The Olde National Pike Grille's food is much like its decor. With a few exceptions, the dishes sampled recently by myself and a handful of companions on a busy Saturday night were like neighborhood restaurant foods - traditional and pleasant. For diners who want American comfort food served amid a display of patriotism, the Olde National Pike restaurant deserves a visit.
All of us around the table had visited the restaurant under its previous owners. None of us noticed anything dramatically different in terms of the scope or depth of the menu. The new menu, like the old, is fairly limited: tavern-style appetizers, a variety of burgers, a few steaks, a sampling of seafood and chicken dishes, a couple salads and a short list of specialty sandwiches.
I should admit up front that my dining companions and I have a bias; we like flavorful scratch-made dishes. Whether ordering burgers, pizza or chicken cordon bleu, we like our food made by hand. One of us is vegetarian, one a self-avowed carnivore, most of us eat a variety of foods.
Because of this, most of my companions had a few quibbles with the Olde National Pike Grille & Pub's menu.
Take the appetizers. We ordered jalapeño poppers and buffalo wings. My companions panned the breaded, cream cheese-stuffed hot peppers for being mass-produced and shipped frozen. Nonetheless, the poppers did disappear quickly.
The Buffalo wings, however, were excellent. Good, meaty chicken with little gristle and plenty of spicy flavor. The menu listed a variety of styles - Caribbean, honey Cajun, barbecue and teriyaki - and spicy in a range of 1 (mild) to 6 (very hot). Our barbecue-flavored wings were pegged at 3 on the heat scale and were pleasantly hot without sacrificing flavor.
My company was surprised to find so many dishes unavailable at 7 p.m. on a Saturday. Our steak fanatic ordered prime rib, one of two house specialties. The kitchen had none. A younger member of the party wanted to try the baked macaroni and cheese. All gone. My vegetarian companion ordered the vegetable medley as a side dish; sorry - not available.
Quickly looking for backup dishes to order, my vegetarian companion realized she was in trouble.
Even the two salads had meat in them. She made do with a side dish, the roasted garlic mashed potatoes.
The missing menu staples - and lack of effort by our server to accommodate diners' needs - were all the more striking in light of the promise, printed on the back of the menu, that "our chef will do anything possible to accommodate" diners wanting something not on the menu. We pointed out the promise to our server, but nothing came of it.
The rest of us ordered teriyaki chicken, a medium-rare Delmonico steak and another house specialty, the meatloaf dinner.
The food took a long time to arrive. Granted, we arrived in the middle of a busy Saturday night, so we tried to be patient. Classic rock rippled pleasantly into the dining room from the pub where singer-guitarist Andy Corrigan performed to a packed room. Tables around us emptied. Still, we waited.
At last, our main courses arrived. The teriyaki chicken was worth the wait. It was light and tasty, served in a tangy, mandarin orange sauce.
The mashed potatoes were a disappointment, though. When prepared well, garlicky mashed potatoes are a tasty twist on an old standard. But these mashies were gummy. However, they were clearly made from scratch.
I had a bed of garlic mashed potatoes under my meatloaf. I regretted ordering both. I had seen other diners eating meatloaf and determined to try it in the interest of sampling a dish designated by the restaurant as a "house specialty." I thought maybe the chef had taken a traditional American dish and made it special. That was not the case.
But the meal ended on a high note. We ordered a cheesecake, which received raves. Made by a local baker, it was dense, creamy and full of flavor.
Olde National Pike Grille & Pub
n Food: 2 forks (out of 4)
n Service: 2 forks (out of 4)
n Atmosphere: 2 forks (out of 4)
n Value: 2 forks (out of 4)
Hours: Restaurant is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (open later in summer) Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.
Prices: Appetizers range from $2.99 for chips and fresh salsa to $8.99 for a large order of wings or a half-pound of Old Bay steamed shrimp; sandwiches are $2.99 for a "plain doggie" hot dog to $6.99 for a prime rib sandwich; $6.99 for dinner salads; entrees are $9.99 for pasta primavera to $19.99 for the steak and crab cake combo.
Location: 7704 Old National Pike, Boonsboro