I like eating locally.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of restaurant chains that I enjoy. I think they’re perfect when you’re out of town and you aren’t in the mood to try something new; chains can be comforting in that you know you can get a familiar meal. I enjoy (in no particular order) Cheeseburger in Paradise, Bertucci’s, Carrabas, The Cheesecake Factory, among others.
When I’m not traveling, I prefer to eat at local/regional chains and franchises, as well as small family-owned restaurants. Keep my money local. Patronize the little guy. You can call it what you want, but in the end the buck stops where the food’s good. So I plan to keep a little list of places that I like to eat, as well as dishes that I’ve tried and not liked for whatever reason. Most of them are in Maryland, although some out-of-state places are listed as well from trips, colleges, etc.
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Feel free to respond with your comments. Chances are I’ve missed places that I’ve enjoyed. Here we go.
Ann’s Dari-Creme. A living testament to footlongs and other subs subs; they’ve been around forever, not even the construction of new shopping mall adjacent to their property could move/deter them from doing business (the mall built around them). If you like hot dogs, order a whole double dog with chili and cheese. Their chocolate shakes are to die for. If hot dogs aren’t your thing, try the cheeseburger sub. I’d avoid the cheese steaks; they’re like Maryland elementary schools’, frozen steaks cooked but not chopped up on the grill. Order up and watch the ladies behind the counter rattle off your order (and everyone else’s) from memory. Don’t bother bringing plastic; they’re cash only.
Glen Burnie, at the corner of Rt. 2 South & Marley Station.
Beijing. There are many Chinese take-out places, though I order from few. I order out from these folks about once a week during crew season; their lunch portions are huge, come with soup, and cost between $4-5. My current favorite is their chicken with curry sauce; the chicken is always soft, the steamed vegetables still slightly crisp, mixed with just a slight amount of heat. I venture into other spiced dishes from time to time, but thought their chicken with garlic sauce is more spicy than other places. Other staples include beef or chicken lo mein and sweet and sour chicken.
Severna Park, in Park Plaza by Ace Hardware.
Bateman’s. A somewhat trendy place in the same shopping center as Beijing; I don’t make a huge point going there, but end up there after various functions because it’s close and open late. You can’t compare their Shakin’ Bacon Fries to Mega Fries because they’re prepared differently, but they’re definitely worth ordering. I always enjoy their steak fajita wrap. I’ve recently noticed that their portions are getting smaller; guess business must be slowing or becoming less profitable.
Assorted Maryland locations.
Chris’s Charcoal Pit. An Annapolis staple for decades, Chris’s (sic) is cozy quiet and probably not fit for large groups (of say, more than six). Order their Gyro platter. It’s worth every dollar. End of story. I’m sure they’ve got other good eats here, but I wouldn’t know. If you don’t believe me, you could ask anyone who’s had a gyro at the Annapolis Greek Festival too, since the place closes down every year to come and cook at the festival. Cash only, although there is an ATM on the premises.
Annapolis, 1946 West Street.
Donut Shack. There are no donuts finer than theirs. You will find none of the overly sweet/glazed garbage here, nor will you find anything frozen; the donuts are made from scratch every morning and throughout the day (since they’re open 24 hours). Rumor has it that the owner first learned how to make donuts at the first Dunkin’ Donuts in the Baltimore area before heading out to do his own thing. They may not be as commercialized or available to the rest of the world, but you should give ‘em a try if you’re in the area.
Severna Park, Rt. 2 North just after Robinson Road.
Double T Diner. One of my favorite greasy spoon diners, my boys and I have been meeting for coffee here every week for years. Their cheesesteak platter is pretty good and reasonably priced. Their Greek Gyro Platter is excellent, as is their Greek Gyro Wrap (minus the mushrooms). If a you’re a breakfast person (or drunk and extremely hungry), try their Meat Lover’s Omelette. Lighter fare: have a blueberry muffin, grilled.
Assorted Maryland locations, though I prefer Pasadena. Rt. 2 North & Mountain Road.
Gina’s Cantina. Gina’s provides warmth amidst the cold, featuring simple and tasty tex-mex fare and a non-pretentious atmosphere.
Millersville. 722 General’s Highway, at the intersection of Veteran’s Highway.
Golden Gate. Although I lost a nice hat there once (which I was extremely irked about at the time, having just gotten it), they had a great spin on lo mein. The sauce had a honey flavor to it; very sweet and delicious, unique. It also helped that they delivered to Cheasapeake (and other dorms at UMBC).
Catonsville. 1056 Maiden Choice Lane.
Jenos. Cheesesteaks, baby. Damned good ones, however you like ‘em prepared. Their steak is never frozen. Rolls are never stale. I prefer a cheesesteak with provolone cheese, everything (which is mayo, fried onions, and hots) except the hots. The fries are greasy and delicious with a generous helping of salt. Prices are a tad on the high side, but well worth it. Portions are always large, so long as you don’t hassle the cook. Very friendly folks. Their chickensteaks are good too.
Severna Park, B&A Boulevard just north of McKinsey Road.
Ledos. Actually called “Ledo Pizza,” although everyone refers to it as Ledos (lee-does [as in plural female deer]). They make square pizzas (“because they never cut corners”) with a thin and crispy crust that is never greasy; you can usually still taste a slight bit of flour when eating. Always fresh and excellent. I like the Hawaiian pizza (ham & pineapple). Their calzones, strombolis and fries mozzarella are excellent as well.
Assorted Maryland locations.
Number One. Small hole-in-the-wall take-out Chinese place that I’ve been to countless times over the years; I’ve actually witnesses first hand (on a quasi-weekly basis) their kids grow up from infanthood, learn to speak English, and gradually become more involved with business when visiting their parents at work. It’s tasty, even when the visible vats of MSG lying about. Very small business trying to get back, I doubt they’d ever advertise themselves.
Pasadena. Fort Smallwood Road, across from Dale Road.
Olive Grove. Although I really enjoy Maria’s in Annapolis, the Olive Grove is more in tune with my means. I’ve never been disappointed with the food here and would be hard-pressed to name a favorite dish. Definitely give it a try over Olive Garden, I doubt you’ll be disappointed.
Linthicum. 705 North Hammonds Ferry Road.
Pat’s Pizzeria. First discovered while visiting University of Deleware, I went for months without realizing that Pat’s wasn’t just a delivery place. I went for a few more months without realizing that they were a regional chain. I’ve never ordered anything that wasn’t amazing, but some of my favorites would include their enormous Italian Stromboli, the 18″ Cheesesteak w/ sweet green peppers, and of course… Mega Fries. Their Mega Fries will always have a place in my heart, although I believe that our Megafries recipe are just as good (and possibly better) than the original.
Assorted locations in Maryland, Deleware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
Rams Head. A classic bar/pub/restaraunt, fit for friends or out-of-town relatives. I especially enjoy the Shepard’s Pie. Back when imported beers were more rare, their beer list was very impressive. When the weather is nice in Annapolis, try to get a table on the patio. Otherwise, I prefer Savage Mill; far fewer drunken idiots trying to get laid than downtown.
Annapolis & Savage Mill.
Rams Head Roadhouse. Roadhouse is more laid back than it’s DTA counterpart, the perfect place to meet for a few pints. I’ve never had a bad sub there, but my favorite sandwich doesn’t appear on the menu anymore. Last time I was there they had PBR on-tap.
ROCHESTER, NEW YORK
From my days at RIT, I’d recommend a few places.
DiBella’s. Freshest bread in Rochester, bar none. These people know how to make old fashioned subs. For your money, the subs are huge. Neither Subway or Quiznos compares and I’m rather irked that we don’t have a similar type of sub shop in Maryland. Don’t forget the pickle.
Assorted locations around Rochester, New York.
J.B. Quimby’s. Don’t be put off by the strip mall that the place sits in the middle of; Quimby’s was one of my favorite places to chill with friends. In addition to Pint Night (on Wednesdays), their kitchen is pretty damned good. Their Pulled Pork (marinated in Guiness then hickory smoked) w/ Bourbon Sauce was excellent when I was a student, but has since fallen off. Their gyro is pretty good too, but pales compared to the Pit.
Nick Tahou Hots. Home of the Garbage Plate. I’ve attempted to explain the garbage plate to dozens of people since I left Rochester. Few get it. If you haven’t been, you probably won’t get it either. My preference was the cheeseburger plate, mac/homefries w/ extra sauce only (XSO); although I’d probably include onions if I were to order one now, since I’ve developed a liking for fried onions since college.
Pontillos’s Pizza. Thick crust heaven. More expensive than the big chains and other Rochester-area pizza places, but amazing nevertheless.
HOBOKEN, NEW JERSEY
One New Year’s in NYC yielded a few meals before and after Times Square.
Bagel Smashery. Cute hole-in-the-wall joint a few blocks from a buddy’s place in Hoboken. I think that such a franchise would do well here in Maryland. Not only is the “get smashed” advertising cute, the smashing of bagels isn’t just a neat gimmick, the breakfast bagel sandwiches are much easier to eat as a result. The egg and cheese never slides out the back.
Hoboken, New Jersey.