Matchbox: Can Matchbox Rockville Deliver the Heat?

I am really fired up about having a hot new restaurant on Rockville Pike.  In fact, I had such a burning desire to get to Matchbox during opening week, that I was willing to put up with crowds, the potential for poor service, and the likelihood that the food would not yet be up to par. So, I lit up when we were able to get a table for six this past Sunday night.

I couldn’t decide which of these imaginative fiery phrases to use when describing Matchbox in Rockville, so I threw them all in.  I’m done- for now.

Truth be told, I really was excited from the moment that I heard that this popular DC restaurant was heading to Congressional Plaza.    My office is in Rockville, so I have a standard list of go-to places for lunch (Urban Barbecue, Ambrosia, Mem Sahib, Pho’ Hoa, and La Brasa to name a few.)  I also take out the California Chicken Salad at White Flint Mall on a regular basis.  Dinner in Rockville opens up a few more possibilities, particularly when you take into account the options uptown at Rockville Town Center (Spice Xing, Thai Pavilion, and La Canela).

Matchbox has the potential to bring a little more flare to the area with casual American fare in a suburban locale that feels like downtown.  Clearly Montgomery County residents were starved for this because at 5:15 on a Sunday night there was barely a table to be had.  By 7:15 the entrance way was filled with people waiting for tables.  All this in an establishment that seats more than 400 people. It really is too bad that Againn Tavern can’t get it right–they could at least get some of the overflow.

The place is hopping. Our group is led through a maze of rooms to the far side of the restaurant, a fair distance from the entrance.  It feels surreal to be in a familiar part of town in such unfamiliar surroundings.

The appetizers on the menu have zero options for the two non-meat eaters in our party . Apparently this is not always the case, but the menu changes according to availability of ingredients. We order mini-burgers for the rest of us.  They are served rare and with cheese.  The only problem is that we ordered them medium and without cheese.  They are covered in onion rings, which are nice and salty but fairly cold.  We would have mentioned this to our server, but we devour them before we have a chance. The toasted brioche is quite good and the burger has nice flavor.  Some heat would have made this starter ideal.

Our initial inclination is to order three of the same pizza because it appeals to us all.  The  Fire and Smoke Pizza features fire roasted red peppers, spanish onions, chipotle pepper tomato sauce, garlic puree, smoked gouda, fresh basil, and a warning:  very spicy.  In the interest of variety, and to save ourselves from overdoing the spicy, we order one Veggie pizza which consists of cremini mushrooms, spanish onions, roasted poblano peppers, roasted garlic, mozzarella, fresh herbs, and fingerling potato crisps. We also order two tuna nicoise salads, one Matchbox chopped salad, and one simple salad (their words, not mine).

Fire and Smoke Pizza

The pizzas arrive and once again the restaurant fails to deliver the heat.  The veggie pizza in particular is served lukewarm.  The Fire and Smoke Pizza, is as promised, very spicy.  A warning: this may be too spicy for the fainthearted.  I wished, as I always do, that the pizza stayed crispy in the center, but that is not the case.  Both pizzas deliver on flavor, if not on temperature.

veggie pizza

One salad does not come as ordered with dressing on the side. They are cordial about taking it back but not so speedy on returning the new one to the table.  The server apologizes and explains that the kitchen is having challenges. I’m actually surprised that more doesn’t go wrong.

At this point we agree that the meal has been good if not perfect.  We can’t leave without at least trying some dessert so we order a trio that includes a molten chocolate cake, doughnuts, and a sorbet trio (it’s a trio within a trio).  I have to say that the desserts are a highlight of the meal- each one a little better than the next and worth the calories.

Matchbox Rockville has great potential. I’m sure that it will be the hot place on Rockville Pike for a long time to come.  I’ll be back, in fact I already have a reservation for lunch next week.  If they can figure out how to get the food a little hotter to match the buzz, we’ll really have something to strike up a conversation about.
 Matchbox Rockville, 1699 Rockville Pike at Congressional Plaza
My rating (on a 1-5 scale):   3.6

Matchbox Rockville on Urbanspoon

Speak Your Mind


Questions or comments?
Send an email to