Tucked away in a quaint little post office in Garrett Park, Maryland (with a not so quaint Amtrak track right behind it), Black Market Bistro is a part of the Black’s restaurant family (my second favorite local group, after the Great Americans, of course).
Despite the bustling, filled to capacity dining room, the overall feel of the place is warm and comforting. The wait staff is extremely pleasant and gracious; our waitress never once huffed about the fact that she had to come by four times before my two dining companions and I were ready to order (and, it wasn’t like we really needed to look at the menu–the three of us are pretty standard in what we order when we dine together).
The specials for the evening highlighted the greatest joy of summer: the heirloom tomato. There was a crostini with ricotta cheese, basil, and tomato. There was also a gazpacho with basil. Our choice was the heirloom tomato salad. Our tomatoes (all shapes, sizes, and colors) came served with small balls of mozzarella and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. The tomatoes were perfectly ripened–not grainy or mealy, they were juicy and crisp. The balsamic was the perfect acidic counterpart to the sweetness of the tomatoes.
The other menu appetizers seemed to mostly be of the seafood variety; while appropriate for the season it was not, to me, appropriate for the area (call me a snob, but I’d prefer to have my seafood closer to the sea). There were several different musssel dishes (one Thai inspired, one with garlic, shallots, and tomatoes), and some cornmeal crusted oysters. There was also a squid salad and an atipasto platter.
The dinner menu was quite varied. Thin crust pizzas started off the options. The dinner entrees, much like the appetizer ones, had many seafood choices–trout, salmon, tuna, and shrimp. There was also the typical fare of chicken and steak but, of course, we all three gravitated toward the burger. I know that, to write a proper review, one must really sample as many different items as possible. We? Failed.
The burgers were fantastic (and at least we had them different ways). With the options of cheese (cheddar, pepper Jack, provolone, or Point Reyes bleu) and bacon, we went crazy with variations. The burgers came cooked to order (perfectly medium rare), the juices soaking perfectly into the sesame seed bun (as one friend said, “You don’t see these much anymore…it’s more of a Kaiser world.”). The burgers come with a salad and crispy onion strings. French fries appear no where on the menu. The mixed green salad left much to be desired (including dressing, in my opinion) but the onion crisps were a welcome accompaniment.
And then? Comes dessert. BMB makes all breads and desseerts in-house, daily. (Aside: the bread basket held several slices each of regular white baguette type bread and what we determined was an Irish soda bread with currants. Neither disappointed. What was slightly disappointing was the pre-packaged pats of butter. I prefer a vat of real, don’t have to open a gold wrapper, spreadable goodness.) We each ordered our own dessert and, among the three of us, were able to sample the root beer float (“Root beer does something amazing to the texture of the ice cream”), the blueberry pie slab (a la mode, of course, and a slab it surely was), and the chocolate panna cotta (“This really is quite chocolatey”). The blueberry pie, which was my choice, was so beautiful–the granulated sugar sprinkled all over the crust made the pie sparkle. The garnish of fresh peaches tasted as though they had been picked straight from the tree and delivered to the pie man (after which they were marinated in some sort of citrus).
Before we knew it, we had been sitting at the table for almost three hours. Not once did anyone try to rush us and not once did we ever realize the amount of time we had spent eating and laughing. If you’re looking for a kind of out of the way place (I mean, it’s right off of Rockville Pike, between Kensington and Rockville) with a comfortable atmosphere that offers a seasonal and well-priced menu and you don’t mind the occasional freight train rolling through, Black Market Bistro is the place for you.