A typical eclectic menu served up since 1946

Forest Diner, off U.S. 40 in Ellicott City, is true to its culinary roots

Restaurant profile

Howard Live

September 06, 2001|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Diners are among America's unique contributions to world cuisine. The first diner appeared in 1872, when Walter Scott began to offer prepared food from a converted horse-drawn freight wagon in Providence, R.I. Webster's Dictionary defines a diner as "a restaurant in the shape of a railroad car," and diners reflect the style details that diner manufacturers borrowed from railroad cars.

"It's surprising how many people are still interested in the old diners," says Will Reich, owner of Forest Diner, off U.S. 40 in Ellicott City, which has served customers since 1946.

The original diner is still there - it's now surrounded on the outside with additions and alterations. On the inside, however, the original diner is recognizable, and is one of three seating areas.

"The diner car was originally manufactured in 1941," says Reich, who has owned the diner for 2 1/2 years with wife Jill and son Scott, Reich's partner. "It's in nearly perfect condition and has operated steadily as a diner since the Forest Diner first opened in 1941."

Forest Diner bills itself as "Home of the $5 Crabcake," and indeed, crabs are a specialty.

"It's the cheapest crab cake in the state of Maryland," says Reich. "But it's good quality."

There's also Maryland crab soup, crab "wings" and the crab cake platter.

The diner offers several hot and cold sandwiches. Patrons can choose from pork barbecue, grilled chicken breast, hot roast beef, hot turkey, chicken cheese steak and fried oyster. Also on the menu are chicken, tuna, shrimp or egg salad sandwiches; turkey, ham or beef club sandwiches; and BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato) and turkey breast sandwiches.

If salads are more your style, consider a Greek salad, Caesar salad (plain or with chicken) or diner salad (topped with tuna or chicken salad, coleslaw and potato).

Most diners have an eclectic menu, and Forest Diner is no different. Platters, which are served with mashed potatoes or baked potato, vegetable or small salad and rolls, range from turkey and dressing, chicken pot pie and home-style meatloaf to tuna steak, popcorn shrimp in the basket and fried oysters (in season).

Also on the menu are chopped sirloin steak, prime rib, T-bone steak and New York strip steak. If Italian cuisine is your preference, the diner serves spaghetti and meatballs (with garlic bread), chicken parmigiana (with spaghetti and garlic bread) and lasagna (beef or cheese).

Forest Diner offers a variety of burgers, from the cheeseburger and bacon cheeseburger to the Mexican burger (with green and red peppers, salsa and jalapenos), chili burger, pizza burger and mushroom burger (with sauteed mushrooms and Swiss cheese).

"Diner food is appreciated by people all over the country," says Reich. "They know what menu items to expect at a diner - that's what makes diners really popular."

Forest Diner

Where: 10031 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City 21042; 410-465-5395.

Hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Sundays.

Prices: Breakfast $1 to $8.95; lunch/dinner $3.10 to $10.95.

Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Diners Club.

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