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!