Cheap Eats

Seeking Out Frederick County's Off-the-Beaten-Path Culinary Treasures

By Tripp Laino | Photography by Turner Photography Studio | Posted on 04.08.14 – Dining, Feature, Food & Drink

Frederick County has more than enough places where you can drop a chunk of your paycheck on a world-class dining experience. There are plenty of restaurants that offer superb dishes, prepared by chefs worthy of the praise heaped upon them. But, let’s face it, they aren’t practical as everyday options.

Sometimes you need something not so upscale. You want to trade in the cloth napkins and white tablecloths for a picnic table and some plastic-wrapped silverware or a basic ceramic plate and plain cutlery. When those cravings strike, you need the warmth and comfort of some wallet- and stomach-friendly eats. By venturing off the beaten path, to some of the nooks and crannies of the city and county, you can find some incredibly delicious food at palatable prices — about $10 per meal.

With that in mind, here are some — but certainly not all — of the best off-the-beaten-path spots to chow down in Frederick County while not emptying your bank account.


a.k.a. Friscos

4632 Wedgewood Blvd.


Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Sunday: 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

This quirky restaurant, tucked unassumingly into a business park off New Design Road, serves enormous sandwiches to a bustling lunch and evening crowd of regulars. Venture in around lunchtime and you’ll find dozens of happy patrons chatting between bites of sandwich and sides. Owner John Wolf credits word of mouth advertising for the crowds as the restaurant, which has been in Frederick since 1997.

It’s hard to go wrong with any of the sandwiches on the Frisco’s menu, which includes homemade roast beef, turkey, tuna and several with Italian meats. It also features loaded baked potatoes, with massive spuds topped with sandwich ingredients. The Redwood potato includes roast beef, ranch dressing, melted cheddar, red onion and horseradish.

But the real superstar on the restaurant’s menu is the exploded potatoes, a secret-recipe of warm potato salad that features bacon and a slew of other ingredients. For a real treat, save up a few extra calories before visiting and swap your baked potato out for the exploded potatoes. It’s a divine indulgence, and probably big enough that you’ll skip eating dinner later.


Alekos Village Cafe

4304 Old National Pike, Middletown (Inside Fountaindale Sunoco)


Tuesday-Thursday: 11 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Sure, Sheetz and Wawa have plenty of options for grabbing a quick bite to eat after you fill up your gas tank and coffee mug. But just over the mountain in Middletown lies some of the best Greek food in the county—and it’s sold inside a Sunoco.

Some highlights from the menu at Aleko’s Village Cafe include succulent gyros, tossed with a superbly piquant tzatziki sauce and a richly flavorful falafel, a vegetarian dish satisfying enough to please any meat-eater. Joana Kontos Tsinonis, Aleko’s owner, says the gyro is the best-selling dish on the menu, but touted her other Greek specialties, like spanikopita, a pie made of spinach and cheese in filo dough as dishes beloved by customers.

She has such a wide base of customers, including many who travel to Middletown from other parts of Frederick County, that she’s looking to expand.

“[We’re] looking for a bigger location or a second location,” she says. “Hopefully in downtown.”


Barbara Fritchie Restaurant

1513 W. Patrick St.


7 a.m. – 9 p.m.

An over-sized candy cane greets travelers on the west end of U.S. 40, beckoning those in search of excellent diner-style food and friendly staff in one of the oldest restaurants in Frederick County.

Step into the Barbara Fritchie Restaurant, which opened in 1910, and you’ll instantly feel at home. Inviting smells of freshly made homestyle dishes like fried chicken, country ham and roasted turkey drift out of the kitchen. Mouth-watering homemade pies line a center display, beckoning to hungry diners with their sugary siren song.

Also boasting a lengthy breakfast menu, the restaurant’s offerings are just like your grandmother used to make—excellent comfort food made from scratch.

John Burner, a co-owner of the restaurant, says many people talk about the restaurant’s homemade pies and soups, but there are other fresh items on the menu worthy of desire, like the roast beef, turkey and ham. He says the restaurant aims for a comfortable, unpretentious atmosphere. “We just try to do the hometown feeling,” he says. “And try to get the Golden Mile active again.”


Cafe Bueno

503 N. East St.


Monday-Friday: 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Saturday: 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Café Bueno is a no-frills type establishment—a counter, a few simple tables and limited decorations. But they don’t need frills. Open the door and you’re immediately hit with the smell of meats and vegetables cooking. If you’re lucky, Chef Francisco Cisneros will have cooked up a few specials, always worth a taste.

Heather Goddard, who co-owns the restaurant with her husband, Cisneros, said customer response to some specials, like the beef tongue tacos, has made them permanent menu items. Even without special menu additions, Cafe Bueno’s menu shines. The Cancun burrito, which mixes chicken and a house-made chorizo sausage, and is smothered with salsa, is a perfect blend of spicy and savory flavors. Goddard says it’s been a top seller in the 14 months the restaurant has been open.

Almost everything offered is delicious—even nachos, which can be a perfunctory affair slathered with day-glo cheese sauce and chili, are elevated to a star attraction here. Homemade nachos are topped with silky refried beans, fresh pico de gallo and cheese, and meats are added if desired. In any version, they are a superstar dish.



1310 S. Main St., Mount Airy


Sunday-Thursday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Frederick County is blessed to have a handful of excellent barbecue restaurants. CarterQue, on the county’s eastern edge, serves up a variety of succulent meats, smoked for 16 hours in one of the on-site smokers. Owner Chris Carter said the restaurant has a large group of regulars, who return for the great tasting food, and the value they receive.

“A lot of it has to do with the portions and value for what they spend,” Carter says. “Our portions, being barbecue, are large. People leave here feeling satisfied.”

The restaurant serves up an excellent smoked chicken that retains a juicy texture and isn’t overpowered by smoke, and a slew of delicious sides, like gooey macaroni and cheese and fried okra.

One of the hits of the menu is the black raspberry barbecue sauce, which Carter says has won several awards in barbecue competitions. It’s a tangy, sweet addition to any of the smoky meats (and excellent on French fries, too).



16430A Old Frederick Road, Emmitsburg


Sunday-Thursday: 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Chubby’s owner Tom Caulfield, is also known as Dr. Smoke, and says he has a PhD in both smoke-enomics and smoke-ology. While it might be a challenge to find where to get one of those degrees yourself, it’s not hard to find something delicious on the menu at Chubby’s.

Their pulled pork is a sensation, with a hearty portion of the crunchy, spice-dense outer edge, known to barbecue connoisseurs as bark. It’s a tremendous, flavor-packed addition to the juicy pulled pork. It’s hard to go wrong with any of the sides available at Chubby’s, but highlights include the creamy and rich macaroni and cheese and the earthy and tangy collard greens.

And if you’re looking for some adventure in your barbecue, Chubby’s has you covered as well. “Anything that has four legs, I’ll smoke it,” Caulfield says. “As long as there’s any demand at all. A lot of barbecue places will do pulled pork, beef brisket, ribs and chicken.

We try to extend the boundaries—pork belly, pastrami and corned beef.”


El Sloppy Tacos

12 S Maple Ave., Brunswick


Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Sunday: Noon – 9 p.m.

Just a few steps from the C&O Canal towpath, El Sloppy Tacos in Brunswick offers an excellent place to grab a bite to eat when you take a break from your bike ride or hike. Owner Tony Amos says the restaurant will hit its five-year anniversary in June, and to celebrate, he plans on adding some new twists to his menu, including some Asian fusion dishes, as well as Korean and Vietnamese influences.

Amos credits his success to his dedication to his food and attention to detail with his homemade spice rubs and salsas, as well as cutting and frying his corn chips regularly.

The real star of Amos’ menu is the variety of meats available, including two styles of pulled pork, shredded beef, and chicken.

But if you’re feeling adventurous (and you should feel adventurous), the tinga poblano is excellent, offering a blend of beef, pork, sausage and vegetables in a tomato sauce. It’s richly flavored, and great in tacos, burritos, or atop a salad, served in a taco bowl.


Sardi’s Chicken

50 N. McCain Drive


Monday-Thursday: 10:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: 10:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.

Sunday: 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.

As soon as you open the door at Sardi’s Chicken, the sweet smell of charbroiled chicken wafts over you. Peruvian-style chicken isn’t widely available in Frederick, but is so worth the trip down U.S. 40. The charcoal adds a slightly sweet, smoky flavor to the chicken, which is cooked rotisserie style.

Manager Tony Groomes, says the rotisserie chicken’s spice blend and marinade is what keeps customers coming back. The chicken is paired with delicious sides, like fried plantains, with their slightly sweet flavor, and the unbelievably rich and earthy black beans and rice. But the flavors are turned up to 11 when Sardi’s secret sauces are involved.

Whether you choose white (the tamest), yellow (tangy and sweet with a little zip) or green (the spiciest choice), all three add a wallop of flavor to whatever you pour them on—and you’ll want to put them on everything.