Surprising Fare For Weary Travelers

Restaurant Review

Cornerstone Grille Serves Up A Decent Crab Cake, Among Other Items, At Unlikely Spot

December 24, 2009|By Richard Gorelick | Richard Gorelick,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Say your bus is laid over for a while at the Baltimore Travel Plaza. This is your first time in Baltimore, and so, you think, "I sure should get a crab cake." Say you walk away from the fast-food joints at the terminal and, guided by instinct, across the parking lot toward the Baltimore Truck Wash, and there it is: the Cornerstone Grille, one of the luckiest breaks you're likely to have on the long, lonely highway.

The Cornerstone Grille might not have the oddest location of any place I've reviewed, but it's close, and it definitely ranks No. 1 as the most unusual location to offer outdoor seating - me, I could sit there all day, watching cars and trucks come and go on and off the ramps of Interstate 95. There are a few other things that distinguish the Cornerstone Grille from the majority of the restaurants that come up for review. It has a fully functioning Web site (, with appealing photography and all of its basic information on the home page. The people who work there, and who own the place, seem genuinely delighted when a new customer walks through the doors. And it's the only place I thought I might use as the setting for an original play.

The owners are husband and wife Jason and Mina Jackson, from Dundalk and Southeast India, respectively, and they've done a sweet job freshening up an old truck stop with alternating paint on the wall's brick pattern and cheerful striped tablecloths. The next time someone says, "Well, what did you expect!" when I object to the sad looks of a storefront restaurant, I'll send him to Cornerstone Grille - it's a nice enough place to go and listen to occasional music.

The Jacksons have done a very smart job coming up with an inexpensive menu that fits the setting - burgers, wings, breakfast sandwiches, hot beef and turkey sandwiches, fried shrimp - but accommodates a few items, or twists to standard fare, that would be right at home in a nice downtown caf?. I'm thinking of the grapes and slivered almonds that Mina puts in her outstanding chicken salad, or the ideally seasoned homemade minestrone and chicken noodle soup we tried.

And if the only crab cake someone ever had was right here by the truck wash, it's one you'd be glad he had - filler-free, mildly seasoned lump meat, broiled up golden. It might look a little lost on a roll that's too big for it, but what doesn't these days? I liked that the fried chicken and shrimp platters we ordered to go took a while to make - they were fried to our order. The shrimp and chicken were decent, too - the folks back at the office were handing out "sevens" - but the french fries got little love.

The Cornerstone Grille is the follow-up to the Jacksons' previous venture, the Cookie Caf?. Cookies, baked by Mina, who also does most of the cooking, are sold here, and I'm only sorry you didn't get to hear about them sooner before Christmas. But keep them in mind - I like the banana cookies with the thin, curly slice of dried banana on top. The Jacksons are born salespeople, but their zealousness sat right with me. The alternative far too often is indifference.

The Cornerstone Grille is a place that I liked mostly because I liked it, but I absolutely stand by that chicken salad, and the soups, and the cookies. On the menu

* Chicken noodle soup - $2.50/$3.95

* Minestrone - $2.50/$3.95

* Chicken salad sandwich - $6.95

* Fried shrimp platter - $8.50

* Fried chicken platter - $6.95

Cornerstone Grille

Where: : 5400 O'Donnell St.

Contact: : 410-633-0707

Hours: : 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday and 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday

Credit cards: : Visa, American Express, Master Card, Discover

Appetizers: : $2-$7.95

Entrees: : $2.75-$21.95

Food: : *** ( 3 STARS)

Service: : *** 1/2 ( 3 1/2 STARS)

Atmosphere: : *** ( 3 STARS)

[Outstanding: **** Good: *** Fair or uneven: ** Poor: *]

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