Family Meal: Shaking things up in Frederick

I have been on a bit of a blog break, which should not be confused with an eating break.  They are not the same thing.  For the past two weekends, rather than devote hours to writing, I have instead been glued to seasons three and four of “Parks and Recreation. ” I don’t know how I haven’t watched this before now.  I have a serious crush on Adam Scott, which is how I got here in the first place (I watched him in the movie “Friends with Kids” recently).  And don’t get me started on Rob Lowe.  He is LITERALLY the prettiest man on television today.  I watched most of the episodes on my IPad. This means that I can cook dinner, do laundry, and perform a number of other household tasks and pretty much keep my eyes on the show.  Note:  this is only for skilled multi-taskers, as there are risks of falling down steps or cutting oneself with a sharp knife.

I finished “Parks and Recreation” and immediately turned my attention to the equally enjoyable  but decidedly smarter “Newsroom” on HBO.  So now in a reverse action, I am taking a break from watching television to writing a review.

My husband and I agree that a few hours wandering around Frederick is a great way to spend the Sunday of Labor Day weekend.  There is no question that this is to include an early dinner at Bryan Voltaggio’s newest venture Family Meal.   Voltaggio may be best known for his participation in season 6 of “Top Chef.”  He’s also the executive chef of what is in my opinion one of the area’s best restaurants, Volt in Frederick.

The concept for Family Meal is a diner with a modern feel and some creative Southern twists to the food.  Alongside fried chicken and burgers on the menu are  crispy frog legs, fries in duck fat, and fried green tomatoes with pecan bacon candy. Voltaggio is the owner/operator but not the chef. Instead the kitchen is run by Chef de Cuisine: Adam Howard.


A recent review by “The Washington Post’s Tom Sietsema has me clamoring for a visit.  He says:

 The dish I would order every visit if my job didn’t require me to branch out would be Family Meal’s fried chicken. It’s a perfect spread: a half chicken joined by flaky buttermilk biscuits, a bouquet of pickled okra and green beans, plus a shot of stinging hot sauce, then crammed into a bright yellow ceramic bowl shaped like a bird. Every item is there for a good reason, and you’re a better man than I am if you leave a crumb behind. The trick to the chicken? A short soak in pickle brine.

Obviously I’m having chicken.  I also order a side of goat cheese gratin.  The question is what will my husband order, as the dinner menu is somewhat challenging for someone who doesn’t eat meat or shellfish.  He decides on rye cavatelli with brocolli rabe, pecorino, herbs and flowers. He pairs this with a salad featuring heirloom tomatoes and peaches.

The fried chicken arrives flanked by pickles instead of the okra and green beans featured in the Post review.  This is not a big deal…just saying.  The chicken has a lightly fried coating, and is distinguished by it’s perfectly tender meat.  I alternate between dipping it in the hot sauce and eating it as is, so I can better enjoy the flavors. I love hot sauce, but there are advantages to keeping this chicken “au naturale.”

Family Meal Fried Chicken

The goat cheese gratin is a disappointment.  I find the goat cheese flavor so mild that it is indistinguishable as goat cheese.  Plus, the dish is so bland that I find myself adding salt and pepper.

Family Meal Goat Cheese Gratin

My husband enjoys his salad, particularly the tiny sweet cherry tomatoes and peaches.  The dish tastes of summer, which actually makes us melancholy at the realization that this weekend is the unofficial end to the season.

Family Meal Heirloom Tomato Salad

He also enjoys the cavatelli which are highlighted by green beans and fava beans, along with some pretty flowers.  The portion looks small to me but he assures me that looks are deceiving, and along with the salad it is a satisfying meal.

We are not particularly enticed by the dessert selections, until we notice the milkshakes.  We decide to end our meal by sharing a blueberry shake.  I warn him that I don’t want an equal portion….just a taste.

I’ve enjoyed the chicken at Family Meal, although I can’t really say that it’s destination worthy.  But the shake gets my attention.  The server has heard us discuss sharing, and it arrives already split into two separate glasses.  Homemade ice cream, lots of pieces of fresh blueberry, and to top it off just a touch of toasted marshmallow.  I perk up, hoping that my husband doesn’t remember my declaration about having just a taste.  He does, but thoughtfully doesn’t bring it up until I’ve downed every last drop in my glass.

I’m glad to have had a chance to dine at Family Meal. The service is good, the atmosphere is appealing, and for the most part the cooking is competent.  I just can’t get that excited about the experience overall, particularly since it’s forty miles away. But I have to admit that I needed something to get my creative juices flowing again, and if it has to be a milkshake from Family Meal, so be it.

And now enough of this commercial break.  I’m about to hunker down for a couple more episodes of “Newsroom.”


Family Meal, 880 N. East Street, Frederick, Maryland

Washington Post review

My review of Volt’s Table 21

Family Meal on Urbanspoon

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