177 Diner great for breakfast, but . . . $50 and Under

October 30, 1997|By David Michael Ettlin and Bonnie J. Schupp | David Michael Ettlin and Bonnie J. Schupp,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

In cable television ads and above its door, the 177 Diner makes a bold assertion that it features "the best home cooking in Pasadena."

"Your friendly neighborhood diner" would be closer to the mark.

Stop in for a modestly priced breakfast, and you can start up a conversation with just about anyone or eavesdrop on the chitchat about neighborhoods along Mountain Road (Route 177, from which the eatery draws its name).

Furnished mostly with bench-seating booths and a small counter, a few hanging plants, a couple of vintage water-theme photos and mirror panels across the back wall, the diner's airs are about as unpretentious as the conversation.

The breakfast menu ranges from a $1.99 special of two eggs with toast and home fries, to a $4.99 three-egg "kitchen sink" omelet that has everything but. On a recent visit, David, running late for a morning appointment, ordered the special with coffee and had the food on the table in three minutes flat -- and it was just fine.

Breakfasts here (served until 2 p.m.) may not be gourmet, but are down-to-earth, workmanlike diner fare and good value for the dollar.

For the huge population along Mountain Road, from Lake Shore to Gibson Island, the 177 is a convenient place to start the day -- although by the 8 a.m. weekday opening time, much of the traffic has crawled by in the morning rush. The management tried opening earlier, but found drivers generally unwilling to lose their places in line on what is reputed to be the most heavily traveled dead-end road in America.

Lunchtime also proved to be inexpensive and tasty -- and entertaining -- when Bonnie ate there with friends. Her egg salad sandwich was fine, offered on a choice of several breads or rolls and served with chips.

However, the highlight was the warm and efficient service by a charming waitress who exuded Bawlamer.

At dinner, the grading gets tougher.

Maybe we made a mistake in some of our selections, and a diner is not the place to try prime rib. David's slice ($12.95, at the high end of the menu) was tender but dry. It came with two sides; David got a baked potato that spent too much time steaming in its aluminum foil wrapper, and broccoli-cauliflower Alfredo that was heavy on rigatoni shells and a bland cheese sauce.

Bonnie tried a special of the night -- sour beef on instant mashed potatoes ($6.99). The beef and its thick, dark gravy were well-seasoned and tasty, but the potato seemed too buttery. Besides, potato dumplings are more appropriate to sour beef tradition than mashed -- much less instant.

The sour beef comes with no sides, but Bonnie had a hankering for a green veggie. The green beans, which the waitress said were fresh, were either fresh from a can or cooked to a fare-thee-mush, with ham chunks as a salty seasoning.

Highlights were the appetizer and soup.

The hot crab dip ($6.99), served in an edible shell on a plate with small slices of lightly-seasoned garlic toast, was unabashedly excellent and filling. A cup of crab soup ($1.99) was amply stocked with vegetables and had all the zip and flavor one associates with this Maryland specialty. It was a little short on crab, but the appetizer's bounty more than made up for it.

For finishing touches, we sampled the pies -- apple and lemon meringue that were adequate but not extraordinary.

Editor's note: Once a month, David and Bonnie explore Anne Arundel County eateries in search of a good meal for two, priced under $50 (before tip and taxes).

177 Diner

Where: 4590 Mountain Road, Pasadena. 410-360-7143

Hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday-Friday; 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday-Sunday

Prices: Appetizers, from $1.75; sandwiches, from $1.85; entrees, $5.49 to $12.95

Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Rating: Food, ** 1/2 ; Friendliness, ****

Ratings: * culinary wasteland -- **** culinary heaven

Pub Date: 10/30/97

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