My idea of being an outdoors-man is pulling the shade up on my window. After a few glasses of wine, I may even open the window, but never all the way. Don’t get me wrong I like the sun, the grass, the ocean, the forests, fresh air and lakes—I love reading about them. See, all those years as a stand-up comedian, most of it was spent at night. The sun was just a warning signal that it was time to go to bed. There were exceptions; one, of course, was softball, and most of the others were traveling, or going out to buy thicker shades. There was a certain thick white shade we all bought, that if you wrapped yourself in it you could withstand a nuclear blast, well, at least not see it.
In my desperate search to discover a genuine neighborhood diner without a big-name chain associated with it – you know, the kind of dive-looking place where grandpa is in the back frying up bacon and eggs and the kids are out front bring plates of home-cooked food to the regular locals—I stumbled across Woodfield Diner in a strip-mall off of route 124 (a.k.a. Woodfield Road). Albeit far from a hidden neighborhood gem, I found the fresh-cooked eggs and simple omelets a refreshing break from the liquid chicken that is often poured from a milk carton onto a griddle.
Dumplings come in all shapes, sizes, textures and flavors depending on what part of the world in which you are dining.
Each culture prepares their own form of a dumpling—the Polish will serve potato-stuffed pierogi, Italians cover gnocchi and ravioli in tomato sauce, and Indians serve complex spices stuffed into a samosa—but perhaps the first image to come to mind in any native Rockvillian’s mind is that of a chewy noodle stuffed with meat and vegetables that is either steamed or fried and served with soy dipping sauce. These traditional Chinese dumplings are the namesake behind Rockville Town Center’s newest Chinese establishment, struggling to compete with nearby competition.
The French may call them “crepts” while the Americans may call them “crapes”, but either way you pronounce it, the word “crêpe” should always conjure up images of ultra-thin, ultra-light pancakes the size of dinner plates enveloping a myriad of sweet or savory ingredients. Crêpes A-Go-Go has brought the traditional Parisian street-fare straight from the romantic city itself and into the hands of Montgomery County locals, who don’t often consider the other uses for an electric griddle outside of breakfast.
At Kristopher's, there is no shortage of manners from cashiers, servers and customers alike. Listening to the barrage of “sir”s, “ma'am”s and “have a nice evening”s reminds us that we are no longer in the heart of Montgomery County. Although this fact became apparent driving the short three blocks through downtown Poolesville scattered with only a handful of bars and restaurants, we are still pleasantly surprised to watch generations of all ages showing so much respect for one another. Given the choice between two Chinese joints, a Mexican Grill and a Subway, we choose Kristopher's based on the fluorescent sign boasting “gyros” in the window pane. Naturally, we order just what we are craving—one gyro sandwich and one gyro salad.
Tender slices of marinated lamb-beef “meatloaf” are sliced fresh from the rotating spit at the back of the kitchen and tucked into soft pita along with white onion, lettuce, feta cheese and homemade tzaziki sauce. There is no cutting calories in this rich tzaziki, which is thick and creamy and requires spreading as opposed pouring over the sandwich. I enjoy the traditional flavors and moist meat, but my partner says his gyro tastes a bit on the dryer side. We share french fries that are perfectly fried but overly-salted. My salad comes spilling over the sides of a large styrofoam container, loaded with fresh greens, crunchy raw onions and green peppers, flavorless tomatoes (when will restaurants learn to stop destroying the flavor and texture of their tomatoes by keeping them out of the fridge?). Loads of feta cheese and sliced black olives dot the vegetables, which are finished with long thin strips of gyro meat splayed across the top. Tzaziki is served in lieu of dressing, which I greatly appreciate, because it coats the greens well and offers a bright tang in contrast to the saltier salad fixings. I wish the salad had been served with the promised Kalamata olives instead of the black ones from a can and there is too much cheese, even for a feta lover such as myself, but I was still pleasantly surprised to have discovered such a satisfying meal in an otherwise generic strip-mall pizza parlour.
We do not have the room in our stomachs to sample the pizza, cheesesteaks or Italian subs, but fellow patrons assure us that there is nothing here we wouldn't like. Kristopher's appears to be a local favorite, and the staff knows its customers on a first name basis. It is clear that locals come here for the friendly faces and good food and not for the atmosphere—most order take-out because they cannot find a seat at one of the three dining tables among stacks of empty pizza boxes. But like most Cheap Eats' establishments, good food at good prices means sacrificing some other facet of the restaurant.
Kristopher's is located at 19710 Fisher Avenue in Poolesville.
The verdict: Must-Go Go So-So No-Go