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
oscars@oscarsalehouse.net

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 
410-902-1533

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

Plazuelas

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.

September 2, 2011

R & R Deli: A Deli like No Other


R&R Deli

7894 Washington Blvd
Elkridge, MD
Visited September 2nd, 2011

Let's start with this - R&R Deli is sorta in a gas station. Okay, that is not all together true. This place is separated from a gas station by a plexiglass wall. A thick piece of plastic is all that separates you from a land of slowly rotating hot dogs and beef jerky. But, if you are lucky enough to be on the right side of the plastic, you are in for a fantastic world of authentic Mexican flavors. Oh, I didn't mention that? This is not the type of Deli where you get a pastrami on rye. R&R Deli, located attached to a Shell station in Elkridge, may be one of the best kept restaurant secrets I have ever experienced and a taste of Mexico north of the border.

The first time you step into R&R you get a couple of sensations. The first is a sense of awkwardness and then, potentially, claustrophobia. The place is small and if you happen to be there when there are more than three people ordering you will find yourself saying "excuse me" and shifting around for some space more than once. When you are able to make it up to the counter to order you may also be in for a little surprise. "Menu" is a pretty loose term at R&R. There are a couple laminated sheets with some basics, but the good stuff is up on the wall, under the daily specials, which are written using a Sharpie and in spanish.

If you want to "go safe" or are just looking to try something small that R&R has to offer, go for a couple tacos. Carne Asada, Chicken, Chorizo and a marinated pork called Pastor are just some of the many options. Each taco, served on a corn tortilla and simply garnished with chopped onion and cilantro, packs quite a bit of punch for just $2. The meats are well spiced and are highlighted with the simple preparations. These are the epitome of "Dirty Tacos."

While the tacos are excellent, there are a number of great choices, if you can translate the writing on the wall. Two standouts are the chile relleno and a dish called huaraches. The chile, stuffed with a dense cheese, fried and served with a spicy red sauce, is an excellent balance of heat, flavor, and texture. The huaraches, served with the meat of your choice (go with the pastor) are corn cakes with cheese, meat, avocado and a creamy sour cream like sauce is filling and delicious.

A really nice part of R&R is found in the refrigerator next to the counter. Instead of a fountain soda, or even a standard bottle of soda from the food mart, the fridge contains a selection of Mexican sodas and juices. While the fanciest restaurants are serving Mexican coke, not many places can say that they have Fanta or apple soda made with real sugar. The selection really complements the authentic Mexican fare.

R&R shows that you don't need to be in a big, fancy restaurant, or a trendy food truck to serve really good food that will keep people coming back. If you are anywhere close, battle those who are in the parking lot just to fill up their cars. The real gem at the corner of Routes 1 and 175 is a small little deli where the tastes of Mexico shine through in a truly big way.


August 18, 2011

Glory Days Grill

Glory Days Grill
1348 Liberty Road
Sykesville, MD 21784-6411
(410) 552-5160


So I finally got a chance to eat at the new Glory Days Grill in Eldersburg, Maryland. Glory Days opened in the 1348 Liberty Road lcoation that had been built and seemed abandoned for several years. Finally the building is occupied!

I have seen many reviews (in under 148 characters or less) on Facebook and have spoken to several people that have been there and I always seemed to have received the same feedback. It's....okay.

One comment was something to the effect of 'it would be a nice place to watch a game, probably not a place to go on a date'. Others said it was like Applebees ( the death-knell of restaurant reviews). Still others said it was bar food - burgers, cheap pizzas, and some sandwiches, and some meat thrown over salads. But mostly a place to drink alcohol while eating food.

Yesterday was the perfect occasion to make my presense known there. It was my birthday! We arrived a little after 5pm and the place was already packed. There was no wait at the time, but scanning the crowd we got one of the last couple tables that were available. Our hostess reminded my of Miley Cirus. I don't think that's a bad thing. She's a cute girl. My daughter agreed. My wife thought I was nuts.

I started the meal with a Glory Days Cosmo. No, I'm not gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I just read the ingredients and thought it sounded yummy. It was delivered in an over-sized Martini glass and it was pink with a slice of lime. Okay. Stop. It was still good.

I ordered the Pittsburger, but I demanded that the waitress let me order it as the Ravensburger, as I refuse to order something from Pittsburgh. The Ravensburger, as I know it, is corned beef, pastrami, Swiss cheese, deli mustard, and cole slaw on a toasted flatbread. Let me tell you - this was an excellent sandwich. Since I'm trying to eat reasonably, I only ate half of it, and saved the 2nd half for lunch today. It was fantastic the 2nd time around!

My eldest daughter ordered the grilled chicken penne with Vodka cream sauce. She said it was really good. My wife ordered the chicken cheese steak, but she said it was only okay. Nothing special.

The service was prompt and friendly. The food was hot. The atmosphere was casual. I think we were in and out of there in less than an hour. The prices were reasonable - about the same as you would find at Chili's and Applebee's. But unlike Applebee's, the food was fully cooked and served hot.

Overall, I have no complaints about Glory Days Grill. Sure, it's not a 5 star restaurant. But as a chain restaurant that aims to provide decent food and an atmosphere for big-game camaraderie, it serves us well.

It's been open for a while. If you haven't been there yet, check it out.

August 12, 2011

Grilled Cheese & Company

Grilled Cheese & Company
577 Johnsville Road Suite 1
Eldersburg, Maryland 21784
443-920-3238


I met a friend and her daughter one day for lunch at the Grilled Cheese & Company in the Johnsville Station in Eldersburg on Route 32, just south of Route 26. I always get a giggle out of the name Johnsville Station. I always think of Brownsville Station, the band that originally sang "Smokin' in the Boys' Room" before Motley Crue remade it.

The Grilled Cheese & Company restaurant is an 'order at the counter and we'll bring it to you' kind of restaurant. There are not a lot of tables, so I assume they want to get you in and get you out. As I always said when I worked at the Burger King in Bel Air, 'Get 'em in, get 'em out'.

I brought my daughter, as well, but she wasn't much interested in the menu. She wanted a drink and fries. That's fine. Potatoes are vegetables, right? I ordered the Smashed Meatball sandwich. There are several Italian-spiced meatballs that are smashed (hence the name), topped with tomato sauce and Provolone cheese. Sounds like a meatball sub, right? However, this was served on fresh grilled bread soaked in butter. Mmmmmm......butter.

I didn't have to wait too long for my food. The place was fairly busy. The entire time we were eating there was a line at the cash register and most of the seats were filled. My sandwich was hot. Way hot! Once it finally cooled off a bit, I really enjoyed it. It was appropriate spiced with pleasing amounts of cheese sprinkled about the sandwich. It was very tasty. My daughter enjoyed her fries, too. And the company of my friend's daughter.

There are other items on the menu that seem good, too. There is the Sarducci, which is Italian peppers and cheese, the Blue Ox, which has roast beef, blue cheese, and horseradish sauce, and the Crabby Melt, which has crab meat and Monterrey Jack cheese. Of course, there is also an original grilled cheese sandwich. They also offer soups and salads, for those who like those things.

While I liked the food and the decor, I did think it was a bit pricey. I paid about $8 for my sandwich. A plain grilled cheese is $5. I might go back with a friend, but I doubt that I'd take my whole family because with drinks I'd end up spending close to $50. Grilled Cheese & Company is not worth $50 to feed a family.