Friday, November 15, 2013

Super Star Inn, Baltimore MD

The Super Star Inn is located at 5603 Pulaski Highway in far Eastern Baltimore City. It is very easy to miss since it sits back from the road between a transmission shop and a auto body shop. It blends in with this light industrial part of the City. This place is quintessential, blue collar, Baltimore right down to the form stone exterior.

There is nothing fancy about the place. It really is a blue collar type place. At lunch time you see many guys in their dark blue or green work cloths sipping something in a discrete drinking glass. Eight years ago it would have been a haze of blue smoke.

The massive 360 degree bar takes up most of the room. There is a pool table, dart board, and three poker machines turned to face the kitchen window and not the rest of the room. The only thing missing is a pin ball machine. Twice now I have had lunch here. The bar tenders are real honest to God, Baltimore Hons. The cook watches you from the kitchen window to make sure you have a smile on your face when you try your food.

As most places like this, there is a board featuring the daily specials. Crab cake plater is one of them. $9 for a crab cake, fries, and slaw. This is a super deal. The crab cake is full of meat and has a nice strong old bay flavor. It is a bold cake, not a high brow one you might find for twice the money. The fries are really good too. Both visits, my guest went for the crab cake special. Both were very pleased with their choice.

I made the choice of gyro platter. At  $7.50 for the platter, it was not the best I have ever had, but it was acceptable. The second time there, I went for the little, 6 ounce cheeseburger. The 8 ounce is the standard. Sorry for no photo. It was one of the best burgers I have ever had. It sits firmly in the top 5. At $4.50 it was even tastier than I could have expected. All the food is good honest bar food at a very reasonable price.

I suggest you try the Super Star Inn. It has taken over as my place to take people who visit my shop. The dinner specials are very tempting and will probably having me bringing the family across town one evening. Thursdays they have a 16 ounce New York strip steak with two sides for $11.95. No need to dress up, or put on any airs when coming here. If you are the popped collar type, you might want to go somewhere else.

Score: A perfect 10

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Shin Chon, Ellicott City MD

I think many will notice I tend to gravitate toward ethnic restaurants. Shin Chon at 8801 Baltimore National Pike, #27 sure fits this bill. It is at the far end of the Lotte Plaza. Korean BBQ is the thrust of this place. Be very careful coming here. The parking lot is very busy and the drivers tend to be oblivious to an other cars. I am not stereotyping, we almost got into three accidents just trying to park. It was Friday night so the place was packed and it was hopping. The wait was only about 10 minutes however.

The first home run; the beers are BIG. I like that. The beer was also VERY cold. Second home run.

Korean meals are always served with kimchi.  The furthest plate is what most think of as kimchi, but they all are kimchi.

10 different kimchi were served. This is not the record of 14 we were served once at another place, but it was a very nice array. There were also two different soups served. My favorite was the kimchi second to the right in the photo above. It was a green chili pepper in some kind of bean/ sesame paste. All of them were unique and delicious. My least favorite the one I pointed out in the last photo. It was delicious, but just typical.

Our entree was a meal for two. I cannot tell you the name, but it was billed as "baby squid and pork". It also contained cabbage, jalapeños, and cellophane noodles along with the baby squid and sliced pork belly. A lady cooked it all right in front of us on the table and unlike those NASTY Japanese places that cook it in front of you, A) it tasted great. B) the cook did not throw it at me, missing and hitting my shirt instead of my mouth. C) make a big show of cooking flavorless nasty food. This food tasted great as I pointed out in "A".

This photo speaks for itself. A big stack of empty plates and a big empty beer. The bill, $50 w/ tip and two big beers. Very reasonable if you ask me. 

Rating 9
Would I return? Yes, but there are so many other places I want to try. The Korean population is huge in Ellicott City/ Catonsville and there are a bunch of very obscure places we want to try. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Bavarian, Taos Ski Valley NM

At the bottom of the ski lift of Taos Valley Ski Resort is the Bavarian. It sure has the look of a Bavarian   gastehaus sitting at about 9000 feet on the side of Wheeler Peak. The hippy girls in dirndls kind of made it feel Bavarian.

The half liter or heifeweisen sure made it taste Bavarian. The weisewurst, or veil bratwurst, was spot on Bavarian. The buffalo bratwurst did not make it taste very Bavarian at all. The $17.50 for two sausages, a so called sampler, was not so tasty to me. Beth and I shared this entree. We did eat it all since at high altitudes you build a serious hunger. The kraut was okay as was the mashed potatoes. The gravy was brown, not sure what flavor it was besides brown. It was billed as an Optinator beer sauce.

Dan got the Bav dog. It must have met his pallet since he ate it all.

Jen had the spatzle. A seriously hardy offering as an entree. It tasted pretty good on my sample. It is not like my Mothers, but it was very good.

Dining experience, 9 but the atmosphere resulted in a boost to the score.

Taos Diner, El Prado NM

We always seem to have breakfast at the Taos Diner. Located at 908 Paseo del Pueblo Norte it is also known as The Taos Diner 1. There is a second one on the South end of town. They did a recent remodel of the place. It is brighter and sits more people, but I kind of liked it before. It was a little seedier and more homey to me. A big plus for this place is the kids area. There is a big pile of toys and the kids can leave the adults to talk.

I got another New/ Old Mexico standard, Huevos Rancheros. It was, well, standard, nothing special about it. The green chile was even kind of standard. This is not my usual experience at the Taos Diner. The coffee was rather good. 

The breakfast burrito my table mate had sure looked good. Bacon, ham, sausage, potatoes, eggs, and cheese smothered in red and green (christmas) chile sauce. The red sauce was fiery as it should be.

Dining experience; Usually 9, this time (just for me) 7

Horseman's Haven, Sante Fe MN.

While in New Mexico I had the pleasure of eating at some very good eating establishments. Horseman's Haven at 4354 Cerrillios Road was the first of them. I ate here a few years back and little has changed  since then on the interior. The first time I was here the Cafe was a stand alone business. Since then the surrounding land has been intensively developed around it. The building is not really much from the outside. The interior has a decor of worn, cow boyish, high desert cafe feel. It is nothing special, it does not need to be. People come here for the good food at a very reasonable price, not the decor.

The kitchen was humming place as we watched from the lunch counter. They have the routine finely tuned and everything happens very fast. Our food hit the table in  lightning speed.

Beth has the special of day; Chicken Fajitas. The beans, rice, and tostada filled with guacamole was a meal in itself. The chicken was crisp, moist, and heavily flavored of lime. The two of us could have made a meal of just this entree alone.

I came for the New Mexico classic; the green chile cheeseburger. It is served smothered, so a fork and knife were required to eat this bad boy. The green chiles were mighty spicy I should say. This burger is not for those who do not like it hot. The home fried potatoes were an unexpected touch, but a great way to sop up the spilt green chiles.

Dining experience; 8.5 Have not expectations and you can call it a 9

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Pho Saigon

You might note I am very much attracted to foods outside my own culture. I happen to really like Vietnamese food. When GroupOn offered a deal at Pho Saigon, we jumped all over it. 
Located at 1116 Rolling Road in Catonsville. The restaurant is kind of hidden in a strip mall. All the signs are the same blue color and size so it is easy to miss it driving by. 

When we got there at 5:45 the place was empty except for one, two top table. The staff was very friendly and quick to welcome us in. The decor was bright, cheery, and incredibly clean.   

It is not a fancy place but has the huge plasma playing some kind of imitation Cirque du Solie playing as do most Asian restaurants we tend to go to. As I said earlier, the staff was extremely friendly and helpful, even though we were never asked if we might like something besides water to drink. I kind of like the Vietnamese style coffee and would have ordered one if allowed to. No big deal, Baltimore has excellent water. The menu had many selections, but was not as extensive as other Vietnamese restaurants we have gone to. This is a good thing for me, not a bad thing. I never know what to order when there are too many choices. 

We started things off with some summer rolls. They were the best summer rolls I have ever tasted. Honestly, they were very good. Halle had her usual Pho Ga(chicken soup). She ate half the bowl, so she must have liked it. Beth ordered her usual go to dish, Bun Bo Hue(spicy beef soup. This is actually Cambodian soup with weird cuts of meat and blood pudding in it). She ate a good amount too, claiming it better than the other two Vietnamese joints we gone to in the past. No chili paste was added, so it must have been fairly spicy. Ava had Bun Tom Nuong(vermicelli with grilled shrimp and tons of vegetables). It all gets topped with a sauce containing fish sauce. She emptied her bowl.  

My dish was very similar to Ava's. I had the Bun Chao Tom Thit Bo Nuong( vermicelli with beef, shrimp, spring roll and tons of vegetables) It was incredibly good. The best part was how fresh everything tasted. I know that "fresh" is a rather odd description, but the flavor of every ingredient is just very fresh. My meal was better than the other two places we have gone before. 

I have a strong suspicion we will be returning to Pho Saigon in the future. Overall rating... 9

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Ott House- Emmitsburg MD

I met some friends at a pub in Emmitsburg this past Thursday for a bite to eat before a meeting we were attending. Located at 5 W. Main street, Emmitsburgh it is literally right in the center of town. 

The bar is very typical of many Maryland bars. It definitely has a local flavor and everyone seems to know everyone here. The place is huge and sports many tables to eat or drink. It was fairly quiet when I walked in but a steady stream of patrons came through the door as we were in the place. I was told that by 7 it would be packed.

Emmitsburg is home to the Fire Academy, and apparently the Ott House is the place where the fire cadets frequent. The walls are plastered with thousands of badges from firehouses all over the world. There are numerous items of firehouse memorabilia including pull boxes, signs, and many fire hats. Some of the hats were leather ones. 
The staff was friendly and right on point. Never over whelming or pushy, always there when needed.

The food was typical bar fair. The pricing was rather low making for a very affordable meal.
I had the soft crab sandwich. I have to say it was one of the better soft crab sandwiches I have had. I like my soft crab nice and crisp and it did not fail to deliver. The corn meal coating was perfect in my book. One of my friends had the same sandwich and we both agreed it was darn good. My other two friends had burgers. Their empty plates testified to the fact they liked it. 

rating; solid 8.5 (yes, I am becoming a little more conservative in my ratings)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

El Taquito, The Original Mexican Restaurant

I was treated to lunch today by Michael. At his suggestion we went to my absolute favorite Mexican restaurant. Located at 1744 Eastern Avenue right in the heart of Fells Point. El Taquito is really the original Mexican restaurant in Baltimore. This is not your Tex Mex bull crap, this is the real deal. In the late 1980's El Taquito opened before there was any Hispanic immigrants in Fells Point. The original owners came from Puebla and made a go of it. Very quickly many other immigrants moved in and set up shop changing the climate of Fells Point for the better in my opinion.

The place has recently changed hands and Victor, also from Puebla, has changed things up a great deal.    The location was a clothing store in a former life and it's decor has been spiffed up with some bright paint and new repurposed booths instead of the cheap plastic chairs and pedestal tables they used to have. The new booths are well worn and fit your butt perfectly.

In typical Hispanic style, the novelos(soap operas) are always on. We didn't come for the atmosphere, we came for the food. 

You always get chips and salsa. Now take this to heart, this is real Mexican food from the center of Mexico. The salsa is not for the faint of heart or your typical gringo crowd. The right hand one is a red salsa with numerous different chilies. The predominant one chipote giving it a smoky flavor. It is way hot by gringo standards. The left hand salsa is a green one. I cannot tell you what is in it, but it is wicked hot. Michael and I finish off the bowl every time since you just cannot get enough of the euphoric rush it creates. These salsas are not novelty items, they are loaded with rich flavors.

Here is what Michael ordered. Tacos carnitas mixto, Mixed pork meat. There is everything in there; tongue, ear, Chicarrone(skin), cheek, and shoulder meat. All have been cooked very slow and very long so they are ultra tender. He also got nopal(cactus), radishes, and grilled onions on the side. I have ordered this a number of times and absolutely love it. The skin was a little too much for Michael since it was the most of the mix, but he did not dislike it, it was just too much.

I ordered the special of the day, chili relleno. It came with beans, rice, jalapeño, and avocado. It was really good. I must say my wife makes it better, but none the less, it was damn good! The beans were exceptional. They are made the right way using manteca(lard) as good bean should be. I almost asked Victor for another helping. The rice was good too. The real side dish highlight however was the jalapeño. It was cooked in the broth of the relleno, full of the flavor and tender as can be. Victor also brought me fresh made tortillas. I left more than full and with a huge smile.

Sunday(Domingo) is the day to go if you want to experience this place. In broken Spanish(me) and broken English(Victor) he explained they cook a whole lamb. Heck, any day is a good day to go to El Taquito!

Rating 1-10.... ELEVEN. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Chicken Rico

Deep in the heart of Highlandtown is Chicken Rico. Presiding at 3728 Eastern Avenue, it not hard to find. You can generally just follow your nose right to it. I am not sure when it was renamed, but originally it was called Pollo Rico. Rich Chicken. This is a place you do not have to be rich to eat like a king. 

The decor is kind of neutral, feeling more like an Arby's than a Peruvian chicken joint. For the number of people passing through, it is unusually clean. There is no one at the counter now, but 15 minutes after this photo was taken, there was a line 20 people long. The staff have the routine down to science so the line moves along very quickly. Chicken Rico is wildly popular. It also happens to be one of my favorite lunch places. What's good? Everything!

I tend to stick to the main stay; the charcoal broiled chicken. They have a number of Peruvian dishes including carne asada, lomo saltado, tortas, subs, and pesco frito. Chicken smicken right? WRONG! The spices they marinate this chicken in is beyond any other chicken I have tasted. I cannot put my finger on what is in the blend. It is not spicy, but it is intoxicating. Not making any implications, but I often joke that I think there is weed in the spice blend. The chicken is always tender and moist.

For under $7 you get a quarter chicken, two sides and a can of soda. The choice of sides change, but generally include: white rice, fried rice, fried potatoes, fried yuca, fried plantains, beans, mashed potatoes, cole slaw, soup, corn on the cob, and salad. It varies day to day on the last few. Though their descriptions sound American, these sides are all truly Peruvian in flavor. Todays choice(my usual) fried rice(Spanish style, not Chinese style) and fried plantains. Talk about filling! The portions are very generous. I want to point out the two small cups at the top of the photo. The right hand one is a curry mayonnaise. It goes well on everything. At first I thought it odd but have come to really love it. On the left is some kind of hot sauce. Once again, I cannot put my finger on what is in it. It is exceptionally good stuff. Very hot, but not over whelming.

My rating? A solid 9.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Fitting First Post

It is very fitting that my very first review be of one of my favorite local places to eat. Jennings Cafe at 808 Frederick Road, right in the heart of Catonsville, MD. This is a great, local place, to eat or drink. Jennings is not fine dining, it is bar food. It does not matter what you do in my book as long as you do it well. Jennings does not do it well, they do it expertly. The waitresses all treat you as if you are their best friends whether they actually know you or not. Our Waitress, Jessica could not have been more personal able if she tried. Never overwhelming but attentive, almost anticipating, any of our needs. The wait staff is highly professional even though it really is just a local bar.

The decor, I can best described as very Twin Peaks like.  The red lights and copious amounts of knotty pine paneling lead me to this description.  The walls are covered with horse racing photos. At one time horse racing and breeding was a big deal here in Maryland. There is also a cool phenomenon that happens here; When the door opens, everyone looks up because there is a good chance the person coming in is a neighbor or someone you know from the community. You usually see someone wave to the person who just came in. Unlike most bars, Jennings is a place for the entire family. Often we will see a bunch of the tables pushed together and large extended families eating together. 

Just to prove it is family friendly, here is the crayon basket they bring you. Enough background, how was the food? Outstanding as always!

Halle is kind of a grill cheese girl. Most kids love their grilled cheese and my daughter is no exception. Classic text book grilled cheese, just like all kids love.

Ava had the BLT. Hard to screw up a BLT, but when you put a little more than the usual four pieces of bacon, it makes for a very good BLT. Yep, very good. Thumbs up from Ava with a clean plate at the end.

Beth had the rockfish basket. This is a unique twist on a bar standby, fish and chips. Marylanders love their rockfish and Jennings knows that. For those not from Maryland, rockfish is what most of you call striped bass. Battered chunks of rockfish perfectly cooked. Beth really liked hers.

I had the fish sandwich. Yep rockfish. It was awesome to say the least. I also appreciated the real, vine ripened tomatoes.  I strongly suspect the tarter sauce was home made.

The best thing about Jennings is how affordable it is. I had a Jim Beam and Coke and the girls had Sprites(one turned into a cocktail that a 6 year old truly loves) which were refilled at no additional charge. Not bad for less than $11 a head.