Once I’ve decided where I’m going on a trip, one of the first things I do is figure out where to eat. Sometimes I’m trying to make sure everyone’s dietary needs and wants are being met, sometimes I want to try regional specialties or famous restaurants, and sometimes I just want to make sure we can avoid tourist traps at meal time. Overall, I’m motivated by my deep love of food and desire to eat things representative of where I am. I spent part of yesterday looking at places to eat in Paris, and found myself overwhelmed. Most of the articles I read were either discussing Michelin starred restaurants that require reservations months in advance and cost a small fortune, or (on the other end of the spectrum) offer vague advice like “find a sandwich shop and have a picnic”. It was difficult to find specific recommendations in the budget to splurge-for-someone-on-a-budget price points.
While I can’t claim enough knowledge of Parisian dining to do a review (though I can recommend Le Petit Journal for great atmosphere food if you’re staying in Montparnasse), I have lived in a few cities long enough to give a few recommendations for affordable, delicious, and convenient food.
Frederick is a small city in Northern Maryland with many cultural events and is conveniently located near many civil war sights. I’ve had the opportunity to eat at many of the restaurants in the downtown area, and have a few that I strongly recommend.
In my opinion, Ayse is the best restaurant in Frederick. The Meze restaurant has a great atmosphere, outdoor seating in the summer, and phenomenal food. Their wine list is filled with unique bottles from the Mediterranean, including a Turkish wine that’s become a favorite of mine. If going with a group, I definitely recommend doing Meze properly and ordering a bunch of small plates. I’ve never had something I didn’t like, and their specials menu always offers new things to try. The Brussel sprouts are a particular favorite, and if you still have room for desert, the Chocolate Bundino is incredibly rich. It’s difficult to estimate a price for meze because the small plates range in price, but as a guideline sandwich meals are about $11. Ayse is absolutely an affordable indulgence.
An honerable mention in this category is Olive’s for great Italian food (especially the Tiramisu) but be sure to leave before it becomes a weird night club.
For casual dining or food on the go, Doner Bistro is right on the creek with outdoor seating and literal buckets of food. This German owned and themed shop also features German beer, candy, and soda. I ate way more Doner than was healthy when I lived in Poland, and the Chicken Doner box always makes me think about the great time I had in Europe. They offer hot and mild options, and perfectly layer the sauce in with the fries and meat, so every piece is adequately covered.
If you need a place to settle in for happy hour, The Wine Kitchen has good food, a cozy atmosphere, and a phenomenal happy hour that runs during the day on the weekend and includes appetizers. You can easily get something delicious to sip and food too much on for less than $10, including tip. It’s also right on the creek, and the location makes it a great place to sit outside with a cocktail and watch the sun set.
There are many Brunch options in Frederick, and I’ve heard rave reviews about Lazy Fish, Acacia, and had great meals at Family Meal (more a diner than a true brunch), but I always end up back at Nola when trying to show off the town. Their lattes are huge and delicious, and their quiche is fantastic. I always struggle to pick just one meal, whether selecting from the lunch or dinner options. There’s usually a small wait, but they take your phone number and let you wander around town.
Take Out (Or Eat In)
Lucky Corner is a bit off the main drag, but by far the best Asian food in Frederick. Though a Vietnamese restaurant in name, they offer delicious food in all styles. After moving to the area, I tried at least six Chinese/That/Vietnamese restaurants and had almost given up hope of finding decent take out. When I met friends for dinner here earlier this summer, the relief was almost palpable.
Frederick has a decent number of fine dining options if you’re looking for something a bit nicer. Ayse can be a splurge if your budget is tight, but the Tasting Room, Firestone’s, and Volt are all excellent choices for a night out when budget is less of a concern. Firestone’s was recently listed in Wine Spectator as having a particularly great wine list, and Volt is owned and run by a chef who won Top Chef. I can’t say I’ve feasted at these establishments often (because they can be seriously pricey) enough to have a set opinion on which is best, but the Tasting Room was recently remodeled and the menu and design look incredible.
For all the restaurants I’ve been to, there are even more I’ve yet to experience. I’m dying for high tea at the Cafe Anglais (though Serendipity’s was good!) and want to squeeze it in before the weather gets too cold to eat in the garden. Now if only I can find something like this for Paris…