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Always Ron's returns deli to former glory

September 05, 2004|by E.T. MOORE

Always Ron's

Overall: 3 forks

Food: 3 forks (out of 4)

Service: 3 forks (out of 4)

Atmosphere: 4 forks (out of 4)

Value: 4 forks (out of 4)

Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday

Prices: A seafood combo of fried oysters and crab imperial costs $15.95; daily specials cost an average of $5.95.

Phone: 301-797-7887

Locations: 29 N. Burhans Blvd. in Hagerstown


They were all there ... the Duffer, the Golfer, the famous Reuben. And even the original "Ron" was there in person, dining at Always Ron's one recent weeknight when seats and parking places were scarce. But there was no shortage of good food.

It seems what was great about the old Ron's is great again - the food, the service, a downtown location and reasonable prices. And the eclectic dcor of yore is gone in favor of lighter woods, brighter colors and a layout more pleasing for fine dining.

And fine it was.

Much as I wanted to savor my first Always Ron's Reuben in many, many months, I deferred instead to one of my companions for her opinion while I ordered fried oysters and crab imperial, a combo seafood offering priced at just $15.95 with two sides included.

The oysters were crisp on the outside and meaty inside, cooked through but not overcooked. The crab imperial was rich, a little too rich with the last lumps of backfin swimming in butter. Still it was cooked tenderly and enhanced with subtle spices and herbs by a light hand.

The Reuben was well worth the wait, my friend said. The old baskets are gone in favor of plates, at least for the entrees. An appetizer of Always Ron's skins-on fries cooked in peanut oil came in a paper-lined basket as before.

Another friend decided on the lighter fare, choosing a lettuceless salad. Reasonably priced, it was a little heavy on the fruit and somewhat light on some of her favorite ingredients - broccoli and cauliflower florets. Still, her bowl was empty at the end of the evening.

An order of fried chicken came as requested, all dark meat. It was crisp outside, juicy inside and too much to finish at one sitting so my dining companion requested a takeout box.

A full page of daily specials seemed to hover around $5.95, which includes one trip to the somewhat spare salad bar.

The ingredients that were present looked fresh and appetizing, and someone from the kitchen checked on the appearance and supply of salad ingredients several times during dinner.

The service was friendly and prompt even as the dining room quickly reached capacity by about 6:30 p.m. and people began bunching up in the small entrance alcove waiting to be seated.

Conversations overheard in the dining room seemed to indicate the crowd was made up of more than just the curious. Many said they'd been back to Always Ron's several times since it reopened in mid-August.

"I'm very pleased with how it looks and how everything tastes," said Ron Stansbury, a previous owner and namesake of the original restaurant that opened in 1976. He even shared some of his original recipes with the new owners.

Monty Jones and Michael Guessford extensively remodeled the building at 29 N. Burhans Blvd. The name incorporates Jones' business, Always Catering, which had been in Williamsport.

Restaurant reviews are contributed biweekly by Herald-Mail staff writers and editors alternating under the pseudonym E.T. Moore.

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