Monday, July 28, 2008

Exit 36: MD-702 (Southeast Blvd)

After Philadelphia Road and Pulaski Highway, the Beltway shoots off into MD Route 702 (Southeast Blvd). This was supposed to be the beginning of the fabled Windlass Freeway. This legendarily unfinished part of 695 was supposed to continue on to I-95, ultimately connecting Moravia Road to Perry Hall. Instead, the powers-that-were officially gave up on it sometime in July 1978 - exactly 30 years ago this month (according to! So 702 ended up as a 4.5 mile long offshoot of 695. This also explains the ghost signs directing travelers to no place in particular, and it explains why there is no Exit 37: they held off, in case they did decide to finish the Windlass Freeway.

It also explains why I won't be visiting Exit 37.

The first exit off of 702 is MD-150 - Eastern Blvd, which I have already visited once before (Exit 33A). This leads off towards Essex, and then Chase by way of Middle River. I'm a bit more familiar with the Middle River side of 150, but I headed off towards Essex first.

MD-150 towards Essex:

The first thing you notice going towards Essex is the Middlesex Shopping Center on your right. Not only can you renew your driver's license and get a library card here (the MVA and Baltimore County Public Library each has a location here), but you can get a few quick bites to eat: Italian at the Pasta Blitz of Middlesex (map) - notice that dazzling neo-Disney lettering on the sign, and is it related to the ones in Timonium or on Carroll Island Road? - and Chinese at the New China Express Inn (map). I guess if you work at the MVA or, more likely, wait in line for a few hours there, you have probably sampled the fare. If you want to expand your pizza-and-orange-chicken horizons beyond Middlesex, try the Essex franchise of Delaware-based Seasons Pizza (map) further down the road, or the Lucky Dragon (map) across the street.

Despite these and a Latin American mercado/restaurante (map), this stretch of Eastern Blvd, about a mile either way from the intersection of Eastern and Old Eastern, is "bar-and-grill" territory, such as the Fatties Bar & Grill (map).

Hey, wasn't there a Friendly's here? Yes? Well there isn't anymore.

MD-150 towards Middle River and Chase:

Going the other direction will take you into Middle River towards Bowley's Quarters and Chase, past Martin State Airport, Lockheed Martin, and eventually Bengie's Drive In and Gunpowder Falls. Go this far and you'll find a few good seafood places and (again) more bar-and-grill establishments, crab and crabcake joints, and pit beef stands. Go far enough and you'll even find a small fish & chips joint - Original Fish & Chips (map), whose fish & chips I have had once or twice. Very greasy, but that's what makes them original, right? You'd have to wrap it in the Mirror to make it any more original. Sure, it's greasy, but it is tasty and crispy. And you get wonderful, wonderful hush puppies - more Southern than English, but an absolute necessity with fried fish in these parts. And yes, like all other seafood establishments in these parts, they have all manner of crab offerings.

It's pretty tough to get away from the crabs in these parts. Family, friends and acquaintances have been giving us crabs here for years. Um, let me re-phrase: they've been giving us steamed crabs for years. Not as many this year as last. My sister went out with her father-in-law the other weekend to go crabbin'. They came back with two crabs. Not two traps worth of crabs. Not two pots full of crabs. Not even two pounds of crabs. Two crabs. The harvest is bare, very bare indeed.

You don't need to go as far as Bengie's to find good food in these parts. In fact, right off the exit to Chase is the locally famous Al's Seafood (map, which puts it right on the off-ramp instead of just past it where it should be). Whether coming from Eastern Blvd. or Stemmers Run Road, it's impossible to miss the large blue crab sign and the big white letters that say "AL'S SEAFOOD". They do both take-out and eat-in. I've only ever done take-out, once. I had a crab cake sandwich a while back. It wasn't the best, but I would go back for other things. Far more memorable was a good batch of steamed crabs that a friend got once for a backyard party. Goooooood crabs.

Yep. Tough to miss.

A further ways up, between a non-descript chicken & fish place and the Middle River (the river, not the town) is the Mars shopping center, which has (whoopdee doo) a Ruby Tuesday's. It also is the home of the Bacoli Delight Italian Restaurant (map), whose patrons suggest that the quality of the food and service have certainly improved in the past year. Just as notable are the Hollywood Video that closed down, and the bank that was all set to open up until the "recession-that-isn't-a-recession" hit.

On past the scenic Middle River (again, the waterway not the town) is the Hawthorne Shopping Plaza, home of Geresbeck's and many a "Manic Monday" outing on the Don & Marty morning show on WJZ. A few "restaurant & carry-out' options here:
  • Jilliano's (map), with pizza, subs, and the usual sub shop fare. I haven't eaten here yet.
  • Little China (map), which is pretty tasty as far as "Mom-&-Pop" Chinese restaurants go. Unlike most Chinese restaurants, this is a free-standing restaurant in its own little building. I haven't eaten here in a while, but I haven't found anything negative about it. One recent reviewer loved the fried rice.
  • And of course there is the traditional Baltimore snowball stand sitting right next to it in the parking lot. This time of year there's always a line.
Next door, just past the McDonald's (ick) is the Eastern Plaza, and there are two food options here. One is the Looni's Pizza & Subs (map), which looked closed, except for the wide-open door. It's probably open. Again, it serves pizza and subs. The other is a small market, All African Delights (same map as Looni's). A few years ago, I checked out this tiny West African / Caribbean market for some injera bread, hoping they might have stuff from all over Africa. No such luck - if you need it, just call Dukem and order it to save yourself the trip to DC. I did try my luck again recently, stopping in the other day to ask about banana leaves. The clerk had to call the proprietor to find out if they did - "Nobody' ever asked before," she said. While she did the banana leaf recon, one little girl playing there started quizzing about foods that "you guys" don't eat. It was actually too funny. I didn't know the one large, cassava-on-steroids African tuber she showed me but the onions and coconuts I was quite familiar with. She kept chatting and chatting and chatting with me, which seemed to bother the clerk a little. As for myself, once I found out there were no banana leaves, I just tried to figure a way to end the conversation with this talkative child and go on my way. It's a very small market, but it's the only African market I know of in this part of town.

One final place to mention: if you do take the turn off onto Martin's Blvd (MD-700), you'll quickly run into the Baker's Tavern and Pit Beef (map). I avoided the tavern altogether and just made a beeline for the pit beef stand, a bit nicer than most I've been to. The proprietor had several bags of water hanging on the walls - he said it was to keep the flies away. While there were a couple, it made me wonder if there might actually be more had he not done that.

Baker's has pit beef and fries, among other things. I came for pit beef, as did a line of people waiting for their pit beef sandwiches. I ordered mine with raw onion, and fries - total: a little under $7. There were squeeze bottles of ketchup, mayo, vinegar (for the fries of course) and different BBQ sauces. The horseradish (not sauce but the actual horseradish mash you find at pit beef stands) is just inside the window to the kitchen. I put on some BBQ sauce there, and shoveled a little horseradish sauce into a clear little plastic cup with a lid

I ate a fry in the car before heading out, and quickly burned myself - these were some hot fries, unlike many you get at restaurants. Literally, fresh out of the oil - so yes, a little oily, but the heat was much appreciated. When I got the pit beef home I did have to heat it up a little. Very juicy and good, and I liked the crunch provided by the onion. Again, the fries were hot, though oily enough that I didn't finish them all. Maybe I'll just get them with gravy next time, provided I'm in the area.

Off to Exit 37 - oh wait, there IS no Exit 37. Off to Exit 38...

Other photos:

Needs no explanation whatsoever.

Hey, when you got Geresbeck's, who needs Charm City Cakes anyway!?

This used to be a Friendly's.

Another shot of Middle River - no, the river, not the town.

Places I visited:

All African Delights (market - West African /Caribbean) - 2201 Eastern Boulevard, Middle River, MD 21220; Phone: (410) 780-9323
  • Would I shop there again? I don't know - I haven't had much of a chance to explore it.
  • Would I go out of my way to shop there again? Again, can't say for certain.
Al's Seafood (crabs / seafood) - 1551 Eastern Boulevard, Essex, MD 21221; Phone: (410) 682-4828
  • Would I eat there again? Yes, but moreover for the crabs.
  • Would I go out of my way to eat there again? Sure, but again, mostly for the crabs.
Baker's Tavern and Pit Beef (pit beef / American) - 2233 Old Eastern Avenue, Middle River, MD 21220; Phone: (410) 687-9419
  • Would I eat there again? Yes
  • Would I go out of my way to eat there again? No need with all the pit beef stands around, but I might
Little China Restaurant & Carry-Out (Chinese) - 2117 Eastern Avenue, Middle River, MD 21220; Phone: (410) 686-1922
  • Would I eat there again? It's been a while, so I really need to visit it again to answer that question.
  • Would I go out of my way to eat there again? See above.
Original Fish & Chips (English / fish & chips / seafood) - 105 Carroll Island Road, Suite B, Middle River, Md 21220; Phone: 410-335-0004
  • Would I eat there again? Maybe
  • Would I go out of my way to eat there again? You kind of have to. Probably would.
Places to look up later:

Bacoli Delight Italian Restaurant (Italian) - 151 Orville Road, Essex, MD 21221; Phone: (410) 238-1922

Fattie's Bar & Grill (bar & grill) - 1030 Old Eastern Avenue, Essex, MD 21221; Phone: (410) 686-9111

Jilliano's Restaurant Carry-Out (pizza and subs) - 2105 Eastern Boulevard, Middle River, MD 21220; Phone: (410) 391-5222

Latin American Market / Restaurante (Latin American) - 1009 Old Eastern Avenue, Essex, MD 21221; cannot find phone number

Looni's Pizza & Subs (pizza & subs) - 2201 Eastern Boulevard, Middle River, MD; Phone: (410) 391-6162

Lucky Dragon (Chinese) - 1221 Eastern Boulevard, Essex, MD 21221; Phone: (410) 391-3337

New China Express Inn (Chinese) - 1338 Eastern Boulevard, Essex, MD 21221; Phone: (410) 238-1858

Pasta Blitz of Carroll Island (Italian) - 154 Carroll Island Road, Middle River, MD 21220; Phone: (410) 335-3433

Pasta Blitz of Middlesex (Italian) - 1328 Eastern Boulevard, Essex, MD 21221; Phone: (410) 238-0604

Seasons Pizza (pizza, with nineteen locations in Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey) - 1004 Eastern Boulevard, Essex, Maryland 21221; Phone: (410) 780-7005

snowball stand next to Little China (snowballs) - open seasonally; in the Hawthorne Shopping Center, 2117 Eastern Avenue, Middle River, MD 21220


I am so wise said...

Don't knock Geresbeck's. When I was in the ANG, they hooked us up.

John said...

Not meaning to knock 'em of course. I do like their chocolate top cookies a lot!

Karen said...

About two blocks past Al's Seafood is the family-owned Pizza John's. I'd highly suggest not missing that experience! Those of us from that area consider it the best pizza in MD.

awb said...

Coffman's Snack Bar for hotdogs with everything! They have been selling them that way forever, and they do hit the spot!

Anonymous said...

I highly reccomend Pizza John's in Middle River. They do great business, food is good, and reasonable. Very clean, and good service. Plenty of tables, and a nice view. They have been in business now for a long time. See you there! I was looking for some information here about Jilliano's, on Eastern Ave. I want to try this place, but first wanted some information about it. Also, Pasta Blitz is a good Italian restaurant to visit! They just opened a Rita's near there, by the way. Fish and Chips has good food, but is not a great place to eat in. Just a single counter area, and some stools.

Bill Bloom said...

Again, NOT on COFFMAN's the place has dove into the mist with the rest of the old relics. I say let by gones be bygones!! JIM!!! save your place!!!