When I asked readers on Twitter and Facebook to share their most underrated places in MoCo (not limited to restaurants), a few brought up Jazmin Cuisine, a Tex-Mex spot that’s tucked away in a quiet strip mall next to a Beer & Wine and a remodeling store.
Jazmin Cuisine is an affordable fast-casual restaurant with a wide variety of really good food.
I tried the steak burrito, a taco salad and the ranchero wings.
The burrito is overstuffed, much like one from Chipotle, but with bigger chunks of steak and ingredients that just tasted a little better. The taco salad was also full of meat and packed with whatever you want included. The wings taste like they were just grilled outside, but that’s probably because they were grilled when I ordered them (on an indoor grill).
I’m glad I was finally able to try it out and see what it was all about. The secret’s out...and they have breakfast!
Growlers has been in Old Town Gaithersburg for decades. They hit a rough patch in 2017 and were forced to close before reopening under new ownership and management in September of the same year. The turbulence continued until new General Manager Jon Thompson, a 2010 graduate of Clarksburg High School, took over at the start of 2018.
Jon can be found at Growlers from open to close almost every day the restaurant is open. He gives it his all and that’s why I wanted to work with him and Growlers to let you all know about the great things happening since he’s taken over.
1. Growlers is in the process of being able to brew their own beer again. Depending on the timing of the licensing it can take anywhere from sox weeks to six months to happen, but I’ve been told it’s definitely something that’s coming back (we have a surprise for you when it does!).
2. The specials and events are almost impossible to beat.
Mondays: All day happy hour and game night. You can play a game like Cards Against Humanity or even bring in your own video game system and they’ll hook it up to a TV for you.
Tuesdays: Tacos & Tequila. $2 Tacos, $4 margaritas, and trivia at 7pm.
Wednesdays: Wings and Water for ridiculous deals on chicken wings and light beer.
Thursdays: Karaoke night. Whether you can barely sing or do this on a regular basis, karaoke night is always a good time.
Fridays/Saturdays: There’s almost always a band or DJ for everyone to enjoy.
Sundays: Jon would like to start a Battle of the Bands for local bands with the winner getting their own show at Growlers on a Friday or Saturday night.
3. Let’s talk food. Jon has worked in the restaurant business for years and has brought some of his favorite recipes with him. He’s revamped the menu and I had the opportunity to try a few of the dishes.
The Growlers Grinder is a smoked and shaved prime rib with chipotle mayo, beer cheese sauce (we’ll revisit this later), fire roasted peppers, and caramelized onions.
This bad boy is The Cowboy Burger. Pub beer bun, beer battered onion ring, pulled pork (smoked at Growlers), cheddar cheese, and coke slaw.
The chimichurri flat iron steak served with steamed broccoli and fried rice. It’s just $15.95, it’s a healthy portion, and it’s good.
I’m not a big fish guy, but this salmon with a pineapple glaze that’s made at Growlers was really good. The rice is awesome and the skewered veggies make for a complete meal. You’ll like this.
Jon refers to the Earthrocker ribeye as his baby. The beef comes from a butcher in Fells Point, it’s marinated in a porter beer, and it’s rubbed down with an espresso and chili powder rub. Served with a side of asparagus.
This is a fun appetizer. A gigantic pretzel that you get to dip into their awesome beer cheese dip. The dip is made from four cheeses, the house beer, tomatoes and jalapeño. I dipped everything into the beer cheese dip.
I haven’t had a chance to try it yet because they rolled it out last week, but it’s affordable and runs both Saturday and Sunday from 10am-3pm.
They’ll be brewing their own beer again very soon, but they still have plenty of choices for you to enjoy!
If you haven’t been to Growlers in 2018, I recommend you check it out. Jon has made some great changes and he’ll do what it takes for you to have a great experience.
Let me start by saying that I’m not a pho expert. I’ve had it in multiple locations in MoCo and have enjoyed at just about every one, but so far one has stood out a little more than others.
I first tried Mi La Cay when I spent “An Afternoon in Wheaton” a couple months back (www.mocoshow.com/blog/an-afternoon-in-wheaton). I went back again a couple weeks back because I really enjoyed myself the first time.
I started with the roasted quail, which was cooked just right and served with a very tasty sauce that contained salt and pepper in it.
I had the Pho La Cay (slightly spicy, but I don’t like too much spice and this was just fine for me). The broth was very flavorful and there was plenty of meat in the soup. The noodles were also good.
Mi La Cay came highly recommended by our Twitter followers, it’s not expensive, and I’ve really enjoyed the pho both times I’ve been to the restaurant. Definitely worth a shot if you’re in Wheaton.
This place came highly recommended to me by many people on Twitter when I did my tour of Wheaton, but I was unable to make it due to the timing of my visit.
Today I was able to make it...and it didn’t disappoint.
I’ve had decent ramen in MoCo before, but I tend to travel to DC when I want really good ramen. Now I know I don’t have to venture out that far. This was amazing.
I got the The Sapporo style Shoyu Ramen (soy sauce flavored soup made with a pork based broth). I added pork belly, corn, a seasoned boiled egg, and butter. I’m currently in a ramen coma, sitting in my car, as I write this. It was great.
It’s a small place so there’s not a lot of room to eat for bigger crowds, but I am officially joining the folks over on Twitter as a big supporter of Ren’s Ramen.
NOTE: Ren’s Ramen is CASH ONLY and parking can be very hard to find (street parking is likely going to be necessary).
MoCo Hidden Gem: Filippo's (formerly Marchone's) in Wheaton
Filippo Italian Specialties
A few weeks back I stopped by Filippo's in Wheaton to try one of their Italian cold cuts, but made it about an hour after they closed on a Sunday. Today I made sure to come while they were open and got to enjoy what many people refer to as the best cold cut in MoCo.
I ordered two items, the cold cut and the panino, based on the recommendation of the young lady that was working behind the counter. As I ordered I spoke with a gentleman that was waiting for his sandwich to be made. He informed me that he lost 42 pounds in 3 months from eating all of his meals at Filippo's. Not sure what he was eating, but I'd love to get a hold of his diet soon.
I sat at one of the few tables in the small deli/market and enjoyed two of the best tasting sandwiches I've ever had. While we were eating, Filippo himself stopped by our table to make sure everything was going well. I've heard stories about how nice of a man he is and my first interaction with him proved these stories true. He is one of the kindest people I've met; making sure we had everything we needed and thanking us for coming in.
On his recommendation, I had a cannoli. I'm a huge dessert guy, so it was a must. I'm usually not a fan of cannolis, but I have to admit...it was really good.
Before I left I told Filippo that I have a Montgomery County based website where I spotlight certain aspects of the county and that I was told my many people I had to try his subs. He told me that Filippo's, formerly known as Marchone's, has been open in Wheaton for 62 years and that he has been there for the last 32. Everyone that urged me to stop by was absolutely right about how good the sandwiches are...I highly recommend either the Italian cold cut or the panino if you're ever in the area.
This one will be quick and easy...
I just stopped by Clarksburg Grocery and had one of the best cheesesteaks I’ve EVER tasted at Clarksburg Grille (located in Clarksburg Grocery).
I HIGHLY recommend the cheesesteak. It was amazing...10/10.
When I heard Pandora Seafood House & Bar would take over the old Austin Grill/American Tap Room location in Rockville Town Square, I was excited to give it a shot. For a while, I have been looking for a classy, non-chain, traditional seafood spot to go to without having to travel too far (Rockville is pretty close for everyone in MoCo) and Pandora fits the bill!
Pandora Seafood House & Bar has been open since mid-October. It’s a very beautiful restaurant that is open for both lunch and dinner (special lunch menu). The prices are fair for the quality of food you will be getting, as entrees range from $20-$30 each. They also offer a couple non-Seafood dishes in case someone in your party is anti-Seafood 😊. I was told the bread is the only thing not made in the restaurant.
There are over 10,000 “bubbles” in the restaurant.
I’m torn when it comes to table starters because if they’re too good, I can’t stop eating them and I’m full before the first appetizer is out. If they’re terrible, my dining experience starts off with disappointment. Their bread (more of a crispy chip type of bread) and butter was in between. I liked it, but I ate one piece and was good to go until my first dish arrived.
I had a few oysters to start. The mignonette sauce that went on them was really good (I had to google the name of the sauce that goes on oysters).
The Cioppino is one of their signature dishes. It contains King crab, mussels, clams, shrimp, scallops, calamari, octopus, sourdough bread, and a spiced tomato broth. The crab legs are massive and contain a lot of meat. It actually took me a bit of time to work my way to the broth, but when I did, I was very satisfied. It was like a whole new meal beneath my original meal. If you like seafood medleys, this is the dish for you.
My favorite dish (as a whole) was the lobster linguine. There was plenty of lobster meat and I couldn’t stop eating the linguine. The presentation was really cool too.
Scallops were next on the list. They’re served over a bed of risotto. This is a difficult dish to master because if one of the two are not up to par, the entire dish is ruined. They nailed it. Scallops were a tasty and massive. Risotto was just right.
Here’s where I’m going to go out on a limb. The crab cakes I had at Pandora may have been the best I’ve ever had. It may be the recency effect, but these were 95% lump crab meat and even with all of the food that I had at dinner, I almost ordered a second plate of them. They’re served with potatoes, but I barely remember those. Just get the crab cakes, they’re amazing.
I’m not a fish guy. I want to be, but I’m just not. I did eat the Chilean sea bass, though. A friend that was with me really enjoyed it and said it was buttery. If fish is your thing, they have a couple different type.
I don’t know why, but I was a little wary of getting dessert at a seafood restaurant. That lasted as long as it took our server to tell me about the Crème Brûlèe and seasonal pumpkin pie cheesecake. I tried both. No longer wary.