New Greene Turtle best as sports bar

Trying to appeal to families and partyers


Dining Reviews - Hot Stuff

February 17, 2005|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The booming Greene Turtle franchise began in 1976 with a rinky-dink Ocean City bar that served no food except peanuts. Now there are seven Greene Turtles in Maryland, all cavernous sports bars with televisions galore and often video games, live music, foosball or karaoke nights.

The latest Turtle is in Towson. Unlike Greene Turtles in Fells Point, Annapolis, Ocean City and Salisbury, this one isn't near the water, but Towson is still a promising location for a place that's popular with the 20ish crowd.

And yet, when some friends and I arrived at 8 on a Friday night, the bar area was almost empty. Mostly, we saw families, some with children young enough for high chairs, eating burgers and sharing french fries while half-watching the televisions placed along the walls.

General manager Jerry Mazurowski said the restaurant, which opened in August, hopes to appeal to families out for a meal as well as to partyers out for the night. To make sure the nonpartyers are comfortable, smoking is allowed only in the bar area, which is separated from the rest of the restaurant by frosted glass.

He also said there's been more focus on the menu than in the past. It's true that the food choices at Greene Turtle have expanded well beyond peanuts, but, alas, they remain mired in the land of no imagination. The menu is all about burgers, crab dip and wings, with a few crab cakes, steaks and shrimp dishes thrown in for class.

We decided to try one of the few items on the menu that were remotely unusual, fingers of mahi-mahi in a coconut crust, offered as a special that night. They got the evening off to a great start by giving us a good laugh at their sheer awfulness. It was like someone had shaped sawdust into small cylinders, then toasted them at low heat for a couple of hours until they got good and dry. We detected no fish flavor, no coconut flavor, nothing but dryness. The bowl of sticky-sweet sauce it came with was no help at all.

The crab dip, though infinitely more edible than the mahi, still made a weak showing, mainly because it tasted completely of cream cheese, with almost no discernible crab.

Just when we were getting disgusted, though, the chicken wings appeared to save the day. They were meaty, moist and truly spicy, as we had requested. (For those who don't like to set their mouths on fire, milder sauces are available.)

And the entrees weren't bad at all, once our expectations had been lowered by the appetizers. We liked the sandwiches best. A thin piece of fish in the salmon BLT nicely balanced the salty bacon and hearty bread, and a chicken Florentine panini featured deliciously charred chicken in a grilled sandwich with caramelized red onion, wilted spinach and provolone. A dash of garlic mayonnaise rounded out the flavors.

The rest of the entrees didn't hold up so well under the pressure of ambition. The most expensive entree, $16.99 crab-stuffed twin fillets, were pale imitations of the real deal. The fillets were small and chewy, coated with an overly gooey crab imperial. Flounder with the same crab topping was a better choice, as the fish was notably fresh.

Desserts were limited to a brownie sundae and some sort of warm apple thing, which turned out to be apple-pie filling (probably canned), warmed up and then topped with ice cream. We gave up on that right away and turned our attention to the brownie sundae. Some of us thought the brownie had a waxy flavor, while others thought it tasted OK.

As the night wore on, the bar area grew more and more crowded. Boys checked out girls. Girls checked out boys. A disc jockey arrived. The volume grew louder.

Greene Turtle is not a great restaurant. But it's a heck of a sports bar.

Greene Turtle

Where: 408 York Road, Towson

Call: 410-825-3980

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily, kitchen open 11 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.

Credit cards: All major

Prices: Appetizers $4.49-$10.49, entrees $5.99-$15.99

Food: **

Service: ***

Atmosphere: ** 1/2

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