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

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.

April 23, 2011

Baldwin's Station

Baldwin's Station
7618 Main Street
Sykesville, MD 21784
(410) 795-1041

My sister-in-law called and said that she wanted to come to our house and watch our kids so that we could go out for dinner. More specifically so that I could take my wife out to dinner for her birthday.

Just outside of Charm City is the small town of Sykesville in Carroll County. If you've ever been to downtown Sykesville, you'll know that there are two restaurants - E.W. Beck's and Baldwin's Station. Situated on the railroad tracks just feet north of the Howard County line, Baldwin's Station is in a renovated train station, one that in a simpler time would take people eastward to Baltimore City or Frederick and other points west.

The restaurant is decorated with scenic railroad memorabilia. It's not particularly fancy inside the restaurant, but once you look a the menu you'll know that it's fancy. I've been there a couple of times and it seems like the menu changes often. There are daily (or weekly?) specials. Staples on the menu are Sweet Espresso Rubbed Pork Tenderloin, the Lamb T-Bone, the Jumbo Crab Cake, and the Stuffed Filet Mignon.

For the vegetarians there is the Ravioli, whose contents have changed from pumpkin, squash, to mushroom. The current Porcini Mushroom Ravioli is served with Sun Dried Tomatoes, asparagus tips, and a creamy truffle Marsala Sauce. Another non-meat dish is the Tuscan Pasta served with sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, capers, Asiago, and light olive oil. I suspect these dishes are not vegan though (not that it matters to me!).

When my wife and I went, she ordered the Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes and I ordered a special, which was a Creole pasta dish. I also ordered a 3 Philosophers beer. It is SO good. I actually drank two of them, which pretty much prevents you from being able to legally drive a vehicle for like a day and a half.

We were served dinner rolls, which unfortunately were hard and burnt-tasting. We complained to the waitress, who apologized, removed them, but did not offer to bring more. That was a bit disappointing.

We next got side salads, which tasted like salads. Nothing special. I was hoping to get a cup of soup, but my wife wouldn't let me. I supposed she was allowing me to save room for dessert.

Dinner was finally served and it was good! My pasta Creole dish was full of large lumps of seafood. It was slightly spicy, just as I like it. My wife's crab cakes were not spectacularly large, but the lumps of crab meat within them were jumbo, as advertised. She really enjoyed them.

To top it off we got the standard volcano chocolate sundae whatchamacallit. It was basically a single-serving formed chocolate cake heated and covered with chocolate drizzle topped with vanilla ice cream. It was okay. Don't get me wrong - we ate it all! But I certainly wouldn't classify it as dessert heaven.

The atmosphere of the restaurant was quaint and quiet. The sun had not set and light filled the room with the many windows. We really enjoy going there, but on our budget, that is not too often. Meals range in price from about $20 to $35. They have a fine selection of wines that range in price from around $18 if my recollection is correct, up to nearly $100 for a bottle.

For a somewhat fancy dining experience, Baldwin's Station is definitely a nice place to go. You won't see flat screen televisions in the corner with the latest game on, so you'll be forced to talk to your spouse. They have outdoor seating for when the weather is nice. You can also rent the restaurant for special events and on some nights they have a singers. There is also a small bar. And as you can tell by some of the pictures on their website, if you're lucky you may even get to experience a train going by.

April 3, 2011

E.W. Beck's

E.W. Beck's
7565 Main Street
Sykesville, MD 21784
(410) 795-1001

A staple for anyone who lives in Southern Carroll County, Beck's is the ultimate family pub. Located right in the heart of downtown Sykesville on Main Street, Beck's offers a variety of family fair, seafood, sandwiches, burgers, and entrées. And beer!

My family has dined there many times and we are friends with the owners. They were actually our neighbors for a while. We had the pleasure of dining there last Sunday with my wife's cousin who wanted to treat us to a late lunch (brunch?). Thanks, Kizzy!

Beck's wasn't too crowded on this particular Sunday, which is quite contrary to any other night. Try getting a table there on a Friday at 6pm or on a Saturday night. You may be waiting a little while - a testament of its popularity. It's always good to get there early or go on a non-weekend night.

Beck's has a bar in the center of the restaurant surrounded by tables, then another room which they annexed with more tables. The other room can be rented for special occasions, like Ravens' Nest meetings.

We were quickly seated and we ordered our drinks. Though Beck's has a nice selection of draft beers, I only got iced tea. I ordered the Filet Mignon sandwich. It's a filet topped with Brie on a bun and served with fries for $12.59. My wife's cousin got the fajitas, my wife got Shrimp Quesadillas, and my oldest daughter got Chicken Quesadillas. My two younger children both ordered the standard chicken strips with fries.

I've also had numerous sub sandwiches and the Prime Buffalo Burger - all very good. If you go there on a Friday, they have seafood chowder that it one of the best soups I've ever had in my life. It's so good that I suspect it's not good for you, but who cares? It's full of chunks of shrimp, lobster, crab, scallops, and clams.

Our service on Sunday was a little slow. Fortunately I was there with my family to make conversation and the NCAA tournament was on, as well, so my son and I were catching glimpses of that.

If you are in the area, I highly recommend trying E.W. Beck's. I always prefer to support a family-owned restaurant rather than the chain-restaurant. Spend local!!!

Beck's - Good food. Good times!

February 17, 2011

Steve's Deli

Steve's Deli
11299 Owings Mills Blvd #106
Owings Mills, MD 21117
(410) 753-3354

Some friends from work asked if I was interested in going to Steve's Deli. I had never heard of it. They said it was in the strip mall at the corner of Crondall Lane, near the Owings Mills MVA VEIP. Deli sandwiches? I'm game!

When we walked in the smell hit my face. And it was a good smell. The smell of roasting meat. If you're a vegetarian you can probably stop reading right now. The menu is huge. And it's on the website. With prices. That's a rarity these days. And they have all kinds of deli sandwiches - pastrami, roast beef, turkey, corned beef, brisket, ham, salads, kosher foods. You name it. If you would expect it to be at a deli, Steven's Deli probably has it. They even have chopped liver and tongue.

A young man behind the counter asked us if we were interested in sampling the pastrami. Do you really need to ask people that? Of course I would like a sample of meat. And it was good. And not only was it a sample, it was nearly half a sandwich. So I decided to get it. I got the pastrami sandwich with Swiss cheese on toasted rye, with chips and a drink. I think it came to a little over $10.

The sandwich was packed! It was perfect. I must say one of the best pastrami sandwiches I've ever had. Some in our group even took out some of the meat because they said it was too much. Too much meat? Yes, they were females.

I was very pleased with Steve's Deli and I totally plan to go there again. Check it out!

February 13, 2011

Cobblestone Tavern & Grille

Cobblestone Tavern & Grille
1438 Liberty Road
Eldersburg, Maryland 21784

Having been locked up in quarantine for the last couple of months because my daughter has leukemia, we finally got out of the house this weekend. Thanks to a gift card from some very dear friends we have from Church, my wife and I were able to enjoy some much needed time alone and have a wonderful meal together.

Step 1 - babysitting. Our friend, the most selfless person you'll ever meet, came and stayed with my kids for a few hours so we could get out. Fortunately, her son and my son are best friends.

Step 2 - get to Cobblestone. Cobblestone is located smack in the middle of Eldersburg off of Liberty Road behind the nearly vacant Arby's.

Step 3 - seating. There wasn't a huge crowd at Cobblestone, but it was 1:30 in the afternoon on a Sunday. Football season is over, so the beer-drinking crowd is home working on the honey-do list. There were probably 5 other tables with diners and we were told there was a party of 25 in the back room. The decor is classy - dark hardwood, stone, and fake exposed brick. I liked it!

Step 5 - the menu. The menu is fairly reasonable. Steaks, seafood, sandwiches. I was torn between the 10 oz Mignon and the Grilled Mahi Mahi. Mahi Mahi is my favorite fish. Then I realized that my wife's menu had the Valentine's weekend insert that my menu was lacking. It showed Surf and Turf for $25. A fresh lobster tail and a 6 oz. Mignon steak, with 2 sides. My wife and I both chose the Sweet Potato Soufflé and a side salad. I added a bowl of Cream of Crab soup and a pint of Cobblestone Ale.

Step 6 - eating! The ale quickly arrived and it was light. It was okay in taste, but not super special, but not bad either. A good average ale it was. The soup and salads soon followed. The crab soup was magnificent. Creamy. Not very spicy (though I like it a little bit spicier), but it was chocked full of crab meat. Most crab soups these days show a crab to the soup and call it crab soup. Some soups are lucky enough to have the crab take a 5 second dip in the pot.

We finished our appetizers and seemed to wait a fair amount of time for our entree'. However, when it arrived it was fantastic. I ordered my steak medium rare and it was medium rare. Usually the steak is pulled off of the grill when it's medium rare and by the time it gets to you the internal heat cooks it to a medium well. The lobster was buttery and perfectly tender. The Sweet Potato Soufflé was like a dessert - creamy and sweet.

Step 7 - dessert. My wife insisted that she was stuffed, so I ordered the Brownie Sundae. It came with 2 spoons (of course!) a nice sized chunk of hot brownie, a big heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream, and 3 big dollops of homemade whipped cream, topped with Maraschino cherries.

My wife helped me eat it, despite insisting she wasn't hungry as she spooned scoop after scoop of the homemade whipped cream into her mouth.

The total bill came to $73. That's about what we end up paying for our family of 5 on the rare occasion we go out to dinner.

The service was friendly, the atmosphere was relaxing and enjoyable, and the food was really good. I would be more than happy to go there again.

January 22, 2011


1312 Londontown Boulevard
Eldersburg, MD 21784
(410) 552-9970

I wouldn't normally write about Chili's. It's not fancy. It's not unique. It's just different meats covered in melted cheeses and bacon. Nothing more. But this is a my forum to write about eating at restaurants. And when you have an absolutely crappy experience, it deserves to be written about.

Some background to add emotion to the whole situation - in October my 3 year old daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. My wife had to quit working, so we had a sizable loss of income. We have wonderful friends and family and many gave us gift cards to restaurants that we could use when we didn't have time to cook a meal or just needed to get out.

I hadn't gotten anything out of the freezer for dinner tonight, so I convinced my wife that this was a good opportunity to use our Chili's cards. My wife placed an order online. Chili's has a 2 for $20 special - an appetizer and 2 entres for $20. We got the Texas Cheese Fries, she got the Southwestern Quesadillas with Bacon and Ranch and I got the Jalapeno Chicken Quesadillas (all 3 covered in cheese and bacon). We also ordered the Cheese Quesadillas for my son. She submitted the order. It came to $26.07. It said it would be ready at 6:44pm, which was 15 minutes from when we placed it.

Living 15 minutes away, I left immediately. When I got there the place was packed. There were several people ahead of me in the carry-out line. Once I got up to the counter she gave me my total and I paid - $25 on the gift card and I gave her a buck seven.

We waited for a while, but that was expected given how many people were there to eat. We finally got our food at 7:04pm. I'm not going to complain about that. It was busy. I get it.

When I got home 15 minutes later, I realized that the Jalapeno Chicken Quesadillas were not in the bag. Shame on me for not checking before I left. I called the restaurant, she seemed confused, but said to return and I could get the missing part of me meal.

When I got there she said that I never ordered the Jalapeno Chicken Quesadillas. She then showed me an itemized receipt that just showed "2 for $20 on one line and the Kids Cheese Quesadillas" on the other. "See?", she said. "You didn't order the Jalapeno Chicken Quesadillas."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. This doesn't even freakin' make sense. First of all - she was blaming me for not ordering the quesadillas, but then she was inaccurately telling me that the itemized receipt showed I didn't order it. It didn't show anything except that we ordered the 2 for $20 deal! Okay, whatever. She reordered the quesadillas and I waited another 10 minutes or so for them.

I finally got home (it was now 7:48 - more than an hour and 15 minutes after I had originally placed my order). After I ate my meal, I went back to their website and tried to reorder the 2 for $20 deal without including the 2nd meal. It's impossible. You MUST select 2 items. Therefore, there is a flaw somewhere. Either Chili's got it wrong or the error was between the seat and the keyboard.

So in summary, I am less inclined to revisit Chili's in the future. Unfortunately, we still have $30 in gift cards to there. Perhaps I could give them as presents and let someone else deal with the grief that they deliver. By the way, the food was decent. No complaints on the taste.