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Mrs. K's Toll House in Silver Spring

d
dinwiddie Mar 3, 2008 05:56 AM

On the spur of the moment, we decided we wanted to go out to dinner this evening. I got on OpenTable and made a reservation at Mrs. K's Toll House in Silver Spring, someplace I had never been. The restaurant has been there since 1930 (as a restaurant, it was a toll house in the early 1900's) and I don't know how I've not managed to go there at least once in the last 25 years.

Our trip started on a sour note, the people who entered the parking lot in front of us parked in the last handicapped parking space (they did not have handicapped plates or a placard) forcing us to find a place further away (my wife recently broke an ankle and has a temporary placard while she is healing).

However, when we entered the restaurant things got much better. The house is lovely, and larger than one would think. (there is also a lovely patio and gardens that are used in the summer). We were shown to a very nice table and given the menus and wine list. And what a wine list, it is huge, abet fairly expensive (but it is Montgomery County) but has wines in all ranges. There were 5 or 6 vintages of Ridge Monte Bello available (outside my price range unfortunately) as well as several pages of Bordeauxs and a 1979 Petrus, which did not have a price (but obviously well outside the price I was looking for) It was difficult choosing. After deciding that we would order a glass of Pinot Grigio for my wife to go with her fish, and a bottle of a red for the steaks my son and I were having, I settled on a 2001 Worthy Sophie's Cuvee, but the server came back and said they couldn't find it, but did I want the 2004. I declined and asked for the list again and ordered a 2003 Chateau la Nerthe CNdP. About 10 minutes later the server came back with two bottles in his hand and again said they could not find that vintage. He had called the owner and was told to offer us our choice, at the price of the la Nerthe. He then presented a 1999 Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Reserve and a 1999 Louis Latour Château Corton Grancey to choose from. I was sorely tempted to take the Mondavi, but knew my wife would much prefer a Pinot Noir (she does not like Cabernet) so I chose the Corton. It was fantastic, as only properly aged Burgundy can be. Lots of sweet ripe cherry, casis and plums with fine, well integrated tannins and a fairly long finish. Needless to say, we all loved it. (I cross posted this paragraph on the wine board.)

Dinner was quite good too. I started with a grilled Mediterranean octopus salad, then had the New York strip steak served with a wild mushroom cognac cream sauce. For dessert a wonderful bread pudding with whiskey cream. My son started with a grilled portobello mushroom with roquefort cheese and a raspberry vinaigrette. It was followed by a 23 oz. cowboy steak (servered very rare, as requested) and for dessert a huge piece of absolutely fantastic cheesecake. My wife started with the shrimp and scallop ceviche, which unfortunately was fairly bland, needing more spice, but then had a wonderful blackened rockfish. For dessert she had a butterscotch sundae that she pronounced as wonderful. Coffee and espresso ended the meal.

Service was fantastic, friendly, discrete, and efficient. When dinner was over, the manager gave my son and I a tour of the wine cellar (pretty cool, and huge, but overflowing with cases of wine since they just got a shipment, which might explain not being able to find things) and apologized for not having the wine we had first ordered. (Like I was going to complain, I got a wine that cost three times as much for the same price, and was fantastic to boot.) All in all, a very good meal, with the added bonus of getting a much better wine than I had originally ordered for a third of the wine list price. We will return.

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  1. Mister Big Mar 3, 2008 09:55 AM

    Thank you for this post. Mrs. K's had been fairly mediocre for a number of years, but I had recently been hearing of vast improvement. Your review confirms what I've heard.

    Mrs. K's was a favorite of my father's oldest sister when she would visit Silver Spring in the '70's and '80's.

    1. j
      Jason1 Mar 3, 2008 11:31 AM

      Is is true that the menu format changed? I remember that they used to have a sort-of prix fix format, where entree prices were different, but all included an appetizer, salad and dessert. From the menu online, it looks like they have moved a la carte.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Jason1
        d
        dinwiddie Mar 3, 2008 12:16 PM

        The format has changed to a la carte.

      2. l
        LemurKing Mar 11, 2008 01:08 PM

        I went to Mrs K's years ago and was completely unimpressed by the lackluster bland food. From reading the reviews recently, it sounds like I need to test the waters again.

        Just the mention of Mediterranean octopus salad tempts me.
        It's also not far from where I live and having a wine bar so close is even further tempting.

        5 Replies
        1. re: LemurKing
          beauxgoris Mar 11, 2008 09:03 PM

          Has the ownership or managment changed? Maybe it's better now?

          1. re: beauxgoris
            w
            wombat Mar 12, 2008 06:44 PM

            As I recall the ownership is totally different now. I believe it was passed down to the children of the original owner but now it's someone else entirely.

            It was definitely not the sort of place where you saw octopus, in the old days. I think - it was a long time ago - it was famous for big soft rolls they baked themselves and a relish tray. We went once when we first moved here fifteen years ago and decided it was the kind of place you take your Mom and since our moms don't live in the area, we never went back.

            Sounds like they ought to publicize the change of ownership more!

            1. re: wombat
              johnb Mar 14, 2008 03:59 AM

              This is all very interesting. Mrs. K's was always a, shall we say, old-fashioned sort of place, where one saw Lincoln Town Cars in the parking lot and blue-haired ladies inside. It appears these new owners are trying to attract a different demographic.

              1. re: johnb
                d
                dinwiddie Mar 14, 2008 08:35 AM

                While I fit shall we say "an older demographic" a large number of the people in the restaurant the day we were there were probably in the late 20's to late 30's bracket. There were some older, but to be honest, at the price level of this restaurant, especially the wine list, one would expect that it would not appeal to the early 20's crowd.

                1. re: dinwiddie
                  DanielK Mar 14, 2008 11:21 AM

                  dinwiddie, you don't fit the "older demographic" I was thinking of, and probably johnb as well.

                  I was there for a business dinner from my wife's office about 2 years ago, and as a couple in our mid-to-late-30s, we were, no exaggeration, the youngest there by at LEAST 30 years. I am not exaggerating - nearly every table had a walker or wheelchair. And the menu was geared towards this audience - very old school, vegetables cooked beyond oblivion, etc.

                  It sounds like that has changed, and since it is convenient to my wife's office, I will not dread being dragged to business dinners there as much anymore!

        2. l
          Lillydu Mar 14, 2008 11:21 AM

          I've been twice with "the girls" in the last couple of years. First for dinner a couple of years ago and we all enjoyed our meals. We were in a smaller room (up a few stairs to left of the entrance foyer) and it was very cozy. We met again for lunch a few weeks ago on a Saturday and sat in the large sun-filled room. Lunch was good and service was great and I just love the atmosphere of the place. I had salmon filet and it was cooked perfectly and it was another enjoyable meal.

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