A long, long time ago, way back in April, Cooper and Mike and Alicia and I had a nice little dinner at Pappas Restaurant in Parkville (1801 Taylor Avenue, 410-665-4000). It was just - and I mean just - before Maggie was born and Alicia was in the mood for a crab cake. And who's going to tell a very pregnant girl no?
We'd heard about Pappas, of course, since it's a Baltimore institution, but hadn't been, so we rolled over there one Friday night. Despite the restaurant's long-standing reputation, our expectations were moderate. We had a pretty good idea of what the restaurant would look like, but we weren't really sure if the food would actually live up to the legend.
Fortunately, we were pleasantly surprised. The restaurant did look exactly as we expected - it's dark and has a definite "went there as a kid with my grandparents" vibe, which may have something to do with how many of the customers somewhat resemble my grandparents.
We sat at a table right in the middle of the bustling room and started to look over the menu. We all decided on crab cakes - how couldn't we? - though Cooper and Mike amped it up with a surf and turf pairing the crab cake with a porterhouse. We also ordered stuffed mushrooms which, as it turned out, were enormous. And delicious - they were topped with crab imperial and really tasty, but so big that we all got nervous about our dinners.
Our meals also came with salads (of the standard, icebergy variety, which also remind me of dinner with my grandparents circa 1985) and a pre-appetizer of cucumber and onion marinated in a tart vinaigrette. The flavor was fresh and tangy and I loved it.
But, of course, the real attraction was the entrees. Cooper's and Mike's steaks weren't really much to write home about (they were fine, just not special), and the fries were fine but forgettable. The crab cakes, though, really did live up to their reputation. They were big balls of chunky sweetness bound with just enough filler to make sure the sphere stuck together. Do I know where the crab came from? No, not even close. but it had more than enough flavor on its own - it was much better than some of the tasteless crab that's sometimes served.
Service was good, too, aside from a couple little lags (I waited for a while for a glass of wine because of a bartender screwup, but that's not the end of the world). So we were pleased with our meals - very pleased - and with the overall meal. Is it trendy? No. Is it where you want to take a first date that needs impressing? Probably not. But is it friendly and good and does it feel like Baltimore? Absolutely. And that's worth a whole lot.
[Photo credit: an old post (about restaurants that could use a bit of a refurbish) on the Sun's Dining @ Large blog.]