More on Family Meal

Have you had a chance to go to Family Meal yet?  I’m curious about other experiences since I have heard so many varied opinions on the place.  I have only been there once for dinner and am very much looking forward to going back for breakfast and lunch sometime soon.

My friend and I walked over at about 6PM on a Monday evening.  Still thinking of it as a “diner”, it never occurred to us to make a reservation and the place was packed, even at the bar.  We were told it would be a 20-30 minute wait so we asked to be seated outside on the patio and figured we would order a few appetizers and glasses of wine before our table was ready.  Although the patio overlooks a parking lot and an industrial building across East Street, that evening it was fairly pleasant in the shade despite the heat of the day.  So we decided we would take our names off the waiting list and stay outside for dinner.  From where I was sitting, it was obvious that many others came and were turned away by the long wait.

After looking over the menu, we decided on three appetizers/shared plates to gauge portion sizes.  We tried the chicken pot pie fritters ($4.99), the duck fat fries ($3.99) and the macaroni and cheese ($3.99).  Based on the prices, I was pretty sure the portions would be fairly small and there would be just enough to have a few bites each.   I was quite surprised by how large they were.  Almost too large because I wasn’t hungry for dinner after that.

In the interest of research however, I decided to persevere and ordered the salmon, yukon gold potato, ratatouille and basil ($18.79).  I was glad I did because the salmon was cooked perfectly and the portion size was just right for me.  Some may think it was a bit small but I’m not a fan of leftover fish and it was certainly plenty after all the rich appetizers.  My friend ordered the fried chicken with buttermilk biscuits($11.99) and enjoyed it very much.  That portion was pretty large.  I believe there were three pieces of chicken and three biscuits but I am not completely positive about that.

Neither of us had room for dessert but we had a mutual friend there at the same time as we were tell us about how she was sitting at the bar area nearest to the bathrooms and watched all the desserts being prepared and how delicious everything looked (I believe her exact words were “food porn”).  While I don’t normally have a sweet tooth, I may just have to leave room for dessert one of these times.  That Smith Island cake sounds pretty darn good.

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19 thoughts on “More on Family Meal

  1. I went for dinner and over all was highly disappointed. It started out great as they told us it would be a 30 minute wait, we ended up being seated within 10 minutes. A server came and brought us our silverware and then we didn’t see our actual server for another 20 minutes for even our drink order. Once we ordered our drinks and meal at the same time. Our meal didn’t come for almost an hour after we placed the order. We asked for buttered noodles instead of sauce for my stepdaughter and they gave us spaghetti noodles with sauce. We asked for the buttered noodles and it took 15 minutes for those to come back.
    We were seated at 8:00 and did not leave until 10:30. That was with an 8 year old, no dessert and no alcohol. For the hamburger, fried chicken, and buttered noodles it was $50 before tip. There are no free refills on ice tea or milk for the kids.

    I went in with such high expectations, and my family and I were extremely disappointed. I’ve spoken with several other colleagues and they have also had similar experiences. I enjoy Volt and Lunchbox very much, and thought this was going to be a great family restaurant. I think the kids menu should be expanded and for a diner, the prices don’t reflect that.

    I would like to try it again, but it will take some time for my family to go again.

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  2. I’ve been once and really enjoyed it. We went early on a Wednesday evening (5:15ish). There were no tables available but there was plenty of counter seating. That was actually one of the best parts of the night – we were right in front of the dessert station and veggie stations and it was fun to watch the kitchen staff at work. Service was a little bit slow but not terrible and our waitress was very nice and personable.

    We ordered the fried chicken with biscuits, pork tenderloin, duck fat fries, and mac and cheese. We expected small portion sizes as well (based on Volt and Lunchbox) but all of our portions were huge – we barely finished the sides and pork and we wound up taking 2 pieces of chicken home. I thought everything was good. The duck fat fries were probably the least special (tasted a lot like fries we’ve had in other places – good but not amazing) but the mac and cheese had a great crunchy crust with plenty of gooey cheese inside. And our chicken and pork were both very tender and juicy. We also got drinks – my Corpse Reviver was refreshing without being overly sweet.

    We were stuffed after dinner but couldn’t walk away after watching the dessert prep all night! We split a piece of Smith Island cake which was yummy but next time I want to try the lemon meringue which looked amazing.

    I would definitely go back but during an “off” hour to avoid the rush.

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  3. We went during the soft opening with our three kids (2 elem school age) and a 1 year old and another couple with a 3-year old. We went knowing there could be kinks, so our expectations were lowered. Overall, I was pretty happy with the experience but my wife wasn’t. She felt given the name it should be more family friendly, and I guess she’s right. I actually meant to post a lot of this to their facebook page but didn’t want it to seem like I was ripping the restaurant when I would have only been offering constructive criticism.

    One initial problem was that there isn’t a lot of flexibility in the seating area, so we were unable to sit with the other family we went with. We were in back-to-back booths, which wasn’t ideal for chatting, obviously. Also, it seemed that the layout wasn’t quite configured correctly – there was some dead space by the bathrooms/dessert prep area, but some of the tables were crammed together, and the high chair for our 1-year old and the chair of a two-top table made it nearly impossible for servers, others, to get past us, and that was with the high chair very close to the table. I would imagine this has been fixed. Also, we sat on the north side of the restaurant and they did not have blinds up and the sun was blinding until it went below the horizon. They did have blinds on the west side windows, so I would imagine they have put them up on the north side as well because it was pretty uncomfortable for the first 30 minutes we were there.

    As for the food, I was very pleased. I ordered the fried chicken and it was amazing. Perhaps the best fried chicken I’ve ever had. I got four pieces and was shocked at how much food I got for $12. I too was expecting smaller portion sizes, but certainly couldn’t complain. I also got three biscuits with it, which were very good. the only critique was that the sauce that came with the fried chicken lacked punch and was too heavy on the tomato. It kind of tasted a lot like eating a tomato soup. But the fried chicken was so flavorful it didn’t need the dipping sauce.

    One of our kids got waffles, which were pretty good but nothing special, though again I was surprised by the size of the portions (four waffles). the blueberry compote that came with it was amazing though – too bad our son doesn’t like blueberries.

    Our other son got maccaroni and cheese, which I also tasted. It was very good, but perhaps a little too out-of-the-ordinary for him. He’d prefer Kraft when they had some very good cheeses involved, but that’s certainly not a criticism (just an immature palette!).

    My wife got the crab cakes as her entree (off the ap menu) and she got two decently sized crab cakes. She wasn’t crazy about them though, because it didn’t seem like there was a lot of big chunks of crab meat and a little too much filler. I thought they tasted pretty good, but they weren’t the best I’d had.

    As an appetizer, we got the chicken pot pie fritters, and they were really tasty. Even the kids liked them!

    My only other complaint was about drinks. I can understand when I go to Volt that I don’t get free refills on my coke… ok, I get that. But at a “diner,” it was kind of off-putting to have to pay multiple times for a coke. I know that Brian has never had fountain sodas at any of his restaurants, but this may be the one time that an exception would be nice.

    Also, they didn’t have any kids cups when we went. We had to have the kids use glass, which obviously isn’t ideal. They managed not to break anything though.

    Dessert would’ve been nice, but it was enough for the kids to stay decently behaved through dinner, so we didn’t chance it.

    All in all, I was happy, and I expect when we go back (perhaps just my wife and I on a date night) the kinks will be worked out and things will be running more smoothly.

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  4. I have been to Family Meal twice: once for breakfast and once for lunch. I did not go at peak times and I do not go with kids (lucky me). It is a bit pricey for a “diner” but not unreasonable. Had perfect bacon, eggs and pancakes for breakfast and a fantastic hamburger for lunch. As noted above, the duck fat fries are well, just fries: nothing special. Had an app of the chicken pot pie balls: very tasty. Looking forward to making it my once a month or twice a month breakfast of lunch stop.

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  5. I have been there several times. The first time was the second day they were open so we were not expecting everything to be right. Takes time for a team of people that size to get working together. Everything was awesome. We had the pot pie fritters which are now my favorite. The crab cake, deviled egg, and cheese apps that were all very tasty. We also had the chicken, burger and waffles all also great. No room for dessert. The next visit we sat outside, very pleasent. We had the flat iron steak, pasta, and pastrami all very good. Friiters, again, and the duck and oil fries. This time we got dessert that are to die for. Both times were dinner. I went last Friday for lunch and had the burger, fries, fritters (yes again) and the collard greens. Sat at the counter which was fun. Had dessert also, loved it.

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  6. I agree that the food is good–but the name is a misnomer as is the “diner” comparison.
    My friend and I took our young sons, and while they loved the food, the layout is very uncomfortable with kids, table tops are too small, menus too clunky, glassware too breakable etc. And my son is very well behaved and used to dining in very nice environments. But here I was convinced something would break, drinks were too pricey etc. Reservations put me off too–that’s not compatible with a diner. Again–the food is great, but I don’t feel it as a comfortable place for a family dinner where we can walk in and relax. It’s more Volt 2.0 for the masses. Again–that’s fine, just don’t pitch it as family diner. And don’t get me started on the young wait staff trying to explain cocktails to me that I have know about since before they were born. Egg whites, who knew? 🙂

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  7. I visited there with my family on Sunday evening and had planned ahead with reservations. It’s not a diner atmosphere in the real sense of the word, and the word diner is not really evident on any signage anyway. Plus, not many diners serve beer or mixed drinks which this restaurant does. The female wait staff wore old fashioned aprons which reminded us more of a home kitchen atmosphere where mom would be. It must be the structure that lends itself to that diner look. The food was phenomenal. We decided to forego the appetizers since we wanted to have room for dessert. The teenagers in my party shared the chicken and biscuits since we were told it came as half a chicken. There was plenty for both plus two biscuits that were described as some of the best they’ve ever had. The homemade cinnamon applesauce side tasted just like homemade. The adult members enjoyed the rockfish which came as a regular entree size that was both filling and delicious. We shared a bowl of creamy mashed potatoes. The lemon meringue pie with homemade blueberry ice cream really rocked. The meringue came deconstructed on the plate and the filling was creamy and lemon flavored. We were told there is a pastry chef on the premises and their ice cream is home made. It was a refreshing summer dessert. The brownie sundae was also a delicious choice that was enjoyed by our group. The breakfast menu is extensive and would be the next choice for a visit there. The wait staff suggested reservations for all times of the day except for early afternoon when there is a lull between lunch and dinner. The booth seating is a little crowded and would be difficult to fit coats on the seats during the colder months. There is no coat rack or room on the seats for more than two average sized adults.

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    • The Double T Diner has a full bar and I believe others do too. The ‘diner’ label comes from the pre-opening of Family Meal, when it was touted as a diner style restaurant. In retrospect, that may have been a bit misleading to people who have an idea of what a diner should be. I get that completely. Maybe the diner concept is accurate in this case if you think of a place that is open many hours and serves breakfast all day, along with traditional lunch and dinner choices. I wish Family Meal all the best and hope it does well.

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  8. Kate, when did you go? Was it recent? I went very early during the soft opening and figured the layout issues might have been improved (as well as the lack of kids cups).

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    • Todd–about two weeks ago and we were last table before the restroom, so hopefully they have updated since. And we went early so there were numerous places they could seat us.

      And Volt pitched it as a diner “We’re super excited about having family meal bringing the diner to Frederick. We started out with the Volt four years ago and this is just exciting,” says Volt Family Meal co-owner Hilda Staples… and here http://dc.eater.com/tags/bryan-voltaggio

      And yes, I get that it’s more sophisticated etc, but at least in the beginning it was not physically comfortable for my family–food aside, just talking about the atmosphere, semantics aside, call it a restaurant/diner for a family place it was not as well thought out in the beginning usage wise. My child can handle glassware just fine, but when the table is tight for room, the floor is concrete, reservations are encouraged-and refills cost etc–it was not warm and “family-” Now as a Southerner, I thought the pimento cheese was spot on, so food/portion size all fine though I am curious to see a breakfast menu as a $13 omelet is extreme to me so I don’t know if I will go for breakfast or not.

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      • Funny, we were seated at the same table with my three children and my wife (who is also named Kate). Maybe that’s where they stick the families – as far away from the entrance as possible!

        My wife shared all your concerns about the glassware, etc., and it’s somewhat disappointing that some of those issues hadn’t been addressed. Also, for a family of five like us, it was a little tight in the booth, even with the high chair for our youngest, and there didn’t seem to be much flexibility for the tables, though outside seating did seem more flexible.

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      • Funny–and we were the only people in there with kids under 12. Because it’s close quarters and echoes, I was acutely aware of how “loud” our kids were. And they were not shouting or getting out of seats, just excited wiggling and talking, but my friend and I kept joking that we were the only ones putting the family (young kids at least) in the name Family Meal—just got a weird vibe the night we went that other diners did not like having kids there, which I get when they are misbehaved etc. but this was not the case,

        I don’t know, I just can’t put a finger on exactly what was off except that it was, but we loved the food so will go back, but maybe sans family. Oh–the waitress also interrupted us every 5 min. but she’s young and will hopefully learn to read cues better.

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  9. We went recently for a friends birthday dinner. I was so glad when we arrived, that we had opted to drop our 2 year old off at Grandma’s house on the way. I loved the food, the prices seemed fair for the atmosphere, but I don’t think I will take my child until she’s a little older. I’ll certainly be back though!

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  10. I took a client there for lunch last week and we had a great experience. Our food was great and the service was good. I think that people should not expect everything to be perfect when a restaurant first opens – they always need a little time to work the kinks out! It’s something different for Frederick and I recommend everyone give it a try:)

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  11. been twice at 7ishpm on weekdays, walked up to bar with no wait both times.

    the fried chicken is a great deal, 4ish pieces of chicken, 3 rolls, pickles. Girlfriend and I have usually gotten that with one side dish-as-appetizer and a salad (the tuna one is huge!) and its been enough for both of us.

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  12. I have to say I agree with lots of previous posts. I love what Brian Voltaggio and his team are doing for Frederick, supporting local community on so many levels is great. I was a little disappointed with Family Meal on my initial visit for a couple of reasons. The service was attentive and friendly no doubt, but I think the staff are a little inexperienced so they seemed to be a bit forgetful and not entirely sure what we had ordered or received. We had chicken pot pie fritters, duck fat fries, chard in pork scratchings as our share food, we had burgers and the pastrami sandwich as our mains. Fries and burgers were a bit luke warm, delicious for sure but was like they’d been sitting around for a while. Chicken Pot Pie fritters were fab but way way too hot, we ordered a second round cos they were yum and one of them had some sort of unedible cartlidge, couldn’t eat that one but the rest were so good we scoffed the lot happpily.
    great venue, esp reclaiming an otherwise unused part of East St, why not! the staff and the food; I’m pretty sure they’ll iron out the kinks in a few weeks. We told our waiter our concerns and the manager came over and discussed it all with us too so yes it’s a welcome addition and I’m looking forward to going back but I’m going to wait for a little bit.

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