Not everything is great (e.g. dubious hamburger) at Max’s Kosher Cafe (2319 University), but the schawarma (their spelling) is among Wheaton’s finest sandwiches, up there with Marchone’s meatball sub and Saigonese’s bahn mi. At $8 for the big stuffed pita, it makes an excellent lunch.
A very bad picture of a very good sandwich
It is also participatory entertainment, as the guy behind the schawarma counter slices hot steaming lamb shards from the rotisserie right into the pita, and then negotiates with you on what else to stuff in there. These onions? Sure. Those onions? Why not. A third kind of onions? If you insist, my good man. Sauce, yes, but which one? Turns out the “very hot” sauce is not very hot, but that’s okay, it adds some juice to the package as does the hummus. Of course I want the hummus.
Also tahini. He eyed me warily when I hesitated about the tahini, and when I said sure, a little, I got about two ounces of tahini — approximately four times more than what I would call “a little.” Which was fine, since he knows better than I do what makes a great schawarma. Delicious.
We had heard reports that weekend brunch at Parkway Deli (8317 Grubb Road) is a madhouse but still I underestimated the madness of the house, and the longness of the wait for a table. PD is a local institution for nearly 50 years but somehow we had never been, until recently. Not only was the wait long, but the line was awkwardly arranged, constantly in the way of servers rushing around, and the end of the line was not obvious to each set of newcomers, which added to the feeling of being in the way.
We survived the madness and even mostly liked it. Everything we ordered cost $9.35: the reuben, an omelet, and eggs benedict with crabcakes. Technically we also ate a potato knish, which was $3.55 and above average quality, but that ruins the $9.35 theme. “Ruins” is probably too strong a strong word. Moving on…
Overall the food was solid, especially at the price point. I liked the reuben, and a big/good value at the price, but the accompanying fries were limp and sallow. I tasted the crab cakes on the benedict (which looked good otherwise) and wasn’t impressed but Senior Mrs. Me liked them and that’s what counts. The omelette was pretty good. Lots of good classic Jewish deli/kosher options.
The main room is big and loud, with lots of mirrors and odd colors, very strange layout. We were glad to be in a booth, not at one of the close-packed tables in the middle of the room. Service was generally good though a couple of dishes were practically thrown on the table; I guess you have to cut some slack during the brunch rush. I can see why the place is popular — does the dinginess and datedness add to the charm? — but if I had to choose between Parkway Deli and Woodside Deli, it would be a tossup: PD food might be slightly better, but WD wins on decor, convenience (for us Wheatonians) and not having to wait as long for a table (though that’s a tough table too at brunch/lunch rush). I need to revisit Wheaton’s own Nick’s Diner one of these weekends, very different atmosphere and food style but serves a similar local diner brunch/lunch niche.
We recently got picnic takeout from the relatively new Uptown Deli (7905 Norfolk), and thought it was pretty good, especially the square, fried, delicious Coney Island Knish. Tangy, dill-infused potato salad was also excellent; pasta salad was only okay. Pastrami was decent, at least I thought so, but I am not at all a pastrami expert; “Jewish Salami” was more like bologna, I wonder if we were given the “Jewish Bologna” by mistake? Overall very solid, I would go back for the potato salad and knish, and try a hot sandwich next time.
A couple of Wheatony notes from today’s Washingtonian restaurant chat. First, Todd Kliman rates Max’s Kosher Cafe falafel at #5 in his top ten sandwich list. Max’s is good in general (though closed Saturdays, my primary eatin’-in-Wheaton day) and their falafel is indeed a fine sandwich, but not sure I’d rate it ahead of Marchone’s Italian, Saigonese’s banh mi, or even Caramelo’s pollo Milanese as noted here recently. It’s in the ballpark at least, and nice to see Max’s get some greater DC press.
The chat also discussed (Forest Glen, close enough to Wheaton) General Store owner/chef Gillian Clark’s YouTube channel where she is posting “re-enactments” mocking her customers’ behavior. The question, Kliman’s answer, and most of the comments both on YouTube and at the related DCist post are generally (but mostly mildly) condemning of Clark, but more because the videos are boring than they are offensive. Complaining about customer service at Clark’s current and former restaurants is kind of a popular local pastime and I’m sure she is enjoying a little payback, though she may enjoy it less if she starts losing business as a result.
I’ve had nothing but friendly service at the General Store, and the food is mostly very good; I’m not offended by the videos but I question why Clark has made them public rather than just distributing to her friends. She’s certainly no Spielberg and I hope she’ll stick to her day job; assuming she does, I look forward to my next round of fried chicken and lemon chess pie.