week at the Moxie Bakery & Cafe.  I’ve driven by the place many times and its been on my (long) list of places to visit.  Sat outside with Mrs. F at one of their three curbside tables.  While North Market Street may not be the Champs-Elysees it was quite pleasant.  The fountain just north of the cafe provided a nice ambiance.  We sampled the chocolate croissant and the croissant bread pudding.  Both were good but the bread pudding was excellent.  Sometimes bread pudding can be too cloyingly sweet for my taste.  This one was just perfect and the croissant base made for an interesting texture.  Mrs F also had the egg white and roasted vegetable wrap which I sampled.  I though it was very good and was an excellent, healthy alternative to a fast food breakfast sandwich.  All in all it was a great place that we will return to.  There are too many other tempting pastries on the menu not to go back.

  Moxie is located at 629 North Market Street.  They are dog friendly and have a water bowl outside for canines.

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