Blues BBQ Co.
This blue truck, hidden away near auto-repair shops and a Harley dealership, may be tiny, but its flavors are big. It’s hard to choose between two varieties of pulled pork: the tangy, vinegar-soaked shreds of smoked shoulder that harken to North Carolina or the sweeter Memphis-style meat. Both are smoked over applewood and mesquite and come on a soft bun with a layer of sweet slaw. Meltingly tender brisket is just as good. Don’t miss the scallion-flecked hushpuppies, fried to a coppery brown and served with cinnamon honey butter.
5800 Urbana Pike; 240-674-5805. Entrées $6.50 to $22.
Like any good Maryland town, Frederick has its seafood den where local loyalists come for steamed hard-shell crabs in summer—and this well-worn restaurant is it. Round out a pile of crabs with thin sweet-potato fries, oversize onion rings, or vinegary coleslaw. Meanwhile, take in the wacky decor: cutouts of Elvis and Marilyn above the salad bar and more oyster cans than we’ve ever seen.
5640 Urbana Pike; 301-662-4233. Entrées $8.99 to $28.99.
Proof Artisan Bakery & Barista
With exposed brick and cafe tables, this laid-back bakery is just as good for breakfast and lunch as it is for chocolate-chip cookies and takeaway baguettes. In the morning, fluffy, not-too-sugary cinnamon buns steal the show. At lunch, go for the chicken salad, accented with balsamic vinegar and pistachios, or the over-piled Italian cold-cut sub. Alongside the muffins and pies are lovely desserts—mousse-filled bombes, chocolate pyramids—that look as though they came from a restaurant kitchen.
12 E. Patrick St.; 301-668-2303. Sandwiches $5.50 to $9.95.
The Tasting Room
With vodka infusions, whimsical cocktails, and 40 wines by the glass, this wine bar is a go-to place for a drink. But it’s just as good for eating. Chef Michael Tauraso’s ambitious menu is a mix of classics (creamy crab dip), easy-to-like comfort food (a blue-cheesy Buffalo-chicken sandwich), and more-eclectic dishes (chili-oil-slicked calamari salad). Service is crisp, and the devotion to detail extends from the fresh lemonade to the bread basket, served with a round of butter dusted with paprika.
101 N. Market St.; 240-379-7772. Entrées $26 to $38.
That Cuban Place Café
Owned by a Miami-born Cuban, this is the type of place everyone wishes were around the corner—a cheap takeout, bright with orange and blue accents, where Caribbean music wails from the speakers and food is available all day. Morning means egg-and-ham sandwiches and chorizo; lunch and dinner options include arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) and bistec al palomilla (top-round steak marinated in orange juice).
300 N. Market St.; 301-760-7776. Entrées $8.50 to $13.50.
Even before chef/partner Bryan Voltaggio was a runner-up in the Top Chef competition, customers flocked to his white-walled dining room for some of the best cooking in Maryland. His fusion of rustic ingredients with modern technique is on display in such dishes as dehydrated beets with goat-cheese mousse, butter-poached lobster with coconut, and a surprising chocolate/peanut-butter dessert with cilantro pudding. For those who love a culinary show, book a seat at Table 21, where up to eight customers sit in the kitchen and watch Voltaggio and his staff cook 21 mini-courses. The Sunday brunch is also terrific.
228 N. Market St.; 301-696-8658. Entrées $26 to $38.