Dining

Come for the chicken but stay for dessert: Candy Sagon Reviews the General Store

Among the pies at the General Store is chess pie, and baker Beth Christianson makes three kinds: lemon, above, buttermilk and chocolate.
Among the pies at the General Store is chess pie, and baker Beth Christianson makes three kinds: lemon, above, buttermilk and chocolate. (Allison Dinner)
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By Candy Sagon
Sunday, October 11, 2009

The General Store
6 Post Office Rd., Silver Spring
301-562-8787

** (out of four stars)
Sound check: 67 decibels (Conversation is easy)

"Got chicken?"

If you're familiar with the General Store in Silver Spring, that's probably what you're saying as you come through the blue wooden door. In fact, co-owner Robin Smith seems a bit weary of the question when, on our first visit, we ask it.

Unfortunately, she doesn't have chicken.

The chicken is delivered daily in small batches. Chef Gillian Clark fries it to order for the lucky ones who get there early. A patently undeserving group had just ordered the last pieces before we arrived for dinner one weekday. "No more until the meat delivery tomorrow," Smith told us as we stood at the small front counter where you order your food.

We were disappointed, but not for long. The chicken may get most of the publicity, but there are other, equally rewarding things on this Southern-inspired menu.

Such as pie.

I know that in most restaurant reviews, dessert gets relegated to a few sentences at the very end, and often for good reason. Not this time. If there's ever a pie crown to be awarded, the restaurant's baker, Beth Christianson, would totally own it. In fact, she had me with the first bite of her lemon chess. I closed my eyes. I moaned. My husband began worrying about a "When Harry Met Sally ..." climax scene.

Chess pie is an old-timey Southern favorite made from just four ingredients -- sugar, butter, eggs and a little cornmeal -- plus flavoring, such as lemon juice or melted chocolate. For some reason, the dessert is hard to find and even harder to find made well. Christianson, formerly of Cashion's Eat Place, makes not one but three kinds of chess pie (chocolate and buttermilk plus the lemon). They're all terrific -- textbook-perfect flaky crust, light custardy filling -- but the lemon chess is the most ethereal.

And if that weren't enough, depending on the day and Christianson's whim, there can be a fluffy coconut cream pie, an insanely rich chocolate pecan pie and a seasonal fruit pie.

There are also cupcakes on the menu, but I'm not a fan. Why would you want a cupcake when you can have pie? Plus, the day we tried two of the cupcakes, they were suffering from a fatal case of over-refrigeration.


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