A prime rib sandwich at Quarry Bagel & Cafe. (Jed Kirschbaum, Baltimore…)
Quarry Bagel and Cafe guarantees the best bagel within 50 miles or your money back (with receipt). After a recent lunch there, I bought a bagel to go and ate it long after I'd left the restaurant. When I go back, it won't be for my money.
The restaurant is tucked in the west end of the shops at Quarry Lake at Greenspring, which is situated on the site of a former granite operation. The shops cover all the necessities — bank, nail salon, grocery store, Starbucks, Walgreens, wine shop — along with a smattering of boutique emporiums and about a half a dozen restaurants, mostly of the chain variety. De rigueur brick rowhouse architecture and plenty of well laid-out parking is part of the charm.
12:30 p.m. We enter. Lunch is in full swing. The place is packed, and there's a small crowd at the far end of the counter placing or waiting to place orders. Standing in front of a dessert case, I check out the overhead menu and make an obstacle for fellow customers who excuse themselves as they step around me to check out the goodies inside the case.
My dining companion sidles up with a paper menu in hand. Good idea. I navigate the cashier crowd to fetch one for myself so I can check it out without blocking patrons at the dessert case. It seems like an odd place to offer the menus — at the busiest point in the shop.
As for the menu, Quarry serves breakfast and lunch from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The bulk of the menu consists of sandwiches, including bagel options. But Quarry also lists a few platters and wraps, seven salads, pancakes, French toast and an omelet.
12:39 p.m. We order and pay at the counter. I ask for the brisket and am told they are out. Had I been thinking, I'd have ordered the Italian cold cut sandwich, which caught my eye early in the menu perusal. Instead, as my brain is recalculating, the cashier asks if I want sliced corned beef. I blurt out an affirmative. A line forms behind me. The pressure is on. Then I make snap decisions on bread, cheese and mustard. I also order an everything bagel with plain cream cheese and nova. As long as we are here, I figure it'd be a good idea to weigh in on their eponymous specialty.
12:43 p.m. We luck out and find a table without having to wait. Quarry's dining area is long and relatively narrow with more seating around back. In any case, it's tight and there's very little room to stand, which causes the clustering around the cashier/order counter. The line moves quickly. You order, go to your table and they bring the goods to you. We didn't wait more than a few minutes.
My dining companion and I both wanted the prime rib sandwich so he ordered that, and we split our two meals. It's a good thing we did, too, or my dining experience would have been significantly different than it was. My corned beef on marble rye was fine and filling and boring — and, I hasten to add, exactly what I ordered. My dining companion liked it more than I did. The prime rib, on the other hand, is perfect.
It is medium rare, shaved fine, half a pound, moist, tender — exactly what I'd hope for from prime rib — with a deft touch of horseradish sauce that lets the beef hold center stage. My friend calls the Kaiser roll the best he's ever had. It's perfect in combination with the meat. It's a sandwich I would consider driving many miles to enjoy again.
12:52 p.m. Halfway into our meal, a staffer comes down the aisle with a platter full of individually plated cake slices. The freebie offering was surprising and delicious. I tried the moist yellow cake with chocolate chips without waiting to finish my sandwich.
Quarry serves kettle chips with most of its sandwiches. They're good. Thick and crispy, they're a welcome alternative to French fries, which Quarry also offers. Most of the sandwiches run from $7.50 to $9.50. Of all the menu items, I saw only one that shot over that top end — a shrimp, chicken, and tuna salad combo for $13. Quarry's lunch prices are competitive, with the restaurant's quality putting them in a best-of-class echelon.
1:10 p.m. We finish and relinquish our table. Most of the others are still occupied by lingerers or new arrivals. It's clear Quarry is a lunchtime favorite in these parts. And judging from the bagel I sampled long after our lunch was over, I bet it sees some decent traffic for breakfast, too. The bagel was as chewy and good as any I've had, the generous slices of fresh nova melted in my mouth and the cream cheese was delicate to the point of accentuating the cream over the cheese. I envy those who live or work close enough to make Quarry Bagel and Cafe a regular stop.
Quarry Bagel & Cafe
Where: 2628 Quarry Lake Drive
Contact: 410-753-3351, quarrybagelcafe.com
Hours: 6 a.m.-7 p.m.
Lunch Entrees: $2-$9
[Key: Outstanding: ✭✭✭✭; Good:✭✭✭; Fair or Uneven:✭✭; Poor:✭]