Family Meal, Frederick, MD

Last night, I had a wonderful, delightful dinner at Family Meal, my third visit to this terrific restaurant in Frederick. (Wonderful, delightful, and terrific in the first sentence – where do you think review is going?)

We were there mostly to chat and catch up, and wanted to eat modest amounts of food. I had a single glass of 2011 Ponzi Pinot Gris ($11), a very drinkable wine, served in a water glass with only a modest fill, and far too expensive for its own good: it retails for around $15 per bottle; here, a bottle is priced triple-retail at $44. Bad, bad, bad, Family Meal. Very bad.

I raved to my friend about the Chicken Pot Pie Fritters (a bargain at $4.99), and they lived up to the advance billing. Spheres of childhood pleasure, this time around my only knock is that they were a touch on the salty side; that aside, they are a must-order for the first-time visitor to Family Meal. Please order these – you’ll thank me if you do.

And I’d never had the Fried Chicken (a bargain at $13.99) until last night, and damned if it didn’t live up to its stratospheric reputation. A half chicken, served with two delicious buttermilk biscuits, lightly accented throughout with some sort of herb and what might have been an extremely mild cheese, but I’m not sure about the latter. The four pieces of pleasure also came with a little tub of delicious homemade pickles, and a needless ramekin of what tasted like Texas Pete. The breast was huge, and moist throughout – this bird was clearly brined, or injected, or something, because the salty moisture had penetrated to the deepest breast meat. I’m delighted to add that I have the leg, the wing, and a biscuit left – I assure you they will not go to waste.

The sides at Family Meal, under the section marked “Share,” have been uniformly excellent, and such was the case last night. “Mighty Joe” Young Spinach ($3.99) is fresh leaves, golden raisins, hazelnuts, and a vegan’s heaven, as was the Roasted Root Vegetables ($4.99) of delicata squash, sweet potato, and turnip. I’ve ordered the root vegetables once before, and this time around they were much more finely diced – not better, not worse, just a bit different. When you come here, load up on these “share plates” because they represent outstanding value.

As I type this, and remember that our total bill, with tax, was in the $40s, I feel somewhat guilty for my comments about the wine pricing (I don’t plan out these reviews; I wing them as I go, never knowing what my following paragraph will be). All four items ordered were flat-out bargains, and this restaurant needs to make its money somewhere, so I’ll turn my comment right back around at myself, and say: Bad, bad, bad, Don. Very bad. But Family Meal is good, good, good, mon. Very good.

I love this restaurant.

Oh, I forgot to add that there was one major service glitch: I had finished about two-thirds of my Pinot Gris, which was sitting right next to my water, and they both looked exactly the same. A girl came by to refill my water, and poured it into my wine glass (I desperately tried to stop her, but was too late). She was embarrassed, and I just laughed about it so she wouldn’t feel bad, but I do think that I should have had a half glass or so brought back to me (not a full glass; just a half glass to finish my meal with), but when she walked away, nothing was ever done. Yes, of course I could have said something, but it would have been somewhat awkward given the situation. Not a complaint, just an observation that I think is worth mentioning to the staff for the future.

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