Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Exit 32A: US-1 South (Belair Road, to Overlea)

It's taken me a while to get back on the Beltway since I still haven't been able to shake my jetlag from Cali. So I sadly woke up around 10ish on this past Monday morning (my body thinks it's 7am but my clock doesn't). Out doing errands I finally worked my way around to Route 1 (Bel Air Road at this end). This is the second time I have hit US Route 1 on the Beltway - qv Exit 12A towards Arbutus. The third if you count US-1 Alt around Exit 10 (in Lansdowne, feeding into Arbutus), and is the first. It's also the first of several routes that bisect the Beltway that I have hit the other way around (just wait for I-95 and US-40).

I'm a useless stats geek, alright? You should've seen me in high school, glued every week to American Top 40. I was all addicted to the never-ending stream of useless statistics Casey Kasem threw out about such-and-such an artist. DON'T JUDGE ME!

I drove a good ways looking for food into Overlea - aka Nottingham, aka Fullerton, all depending on which part you are in (and what internet map engine you use). The trees in Overlea are all abloom right now. It's really very lovely to drive around, particularly along the side streets, which I got to do when I needed made a U-turn. I admit that this is the first time I've ever taken this exit, in my entire life (Exit 32B? I know it well). I never have a reason to go to Overlea, so...

Anyway, it was a nice learning experience for me. And in just the first few miles of Bel Air Road I saw quite a few places I catalogued in the back of my mind, apart from mega chains such as Carrabba's Italian Grill and, well, McDonald's:

  • Schooner's Restaurant and Lounge (map) is the first restaurant you come by, and it was one of the last I stopped at. I would've gone in but, even around 1PM there were only about four cars in the relatively large parking lot. So I guessed it just wasn't open and pressed on.
  • Amer's Cafe - one of several eateries I considered in the Beltway Plaza (map). From the parking lot you can't really tell that it has a Middle Eastern theme. You also can't tell that it's closed on Mondays from that far away. I found out when I peered in and thought, "Hey, it looks pretty sparse." Prices for entrées ran around $7 to $12, a bit more than I wanted to pay that day. And get this: Amer's was voted Best Kid Friendly Restaurant from 2002 through 2008, though by whom I'm not sure.
  • Much more open was the Overlea Café (see the Beltway Plaza map), but I didn't go in. Anyone been here? It doesn't even seem to be online. I Googled it and all I got was Amer's Cafe.
  • One more notable spot includes Waterman's Pride Seafood (again, see Beltway Plaza map). It's this exit's token seafood market. Again, I've found little to no info about it. All I do know? DEY GOTS 'EM MURLIN CRABS, HON!
  • A short ways down from the Plaza is the Overlea Diner (map), the City Paper's Best Diner of 2004. I will make a note to stop by soon. At least when the CP people stopped by, the employees dressed in 50's-style gas station attendant get-ups! (Whatever they wear, it cannot be as bad as what the kids have to wear* at Hot Dog on a Stick).
Among a few other pizza-and-sub joints (Philly's Best Subs and Pizza, map) and Chinese greasy woks (Fun Wok, map), I came across the unimposing Midori (map). Midori is part of a growing pan-East Asian phenomenon in Baltimore Chinese restaurants now serving food from Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam or a combination of the above. Midori is a Sino-Japanese place, and it has gotten rave reviews. Midori does not let you forget this fact - it's plastered in big white sticky letters on their windows. Apart from the free advertising, the decor looks like they took a stucco Mexican restaurant, stripped it of everything Mexican, and painted Japanese motifs on the walls, then put lots of Chinese and another sprinkling of Japanese decorations on the walls and ceiling. Even the five mascots for the Beijing 2008 Olympics are happily, "cuddly-ly" standing over the entrance to the kitchen, waiting to be adored. And except for the booths (your standard booths), the tables and chairs were straight off of a Motels' album cover from the 1980's. For once, I sat down to eat, alone in the restaurant, avoiding the lunch rush. I chose to sit in the booths, just to keep "Only the Lonely Can Play" from echoing over and over again in my head while I ate.

Midori's Chinese menu has a great variety of entrées, appetizers (inlcuding highly recommended dim sum), and for lunch it was all a reasonable price. Its Japanese menu was only a little pricier, and equally varied. All the typical culprits were there - orange chicken, beef and broccoli, something, anything in lobster sauce, with egg rolls, pork fried rice and so on on the Chinese side; tempura, sashimi, sushi, miso soup, shumai and gyoza on the Japanese side. I went mostly for the Chinese orange chicken with pork fried rice and hot and sour soup (all of $5.95), plus a side of tuna sashimi ($3.95).

STOP!!! Chicken time...

Going off of past experiences with take-out Chinese food, I expected the orange chicken to not be very good - gummy, chewy, and filling enough to force me to request a take home bag. But Oh My Word. It had to be the best Chinese food I have eaten on the East Side of the county! Crispy and crunchy without that nasty processed flavor. Maybe that's because I ate in, but still, they've gotten raves from others. Everything - the pork fried rice, the coating, the chicken and its orange sauce, even the scallions and orange peels - tasted so good and fresh to me! The one lowlight was the broccoli, which was a little undercooked. But I'd rather have undercooked broccoli than overcooked, gummy orange chicken (bleeeekh). The hot and sour soup was the throwaway item and I hardly touched it, but honestly I almost finished the rice. There was nothing left to take home (not the biggest portion, which is awesome I think). As for the tuna sashimi - three pieces instead of the typical two, for about the same price - it was a little fatty (fine with me) and tasty, though a bit grainy in texture. Not the best sashimi I have had, and it clearly got outshone by the orange chicken. I can't vouch for the tempura or rolls, but if you consider Chinese dishes with sides of sashimi, just stick with the Chinese.

The total for my dining experience was $10.50 before tip, $12.50 after. It is one of the few area Chinese restaurants that I would go out of my way to visit again.

Other Photos:

Told you it was all abloom

Yeah, hons! We got crabs, hons!

And 257 blue-haired little old ladies go through the nic fits of their lives

Places I visited:

Midori (Chinese / Japanese) -
7407 Belair Road, Nottingham, MD 21236; Phone: (410) 882-8750
  • Would I eat there again? Definitely (but only for the Chinese)
  • Would I go out of my way to eat there again? For the Chinese, yes. For the sashimi, no.
Places to look up later:

Amer's Cafe (Middle Eastern / Egyptian / American) - 7624 Belair Road, in Belair Beltway Plaza, Nottingham, MD 21236; Phone: (410) 668-5100

Fun Wok (Chinese) - 7400 Belair Road, Nottingham, MD 21236; Phone: (410) 668-0001

Overlea Cafe (American) - Help me out here. I can't find the information. In Belair Beltway Plaza, Nottingham, MD 21236

Overlea Diner (diner) - 6652 Belair Road, Overlea, MD 21206; Phone: (410) 254-8356

Philly's Best Subs and Pizza (subs and pizza) - 6701 Belair Road, Overlea, MD 21206; Phone: (410) 661-6611

Schooner's Restaurant and Lounge (American) - 7703 Belair Road, Nottingham, MD 21236; Phone: (410) 668-5053

Waterman's Pride Seafood (seafood / crabs) - 7692 Belair Road, in Belair Beltway Plaza, Nottingham, MD 21236; Phone: (410) 665-5555

Midori on Urbanspoon

* Linked photo courtesy of
MR38 from Flickr, all rights reserved.


Leslie Ann said...

This has nothing to do with this post. But are they running commercials up there for the Paula Deen buffet at a casino down in Tunica, MS?


Especially the platters of butter.

John said...

Leslie: Alas, no. But I have heard of this Paula Deen venture in Mississippi. She talked about it the last time she was interviewed on NPR's Diane Rehm show back in November. Then she got hit by a bunch of calls about unionbusting at a Smithfield plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina. It really caught her by surprise. And not a drop of melted butter in sight!

Come to think of it, this ad HAS to be on YouTube somewhere.

OMG I just caught that: platters of butter? Dear sweet creamery buttery Lord!

theminx said...

So who "highly recommends" the dim sum there? Is it off a menu, or do they have carts? Inquiring minds need to know....

Heather said...

In fact, Midori used to be a Taco Bell, hence its nickname in my house, "Sushi Bell."

John said...

Minx: No cart. They have little Chinese dumplings and other appetizers like that. Maybe it's just me misusing the word "dim sum". But I just remembered that they put these good reviews on their menus too, just in case you didn't see it in big bold letters on their front windows. It was Robin T. Reid for the Sun back in 2001 that recommended the Chinese steamed dumplings. Of course, this was 7 years ago, and the only appetizer I got was the sashimi, so I can't say if they are still any good. But I liked the orange chicken!

Heather: I bet you were snickering while reading my description of the decor...

Suni said...

The Overlea cafe used to be the Crafters Cafe. I don't know if it is run the same, but when it was the Crafters Cafe, the food was crap. It was mainly a place to take craft classes.

John said...

I saw info about the Crafters Cafe, but since I found no such cafe when I was driving around I didn't say anything. That idea was in the back of my mind...

diplomat416 said...

The Charm City Cafe is the newest addition to the Beltway Plaza. It used to be Overlea and the Crafters Cafe. The place is under new ownership, the cafe has been renovated and the menu is among the best in the area. They actually hired a real chef to develop and prepare the food. They have a website: thecharmcitycafe.com. I've seen a couple of good reviews on Chowhound.com, too. They also carry Zeke's coffee; it's much better than starbks, and it's locally roasted and blended.