Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Exit 18A: MD-26 (Liberty Road, to Lochearn)

I have been so busy lately, but on Sunday night I found time to stop by the Windsor Mill area for some food on the way home. Exits 18A and 18B are kind of strange to me - it seems like you can go both ways on Liberty Road, from both exits. As it was, I took 18A into away from the city, towards the intersection of Liberty and Milford Mill Roads (satellite road map - and look at this! Google Maps is now doing Terrain Maps). I drove by a few places that I want to check out later, and one I did check out, but plan to again.

I've been by this intersection before. The ALKO clothing and shoe outlet is perhaps the most prominent part of it, but there are a few restaurants in that shopping center. The only one that looks at all interesting to me is Kimmy's Soul Food (can't find any address; here's a map to Alko). Mind you, City Paper's anointed best soul food in Baltimore is farther along, Symone's Soul Café in Randallstown (map). I've heard wonderful things about this place, but I stopped short of it. Have to make another trip I guess.

It was night already, and some places were already closed. I didn't know there was a Caribbean market on Liberty Road near the Beltway, but there it was! Had I not just spent an absurd amount of money on Thanksgiving I would have stopped in - well, if they were open at least.

I did eventually stop, by chance, at another Chinese restaurant. But this is no ordinary Chinese place - this is the semi-legendary Benny Der's Golden Dragon Inn (map). The City Paper was, well, less enthralled with them than the various locals were, those who came in and chit-chatted with the owners like they were old buddies. The Sun, about as "whoop-dee-do"-ish.

Benny Der's is a little messy in the front, but the back... well, I never got to go back there, because I got take-out, but it looked fine. The decor, however, is fun, bright, loud, chunky Chinese motifs that are yellowed only by the years. They must have been put up a few decades ago (Johnny Dollar, you have got to see this place if you have not yet seen it).

I looked over the menu, and could've gotten some of the cheaper stuff. Instead, I ended up ordering the relatively cheap-looking backfin crab chow mein ($8), with a side of shrimp egg rolls (I thought it said 4, but I only got 2, for $4 - you will soon see why this was not a problem). The woman took my order and I watched patrons come in and out, asking how the Ravens were doing (badly - are they turning into the O's? Seriously!) while I sat there reading the City Paper.

Fifteen minutes later I get my food. Twenty minutes after that I am in my apartment putting it on the plate. There was enough, I reasoned, to make at least two meals (I eventually yielded three, the last of which I just finished).

The backfin crab chow mein may not have been the most exciting dish, and there are certainly are better ways to prepare crab. But I did like it enough that I'd get it again. The vegetables that surrounded it were plentiful, if forgettable. More memorable were the crispy chow mein noodles that were on top, not small and hard like those La Choy chow mein noodles, but a bit lighter, greasier and puffier (though not by much). They also tasted better than the ones you get in the stores.

The thing that made me jump back, however, was the egg rolls. These things were big - I mean huge. Two egg rolls easily equaled four normal sized ones. And the best thing about them was that I had finally found an egg roll similar to those I grew up eating at the New Asia carryout in Arbutus (those egg rolls are now the only edible thing they make, and they are good). They must be popular - one guy came in and ordered five of them. Seriously it's, like, almost a burrito's worth of egg roll!

So in short, I don't know what to make of Benny Der's. I liked what I ate, even if the egg roll was dependably greasy. And I'd get them again. But at least next time I'm up near Randallstown I'll stop by Symone's for some soul food.

Behold, the meal: that egg roll took up a good chunk of the plate. I could not finish the other one! I saved it for lunch - and dinner - later in the week.

Places I visited:

Benny Der's Golden Dragon (Chinese / American)
- 8109 Liberty Road, Randallstown, MD 21244; Phone: (410) 922-7800
  • Would I eat there again? Yep
  • Would I go out of my way to eat there again? Well, maybe - the jury's still out
Places to look up later:

Kimmy's Soul Food (African-American / American) - located in the Alko Clothing & Shoes Shopping Center, 8053 Liberty Rd, Randallstown, MD 21244

Symone's Soul Café (African-American / American) - 8700A-2 Liberty Road, Randallstown, MD 21133; Phone: (410) 655-8500

* Exit 18A sign adapted from


Anonymous said...

Hi, great blog! Just wanted to address that your Exits 11-20 posts, the 18A post. Kimmy's Soul Food and Benny Der's are on 18B, toward Randallstown. Not sure about Symone's Soul Cafe, but sounds like I need to check that place out! :)

Anonymous said...

I moved away from the area over 30 years ago, and I still go back for the best Chinese food I have ever had. I only wish they had a website and more information on their catering business! Benny Der's Golden Dragon looks just awful but the food is simply the best!

Anonymous said...

Symone's has been closed for several years.