Thursday, June 19, 2008

Exit 33A: I-95 South (to Baltimore)

I feel a small sense of accomplishment reaching this end of 95, after my last foray that took me to the Interstate - Exit 11, which brought me to Caton Avenue and Elkridge, respectively. This time I have to head back into the city, towards the tunnels. And it's surprisingly far from 695 to the first exit south of it. That exit, MD-150, is better known as Eastern Avenue.

Since the MD-150 Exit branched off towards Essex and Highlandtown, and since I will wind up in Essex eventually for a future post, I went towards Highlandtown and, eventually, Greektown. I didn't get that far, stopping well short of Johns Hopkins' Bayview. Maybe I should've stopped by their cafeteria? Yeah, I know - hospital cafeteria food. Ick. But I've eaten at enough hospital cafeterias for one lifetime. My guess is the staff goes elsewhere when it can.

For as far as I got, I did find enough. It's tough to miss the first big restaurant off the exit - the Broadway Diner (map).

Mmmm. Ten kinds of cake.

Being the obvious choice, I saved this one for later and headed elsewhere to see what I could find off the beaten path. Across the street lie scant options. Next to the Shoppers Food Warehouse is the big, bold new Pizza Presto (map)! I kept going, since I wasn't in the mood for pizza. Further down the street was a bevy of typical Bawlmerese choices, hon:
  • The obligatory Chinese place, China East Restaurant (map). Upon reading reviews, it's a pretty damn average place. At least one Hopkins employee remarked on how awful he or she found the food, even ordering wings and fries. Not that this means their Chinese offerings will be any good, but it's probably best to avoid the wings and fries at Chinese restaurants. Anyway, I'm in no hurry to try this place out.
  • Just as we have the typical "Chinese hole in the wall greasy wok", so we also have the typical "starlight lounge and dining room that your Dad took your Mom on their anniversary". That distinction falls to Michael's Steak and Lobster (map), which has gotten much better ratings than China East. Voted Baltimore's Best Cheap Restaurant of 1999 by the City Paper, said paper's same Susan Fradkin said there was "something quintessentially Baltimore" about the place. Lobster tails and steak for $15 each? I don't know if that is or isn't "quintessentially Baltimore" but it does sound like a good deal.
  • Right near the intersection of Eastern and Dundalk Avenues - okay, most of these places are near the intersection of Eastern and Dundalk Avenues - is the Catch 22 Saloon (map). The Sun said this place is "the real deal", including the cheap drinks.
I kinda knew I was going to do this anyway, so I just headed back to the Broadway Diner. The big, shiny, gorgeous diner is a fine example of the quintessential diner. On the outside it's shiny and chrome-y. On the inside you walk right in and get an eyeful of copious desserts, by the booths lining the walls and aisles next to that cozy counter. Mind you, the Broadway Diner also has one of those "grab the toy" machines by the front, and a big flat-screen TV suspended over the booths. This day it was playing the highlights of the Euro 2008, Round 1. I think it was Germany and Croatia playing each other when I got my food. Not that I had much time to look - I was seated almost immediately, and before I had even settled into my seat, the waitress asks me what I want. On the one hand, I'm thinking, "Nice service!" On the other hand, I'm thinking, "Jeez, how the hell should I know what I want!?" But you know? If that is my only complaint, then there's really not a damn thing to complain about. What kind of idiot complains about how the service is too expedient? Not this one! Wait, let me rephrase...

Just about every Baltimore-area diner has the standard "diner menu", the Broadway being no exception. It has four score types of sandwiches, platters, burgers, salads, pasta dishes, Greek dishes, pancakes, eggs, pies, cakes - everything available 24 hours a day. I was leaning toward a Reuben, but since I've been ordering the burgers at the local diners, I went for consistency (easier to compare them this way). My choice was the mushroom burger with extra cheese - shredded cheddar which was melted to the bottom of the top roll.

It's a burger...

One thing I was thankful for was that the obligatory toppings were all on the side, not only keeping them from being all soggy, but so that I could pick and choose which ones I put on my burger: two fried onion rings, lettuce, tomatoes and mayo. I hate mayo on my burger so I was quite pleased that it was in a little container, to the side, where I didn't have to deal with it. This burger, which came out pretty fast, was very juicy and hot, and the mushrooms were cooked nicely too. I must say, it's one of the better diner burgers I have eaten. Even more remarkable was the fact that the fries were not a throwaway item. They were the bumpy, slightly coated kind, and I almost ate all of them. And the fries were also hot, so I know there was no heat lamp involved. Other obligatory sides were okay: I will eat just about any pickle sitting next to my burger, this one being no exception, and the cole slaw was tasty though this side of forgettable. But again, a very minor point in an otherwise excellent meal.

The total cost of the meal was $9,with water, before tip. And as I paid my tab, I noticed this big, gaudy illustration of the only Next Food Network Star to ever have any success at all, Guy Fieri. Of course I had to ask: the Broadway Diner is being featured on Guy's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives sometime around September. I'll make sure to look for it.

Other photos:

Aaaaah, surf and turf!

And on to my next destination

You'd be amazed at how many exits there are going the other way, fleeing Eastern Avenue for 695

Places I visited

Broadway Diner (diner) - 6501 Eastern Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21224; Phone: (410) 631-5666
  • Would I eat there again? Yes!
  • Would I go out of my way to eat there again? Yes I would
Places to look up later

Catch 22 Saloon (bar / pub) -
6000 Eastern Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21224; Phone: (410) 633-7465

China East (Chinese) - 6230 Eastern Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21224; Phone: (410) 633-2313

Michael's Lobster and Steak House (American) - 6207 Eastern Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21224; Phone: (410) 633-6485

Pizza Presto (pizza) -
6500 Eastern Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21224; Phone: (410) 631-6099

UPDATE: It's now July 20. I've just done the live-blog thing for NFNS4, and the episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives ("Diner's You Sent Me To") where Guy Fieri finally graces the Broadway Diner with his presence is finally showing now at 11:30 PM. Sure, he's also in Minneapolis and Salt Lake City. Click the link to see when this episode comes on next.


jmc said...

Broadway Diner's breakfast (available all day, I think) is pretty good, too. My favorites: pecan pancakes and the pigs in a blanket. I haven't been in awhile, but I used to go every Sunday. Hmmm, maybe it's time to go back.

John said...

It may be!

theminx said...

I like the Broadway Diner. My in-laws live in Dundalk, and when my MIL doesn't feel like cooking (most of the time) we sometimes find ourselves at the Broadway. I'm usually a pig and go for one of the steak + seafood specials so I can get my soup or salad, two veg, 8 oz of steak, plus stuffed shrimp or a giant (and pretty decent) crabcake and eat the veg and take the rest home to eat during the week.

That Michael's place might have been called Smitty's once upon a time (anyone remember?). My cousin took me there for a birthday when I was a kid.

John said...

I found something about Smitty's when I was researching links and address information for Michael's, so it might very well be the same.