Restaurant Review – Fire Station One, Silver Spring

Fire Station One in Silver Spring is an interesting place that seems to be trying to find its identity.

The restaurant/bar is housed in a converted fire station on Georgia Ave in Silver Spring. The building was originally a National Guard Armory, but was converted into a fire station back in 1919. The fire station moved to a new location across the street a number of years ago, and the building was sitting vacant until construction started on the restaurant.

Due to the history of the building, and the fact that the restaurant embraces it’s fire-house roots – the space is pretty cool. There is a large, open lower level dining room/bar area and an upstairs loft style bar with more room for seating. An outdoor patio area sits outside the large glass garage doors of the old station. There is even a fire truck parked outside.

Admittedly – Fire Station One is a neat place to meet friends for drinks or catch happy hour. The bar offers a decent selection of beers including many from the local Hook & Ladder brewing company. (Rumor has it that the Hook & Ladder team was originally more involved in the project, but are now just partners in beer arena).

Unfortunately, the menu strays a bit too far from the concept’s fire-house roots, resulting in some confusion about what the kitchen is trying to be. The menu features some fire house favorites, but is also peppered with fancier dishes that are out-of-place and (even worse) poorly executed.

The food in general is poorly executed, each item seemed a bland (and overly processed) rendition of what it should have been… If you go – stick to the burgers, steaks, ribs, chili etc… and the home-made potato chips are really nice! The pizza also had some fans on my recent visit, but the thick crusted versions are not suited to all of the toppings on the menu.

The good news is that I have seen improvement between visits, and I hold out hope that the kitchen will find it’s voice in the coming months. I really hope so because I work in close proximity to the place, and would like to have another good restaurant to add to the lunchtime rotation! Stay tuned.

http://firestation-1.com/

Fire Station 1 Restaurant & Brewing Co.
8131 Georgia Ave.
Silver Spring, MD 20910
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Restaurant Review – Againn (Rockville)

Local. Organic. Fresh. Sustainable. Delicious.

One of the new gastro-pubs in DC  set up another shop in the old Houston’s space on Rockville Pike! Againn Gastropub (pronounced “aguinn”, meaning ‘together’ or ‘with us’ in gaelic) opened its doors six weeks ago, and is a welcome addition to the suburban foodscape. Touting traditional pub fare inspired by fresh, local ingredients – they really hit the mark.

I have visited the establishment twice so far – eating a delicious, relaxed dinner in the dining room the first time, and more recently, meeting friends in the bar for lunch and drinks. Both experiences were memorable, and the food was incredible both times. Every dish is done right… Made from scratch with the previously noted organic, sustainable and local ingredients.

Today, the bar area beckoned… We selected from the extensive beer menu on which seasonal drafts and interesting craft beers mingle with international heavy-hitters to complete a well-rounded beer list. *It should be noted that a lovely selection of pre-prohibition era cocktails and wines by the glass or bottle are available as well*. Our bartender for the day was Fabian – knowledgeable and passionate about good spirits – he is on a mission to make sure we all expand our drink (beer/wine/cocktail) horizons – pushing you if need be to try new versions things you already like.

Waiting for friends we slow-played lunch… starting with Crispy Brussel Sprouts and Spinach and Artichoke dip. The crispy sprouts were my favorite – crispy leaves (almost charred in places) encase perfectly cooked Brussel Sprouts and are tossed with what tastes like lemon, salt and pepper. The dish is served with a lightly curried mayonnaise that is the perfect complement to the dish. I enjoyed the creamy spinach and artichoke dip as well, but the Brussel Sprouts are a standout. (I NEVER though I would say that!)

Lunch entrée orders included the Pan-Crisped Ham and Cheese Sarine (sandwich), a wonderful lamb based Shepherd’s Pie, a craft burger (featuring grass-fed beef), and a (daily special) sandwich piled with home-made pastrami.

The hot Ham and Cheese sandwich is made with brown bread, house made ham, and jasper hill cave-aged cheddar cheese. It is served with a homemade pickle and nicely fried “chips” (fries!). The cheese really makes this sandwich, seeping out of the bread and frying to a crisp on the bread, while still maintaining a melty-gooey texture in the sandwich itself. The fries and pickle round out the meal nicely, but be careful – the pickle is spicy-hot! The Shepherd’s Pie was served bubbling away in its own dish, with a gold and crispy mashed potato crust hiding a treasure trove of tender ground lamb underneath. (I was thankful to have been able to sneak a bite or two of this amazing dish!).

The home-made pastrami sandwich was served on grilled brown bread with arugula, thinly shaved red onions and  rustic mustard, and the grass-fed beef burger was beautifully cooked and served on a soft brioche bun. I have it on good authority that both dishes were wonderfully executed and I can attest to the fact that they were well received.

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I would be remiss if I neglected to note the sumptuous potted pork or steamed mussel appetizers I enjoyed during my first visit. Likewise, the extensive Scotch selection can not be overlooked. There is also the fact that special menus for Brunch and Sunday Roast are in the works.

Againn Gastropub is the place I would want to own. Honest and delicious food served in a warm and relaxed environment. It is a place that I intend to visit over and over again (no pun intended!)  :)  Be aware that menus will change with the seasons, but you are sure to find interesting selections every time you visit.

http://againntavern.com/



12256 Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20852

301.230.9260

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Elevation Burger

In the last few years a number of burger joints have been popping up across the region. Some are unabashedly greasy fast-food, some purport to be healthy versions of the standard, and others boast true gourmet fare. Each brand has it’s own spin on the classic burger and fries, and I stopped in to visit one of the newer additions to the scene – Elevation Burger – to see what it was all about.

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I was not sure what to expect. Why the name Elevation Burger? (There ARE elevators in the townhouses next to the Park Potomac location… was the name a play on that?) I quickly learned that the Park Potomac shop is one of many, and the name is much more serious than an architectural joke. The name references the companies belief that by consciously eating the right things, treating ingredients the right way, building responsibly, and minimizing waste, that we will be elevating ourselves. It’s a whole higher consciousness / hippy-chic thing… and I am *kindof* buying into it.

Elevation Burger is serious about their mission. They serve burgers made with 100% USDA Certified Organic, Free Range, Grass Fed beef that they grind on site daily. They hand cut  fries and deep fry them in heart-healthy olive oil (the used oil is then recycled – used to create bio-diesel fuel). They even have a soda option that is free of High-Fructose Corn Syrup. That means no hormones, no pesticides, no trans-fats… nothing unknown and scary in the food. It should also be noted that there is a serious lack of plastic in the building – even the serving trays are metal. This will ease the “bad plastic” concerns of some diners.

In addition to the organic Beef burger, Elevation Burger serves TWO veggie burgers – one with “fire roasted taste” and one that “tastes like veggies” (the only vegan option). To order, select your burger patty, and then customize – Choose 1-10 patties (a mix of beef and veggie if you like) and add real cheddar cheese as desired, and ask for your creation to be topped the way you like. *The topping/condiment list is not exhaustive, but they have enough choices to please the majority of diners. Check out the full menu here:

http://www.elevationburger.com/EB.php#ourmenu

Mr. Food Nerd and I both got “Elevation Burgers” – two patties with cheese, lettuce and tomatoes. We got one order of french fries because I was worried that the burgers would be too big, but they were perfect!

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Do not let the “enlightened” concept fool you into thinking that you are going to be eating rabbit food – these burgers are the real deal – juicy, greasy (in that good burger way), and yummy! All the elements work together – tender, flavorful meat covered in melty – slightly sharp – cheddar cheese, crisp lettuce, juicy tomatoes all sandwiched in a soft, yeasty bun. Keep the wrapping on because this can get messy!

The thin cut french fries notable as well – The olive oil that the potatoes are fried in adds a nice flavor component in the background and produces a fry that is crunchy on the outside and tender in the center.  I liked the fries SOO much that I panicked when we started running low and accused Mr. Food Nerd of eating them “too fast” *I am ashamed and I apologize*  :)

Now… some advice…. try not to sit inside. The dining area is nicely appointed with green/sustainable/leed friendly stuff, which is great – but the place is loud! An alarm echoes around the space every few minutes, an occasional crashing sound is heard when the potatoes are being freshly cut for new orders, and the staff YELLS out names as orders become ready. The noises all blend together in a cacophony of sound that became unpleasant as the place filled up. Most locations have outdoor seating which would be a quieter option.

Overall – I left happy, feeling that I had just had a nice burger, and that somehow I had done something good for myself and the environment. It’s  like going to a yoga class and drinking a glass of wheat grass juice, only so much tastier and a lot less sweaty.

If you would like to visit the new chain yourself, there are locations open in Arlington, Falls Church, Potomac/Rockville and National Harbor ready to serve. More locations will be opening soon. Also poke around their website for more information on their mission.

http://www.elevationburger.com/EB.php#locations

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