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The Landing

February 28, 2010

Just like The Landing's use of a lighthouse its logo, the flashing green open sign is a welcome sign to those who enter. Formerly Richardson's Restaurant, The Landing continues the tradition of serving Hagerstown locals and travelers passing through on Dual Highway. Located in a long one-story brick building with lots of windows, the new owners have opened and lightened up the space while keeping approximately the same floor plan. Outside there is ample parking. Inside there are about six to eight sections that flow into each other. The buffet and the two small dining rooms from the original restaurant remained.

We noticed, though, with fresh eyes, the bar, the seating along the bank of windows, and especially the room with the exquisitely beautiful mural of a lighthouse in a bay. The waitress told us they hoped to have a patio in the summer. The mention of summer on this cold February day made us happy.

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We chose The Landing because we wanted fish this day and we knew the owners ran Governor's Landing in Williamsport with a strong seafood menu. The whole operation seemed happy. The servers, the host, as well as the man behind the bar, were laughing and happy. This feeling was infectious. We felt welcome, like part of a big family.

Many people chose the buffet with choice of soup, sandwich and salad. We chose to sit by the window, near the huge fish tank. The waitress immediately brought our drinks. The wait staff all wore black shirts, which had the embroidered logo of the lighthouse pouring forth light. This lighthouse is also painted on the door as you enter and on two signs that welcome people in from the highway heading both east and west. This same logo on the user-friendly Web site.

A lighthouse is a very powerful image, suggesting ports, light, land, safety and warmth. The menu cover was again the strong beam of light pouring out from a lighthouse and the offerings did indeed feature food from the sea. The entrees included crab cakes, fish and chips, shrimp boil, clam linguine, lobster spaghetti and stuffed trout.

The entrees were served with a house salad with choice of dressing. The salad was composed of iceberg lettuce, three slices of cucumbers, two grape tomatoes, carrot shreds and red onion slices.

The Professor liked his honey mustard dressing and my blue cheese dressing tasted all right, but had no visible sign of blue cheese. I chose Mike's Crabby Cakes ($21), which were advertised as "all lump, no filler, mixed up Mike's way then broiled, not fried, with one side."

I chose coleslaw as a side and was happy with the generous, no-nonsense serving of cabbage, carrot and celery seed crunch. But I became crabby about the crab cakes.

My main complaint is that they were very greasy. They may have been broiled but they were broiled in a lot of oil. Neither were the crab cakes fresh for they had the distinct smell, which crabs develop so easily, nor were they all lump. There were a few lumps, but this crab cake, which weighed five ounces, was not all lump crab.

The Professor was happier with his Drunken Fish and Chips ($12.95), which were advertised as "fresh fish filet beer battered in house, then deep fried to a golden brown and served over a pile of our homemade seasoned chips with sides of tarter sauce and malt vinegar." The waitress told him, "That fish is haddock, battered in the kitchen and just as fresh as we can get it." And indeed it was.

The Professor said the fish was prepared very well in its beer batter. The haddock is the best choice for fish and chips as it is thick, flaky and tastes good. And it was served piping hot from the kitchen. Thinking that he might get the British-style fish and chips, he was disappointed with the cold homemade potato chips. He consoled himself with generous splashings of malt vinegar for authentic British flavor.

While we were dining, the owner walked around talking with patrons and making sure that all was going well. The man behind the full service bar drew pints of beer.

Three flat-screen TVs, on mute, played football. There was a modern jukebox available, but for the most part, the sound of happy voices predominated at The Landing. People knew each other and the owners. They seemed glad to be out and about. And most especially, they seemed happy that The Landing had opened and there was an attractive, warm place to gather, to chat and to eat.

Omni Vore is a pseudo-nym for a Herald-Mail freelance writer who reviews restaurants anonymously to avoid special treatment.

Restaurant review The Landing

Overall 3 stars

Food: 2 stars (out of 5)

Service: 4 stars Ambiance: 3 stars Value: 3 stars Address: 710 Dual Highway Hagerstown, MD Phone: 301-393-0888 Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday Style: Restaurant and full- service-bar Web: http://www.thelandinginhagertstown.com

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