13 August 2012

Review: Cinco de Mayo in Hagerstown, MD

Meal: Weekend Lunch
Atmosphere: Casual
Service: Just Okay
Prices: Average
Food: Average

Cinco de Mayo is located at 1703 Massey Boulevard in Hagerstown, MD. The building is the former location of The Ground Round and a few other restaurants.

We were greeted immediately by a friendly host and seated in a booth. The interior of the restaurant is large and includes two dining rooms. One of the dining rooms has a bar. In general, the restaurant felt clean and looked attractive.

I suspect the designers of the decor where going for a certain look and feel, but neither Dining Companion (DC) and I were able to categorize it. One one hand, the booths felt cheap and the paint seemed to be slapped onto the walls. On the other hand, the bar looked quite nice, including the display of top shelf liquor. In general, I'd say that the interior of Cinco de Mayo creates a family-friendly and casual atmosphere that seems slightly more upscale than some (but not all) of the other Mexican restaurants in Hagerstown.

We were quickly served a complimentary bowl of tortilla chips and a cup of salsa. The salsa was spicy, the chips were crisp, and I had no complaints. In fact, I found the salsa particularly delicious. When our bowl (which looked exactly like the stainless steel mixing bowls I have in my kitchen) of chips was empty, we were offered a refill.

Our server was pleasant, but lacked the extreme friendliness that I've encountered in other local Mexican restaurants. We asked for additional time to review the menu, and he was a bit slow returning to our table. But our beverages were refilled promptly whenever he noticed our glasses were low.

I ordered an appetizer plate of Beef Nachos ($7.29) and DC chose a combination platter that included three entrees and one side ($8.99). He opted for a hard beef taco, a beef burrito, a chile relleno, and a side of refried beans. We were not charged for our beverages.

It took a little longer than expected for our food to be delivered to our table, but it was served hot. The nachos were respectable but nothing to rave about. DC's food was also "standard."

Overall, we found the meal to be slightly better than some of the other local Mexican restaurants, but below the quality of our favorite Mexican restaurant in the area.

The restrooms were stocked with soap and paper towels, and the faucets were in working order. I thought they could have used a little additional cleaning, however. DC said the men's room was "dirty."

My verdict: Cinco de Mayo in Hagerstown is a fairly average Mexican restaurant compared to the standard in the area. The free beverages make the price more affordable and attractive.

Tastefully yours,

Ms. Dish

07 August 2011

Review: La Tolteca Mexican Restaurant in Hagerstown, MD

Meal: Weekend Lunch
Atmosphere: Casual
Service: Efficient and Friendly
Prices: Typical
Food: Pretty good

La Tolteca Mexican Restaurant is located at 1101 Opal Court in Hagerstown, MD. The establishment is just off of Eastern Boulevard and is the former Al Pomodoro restaurant.

The building itself is a typical office/commercial building, containing a variety of businesses (medical, insurance, etc.). La Tolteca is based on the first floor of the building and isn't immediately apparent upon entering the parking lot.

Signage indicates that La Tolteca is a “family” restaurant. Kids' meals were available on the menu and there were children present in the restaurant when we entered. Parents should note, however, that there is a bar on the premises.

The interior of the restaurant is pleasantly decorated (the owners decided to skip the garish airbrushed paintings and dusty sombreros that often seem to find their way onto the walls of Mexican restaurants), with a distinct but tasteful “South of the Border” feel. Everything appeared very clean and neat.

We were quickly seated by a pleasant host, and our server appeared at our table almost immediately after we settled into our seats. He was attentive, friendly and the model of efficiency. Throughout the entire meal the service exceeded expectations. In fact, a man we suspected to be the owner or manager stopped at our table midway through our meal, asked if everything was satisfactory, and refilled my beverage glass.

The menu is typical of Mexican restaurants in this local area, including a selection of “combination” plates that offered a variety of traditional dishes: tacos, burritos, enchiladas, tostados, chile rellenos, nachos, fajitas, and more. There are two price points for their dinner combination meals: $8.50 and $9.50. Special meals cost a few bucks more, and lunch meals cost less. Side dishes include standards like Mexican rice and refried beans.

A basket of complimentary tortilla chips (homemade), a small carafe of salsa, and a dish of white sauce were brought to our table as soon as we were seated. The chips were crunchy and delicious. The salsa was a lovely combination of cilantro and tomato with a hint of heat. The white sauce didn't really suit our tastebuds, however. It was reminiscent of seasoned Miracle Whip.

Our food was delivered very quickly. La Tolteca would be a great place for a quick lunch, as the service is extremely fast. Dining Companion's special pork tacos ($8.50) were piping hot. The accompanying rice and beans were also appropriately heated. He thought the pork tacos were a bit dry and could have been seasoned more, but he still declared them “good.” My combination meal ($8.50) included two tacos, a tostado with cheese, and an enchilada. Most of my meal was warm, but the tacos weren't as hot as I would have liked. The cheese on the tostado was deliciously spicy. The enchilada sauce was too sweet for my taste—almost like BBQ sauce. Overall, I thought the food was better than average.

The restrooms in La Tolteca are very clean and nicely designed. They were fully stocked with all the usual accoutrements. Indeed, the entire restaurant seemed clean and was a very pleasant dining atmosphere.

My verdict: La Tolteca is a great choice for Mexican food in Hagerstown, MD. The service is friendly and efficient, the food is pretty good, and the establishment is very clean.

Tastefully yours,

Ms. Dish

La Tolteca on Urbanspoon

Review: Chic's Seafood Restaurant in Hagerstown, MD

Meal: Weekend Lunch
Atmosphere: Casual Filth
Service: Friendly
Prices: Way Higher Than They Should Be
Food: Barely Edible

Chic's Seafood is located at 300 Summit Avenue in Hagerstown, MD. Hagerstown's award-winning City Park is nearby.

One half of Chic's is a carry-out seafood counter, which offers raw and fresh fish, shellfish and other seafood fare. The other half is an eat-in dining room. In addition, Chic's Seafood sells steamed Maryland blue crabs for both take-out and eat-in customers.

Chic's Seafood isn't located in the nicest part of Hagerstown, and the exterior of the building reflects this. Although not offensive to the eye, it could certainly use an update. The interior, unfortunately, isn't any better.

The dining room consists of an assortment of tables and booths, typical fake fish décor on the walls, and a sad attempt at a “seafaring vessel” atmosphere. Although it's understandable for a seafood restaurant to be quaint and casual—and, maybe, a bit dark and dingy, too—there's absolutely no excuse for filth. The tops of the tables felt sticky. The salt and pepper shakers seemed to be coated with grease. The menus were smeared with unidentifiable substances.

Our server greeted us almost immediately after we sat in our booth. She was cheerful and pleasant throughout our dining experience. The service she provided was above average and definitely the best part of the meal.

The menu offers a wide range of traditional seafood dishes. Snack baskets (e.g. fried shrimp with french fries and cole slaw) are about $9 and probably the right size for a lunch portion. Main entrees—such as 2 crab cakes, jumbo steamed shrimp, or grilled tuna steak—include two sides and are priced at about $14-$18.

Although famished, Dining Companion (DC) and I both declined an appetizer and opted instead for fairly large meals. I chose The Chesapeake combination plate (1 deluxe crab cake, 2 jumbo shrimp, 2 sea scallops, 1 fish fillet, 1 oyster and ¼ lb clam strips) for approximately $22. DC opted for the fish special (fried haddock) for approximately $14.

I chose a salad as a side dish, and it was served before my meal. I immediately regretted it, as the lettuce was drowning under a gigantic pool of salad dressing. Perhaps I should have ordered my dressing in a separate dish. Indeed, this was a lesson learned the hard way. Nonetheless, the ratio of dressing to lettuce was so ridiculous that I wondered if the owner of Chic's had a stake in the Hidden Valley Ranch company. It did occur to me that the copious amount of dressing had been intentionally poured across my salad to disguise the browning vegetables and the wilting iceberg lettuce. As far as salads go, this one was subpar. Unfortunately, it was one of the better parts of the meal.

Our food was delivered relatively quickly by our server, who also cheerfully refilled our ice tea glasses. I went for my deluxe crab cake first, as crab cakes are a favorite dish of mine (as regular readers of this blog already know).

I have one thing to say about this deluxe crab cake: If this was the “deluxe” version, I'd hate to try the regular version. The texture was mealy. It was overseasoned with the wrong seasonings. It lacked any crab flavor. In fact, it tasted more like a fish cake than a crab cake. I will never order a crab cake from Chic's Seafood again.

The rest of the meal at Chic's Seafood continued to meet the same poor standard. I took a bite of the fried oyster, chewed twice, and spit it into my napkin. (Given how much I love food, this is an extremely unusual behavior for me.) The oyster seemed so mushy that I wondered if it had gone bad. Admittedly, DC tried the remainder of my oyster and remarked that the texture I disliked was common among canned oysters. Since oysters are out of season at the moment, I was probably completely idiotic to order any dish that contained oysters. Well, I paid for my mistake.

Rather than bore you with the dismal details of the rest of my meal, I'll try to condense it for you: the jumbo shrimp were edible, the fried clams (most likely prepackaged and frozen) were the best part of the meal, the scallops were cold and barely cooked, and the fish fillet was overcooked until totally dry.

DC's fried haddock was mediocre. I thought it had an odd flavor. His side of green beans also had a strange sour taste that was impossible for us to identify. Quite frankly, to me they tasted just a day away from going bad. Indeed, many items in our meals tasted as if they were on the verge of spoiling.

The restrooms in Chic's Seafood are a sad state of dirt and disrepair. In the ladies room, the ceiling tile was peeling from the floor, the stall doors were stained, the sink desperately needed cleaning, and a random toilet lid was propped in the corner of a stall. Paper towels and hand soap were fully stocked. The men's room, however, was in an even sadder state. DC described it as “reminiscent of a truck stop bathroom that hadn't been cleaned in weeks.” Among its finer points was a pervasive odor of urine and a soap dispenser coated with black grime.

If this is the state of the restrooms—which are seen and used by customers—what kind of condition must the kitchen be in?

My verdict: Given the filth in the restaurant and the poor taste of the food, I never intend to return to Chic's Seafood.

Tastefully Yours,

Ms. Dish

16 March 2010

Review: The Greene Turtle in Hagerstown, MD

Meal: Weekday Lunch
Atmosphere: Casual Sports Bar
Service: Efficient
Prices: Typical
Food: Average

The Greene Turtle is located at 12818A Shank Farm Way in Hagerstown, MD. This restaurant has locations in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and D.C.

The atmosphere inside The Greene Turtle is that of a sports bar. There's a very large bar in the center of the building, with pub tables nearby. The restaurant also has plenty of booths and dining tables. Giant televisions hang from the ceiling, and each booth has its own small individual flat-screen TV. The restaurant is brightly lit, clean, and casual.

The Greene Turtle menu includes standard sports bar fare, with a little bit of an emphasis on Maryland flavor. Menu items include wings, sliders, a spinach/artichoke dip, queso with soft pretzel sticks, crab dip, burgers, fish and chips, chicken tenders, steaks, and wraps.

The hostess who seated us was friendly and pleasant. Our server was extremely efficient—he anticipated our needs and met them before we even made a request—although his overall manner was a bit aloof and detached. The staff is dressed casually in t-shirts, which fits with the casual atmosphere of this establishment.

Dining Companion (DC) ordered a bacon cheeseburger with a side of French fries ($6.99). I had the soup/salad combination ($7.99), with the bowl of Maryland Crab Soup and the house salad.

My salad was adequate, although I did discover a couple of slimy pieces of lettuce. The veggies, however, seemed fresh and crisp. The portion side was reasonable. My bowl of Maryland Crab Soup was a fairly large portion, too. It had just enough Old Bay seasoning to give it a bit of a spicy kick, but not so much that the spice was overpowering. The soup also had a sweet undertone (perhaps a hint of nutmeg) that I didn't particularly enjoy. A little more crab meat would have improved the soup as well, as I found the crab to be scanty.

DC's burger was, in his words, “average.” He requested it to be cooked medium, and it came out medium-well. It was a large portion of meat on a large bun, and the accompanying veggies were crisp and fresh. However, the burger was a bit dry and lacked any real flavor. The French fries were average.

The restrooms at The Greene Turtle were large, clean and well-stocked. They were standard for this type of establishment.

My verdict: The Greene Turtle is a typical sports pub, not unlike the many chain restaurants with large screen TVs, bar food and a relaxed atmosphere. The food is average and perhaps a little bit overpriced, but casual diners and sports enthusiasts may find this an enjoyable restaurant.

Tastefully Yours,

Ms. Dish

Review: Georgia Boy Cafe in Hagerstown, MD

Meal: Weekday Lunch
Atmosphere: Casual
Service: Slow But Friendly
Prices: Reasonable
Food: Very Good

Georgia Boy Cafe at Park Circle is located at 325 Virginia Avenue in Hagerstown, MD. Local residents will recognize the establishment as the former The Grille at Park Circle. The atmosphere is casual inside, with a bar and dining tables to the right of the entrance, and another dining room on the left. The interior is dimly lit and feels a bit dingy. Overall, the décor could use an update.

Dining Companion (DC) and I decided to try a weekday lunch at Georgia Boy Cafe. We stood at the front entrance for a while before we were greeted by the staff. Our server—who also served as host—was pleasant and polite, but not overly engaging. The restaurant was empty when were entered, but by the time we left three additional tables of customers had entered the dining room. In addition, Georgia Boy Cafe seems to do brisk take-out business.

The menu at Georgia Boy Cafe includes many typically “southern” dishes, such as fried chicken, fried catfish, collard greens, and black-eyed peas. Standard fare like burgers, salads, and crab cakes are also offered. DC ordered the BBQ Ribs entree ($15.95), which included corn bread and two sides. In this case, DC asked for corn and the macaroni and cheese. I ordered the club sandwich ($5.95).

The service, though polite, was extremely slow. DC and I waited almost an hour before our food was finally delivered to the table.

DC pronounced the ribs “very good,” and definitely worth the price. They were tender, juicy and flavorful. The rib sauce was the perfect balance of sweet and spicy. The macaroni and cheese also got high praise from DC. We both thought the corn bread was a bit crumbly but very tasty.

My club sandwich was loaded with meat. It was an extremely large portion of food and was more than I could eat. The meat was tasty, the bacon was crisp, and the veggies seemed fresh. Overall, this was one of the better club sandwiches I've eaten in the Hagerstown area.

The restroom in Georgia Boy Cafe could use a little updating, and it appeared that the soap dispenser was leaking onto the counter. However, everything was fully stocked and reasonably clean.

My verdict: If you're looking for traditional southern homestyle food, Georgia Boy Cafe is your best choice in Hagerstown. However, allow plenty of time for your meal, because the service can be slow.

Tastefully Yours,

Ms. Dish

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