Friday, May 09, 2008

Cozy Restaurant, Thurmont, Maryland

Sometimes the going and the returning is as much of an adventure as the restaurant. My trip to and from the Cozy Restaurant is no reflection on the restaurant – in fact as you will soon read, I loved the restaurant. The trip to get to the restaurant and to get back to where I was staying was quite something. If you are going to go to the Cozy Restaurant and you are near Thurmont it is quite easy to get to, however, I went there from Hagerstown, Maryland.

I will talk about the trip first and then get on to the important focus of this article which is the restaurant. There is an expression – “as the crow flies” – well, our trip to the Cozy would have been simple if we were crows. We had no indication of what was in store for us when we consulted the computer map and set the route into our laptop computer GPS. The roads appeared twisty on the map – had we looked at a topographical map we would have seen the mountains that we were going to ride up, around, and down. The directions were simple. We did not get lost (as we have at times before), What we found as we got deep into country roads was the water falls and mountain state park that we had to get through. We climbed up roads that turned quickly right, and then left, and then right again. There were large warning signs at the side of the road about the hazardous turns that stretched for four miles. One turn made a complete right angle. All of this on one lane each way roads with a line of cars behind me that thought that the speed limit signs were just suggestions. It was uncomfortable driving but it was in daylight with clear visibility of what was ahead. I kept thinking that coming back, this would be much more of a nightmare in the dark. I told my good wife to check the laptop’s map software and find an alternative way back – if there was one.

The return trip could be made on two highways, but would make a trip of about 25 miles into a trip of about 45 or 50 miles. Fine – worth it, but when we left the Cozy it was heavily pouring rain. We still would be driving over and through mountains, but on a high speed interstate with blinding rain and at one point patches of clouds – yes, clouds – not fog – that had settled in spots on the road, just visible ahead in the vehicle’s headlights. If you have not figured it out yet, I do not like driving at night in heavy rain. I want to be able to drive at a good, but safe speed that other drivers do not necessarily agree with. Sure, they drive these roads all of the time – they know that it will turn this way and that. I, to quote a probably forgotten science fiction novel, am a stranger in a strange land. Well, white knuckled and a little shaky, I made it back to write all of this for you.

So, now that I have gotten all of that out of my system, I can now concentrate on this restaurant. The Cozy Restaurant is very famous – but probably none of you will have ever heard of it, unless you are or have been a President of the United States, or one of his cabinet or advisors, or if you are support staff to leaders of countries since World War II. The Cozy Restaurant is also an Inn (hotel) and has been in business since 1929. It is located in the town of Thurmont at the foot of the mountains - specifically those mountains that I had to drive over. Thurmont is also the location of Camp David. The country retreat of all American presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to now, In fact it is at the Cozy that the President’s advisors and support staff have stayed – and dined. It is at the Cozy that the delegations and support staff of foreign dignitaries and world leaders have stayed during Peace Summits. And the Cozy has a BUFFET!

I learned about the Cozy from one of my readers, Brian – who also told me about the Lighthouse Restaurant (see last week). I love hearing from my readers and I especially love getting buffer suggestions and recommendations. I thank him for telling me about these two – but especially about this one. My good wife said to say thank you from her too!

From what I could see of Thurmont it appears to be a quite and quaint town. Almost next door to the Cozy is the second location of the Mountain Gate Restaurant and Buffet. I have written several times about that restaurant’s other location in Pennsylvania. The Cozy is actually a complex of buildings with the restaurant and another building with the Inn (which may actually be connected somewhere. As you see the restaurant from the road there is a bright red neon sign beckoning you into the parking lot. At one end of the building a railroad caboose is sticking out. When you enter the restaurant building you are entering a labyrinth of hallways – styled as streets with store false store fronts along the way – with signs directing you to the restaurant. As you make a turn you come to the Camp David Museum, which is free to enter. It is a room with memorabilia, pictures, and news stories about Camp David – and its connection to the Cozy. We saved the museum tour for the end of dinner. We also passed the Camp David Souvenir shop which we should have gone into first because it was closed when we finished dinner. This is the closest that the average person will come to Camp David- as it is strictly off limits to all. All of the d├ęcor is quaint and out of the ordinary. Rustic and fun. Window cases along the way show pictures and memorabilia of famous guests of the hotel and those who have dined there. Names like Babe Ruth jumped out. The same family has owned this restaurant and inn since it opened in 1929 and now is under the guidance of the third generation. We came to a podium and told the gentleman that we were a party of two and we were escorted into the dining room where the buffet servers were located. The size of this restaurant is deceptive as there was at least one other large dining room adjacent to where we were seated – and there were several banquet rooms near the entrance that we came in.

The dining room is rustic with wood plank ceilings, rough hewn beams across those planks, pleasantly quaint decorations strung around. I was immediately reminded of restaurants in small mountain towns that I dined in with my family when we vacationed when I was a little boy – and I am talking about quite some time ago. I loved it. The buffet servers were off to one end of the dining room that we were in. We were there on a Saturday night. The restaurant was not crowded but there were people there – and there was a second room with diners there as well.

The restaurant has the buffet and a menu to choose from. We, of course, had the buffet. The buffet prices were at the back of the menu and we only had the menus for a few moments before the waitress came over, took our soft drink orders, and then pleasantly collected the menus when we said that we were having the buffet. I got a brief look at the prices and not long enough to accurately tell you what they are because what I immediately saw is that they change every two nights. Monday and Tuesday is Pasta Night. I am pretty sure that the menu said $10.99. Wednesday and Thursday are Steak and Shrimp Night and I think that the menu said $11.99. Friday and Saturday are the Land and Sea buffet and the price (definitely) is $15.99. There is a Sunday buffet with ten entrees – I do not know the price. With the exception of Friday and Saturday I may be wrong about the prices. Soft drinks are $1.98 each and they are refilled by the waitress. They serve Coca Cola products. The ice tea was fresh brewed and excellent.

I started with the soup and there were two choices – Land and Sea. One was vegetable beef and the other was creamy white clam chowder. I tried the chowder and it is very good. Next to the two soup tureens, which are located in a small alcove at the side of the room, were several choices of fresh breads and rolls. The cinnamon bread was calling to me and I had to cut myself a slice from the loaf. It was sweet, soft and had a great aroma. Next to the bread on the third wall of the alcove were fresh cut up fruits and the fixings for Caesar salad.

There were three double buffet servers (two of them hot) in the center of the room, a counter on the side opposite the alcove, and a carving station on the end wall. The salad bar had a large bowl of lettuce and many toppings and dressing. There was also a full section of prepared salads. On this night this included a shrimp salad that was great with large pieces of shrimp blended into shell pasta and dressing. There was excellent chicken salad. I tried sweet pickle slices that tasted freshly made – very probably at the restaurant.

At the carving station there was a tray of cold steamed shrimp cooked in Old Bay Seasoning. Next to that there was a tray of cold sliced deli-style ham. The shrimp was good. My wife tried the ham and she say that it was tasty and not like ham that you would buy at the deli counter for sandwiches.

The selections of entrees both land and sea are plentiful. There was a lot for those who love seafood and for those who do not. There were baby steamed clams, there were mussels, there were fried oysters, fried butterfly shrimp, clams casino, two seafood in pasta dishes, steamed crayfish (which were smaller than I have ever seen – the nickname in the South for these is bugs and these really looked like bugs), a dish they called Mediterranean Tilapia which was very different and good, lobster orzo, crab Norfolk, baked salmon, catfish, crab au gratin, and much more. I must say that though the crab dishes were tasty they did not use real crab but it was definitely the crabmeat substitute, It was not labeled as such and was labeled as crab. On the “land” side of the choices there was carved turkey breast, carved beef that was a small round of rare beef that was nicely charred on the outside and pink red on the inside - it was very good, fried chicken that was excellent, barbecued pork ribs, and more.

There were equally many side dishes and vegetables including kernel corn, string beans, carrots, mixed vegetables, broccoli, mashed potatoes with bits of red potato skin, kale, baked potatoes, rice, macaroni and cheese, and more. The carrots and the mixed vegetables had some type of sweetener on them. The carrots were sweeter than the mixed vegetables. They were nice but if you want plain, pick some of the other vegetable choices.

Deserts were along the side wall and there were several fancy cakes, pies including pecan, chocolate, coconut cream, and a selection of sugar free pies, there were puddings, jello, fresh fruit, and there was a soft serve machine in the middle of the wall, but it was labeled as a cholesterol-free, non-dairy vanilla soft serve. There was a nice selection of desserts. Some of the cakes were labeled as “special” including one that was a Mexican wedding cake with nuts.

All of the food was good. There was nothing that I tried that I did not like and I took a small sampling of a large variety of items. My picky wife was happy too! We thoroughly enjoyed the meal and the atmosphere of this real “country” restaurant.

All of the staff were very friendly and accommodating. Empty dishes were picked up regularly. Drinks were constantly refilled when needed. The entire restaurant was very clean and the waitress was cleaning the carpeted floor when she was not waiting on tables. There is an effort being made here to make sure that you are having a good experience. There was a paper on the table saying to tell them immediately if you want anything or are not satisfied, claiming that they will make you happy. When the check was brought to the table – after we completed desert – there was a satisfaction survey printed on the bottom for you to complete, if you wish. They go all out to make sure that everything is good.

I only wish that it was not raining when we left and the ride home was a pleasant as the meal. I strongly recommend the Cozy. Do go there. Avoid driving through the mountain park. The Cozy is located at 103 Frederick Road in Thurmont Maryland. This is about 20 miles from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on street Route 15, as opposed to Interstate 15, and 50 miles from Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. The hours of the restaurant are 11:00 am to 9:00 pm and weekend from 8:00 to 9:00 pm. The phone number is 301-271-7373. There is a website and it is linked at the side of this page.


Chef Sherry said...

Hi Robert A!

This is one of your fans from the Midwest (we emailed back and forth a couple of times back in January after I contacted you). I've been away for a few months but I'm now back and enjoying your wonderful stories as much as ever. Just wanted to say "hi" and keep up the good work.

Let me know if you ever get out Chicago way, as I can recommend a couple of great places you can visit.


Chef Sherry

Anonymous said...

I had to chuckle at your description of the journey. By FAR you would have done MUCH better both coming and going (even in the rain) to take he two highways between Thurmont and Hagerstown. Those mountains are not for the faint of heart or the non-local. Glad you made it safely.