If you are a fan of the culinary world and pay attention to TV shows like Top Chef then the name Bryan Voltaggio should ring a bell. He was runner up on the sixth season of the show and he came in fifth place on Top Chef: Masters Edition. Voltaggio has become a cooking titan and he is a giant in the Maryland culinary scene. He has numerous successful restaurants including VOLT in Frederick, Aggio at Power Plant in Baltimore, and three locations for his Family Meal restaurant.
Voltaggio has a reputation for bringing rustic flavors to high-end cuisine. His cooking is always imaginative and rich in culinary technique. He’s deserving of all the accolades that have come his way. I was super excited to finally try one of his restaurants when I got to try Family Meal at the Inner Harbor location.
The Inner Harbor’s food typically is not good, it’s a tourist spot so the food is boring and typically unimaginative. For true great Baltimore food you need to visit the other neighborhoods. But Family Meal is the exception, it is excellent and it demands that you return again and again.
As soon as you walk into Family Meal, you see a spacious restaurant with ample capacity. I went during an off time so it wasn’t very crowded, but this place can handle a large crowd. But enough chit chat, let’s get down to the food.
We started with chicken pot pie fritters, onion rings, and strawberry lemonade. The onion rings came with a bacon horseradish sauce that was out of this world. The onion rings have a cornmeal crust that makes them so crunchy and delicious, literally these were the best onion rings I’ve ever had. The horseradish sauce has a flavorful bacon aftertaste that leaves a really pleasant flavor in your mouth after you take a big crunchy bite of the onion ring.
The chicken pot pie fritters were a fun take on chicken pot pie, the filling was a creamy and flavorful mix of chicken, cream sauce, and carrots. They’re served like little arancini balls, they were a hit.
We shared a strawberry lemonade, because sometimes I just get a hankering for a good sweet drink (I don’t drink alcohol*). The strawberry lemonade was delicious, it had a mild strawberry flavor without having too much of a perfume like flavor. The crushed ice was a nice touch to the drink as well.
*Not for any real philosophical reason, I just rather eat delicious things than drink calories of stuff that doesn’t taste that great to me*
From the appetizer we moved to the meal itself and we shared a 3 piece fried chicken and biscuit, because a true test to me is whether you can make good fried chicken. Well they passed.
The fried chicken again had what seemed like a bit of cornmeal in it, which added a nice crunch to a coating that wasn’t so thick that you felt like you were eating rocks. The fried chicken was juicy and seasoned well, the crust complimented the seasoning well. Meanwhile, the biscuit could have been moister but it was still delicious, some folks are biscuit snobs but for me growing up the pinnacle of biscuits was KFC so I love pretty much any biscuit (sorry folks). The biscuit had tiny chives in it which added a nice touch of flavor.
Now for me, no fried chicken meal is complete without macaroni and cheese. I don’t know why I love pairing these two together, but I do. So full marks to Family Meal for making this a possibility. Macaroni and Cheese while simple in nature can defeat even the best of chefs. Fortunately, Family Meal hit this one out of the PARK! The pimento macaroni and cheese is what you envision easy mac tasting like in your head. The creamy cheese sauce is flavorful and cheesy, some places use a cheese sauce but it’s bland and has no taste. This was so perfectly creamy and the pimento cheese adds a fun kick to the macaroni and cheese. This is perfection and a must have if you go (it’s a side).
The green bean casserole was however somewhat of a letdown. The flavor was a little bland and it lacked the signature fried onions on top of it. I would avoid this if I went next time.
The meal concluded with an oatmeal cream pie dessert and a strawberry blondie. Neither of which were what I anticipated, but both were delicious. The oatmeal cream pie was literally a cream pie with an oatmeal crust and it was delicious. The vanilla bean filling was flavorful and mild, while the buttery oatmeal crust was satisfying and just sweet enough. Meanwhile the strawberry blondie was a basic blondie brownie with diced strawberries and a scoop of strawberry sherbert. Eaten separately, it was bland, eaten together it was delicious.
Overall Family Meal is a great spot and an awesome addition to the Inner Harbor, whose food is typically not good. The food is super affordable and the service is great. Go try it right now.