Mrs. K's Toll House

$$$$ ($25-$34)
Patrons have been bringing their out-of-town guests for years -- make that generations.
Tue-Thu 11:30 am-2:30 pm
5-9 pm; Fri-Sat 11:30 am-2:30 pm
4:30-9:30 pm; Sun 10:30 am-3 pm
5 pm-8 pm
(Silver Spring)
68 decibels (Conversation is easy)

Editorial Review

2010 Spring Dining Guide

By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, May 23, 2010

I did not expect to find chorizo croquettes on the American menu of one of the oldest restaurants around. The 2001 Harlan Estate for $739 was a surprise, too. Not so much for its sky-high price, but for the fact that the prized wine was even being offered. Mrs. K's Toll House ("Fine Dining Since 1930," reads the sign out front) is by turns strange and satisfying. Does anyone really buy rings from the jewelry case that sits in the foyer of the rambling, Tudor-style former residence? Areas of the china-decorated, nine-dining-room destination smell musty, but the windows of the sunny First Dining Room bring the outdoors inside, and the Wine Cellar room would look at home in Napa, Calif. Part of an uplift of the establishment in 2008, the cellar is where I recently had my first encounter with Mrs. K's. The bottle-lined, brick-walled underground environment proved attractive, but most of the food that Sunday night could have been channeled from a continental restaurant circa 1960. "You could hang wallpaper with this pasta sauce," a friend said as he passed me his lackluster entree of seafood, linguine and cream. The American menu is both plain and adventurous. Think crab cakes, filet mignon and lamb chops -- and zesty feta cheese dip with pita, grilled octopus, and seaweed salad with seared, peppercorn-crusted tuna. Experience has taught me that sauteed Cajun-spiced shrimp, cream of spinach and crab soup, and those crisp chorizo fritters start dinner off on a nice note, and that pecan pie and a butterscotch sundae make for good, old-fashioned finishes. (The ice cream, which comes with pecan-caramel cookies and house-made sauce, is a mere $2.75.) Never mind the knob of herb butter and the careful cooking: The rib-eye steak has zero flavor. Lamb chops are sweet enough to qualify as the last course. But the kitchen does right by spuds, be they mashed or fried.