With Bryan Voltaggio — by now probably Frederick’s favorite son — opening yet a third restaurant in town, you might expect that he has outdone himself on the local restaurant scene.
Apparently not. As a counterpoint to his upscale VOLT, and ubercasual Lunchbox, Family Meal is aimed to fit into Middle America’s food scene: fried chicken, burgers, deviled eggs, doughnuts and whatever else comes and goes on the menu.
The menu does change items occasionally, a waitress assured a couple at a nearby table. And from the first to the recent second visit, that is evident.
Changing out a few dishes on the menu may inspire any chef to be creative, but sometimes patrons long for a bygone dish, which may be a seasonal issue. True, the fried green tomatoes from a September visit may not suit a November lunch. And the chilled corn chowder should really make way for the more seasonal carrot or broccoli soup or a rib-sticking venison chili, all of which speak about colder weather and comfort foods.
The appetizer selection, too, has been trimmed. Gone are the tomatoes, of course, but also missing is the tuna tartare. What’s left are the pimento cheese and pickles with a bacon-sorghum jam, quite yummy; deviled eggs; and chicken potpie fritters. The eggs are as good as granny’s any day, benefiting from a chopped and crispy bacon garnish. And clearly the chicken potpie fritters have a fan club, as these were a topic of discussion at a nearby table.
Looking to keep your meal and waistline trimmed? The menu lists five salads, replacing the summertime heirloom tomato with an autumn heirloom carrot-beet salad. Other choices include a wedge with bacon and Gorgonzola cheese; chopped salad of veggies, ham and a hard-boiled egg and a Caesar with kale and Parmesan cheese.
As for lunchtime entrées — many of which make it to the dinner menu — you’ll find rockfish, shrimp and grits, mushroom risotto and the fried chicken, which seems to be a standard item on the menu. Its crumb coating is crispy but could use an additional dash or two of seasoning. It’s a full plate of chicken, however, and the hungry patron gets to sample a vinegary-hot dipping sauce in an accompanying ramekin. The must-have buttermilk-based cheese biscuits are tender and delicious, and — hint, hint —perhaps should be served in a bread basket for patrons waiting for their meal.
The hamburger is another entrée option, but the newer version needs more melting cheese and crispy bacon and caramelized onions to bring it back to its earlier glory. Of course, it’s hard to argue that any hamburger is not the ultimate American comfort food.
Concluding any meal here requires a homespun dessert, and while the lemon meringue pie has been replaced by a lemon tart with ricotta, other choices include red velvet cake, a honey crisp apple cobbler, and an option called chocolate Earl Grey donuts. Flavored with Earl Grey tea, these are really doughnut holes and the hazelnut pudding listed as an accompaniment is a diminutive portion.
Note that the restaurant can be crowded and sometimes noisy. But at least you will have plenty of parking room, since the quarters are in a vacated car dealership’s space.