A landmark Catonsville-area carryout, known since the 1950s for its ice cream, steak subs and onion rings, was damaged in a fire early yesterday, and the owner of Mr. G's Fast Lane said he's unsure when the restaurant will reopen.
The one-alarm fire began about 6 a.m., said Elise Armacost, a Baltimore County Fire Department spokeswoman. The blaze was determined to be an accidental electrical fire, Armacost said, and damage to the restaurant, in the 5600 block of Johnnycake Road, has been estimated at $250,000.
From the road, the building appears undamaged. But inside the store yesterday, blackened kitchen equipment, still smoking, was being pelted by rain falling through broken windows and areas where the ceiling hung down into the shop. Charred pizza boxes, napkins and plastic cups were strewn around what used to be the ice cream counter. The owner said he plans to board up the shop in the next few days.
Waheed Khattak's first job at Mr. G's was behind the fryer. Over 15 years, he worked his way up to manager, then became the owner, purchasing the shop in 2000.
Standing on shards of glass, Khattak, 30, struggled to pull apart the singed pages of his Mr. G's scrapbook, the plastic melted together by the heat of the flames. Inside were articles about the establishment, which opened in 1956, and an old menu he once found while cleaning.
"I'm devastated," Khattak said. "I don't know what to do now."
Mr. G's started as a Twin Kiss ice cream stand and was later expanded into a carryout and hangout. In recent years, it has been a place where people of all ages gather for the food, vintage car shows and general nostalgia.
"It's the same food as they've had forever. That's what makes it special," said Tom Bialek, a restaurant equipment vendor who stopped by yesterday after he heard about the fire. He recalled the onion rings, which he described as "huge, a half-inch thick."
Jim Phelps, who owns a pawn shop across U.S. 40, said it has been at least 20 years since he has eaten at Mr. G's, but he knows many people who still go there often.
"Around here, everyone knows where Mr. G's is," he said. "A lot of places have changed over the years; that place hasn't."
Khattak said it will be up to his landlord, Ina Kronthal, whether the building will be repaired or rebuilt. She could not be reached yesterday.