Friday, April 04, 2008

Exit 28: Providence Road

Providence Road leads to nowhere. I don't mean absolutely nowhere. There are hundreds of lovely little houses in either direction off of Exit 28. But in terms of businesses, especially ones catering to a hungry Homo sapiens searching for snacks, your immediate options are, well, limited. A Royal Farms and a bowling alley, and that's about it if you go towards Towson. Nothing but houses and bucolic scenery in the other direction (squirrel stew anyone? They did make it in Maryland at one time. I think they still do. And no I'm not making fun of the idea. Hell, I'd try it!)

As is my custom on these Beltway Snacking trips, I drove around a bit to look for a place to eat. Down Providence Road - cop behind me, I hope she doesn't notice my one burned out brake light. Five minutes down a winding country road with churches and, yes, more houses. Back the other way, Providence, Cromwell Bridge, and finally I am at the entrance back onto the Beltway - via Exit 29 (note to self: check out the pit beef truck for your Exit 29A post).

Okay, let's try this again.

Turning back toward Towson, I eventually came upon Goucher Blvd, Joppa Road and the popular Towson Place complex, the only shopping center I know of that has both a Target and a Wal-Mart. I find myself here on occasion, less often these days. There are few non-chains that I know of in this area. As an aside: a colleague at work notes that she and her husband have gotten some less-than-exceptional service at the Panera Bread in Towson Place (I guess none of the Towson Panera Breads are very good). There is one place to eat here, the Einstein Bros. bagel shop (map), a not-so-famous chain with locations in almost every state. I used to go to the Beltsville location long ago as a student at College Park. I've been meaning to stop into this one, but I haven't gotten the occasion. I catalogue it as a lunch option in case I find nothing else.

Across the street is Joppa Road, originally a Native American road that European and African settlers started using as late as the 1690's. We have a few more businesses that offer potential. And no, I don't mean the Qdoba or the Applebee's. I do mean the Glory Days Grill (map) next to the Army Recruiting Center. This Richmond-based corporation has many Virginia locations, plus five in Maryland and one in West Virginia. Again, something to keep in mind for the future. As I drive around to find a way out I come across the Pickles and Chips Deli & Grille (map; Adventures in Baltimore Restaurants got here in October, about three months after they opened). This could be a promising lunch place. The promise of "breakfast all day" and the cartoonish pickle and potato chips on the awning and on the windows of the catering wagon are certainly enticing the hungry patron to come in. So I come in.

It's noon, and the homey Pickles and Chips is crowded, with several lunchers waiting in line for sandwiches and burgers, a few others for deli meats in the separate deli case (several types of pickles on top, I might add). I have to excuse myself out of the line so I can get a better look at the menu, but I can't see a thing! So I find one of the few take-out menus lying around and glance at the offerings. Wow, this place must be popular with local newsies! Check out some of these sandwich offerings:

  • the Marty Bass (tuna, tomato and provolone on toasted everything bagel),
  • not to be outdone, the Bob Turk (turkey club and sprouts, on whole wheat toasted bread - ahhh, sunshine-y!)
  • the Laurie DeYoung (grilled ham and cheese sandwich on Texas toast)
  • the 98 Rock Hercules (big - it's just big)
  • the Mark Viviano (roasted turkey, cheddar cheese, hot peppers, on a kaiser roll - and say, whatever happened to John Buren?)
  • the Maria Dennis (I love this description: "A BLT with more BLT than a normal BLT")
  • and of course, the Brian Billick (3/4 lb of hot corned beef, though I think it's recently been fired)
Their list of burgers is intriguing, at an aveage price of $8. That price includes homemade cole slaw, homemade potato chips, lettuce and two slices of tomato, plus a small fountain drink and (of course) a whole pickle - not a slice, not a spear, but a whole pickle. My eye gravitated right to the Loyola burger (mushroom and Swiss) and the Goucher burger (add green peppers and sautéed onions to the Loyola burger). As for their answer to Alonso's, their 2 lb burger: it seems excessive, but if you get through the entire thing (dine-in only), they'll take your photo and post it on the wall. I am not that hard up for meat, so don't look for my Polaroid on their wall anytime soon. When all was said and done, their Reuben burger was the most intruging: a half-pound of meat (the rarest they will do is medium, unfortunately), with sauerkraut, Russian dressing and streaming gobs of Swiss cheese, on a Kaiser roll. Since I didn't expect the chips to be enough, I ordered an extra helping of curly fries for $1.50. After everything was added up, I owed $9.75. About 10 minutes later I had my food, to go (don't worry about the receipt saying "Dine In").

I wanted to get home, where I knew it wouldn't be in the exact same hot and tasty condition it was in the bag, so I sampled a few items:
  • the cheese on the burger really did stream off when I pulled a piece of burger off, much like in a commercial. This was promising.
  • the curly fries were edible, but very forgettable. Flavorless and boring, but you will do worse at many places.
  • the chips were interesting, though I'm still up in the air on how I felt about them. Ripple-cut, hard and crunchy, and very thick. Their flavor was more distinct than the curly fries, a little more "well done" than the fries
  • I liked my pickle.
At home I plated everything (oh God, I never thought I'd use "plate" as a verb) and dove in. The rest of the burger was quite good, and lived up to its promise. The meat was tender and juicy, and the cheese was a nice complement. I couldn't taste the sauerkraut, so that was a throwaway. But the Russian dressing was a nice, even sweet addition that I didn't at first expect. I'd eat this burger again. The fries? No, those I would not get again. I might try their onion rings the next time I go back (which I probably will), but not the fries. Again, I'm still ambivalent about the chips. I wasn't used to the hardness of the potato chips, so that did throw me off. And again, they were a bit more "well done" than potatoes really should be. One thing these chips were good for: the tomatoes. Since I was halfway done my burger before I even thought about my tomatoes and lettuce, and since I couldn't really peel the roll off the burger - the top was glued on with cheese, the bottom was a little bit soggy - I just started eating the tomatoes a la carte. These were actually flavorful tomatoes, so I did enjoy them. But then I got the idea to put the tomato slices onto the hard potato chips and eat them like they were on crackers. It was a pretty good idea, I think. Plus, the chips went well with both ketchup and Ranch dressing. I guess my final opinion on these chips, which are one of the namesakes of the place I bought them: they are definitely worth eating if they're free, but I probably wouldn't pay much for them otherwise.

Mmmmmmm. Burger. Ehhhhhh. Fries.

Other photos:

Take me home, country road
Places I visited:

Pickles & Chips Deli (deli / burgers) - 1220 East Joppa Road, Towson, MD 21286; Phone: (410) 321-1088
  • Would I eat here again? Yes
  • Would I go out of my way to eat here again? I probably would, but I'm not getting the 2 lb burger. Ever.
Places to look up later:

Einstein Bros. Bagels (bagels) - 901 Goucher Blvd, Towson, MD 21286;
Phone: (410) 825-0420

Glory Days Grill (sports bar / grill) - 1220 E. Joppa Road, Towson, MD 21286; Phone (443) 901-0270


Kitt said...

I will never ever get there, but I'm wanting one of those burgers now. Nice review.

John said...


Pigtown-Design said...

we have an office in the same place as glory days. gd isn't bad... just a little too sports-bar-y for me.

Katie said...

I've been to the Glory Days in Towson, horrible! The first time I went there the food was okay, very bland, typical for this type of joint and the service was terrible. I decided to give it another chance some time after, so I went for happy hour with some friends and I ordered calamari. First mistake, I should have never ordered calamari from a sports bar, second mistake, going back to Glory Days. Anyway, the calamari came out cold so I had the waiter take it back and when it came back out it was a soggy, greasy, mess.

John said...

Y'all: So one vote for "OK" and one for "Stay away". I'm not a sports bar type anyway. Maybe Glory Days isn't worth a trip.

Kathy aka the Minx said...

I've been curious about that deli for a while now - thanks for checking it out!