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June 22, 2008

No review next Sunday

I'm sitting on the floor of a darkened motel room in Dublin, Va. so as not to wake up my other driver, and I'm wondering if Dublin needs a restaurant critic because I'M NOT GETTING BACK IN THE CAR.

We got a late start yesterday (gee, that's a surprise) and didn't roll in until 10:30 p.m. At that point we simply fell into bed, and as soon as Gailor wakes up we're supposed to hit the road again. This seems a lot worse than our road trip because she hurt her back and I have to do more of the driving.

Luckily there are some really fine eating establishments along I-81 to make me feel better. ...

Anyway, I won't have a review for next week because, as you know, I turn the review in the week before, and I wasn't at work last week. I hope you'll do the reviewing for the next few hours until I get back to Baltimore.

If you went to a restaurant in the last week, tell us where and what you thought. Because I can rarely get anyone to write mini-reviews, just mention one thing you had that you'd recommend (unless you want to say more).

If you went someplace (like Ruby Tuesday) that you don't want the other regulars to know you, who have acted like such a superior and knowledgeable foodie up till now, ate at, just post under a new, temporary user name. 

I'll try to get Gailor to publish comments in the car. Work gave me a laptop with a wonderful mobile broadband card in it, and now that we're traveling through more civilized areas maybe she'll stop making me play the Name the State Capital game and get online for me.


Posted by Elizabeth Large at 6:17 AM | | Comments (32)
Categories: Review Preview


So sorry to hear that Gailor hurt her back. Get that girl some ibuprofen and a cold pack, stat!

Along I-81, which of the many truck stops have really fine eating establishments?

Dublin VA? I thought that sounded familiar. That's just a little farther south from Blacksburg VA. I've been there and there are a couple decent places to eat in that town.

As for I-81, the pickin's are slim for a fine dining experience.

RtSO and PCB Rob, how could you forget Cracker Barrel or Waffle House? Every other exit on I-81 has one or the other. What more could you want :-)
On another note, hubby, daughter and I ate at Habanero Grill in Highlandtown on Thursday night. Portions were huge and food was good. Service was a little slow but the server was very nice. It's a nice looking place with a nice table in the window, original brick walls and apparently a huge bar upstairs.

I have eaten several times at The Frontera Gill in Chicago owned by Rick Bayless and considered by many to be the best Mexican Restaurant in the US. As good as it is I will put Mari Luna up against it anyday. For the first time I had dinner instead of lunch at Mari Luna which lead me to the lamb shank. It was as good as any I have ever eaten. Fall off the bone tender and not a bit gamey. The leftovers made an excellent sandwich for lunch. The limited choices for the new wine list are very well chosen. Spanish wine is much more to my taste than Mexican or Californian and the wines at Mari Luna are extremely food friendly. Not a bit over ripe or over oaked like almost all wines from California. At $6.50 a glass at the high end they are affordable as well. The rice and beans were top notch as side dishes. Next trip I plan to try the chicken mole unless there is a blackboard special like the soft shell crabs a couple of weeks ago. Finally crab in Maryland without Old Bay. I wonder if the owners of Mari Luna know just how good the food is at their restaurant. In Maryland vs Chicago it is Mari Luna over Frontera Grill for Mexican and Isabellas over Emilios for Spanish.

If Ms. Large is like me she has a copy of Small Town Restaurants in Virginia and The Beer Lovers Guide to the USA with her to make dining much more enjoyable.

Hi, there - Just found this site, and enjoying it immensely.

We ate at Lebanese Taverna for the first time last night. The food was delicious, but the service was rushed and poor at the same time. I will grant you that we were with large party (11), but still . . . As soon as our party was complete, but before all of us had had time to even look at the menu, we were asked for drink orders, which no one was ready to give. The server returned in a timely manner to take our food order. She was willing to take a drink order at this point, but was too rushed with the food orders to properly record the drinks orders.

The table ordered a bunch of appetizers, and individual entrees. The first course dishes came out promptly, which was fine, but then SOME of the entrees came out only a few minutes later. Can you say "feeling rushed"? But the real kicker was that the balance of the entrees didn't come out for another 5-10 minutes!

After the entrees and first courses were cleared, we were offered neither coffee nor dessert.

I imagine that the service could have been better with a smaller group, but frankly the establishment's apparent attitude of "feed 'em up and head 'em out" (which we have experienced elsewhere in the city) make me disinclined to go there again.

We just got back from our first trip to Deep Creek lake. Many fine food establishments along the way there, too much to my surprise. This probably should really be under the crab dip discussion but I'm too lazy to unearth it, so I'll drop it here- best crab dip I ever had at Wisp resort's DC's Bar and Restaurant! No gloppy cheese at all, in fact just the flavor of delicate and delicous crab with no shell, a hint of some flavoring (Old Bay?) and maybe a bit of lemon. Served with fresh pita bread wedges - WOW! The rest of dinner quite good (and reasonable too for those who care about $) but that crab dip! BTW, for the Deep Creek bound, they offer M-Th specials on their web page.

Don't know where you are right now, but if near Staunton, right off I-81, around Exit 213(?), is Edelweiss German Restaurant. I stopped there and loved it.

Susan WNAJ,
You're right about that! And how about a Stuckeys here and there too. There could be a Shoneys still around as well.

I had breakfast last weekend at Blue Moon, in Fell's Point. Best creamed chipped beef I've had. My friends enjoyed their breakfasts, too. Nice surroundings, although it is a very loud room.

My only complaint is that the estimated 30 min. wait turned out to be over an hour. Their coffee is not very good, either, but I expect that.

Welcome back, EL!

Thanks very much. EL

I recall eating at a Shoney's a few years back somewhere along I-81.

I agree that Mari Luna has the best food. However I was disappointed, for the first time, with the service on Sunday afternoon. I didn't see any of the usual faces of who I assume are the owners and family. After 10 minutes of being ignored, I finally got up, walked to the counter where one waiter was hanging out, and asked if someone could take my order. After that everything was fine and he did apologize. That's good, because I am addicted to their food!

My friend and I ate at Yellow Dog in Canton Friday night and it was wonderful. The atmosphere is very welcoming as is the staff. We started our meal with a portobello stack, layers of mushroom, caramelized onion, sautéed spinach , sun dried tomato and walnut pesto. For dinner, I had a black bean burger which was a special for the night. It was made in-house and was delicious. It was served with lettuce, tomato, avocado, sprouts and I choose the pommes frites for my side. My friend had the fish tacos; grilled Mahi Mahi topped with shredded romaine lettuce, guacamole, roasted corn salsa, and served with black beans simmered in beer and Spanish rice. Everything was delicious and the service was very attentive without being intrusive. After dinner we walked to Fells Point and enjoyed gelato from Pitango. I mixed rhubarb with crema and my friend ordered banana with chocolate. Lots of good food and good company made for a lovely evening.

On Saturday, our group of eight toured the Baltimore Public Works Museum and lunched at McCormick & Schmick's. What a treat! First of all, our server was terrific--never wrote down a thing and didn't miss a beat! Several of us had the $15.95 broiled seafood platter (salmon, crab cake, stuffed oyster, stuffed shrimp, scallop) with sesame rice (billed as orzo, but still tasty). One or two had the ($15.95?) soft crab platter special with FF, and the crabs were gorgeous! Others had sandwiches: crab & shrimp melt ($8.95?) or crab cake ($14.95?), all of which came with FF. A few of us had room for dessert: fresh fruit tart ($4.95?), pineapple upside-down cake a la mode ($5.95?), and a mini trio of bread pudding, creme brulee and mixed berry cobbler ($6.95?). All in all it was a wonderful afternoon with stellar service, excellent food, and a delightful atmosphere. What a way to spend a Saturday!

Mark said: the soft shell crabs a couple of weeks ago. Finally crab in Maryland without Old Bay

The "normal" way of preparing soft crabs in Maryland has never included Old Bay,

RTSO, the best truck stop along I 81 is White's Truck Stop in Raphine in between Staunton and Lexington.

White's has it all from an extensive glass enclosure of knives and guns to the best country fried steak in the blue ridge. Oh, and be sure to hit the gift shop to load up on the latest in both truck equipment and fashion.

Actually, all kidding aside, Whites is great. It is one of my road food favorites.

I'm from Harrisonburg, VA - right on I-81, and there are some great dives to hit. Try Southern Kitchen in New Market for down home good cooking (ignore the lack of interior decorating), Bluestone Inn in Harrisonburg for seafood in the Shenandoah Valley, exit 251, Staunton Grocery (fine dining on a beautiful historic main street), exit 222. Around Blacksburg though, try the Farmhouse in Christiansburg, exit 118, for a more refined dining experience.


What is the normal way? Most places I've had them they are breaded and deep fried. The breading has included Old Bay. What am I missing?

Given the lack of truck stops along the Maryland interstates (good thing/bad thing?), I have always been fascinated that almost every interchange along I81 in Virginia has at least 2 and sometimes 4 large service station/food emporia (some sit-down, some just counters.) And as RoCK points out, some are most impressive, in a country music sort of way (I don't mean the Mozart county dances, either.) As much I would love a set of mud flaps with the chrome profile of a young lady who is anatomically unlikely, they just won't fit my car. So sad.

The right way to prepare soft crabs is lightly floured (seasoned with salt and pepper), then sauteed in butter until brown on both sides (it doesn't take long).

Hal is right, as usual. Don't forget the lemon wedge!

I won't disagree with the VoR on the preparation of soft crabs. I will submit a minority report to say that in lieu of the salt and pepper, a LITTLE (as in you can hardly notice the red stuff in the flour) Old Bay can be used. Cooking soft crabs in any other manner is a crime against humanity (or should be.)

Even the VoR has been known to put some cayenne or some smoked paprika into the flour for cooking soft crabs. But never enough to overpower things.

RtSO, you should try getting those mud flaps on a moped.

The minority report is then accepted as read. The MOST IMPORTANT POINT BEING never enough to overpower things.

Last Thursday evening in Annapolis I stopped for a quick dinner at Chick & Ruth's. Years ago when I worked downtown there, I would stop by for lunch -- especially during the legislative season, but I haven't been back in about six or seven years. I was surprised at how different it feels for dinner than for lunch. Ted wasn't around and most of the other folks there didn't have much of a clue about the local character angle. The sandwich names on the wall caused more wrinkled brows than knowing chuckles.

I had the "Marvin Mandel" -- corned beef and chopped liver on rye -- and a side of cole slaw. The bread seemed to have been the last two servable slices from a bag that was open since lunch, dry and starting to crack. The chopped liver was wonderful (as it always was) but the corned beef was fatty and less flavorful than I would have liked. Slaw and tea were fine, and at $12, the price was right.

Best part of the experience was a little banter with the waiter, Jim. There are not many young people who can recite that many bits from Firesign Theater, and he was obviously surprised to find someone who could answer back. ("Shoes for industry; shoes for the dead.") He's been around for just over a year, and I hope he hangs in there long enough to make it to the daytime show.

I am glad such a place still exists in Annapolis, even if it wasn't all that I remembered from years ago.

If I had a moped (I think I need to get away from the blog: too much with the stuffed animals & PRob's Broadway tunes, I humming Fiddler), I would hang them on the sides, over the back wheels. I might even consider hanging a set over the front wheels, too.

If I had a moped, I'd go out on the ocean...

Food along I-81 in VA? Try stopping in Lexington at The Southern Inn or in Fairfield at the Fairfield Diner. I believe both are owned by the same couple, who have some Baltimore connections.

Two restaurant visits to report. Last week had dinner at Grapevine in Cockeysville. We tried the appetizer sampler platter. We should have ordered two of those platters and salads and called it a day. The appetizers were wonderful. Waitress was very personable but repeated the specials without prices. That is one of my pet peeves.

Our twenty minute wait for bread was accompanied by many apologies. What we were finally served was two rolls that were very small. I guess bread is one of the things restaurants are cutting back on. Husband had crab soup which he said was passable. I had moussaka. It was served hot at the edges and cold in the center. I sent it back to be microwaved. It came back only marginally warmer. We decided to have it packed up to be eaten at home.

Lunch on Thursday at Granny's. Served a hot peice of corned bread while we read the menu. It was wonderful. Filled with corn kernals and great flavor. I ordered chicken and waffles. The serving was huge and flavorful. Four chicken wings which my husband described as coming from a chicken on steroids. They were piping hot and accompanied by a freshly made waffle, grits, and fried apples.

My husband had barbequed hot wings. These were not a success. They were really dry and over-cooked. We left them uneaten and did not take the leftovers home. His salad was pedestrian. We ordered sweet potato pie and coffee. The crust was forgettable but the filling was everything a sweet potato pie should be. The serving was very generous. The coffee was ok. Let me say that my entree was generous enough that I split it with my husband. I look forward to returning to sample other menu items.
Service was great,; friendly but unobtrusive.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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