Sunday, August 10, 2008

Exit 39 - Merritt Blvd (to Dundalk)

My next stop off the Beltway is Exit 39, and here I am back in unfamiliar territory. I admit that I hardly ever get to Dundalk all that much, so for me, Merritt Boulevard really is uncharted wudder, hon. Pretty much all my exposure to Dundalk is of the "Hey Hon, Take a Walk Down..." variety (too bad I can't find it anywhere on the internet - and I mean anywhere).

Exit 39 only exists along the inner loop. The outer loop skips right over it from Exit 40 to 38E (or B, or whatever). Exits 38 through 40 are another group of exits that seem to take you to more or less the same place. One notable landmark that is pretty tough to miss are those big twin domes that are impossible to get away from in Dundalk. You know - these:

What are they for again? Not being snotty. I'm just from the other side of town, so I really don't know.

The first thing you notice once you get down onto Merritt Blvd are the strip malls. Sooooo many strip malls here on your way to CCBC Dundalk (map), where I ate once during a day of meetings. The food is cheap and not very good, as with most college food. Theirs is about on par with the other two CCBC campuses, at Catonsville (Exit 12C) and Essex (Exit 34).

As for those strip malls: again, most of your dining options lie in those malls. I was surprised to find any free-standing places to eat (NB: that does not make them better or worse than strip-mall eateries, so don't say I said that). One of the most prominent and popular of restaurants in the free-standing category is the Boulevard Diner (map). I wanted to go here, and I would have. But to be honest, I've been eating at so many diners lately that I just wanted a break. So the Boulevard Diner will have to wait. Maybe when I'm done this Beltway Snackin' series I'll pull a Guy Fieri and visit the diners of the Bawlmer area (only I'll be less irritating than he is - really, he's becoming Rachael Ray with a goatee).

Back to the strip malls. They all look pretty easy to get to, though I can't vouch for the food (reviews on some of the below links are pretty mixed):

  • The requisite Chinese places include the House of China (map) in the Lynch Manor Shopping Center on Wise Avenue, and the New China Restaurant, né China Garden (map) on Merritt. I can find no info about New China whatsoever.
  • A few pizzerias are in and around Merritt, including Filleti's Pizza (map) - just a hop, skip and a jump from the New China Restaurant - and Caldarazzo's Pizzeria (map) near the Aldi's and the Walmart. (See UPDATE II below).
  • Captain Harvey's Submarines (map) - in Danville Square, one of the brighter strip malls in the area. They have their own website, touting current contests where you can win a free (of course free) sheet of chocolate chip brownies if you can guess the total number of chocolate chips therein. Sounds like a plan, yes?
There is indeed a sufficient amount of sit-down restaurants around here that also caught my eye. Most of them are not in strip malls, including a few restaurants that clearly don't fit the "hole in the wall" category:
  • The Poplar Inn Restaurant (map) has been serving Dundalkers for fifty - no, fifty-five years, hon. They have live music every Friday and Saturday night. I love their website - it has to be one of the best I've seen for a local restaurant. Check out their daily specials.
  • The City Paper clearly seems to prefer the nearby Scoozzi Restaurant and Lounge (map), at least for its "down-home bar food", of which they say Scoozzi's has the best in the area. Can't say I'm a big fan of their website, though. They got some purty crabcakes in their photos.
  • Merritt House Restaurant (map) is one of the few that is in a strip mall (again, not that there's anything wrong with that). You have to go past the Boulevard Diner and the big, welcoming "Welcome to Dundalk" sign to get to it. It's in the big, gloomy looking strip mall past the intersection of Merritt and Holabird/Wise, but the few reviews I found were pretty good, so maybe this is a well-hidden place worth getting to.
A few other places of note off this exit:
  • Howard's Pub (map) serves your standard American food, and has a DJ and (of course) happy hour.
  • Dundalk Xpress (map), which doesn't look like a Damon's Grill from the outside, has hot wings and the like. At least I think it does. Next door is the snowball stand du jour Moochie's (same map). (UPDATE OCTOBER 5, 2008: the website is changing soon, and Dan from Dundalk Xpress, who noted to me that they do a bang-up business in wings and ribs, let me know that DX is not affiliated with Damon's Grill. Thanks, Dan.)
  • Several places to buy fresh or cooked seafood, including the Shore Produce and Seafood (map) - which is almost impossible to find online; the Wise Avenue Crab House (map) - next to an Icy Delights ice cream and snowball place (same map); the Crab Net Inn Dining Room (map); and Ross' Seafood (map). This last one is right on North Point on your left as soon as you get off the exit.
  • Also check out the massive North Point / Plaza Flea Market complex (see UPDATE II below)-
  • There are also a few bakeries to take note of near Merritt Blvd. The Cake Connection (map) has gotten a few reviews - all positive from what I can tell. It's conveniently located on your right as soon as you leave 695. And then there's the difficult-to-miss multiply-rounded roof of Herman's Bakery (map). The Urbanspooners - ummm - don't seem too keen on it but there are indeed positive reviews.
I stopped in Herman's, and the place is just a field of cakes, cookies and other sweets. I got a few things. I kept my eye open for my favorite kind of cookie, but alas, no chocolate tops. They did have a round cookie with a chocolate dot in the center which was okay, but it tasted very almondy. You may love it for that very reason, but I'm not big on almonds, so I wasn't a fan. I did also pick up a black bottom to kill for, and would gladly get it again.

Here they are: Herman's cookies...

...and black bottom.

Unlike most bakeries, Herman's had several slices of sheet cake laying amongst its mock-ups of wedding cakes. Probably, somebody never bothered to pick it up. Lucky me that I got to taste one of their sheet cakes without buying the whole cake. The buttercream (not Bettercreme, God forbid - I hate the stuff) was white, an end piece with a red rose. Both the icing and the cake were buttery and moist and so together were much better than any random slice of cake you'd find at Giant for twice the price. Altogether, the cookies (about 4 of them), black bottom and cake were a few nickels shy of $5. Pretty sweet deal (sorry, had to go there).

Herman's slice of cake, with real buttercream frosting. Honestly, I have no idea why people like the flavor or feel of that Bettercreme sh*t.

My final stop in Dundalk was the eye-catching Weenie World (map), another favorite of the City Paper. Next door to a Rita's, it is a nice little place to sit in or outside with a hot dog or two. Oh my God, the variety of hot dogs easily outdoes Zack's of White Marsh, which is saying something. In addition to their standard corn dogs, footlongs, kielbasas, and Italian sausages you'll spot many varieties of regular hot dogs piled with quite a bit of things. Among the more sinful selections I spotted, both on a massive black chalkboard and the easier-to-read take-out menu, were their Junkyard Dog (a hot dog covered in pork BBQ), their Reuben Dog (a hot dog with Reuben toppings), the Weenie Burger (a hamburger shaped like a hot dog), their Bull Dog (steak and cheese and hot dog on a potato roll), and - I love this one - the Politician ("bologna wrapped around a weenie").

My selections

I opted for a Volcano Dog (chili, jalapeños and Tabasco sauce) and a simple corn dog (grand total: about $3). Both were amazing. They pride themselves on using all-beef hot dogs. I wish I knew the brand, because it's a delicious one. If you choose the right frank, then you are one step closer to a great dog. Their chili was delicious and the jalapeños and Tabasco didn't make it too challenging for me - throw on some habaneros and you'll have me in real pain. As for the corn dog? A little greasy (as are all corn dogs fresh out of the fryer), but crunchy and juicy and hot. That was the best part about these weenies - they were both hot. Granted, it was painful to eat them, but I'd rather have hot and fresh than lukewarm and, well, blah.

UPDATE I - A few of you mentioned Squire's (map), which is indeed in Dundalk. I looked it up and it turns out that I didn't get far enough on Holabird to get there. But it looks rather easy to get there from Exit 44 (Broening Avenue) so instead of listing it here as a place to visit off Merritt, I'll just save it for my Exit 44 excursion. In fact, thanks to y'all there's now one place I already have on my agenda to try out when I get that far - which shouldn't be too much longer. The Beltway only goes up to 44. I am nearing the end of my mission. Thanks to Minx and thanks (and apologies) to I Am So Wise.

UPDATE II: Driving around today, I just discovered how much closer to Exit 40 the North Point Flea Market and Caldarrazzo's are. I don't usually do this but I have since removed them from this post, and am featuring them in the next one (for Exit 40), since it's right there on the exit.

Other photos:

Welcome to Dundalk, hons!

My humps, my humps - my lovely bakery humps!

The Poplar Inn Restaurant. Every little town has a place like it. This is one of Dundalk's.

And the invisible-to-the-internet Shore Produce. Since it's not easy to find online, here's a photo.

Places I visited:

Community College of Baltimore County, Dundalk Campus (cafeteria food) -
Building K, 7200 Sollers Point Rd, Dundalk, MD 21222
  • Would I eat there again? Only if I had to
  • Would I go out of my way to eat there again? Um, no.
Herman's Bakery (bakery, with locations in Dundalk and Towson) - 7560 Holabird Avenue, Dundalk, MD 21222; Phone: (410) 284-5590
  • Would I shop there again? Yes
  • Would I go out of my way to shop there again? Yes
Weenie World (hot dogs) - 1099 Merritt Boulevard, Dundalk, MD 21222; Phone: (410) 284-9495
  • Would I eat there again? Oh, yeah!
  • Would I go out of my way to eat there again? Definitely
Places to look up later:

Boulevard Diner (diner)
- 1660 Merritt Boulevard, Dundalk, MD 21222; Phone: (410) 285-8660

Cake Connection (bakery)
- 700 Merritt Boulevard #A2, Dundalk, MD 21222; Phone: (410) 285-2064

Captain Harvey's Submarines (subs) - 1543 Merritt Boulevard, Dundalk, MD 21222; Phone: (410) 288 8990

Crab Net Inn Dining Room (crabs)
- 7703 German Hill Road, Dundalk, MD 21222; Phone: (410) 282-6267

Dundalk Xpress (subs / wings)
- 7620 German Hill Road, Dundalk, MD 21222; Phone: (410) 282-0902

Filleti's Pizza (pizza / Italian) - 1784 Merritt Boulevardl, Dundalk, MD 21222; Phone: (410) 288-5628

House of China (Chinese) - 7820 Wise Avenue #B, Dundalk, MD 21222; Phone: (410) 284-2288
Howard's Pub (bar / pub)
- 7312 Holabird Avenue, Dundalk, MD 21222; Phone: (410) 282-6050

Icy Delights (ice cream)
- 7812 Wise Avenue, Dundalk, MD 21222; Phone: (410) 285-3400

Merritt House Restaurant (American)
- 1780 Merritt Boulevard, Dundalk, MD 21222; Phone: (410) 285-2321

Moochie's (snowballs;
next to Dundalk Xpress) - 7620 German Hill Road, Dundalk, MD 21222; Phone: (410) 282-0902

New China Restaurant (formerly China Garden Restaurant - Chinese)
- 1163 Merritt Boulevard, Dundalk, MD 21222; Phone: (410) 288-0191

Poplar Inn Restaurant (American)
- 7700 Wise Avenue, Dundalk, MD 21222; Phone: (410) 285-2590

Ross' Seafood (seafood / crabs)
- 1109 North Point Road, Dundalk, MD 21222; Phone: (410) 288-1200

Scoozzi Restaurant and Lounge (American / seafood / Mediterranean)
- 7625 German Hill Road, Dundalk, MD 21222; Phone: (410) 288-1060

Shore Produce and Seafood (seafood / crabs / produce) - 7802 Wise Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21222; Phone: (410) 288-2547

Wise Avenue Crab House (crabs / seafood) - 7812 Wise Avenue, Dundalk, MD 21222; Phone: (410) 282-5275

Herman's Bakery on Urbanspoon

for Herman's Bakery

Weenie World on Urbanspoon

for Weenie World


theminx said...

Before my husband and I got married, I spent weekends with him at his house in Dundalk. We ate a lot at Scoozi's and the Poplar. We also liked the Asian Diner on Shipping Place (different owners now - nothing to recommend) and Squires.

When we go visit his Mom, we would sometimes go to the Boulevard Diner, but that's really gone downhill and is not as good as the much newer Broadway.

I think my favorite joint in that area is Squires. The pizza is great, but you can't beat the meatball on heel sub - for less than $6 you get about half a loaf of decent Italian bread stuffed with three ginormous homemade meatballs and a ton of cheese.

I am so wise said...

Dude, how could you miss Squires? It's the elite of Dundalk dining with Vinny's placing a close second.

John said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John said...

Minx and IMSW: I just checked Squire's on "the Google" and it looks like I just didn't go far enough on Holabird Ave to get to it. Squire's looks easiest to get to from Exit 44 (Broening Hwy), which is a straight shot into Dundalk Ave. So I will probably get to it, I just haven't yet. In fact, now that y'all have mentioned it, you've just done some of my legwork for me!

Pigtown-Design said...

VInny's has a longshoreman's salad (!) that rocks! grilled shrimp and grilled chicken over mesclun with a balsamic vinaigrette. i ate there about once a week for a year.

oh, and dem gold things? they're the sewage treatment plant. seriously.

John said...

P-Desi (don't you like that nickname, Meg?): Vinny's - ugh! Another place I have missed! And here I thought my list was too long. Looks like it wasn't long enough. Hopefully I'll wind up hitting it off of an upcoming exit, just like Squire's.

I should've realized it was sewage treatment - that was my third guess, after water and (yes) grain.

Maryanna said...

I've eaten at Squires since I was a kid, but I prefer Vinny's.
I think that Squires pizza is best the next day. I've never been a fan of their crust or their sauce. That's just personal preference though.
It's been awhile since I've eaten at either place though. I'm living in RI now and only make it back home a couple times a year.

Anonymous said...

that double domed structure is a raw sewage facility....many call it the poopy plant. if you happen to drive by there with someone else in the car with you, both of you will be thinking the same thing....that the other passenger farted.

Kristle said...

Vinny's pizza and Italian cold cuts are the best!!! I also like Squires Chicken Parmesan! You MUST try those places!

Anonymous said...

You have to try the Boulevard Diner. I think you will be very satisfied. I disagree about the Broadway Diner. The location of Broadway makes it very hard to get in and out of and it always looks dirty. Boulevard's food can't be beat!!! The Greek food especially. Also try their specials!!!

Anonymous said...

I agree with the comment above - ever since the Boulevard opened I go there almost once a week. The prices are unbelievable, the food is always cooked to perfection - my two favorites: (1) Chicken Romano (2) Penne Pasta with Seafood in a rose cream sauce - huge lumps of crab meat, scallops, jumbo shrimp...side note - if you order the pasta dishes on Tuesday's past night, they're only $9.99 - WHO CAN BEAT THAT PRICE?!?!

Anonymous said...

The Boulevard Diner is extremely expensive for a diner and the portions of food you get for the price you pay is not worth it. The food is ok, but if definitley not a diner I would go out of my way for.