Sunday, April 13, 2008

Exits 29A & B: Cromwell Bridge Road and MD-524 South (Loch Raven Blvd)

$423 for new brake pads and a new set of calibers. And $50 for car rental fees. AND $20 more for a 1/3 tank of gas!

It was this mindset that I took with me in my zippy new, gas-guzzling "economy" car - a 2008 Chrysler Sebring from Enterprise - with less than 1,000 miles on it. The car I own and drive - and have just four more payments on before it's all mine - is a 2002 Ford Escort with over 128,000 miles on it. It's no longer a nice one, though one mechanic told me he'd love to have a hundred Ford Escorts.

But lunch still waited, and I was gonna do this anyway, so.

First I headed off the Beltway to Cromwell Bridge Road.
I had that pit beef truck - at the bottom of the hill, around the intersection of Cromwell Bridge and Gleneagle (map) - in mind that I saw on my confusing excursion off of Exit 28. But I passed it up, since I had no cash on hand and kind of doubted that the pit beef folks would take a debit card. Oh well. I have to come back for it then.

After wandering up the hill, I found no food. A veterinary ER, a natural store, etc., but nothing to eat. So after a few other turns I finally went the other way, in the direction of Exit 29B, Loch Raven Blvd and that road-that-won't-let-you-escape, Joppa Road. Now I’m not ignoring the fabulous Bel-Loc Diner, a place I’ve written about before. But since I’m writing about places I haven’t written about before, you’ll hear nothing more about them. Just remember they have a pretty good hamburger, more satisfying than most area diners I’ve been to (Towson Diner – okay, Double T Diner – pass).

So here I found a few other places I need to go back to, past the huge and comprehensive Beltway Fine Wines & Spirits (map - I've mentioned it before but never really talked about it) most of which are on Joppa. A non-exhaustive list (that is, I left some out), amid the various Subways, McDonald'ses and Hooterses:

*Pastore's Italian Delly (map) - yes, delly - with Italian meats and cheeses, sandwiches, subs and a whole other mess of Italian products that will likely necessitate my visiting the place soon.

*Casey's Bar and Restaurant (map), which has karaoke, live music and its very own MySpace page (Casey's is 23 years old, a Libra, and straight. It currently has no children but hopes to someday.)

In addition are a few places to get a good dose of crabs - crab cakes, steamed crabs, soft crabs - etcetera. These are all pretty difficult to miss.

* Orchard Landing (map), touting itself as the finest seafood and steaks in the area. They got crabcakes, hon.

* Conrad's Crabs & Seafood Market (map), selling what else? Crabs and seafood. This will be the next one I visit when I'm in the area.

And then there was Don's Crabs (map; their "" website is down, but check out this review from Life in Baltimore). With three locations, Don’s has been around for about 30 years, as it proudly states on its takeout menus. It is prime crab steamin’ territory, with a large area that looks sort of like the shower in a locker room, but with numbered chest-high spigots on the wall (at least fourteen). When I got there the guys behind the counter were getting ready to steam a bushel in a large metal cylindrical, er, steaming thing. (What is that called again? A steamer, right? They’re not gonna revoke my Maryland citizenship, right? Right?) On my side of the counter is a big, chair-and-table-free central are surrounded by cases of frozen and fresh seafood. Behind one freezer door lie frozen softs and quarts of delicious crab soup. I pondered a soft shell crab sandwich, but as usual I was bewildered and baffled by all the choices available to me.

Don’s sells both raw and prepared seafood, and apparently at the same prices. The menu offers up many cheap sandwiches and lunch offerings under $10, though if you’re not careful it can easily go double that. Among Don’s offerings, many available as sandwiches and entrées

  • 4 and 6 oz crab cakes, less lump or backfin and more special, which I like in its own right, no too much filling, and fried (prices start around $6 for the 4 oz.)
  • padded oysters – individually fried, $1.89 each
  • soft shell crab sandwiches – at the market price. The day I went a soft shell crab went for $4.50 frozen (out of season, of course)
  • steamed crabs, at the market price. They are not cheap anymore.
  • fish galore! Flounder, catfish, lake trout (prices vary - cheaper for a sandwich, about $7 to $8 each)
  • plenty of sides, including hush puppies, onion rings, fries
  • they sell both Old Bay – in all sizes – and their own seasoning mix

Since I wanted to try as much as possible, I ordered a combo ($13): one 4 oz crab cake, flounder and clam strips, with two of a limited selection of sides (others are extra). My sides were small fries and cole slaw, but I wanted hush puppies, for which I had to shell out an extra $2.50 (for six). Grand total after tax: about $17! This had turned into no small lunch, but I would later find that this meal would take several days to finish (it’s Sunday as I write this, and I am getting my third meal out of this combo lunch).

The grub - and no it's not a very good picture.

Some thoughts on the grub:

  • I liked the flavor and texture of the crab cake, small as it was. Even though I usually get mine broiled (it’s a little healthier in my mind than a fried one), I prefer the fried ones when I want to splurge on calories (which is rare). Again, I’m fine with special meat. Heck, sometimes I am even more in the mood for it instead of lump or backfin.
  • They gave me four or five fried flounder filets, which were totally bone-free. Still they were kind of bland, and upon reheating, a little tough on the ends.
  • Same with the clams – a little bland, though more flavorful than the flounder, and a little tough when reheated.
  • As with most places, I found the fries to be forgettable, Maybe I should just stop ordering fries.
  • The hush puppies tasted great, though they were a little doughy inside. Reheating them seems to solve that problem, if you reheat the whole plate on high for a minute.
  • Don’s seems to adhere to the “little finely puréed bits of cabbage and carrots” school of cole slaw thought. It has its merits, and the flavor is nice. Still crunchy after a few days.

I’d like to stop by and try their steamed crabs at some point, though after spending so much lately on car repairs, and then almost $20 more on lunch (I should’ve gotten something smaller – something I have to do for Exit 30), I will have to put that off for now. I must mention that their service was very helpful and friendly, especially to the little old lady who came in looking for another crab place. It took her a good while to get in and out of her car. She didn't leave empty-handed, mind you; she did buy something at Don's.

UPDATE: Mark wrote me about a few good places, which you can read about in the comments section. But there was one I forgot about but I did visit a while back. The Orchard Market & Café (map) is a pretty tasty, BYOB Persian restaurant. The prices seemed pretty reasonable. I went there on a date a few months back and meant to write about it, but I just kind of forgot (too much happening, guess it got lost in the shuffle). So just to mention it: Orchard Market - tasty Persian food.

Other photos:

Orchard Landing is pretty difficult to miss. Just look for the big purple letters and the Gardiner's Furniture marquis (unless you're coming from Towson, in which case you wil have missed it if you pass Gardiner's)

Places I visited:

Beltway Fine Wines & Spirits (market - beer / wine / liquor) - 8727 Loch Raven Blvd., Towson, MD 21286; Phone: (410) 668-8884

  • Would I shop there again? Probably
  • Would I go out my way to shop there again? Probably not, since I live near a few good places already

Don's Crabs (crabs / seafood) - 1764 E. Joppa Rd., Parkville, MD 21234; Phone: (410) 661-1232

  • Would I eat there again? Probably, at least to try the crabs
  • Would I go out my way to eat there again? Maybe
Orchard Market (Persian / Iranian) - 8815 Orchard Tree Lane, Towson, MD 21286; Phone: (410) 339-7700
  • Would I eat there again? Yes, I just haven't gotten around to it
  • Would I go out of my way to eat there again? Yeah, I think so

Places to look up later:

Casey's Bar & Restaurant (bars and pubs) -1742 E. Joppa Rd., Parkville, MD 21234; Phone: 410-665-9683

Conrad's Crabs & Seafood Market (crabs / seafood) - 1720 E. Joppa Rd., Parkville, MD 21234; Phone: (410) 882-1515

Orchard Landing (American / Maryland / seafood) - 1528 E. Joppa Rd., Towson, MD 21286; Phone: (410) 823-5050

Pastore's Italian Delly (Italian / deli) - 8646 Loch Raven Boulevard, Towson, MD 21286; Phone: (410) 825-5316 and -5317

Pit beef truck (pit beef) - near the intersection of Cromwell Bridge Road and Gleneagles Court


Matt said...

That's my hood Yo! I live off Pleasant Plains. If you go behind Orchard Landing in the strip mall back there is Orchard Market, an incredibly good BYOB persian restaurant.

Cheezy's Pizza, next to Baynesville on the south side of Joppa is also a pretty good pizza & carryout joint.

Beltway Fine Wine, aka "Beltway", is the best beer & wine store I have ever found. Their selection of craft brews is unparalleled in the area and you can even find some craft distilled liquor like Dogfish Head's Blue Hen Vodka. I have friends from Philly and NY who stop there every time they are in town because their prices are 10-20% lower than back north.

John said...

And you letf links, too! I knew I missed something. Thanks. I totally forgot about the Persian place. I went on a date once and could not for the life of me remember what it was called or where it was. That was months ago. So by the time we hit now, I'm Mr. Oblivious.