Getting past the fried pickles

September 06, 2001|By Robin Tunnicliff Reid | Robin Tunnicliff Reid,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

FRIED PICKLES and sour beef do not sound appealing, especially to two adults and two young budding foodies not from Baltimore. But trying such things is what makes restaurant reviews work. So four of us found ourselves recently ordering fried pickles and sour beef at the Silver Spring Mining Co.'s outpost in Bel Air.

To ensure that we didn't leave appalled and/or starving, we rounded the meal out with a few sure bets - buffalo wings, barbecued ribs and a Caesar salad - and some other dishes.

Generally speaking, Silver Spring did a dandy job. Most of the food was good, the airy pine-paneled room provided a pleasant backdrop, the banquettes felt comfortable, and the waitress delivered and removed plates in good time.

And a lot of plates certainly were required. In addition to appetizers of fried pickles and Buffalo wings, we got the blasted onion (a cabbage-sized ball of fried onion slivers) and a mammoth pretzel smothered in delicious, salty crab dip and melted cheese. Everyone ripped apart the crab pretzel and the onion. The meaty little wings got a thumbs-up, too.

We proceeded to the pickles with trepidation. But there was no need to be nervous; the dill-pickle spears fried in a light batter of bread crumbs and dill spices tasted like, well, warm pickles. They were fine with or without the mustard dipping sauce.

Next mission - sour beef with a potato dumpling, the old German staple that drew customers to the restaurant's predecessor, the Silver Spring Inn of Perry Hall. The most important thing anyone not from Baltimore needs to know about this dish is that it's not a bit sour. In fact, it's sweet - a thick hunk of tender beef drenched in gingersnap gravy.

The bland, hard potato dumpling added nothing to the dish, nor was the cole slaw noteworthy. But the meat and gravy were excellent, the perfect thing for supper on a chilly night.

As far as our other entrees went, two worked well, while the third was uneven.

Silver Spring's mildly smoky barbecue sauce enhanced the half-rack of ribs. The more-than-generous-sized Caesar salad all but spilled off the plate, loaded with crisp romaine lettuce and bite-sized croutons. Similarly sized chunks of vegetables would have greatly improved the sauce in the pasta dish called Gemelli's garden. It was made unwieldy by long carrot sticks and green pepper wedges.

Portions tend to be large at Silver Spring, so much so that we polished off only one of four pretty desserts - a slice of lighter-than-air cheesecake.

The thick, grainy consistency of the "flourless chocolate indulgence" pleased us, but even the biggest chocoholic among us conceded that the cake/pie hybrid was too chocolatey. Conversely, the watery chocolate sauce drizzled on the Oreo sundae didn't taste strong enough. We also would have preferred more ice cream and less whipped cream.

In the Reese's peanut-butter pie, too many peanuts on top detracted from the creamy sweetness of the peanut-butter filling and crunchy chocolate-cookie crust.

Nitpicks aside, Silver Spring Mining Co. is a great choice for adults and children. What's not to like about straightforward American fare (with a few offbeat choices) served efficiently in a nice atmosphere.

Silver Spring Mining Co.

705 Bel Air Road, Bel Air


8634 Bel Air Road, Perry Hall


Open: For lunch and dinner daily

Credit cards:Visa, MasterCard

Prices: Appetizers $2.29 to $9.99; entrees $4.69 to $18.99

Food: ** 1/2

Atmosphere: ** 1/2

Service: ** 1/2

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