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Sandwich shop is quiet gem

July 22, 2007|By SAVORY SAM

Ribs, wings, classic rock, sandwiches - it's easy to find these in Formica-and-linoleum diners across the Tri-State area.

But Mr. D's Wings, Ribs & Sandwiches is a cut above.

Mr. D's, a quiet gem, is tucked into an out-of-the-way shopping center just outside the Hagerstown city limits. The cozy sandwich shop is off the beaten path, but it's worth a visit.

Like most sandwich shops, Mr. D's interior is a bit hard-edged - designed more for simplicity and efficiency than aesthetics. But the coffee-with-cream-colored walls, black tables and chairs, and dusty blue linoleum floors are a homey change from the all-too-common, clinical white interiors found in diners. Classic rock plays in the background. A TV chatters in the corner.

Still, Mr. D's is a sandwich shop. The atmosphere is casual. Orders are placed at a counter. The kitchen is open to the public eye. Tiny bathrooms open off the dining room. There's a roll of paper towels on each table.

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But food is the focus at Mr. D's. The kitchen staff, headed by co-owner Marco DiGiuseppe, makes many items, including mayonnaise and coleslaw, on the premises. Wings and ribs are popular items, served with a variety of sauces. Thirteen sauces are available with the wings, most of which are made in the kitchen. DiGiuseppe sells his homemade salsas and sauces commercially under the Marco's Not Yet Famous label.

Six of us met for lunch on a recent weekday.

We took our time looking at the menu. Three vegetarians in the party noted that there were few options for them. Actually, there's only one sandwich without meat - Paola's Delight, with cream cheese and vegetables. But Robin DiGiuseppe, Marco's wife and business partner, made adjustments to several meat sandwiches and everybody was happy.

An order of wings came first. The order took 20 minutes to arrive, five minutes longer than the menu's advertised delivery time of 15, but they were good. The wings were meaty, juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside. Robin DiGiuseppe suggested dividing the order of 10 wings into two different sauce varieties. The mango-habanero wings were spicy-hot and not too sweet. The tequila-beer wings were milder and sweeter.

Another early arrival on the table was a house salad with honey-mustard dressing. Fresh, spring greens were tossed with cucumber slices, tomatoes and peppers. We also ordered a basket of Billy's Beach Fries, a house specialty. These were a hit with the Sam clan. The fries are hand-cut, thick and potatoey, and doused in vinegar, like we prefer. Some fries were crispier, some limper, pleasing fans of both in the family.

Then the sandwiches arrived and we dug in. Two clan vegetarians eat fish. They liked their sandwiches - a crab cake called The Sandy Beach and a tuna-salad version of The Ricky, served with sauted mushrooms, avocado slices and homemade mayonnaise on grilled sourdough.

The crab cake, served on a kaiser roll, got thumbs up from the Sams' Maryland native - lightly sauted and herby, with lots of lump crab but plenty of filler, as she likes it. The tuna-salad Ricky was satisfactory, with plenty of creamy tuna.

The clan's beef aficionado went against type and tried the regular Ricky sandwich, served with oven-roasted turkey. The sandwich prompted disagreement among the clan. "Miss Beef" thought the turkey was dry and thinly sliced. I noted that the turkey was actual turkey breast and found it more in the middle of the moisture scale.

My dearest dining companion liked the soft mushrooms and avocado on the crispy grilled sourdough of The Ricky.

Mr. D's sandwiches are served with plastic knives and forks. The sandwiches are generously sized - too big for one member of the Sam clan. Her Marcopolo, Mr. D's version of a Reuben, had a stack of homemade corned beef. She pronounced it good. I expected a big, homemade corned beef flavor, but the meat was scanty on taste.

The Sams' strictest vegetarian ordered The Franklin, a lamb gyro, with the lamb set aside for the meat-eaters. The remainder of the sandwich was pale, from the pink tomato to the shredded iceberg lettuce. The lamb, sliced off a large round, was tasty.

With so much to sample, I was approaching maximum density by the time I began eating The Montycello - Mr. D's pulled pork served on a kaiser roll. I thought I'd just take a bite, but I found I couldn't stop. I'm not crazy about kaiser rolls, but the barbecued pork was saucy and spicy and really hit the spot.

One sour note to our lunch was the coleslaw served on the side with several sandwiches. It was bitter, as though something had turned bad. When we told Robin DiGiuseppe, she identified the problem and brought a fresh serving (it was creamy, not too sweet and not at all bitter). She also brought a complimentary order of chips with medium-spicy, mango-pineapple salsa. The salsa was exceptionally good, and soon disappeared.

In short, we liked most of what we found at Mr. D's. The kitchen staff takes food seriously. The wait staff is sincere about making customers happy. Prices are reasonable.

You'll find something to like at Mr. D's.

Savory Sam is a pseudonym for a Herald-Mail staff member who reviews restaurants anonymously to avoid special treatment.

Mr. D's Wings, Ribs & Sandwiches



4 (out of 5)

Food: 4 stars

Value: 4 stars

Service: 5 stars

Ambience: 4 stars

Address: In the South Pointe Shopping Center, 120 E. Oak Ridge Drive, just south of Hagerstown

Hours: Mr. D's is open from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Phone: 301-393-8100

Web site: www.mrds-wings.com

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