This isn't a long road trip for me, only 5 miles from my home. Fortunately, I've got a handful of "roadfood worthy" choices in Damascus and we frequent them. The Locale:
All of these places are within about a 1/2 mile radius of each other, if that. Damascus is still a farming town that isn't too far from suburbia. It isn't on or a major highway - it is about a 15 minute ride from I-70 between Baltimore and Frederick, or a 15 minute ride from I-270 between Washington and Fredrick. Tom and Ray's:
Tom and Ray's is hard to describe as many 50 year old places can be. It is probably closest to a diner, having some counter seating and serving a mix of "good american food". The Food:
Tonight I got the stuffed chop. It was pretty good and the chop itself was about 2 inches thick. The stuffing was a good, mushy stuffing like you'd have with thanksgiving dinner - nothing too shocking. There wasn't much stuffing as there had to be at least a half pound of pork chop.
On other visits, I've gotten a liverwurst sandwich the way I like it, just liverwurst and mayo on white bread, which was great. Where else can you get such a thing, especially for a low price of something like $3.50. The BLT is likewise simple, fresh and inexpensive. As a side bar, I've said before that one of my ways of quickly sizing up a place's "intentions" is if they have low priced options. They can be smaller options, or simpler options...but if you just want a small bite to eat, a good place should give you that option. Years ago I owned a few shares of a publicly traded diner and they talked about inching up the average person's check size - and they did that through eliminating a la carte options, making the portions huge and making simple things like a BLT very expensive. If you want the corporate dining experience, that's fine. I believe a good place will avoid that kind of practice. I sold the stock when I took my kids there and they cost $9 each to eat.
Having said all that, the most expensive menu item are the crab cakes when available at about $19. Being a Maryland native, we tend to be picky about such things. These are worth every penny. Very crabby, spiced just right and cooked to a light crisp on the outside and tender on the inside - its all I can do to not wolf these down.
We've had many of the other items. The open faced roast beef sandwhich is great - tender beef and somewhat salty gravy over white bread with mashed potatoes on the side. Where some of the foods (like the sides or pies) may be canned or from a supplier, they are often "doctored" to make them better. The Service and Decor:
This is a family run operation and it shows. Always a smiling face and service that makes you feel like they want you to come back. The decor is simple small-town eating place with approximately 6 booths, 10 tables and stools at the counter. Basic Info: http://www.tomandrays-restaurant.com/
9876 Main St
Damascus MD 20872 Red Rooster:
This tiny brick building serves some of the best fried chicken. It is down a dead end street and doesn't look very nice from the outside. The chicken matters - the ambience does not. The Food:
Fried chicken and BBQ. And the Fried Chicken is so good, we've been 10 times and never gotten and BBQ.
The fried chicken has a thick breading that comes out dark, almost looking overcooked - but it is not. It is very crisp and somewhat salty and spicy but not so much that it would be considered a spicy batter. "Flavorful" might better describe the coating.
The chicken itself is, at first, kind of dry. Another sidebar: If you're like me, most of your recent fried chicken experiences have been KFC or Popeyes. These are tasty to be sure (for your health, I hope you aren't like me) and the chicken is juicy. VERY juicy. In fact, the chicken has become so juicy as to be rediculous, to overcome the coating and often make it soggy, and to even distract from the enjoyment of the chicken. That chicken has become like Freshen Up Gum - the one with the "flavor burst" of liquid in the middle. It has gotten to where you bite into KFC chicken and it squirts all over the place. How much liquid can they inject into chicken?
So Red Rooster is dry - which is to say it is exactly as juicy as real chicken should be - the kind of chicken you can pull apart in long strips. I suspect that most, but not everyone would like it. And I feel bad about that state of affairs.
At breakfast, they serve a mean breakfast sausage sandwich, a big hot dog like sausage in a bun with egg that will get you through lunch if you wish.
Someday we'll try the BBQ, I hear it is decent. Someday. The Service and Decor:
This is a busy place. Service is efficient but understand that it is mostly a walk up, counter service take out place. So if you need something, walk up and get it.
The place is divided into 3 main parts. The main part is the walk up counter that has room for 3 or 4 people so long as you're OK with sharing some of your "personal space." It is decorated in bulletin boards with the business cards of local services. The second, sit down area has 4 tables but only room really for 1. Some of the seats are obtained by sqeezing past the napkin inventory and ducking your head under the oscillating fan. It is rough at best - and dinner comes on a paper plate. But that's OK - it is worth it.
The third part is outside. The parking is kind of a court and you can take your food out to your car to eat and say hi to the neighbors. Think of it as a drive-in theatre and a town getting their fried chicken fix is the show. A few picnic tables are off to the side. While it isn't bucolic (and don't sit downwind from the dumpsters) it can be very enjoyable on a summer night. Basic Info:
10005 Damascus Blvd
Damascus, MD 20872 Jimmie Cone:
This seasonal place has good soft-serve ice cream and a great neighborhood feel since 1962. The Food:
Soft serve with Jimmies. Vanilla or chocolate ice cream; chocolate or rainbow jimmies; sugar, waffle or regular cone; one or two scoops. It isn't rocket science. It is good.
There are other things on the menu - who has time for that? Summer, good times and life in general is fleeting. So get your Jimmie Cone and step aside.
The highlight of the place is the chance to talk with other folks. No one has ever held a grudge through their first licks of a soft serve cone, so people tend to chat and simply enjoy the place. The Service and Decor:
The building is a simple concrete block with walk-up windows and a big awning. Those at the window are usually highschoolers on work release, working with a good system to handle saturday night summer crowds. You really can't get much more of a beach feel this far inland.
There is no inside seating, in fact you never go inside. There are 3 picnic tables under the awning, 4 or 5 over by the main street and a good number of picnic tables over in the mulchy area. Take your pic, they are all sticky unless it just rained, in which case they are wet. :)
The location is a busy 3 way intersection where car watching is a fun as chatting. In fact a second Jimmie Cone location with more parking room hosts impromtu classic car gatherings - this one does too, they just keep going by - often around the circle and back again. Basic Info: http://www.jimmieconemd.com/
26420 Ridge Road
Damascus, MD 20872
Seasonal; open all but the coldest months. I'd guess it is only closed Dec, Jan and Feb.
<message edited by Jaybo on Thu, 04/16/09 11:08 PM>