Strength of Sanders' is its breakfast on the porch

Restaurant review

August 10, 2008|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Sun Restaurant Critic

No review of Sanders' Corner can start with anything but its fine covered porch overlooking the woods and fields surrounding Loch Raven Reservoir. Not for nothing do the servers wear T-shirts saying, "Sanders' Corner: That Dam Place." Decked out with striped awnings, tile-topped tables, potted plants and ceiling fans, it's one of Baltimore County's best spaces for eating casually outdoors.

A new owner, John Naudain, took over this spring, sprucing the place up and adding curbside pickup, valet parking, delivery and a lounge. The food remains essentially the same. (The emphasis is on traditional Maryland cuisine with some modern notes.)

To me, the strength of Sanders' Corner has always been its breakfasts, preferably eaten on the porch. They are gloriously old-fashioned and caloric, dishes like Western omelets, eggs Benedict and French toast or "loaded waffles" with bacon, scrapple or sausage. Not to mention the "chipped beef gravy on toast points."

You can get breakfast until 1 p.m. every day; but the restaurant doesn't open until 11 a.m. on weekdays (8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday).

At lunchtime, you can have breakfast or lunch, and at dinner you can get any of the lunch food - sandwiches, wraps, burgers, entree salads and soup - as well as full dinners. Naudain is trying to keep this a moderately priced restaurant for dinner and doing a pretty good job of it. Many entrees are priced under $20 and come with two sides, one of which could be a house or Caesar salad.

I'm not going to say this is inspired food, but some of it works. And with just a few tweaks, it would work very well. Take the soft shell crabs. Ignore the menu description, which mentions pasta and julienne vegetables. They are sauteed and served the old-fashioned way, on toast points with a lemon butter sauce, no julienne vegetables. If the kitchen would ease up with the salt shaker, they would be fine, even better than fine.

That was a problem with the flounder stuffed with crab as well. I know I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, but oversalting in the kitchen is beginning to edge out noise as my No. 1 restaurant pet peeve. And I like salt.

Salt or no salt, the flounder and crab were too goopy with imperial sauce for my taste; but all the seafood we tried was very fresh.

I was glad to see sour beef and dumplings on the menu. Sanders' Corner is the kind of place where it feels right to eat sour beef, even in the summer. It had a pleasant spicy, sweet and sour balance, but sadly had been cooked to the point that it looked like gravy with shreds of meat in it. I like tender stews, but this was way beyond that.

Try instead the four cheese ravioli, a pretty dish of striped spinach and egg pasta and slices of grilled chicken with a roasted red pepper sauce that tasted as good as it looked (and wasn't oversalted).

If you get a house or Caesar salad as one of your sides, both of which are fine, you won't need an appetizer. That's good because most of them are really bar food, including the crab pretzel (a pretzel with crab dip and melted cheese) and fried onion rings.

Sanders' does have a classic Maryland crab soup, generous with both crab and vegetables. The waitress warned us that some customers thought the crab ball appetizer was skimpy, but they probably haven't noticed what's happened to the price of crab meat in, say, the past decade. The fat little deep-fried balls were generous to a fault.

I wouldn't recommend the Appetizer Sampler Trio consisting of wings, Muenster cheese sticks (a house specialty) and chicken tenders with marinara sauce. Any of these would be good on its own, but everything is fried so it's pretty monotonous as a combo. Not to mention that if you order the wings by themselves, you get celery and blue cheese dressing.

As you might expect, Sanders' does old-fashioned desserts very well. Everything but the cheesecake is made in house, our waitress told us. Besides a very sweet, fresh coconut cake and a very chocolaty chocolate mousse cake, there is a Peanut Butter Supreme, a classic sundae made with peanut butter ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream and, yes, a cherry on top. That might be the way to go.

Sanders' Corner

Address:: 2260 Cromwell Bridge Road, Towson

Hours:: Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Price:: Appetizers: $5.50-$11.95; entrees: $11.95-$24.95

Call:: 410-825-5187

Food: ** 1/2 ( 2 1/2 Stars)

Service: *** ( 3 STARS)

Atmosphere: *** ( 3 STARS)


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