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Nick's Airport Inn

September 12, 2010

By ANNE CHOVEY - Special to The Herald-Mail

Nick's sits in the bend of the road on Pennsylvania Avenue near Hagerstown Regional Airport, north of Hagerstown.

It is a modest-looking building with ample parking around it. Inside, the décor is tastefully upscale. The restaurant is divided into a number of rooms: two fairly large dining rooms, a greenhouse area, a bar and numerous smaller private dining areas.

My dining companion, Pap Ricka, and I were greeted immediately upon entering and given our choice of seating. We chose the greenhouse area, which is glass-enclosed and sunny.

Our waitress came quickly for our drink orders. Nick's has a nice selection of both modest and premium wines by the glass. She also brought a dish of cheese spread with some small slices of toasted herb bread. While the flavor of the bread was good, the texture was hard making it difficult to eat.

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The menu showcases both Nick's Greek heritage as well as an emphasis on seafood, especially crab. You can get crab with flounder or shrimp, crab with veal, with salmon, with a steak or all by itself.

There are many other fish and seafood options and a variety of beef dishes as well. Lamb, pork and chicken round out the menu.

Most entrees were between $22 and $26 with the "Seafood Symphony" (lobster tail/stuffed flounder/crab imperial/sea scallops and shrimp) coming in at $41 and the "Surf and Turf" (filet mignon and lobster tail) at $44.

Pap and I decided to start with spanakopita triangles for our appetizer. Four little triangles of phyllo dough stuffed with spinach and cheese sat atop a spread of tomato basil cream. The phyllo looked a bit dry, but it was not. The rich, creamy filling was a delicious contrast to the fragile, crispy wrapper. And the tomato sauce was a slightly sweet note. Yum.

For our entrée, I decided to get the veal and shrimp Chesapeake and Pap got the tilapia a la Francis.

Along with the entrée we also got a salad and side dish. Keeping with the Greek theme, Pap and I both chose the Greek salad: crispy greens with cucumber, carrot, radish, tomato and red onion, topped with olives and pieces of feta cheese. Very nice.

I ordered garlicky green beans, the vegetable of the day, for my side. Pap got garlicky spinach.

A short while after we finished our salads, our waitress brought our dinners. At first glance, they looked quite similar. Neither presentation was particularly colorful or eye-catching.

I had three good-sized pieces of veal topped with two plump shrimp with the tails left on, surrounded by the yellow Chesapeake sauce. Sprinkled about were kernels of white corn and crispy bits of country ham. What a combination!

What the dish lacked in eye appeal , it more than made up for in taste. Both the veal and shrimp were cooked perfectly.

The veal could be cut with a fork and the shrimp was translucent and moist. The country ham added the perfect salty bite to the rich sauce.

Each component of the dish was delicious in its own right, but taken together, was a delight to the mouth.

My green beans, served on a separate plate, were a bit of a disappointment. Although the flavor was yummy, they were a tad firm. I am particular about green beans being cooked well -- if they are undercooked, they can be weedy. These needed just another minute or two and they would have been perfect.

Pap's spinach, on the other hand, was great. It, too, had a great garlic flavor, but the spinach fared better by being cooked just until tender. It allowed the spinach flavor to come through.

Although Pap's fish looked similar to my veal, the flavor was all its own. The tilapia was cooked just right and was topped by nice-sized pieces of crab, pecans and apricots. It nestled in a lemony sauce that enhanced the whole dish. He loved it.

It was silent at our table, except for little murmurs of happiness and smacking of lips as we devoured our food.

Our waitress had brought us a basket of two rolls and butter. They smelled wonderfully yeasty and were warm and soft.

With a sigh of satisfaction, we decided that a meal this good deserved dessert.

We shared a piece of tiramisu, that our waitress said was made by Tina Giannaris, the owner.

Unlike other versions I have had where the ladyfingers are a soggy mess, this was firm yet yielded easily to a fork.

The flavor was terrific and it looked as good as it tasted with a fine dusting of cocoa powder on top. A great ending to a great meal.

According to its website, Nick's proclaims "the two most important ingredients to a successful restaurant -- the quality of the food and outstanding service."

We agree.

It explains why Nick's has been around for 40 years. We hope it is here for 40 more.

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

Restaurant review

Nick's Airport Inn

Overall: 4 1/2 (out of 5) stars

Food: 4 1/2

Service: 4 1/2

Ambiance: 5

Value: 5 1/2

Address: 14548 Pennsylvania Ave., north of Hagerstown

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; 4:30 to 10:30 p.m. Saturdays; closed Sundays

Phone: 301-733-8560

Style: Fine dining

Food: Upscale cuisine with an emphasis on seafood, especially crab. There are no vegetarian entrée options.

Range: Entrees range from $22 to $26

Bathrooms: The bathrooms were clean and large. They are accessible for a wheelchair.

Parking and handicapped accessibility: Ample parking exists and there are no accessibility issue

Reservations: Recommended.

Website: http://www.nicksairportinn.com. It also has a Facebook page.

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