Cozy quarters mix with stylish food

Cafe: It looks like a country house, but its menu offers everything from teriyaki salmon to gazpacho.

Restaurant profile

August 29, 2002|By Lorraine Gingerich | Lorraine Gingerich,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

You might feel as if you're walking into your grandmother's house as you enter the one-story, white clapboard building. There is a casual, country feel to the Country Kettle Cafe in Poplar Springs, but the food is anything but ordinary.

Owners and chefs Jim and Amy Crooks opened their cozy western Howard County restaurant a little more than a year ago after spending years looking for the right location. They have years of cooking experience at restaurants in Montgomery County, where they grew up.

The couple had dreamed of owning a restaurant for some time. They moved to Carroll County eight years ago and started searching for the right location while they commuted to restaurant jobs in Montgomery County. It took them six years to find a free-standing building that suited their needs.

In addition to Country Kettle Cafe's regular menu, daily specials are offered. "We make all our food from scratch," Amy Crooks said. "We bring in fresh food every day."

Appetizers include onion petals with horseradish sour cream sauce and spinach artichoke dip. Among the soups are Black Kettle beef chili and the Kettle Creation, an 18-ounce bowl of gumbo or beef stew served with a house salad.

The restaurant serves a standard house salad along with Cajun salmon Caesar niciose and turkey apple salads.

Sandwiches and entrees are available for lunch and dinner. Chose from prime rib sub, teriyaki salmon and the spicy black bean burger along with standards such as grilled chicken, Backyard Burger and tuna salad. Entrees include vegetable lasagna, pan seared chicken Marsala and the Plantation (fried catfish, grilled shrimp and andouille sausage served with cheesy grits and vegetables).

Rotating daily specials also are offered. Cream of crab, asparagus soup and gazpacho were offered recently, and the Kettle Creation was chicken and shrimp gumbo.

Crab Imperial and pesto on garlic toast with pine nuts and asparagus was the appetizer of the day ($9.99). Entree specials were chicken etouffee with red beans and rice and asparagus ($14.95) and Southwest tuna steak ($17.95). Also offered are meals for children ($2.50).

A bar is open at the side of the restaurant. Jim and Amy Crooks take turns manning the bar and cooking in the restaurant.

The Country Kettle has a family atmosphere. And, indeed, Amy Crooks says her children and other relatives work there. The casual interior features checked curtains and tablecloths, and flowers in canning jars. Washboards and dried flowers accent the decor.

Although the restaurant looks like a house, Amy Crooks says the building has been a business for many years. Country Kettle Cafe got off to a rough start when some residents opposed its opening. Amy Crooks says the restaurant had formerly been a bar, and residents probably had negative memories. But, she says, she has no animosity and feels the community has welcomed the establishment. "We try really hard to make the place work," she said.

Country Kettle Cafe

Where: 17004 Frederick Road, Poplar Springs; 410-489-5611.

Hours:7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday and Monday.

Prices:Appetizers, $4.95 to 9.95; sandwiches, $4.95 to $7.95; entrees, $10.95 to 17.95; breakfast, $2.25 to $4.95.

Credit cards:Visa, MasterCard, Discover

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