The Pike’s Diner has been on a roller coaster ride! Originally, it was the site of the Pike’s Movie Theater from 1938 through 1984. Closed for a good while, a radically re-configured theater was reopened in 1996 as a big very retro-looking diner and bar. In the fall of 2012, it was redone as a “Diner & Crab House”. More recently in October of 2013, the back end of the diner was walled off and the front of the diner became… a movie theater again with two small screens each with stadium seating for 80 film viewers (The initial inaugural films to be shown were the Sci-Fi movie, Gravity (shown in 3D no less!!!) and “Hava Nagila (The Movie)” (a 2012 documentary about the origins of the famous Jewish song). (FYI – At least as of 2012, the Pike’s Diner was owned by Will Reich, the owner of the popular bar, Jilly’s, across the street.)
You enter the Pike’s Diner from a side entrance into a large covered patio with a dozen tables where you’re greeted by a statue of Elvis!
In the main part of the diner, there’s a bar and you can’t help be struck by very retro feel of the furnishings and decor and dozens of kitschy statues and movie posters!
There’s a mix of a couple dozen booths and tables inside the dining room (The movie posters are framed with twinkling lights which add to the old movie theater feeling of the Pike’s Diner). We also noticed a number of “rough edges” to the space (going on ten months after the advent of the separate new theater, the dry wall where the diner had been walled off remained spackled and unpainted and a hallway into the restrooms had softball sized holes in the drywall along with old, frazzled ripped movie posters hanging there.)
The dinner menu – legal sized, two-sided and plastic coated – offered a somewhat unusual mix of a dozen appetizers (most under $10), steamed crabs (there were several tables with customers eating crabs!), ten different variations of burgers ($9.99 and include fries and pickle), a couple dozen deli type sandwiches (most $8-$12), over a dozen Mexican standards ($8-$13) and a half-dozen entrees ($10-$20). Interestingly and perhaps telling, The Pike’s Diner does NOT have a web site and has a minimal presence on Facebook which provides hours but no menu. From research that we did after our visit, there doesn’t appear to be an online menu available. Tom ordered a Natty Bo (just $2.75!) which came in a special Oriole’s theme can (which looked a bit more like the can for a new style energy drink than for a brew! Our waitress later asked Tom if he wanted to take the can with him – she added that she had taken one home and it made an interesting vase for some flowers (Tom decided not to take the empty can with him and John was willing to bet that our waitress was going to stash the empty can in her purse and add it to her home collection!)
After thinking about it, we decided to share a plate of wings with horseradish as an appetizer. Tom asked our waitress whether the wings had a horseradish glaze or if the sauce that came with them had horseradish; she responded that she that no one had ever ordered them before from her and she didn’t know – she also didn’t offer to find out! Tom in an adventuresome spirit went ahead with the order.
The wings arrived with a very tiny cup of dressing (which tasted more like a lightly flavored blue cheese dressing without a hint of horseradish. The 9 wings were tasty and had a bit of a hot kick to them. Tom, the resident DiningOUT in Baltimore Wing Expert, put them in the “ok and average” ranking but acknowledging that they had a bit of “a bite to them”. (FYI – We asked a passing waitress for more sauce but that request seemed to just disappear out into the Pikesville Diner ether!)
For our main course, Paul decided to try the “Burrito Dinner” ($9.99), Tom opted to try “Burger #9” ($9.99) with cheese and mushrooms), and John went for the Taco Salad ($9.99)
Paul’s “Burrito Dinner” included a lot of food with two ground beef Burritos, refried beans, spanish rice, salsa and sour cream. He liked it but it proved too much food for him and he took half of it home with him.
Tom’s burger was a good size hunk of meat and arrived with melted cheese and mushrooms on top with a side of fries and pickle. (The roll seemed a bit thin and not quite up to the job of holding the burger) Tom enjoyed his burger and left nothing on his plate!
When it arrived, John’s Taco Salad looked pretty impressive with the contents piled high on top of iceberg lettuce in large taco shell. Some issues though emerged – it didn’t have any dressing (when he was able to flag down a waitress, she nicely brought two small containers of salsa) Slices of tomato were artfully arranged in corners of the taco shell (but regretfully looked like they been sliced from a mid-winter hot-house tomato instead of a mid-August garden ripe tomato). There was a good amount of pieces of grilled chicken (which were a tad overcooked and dry) John nibbled on the taco shell which was (surprisingly?) fresh and crisp but ended up leaving half of the shell and iceberg lettuce; he wouldn’t recommend this salad.
We asked our waitress about what desserts were available and a Coconut Cake that she mentioned got our attention. We ordered a slice to share between the three of us and we were amazed when a HUGE piece of Coconut Cake showed up! It turned out to be fresh and delicious (when we got our check, we found out it was a bargain and a half costing only $4 !). John asserted that this Coconut Cake came the closest to the quality of our incredibly favorite Coconut Cake from Jennings Cafe in Catonsville; Tom agreed it came close (but commented that he liked the frosting on the Jennings version better which is much lighter like a whipped cream frosting instead of the Pike’s butter cream). Regardless, the three of us finished off this Coconut Cake, it got a Thumbs Up! from all three of us (and it might have been the best part of our meal at the Pike’s Diner!)
Before our evening was over, John made a visit to the men’s room and was pretty blown away to find in the hallway outside of the restroom, a life-sized statue of Humphrey Bogart with a pistol pointed at an equally big statue of Betty Boop (apparently a Pike’s Diner favorite based on the number of Boop’s to be seen here!) who was holding two rolls of extra toilet paper on her brass tray!
The Pike’s Diner was an interesting experience! I’d bet our friend Paul still thinks that the Pike’s is a well-preserved diner from the 1930’s (despite the fact that it only opened in 1996!). In many ways, similar to the kitschy Paper Moon Diner downtown, this is a place where the atmosphere and decor trumps the quality of the food that is served up. Yet it could still be worth putting on your “got to eat here at least once” restaurant bucket list!
FACTS: The Pike’s Diner – Pikesville; 921 Reisterstown Road; 410-653-5545; Facebook Link ; Open 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner (typically from 8 am to 9 pm); Full Bar; pretty limited vegetarian options; adjacent free parking