18 November 2009

Review: Schula's Grill & Crab House in Hagerstown, MD

Meal: Weekday Lunch
Atmosphere: Casual
Service: Excellent
Prices: Moderate
Food: Untraditional

Schula's Grill & Crab House is located at 11205 John F. Kennedy Drive in Hagerstown, MD. They're a recent arrival to the area, and Dining Companion (DC) and I were quite excited when this non-chain seafood restaurant opened.

Schula's has a main dining room on one side of the restaurant, and a bar on the other. The dining room is pleasant in appearance with light wood tables and chairs, wood floors and tasteful decorations. It was brightly lit and felt spacious.

The service was excellent. The hostess was pleasant when she seated. Our server, too, was quite friendly and accommodating.

The lunch menu at Schula's includes a variety of seafood dishes, such as a baked clams appetizer ($9.99), a crab cake sandwich ($9.99), and a fish & chips basket ($7.99). A cup of creamy crab soup costs $3.99. A small selection of non-seafood items—such as burgers, chicken breasts, pastas and salads—are also available. Schula's also runs specials like All You Can Eat Crabs on certain days of the weeks.

DC and I split an order of the Hot Crab & Artichoke Dip appetizer ($10.99) and the Surf & Turf platter ($12.99). The Surf & Turf platter included a 4 oz. hamburger, a 4 oz. crab cake sandwich, French fries and cole slaw.

Unfortunately, the first thing to arrive to our table was the crab dip appetizer. The green and gray mold that was growing on the accompanying French bread slices definitely cast a bit of a pallor over the rest of the meal. We signaled our server to show her the mold, and she immediately apologized and took away the dish. In a short while it was returned to us—again, with apologies—and this time the bread was free of mold. Nonetheless, it made me question the restaurant's claim of being “committed to bringing you the highest quality, freshest product available daily.”

(As a side note, DC and I were a bit annoyed that the restaurant did not offer to discount our meal because of the moldy bread. At the very least, complimentary beverages would have been appreciated. Serving bread with mold is unacceptable, and I believe customers should be compensated when this occurs.)

The crab dip itself was interesting, but not exceptional. There was very little crab, and the artichokes were overwhelming. Indeed, DC and I both thought the artichokes were an odd pairing with the crab, especially since the dip had no flavor of Old Bay or similar seafood seasoning (a standard for this region). We were pleased that it was served very hot, however.

The steak fries that accompanied our Surf & Turf platter were standard. The crab cake consisted of very little filler and had some nice, large lumps of meat, but it lacked flavor. Again, it was missing that traditional Old Bay flavor that tends to season crab dishes in this region. If you enjoy lightly seasoned food, however, you will definitely enjoy the crab cake at Schula's. In terms of size and quality, it's well worth the price.

The burger was seasoned in an unusual way and cooked a little more than the “medium well” I specified. Bits of herbs, onions and other things had been mixed with the meat. DC said, “This tastes like meatloaf.” It wasn't bad, but it was unexpected. Although we asked for cheese on the burger, it arrived with only lettuce and tomato. The Surf & Turf was also supposed to be accompanied by a serving of cole slaw. This, too, was absent.

The restroom in Schula's was very clean (I could smell the bleach). It was fully stocked and pleasantly decorated.

My verdict: You won't find traditional “Maryland style” seafood at Schula's. Indeed, many of their dishes appear to have non-traditional flavorings or seasonings. But the quality of the food seems to be pretty good (as long as it isn't moldy), and the prices are pretty reasonable for their portion sizes.

Tastefully Yours,

Ms. Dish

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