When Frederick native and â€śTop Chefâ€ť finalist Bryan Voltaggio crafts his epicurean delights, he canâ€™t help but be reminded of his young family. On his left forearm, the name of his son, Thatcher, is tattooed in scrolling text, and his right arm reads Piper, his daughterâ€™s name.
Family is a significant priority to him, Voltaggio said, and thatâ€™s impacted his decision to open a family-oriented restaurant in Frederick with his business partner, Hilda Staples. In keeping with this theme, the new eatery was dubbed Family Meal and officially opened July 7.
Voltaggio said that, growing up, mealtime was a vital time to his family, and itâ€™s a ritual he wants to encourage.
â€śI believe in that tradition so much,â€ť Voltaggio said. â€śLife has changed. Itâ€™s a lot faster, kids are involved in many activities, so it is tough for people to get together. â€¦ Obviously it is a little easier to go out. I wanted to create an experience where people felt good about taking their kids out, knowing it is freshly prepared and food thatâ€™s from the area.â€ť
Family Meal is housed in a former 1960s Nissan car dealership on East Street and has a diner vibe. Dressed with minimalistic cement floors, wood booths and simple tables, itâ€™s accented with modern touches â€” a rough wood bar is set in front of sleek espresso machines, beer taps and a panoramic view into the kitchen. Voltaggioâ€™s signature clean and modern feel is met with warm and almost vintage accents â€” small bunches of orange flowers on each table, bowls of lemons and limes on the bar and old-fashioned straw containers â€” and waitresses wearing ruffly, chartreuse aprons. The fried chicken platter is dished up in a cheerful yellow bowl shaped like a chicken and is served with two flaky biscuits. Rockfish and steak entrees are also on the menu.
If in a sweet mood, adult milkshakes are offered, and new flavors are currently being developed Voltaggio said. Currently, the top seller is the Bourbon Vanilla, he said, and all ice cream is house-made.
While a very different feel than Volt, his flagship restaurant, the food is made from the same local, organic ingredients, Voltaggio said. Menu options start with breakfast (served all day) choices such as waffles topped with blueberries and cream or an omelet stuffed with asparagus, ham, cheddar and morel mushrooms. The salads, including the wedge topped with gorgonzola and bacon, are beautifully presented. Among the appetizers offered are fried green tomatoes served with a sweet pecan topping and set in a tasty buttermilk sauce.
When asked why he chose the diner feel, Voltaggio said he saw a vacancy in Frederick for a spot with this atmosphere.
â€śIn downtown Frederick there is a need for something that was a little more casual in experience. I wanted to have a three-meal restaurant â€” offering breakfast lunch and dinner â€” where families could gather around reasonably priced food made with really great ingredients in an approachable manner,â€ť he explained.
And this family experience isnâ€™t just for his customers, Voltaggio said. He said heâ€™s dedicated to making mealtimes special for his young family.
â€śI cannot just do it for others; I have to do it to myself, too,â€ť said Voltaggio, adding that much of his time is spent cooking so he is not able to be home for dinners on a regular basis. â€śIn the near future, I am going to create a time to be with them [in the middle of the day] between lunch and dinner.â€ť
Also in the future, Voltaggio said he will feature more of his childhood favorites on the menu.
â€śMy mom used to make a really good lasagna and meatloaf. We are testing it out to make it part of the menu. I think you will see some of that come out on the horizon,â€ť he said.
In addition, heâ€™s in the process of evolving a specials menu.
â€śLike a Monday special, a Tuesday special â€” I want to implement something like that into a menu,â€ť he said with a laugh. â€śI think thatâ€™s fun â€” like meatloaf Monday or that type of thing.â€ť
Favorites among young diners include the macaroni and cheese â€” incredibly creamy baked with a crispy topping â€” as well as the duck-fat fries, topped with salt and served with dipping sauces, Voltaggio said.
Voltaggio said the fried chicken has been the most popular dish.
â€śFried chicken was always a second-cut thing at Volt, and that became a part of our family meal â€” when my staff got together every day and we would eat, we would always mess around with fried chicken,â€ť he said.
Voltaggio said even with three restaurants in Frederick â€” Lunchbox opened last fall â€” and RANGE is slated to open in Chevy Chase this fall, he has still made time to be at Family Meal every day. A former sous chef at Volt, Adam Howard, oversees the day-to-day goings on of Family Meal and is the chef de cuisine.
â€śI have many great people that are around me. I am only as good as the people around me. My role, my job is to help my team to succeed in seeing my vision of where I want these concepts to be,â€ť Voltaggio said. â€śI never ask anybody to do something I wouldnâ€™t do. I have washed dishes at Family Meal, and I will do it again if needed.â€ť
For more information, visit Family Meal at 880 N. East St., visit www.voltfamilymeal.com or call 301.378.2895.