By Nancy Lavin, The Frederick News-Post
Monday, June 29, 2015
International cuisine spans far beyond the limits of Frederick’s historic downtown.
In fact, the number of South and Central American, Asian and Middle Eastern restaurants along the Golden Mile may surpass those downtown, or at least come close to matching it.
The Route 40 West corridor boasts a mix of longtime institutions and newcomers to the Frederick food scene, serving everything from Indian samosas to Vietnamese pho and a simple, yet wildly-popular char-broiled Peruvian chicken.
“There’s a lot out here … pretty much for any taste,” said Justin Kiska, president of the Golden Mile Alliance.
But, according to Kiska, the multitude of exotic dishes hasn’t surpassed the demand from Frederick’s eager dining crowd. There’s plenty of room for the rapidly-growing international restaurant scene because Frederick itself is expanding just as rapidly.
“It just goes to show that Frederick can handle having all of this,” he said.
The steady business at a small brick storefront on McCain Drive, home to the aforementioned Peruvian chicken, proves Kiska’s statement true.
Sardi’s owner Phil Sardelis said his business has grown enough since he opened in 2009 that he plans to expand into the space next door, formerly a Fox’s Pizza Den since purchased by Sardelis.
Sardelis, who owns nine other restaurants in Maryland, said he chose the Frederick location based on its demographics.
“We knew there were a lot of Latinos in the area, and sort of a blue-collar vibe, which is where we do best,” he said.
He also saw the amount of other international restaurants in the area as an advantage, instead of a sign of too much competition.
“We like competition,” he said. “I think, once people try [international food], they’re more likely to try other international meals as well.”
Roy Zou, owner of Modern Asia Bar & Restaurant, agreed.
When he opened the Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese food restaurant last August, he wasn’t too worried about competition. Not only did he have 17 years of restaurant experience to back him up, but the wealth of adventurous eaters made it clear there was ample demand.
“People like to eat out, and they like to try different cuisines,” he said.
Sardelis chalked it up, in part, to the generational difference between immigrants and their first-generation American-born children. His parents, Greek immigrants, ate and fed their children almost exclusively Greek food. But he and his first-generation counterparts seem more open to trying other foods, he said.
His customer base ranges from all backgrounds and a large contingent of those stationed at Fort Detrick, he said.
Ajay Pradhan, owner of Clay Oven Restaurant, said most customers who dine on his Indian and Nepalese dishes have no ties to either of those countries. Those who were immigrants or descendants of India and Nepal are more likely to pay for his restaurant’s catering services for large gatherings like birthdays or funerals, he said.
Despite easy access to the food in his own restaurant, Pradhan said he eats out at least once a week, typically at other international restaurants.
But with new international restaurants cropping up with increasing frequency, it’s hard to hit them all. Kiska admitted that he still has several on his “to try” list, including Sardi’s.
He couldn’t pick a favorite among those he had visited, either. But the Italian offerings at Il Forno Pizzeria are definitely toward the top of the rankings, he said.
“Give me pizza and I’m in my glory,” he said.