Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Exits 4, 5 and 6A-B Revisited

I admit: I don't get to the I-97 section of the Beltway very often, and so I have explored it very little. But when I got around here the first time, I simply did not explore nearly enough. I've tried to rectify this second go round. I know I'm probably missing other noteworthy eateries. It's up to all y'all to point them out.

Exits 4, 5 and 6A-B -
Section of the Beltway - the Glen Burnie Section (S. Baltimore City, N. Anne Arundel County)
Towns & neighborhoods along the way - Ferndale, Nottingham, Linthicum, Linthicum Heights, Pumphrey, BWI Airport
Routes that branch off - I-97, MD-648, MD-170

Places that have shut down since I last visited

Many of the victims of the recent recession in this part of town were of the Chinese carry-out variety. Gone is the massive Beijing Buffet (website no longer works) in the Burwood Village Plaza on B&A Blvd - in its place is, well, nothing.

Yep, empty.

Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant off of I-97 still seems to be around, surprisingly so, but then again the incredibly cheap food may have improved since the last time I was there, and almost got sick off it.

Restaurants I didn't get around to the first time

Despite the empty hull of what was Beijing Buffet, most of the locations in Burwood have not shut down: for example, there's still the Buffalo Wings & Beer (map) and Italia's Corner Café (same map). Italia's is a nice place. It's not a suit and tie place, but it is a satisfying evening out with Mee-Maw and the kids. Or your rambunctious little league football team, which one guy brought with him. That wasn't really a problem for me since I was doing take-out. But you may want to sit yourself down (if that little league football team isn't around, that is): Italia's is inviting, bright and comfortable, with both indoor and (for the warmer weather) outdoor seating. And somebody there must be quick of foot since there are a few prominent soccer trophies mounted above the counter. I could only hope to earn even one in my lifetime.

Italia's offers much more than the typical pizza and subs fare: they've got soup and pasta, antipasti and tiramisù, plus a wine selection. And of course, they do have pizza and subs. I went for the stromboli ($7.50), featuring various types of meat (sausage, ham, pepperoni) wrapped in mozzarella.

The stromboli, outside...

...and inside

It was filling, but I just about finished the whole thing in one sitting. Rarely these days do I find Italian take-out that I actually enjoy eating. I enjoyed this: the dough wasn't hard and dry like so many stromboli doughs can be. The mozzarella and meat together were just soft and sinful. I feel almost like I'm channeling my napoletano ancestors here! Though in truth, I have no idea if they ate stromboli in their little mountain village outside of Salerno 110 years ago (Yes I know Stromboli the town is in Sicily. I have ancestors from Sicily, too. And I am certain none of them was orange). If you want this stromboli you can most easily reach Italia's off of Exit 5.

As for Exit 6: when I took it the last time I went about half a mile in each direction, lulling myself into that false sense of being sure that all I would continue to see were houses. I should have bothered to keep going, as I learned to do with future exits. I would have found a Ferndale-area institution in the Shipley Linthicum Shopping Center on South Camp Meade Road, just on the other side of BWI. Keller's Bakery (map), now in its 70th year, was taking orders for Thanksgiving pies when I stopped by (yes, I'm only now getting around to writing this). It's a small operation, but they take many orders and always run out. The woman behind the counter when I showed up showed me some of their popular flavors - well, those they had left at least: apple, French apple, blueberry, just to name a handful. Hopefully you've gotten your order in for Christmas, too. Commenters on the Baltimore City Search site for Keller's also rave about their turnovers and donuts. I had no cash on me at all, so I was out of luck altogether, seeing as how they do not take cards.

Restaurants that have since opened

A few doors down in the Shipley Shopping Center, one place that I don't think was around at all the first time I stopped by was Matsu Japanese (map), which has two locations, in Linthicum and Annapolis. Matsu is a smallish, few frills sushi and Japanese restaurant that satisfies your sushi need quickly and cheaply. I was impressed at how fast I got served - granted, there were, maybe, five people there for the lunch rush. Their lunch specials are good for the price: a $10 bento box was what caught my eye before anything else, and unlike most times when I dawdle over the menu I knew I had to get this. A relatively quick ten minutes later, if that, I had my lunch.

Matsu's lunch bento box is smaller than most you will have had. With just four modest compartments, you get a few slices of California roll, a couple shumai dumplings and your choice of one other item, with soup and rice on the side. In my case, I got the 5 piece sashimi. The items in the bento box were about as modest as the restaurant itself: smaller amounts of things, which I guess justifies the $10 price. The flavor could also best be described as modest. While the food was good, it was not great - once again, $10 bento box. Nevertheless, it got the job done. Matsu is at least worth a visit.

I just wish that the entire staff - and I mean the entire staff - had not sat down to lunch right as I had finished eating and was anticipating my check. No, I did not need my check right away. But I figured that, since my waitress had sat down to eat like everybody else, it might be a good long while before anyone even noticed I was done. Fortunately, my waitress happened to look behind her and see that I was done. She quickly stopped her lunch, got my check, and proceeded to toss it in front of me. Well, more half-toss, half-drop it in front of me. Way to make your customer feel like he's not a burden! I never leave anything less than a 15% tip, and rarely leave less than 20%. I left 10% this time.

A few other restaurants have popped up around BWI. One I have yet to try is the Acqua Restaurant (map) - offering, as it says right on its splash page, "bay fresh cuisine in an elegant setting" near the BWI Hilton. Another is the snazzy Los Portales Restaurant (map), to meet your craving for Mexican food as soon as you get out of the airport. And if you head back to Burwood you can at least try the Bamboo House (same map as Italia's), which is the only Chinese food you will find in lieu of the Beijing Buffet.

So, what did I miss?

Again I need your help and suggestions. Tell me what I missed. I know I missed something. Or what about the places I didn't visit this time: ringing endorsements of Acqua or Los Portales, or something in the airport that I need to check out the next time I'm taking a flight?

Places I got back to

Italia's Corner Café (Italian/pizza and subs) - 7089 Baltimore-Annapolis Blvd. (Burwood Village Plaza), Suite F, Glen Burnie, MD 21061; Phone: (410) 684-3817

  • Would I eat there again? Yes
  • Would I go out of my way to eat there again? Sure
Matsu Japanese Restaurant (Japanese/sushi) - 517 South Camp Meade Road (Shipley Linthicum Shopping Center), Linthicum, MD 21090 ; Phone: (410) 850-0009 or (410) 850-0012
  • Would I eat there again? If I was in the area
  • Would I go out of my way to eat there again? Likely not
A few places to look up later

Acqua Restaurant (Chesapeake/seafood) - 1739 West Nursery Rd., Linthicum, MD 21090; Phone: (410) 694-0808 ext. 5176

Bamboo House (Chinese/sushi) - 7089 Baltimore-Annapolis Blvd
(Burwood Village Plaza), Glen Burnie, MD 21061

Buffalo Wings & Beer (pub fare; wings) - 7089 Baltimore-Annapolis Blvd (Burwood Village Plaza), Suites C & D, Glen Burnie MD 21061; Phone: (410) 760-2337

Keller's Bakery (bakery) - 509 South Camp Meade Rd. (Shipley Linthicum Shopping Center), Linthicum Heights, MD 21090; Phone: (410) 859-8228

Los Portales Restaurant (Mexican) - 6938 Aviation Boulevard, Suites D & E, Glen Burnie, MD 21061; Phone: (410) 766-9800


David Sattler said...

Los Portales is well worth a trip: good Tex-Mex made with fresh ingredients (not from a can), decent margaritas, reasonable prices. Always crowded and for good reason.