#184 - AG Kitchen, Silver Spring MD

A few weeks ago I was back home in Maryland, and my friend Kara had come to visit for a couple of days from North Carolina.  The first day, we hit Annapolis; the second day we hit Washington DC. And when I say hit DC, we dominated. According to the pedometer on my phone, we walked over 13 miles. Our legs felt every one of them. When we got back to my parents' house my mom asked if we wanted to go out for dinner. I'm never going to say no to a meal, so of course we were in.  So we took a nap to refresh, and then went to Downtown Silver Spring.

Downtown Silver Spring has seen a major rebirth over the past 20 years.  When I was a kid, that was pretty run down. Never horrible, and never unsafe, but there just wasn't that much there to bring the crowds.  It was a place to pass through from one part of town to another more than anything else.  There was a historic movie theatre and a few restaurants, but that's about it.  When Metro built a station there that helped, but only to a small extent.  They've done a much more major revitalization over the years, to bring more people there to eat, shop and be entertained. First it was a Whole Food and some more restaurants. And now it has absolutely exploded, with lots of shops and restaurants, a huge AMC theatre and a park.  At night they close down the main road to traffic through the official downtown area, to make it a walking friendly area. They built an open air theatre across the street, and there's often bands playing.  

We didn't really have a plan of where to eat. My parents and I love Thai at Silver Spring, but I wanted something different for the food blog. We saw AG Kitchen in the spot where Macaroni Grill had been, so we decided to go look at the menu. As we perused, one of the hostesses came out and gave us a sample of their chips & guac. The guac was fantastic. Sold.

None of us had heard of AG Kitchen, and learned that it started in NYC, and the Silver Spring location is the second one. I'd be really interested to know how they picked this as their other location. It seems kind of random. But I'm sure there's a method to their madness.

The restaurant is large and bright and open. They use lots of really bright colors: lime green, orange, pink, and yellow. Very tropical. They've also got a large open kitchen so you can watch them work. 

One of the first things I noticed at the table was the viewfinder

I literally don't think I've seen one of those since I was a kid. That's probably not the real name for it, but you know what I mean. I had one when I was little, and loved it. On these viewfinders they showcase their desserts.  Cool presentation, and definitely a conversation starter. 

The menu is Cubin and Latin inspired. It includes tacos, burgers, main dishes, and a substantial selection of appetizers. One thing I noticed is that most of the menu items are a la carte, so you have to order starch or veggies separately. And they are kind of expensive. I'm not a big fan of that. 

Since the guacamole was what sold us on eating there, of course we had to start with it. You can can mild, medium or spicy. You can also choose from one of 4 types. We stuck with classic, and went mild since my dad eats guac and doesn't do spicy.

On the menu it says "tableside", but it was delivered to the table complete.  I must say I was disappointed in the serving size. For the price, and for how many chips they give you, I expected more. On the plus side,the guac was fantastic. Very fresh, and you can tell they use fresh lime juice. 

I wasn't planning on getting a drink, but since Kara wanted one I agreed to have one as well. After some back and forth, and help from the server, we went with Her Name is Lola

It was very strong and fruity. But it was too thick. I think they put so much fruit in there that it's almost not even a cocktail anymore.  It was okay, but I wouldn't get it again.

Kara got the baja fish tacos. And because the tacos don't come with anything, she added a side salad
Crispy snapper, citrus slaw, chipotle cream

The tacos were small so I didn't try any, but she said they were really delicious. And the side salad was your basic salad.

My mom got the mahi mahi

Jumbo crab, mango, pineapple and papaya salsa, pickled red onions

It came to the table screaming hot. I tried a bite and it was delicious. The broth and the fish had really good flavor.

My dad ordered the salmon. That's when we found out that it's part of the surf & turf option. Since my dad is vegetarian, that wasn't going to work. But the server showed us that we could do a double-serving of the salmon. So he did that, with mango salsa for the sauce and asparagus for the side.

I really liked the presentation in the cast iron pots. It was a large serving of asparagus, and they were cooked to a tender-crisp, which is exactly the way I like them. I tried a bite of the salmon and it was perfectly cooked. When we first ordered it, we were worried that it would be way too much salmon, but each portion is well-sized to be just one part of a serving of food.

As usual, I had trouble deciding what to get. After a lot of back and forth, I went with the Samba chicken. I had hesitated because it's a half chicken, but the server said it was really delicious so I decided to trust her. I asked her to put the sauces on the side. And for my side dish, I did sweet plantains

These were awesome. Thick chunks, perfectly cooked, and screaming hot. I hadn't had plantains in ages. I used to make fried plantains periodically, but I never find good ones here in Oklahoma.

Brazilian style, marinated 24 hours, dry charcoal rub;
Honey glaze & AG spicy mojo

I am so glad I listened and got the chicken. It was super moist & juicy, and extremely flavorful. I'm not sure what the marinade is, but it was wonderful. Both of the sauces were delicious. I tasted both by themselves before dipping the chicken in them. The mojo is very spicy, and I think it would be too much if it was cooked with the chicken. But having it as a dipping sauce was perfect. The honey glaze was sweet, but not overpowering at all. The roll was okay, but honestly not really needed.  I'm wondering if they add it simply because there's a space on the plate. It was way too much food, so I took the rest home and ate it the next day. I'm not a fan of leftovers, but I'll make an exception for this chicken. It was just as good the second time around. 

I read through reviews as I was preparing to write this post, and they are very mixed. Some people had horrible experiences with service and/or food. I'm guessing it's partially because the restaurant is pretty new, and still getting its footing. Our service wasn't perfect, but she was very nice and helpful, and not overbearing. The manager did also come over to our table to ask how everything was. Other than the guac not being tableside and being a small portion, our food was really good. 

As we were walking out, we noticed this table in the little foyer

Kind of a unique thing, showcasing some of the items they use in their kitchen. I've never seen anything like it before.

Will I go back?  Yes, I will, because we had an overall good experience. And by the time I'm back in Maryland they would have had more time to get better. I would really like to check out the NYC location to see the difference.