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Vol. 8, No. 26
June 29-July 5, 2000
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World-Class Gourmet Shopping — and Eating — in Solomons

by Lori L. Sikorski

Tucked into Patuxent Plaza shopping center on the northern verge of Solomons Island is one of Southern Maryland’s best-kept secrets. But the secret seems to have slipped out: Many, many people flow through Woodburns World Class Gourmet Market.

Brother and sister owners Betty Johnson and Tom McKay couldn’t be more pleased. When they bought Woodburns in 1992, they had visions of making it more than the only local supermarket. Six years later — with a Food Lion just a mile to the north — they opened their newly expanded but friendly as ever gourmet market — praying that world-class edibles would keep their ship afloat.

As a local, I take Woodburns for granted: a place to do my weekly shopping or run in for milk and bread. If time allows, I’ll grab a cup of Seattle’s Best coffee with a warm, just-from-the-oven muffin.
But what I like best is showing the store off to my out-of-town guests or visiting friends. When I offer lunch at Woodburn’s, the typical response is “Lunch at a grocery store?” After picking their chins off the hardwood floors, they realize that they’re in for a treat.

We usually begin at the enormous salad bar. Here there’s pasta, potato and bean salads, four different lettuces, a slew of veggies, baby corns, chicken breast, crab meat and cheeses among the smorgasbord of some four dozen selections. The price is a mere $2.99 a pound. New to the salad bar is the wing bar. For $4.99 a pound you can munch on Tobasco, chili lime and honey wings — again, I’m naming just a few.

Across the aisle is the sandwich counter, featuring paninis — grilled overstuffed sandwiches. As many as eight are lined up like fine jewelry. There’s the Betty’s Seafood, loaded with shrimp, crab, lobster, and Monterey jack cheeses. Tom’s London broil overflows with steak, onions, red peppers, cheese and horseradish sauce. Rotisserie chicken, Mediterranean and a Reuben are also regulars. Combine your paninis with a drink and a side, like the homemade potato or pasta salad, for $6.99, or tackle the sandwich alone for $4.99. Best: share the sandwich and leave room for more selections.

One of those could be the soup that simmers at the end of the counter. Maryland crab is almost always on the menu, and the other three pots bring surprises each day. Today the Italian wedding soup is alluring with its delicate scent. The broth is light and the tiny dumplings look almost like Polish drop noodles. Prices vary per pound, but a single serving often costs less than $2. Thick seafood chowder at $5.99 a pound and fragrant lobster bisque for $6.99 are daily offerings.

Another draw is the fresh sushi made before your eyes. The most popular is the California roll, stuffed with crab meat and avocado. Six pieces are packaged with wasabi for $4.40.

Around the corner is the large cold deli, with homemade potato and pasta salads, fresh fruit, seafood quiche, sun-dried tomato pasta, Neptune salad and couscous.

Lining the self-serve shelves is an impressive assortment of pre-packaged Aideles, sun-dried tomato (or artichoke) and garlic sausages. Here, too, are a wide variety of humus and couscous, along with flavored butters and spreads. It’s paradise for picnic baskets.

But your choices are not over yet. Aromas from the hot deli will entice you to a steam table of casseroles, vegetables and barbecue. Some days you’ll find liver and onions, smothered chicken, meatloaf and fried perch. The cuisine changes daily; ask when your favorite will be on the menu again.
Every day you’ll find round roast beef, oven-golden turkey breast or sweet smoked ham dinners with two sides and corn bread for $6.99. Or choose a hot roast turkey or beef sandwich with mashed potatoes for $4.99.

Pizza and pasta are created here, too. Pasta is cooked al dente and pizza is sold whole or by the slice. Beer would taste good with this, but you can’t drink it in the store. Too bad, because Woodburns carries a large selection of foreign and domestic beers: Fosters, Moosehead, Guinness, Henninger and Wild Goose seem to be big sellers. If you can’t find what you are looking for, a list hangs beside the coolers for you to add your request.

Since you can’t have a beer, you may want to try an exotic bottled beverage: Ginseng teas, Nantucket Nectars and good old-fashioned ginger beer or orange creams. But since you’ll be paying at the coffee bar, why not order up a Café Frio frozen coffee, at $2.95 for 16 ounces. Order the double-shot espresso with dessert.

Couple your espresso with hand-dipped truffles in black raspberry, Key lime, Kahlua white Russian or hazelnut coffee — again to name only a few flavors. Each is only 50 cents, so you’ll want to try more. Larger versions, sugar-free as well, sell for $2.

It’s not over yet. The in-store bakery carries mini cheesecakes in triple chocolate, Grand Marnier, cappuccino or Key lime. They serve one nicely at $3.99 each. These, too, come in larger versions to go. There are also scones, muffins and single slices of cake. While you’re there choose tomato and basil rolls, dark pumpernickel breads or pesto ciabatta to take home.

Still, we’ve not scratched the surface of Woodburns organic and vegetarian grocery items, their free-range meats and chickens or their impressive non-dairy selections.

So enjoy what you’ve chosen and come back for more.

Patuxent Plaza, Solomons • 410/326-3999

Proprietors: Betty Johnson and Tom McKay
Open daily 7am-9pm, Sunday 8am-9pm

Reason to Go: Any craving is sure to be satisfied.

Something to Think about: All items are available for carry-out. Why not dine along the Riverwalk and enjoy the water views of Solomons Island?

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly