Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Exit 32B: US-1 North (Belair Road, to Belair)

I find myself out this way often, but usually it's just to go to work. Today I made myself linger around, and I was surprised by one thing: there are fewer places to eat this way than I thought. Actually, there are many more options going the other direction (Exit 31A). One option I've already explored (and written about) was the Mount Everest Nepalese buffet, in the same shopping center as the K-Mart and IHOP near Belair Road and Rossville Blvd. Currently the most expensive South Asian buffet I have seen outside of the weekend - now $10 instead of $9 - the food is good, but you can find just as good if not better for cheaper just about everywhere else (qv: the multitude of South Asian restaurants in Mount Vernon, Indiclub in Woodlawn, Indian Delight in Catonsville, etc).

Driving around the Giant and the Putty Hill Shopping Center I saw very few food options. Like every exit, there is the complementary "greasy wok", Peking House (map). The linked Metromix page says it offers "a little more than the usual fare" but that "little more" doesn't look all that unusual to me. Much bigger was Tully's Restaurant (map) - it seems like a restaurant and pub. Most of the reviews mention DJ's and bouncers, but not the food, so I can only assume it is your typical brewpub. A couple who tried to enter tugged on a locked door and turned around. Here's one page of reviews. I have no idea what the hell the reviewers are talking about.

Driving past Putty Hill/Rossville, I eventually came upon Ridgley's Choice, a brand new plaza with only a few businesses inside. The only food-related one was the Ridgeley's Choice Deli and Catering (map). It looks from the outside like your typical deli. I'm not sure how new it is because I can't find much information about it. I did find two very terse yet positive reviews, but nothing apart from that. Maybe this is one to look out for in the future?

If you want seafood, there are a couple of options for you. The Fullerton Pub and Crab House (map) offers more than just crabs, but also standard pub food. Like (I imagine) Tully's, karaoke and DJ'ing are easy to find. Right across the street is the small but still tough-to-miss Fisherman's Wharf (map). Not related to Mo's Fisherman's Wharf - at least I don't think it is - this is Putty Hill's local seafood-specific shop. It's an unassuming, somewhat grody place but carries the typical seafood items: lots and lots of local fish and shellfish, plus frozen seafood from other parts of the country. For example, I found Dungeness crab, frozen, at $10 a pound.

Of course there are the local delicacies: rockfish is easy to find, as are those blue crabs (soft, hard, steamed, picked), shrimp and oysters, hon. Right now there is a sale on shrimp. As for the price of crab meat: my eyes just about bugged out of my head. One pound of Chesapeake Bay jumbo lump crab meat: $28! That is, granted, the highest-quality stuff (even if I still like a little special meat mixed in), but I guess we are in a crab shortage, aren't we?

I arrived around 1 PM, and was the only customer. The employees outnumbered me, with only two in the back. I almost ordered one of the lunch specials: a fried catfish sandwich with fries and fountain drink for only $6. Instead I spent my time perusing the menu, a very diverse one featuring many choices at many different prices for many different budgets. You can get a sandwich for $5 or $6, or platters for $12 to $15. Plus, their many sides fit various budgets as well, from under $1 to upwards of $5. I finally settled on a $6 fried rockfish sandwich on white bread, with sides of onion rings ($1.50) and hush puppies (75¢). Total cost: just under $9.

The one big problem I had turned out to be a big problem: the wait. Perhaps they were getting other things ready for other people, I don't know. But it took HALF AN HOUR for me to get my sandwich and sides (half an hour, that is, from the time I ordered to the time I got my food). How the hell does it take two people half an hour to fry fish and put it between two slices of bread? In all fairness, after about twenty minutes of waiting they did say they were out of white bread and offered me a roll, wheat bread or rye (a fish sandwich on rye?) - I took the roll. Maybe they spent the first twenty minutes looking for the white bread? Anyway, I do know that they started frying up my food that long after I ordered it because after this exchange I distinctly heard a brand new sound in the restaurant: frying. Considering that all my meal was fried, well... at least I got the meal.

About five minutes later four more people came in, including a young mother with child in tow who seemed to know the man behind the counter. At least they have repeat customers. Maybe this was an off day for them? Or she just likes the sloooooooow service!

After waiting 30 minutes for my food I was hungry, and took the time to taste one hush puppy right in my car. It tasted great right out of the bag, almost as good once I got it home half an hour after that.

They also offered tomato. After what I've heard in the news, I'm glad I turned it down.

The meal was substantial and tasty enough, though certainly not good enough to warrant standing around for half an hour just to read all the brochures on Maryland's seafood industry.

The rockfish flavor was a bit muted under all that batter and bread. To be honest, I'm not sure if rockfish stands up to breading and frying very well. It's too delicate in my mind. Other fishes are quite strong enough to bear it: trout, catfish, etc. But rockfish needs to be broiled and on a plate. Or if fried, definitely on a plate, no bread. Some better ways to prepare it can be found here.

As for the sides: again, the hush puppies were thoroughly cooked through and pretty tasty. In fact they were the best part of the meal. I could have done without the onion rings. They were crunchy but inconsistently fried - everywhere from golden brown to near-burnt, and this was often all in the same onion ring. Plus, the little cardboard boat literally leaked oil onto my kitchen table, making my phone bill perfectly translucent. I threw the rest away.

In short: this is not a place I would go back to. To justify that wait, the food needed to be damn good. It was merely okay.

Other photos:

They don't know it's locked. I guess it's not martini time yet?

In case you can't find the Ridgely's Choice Deli, just look for this big marquis!

Places I visited:

Fisherman's Wharf (crabs / seafood) - 7928 Belair Rd, Baltimore, MD 21236; Phone: (410) 668-4330
  • Would I eat there again? No, specifically because of that wait. Otherwise, maybe.
  • Would I go out of my way to eat there again? No. Not at all.
Places to look up later:

Fullerton Pub and Crab House (pub / American / crabs) - 8027 Belair Road, Nottingham MD 21236; Phone: (410) 661-5910

Peking House (Chinese) - 7916 Belair Road, Nottingham, MD 21236; Phone: (410) 661-1702 and (410) 661-1703

Ridgely's Choice Deli & Catering (deli) - 8615 Ridgelys Choice Drive, Suite 101, Nottingham, MD 21236; Phone: (410) 248-8850

Tully's Restaurant (pub / American) - 7934 Belair Road, Nottingham, MD 21236; Phone: (410) 665-9100


theminx said...

You got THREE onion rings for $1.50? Or did you toss 'em out before you arranged the beauty plate?

John said...

Oops, there were about eight onion rings. I threw out the others, yeah.

Chodite said...

Tully's is now shut down for good. Owner lost the liquor license, is knee deep in fines and doesn't plan to re-open.

btw, this is the closest you've come so far to reaching Canella's on Belair Road in Perry Hall. You were literally .5 miles away. Sooo close. Just remember, if/when you ever make it to Canella's in Perry Hall - get THE Italian Hoagie with everything (or The Godfather... toasted version)

John said...

Hey, I live on this exit.

Alas, you'll find plenty of the national chain food varieties (McD, Taco Bell, IHOP, Denny's, BK further north). I went to Fisherman's Wharf when some friends came to town a couple months ago. We ordered 2 dozen steamed crabs, along with a crabcake sandwich, and a side of fries. I think we waited like 45 minutes. So, there's more evidence that the wait wasn't a fluke. But the food was very good to us.

I never went to Tully's before. Didn't seem like I was missing that much.

When I was in college, 3 of my friends and I went to Fullerton Pub, and it was totally empty and dark. We didn't stay, and I've never been back since. I wonder if I've been missing out.