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.