When we headed to Baltimore County mainstay Patrick's Restaurant & Pub on a recent Friday night, I wasn't sure what to expect. Their website touts the cuisine as "A Maryland menu with European flair" – a tagline that seems like a nebulous catch-all – and a so-so review from Sun critic Elizabeth Large did little to boost my expectations.
Situated in a bustling strip mall setting, the facade, name and location might suggest a sports bar while the inside strives for a not-quite-fine-dining experience. Because we were with a large group it's hard to tell how our service compared with the rest of the restaurant. Our separate room included our group of a dozen-plus and another table of probably half that, all served by one slightly harried waiter. It took me a good half-hour to get a drink ordered and even then it was only because I all but tackled our waiter – after they'd taken and brought the order of the person next to me and headed out the door.
Luckily, Large's review of the restaurant and a look at their on-line menu gave me a good idea what to expect, not to mention what to avoid. I was pleased to see Fried Maryland Tomatoes (singled out in Large's write-up) were still offered and though the evening's specials held some promise, I didn't think a big order of liver and onions was going to make me any friends among the casual acquaintances and neighbors with whom we were dining. Not to mention my liver-hating wife!
Frankly, the one menu offering that did jump out at me was an entree of Broiled Idaho Rainbow Trout. The dish always reminds me of a trip that I took with my sister and her family back when I was a pre-teen. One night at dinner my brother-in-law ordered the rainbow trout and it was one of my first exposures to "real" fish at dinner. For a kid accustomed to fish sticks and the Howard Johnson's all-you-can-eat fried flounder, the head-on presentation and moist, flavorful fish I tried that night in the mid-to-late 1970s may have been one of the early stepping stones toward my current culinary state.
But, considering that this was more a social event than an exploratory dinner out I decided to file the trout away with the liver and go from something that wouldn't be quite as much work. I settled on an entree of Grouper Monte Carlo, a huge portion of firm and flavorful flaky white fish sautéed in white wine with artichokes, lemon, tomato and fresh basil. I couldn't really find the artichokes in the dish but the lemony sauce went well with the mild but tasty grouper.
The Fried Maryland Tomato appetizer was an even bigger hit. While most menus offer fried green tomatoes, Patrick's uses ripe, red tomatoes in their dish and they somehow keep the thick slices from falling apart in the process. And at just $4.99 the packed plate features six thick slices fried in olive oil and topped with cheese and fresh basil. Though my grouper was tasty and filling (thanks in part to a huge house salad and baked potato on the side), it was the fried tomatoes that would make me head back.
Other portions seemed equally large and the varied menu pretty much had something for everyone – steak for some, fish for others, even eggplant parmagiana (which is served in a towering stack) and sour beef with dumplings, a long-standing offering dating back to Patrick's early days. A bite of fried Maryland crab cake was tasty but the folks at Michael's, Faidley's, G&M and Patrick's (in Baltimore) don't have anything to worry about.
While I won't be running back to Patrick's anytime soon, you could do worse than this Baltimore-area institution that is sure to please even the most diverse group of appetites and palates.