Fire prompted Woodstock Inn to add kitchen

Now serving bar food and breakfast all day

August 25, 2005|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

After the hot-weather ritual of getting chocolate snowballs with marshmallow topping at our local snowball stand, I like to take a drive on nearby Woodstock Road, just because it's so leafy and pretty.

On those twilight drives, the sound of cicadas louder than the wind rushing past our open windows, I've often wondered about the Woodstock Inn, which we passed as we drove.

The rundown-looking building was next to some railroad tracks, but basically in the middle of nowhere. Still, there were always cars on the lot, and usually a bunch of motorcycles as well.

It looked like fun. But since it was a bar, it wasn't appropriate for the tired, sugar-sticky kids in the back of my minivan. So I drove by.

Then I got a glossy postcard in the mail saying the Woodstock Inn had been renovated and was now serving food. I was eager to check it out.

The food was pure Maryland bar fare -- crab cakes, steak and rockfish -- the air was filled with cigarette smoke, the waitresses knew what they were doing, and most customers sat at the bar, some eating chicken wings or potato skins, all looking like they had no intention of moving for the foreseeable future.

The building itself dates to 1865, and it's been a bar the entire time, said Tony Braglio, whose family has owned it for more than 30 years. "As far as I know, we're the only bar around that has hitching posts," he said.

Since it's on the edge of Patapsco State Park, Woodstock Inn has long served as an end-of-the-day reward for canoers, horseback riders and bicyclists. And since the drive there is so scenic, it's popular with motorcyclists. Until recently, some frozen pizzas and other snacks were served, but there was no kitchen, Braglio said.

That changed about two years ago when a fire nearly gutted the place, prompting Braglio to add a kitchen and make other upgrades, he said. Even now, it's possible to detect the warm scent of recently cut wood under the stench of the cigarette smoke. The menu is longer than one might expect, five pages, to be precise, but still sticks to the basics -- sandwiches, pizzas, chili and standard bar appetizers including chicken wings, potato skins and crab dip.

Breakfast, served all day, doesn't extend beyond various combinations of eggs, ham, bacon, toast and home fries. You can get two eggs with ham, or two eggs with ham and American cheese on toast, or two eggs with bacon and American cheese on toast.

Mostly, the food is adequate, not more.

Crab cakes were more filler than lump, and a crab pretzel was disappointingly doughy, with too much cheese and hardly any crab in the topping. The pizza was loaded with cheese and arrived sizzling hot, making it much better than the frozen pizzas of yore, but still not good enough to be a draw on their own.

One of the tastiest items we tried -- and also the most expensive at $18.95 -- was a juicy and tender Delmonico steak. It arrived incredibly hot.

Most entrees come with two sides, and you choose from a roster of same-old same-olds, including baked potato, fries, applesauce and broccoli. The hidden hit on the list was a fresh-tasting broccoli slaw with crunchy bits of vegetables lightly coated in a mild dressing.

Woodstock Inn serves no desserts on weekdays, but Braglio said a changing roster, including cheesecake and chocolate mousse, is served on Friday and Saturday nights.

Woodstock Inn

Where: 1415 Woodstock Road, Woodstock

Call: 410-750-3673

Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily

Prices: Appetizers $3.75-$10.95, entrees $6.25-$22.95

Credit cards: all major cards

Food: ** (2 stars)

Service: *** (3 stars)

Atmosphere: ** 1/2 (2 1/2 stars)

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