Update 2/14/2023 – Mark’s Kitchen will be open a little while longer until a new owner is found.
Mark’s Kitchen has been an iconic restaurant in Takoma Park Maryland for decades. At the end of January 2023, the restaurant will close for good as the owner Mark Chao retires. Recently, a group of friends and I went there to enjoy one final meal there.
Mark’s Kitchen was opened in 1990 and has been a mainstay of Takoma Park ever since. Much more than a neighborhood restaurant, Mark’s has been a gathering spot for the whole community.
I’ve only been there for brunch, when they serve classic American breakfast food. But there is much more on the menu than that. Many of the dishes are Korean or Korean inspired. And Mark’s is famous for the wide variety of vegetarian and vegan menu items.
I wanted something special for my final meal, and I found it in the Six-level pagoda.
A vegetarian dish, it consists of layers of tofu, shiitake mushroom, eggplant, Asian radish, and red pepper, all covered in an unique Asian sauce. Accompaniments are brown rice and asparagus. The presentation is stunning, with the vegetable pagoda centered in a large, elongated plate with small mounds of rice going outwards, flanked by spears of asparagus. And the dish did not disappoint. The layers of vegetables are quite substantial, with the sauce and its strong notes of soy complementing it quite well.
Along with my meal, I had a cup of barley tea. Hot, caffeine free, and having a dark, deep flavor, it is a great drink to warm you up during the winter. But not everyone at my table avoided caffeine. A companion got the Viennese coffee, which at Mark’s is served with ice cream (strawberry was all they had). Surprised by the combination, my friend found it a nice treat.
She also got the Vegetarian breakfast, which consists of eggs, potatoes, an English muffin, grilled tofu, and soy sauce as an accompaniment. She said it was delicious.
Mark’s Kitchen also has desserts. It being so close to closing, the options were a bit limited. With a choice of pies or carrot cake, I chose carrot cake. It wasn’t as dense as a lot of carrot cakes, but it was quite tasty. I liked that it had a lot of walnuts, big chunks of walnuts. Even the walnuts on the frosting were large, providing a nice crunch. I also liked the cream cheese frosting; it was soft and not overly sweet. All in all, a very nice cake.
I was glad I was able to go to Mark’s before it closed. It had been quite a while since I had gone there. In fact, the last time I was there was February 2020, just one month before COVID caused shutdowns throughout the United States. Here are some pictures of what we had then, which included a Blueberry Buckwheat Waffle and the Farmer’s Salad.
Mark’s Kitchen was a very special place, not only because of the quality, variety, and uniqueness of its food, but also because of the gathering place he provided to the Takoma Park community. I wish Mark well during his retirement.