Woodbine Inn sticks to tradition

Restaurant's name comes from tavern formerly in building

Restaurant profile

March 28, 2002|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Tony Russo clearly was thinking about local tradition when he opened Woodbine Inn last month.

The name, for starters. Russo's restaurant, which used to be called Collins Inn, is named for the landmark restaurant that once sat at the same location.

And the food. The Woodbine Inn features such specialties as crab balls, crab fluff and Baltimore hard fry, a crab stuffed with a crab cake, dipped in self-rising flour and deep-fried. "That's one of the items that was on the old Woodbine Inn menu," Russo said.

The building, which dates to the early 1900s, inspired Russo to look to the past. "We're trying to bring the nostalgia back," said Russo, who is originally from Ohio and has lived in the region since the 1970s.

The wooden building, on Route 94 just inside Howard County's western border, at one point was an auto dealership that sold Model-T Fords before it became a tavern in the early 1930s.

The original Woodbine Inn was famous for attracting a well-heeled clientele that liked the down-home atmosphere.

"I didn't really know how old it was until we had actually started on the building, and people brought us old pictures of the building going way back," Russo said.

Russo spent 10 months renovating before opening the restaurant Feb. 10, he said. The bar, dining room and kitchen were updated and brought up to county code, he said.

The dinner menu is heavy on steak and seafood, with the seafood coming from J and T Seafood, a crab outlet across the street from the restaurant.

Appetizers include crab fluff and crab balls, both of which are crab cakes wrapped in dough that is made on the premises and deep-fried. The difference between the balls and the fluff is that the fluff is bigger.

Other appetizers are steamed shrimp, shrimp cocktail and oysters. For those not in the mood for seafood, onion rings, potato skins, chicken wings and other typical sports bar fare are featured.

For the main course, there are, naturally, crab cakes, which can be fried or broiled. Other seafood choices are scallops, lobster tail, fried shrimp and flounder. Steak-eaters can choose from filet mignon, T-bone and New York strip, with prime rib being offered as a special Saturday nights, Russo said.

The main courses come with a choice of sides, including stewed tomatoes, onion rings or corn.

A sandwich menu includes burgers, roast beef, tuna salad and a Woodbine Club made with turkey, ham, cheese, bacon, lettuce and tomato. The restaurant offers sandwiches made with crab cakes and with fried oysters. For dessert, apple pie is among the selections.

A children's menu for diners younger than age 6 includes burgers, fries and grilled cheese.

The new decor is not fancy. When customers walk in, they are greeted by a large bar area, with five televisions tuned to sports events. Tables for diners are off to one side. The dining room in the back, designated for nonsmokers, has white cloths on the tables but few other design details.

Russo said he plans to create collages using pictures that people have given him of the building at various points in its long life.

"Each wall will have something of the old history of the place," he said.

The Woodbine Inn

Where: 401 Woodbine Road, Woodbine; 410-442-1049.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., seven days a week.

Prices: Appetizers, $2.99 to $11.95; entrees, $9.95 to $22.95; sandwiches, $2.95 to $6.95.

Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover and Diner's Card.

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