US Route 40 is one of the oldest cross-country highways in the nation. Dating to the 1920's, it extends all the way from Atlantic City, New Jersey, to Park City, Utah (originally going as far west as San Fran). Like I-95, Route 40 - Baltimore's own slice of the National Pike - cuts the Beltway in half, going through Baltimore City. On the west side of the beltway, you can get to Route 40 by Exits 15A (into the city) and B (to Ellicott City).
I wanted a quick, cheap dinner this evening, and this time I had a good idea of where I wanted to go. I passed on the former IHOP-turned-"Shirley's Family Diner" (map, Google Earth still thinks it's an IHOP), which sounds fun enough that I may go there next time. Also passed by the Pho 1 Restaurant (map and review) in the Westview Mall. Instead I decided on Mr. G's Hamburgers (map), a small little place that is quite familiar to me, because I ate there all the time in high school. My high school girlfriend (neither of us knew, okay?) even worked there. My favorite thing to get was the foot-long hot dog, though the hamburgers, onion rings and milkshakes were always a safe and satisfying bet. So unlike many of the places I am visiting for this series, I already know Mr. G's.
Or at least, I thought I knew Mr. G's. After the place got gutted by fire a few years ago, it seems to have expanded, a lot. Gone was the little waiting room where you sat while they made your food. Now there's a small clutch of tables, complete with blob of condiments and flies on top (ick). Still, most of Mr. G's is behind-the-counter space, as before. And behind those counters lie a dizzying array of soft-serve ice creams, burgers, fried chicken, trout, ribs, breakfast foods, spaghetti (or as it was billed by Mr. G's, "SPAGETY"), Western fries (for the uninitiated, the best description I can find is here, on the Royal Farms web site) and mammoth onion rings.
I got a bit buggy-eyed when I saw the prices for the combo platters - especially the half-cheeseburger for $8! It did dawn on me that this wasn't just a cheeseburger but a cheeseburger sub, but I did notice the glaring lack of prices for most items. Not a great way to prepare your change. The young woman behind the counter told me the cheeseburger was $3.50 (or so). To that I ordered some Western fries (mmmm), for a grand total of $5.80. Only later did it hit me to order some of their delicious-looking onion rings (nope, no flies in this case). I would have, but there was a fairly long line at the counter.
Some of the food on display looked wonderful - the ribs and mac and cheese were tempting, and again, there were those onion rings. There were some pretty average-looking items as well, specifically their fried chicken, and some stuff that looked downright inedible. To wit: there were some green beans that had a very unnatural hue; and a large, gummy and dried-out blob of angel-hair "spagety" is hopefully never going near anyone's mouth.
I took my burger and fries to the parents' house and ate it there. The burger, which had provolone, onion, lettuce and pickle (toppings of my choice, instead of a pre-set selection), was juicy and set between two halves of a soft, not-so-thick kaiser roll (I hate the thick ones - I don't eat sandwiches for the bread, after all). I have had tastier, and much thicker burgers than this one, but for what it was worth it was quite satisfying. The dog and cat thought so too, as I threw little shards of meat and roll at them (those two, they are a pair). Along with that were some satisfyingly salty Western fries. They could've been a little crispier on the outside, but you don't really order Western fries for the crispiness of the coating anyway - it's all about the thickness of the fry and the flavor of the coating. And for a small order, it was a pretty large sample of fries that they gave me - easily a whole potato in that bag.
One thing that hits me now: no more foot-long hot dogs on the menu? That much is disappointing. Well, at least they still have those intimidating onion rings.
Places I visited:
Mr. G's Fast Lane Hamburgers (American / hamburgers / ice cream) - 5600 Johnnycake Rd
Gwynn Oak, MD 21207; Phone: (410) 744-0011
- Would I eat there again? Depends on what I'd order - at least for the onion rings
- Would I go out of my way to eat there again? Again, to try the onion rings
Pho 1 (Vietnamese) - 5764 Baltimore National Pike, Catonsville, MD 21228; Phone: (410) 719-7500
Shirley's Family Diner (diner / American) -5600 Baltimore National Pike, Catonsville, MD 21228; Phone: (410) 788-9270