Canton gets a seafood house


Eatery tries to re-create feel of old seafood house

Eats: dining reviews, Table Talk

November 27, 2003|By Sloane Brown | Sloane Brown,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Seems Canton Square regulars have one more thing to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. As of this week, they should have one more restaurant there to choose from. At long last, Nacho Mama's owner Patrick "Scunny" McCusker is opening Mama's on the Half Shell. Actually, this eatery - just a couple of doors down from Nacho Mama's - is owned by McCusker's wife, Jackie, and another partner, Sean Fisher. Patrick McCusker was very involved in putting the whole thing together, however.

He says the concept is to re-create the feeling of the old Baltimore seafood house, Connelly's, which existed in the Pratt Street spot where the Columbus Center now stands.

McCusker says Mama's on the Half Shell has lots of dark wood, an African teak bar, old waterfront photos, oyster plates and oyster cans.

Upstairs is the main dining room with a small wine bar and seating for about 50. Downstairs in the bar area, you'll find TVs and an oyster bar, where staff will shuck and steam shellfish. Table seating is for about 20, plus the stools at the bars.

And the menu?

"No bells, no whistles. We're just trying to do old-style Baltimore seafood," McCusker explains.

The final menu and prices weren't ready at the time of this writing, but we did get a look at a rough draft.

Soups include seafood chowder, Maryland crab and oyster stew. Appetizers include clams casino, grilled seafood pizza, standard pub faves such as potato skins and fried calamari, and the ultimate Baltimore classic - coddies. The raw/steam bar includes all the standards, as well as Prussian oysters - raw oysters laid in vodka, sour cream, red onion and capers - and Mama's clams on the half shell, topped with a chipotle-lime cocktail sauce.

In the entree category, one section is "Connelly's Classics," with offerings such as crab cake platter, fried oyster plate and fish and chips. In addition, there are St. Louis-style ribs, rockfish, veal Oscar and a pasta of the day. McCusker says he will also offer four "fresh catches" - salmon, tuna, rockfish and a daily special - that you can have prepared in one of several ways, including grilled, blackened and with lemon-butter sauce.

McCusker says entrees should range from $13.95 to $23.95, with appetizers in the $3.95 to $12.95 area. The raw and steam bar's fare will run between $3.95 to $16.95. McCusker says the house oysters - blue point - will go for about $9.50 a dozen.

McCusker likes the recent observation of a friend of his.

"He said I was definitely single when I opened Nacho Mama's [10 years ago], and I'm definitely married opening this one."

Mama's on the Half Shell, 410-276-3160, is at 2901 O'Donnell St., in the space where the old Catholic War Veterans, St. Casimir's Post, used to be. It will be open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week, with the full menu served until 11 p.m. weekdays, and light fare - including the raw/steam bar - until 1 a.m. On Friday and Saturday, the full menu will go until midnight. The restaurant should open in a week or so.

Blue Sea Grill

Baltimore restaurateur Steve de Castro is another one with much to be thankful for today - like one week-old restaurant and another on the way.

This time last week, de Castro opened his second Cuban-themed Babalu Grill at 2020 Atlantic Ave. in Atlantic City - right in front of Caesar's Palace.

Back here in Baltimore, he says, he's acquired the space in between his Ruth's Chris Steak House, 600 Water St., and the original Babalu Grill, 32 Market Place. That's the space formerly known as Cafe Asia cum Red Coral, which closed several months ago.

Come mid-January, expect the Blue Sea Grill to open there. De Castro sees it as an upscale seafood/crab restaurant, with an oyster bar, too. Unlike its predecessors, Blue Sea will be "strictly a restaurant with private dining" - not the restaurant/nightclub combo that existed there before.

Table Talk welcomes interesting tidbits of restaurant news. Please send suggestions by fax to Sloane Brown, 410-675-3451, or by e-mail to

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