Macdara “Mac” MacTigue has been in the restaurant and hospitality industry for decades. In Dublin, he worked at the Burlington Hotel (many consider it the Ritz or W of Ireland). He was the co-owner of Flanagan’s Harp and Fiddle in Bethesda. Last month, he and his partner, Stephen Godbout, opened Macdara’s Grille in the heart of Wheaton.

The restaurant is located at 2405 Price Avenue, in the old Rock Creek Chophouse location. It’s a very cozy spot, and fits the warm and welcoming description Godbout told me the restaurant was going for.

The cuisine is Classic American “with a dash of Irish charm.” Their chef is vegan trained and offers vegan options for most menu items when possible (including some of the specials).

We walked in and enjoyed the “bow wow wall”– a collections of portraits of some of the dogs that belong to a fewnof the regular customers. Bring in your photo and they’ll place it on the wall!

The bar was being tended by Macdara himself. He and Stephen fill in whenever and wherever necessary.
As we mentioned earlier, the restaurant is cozy and has a great atmosphere.
We started with a Devil’s Backbone and their Sauvignon Blanc.
We started with the bacon wrapped sweet potatoes.
Next came the honey ham croque-monsieur sliders. Highly recommended! A little of the mustard goes a long way.
What I’m about to say is bold, but I stand by it. We had their BBQ chicken mac ’n’ cheese, and it was the best mac n cheese I’ve ever had (mentioned in episode 8 of The MoCoShow podcast).
A little Caeser salad prior to the main course.
There aren’t many places you can find a $19 filet. The price is right on this one, and I was a fan of the red onion marmalade that came with it as well. We got the sautéed green beans as a side.
The crab stuffed flounder fillet, stuffed with crab, garlic, and peppers was awesome. The loaded baked potato was almost like a meal in itself!
We finished off our meal with the traditional Irish bread pudding. The family recipe comes from Macdara’s mother, and it was a great way to end the meal!
I was told about their brunch that’ll start this Sunday (9/2/18) from 11am-3pm. They shared with me this coupon that’ll give you 20% off your next brunch. If it’s anything like dinner, I recommend giving it a shot!

Hot Pot Legend currently has over 80 locations in over 20 different provinces in China. The Rockville location (595 Hungerford Drive) is the first location in the United States.

This was my first time trying hot pot. It’s kind of a mix between Melting Pot, Korean BBQ, and Mongolian BBQ (for those of you that remember BD’s).

Walking in, you’re greeted by a giant panda (that seems to be the theme). It’s definitely different…you’ll even have little panda pillows at your seat. I like pandas…I’m good with it!

Here’s how it works…

Choose your soup base:

​• Sichuan Spices (very spicy…add sesame oil if you want it a bit milder)
• Tomato (usually not my thing, but tasty!)
• Mushrooms
• Pork Broth (most popular, my favorite)

Choose your meat:

• Fatty Brisket Slice*
• Sliced Beef
• Beef Tripe
• Sliced Lamb*
• Pork Belly*
• Pork Liver
​• Sliced Chicken

Choose your seafood:

• Sliced Fish Filet
• Shrimp*
• Mussel*
• Small Cuttlefish

​* my favorites

Soy products (not pictured) include:

• Tofu
• Spongy Tofu
• Beancurd Sheet
• Beancurd Skin

Choose your noodles:

• Ramen Noodle
• Udon Noodle
• Rice Vermicelli
• Steamed Rice
​• Mini Dumpling

Can’r really go wrong here…


• Beef Meatball
• Fish Ball
• Shrimp Ball
• Pork Meatball
• Fish Tofu
• Squid Ball
• Northern Style Meatball
• Cuttlefish Ball
• Quail Egg
• Egg
• Mini Sausage
• Spam
• Seaweed Knots
• Pumpkin
• Wood Mushroom
• Corn
• White Radish
• Potato
• Lotus Root
• Enoki Mushroom
• Shitake Mushroom
• Taro
• Cucumber
• Broccoli
• Napa Cabbage
• Oyster Mushroom
• Crown Daisy
• Lettuce
• Loofah
• Cabbage
• Bok Choy
• Fried Bread Stick

You want to add any root veggies to the soup at the start so that you can eat them towards the end of your experience, since they take a while to cook.

The meat cooks in just a few seconds and you get to choose from about a dozen different dipping sauces, including:

• Chive Sauce
• Chinese Barbecue Sauce
• Chili Sauce
• Soy Sauce
• Sesame Oil
• Chef Sauce

and more!

I recommend experimenting with the different sauces.

This was a very different experience and I enjoyed it. I’ll definitely be visiting Hot Pot Legend again in the near future.

Nantucket’s Reef (9755 Traville Gateway in Rockville) opened in September of 2013, just five weeks after O’Donnell’s Sea Grill closed a few miles away in the Kentlands.

The restaurant is MoCo owned and operated. Owners Jonathan Bostin (grew up in Laytonsville and graduated from Poolesville High School) and Steve Deffinbaugh (graduated from Seneca Valley High School) have also opened a sister restaurant in Frederick– Ragin’ Reef (506 E. Church Street).

I have friends that rave about the happy hour and was told that it runs EVERY DAY from 3pm until close at the bar (Monday-Friday from 3pm-7pm in the dining room).

Nantucket’s Reef offers fresh seafood at an affordable price point. They also do brunch on weekends and serve bottomless Bloody Marys and Mimosas for just $9.50 with the purchase of any brunch entree.

Today I stopped in for a late lunch/early dinner and started with the Lobster Queso. The chips are made in-house and it was difficult keeping myself from filling up on them.

Another appetizer that came highly recommended was the Wicked Mussels. This dish comes with small pieces of chorizo sausage, pico, and lemon butter that makes for an awesome dipping sauce.
It’s summer, so we tried two of their most weather-appropriate cocktails– the Ship Wreck and Orange Crush. If you’re into tropical, sweet drinks, the Ship Wreck is for you.
They do offer a few non-seafood options. Pictures below are the Blackened Chicken Tacos from the lunch menu. They also have a Chicken Pecan and Chicken Caeser salad as well as Herb Roasted Chicken and a 13oz ribeye for anyone not into seafood.
I’m a crab cake guy. They call theirs the Crab “No” Cakes. It consists of double jumbo lump crab cakes with a side of thin cut fries, served with coke slaw and tartar sauce. I enjoyed the crab cakes and they have good fries too.
Cant leave without dessert, and we certainly didn’t. I highly recommend finishing off your meal with the bread pudding. It’s as good as it looks

Sasuns is named after the Armenian town where one of the owners grandparents were born (Sasun, now known as Sason, is currently a district in the Batman province of Turkey).

Vatche and Maral Abkarian decided to open the restaurant just over a year and a half ago. It’s located at 7217 Muncaster Mill Road, in the same location that was Home to Steaming Blues Crab House.

Their daughter Sophie, a recent Magruder graduate, can often be found running the counter– taking care of the carry-out customers and handling all of the dine-in orders.

“I used to cook for hundreds of people each year at my church, so I decided to do something crazy and open the restaurant.” said owner, Vatche Abkarian. He has lived in the area for nearly four decades and loves the Derwood community– where the restaurant is located and the family lives.

In addition to all the food we are showing below, Sasuns has items like chicken souvlaki, French fries, kebabs, pizza, cheesesteaks and a lot more!

We started by trying out their dips. We had the tabboulleh, muttabel (roasted eggplant and tahini), Baba Ganouj, and hummus. The Baba Ganouj was my favorite.

We tried all of the meats from their platters (chicken, ground beef, and tenderloin). I was a fan of all of them, but I’ll definitely order the tenderloin the next time I’m in.
Lahmajun, which is also known as “Armenian Pizza.” It contains minced meat and veggies (seems to be tomato based) and various spices.
Their cheese canoes are amazing. I’m definitely going to be ordering these again. One contained cheese and olives and the other had sliced soujouk (dried beef sausage).
Kibbeh: Lebanese beef croquettes
Dessert! Three different variations of baklava that are made in-house and a tart yogurt with a fruit based sauce and chia seeds.

I had the opportunity to check out JINYA Ramen Bar at Pike & Rose (910 Prose St., next to the Baked Bear and LL Bean) whose grand opening is this coming Tuesday, August 7th, 2018. I was extremely impressed.

JINYA specializes in ramen. Ramen is widely considered a Japanese dish, but there’s much debate over whether the noodles were first made in Japan or China. Many say the dishes as invented in China but made popular/trendy in Japan.

Though many credit New York’s Momofuku with making the dish popular in the U.S., the ramen “boom” came about in California when more than 200 spots opened in the area in 2012 alone.

Now that you have a brief background, let’s get into what JINYA has to offer…

Their cocktails are fun, but more importantly, they taste great. They run from $10-$12.
Below you’ll see the:
Love me some Painappuru (rum, pineapple juice, aperol, and sweet vermouth)
Garden of Todai-Ji (tequila, matcha basil shochu, agave syrup, fresh lime juice)
Temple of Love (Heaven Hill bourbon, Cocchi Torino, rosemary foam, JINYA house bitters)
The Forbidden Kingdom (Nikka gin, fresh lemon juice, fresh orgeat, house bitters, Aperol Aperitif)

I was speaking with one of our area’s top chefs who told me that JINYA is unique because their other dishes are just as great as their ramen. We started with the Brussel Sprouts Tempura (crispy brussel sprouts with white truffle oil).
We moved on to the Takoyaki Octopus. It was battered octopus over egg tartar, topped with kewpie mayonnaise, okononiyaki sauce, fresh cut green onion and smoked bonito flakes. They were very tasty, but also very filling so make sure you don’t eat too many of these (may be hard to do).
The caramelized cauliflower contained toasted pine nuts and, crispy mint leaves, and lime sauce. It was light and tasty.
Ramen time. We had the chance to try four of them. I liked all of them and I’ll reveal my favorite soon. We started with the Tonkotsu Black (pork broth) and Sprouting Up Ramen (pork and chicken broth). Both broths were excellent. The Tonkotsu Black was served with thin noodles and the Sprouting Up was served with thick noodles. I’d give both a shot to find your preference on the type of noodles.
Next were the Tonkotsu Spicy (pork broth) and Spicy Creamy Vegan (vegetable broth). I could taste the kick in the spicy bowl, but it’s not overpowering– a good thing for me. I was surprised that my favorite bowl ended up being the Spicy Creamy Vegan. I love meat, so I wasn’t expecting to be a fan, but I truly thought it was the tastiest of the bunch. Initially, I had a new favorite with each new bowl I tried, but after going back and trying them all again, I am sticking with the Spicy Creamy Vegan as my personal favorite.
Poke bowls are popping up all over the area as well. Poke means “to slice or cut” in Hawaiian and refers to chunks of raw, marinated fish (usually tuna), or other meats, which is then tossed over rice and topped with vegetables and various sauces.

JINYA has their own version. Below is the California Bowl. It contains salmon, spicy tuna, shrimp, seaweed salad, masago, avocado, and cilantro over rice.

For dessert we had mochi ice cream. Very similar to most variations of mochi ice cream I’ve had, with green tea and chocolate flavors available.
We finished off our meal with the Toki Highball. JINYA will soon have a Highball machine that will provide “super-carbonated” flavored draft water. The Toki Highball consists of the water mixed with Suntori Toki Whiskey. A great way to end an evening!
It was a little too warm to eat outside in the late afternoon/early evening, but their outdoor seating is going to be awesome based on what I saw.
JINYA has a lot to offer. It’ll be a reasonably priced option with great food for anyone looking to eat at Pike & Rose.

Photo courtesy of

Tucked away in Laytons Village Shopping Center, Julliano’s has been a Laytonsville staple since 1995 (current management has been in charge since 2007).

They’re known for their brick oven pizza, but definitely have a lot more to offer.

Their sodas are served in those red plastic cups that make everything taste better, so that was a plus right off the bat!

We started off with the Anabella. The added veggies/toppings (artichoke hearts, peppers, onions, olives, etc.) are the perfect twist to a classic caprese.
Our main course included the original calzone and the pizza carne. The calzone had italian sausage, pepperoni, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, and Italian herbs. It came with a side of very fast tomato/marinara sauce.
The Pizza Carne comes with tomato sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, Italian sausage, and capicola ham. I enjoyed the sauce more than most brick oven pizza sauces. Overall the pizza was great!
We had a great experience at Julliano’s. If you’re ever in the Laytonsville area, stop by and give it a shot!

Tommy Keeffe

For most of us, visiting Italy and driving down the Amalfi Coast eating our way from town to town is more of a dream than reality. But what if I told you that you could enjoy the best food the Amalfi Coast has to offer anytime you want, just a minute awayindustrial part of Rockville? family owned and operated Amalfi Restaurant in Rockville has been doing just that since 1977.

This review could begin and end with the White Pizza. Amalfi has the best White Pizza in the area Period. Perfectly thin, bubbling with fontina cheese, and seasoned with fresh garlic and herbs this pizza is as much artwork as it is culinary skills.It is a must have anytime you visit, but keep it on speed dial for carryout.

The Amalfi experience starts with the warm greeting you receive at the host stand (usually from the owner) and continues with the excellent service from familiar faced waiters. The rustic Italian and Onion bread that is served to every table, deserves its own review and shows Amalfi’s dedication to quality and detail. Pastas are made in house daily and food is locally sourced when possible. They use Allen Farms free range chicken, and the quality of their chicken dishes are unmatched. Traditional dishes such as Chicken Parmesan and Marsala are enhanced by these bone in breasts that you willquestion why you ever accepted a pounded out bird in the past. Seafood options include ussels, clams, shrimp, and calamari that are all prepared delicately and generously portioned in each dish. Dave Hessler- my resident seafood expert- says Amalf’s seafood options have the most “bang for your buck.” And finally save room for the excellent Cannolis.

Amalfi is everything that is missing from most restaurants in the area. A throwback, family owned business that truly values their customers and takes tremendous pride in their food. It is child friendly and perfect for any occasion with plenty of parking. Take a trip to Italy, which you never knew was just around the corner!Amalfi restaurant 12307 Wilkins Ave, Rockville, MD 20852 (301) 770-7888

I finally had the chance to stop by BeClaws in Wheaton (2404 University Blvd.). This Cajun/Asian fusion spot is the perfect place to go when you’re in the mood for seafood with a twist.

We started with the salt and pepper calamari. At first I was looking for something to dip it in, but the jalapeños give it a bit of a kick so a dipping sauce isn’t really necessary. If you’re feeling bold, you can change the calamari for…frog legs!

The bayou sampler was next. The gumbo was my favorite of the three, but I also like the étouffee and jambalaya.
This next item is not currently on the menu, but has been in the past and is still available if ordered. It’s the Cajun Pho.
Finally, I had combo #1. The pot container crawfish, shrimp, corn on the cob, potato, sausage, and rice.
I’ve also heard great things about their happy hour and brunch, so I’m looking forward to stopping by at some point soon for one of those options.

If you’re looking for seafood with a twist, this is a great spot. They have a second location in Hyattsville.

Outdoor all-you-can-eat brunch while watching airplanes take off and land?

Having grown up in Gaithersburg, heading over to The Airport Cafe to watch the planes was something I’d do once every couple years. As I’ve gotten older, enjoying their $15 all-you-can-eat brunch buffet on Sundays has made it a deal that’s tough to beat.

Outdoor seating, plane-watching, brunch, and an inexpensive good time for the whole family.

One of the people in my party this morning is pregnant and the manager/owner came out and personally offered to make her something that wasn’t included in the brunch buffet, which was awesome!


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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!


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