Bay Bites
Rudy's Tavern: Good Food with Fun but No Frills
by Gabby Crabcakes

I'll admit to initial mixed feelings about Rudy's Tavern, located on General's Highway near the Anne Arundel County fairgrounds. Many times I've been tempted to stop, intrigued by the longevity (founded in 1940) and its crowded parking lot. My hesitation came from the sign posted in front warning, "No Colors, No Leathers, Proper ID Required."

As it turns out, the sign - like the tavern itself - is a remnant of times past. What you will find at Rudy's is a casual, no-frills meeting place where people socialize and eat good, inexpensive food after checking their attitudes and pretenses at the door.

On a dinner visit recently, we encountered several families with small children and grandparents, a large group of midshipmen, couples on date night and a mixed bag of patrons cozied up to the formidable bar. The bar, which spans at least 40 feet, is the focal point of the main room. Bar stools with fraying vinyl are scattered throughout, with additional counter space at the partition for the non-smoking section. There are also a dozen or so free-standing tables. The other large dining room is set with many tables as well as a booth for a DJ, several large speakers mounted in the corners, a large screen hanging from a wall and a video projector suspended from the ceiling. This is the room where the parties take place, including Monday night's "Boot Scoot" line dancing.

Don't expect cloth napkins at Rudy's. You do get a napkin dispenser at most tables. Sugar packets are held in Styrofoam soup cups. In fact, most meals are served on Styrofoam. Not much need for a dishwasher here: Even the utensils are plastic.

But this is nit-picking. What Rudy's Tavern is all about is fun.

A jukebox, several video games, a pinball machine, shuffle bowl and a classic long-table shuffle board are here gathered for patrons' whimsy. There are also several televisions behind the bar for viewing a favorite sporting event.

Behind the bar is an open grill, and through a service window in the wall we caught faint glimpses of the busy kitchen. Aside from the obvious appeal from the bar crowd, sampling some of Rudy's food was my task at hand.

Serving food seven days a week from 10am until 11pm, Rudy's menu offers everything from eggs to oysters. They also offer steamed hard crabs in season. Soups and salads (e.g. chicken and tuna) are made fresh in house. Grill items and bar food feature predominantly, such as a 14 lb. chili dog ($2.65), a mushroom Swiss burger (served with French fries $3.99), a turkey club (served with chips $4.80) and Buffalo wings ($4.99). A one-pound order of steamed shrimp ($11.99) is the most expensive item on the menu, while you can order Salisbury steak or meat loaf with mashed potatoes, vegetable and dinner roll for only $4.55. Daily specials are always available.

The specials on our visit included pork or beef barbecue sandwich with cole slaw and chips ($2.99), chicken-fried steak with mashed potatoes or fries with vegetable and roll ($6.99) and a grilled cheese sandwich with chicken and rice soup ($3.95) Not sure which way to turn, I quizzed our waitress. While she strongly recommended the crab cake sandwich ($5.99), she admitted her favorite dish was the steak and cheese sub ($4.65). My companion was fixated on the pizza being consumed at a neighboring table - noted on the menu as Anne Arundel County's best pizza by Washingtonian Magazine - so his choice was a foregone conclusion. I opted for the insider information.

But to start, we ordered the fried appetizer sampler, which included two oysters, two mozzarella sticks, two jalapeno poppers, and two hot wings. The platter was served with sides of blue cheese and cocktail sauces. The oysters were particularly good, and we were assured that they were local. This was a great way to start our meal and perfect to split between two. It was also served fresh from the fryer and hot.

My companion's pizza with sausage, mushroom and onion (a medium, planning on leftovers, $12.10) came hot from the oven with a thin crust and fresh toppings. We were happy to see sliced sausage as opposed to the common crumbled style. It was very good, and even better the next morning for breakfast.

My steak and cheese came as ordered with fried onions and mushrooms, lettuce and tomatoes. The sandwich was made even better with the cheese, onions, mushrooms, and good-quality rib eye grilled and melted together. It is by far the best cheesesteak I have eaten in these parts.

In addition to the good food and light-hearted atmosphere, we had some fun playing a few video games while waiting for our food.


Rudy's Tavern
General's Highway, Crownsville

Proprietors: Donald Atwell and Lois and Vernon Frame

Reason to go: A rare find: A restaurant/bar that hasn't succumbed to the commercialization of the 21st century.

Something to think about: Martha Stewart it ain't, and I hate Styrofoam.

| Issue 41 |

Volume VII Number 41
October 14-20, 1999
New Bay Times

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