It is a rare experience to find a restaurant that makes you want to spend all of your paycheck on food…every day. Even more so that a place transforms the way you look at food. Cafe Nola in Frederick, Maryland created just that experience.
The small cafe and restaurant off of Market Street reflects the “hipster” vibe in downtown Frederick, and its decor celebrates members of the 27 Club – everyone from Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix to Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse – through the realistic portraits that line the walls. Customized liquors, such as the tomato basil vodka they use in their signature Bloody Mary, are on display behind the bar, along side a selection of various ciders, meads and organics. Side note – it took me until my second visit there to figure out what a mead is. For those who don’t know, a mead is a type of alcohol made from honey and water, and can also be spiced and heated so it can be a great drink for fall and winter.
On my first of many visits, I ordered green tea, a Bloody Mary and the Haight Street (basically biscuits and gravy) with veggie gravy. My boyfriend, D, ordered the vegetarian Mexican Hash and of course I had to steal a few bites. The mix of the Bloody Mary with the green tea might have been a little much for me to handle drink-wise, but they were both AMAZING. The bartender custom made the Bloody Mary so it was just the right amount of spice (and of course added a pickle, olive and pepper for the extra tastes), and the hot green tea was quite possibly the best I ever had. The Mexican Hash was amazing as well, which I was expecting based on the fact that both D and my other roommate recommended it. The Hash included a blend of potatoes, peppers, onions, kale, smoked tempeh (for the vegetarian version), green hollandaise and two poached eggs. It was the perfect blend of flavor – the spice of the peppers and the savory taste of potatoes and tempeh.
Haight Street was a bit underwhelming, but that could be a bias from eating my dad’s homemade biscuits and gravy growing up. There were only two biscuits and about a cup/cup and a half of gravy. At least for me, biscuits and gravy is meant to be a hearty breakfast to get you through a 10 hour workday, and although it was filling for the amount that was on the plate, it left much to be desired.
The second visit proved to be a 100% success. Between stealing D’s food again (this time a vegetarian steak and cheese with tempeh instead of steak) and my Ninja Turtle espresso, I was in heaven. I promise that’s not just the caffeine buzz talking. The ninja turtle espresso (pictured above) is just like any other, but it has chocolate, hazelnut and caramel flavors. SO GOOD. The veg steak and cheese was just as good as any other I’ve had, and the tempeh was cooked and spiced to steak perfection. I kept it simple with a vegan BLT (smoked tempeh to replace the bacon), but it still entertained my taste buds as I savored its smoky savory goodness. The best part – free coffee refills. Plus, we found out that Nola has a BYOC (bring your own cup) special – fill up any cup you bring in with coffee…for $1! Take that Dunkin.
I have been overwhelmed by the quality of food and service at some places, but never as consistently as my visits to Cafe Nola. I will definitely be going back soon (maybe even tomorrow morning for a boost of wonderful caffeine)!