Eclectic fare at Key West

Review: The restaurant's atmosphere is short on Florida flavor, but its menu offers a number of tasty choices

$50 and under

Arundel Live

March 16, 2000|By David Michael Ettlin and Bonnie J. Schupp | David Michael Ettlin and Bonnie J. Schupp,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Where to eat. What a dilemma.

Chinese? (We do that all the time.)

Indian? (David dislikes curry.)

Look at this one, in the discount book -- Key West! Visions of palm trees and Parrot Heads, jugglers, clowns and musicians performing under a large, blood-orange sun.

That's how we picked the Key West Bar & Grill, down a dark and winding road, through a Hanover industrial park to a Ramada Inn undergoing some heavy-lift remodeling. Key West? Right.

Then the parking lot was a mystery, so jammed with cars that we had to walk a block to the entrance -- although most of the motel windows were dark and the bar and restaurant were rather empty.

The restaurant had no palm trees, either, except for a few depicted in the freshly painted wall murals (including a most un-Keysian volcano island). And the music playing from the ceiling was jarring rock 'n' roll, not the casual Margaritaville Buffetting one might hope for. The digital music channel was stuck, management explained.

The restaurant got better. From our "how ya doin', hon" kind of waitress, Crystal Spears, to the Key lime pie (at last, the Keys!), it turned out to be pretty good, if a little eclectic.

While David opened with the tasty, $6.95 grilled satay chicken strips with spicy peanut sauce, Bonnie checked out the $2.95 cup of Maryland crab soup -- the latter proving the winner to us and to the judges of the 1997 and 1998 Maryland Seafood Festival. It is the best David has tasted.

David then dove into the special of the night, the $14.95 "king cut" prime rib, with made-from-scratch mashed potatoes; it was the only entree of the night to come with a salad.

The beef was tender and a perfect medium-rare as ordered. And the potatoes -- well, David mashes them at home, and all he could do was shake his head in wonder at the amazing golden mound. Somewhere in the kitchen lurks a potato artiste.

Bonnie's $14.95 Bourbon Street salmon, said to be cut on the premises from whole, fresh Atlantic salmon and marinated for 24 hours before grilling, was moist and tasty, but not as remarkable as one might hope from the menu description.

And the promised pistachio jasmine rice accompaniment, well, they didn't have it that night. There was jasmine rice of another flavor; again, not as exotic as hoped for.

Both dishes came with sauteed green beans -- which we agreed were tasty, but Bonnie found a little on the greasy side -- and a perfectly ripe, sliced strawberry (one berry to each plate).

As we ate, the music changed -- the sounds from the ceiling vanishing under the power of the "Latino Night" DJ's superior equipment in the adjoining bar.

And dessert? The $3.50 pie is made on the premises. A real graham-cracker crust. A rich Key lime filling.

With the two glasses of house white wine, the bill with tax would have been $51.66 -- except for that discount-book card.

Crystal returned with the card, with a hole punched through Key West's number, and the bottom line on the check was $36.71 before her well-deserved tip.

She also solved the mystery of the parking lot: "It's a Ramada park-and-fly. They're not really here."

In a few weeks, though, parking won't be such a mess. Key West is getting a parking lot and building a banquet room. Maybe they'll even get a palm tree.

David and Bonnie welcome readers' suggestions on Anne Arundel restaurants with a good meal for two, priced at less than $50 (before tip and taxes). Write to them at, or c/o The Baltimore Sun, 8131 Ritchie Highway, Suite E, Pasadena 21122.

Key West Bar & Grill

Where: 7253 Parkway Drive, Hanover; 410-712-7171

Hours: 6: 30 a.m. to 11: 45 p.m.; dinner 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Prices: Appetizers, $2.95-$7.95; entrees, $10: 95-$29.95

Credit cards: all

Rating: *** Ratings: * culinary wasteland **** culinary heaven

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