Good food, cozy feel let bistro thrive

Restaurant profile

Howard Live

May 25, 2000|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Bill Bateman started 30 years ago booking rock 'n' roll acts for places such as the old Club Venus east of Towson. While the acts performed, he said, "I used to hang out in the kitchen and I always liked cooking."

A new career grew from that, and now his small chain of five suburban restaurants is on the verge of a growth spurt that could lead to a chain of franchises, thanks in part to his eatery in River Hill, Columbia's newest village center.

Located across a driveway from the Columbia Gym at the back of the upscale, brick village center on Route 108, the 2-year-old restaurant is becoming more and more popular, Bateman said.

"We're doing really well," said Brian Hill, the manager.

With similar Bill Bateman's Bistros in Reisterstown, Towson, Bel Air and Padonia Station, the chain is planning to add another restaurant next month in Severna Park. Bateman said he also is scouting locations in Annapolis and Bowie.

"We'd like to get big," he said. "I'm hoping to take it over the edge" to become a successful regional chain and eventually sell out and retire, said Bateman, 59.

The attraction for Columbia patrons is simple - good food, in big portions, reasonably priced in a pleasant, if not distinctive setting, and carryout, too. In nice weather there's also outside seating.

"We try to stay reasonable with our prices. We don't try to get into real fancy types of food," Bateman said.

The decor is informal, with wood tables and photos featuring the Baltimore Orioles and Ravens, the Washington Redskins and the old Baltimore Colts.

Known for its 15 different flavors of chicken wings, sauces made from scratch, and home-style soup and chili, Bateman's is also child-friendly, providing plastic cups with spill-proof tops, free balloons and entrees of $3.59 per child for ages 12 and younger.

The kitchen is semi-open in mid-dining room, while the smoking/bar area is nicely sealed off around a corner on the far side of the entrance.

The menu boasts five varieties of soups, a diverse selection of sandwiches and a basic chicken and beef menu with one or two seafood dishes thrown in.

On a recent Saturday night, the Cowboy Grilled Prime Rib wasn't available, but the baby-back ribs and the crab platter made up for it, especially the crab cakes. One portion of the strawberry shortcake dessert was huge, more than enough for two.

There's a different style of food featured between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. each night of the week (Monday $2 steak night; Tuesday, oriental; Wednesday, fiesta; Thursday, pasta; and Friday, carved beef) and there's a $10 Sunday brunch.

Bateman said the Towson store, on York Road at the edge of Towson University, might be the chain's busiest. The Reisterstown restaurant right behind, but the Columbia location is making gains.

The secret of his success, he said, "is having good people under you. Good management and good employees."

Bill Bateman's Bistro

Where: 6040 Daybreak Circle in the River Hill Village Center; 410-531-7900.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Bar open to 2 a.m. daily.

Prices: Appetizers, $2.49 to $8.49; entrees, $8.99 to $18.99.

Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover.

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