Sometimes it pays to be a kid. Then you could order the hot dog panino on the children's menu of Doughboys without guilt. Mozzarella oozes over this kosher dog that's been split vertically and horizontally, then pressed and toasted in a fresh focaccia roll. It's heaven. No one at this chic, saffron-walled cafe raises a brow when I ask for it–except my spouse.
After all, there's grownup food on the menu–wood-oven pizzas, salads, and panini–better suited to someone long past jungle-gym days. But I ate a similarly adorned hot dog on my first trip to Paris when I was 11, and the Proustian pull is too strong.
On another visit I slide into adult territory with a panino of chicken, eggplant pesto and baby spinach. It's wonderful. So are two others: proscuitto and carmelized onion and the Italian with good deli meats, fontina, and black-olive spread. Salads are nicely done too, especially one with spinach, goat cheese, walnuts, and carmelized onion vinaigrette. Even better is the unconventional Caprese with mesclun, bits of fresh mozzarella, and zesty tomato confit with capers and basil. And a few dollars extra gets you add-ons of shrimp or chicken.
Wood-oven pizzas with thin crisp crusts also deserve a look. The classic Margherita is cleverly done with diced plum tomatoes. Pies that really soar include the spinach with red onion and portobello; Grecco with sausage, feta, and kalamata olives; pesto with shrimp, sun-dried tomatoes, and fontina; and San Danielle with shaved proscuitto, fontina, and asparagus. Toppings for make-your-own combos range from the sublime–roasted red peppers and roasted shrimp–to the silly, which would be pineapple.
Until the dinner hour, you can help yourself to large glass jugs of house-made lemonade and passion-fruit iced tea. A rotating selection of wines by the glass and bottle, and beers like Stella Artois and Yuengling reflect well on the place, too.
Doughboys is in the Kentlands Shopping Center, where a restaurant seems to open every week. It's informal–you order at the counter, and food is brought to the table, but it stands out because of the fresh fixings and care taken in the kitchen. Even a simple fruit salad with strawberry, kiwi, banana, grapes, and pineapple in a zippy honey-lemon vinaigrette is made to order. You might consider this for dessert. But if the kid in you is still clamoring, there's a house-made fresh-fruit pizza à la mode, too.
251 W. Market St., Gaithersburg; 301-330-3212. Open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner.
ATMOSPHERE: Cheerful and welcoming.
SERVICE: Engaging, friendly, efficient.
FOOD: Thin-crust pizzas, bright salads, savory panini, and a great hot dog.
PRICES: Entrées, $5.95 to $10.95. Dinner for two: about $30.
BOTTOM LINE: Another place that would be welcome in any neighborhood.