Food Crawls

Historic Downtown Frederick Food Crawl

bridge over carroll creek park frederick maryland

Carroll Creek Park

May 2018: This post has been updated to remove restaurants that have closed since the original 2016 post, and rewritten to include a few new favorites.

The charming historic downtown of Frederick, MD is an easy day trip or weekend destination from DC. Only one hour north of the city (if you avoid weekday rush hours), Frederick’s downtown offers history, arts, and a lively restaurant scene.

Frederick Town was originally laid out in 1745 by land speculator Daniel Dulany, who sold land to the first settlers building homes along Carroll Creek. Both Union and Confederate troops moved through the city during the Civil War, leaving stories behind them, like the infamous Barbara Fritchie, who at 95 was rumored to have waved a Union flag in the street while booing Stonewall Jacksons troops marching through town.

The streets of Downtown Frederick are lined with independent restaurants as well as art galleries, antique shops, and boutique retail stores. The clustered spires of its historic downtown churches provide Frederick’s signature backdrop, while the centerpiece of the city is the stunning Carroll Creek Park.

Carroll-Creek-Bridge-2

Carroll Creek Park

Carroll Creek Park is the result of a flood control project to divert the flow of Carroll Creek, which would historically flood the city every 100 years. Catastrophic back-to-back floods in 1972 and 1976 were the last straw. Frederick’s leaders began a monumental plan to run the creek through underground conduits, allowing storm waters to bypass the city. A channel of water following the original path of the creek flows above the conduits, forming the basis of the linear park. Visit Baker Park to see where the conduits begin and to get a sense of the massive scale of the project. Carroll Creek Park officially opened in 2006.

The creek has been transformed into a work of art, with brick paths connected by lovely pedestrian bridges that, while new and modern, seem as if they have always been there. The most impressive of these, The Community Bridge, looks like an old stone bridge but it’s actually a mural painted by local artist William Cochran. Look closely, the bridge is covered with symbols representing the community.

community bridge frederick maryland

The Community Bridge

Benches along the way provide lots of places to enjoy the fountains and waterfalls along the length of the creek. What can I say? We are smitten with this enchanting little park. So much so that I have almost forgotten our reason for being here…the food. There are many great restaurants within walking distance in this small city that would be worthy of including in a food crawl. These just happen to be our current favorites.

Pistarro’s Restorante Pizzeria Napoletana

On the eastern edge of the historic district is an area called Shab Row. These three blocks of buildings on East Street used to house artisans in the 19th century before falling into desolation, hence the name Shab Row. They were restored in the 1970’s and 80’s to become a quaint shopping district. There are also several good restaurants along this stretch of East Street. One of our favorites is Pistarro’s.

Pistarros Pizza Frederick Maryland

Nezih Pistar opened Pistarro’s on East Street in April 2014. This popular Italian spot specializes in traditional Napoletano style pizza baked in a wood fired oven handmade in Naples. The pizza is topped with mozzarella that is house made fresh daily. While the restaurant is usually crowded with families, we’ve always been able to get seats at the large bar that takes up the center of the space.

The atmosphere is bustling and the prices are reasonable. Pastas range from $8 to $10, and pizzas from $9 to $14. We had the Trofi pasta: short twisted bits of al dente pasta tossed with pesto and sun-dried tomatoes. So simple, but so good. The wine is also very affordable by the glass or the bottle.

trofi pasta pistarros frederick maryland

Trofi Pasta at Pistarros

Pistarro’s Restorante Pizzeria Napoletana
221 N East St

The Wine Kitchen on the Creek

Walking south on East Street you can detour down to Carroll Creek and walk back toward Market Street along the water. When the water lilies are blooming, it is an idyllic scene. Several restaurants border the east side of the creek.

wine kitchen on the creek frederick maryland

The Wine Kitchen on the Creek

Our favorite is The Wine Kitchen on the Creek, which opened in 2011. This is one of three Wine Kitchen restaurants co-owned by Jason Miller and Michael Mercer. The seasonally inspired menu comes from local executive chef Jeff Beard, who was born and raised in Maryland.

They serve over 40 wines by the glass, which can be tasted in flights. Each wine comes with a poetically descriptive note card. In nice weather there is simply no prettier place to enjoy a glass of wine than the patio next to the creek. We had a cheese plate with three selections provided at the chef’s discretion and glasses of the Cape Bleue Rosé from Marseille France. Simply perfect, like summer on the Riviera, as the card accompanying our wine says.

wine-kitchen-cheese

Cheese Board at The Wine Kitchen

The Wine Kitchen on the Creek
50 Carroll Creek Way #160

Hooch and Banter

Where Carroll Creek meets Market Street, Sherif Salem and his wife Cherie Nearman opened Hootch and Banter in 2015, the same year that they were married. The restaurant is small, but that just adds to the charm. It is a very sophisticated space that makes it hard to believe you are in Frederick, but then I believe Frederick is well on its way to sophistication.

Hooch and Banter Bartender Frederick Maryland

Chief Mixologist Jeff Naylor creates great cocktails, some featuring local spirits like the Cloverclub: McClintock Foragers Gin, fresh lemon, blackberries and eggwhites. It’s nonstop entertainment watching him from the bar. He was voted Frederick’s Best Bartender in a competition this past year and now we know why Hooch and Banter won Frederick Magazine’s first place for Best Cocktail.

Hooch-Banter-Etouffee

Hooch and Banter Shrimp Etouffee

Hooch and Banter was also Frederick Magazines Best New Restaurant in 2017. The food menu changes frequently. Chef Christian Blouin does original takes on American classics but the menu includes dishes from all over the map. Our Shrimp Étouffée included six big meaty shrimp in a smokey tomato based sauce served over cheese grits made creamy with mascarpone cheese and an aged smoked cheddar. Take a stroll through their Facebook page to see some of their other creations.

Happy Hour Tuesday – Friday 3-6pm

Hooch and Banter
49 S. Market St.

The Tasting Room

The Tasting Room, on the corner of Market and Church, was opened by well know local Frederick chef and restauranteur Michael Tauraso in 2001. It has always been a favorite and for good reason with a creative menu and wine bar with wine flights and two dozen wines by the glass. In 2018 Frederick Magazine they won first place in the categories of Best Overall Restaurant, Special Occasion, and Steak. We’ve had some fantastic meals here over the years but on our most recent visit we only had drinks. The bar at the Tasting Room mixes some creative craft cocktails. The Girl From Ipanema, was a tasty mix of brazilian rum with grapefruit liqueur, aperol and lemon. 

cocktail the tasting room frederick maryland

Girl From Ipanema at The Tasting Room

It has been a while since we had this beautiful piece of panko crusted rockfish so it’s no longer on the menu, but you get the idea of the quality to expect. Check out this great post at Pursuit of it All for a more recent review.

Tasting Room Fish copy

The Tasting Room
101 N Market St

Firestone’s Raw Bar

Firestone’s Culinary Tavern has been open since 1999 and is now a staple in downtown Frederick. We always consider it a reliable place to get good food or hang out at the bar. When the building next door became available, owner Kimball Firestone used the opportunity to expand. The Raw Bar opened in late 2016. It is a separate business but connected to Firestones Tavern.

Firestones Raw Bar

The rockfish ceviche was very fresh and flavorful, served with an avocado mousse and sesame tortillas. It was the perfect snack with one of the spicy margaritas made with jalapeño infused tequila.

Firestones-Raw-Bar-Ceviche

Rockfish ceviche at Firestone’s Raw Bar

What else works well with a spicy margarita? A dozen raw oysters, especially during Happy Hour when the oysters are $1 each and the cocktails are half-price. Other Happy Hour specials include $2 selected draft beer and $4 house wine.

Firestones-Raw-Bar-Oysters

Happy Hour Tuesday-Friday 4-6pm

Firestone’s Raw Bar
105 North Market Street

White Rabbit Gastropub

The White Rabbit Gastropub opened on July 1, 2017 to rave reviews and became Frederick’s Best New Restaurant for 2018. It’s unlike anything else in Frederick. There are dining areas and bars both up and down. The downstairs has a rustic lodge decor with brick walls and exposed beams. We preferred the upstairs speakeasy-like parlor with red velvet walls and dim lighting, appropriate considering White Rabbit’s hidden location behind the Church Street parking garage.

White-Rabbit-Gastropub-bar

They have 38 craft beers on tap, including some local beers (the current tap list is available on the website). We like that you can get 5 ounce pours. When faced with such a large selection, we rarely are satisfied with just one and the small pours make it easy to try a few.

The menu is full of comforting pub food. As soon as we sat down, we ordered some Candied Slab Bacon. There is a limited amount made daily and we wanted to be sure we got some. I challenge anyone to get a photo of these sweet, salty, spicy sticks of bacon before they’re grabbed up. I couldn’t. It all happened so fast! The bacon was just a teaser to get our taste buds ready for a plate of the American poutine – a big plate of fries topped with hand-pulled mozzarella and peppercorn dijon cream.

White-Rabbit-Poutine

American Poutine at White Rabbit Gastropub

Happy Hour is weekdays 3-6pm and all day on Mondays. They have a special $5 menu of food and drinks and $1 off draft beers and wine by the glass.

White Rabbit Gastropub
5424, 18 Market Space

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