Pete's puts focus on the food

Unpretentious restaurant emphasizes the basics, not culinary adventure

July 15, 1999|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

As the name suggests, Pete's Restaurant on busy Fort Smallwood Road in Orchard Beach is friendly and unpretentious. In fact, Pete's might define friendly and unpretentious.

The neighborhood restaurant offers a decent selection of reasonably priced, basic dishes, from seafood and steaks to burgers and sandwiches.

If you want to fit in at Pete's, dress casual. On a recent weekday evening, the few diners in the restaurant and the regulars chatting at the bar wore shorts, T-shirts and jeans. With its dark interior, faux wood paneling and pictures of old and new Baltimore on the walls, the place had the feel of a club basement.

The service was fast and personable, but not intrusive. And the complimentary port-wine cheese and crackers was a nice change from the standard rolls.

I ordered the 5-ounce lump crab cake ($9.95), which came with rolls and two vegetables. I selected broccoli and the garden salad, turning down the applesauce baked potato, mashed potato, french fries, corn and beets.

The salad -- iceberg lettuce, cucumber slices and a tasteless tomato -- was a disappointment. Things improved when the entree arrived. The seasoned crab cake had the promised lumps, the broccoli was fresh, and the rolls were warm (not a given these days).

Some other seafood dishes include salmon ($11.95), sea scallops ($10.95) and orange roughy ($10.95). No nouveau cuisine here, just old-fashioned dependability.

At $29.95, New York strip steak and lobster tail stuffed with crab meat was the most expensive menu item. Other offerings include half an Eastern Shore chicken ($7.95) and "Pete's signature roast prime rib" -- $14.95 for a thick cut and $10.95 for a regular-- served Fridays and Saturdays.

Six varieties of burgers are available, priced from $4.25 to $5.95. Again, no startling innovation but among solid choices: bacon-cheese; "King of the Road" (bacon, cheese and onions); "The Canadian" (Canadian bacon and provolone); and "The Wisconsin" (Cheddar and mushrooms). Sandwiches included all the basic ones, as well the "Bull of the Woods" ($3.95), hot stacked roast beef with raw onions on a Kaiser roll.

When it comes to desserts, Pete's sticks to favorites. Homemade apple dumpling, cheesecake, a fudge brownie and rice pudding are among the choices. I went with apple pie alamode ($2.50) and wasn't disappointed. The pie, baked at the nearby 3-B Bakery, was served warm with large chunks of apples and a crumb topping.

If it's culinary adventure you want, go elsewhere. If it's food you want, Pete's will please.

Pete's Restaurant

Where: 8031 Fort Smallwood Road, Orchard Beach, 410-437-1779.

Hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday and Tuesday through Thursday; 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Monday.

Prices: Appetizers, $3.95-$7.95; entrees, $7.95-$29.95.

Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express.

Rating: **

Ratings: * culinary wasteland **** culinary heaven

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