REVIEW: Catonsville Gourmet – Good but “Special Occasion” Pricey

IMG_2451The Catonsville Gourmet seems to have been instantly popular since it opened in 2008 (despite the absence of a liquor license and a minimum $5 “corkage” fee for BYOB).    A lunch visit this week seemed to bear that out with the restaurant filled up and business bustling.

5648810FYI – Back prior to 2008 when this space became the Catonsville Gourmet, the same space used to be a local non-chain, old fashioned hardware store (that was likely driven out of business by the presence of Home Depot and Lowe’s a 5 minute drive away)

 

1040_cgourmet2There are several small dining areas with a light color scheme which suggests a seaside place (totally appropriate since it specializes in seafood!).   Many of the tables are spaced noticeably close or awkwardly placed (we were seated at a table where the staff and customers had to pass within 6 inches of me to access the front dining room) .    At the rear of restaurant is a market which sells raw and prepared seafood, desserts and the “made here” kettle potato chips.

 

The menu is the same at lunch and dinner (with a printed page of daily specials); lunch time possibilities don’t come cheap though – one of the very few options under $10 was a tuna fish salad sandwich.   The menu offers several soups ($5/cup), four “entree” salads ($12-$15; I’ve tried the “Bookmaker” salad for $13 and was disappointed with the portion size and skimpy seafood that was included ), a dozen sandwiches ($12-$19), and 10 “tweeners” (aka “light fare”) options  ($12-$19).   Available at both lunch and dinner time are a dozen appetizers ($11-$14) and 18 entrees (starting at $18 for two crab cakes up to $35 for four preparations of fresh fish filet; you can add a side salad $3 extra).

IMG_2447For my lunch, I decided on the “Ultimate Soup Meal” ($12) which included a cup of soup, 1/2 of a sandwich (tuna salad, ham or turkey) and the house “kettle chips” (I opted for the ham and the crab & corn chowder).    My buddy Tom decided on an item from the “Tweeners” offerings –  the crab/spinach quiche ($13) which included a side salad and some fresh fruit.  We also decided to share a side dish of sauteed mushrooms ($5)

 

 

 

 

 

The soup in my soup meal was an easy “Thumbs up!” winner –  rich and creamy with discernible pieces of crab meat and a luscious sweet and spiciness that left me wishing I had a big bowlful instead of the small 6 oz cup I was served.  I woke up to the fact that my half sandwich was on plain white bread (admitted a step up from “Wonder Bread” but still  I wished in hindsight that our young, friendly waiter had offered me an alternative).   The slices of ham looked like they had been sliced off a real ham (no deli cold cut ham here!) and garnished with lettuce and tomato; when I asked for mustard, our waiter almost instantly materialized a bottle of Gray Poupon in front of me.  The kettle chips dark golden brown, lightly salty and crunchy and an excellent, satisfying alternative to standard fries.

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IMG_2449The side of small button mushrooms were sauteed nicely with some onion (though $5 seemed a tad pricey for the portion size)

Tom’s plate was eye catching with a big wedge of quiche, a fresh interesting side salad and a cup of fresh cut up fruit.  The combination of quiche, salad and fruit made for a satisfying lunch that he enjoyed (and fully polished off!)

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Service was attentive and very good (Our college-aged waiter had a cute smile and great attitude).   While dessert offerings we spied in a case looked interesting, we passed up on those wanting something lighter.   I confess that we took a quick walk to Atwater’s (a mere couple of store fronts from Catonsville Gourmet) and got a couple of frosted spice and lemon nuggets (2 for $1) that offered a wonderful small sweet ending to our lunch!

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We enjoyed our lunch at Catonsville Gourmet but it comes at a price (consider that soft drinks, tax and tip – not even including the mushroom side dish and with no dessert –  quickly approaches $20 per person).  For me, the price puts Catonsville Gourmet in almost a “special occasion” category and has me feeling dubious about the value proposition.

FACTS:  Catonsville Gourmet – Catonsville – http://www.catonsvillegourmet.com – Open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner (typically 11:30 am to 10 pm) – No liquor (Corkage fee for BYOB is $5 with $2 per bottle extra after the first bottle or 6-pack and an initial  corkage fee of $10 for parties of 6 or more), large parking lot in back; market offering seafood & more; No reservations are taken (particularly on weekends this can result in long waits for a table – web site suggests arriving before 5:30 pm or after 8:30 pm on weekends); Menu curiously states management’s right to limit use of a table to no more than 2 hours; 20% mandatory gratuity for tables of 6 or more; $3 for soft drinks, coffee or tea.

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