Bay Bites
Spring House:Pull off for Spicy Country Cooking
by Gabby Crabcakes

Central Avenue is just that, a busy road that connects the quiet suburbs with the hustle and bustle (and jobs) of the city. Many drive back and forth every day with destinations and goals on their mind. In our travels along this artery, we sometimes overlook the scenery. Part of the scenery that deserves a closer look is Spring House in Davidsonville.

Spring House is a hybrid restaurant, deli and market that offers both commuters and the community respite, as well as menu surprises in a charming country-store setting.

Reincarnated in 1996 by restaurateur Bob Platt of Pirate's Cove, what once was a cafe and liquor store is now a gourmet deli and carry-out market (including beer and wine) in front. In back, it's a warm and comfortable bar and restaurant. While the take-out and catering services are worthy research topics, my recent visit focused on the dine-in menu and service. We visited for dinner, but you can stop in for breakfast, lunch or dinner seven days a week.

The high-ceilinged restaurant is decorated with marketplace and livery touches. First impressions suggest a theme restaurant, like those packaged by large chains, but I was assured by Platt that the design and decor were customized.

Plenty of comfy booths seat up to six. On our visit, the room was not busy so we were treated to a large booth. Tables are decorated with maroon floral vinyl cloths, which are attractive and durable but can stick to your elbow (another good reason for good manners to prevail and to keep them off the table) and cloth napkins. We were greeted by a friendly server who was more than accommodating, able to answer questions and happy to give us time to linger and decide.

Decisions were as challenging as ever from a menu that Platt describes as "spicy country." There are the local favorites like crab dip ($7.95) and Baltimore-style crab cakes (market price), but there's also a strong Cajun influence. You'll find it in such appetizers as jambalaya ($3.95), Cajun crawfish popcorn ($7.95) and gumbo du jour (priced daily), as well as in such entrees as shrimp and chicken Creole and specials such as blackened red snapper.

The surprises don't end there. One of the specials on our visit was bison. There aren't many places in our area where you'll be steered to buffalo for dinner.

More expected entrees include crab Norfolk ($18.95), which is described as jumbo lump crab tossed with country ham and shallots in a sherry-laced cream sauce, served in a puff pastry shell; porterhouse steak ($19.95), 20 ounces grilled and served with Tobacco onions and smoked chili butter; and fettuccine with wild mushrooms and grilled chicken ($12.95).

Tough decisions began with our appetizer. A smoked bluefish platter ($6.95) sounded good, but so did the crab and tomato bruchetta ($7.95). Not reaching a compromise, we left the decision to our waiter, who strongly recommended the crab dip. Served with a small freshly baked baguette, jumbo lump crab, cheese and some spicier-than-usual seasonings bubbled in the chaffing dish. It was a great start.

To complement our meal we considered the wine list, which offers a nice variety of wines (mostly Californian) modestly priced under $20. My companion, however, was drawn to the abundant draft beer selection and was won over by a frosty 16oz. mug of Bass Ale ($4.25). I was happily comforted by a glass of the house (Forest Glen) merlot ($3.95).

As for entrees, we were both tempted by the specials. I went with the blackened red snapper, which was a large platter featuring a beautiful piece of fish: moist, fresh and seared with spices. The fish was complemented with a mushroom, onion and green pepper sauce. A large serving of fresh green beans and side of jambalaya with rice finished the plate: enough to satisfy even the hardiest appetite.

My companion felt compelled to order the bison ($21.95), which our server highly recommended. It was grilled to order (medium rare) and sided with sautéed mushrooms, a generous pile of green beans and a scoop of sinfully delicious garlic mashed potatoes. As advised, it tastes like a very good steak.

Poor planning prevailed; I had no room for dessert. But fear not. For those of you who are prepared, the market offers a variety of cakes, pies and ice cream - many of the pastries made on the premises. All wrapped up and ready to go, it's hard to resist these temptations.


Spring House
584 West Central Ave. Davidsonville 410/798-0086

Proprietor: Bob Platt

Reason to go: Eclectic country cooking with a Cajun rhythm.
Something to think about: Whether you dine-in or take-out, you need to pull over.

| Issue 34 |

Volume VII Number 34
August 26 - September 1, 1999
New Bay Times

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