McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant is situated at the end of Inner Harbor’s Pier 5 with great waterfront views and it is part of a large restaurant chain covering 25 states (and which includes the nearby M&S Grille in the Inner Harbor Pratt Street pavilion).
Inside, lots of dark wood, huge stained glass hanging light fixtures and white linens on the tables provide a casual yet upscale feel. The oversized one page menu is clearly focused on seafood with 2 dozen starter options ($6 – $20), soups ($5/cup), side salads ($6 – $8), entrée salads ($15 – $18), 5 beef/chicken entrees ($18 – $34) and 2 dozen seafood entrées with many intriguing sounding preparations ($18 – $42). Marty decided to start with fried calamari ($14), John with Portobello Mushroom Steak Fries ($6), and our friend JT with a “Wedge” salad ($8). The calamari was basic but good and arrived with both a sweet chili and cocktail sauce. John’s “fries” with a horseradish mustard sauce were “ok”; they seemed oddly uniform in size and there was no trace of the horseradish cited in the menu. Our waiter doled out spoonfuls of diced tomato, blue cheese and walnuts on top of JT’s large iceberg lettuce wedge and it exceeded his expectations. For the main course, Marty ordered Opakapaka (Red Snapper) with Udon Noodles and Endame in soy broth ($25), John went with fried catfish with fried green tomatoes and creole sauce ($19), JT opted for Sea Scallops ($28) with sautéed spinach, a risotto “cake” and fried leeks while Marta decided on Flounder Parmesan Crusted with Capers, Lemon Butter & Chives ($21). All of these (particularly Marty’s very Asian looking dish and Marta’s flounder with a colorful speckled crust) arrived looking really appetizing but in 3 out of 4 cases, the entrees didn’t deliver what we expected from the menu descriptions. Marty’s Asian style dish was blandly “Cantonese”, Marta’s crusted flounder tasted like plain fried fish, and John’s catfish had only a half teaspoon of the creole sauce that led him to order it. Fortunately, JT expected no fancy seasoning with his scallops and was pleased with what he ordered. We sampled three desserts – Lemon Sorbet (good but very tart and garnished with fresh lemon), Key Lime Pie (good yet average), and Cinnamon Ice Cream (bordering on excellent but missing a needed dash of cinnamon and dab of whipped cream on top). John’s coffee arrived lukewarm and he had to send it back; despite that problem, our somewhat clueless waiter disappointingly brought a “refill” that was just as lukewarm.
Heads-up! Inside, McCormick & Schmick’s dining rooms can be annoyingly noisy and its tables are so tightly laid out that the waiters couldn’t help brushing against us as they rushed past. Its large chain roots are way too evident in the under-seasoned dishes that didn’t offend – but sadly didn’t excite – our taste buds. Overall, our meals mostly fell disappointingly short of the expectations raised by the descriptions of offerings on the menu.
On a nice day when the weather cooperates, McCormick & Schmick’s large outdoor patio offers views of the Inner Harbor that border on being phenomenal and memorable and should be on anyone’s check list of Baltimore vistas to experience! (i.e., a decidedly wonderful place to splurge on a drink and appetizer!)
FACTS? McCormick & Schmick’s (Inner Harbor); 711 Eastern Ave. (Pier 5); 410-234-1300; mccormickandschmicks.com; Full Bar; Very limited Vegetarian Options; Open 7 days week for lunch and dinner from 11: 30 am to 11 pm (til 12 pm on Fri/Sat; (the $10 valet parking is a surprising bargain which is well worth taking advantage of!) Published 2011/April