February 5, 2015

Catonsville Gourmet

Catonsville Gourmet
829 Frederick Road
Catonsville, MD 21228
(410) 788-0005

Catonsville Gourmet was the third is a series of restaurants I visited while my friend from Colorado was in town.  I picked three places that I've never been, and I wasn't disappointed by any of them.

Catonsville Gourmet is located right down in beautiful downtown Catonsville in the ritzy section.  We required no reservation, but the restaurant seemed busy enough.  They do not serve alcohol, which immediately makes one wonder how they stay in business.  But they do allow you to BYOB.  Fortunately for us, there was a liquor store across the street, so we BYOW.  We bought a bottle of Aveleda Alvarinho wine.

Catonsville Gourmet Seafood

We started with some appetizers.  My wife never lets me get an appetizer when we go out, so when she's not around it's all about the appetizers.  Catonsville Gourmet is supposedly known for the seafood, especially their oysters.  They had 6 or 7 different varieties from which to choose.  I was like a kid in a candy store.  "Which one?  Which one???"  I got the ones from Chincoteague, which were briny, but very good.  I told another friend about my dinner and he asked why I didn't just get one of each?  Dolt!!!  And is it just me, or does it seem like a rip-off that 6 oysters cost $12???  My friend got the fried green tomatoes with bacon.  He said they were good, but he expected them to be a bit saltier.  "How can they not be saltier when they have bacon on them???"

For dinner I selected one of the specials, the macadamia nut crusted halibut.  It was served over a bed of asparagus and potatoes with some carrots and chives.  I thought the asparagus were a bit like small logs and they even tasted a bit woody.  Normally asparagus is best when they thin and tender.  The fish was magnificent.  The potatoes were salty and crispy on the outside, just like I like them.

Since my wife wasn't there, I also knew that I was getting dessert.  My friend that recommended the restaurant also recommended the Smith Island cake, which comes from Sugar Bakers.  My friend didn't know what he wanted, so he went and checked out the dessert counter and came back with this amazing photo.  I feel like I can lick it and taste them now.

Believe it or not, this was the first time in my life that I've ever had a Smith Island cake.  Crazy, right?  Lived in Maryland for 40 years of my life and never had a slice of the official state cake.  It was sooooo good.  Sweet, dense.  I was full about 1/3 of the way into it, but that minor inconvenience wasn't going to stop me.  It was too good.

My friend got the Chocolate Peanut Butter sponge cake.  I took liberties with it and took a chunk.  It tasted as good as it looks.  It's hard to go wrong with chocolate and peanut butter.

Catonsville Gourmet is a nice restaurant.  The dining area is open and light.  The staff are all attractive, which made me suspicious.  Seriously, all of the girls were pretty and the men were handsome.  That's just not normal.

The total bill came to $114.  That was for 2 appetizers, 2 entrees, and 2 desserts.  Our drinks were from across the street and that included a second bottle that I bought after the appetizers when we discovered that the first bottle was mysteriously empty.  So 2 bottles at about $12 each.  That is what I would expect to pay for a nice restaurant.

So if you're in Catonsville, or even if you're not, make it a destination.  You'll like Catonsville Gourmet.

January 29, 2015

Taste of Aloha

Taste of Aloha
1405 Sulphur Spring Road
Arbutus, MD 21227
(410) 501-3030

I found Taste of Aloha by accident.  I was looking on Google trying to find a quick way to get from I-95 to UMBC.  As I was scrolling around the map, I found a restaurant called Taste of Aloha.  I went to the website and I liked what I saw.  Having been to Hawaii a couple of years ago, I had a yearning for some Polynesian food.

My daughter had an appointment at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore the next day, so I asked my wife is she wanted to stop here.  She liked what she saw, so we made a plan.

We found the restaurant, but by then had accidentally drove right past it.  It's on one end of an older red building.  We quickly circled back and parked.

At Taste of Aloha, you order first at the counter, then they bring it to you.  They have what you would expect in Hawaii.  Kalua Pig, Chicken Katsu, Spam....  My daughter ordered a Hamburger, which came with a slice of grilled pineapple and fries with Old Bay.  Not sure that the Old Bay is very Polynesian.  My wife ordered the Chicken Katsu with rice, and I ordered the Kalua Pig with Kimchi.

The meals came out in about 5 minutes.  The Kalua Pig was amazing! It was bursting with flavor and juices.  It was so good I couldn't stand it.  I wasn't sure if I had Kimchi previously, but I think I have.  It was served cold and it was fairly spicy.  I finished it quickly but I wasn't full.

My wife really enjoyed the chicken Katsu.  However, she didn't share it with me.  Booo!!!  My daughter loved the hamburger with cheddar cheese.  It really did look good, though she gave me the grilled pineapple.

The dining area is small.  There are probably 6 tables total.  There was a gaggle of deaf seniors that had escaped from the local senior center staging a sit-in.  It was difficult to have a conversation at our table as they were drowning us out.  However, we really loved the food.  As you can see the prices are reasonable.

We'll definitely be going back to Taste of Aloha!

December 20, 2014

White Rose Bar & Grille - York, PA

My daughter got tickets to the Evil Dead: The Musical at The Strand in York, Pennsylvania.  We have never really visited York other than to drive through on our way to Hershey Park or to Lancaster, PA.  I decided that a lovely evening with my 15 year old daughter wouldn't be complete without a nice dinner.  York is about 45-60 minutes from us, so it was a fair hike.  I nice restaurant was in order.

I got recommendations from several friends and The White Rose was on multiple lists.  Additionally, it was only a block from the theater, so it seemed perfect.

We arrived an hour and a half before the performance.  I hadn't made reservations.  When we went in I put my name on the list.  The restaurant was fairly crowded and there were about 6 people standing and waiting.  I asked the hostess how long it would be before we would be seated.  She said she wasn't allowed to tell me.  What????  That makes absolutely no sense.  So I rephrased it.  I asked her if she thought it would be closer to 15 minutes or an hour.  She said she wasn't allowed to tell me.  What kind of ridiculousnous is this?

We stood there for a while and several other people came in and put their names on the list.  They also asked approximately how long it would be before they could be seated.  They were all greeted with the same arrogant evasive response.  She wasn't allowed to tell them.  Most of them just walked out.

As I stood there I got more irritated by the minute.  I realize that the hostess was probably told not to give approximate seating times.  She seemed too young to come up with that logic on her own.  But that is terrible customer service.  Since the restaurant was crowded, I guess they can be jackasses and get away with it.

I then went outside and Googled restaurants in York.  I found Bisto 19 and gave them a call.  I asked if there was a wait and she said there was a small wait, but she expected that we could be seated within 5 minutes.  Bingo!  I went inside, handed her the little buzzer thingy.  I said that I wasn't prepared to wait an unspecified amount of time for a table.  She took my buzzy thingy and dismissed me.  I was more than pleased to leave.  Perhaps I gave off the aura of an out-of-towner.  You can treat out-of-towners like crap cuz most likely they are not coming back anyway.

So, if you're thinking about going to York, Pennsylvania and want to get treated like you're insignificant like I did on my visit?  Try the White Rose Bar and Grille.  However, if you want to get treated like you're important, better stay away from this place.

June 8, 2014

Mezcal Mexican Restaurant & Bar

Mezcal Mexican Restaurant & Bar
9958 Reisterstown Road
Owings Mills, MD 21117
(410) 205-7150

I noticed this restaurant in the former China Best site in the St. Thomas Plaza in Owings Mills.  I decided to try it out as the exterior looked inviting.

The interior was just as inviting and I find it amazing that this is in fact the same place as China Best, which seemed as if it hadn't been updated since Carter administration.  The side wall is stone, the ceiling is dark, and I remember a lot of reds.  My friend and I were quickly seated next to the lengthy bar.  And what's a restaurant without an array of flat screen televisions piping in the latest mid-day sports news about nothing.

Our server gave us a basket of tortilla chips and salsa, very similar in taste and style to Don Pablo's.  Mezcal offers a lunch menu with items under $9 or so.  I got a platter where you get 3 main items and one side.  I got a hard taco with beef, an enchilada with spinach, and a soft taco with chicken.  My side dish was an avocado salad, which was basically avocado over lettuce with a wedge of tomato.

The food was quite good.  I slammed down the spinach tamale.  I then ate the chicken soft taco, which was good, but the chicken pieces were quite a mouthful.  I then ventured to the hard taco.  By the time I got to it, the hard taco shell was mushy.  It was still tasty, but a bit flaccid.

The service was attentive.  My iced tea was refreshed without asking and they gave us an extra basket of tortillas and salsa.

Overall, I thought the place was good.  It is very similar to Don Pablo's, but on a much smaller scale.  It felt less commercial than the DP.

My only complaint was when we were leaving the manager-type guy asked how everything was.  I told him that the hard taco was laying on the avocado salad and by the time I ate it it was soggy.  It was a deer in the headlights moment.  Not a "thank you for telling us", just an awkward stare in silence.  And then we left.  I wasn't expecting a free meal or anything, just an acknowledgement.  Regardless, we'll definitely go there again.  You should check it out.

November 17, 2013

Oscar's Alehouse

Oscar's Ale House
1438 Liberty Road
Eldersburg, MD 21784
(410) 795-7001

My wife and I just celebrated our 23 date-iversary.  Meaning - we started dating 23 years ago.  We always celebrate this seemingly odd day, but it is special in our life.  I asked my wife if she wanted to go on a date, maybe go to dinner.  She agreed. I threw out some suggestions - Baldwin Station, Johannson's, The Grille At Harryman House.  She chose Oscar's Alehouse.

Oscar's opened probably a year ago.  I heard the opening was an absolute disaster.  Not sure if what I heard is true, but I heard that the kitchen staff walked out on opening night. Oscar's is the successor to Cobblestone, Meiklejohn's, and The Chop House.  Did I miss any?

I made reservations for 2 at 6pm.  This place is always crowded on Fridays.  You can how crowded they are by the number of cars that are illegally parked in the fire lane.  If Carroll County and Maryland State Police were smart, they'd swing by every Friday evening and handout about 2 dozen parking tickets every hour.  Imagine the revenue that would add up over time.

My wife and I were fortunate enough to get a seat right by the front window.  The seat and the table are awkwardly spaced.  Not sure if there is 3 feet from the back of the chair to the table so that fat people can sit there, or if it is just the way they had to divide the space evenly.  I had to sit at the edge of my seat to reach the table.  Really weird.

Our waitress was prompt and courteous, as was the staff that delivered our meals.  I wasn't sure if my wife wanted a drink or not, so we ordered a round of waters first.  We're not like most couples who both drink and get lit at dinner, then drive home drunk.

My wife finally decided she didn't want a drink, so with my dinner order I ordered a Victory Golden Monkey, which is a Belgian-style ale from Pennsylvania.  It was really good.  If anything, Oscar's Alehouse has a nice selection of beers.  They have varieties of beer from Dogfish Head, Brooklyn Brewery, Rogue, Heavy Seas, and Harpoon.  And if you don't like beer, they also have Budweiser and Miller Light.

We ordered appetizers, if you classify soups as appetizers.  I got a bowl of French Onion soup.  Instead of having melted cheese over top, there was a slice of cheese on top of a slice of bread.  The cheese was nearly melted, but it seemed like a lame attempt to make French Onion soup.  My wife ordered the Maryland Cream of Crab soup.  It was orange.  She said it tasted like cheese, by the menu said it was prepared with Sherry, so I suspect the Sherry is the cause of the orange color.  She was not impressed with the soup.

For dinner I ordered the Oscar's Creole Pasta.  Instead of pasta, I got it with wild rice.  It was served with blackened chicken, which is fancy food talk for burnt chicken, shrimp, and Andouille sausage, peppers, onions, and a spicy cream sauce.  When they say spicy, they're not kidding.  I LOVE spicy food.  I drop hot sauce on everything.  I could not eat this dish.  It was so freakin' spicy that I drained my glass of water and my entire beer putting out the flames from a quarter of the dish.  The taste?  Not sure.  The main flavor of the dish was fire.

My wife ordered the Wood Grilled Shrimp and Bacon club.  Her only response was that it was, "eh...".  When we finished, she confidently stated, "We're not coming back here again."

I could give this restaurant a second chance, but it may be a while.  They have half priced burgers on Mondays and was told that the burgers are actually pretty good.  I may go there with some friends and drink some beer. But I doubt I'll be taking my wife back there again.  She was too disappointed to want to go back.

Overall, Oscar's looks very nice.  It has a nice ambiance.  The staff are dressed neatly, though not professionally, and they were polite, friendly, quick, and responsive. Oscar's seems like a great place to hang out.  That is, unless you want to order dinner and actually like food that tastes good.  I'll admit that I spoke to someone that says that the Friday food always seems to be worse than food served on any other day.  Perhaps the kitchen staff is in such a rush on Fridays because of the crowd that they prepare food with the intention of getting it done fast rather than getting it done well.

It's hard for me to recommend this place.  Have you been there before?  If so, what do you think?

October 18, 2013

Pizza Town

Pizza Town
9217 Lakeside Blvd 
Owings Mills, MD 21117 

website: http://www.mypizzatown.net/

Owings Mills sports many presumably family-owned restaurants.  I'm not if Pizza Town is family-owned, but it seems like it.  And I'm not even sure if the strip mall where it is located has a name, but it's on Lake Side Boulevard near the Food Lion.

Pizza Town seems to be run by Russians, or some Eastern European people, which is fine.  I'm just merely pointing it out.  I find it a interesting that Eastern Europeans are running a restaurant that specializes in Italian food.

So what did I get on my recent trip?  Greek food!  I got the Gyro, fries, and a soda for $7.99.  I'm a sucker for a value meal.  They offer this lunch deal with a handful of different sandwiches, and a choice of fries or onion rings.

I've also had their pizza.  It's decent.  I wouldn't make a special trip there to get their pizza, but it's definitely a nice place to get a quick meal in Owings Mills.

As you can see, the gyro is jam-packed with with onions, some lettuce, tomatoes, and the gyro sauce, as it should.  It tasted good.  I would have liked more lamb, but then again, it was a $7.99 deal, so I shouldn't expect a lamb fatty, right?

So if you're in Owings Mills and you're looking for a slice of pizza, a sub, or a gryo, check out Pizza Town.  It's good cheap eats.

July 3, 2013

Papa Joe's

Papa Joe's 
27 East Main Street Rear 1
Westminster, MD 21157-5039
(410) 871-2505

Papa Joe's Authentic Mexican Restaurant is located on the backside of one of main blocks in downtown Westminster near the intersection of Main Street and Railroad Avenue, Route 27.  The first time I went there we walked around the block aimlessly trying to find it when I finally asked someone in the Chamber of Commerce building where it was.  The nice lady walked us through the building to the back alley right to the restaurant.  However, you can access it from the rear in in the parking lot.

There are about 6 tables outside and maybe 15 tables (maybe) inside, so the place is small.

Tonight was the third time we ate at Papa Joe's.  This was, unfortunately, one of the more memorable dining experiences there.  When we arrived the hostess informed us that there was a 25 minute wait.  Since it was the day before the 4th of July, American Independence Day, it felt like a Friday and I was sure that no matter where we went there would be a long wait.

We were seated right around 25 minutes and seated outside on the patio.  After scanning the menu and deciding what we wanted, we small-talked and waited for our server to come take our drinks.  Then we waited some more.  Then I watched one table clear and another couple get seated.  Then another.  Then another.  Then the first table got their drinks.  Then their order was taken.  Then the next table,  And then the next table.  I was really starting to get irritated.  I unsuccessfully kept trying to make eye contact with the various servers outside.  After nearly 15 minutes, my wife got up from the table and went to a server and demanded that we be served.

A few minutes later a server finally came to our table and apologized for the delay, but said she just got assigned to our table and was not aware that we had been waiting so long.  Whatever.  She asked to take our drink order and we demandingly told her that we were ready to give her our order.  She apologized vociferously.

A short time later another server came out with chips and a variety of salsas.  Then the manager came to our table and apologized to us and said that there was a miscommunication on their part and our server honestly did not know she was assigned to our table.  As a sign of their goodwill, they offered us a complimentary plate of chicken & cheese nachos.  They were really good!

Our order finally came, again with some more apologies, but honestly at this point we've cooled off.  I ordered the Chilaquiles Verdes Con Pollo.  My wife ordered the taco salad in a tortilla bowl.  My oldest ordered the grilled chicken quesadilla, my son begrudgingly ordered the chicken tenders and fries as he says that place makes him want to puke (he's a bit of a dramatist), and my youngest ordered the children's cheese quesadilla.

Everyone in my family enjoyed their meals.  They were piping hot and a bit spicy, which is the way I like it.  This photo is of the Chilaquiles Verdes Con Pollo, which looked a lot like the chicken and cheese nachos with the verdes salsa that we got with our nachos.  Oh, well.  It was awesome.  I can't believe I ate half of it!

Though the experience started off on a bad note, our server did a great job of tending to us and being very friendly.  We gave her the benefit of the doubt and were nice in return once we had placed our order.  The food there is really good.  I've also had the seafood burrito, which was amazing, and the enchilada platter, which is usually my go-to meal.

The meals range in prices from around $10 to less than $20.  Our family of five with drinks paid $50..

If you're in Westminster, or if not and you're looking for some place different to try, go to Papa Joe's.

August 17, 2012

Jin's Asian Bistro

Jin's Asian Bistro

1720 Liberty Road
Eldersburg, MD 21784
(410) 552-5535

Jin's Asian Bistro opened in the Oklahoma Shopping Center in Eldersburg in February of 2012.  I never made it a point to go there until my birthday.  I decided to try some place new this year.

We arrived about 6:30pm on a Friday and there were only a few people there.  The decor is nice, very aesthetically pleasing, and definitely a nicer Asian restaurant than some of the others in town.  We sat at a table up against the wall.  There was a sign that said to 'Bring Your Own Alcohol'.  That's disappointing.  I thought for sure some of my friends that went there bought drinks there.  Perhaps they lost their liquor license?

The menu is overwhelming.  It's as long as the M's in the Britannica Encyclopedia.  My intent was to get sushi, but obviously I don't want my children to have that.  They weren't sure what to get.  Lo Mein.  Mei Fun.  Chow Mein.  Moo Goo Gui Pan.  They don't know what all these things are.  Heck. I'm not even that sure.  We ordered our food and the sushi came back fairly quick, but it took FOREVER for my kids food to be served.  The waitress apologized for the delay and she was very accommodating, so I cannot complain about her at all.  She did a great job trying to satisfy us.

My son decided he wanted seafood, so he got the Seafood Mei Fun, which says it has shrimp, crab, and scallops.  The shrimp was definitely real, but the crab was the fake crab that's actually fish.  The scallops - those weren't scallops.  It was either squid or sting ray.  This meal was a total lie.

My daughter ordered Triple Delight, which includes jumbo shrimp, chicken, and beef, with mixed vegetables.      There was definitely vegetables in it.  The jumbo shrimp looked like shrimp at first glance, but they oddly looked all the same.  When you bit into it, it did not have the consistency of shrimp.  It was more like that fake crab meat.  Or tofu.  Face it, it was imitation shrimp.  The beef?  Yeah, not beef either.  Reconstituted something.  The chicken?  0 for 3.  It was a wide thinly sliced sliver of ......meat product?  It did not taste like chicken at all.  All of the meats in this dish were terrible.

I got a salmon roll and a tuna roll, which were both very good.  I also had a bowl of Hot-n-Sour soup, which was okay.  The consistency was a bit too think.  And my water in a glass was very good.

My wife got a Shrimp Tempura roll and she said it was pretty good.

My youngest daughter got what they called chicken tenders.  It was long chicken strips coated in shrimp tempura flakes and fried.  She thought it was okay, but mostly scraped the tempura flakes off of the chicken.

As I said, this . was my first visit to Jin's Asian Bistro and honestly, I'm probably never going to go back unless they offer me a free meal and a back rub.  I might get carry-out sushi, but I will never let my family eat Asian food that is not what is advertised.  Nor would I want to wait 20 minutes for food that is fake and tastes like crap.  I think they owe me $29 for the two meals my older kids ordered.  

February 19, 2012


1834 Liberty Rd
Eldersburg, MD 21784
(410) 552-5502

Plazuelas in Eldersburg does not have a website, but they do serve some great authentic Mexican food. And I mean Mexican, not Texican like you get at Don Pablos, Qdoba, Chipoltle, or Chi-Chi's.

My wife and daughter were heading to the Mall in Columbia to look at dresses (boring!), so I took my youngest daughter and son to Plazuelas in Eldersburg. We went there when they first opened years ago, but I wasn't overly impressed then. I decided to give it a second try. I had plenty of company on Friday night. The place was packed.

The building is the former Pizza Hut on Liberty Road (Pizza Hut moved to its current location on Route 32 in the late 1990's. The interior looks new and different than what I remember the first time. We grabbed a booth and were quickly served a basket of hot tortilla chips and salsa in a mini-decanter (or whatever it's called). I thought that was a nice quirky touch. The chips were okay, maybe a little bland. They definitely needed some salt.

It took a while for the waiter to come take our order. I'd say about 15 minutes. Once we placed our order it wasn't too long before we were served. I ordered 2 beef enchiladas with a taco and rice. My son ordered a cheese burrito. My 4 year old daughter ordered the most authentic Mexican dish you can imagine - chicken tenders and French fries.

My meal was very good. Not cheesy like you think of Texican dishes. Just very flavorful. I chose not to eat it all because I am trying to lose weight, so it made an excellent lunch the next day. My son loved his cheese burrito, but was not able to finish it, so he ate the remainder the next day. I tried the chicken tenders and French fries and they were pretty good, too!

There are many choices on the menu and I think they had 9 different vegetarian options. The prices are excellent. My meal was only $7.95 and my son's was $5.95. I didn't have any drinks as I was the only adult there, but they do offer several domestic and imported beers in addition to the quintessential Margarita.

If you're looking for a decent well-priced authentic meal where you can have a drink served by a friendly staff, Plazuelas is definitely one of those places you should try.

October 19, 2011

The Blue Ox Bar and Grill

127th Street
Ocean City, MD
(410) 250-6440

Where do people from Charm City eat when they go to Ocean City, Maryland? One option is the Blue Ox Bar and Grill on 127th Street. This was an unintended option for us because it was my daughter's birthday and unfortunately Tequila Mockingbird is closed on Wednesdays during the off-season.

The Blue Ox is an Americana restaurant with a fare of steaks, burgers, and seafood - just like 80% of all restaurants in Ocean City. We had a party of 9, so I initially asked the hostess if they would be able to accommodate us as it seemed there were few people working there. She was confident they could help us.

We were seated in the bar area as the dining room was closed, possibly for the season. As we were seated we were given a list of items that are on the menu but not available this evening. And it seemed like quite a list. She followed up her list with the statement that the bar is open. Translate that to mean "please buy over-priced alcohol so that you can give me a big tip."

My wife's cousin ordered nachos for everyone and we got our drinks. The nachos arrived after a while and there is no way they were made on the same day that we ordered them. Teh cheese was already congealed and at room temperature. Additionally, they were topped with diced bell peppers and oregano. Who puts oregano on nachos???

Our meal finally arrived. I ordered blackened tuna cooked medium rare. It arrived whitened fully cooked. No blacken. No pink. It tasted fine, but wasn't prepared how I requested it. My daughter ordered the crab bisque. She said it tasted fine, but it was cold when she got it. My nephew ordered chicken wings. They smelled funky and tasted funkier.

We may have said something to the waitress, but she seemed to be single-handidly waitressing the entire restaurant and we rarely saw her. I'm not blaming her as they were entirely too busy for the staff at-hand. Sort of like them not being able to accommodate a family of 9. Some of our guests got a refill on our drinks. Others never did.

The bill for 9 people came to about $110. We promptly paid and skedaddled.

I was thoroughly unimpressed. I understand that it is difficult to serve a large family at a restaurant. But despite this condition, I can confidently say that I will not go to this restaurant again in the future. I think we would have been better off going to the Dough Roller or Dumser's.

So the next time you visit Ocean City from Charm City, be forewarned about The Blue Ox, because you'll be leaving feeling blue.