Wait for the Benediction

The Barn is a bar and a crab place where dessert is the saving grace

October 10, 2002|By Robin Tunnicliff | Robin Tunnicliff,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Why did they send you to the Barn?" a colleague asked. "That's a bar. And a place where you'd go if you wanted crabs. But not a restaurant."

Well, actually it is a restaurant, but that's hard to tell. Bands with names such as No Pets perform here. "Nasty" Nestor usually broadcasts his sports-talk radio show here during the NFL season. Ex-Raven Tony Siragusa did his show at the Barn a few years ago.

The first thing that greets anyone walking in off Harford Road is the smell of smoke - an odor that screams "bar!"

Stroll down the hill on the south side of the old building, however, and you'll find the unadorned entrance to the restaurant, at the basement level.

Not a fancy place by any stretch of the imagination: The floor is tiled, the lights are fluorescent and the throb of the music playing upstairs pulses through the low ceiling. The only signs of decoration are an impressive number of photos of former athletes that hang on the walls. Cal with hair. Eddie Murray. A few Phillies and Red Sox long since retired.

Crabs reign supreme at the Barn year-round, brought in from the Gulf of Mexico and coated with the restaurant's own blend of spices. I split a dozen with a friend who's a veteran picker. She thought they were very good, while I could not discern anything besides peppery spices.

A large lobster tail stuffed with crab meat didn't taste like much of anything. The crustacean was overcooked to the point of being rubbery, and the filling had more filler than meat. The coleslaw served on the side had too much sugar. The entree's sole saving grace was a slew of crispy, thin fries dusted with a hint of crab spice.

The potential was there for a great, thick cream of crab soup. There was plenty of meat and a judicious dose of spice to make things interesting. But the soup came to the table lukewarm.

And the potential was there as well for an appetizer of barbecued shrimp. The sight of six fat shrimp wrapped in crisp bacon made our mouths water. But the bright-orange sauce spooned over the shrimp brought nothing to the party. We tried the sauce on its own to be sure that it was barbecue, which it was. But it was a very weak barbecue, more akin to sweet-and-sour sauce than anything else.

Just when I was about to write off the Barn, a shrimp-salad sandwich arrived. Piled onto a fresh kaiser roll was a more than generous mound of perfectly cooked, medium shrimp tossed lightly in mayonnaise, spice and bits of crunchy celery.

Then came Bo's Benediction brownie sundae, which our extremely professional server praised to the skies. A large, molten fudge brownie surrounded by five scoops of vanilla ice cream took up every bit of space on a dinner plate. And we gobbled up every bit of that dessert, right down to the last drop of chocolate sauce swirled onto the plate's rim.

Truly Bo's Benediction was also the Barn's.

The Barn

Where: 9527 Harford Road, Carney

Open: For lunch and dinner daily

Prices: Appetizers $2 to $8.95; entrees $3.95 to $25.95

Credit cards: Major credit cards

Call: 410-882-6182

Food: ** 1/2

Service: ** 1/2

Atmosphere: **

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