Forming the corner of a charming brick street in Ellicott City is a small, attractive restaurant appropriately named Sidestreets.
We found Sidestreets for lunch on a rainy spring Saturday. We also found it comfortable and accommodating with tasty food and a pleasant view of the changing street scene. It proved a pleasant haven from the dampness outside.
Sidestreets has two dining rooms and a bar on the first floor. With dark wood and watercolors in one dining room, wine posters in another and traditional trappings throughout, the rooms are cozy and inviting.
Up a wide staircase is a gracious dining room -- not open for lunch -- wrapped around the stairway for a loft effect. The room has small windows with stained glass, and a generally warm feel.
We were definitely interested in warm, given that the day was not. So we began lunch with two cups of soup -- Maryland crab ($2.75) and the soup of the day, cream of salmon and crab ($3).
The Maryland crab soup was thick with vegetables and had a nice, though not spicy, flavor. The pieces of crab, however, were small and sparse.
Not so in the cream soup, which had good-sized bits of crab and salmon. The broth was thick enough to be almost like pure cream, but not heavy or gravy-like, as in some cream soups. It was delicious.
With our soups, we enjoyed a large loaf of French bread (75 cents)served warm.
The lunch menu has about a half-dozen entrees, as well as a selection of deli sandwiches, salads and pastas with a choice of sauces. There are also some light combinations: half of a sandwich and a cup of soup or small salad; half of a sandwich, a cup of soup and a small salad for the indecisive.
NB We decided on a chef's salad ($5.50) and a crab cake club sand
wich ($8.25), probably the most expensive item on the lunch menu.
The salad looked small but turned out to be quite large, with healthy strips of American and Swiss cheeses and turkey over fresh romaine. The blue cheese dressing was good -- it didn't have too much mayonnaise.
The crab cake club was made with two pieces of toast, instead of the traditional three, but was a large sandwich nevertheless, with bacon, lettuce and tomato. The crab cake was unusually soft from being lightly cooked, rather than too rich in mayonnaise, I suspect. It was quite tasty, nicely seasoned without being spicy hot. The tomato slices were yellow and hard and should never have gotten to the table.
The sandwich was served with thin, crisp French fries.
We shared a creme brulee with peaches ($3.95) for dessert. It had a very crisp crust above its custard that was dotted with peach chunks. The flavor was good, but it had been heated unevenly -- probably in a microwave -- so that one bite was too cool, another too hot and only a few that were just right. The heating also seemed to toughen the topping too much. The coffee was, however,very good.
Our waitress had been friendly and attentive throughout, though we had a rather long wait for the check. With two coffees, one soft drink and one glass of wine, our lunch tab was $32.70.
We'd had an enjoyable, relaxed lunch in one of Ellicott City's many nooks. It made us want to come back to Sidestreets for dinner sometime.
8069 Tiber Alley Ellicott City (410) 461-5577 Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Sunday brunch, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; lunch and dinner from 2 to 9 p.m.
Reservations: Accepted only for parties of six or more.
Credit cards: Major credit cards accepted.
Handicapped access: Limited access.
Smoking: Separate areas designated.