Bay Bites
Broadneck Grill
by Gabby Crabcakes

How do I choose which restaurants to review each week?

I ask everyone I meet where they love to eat. Since tastes vary, this is a great barometer. Some are drawn to fancy up-scale establishments, while others prefer the comfort and informality of a corner haunt.

When I hear a restaurant referred to repeatedly, I know it's time to investigate for myself. That's the case with this week's focus. An uncanny number of people have referred to the good food and comfortable atmosphere of Broadneck Grill. I was further intrigued by reference to their wonderful Mexican food, including a very popular weekly special on Thursday evenings of all-you-can-eat fajitas ($8.95).

While I didn't make it on a Thursday evening, I did visit Broadneck Grill last Friday for dinner.

Tucked between a Domino's and a florist and across the street from a sports field, in a small strip shopping center in Cape St. Claire, Broadneck Grill is fairly nondescript from the outside. A large lighted sign beckons. Owner Fernando Duran had considered changing it, along with the name, when he bought the place five years ago. He never got to either.

Inside, two dining rooms are separated for utility and convenience (one allows smoking). Together, they seat about 80 people. Dark green carpeting and green patterned vinyl table cloths add to the warmth of the wood paneling and lattice partitions. Vintage area photographs decorate the walls. The larger dining room has a small bar and a tempting glass dessert display. Large blackboards announce specials in both dining rooms.

Open seven days a week, serving lunch and dinner - as well as breakfast on weekends - Broadneck Grill caters to locals and regulars in addition to knowledgeable Annapolitans. But don't expect to dine late. Dinner seating ends at 9pm during the week and 9:30 on weekends (although, Duran says, no one will be turned away while the lights are still on).

Duran, who is also co-owner of the Pachanga Grill in Odenton, has brought his many years experience managing other people's Mexican restaurants to Broadneck Grill. Respectful of his patronage, he continues to offer a popular variety of what he calls American Continental cooking. The menu ranges from New York strip ($14.95) to crab cake platter ($14.95) to fettuccine Alfredo ($9.25) with a wide variety of "authentic" Mexican fare, including burritos, chimichangas, enchiladas, fajitas, and tacos.

Arriving at 8:30pm, we waited in an informal line for only a few minutes before being seated. Electing the first available table in the bustling restaurant, we were seated in the smoking section, where a sole smoker was paying his check.

Specials included baked stuffed flounder ($17.95), broiled deep sea scallops ($13.95), blackened catfish ($12.95), chile verde enchiladas ($11.95), Texas burrito ($11.95) and Chesapeake poblano peppers ($11.95). Service was attentive and fast-paced. Waitresses, dressed in shorts and polo shirts, darted from room to room.

Our first order of business was deciding between the "secret recipe" sangria (mug $3.95, 48 oz. pitcher $12.95) or margarita (mug $3.95, pitcher $13.95). We both went with the margarita. Not too strong, but with the right amount of punch, these proved easy to drink and went down quickly.

As a first course, we deliberated between the macho nachos ($5.95 and $6.95 with added ground beef or chicken) or the stuffed jalapenos ($5.95). Not the usual stuffed jalapenos, these were filled with shredded chicken and a spicy tomato-based sauce. Golden fried and served with sour cream, the five peppers had plenty of heat that lingered on the tongue to be made all the better when washed down with a sip of margarita.

Overwhelmed with the menu, I did not choose easily though I knew my choice would be Mexican. My companion, on the other hand, ordered without hesitation the shrimp fajitas ($12.95). I was tempted by the Chesapeake enchiladas ($9.95), flour tortillas filled with shrimp and crab, topped with ranchero sauce and Monterey jack cheese. This filling was also available in the burrito. Another possibility, based solely on its originality, was the broccoli burrito ($7.95). Ultimately, favorites prevailed and I ordered the chicken burrito ($8.95).

Served with an ample side of Mexican rice and black beans, the burrito was enormous and amply filled with a shredded chicken and tomato sauce mixture similar to the peppers'. I added a side order of guacamole, which on this visit was not fresh, but I am told that, dependent on the avocado delivery, homemade is usually available.

The shrimp fajitas made a big impression, as the sizzling platter nearly smoked up the entire dining room: Good thing we were in the smoking section. Served with six homemade tortillas, pico de gallo, sour cream and guacamole, the skillet was brimming with enough big juicy marinated shrimp, peppers and onions to satisfy even the hungriest appetite. After a second margarita, there wasn't room for dessert, although I have heard great things about the mud pie. Maybe next time.

Broadneck Grill is well known by the folks who live nearby and worth knowing for the rest of us.


Broadneck Grill

1364 Cape St. Claire Road Annapolis 410/757-0002

Proprietor: Fernando Duran

Reason to go: Be sure and check out the weekly specials for a great value and really good Mexican food.

Something to think about: Don't wait if you like to dine late.

| Issue 37 |

Volume VII Number 37
September 16-22, 1999
New Bay Times

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