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What's Up Magazine

Something Delicious For Everyone

Mar 14, 2014 11:19AM ● By Cate Reynolds
By Rita Calvert // Photography by Tony Lewis, Jr.

What comes to mind when you think of Houlihan’s restaurant? I had never visited, but my initial thought was “sports bar.” And what my friends and I found was an American bar and restaurant serving one robust lunch and dinner menu—offering many choices, including appetizers to share, wood-grilled flatbreads, and entrees from beef to salmon. The bar area did have flat-screen televisions for the sports fans, while the dining area was inviting to patrons of all ages and interests, with a pleasing contemporary atmosphere.

It is said that Houlihan’s listens to their guests, and that was the case at the Crofton location. The staff went out of their way to make sure we were happy with our meal. The menu even has a special paragraph welcoming “flexitarians.” This means there are options for vegetarians, vegans, and for those who choose large or small portion sizes. Another claim is that each dish is “cooked from scratch,” a much desired trait these days. Susan, our waitress, was gracious and quite knowledgeable. And if she didn’t have a spot-on answer to our many questions, she certainly checked for us. While perusing the room, we noticed the serving plates had an interesting mix of geometric designs; some were sleek and rectangular, others triangular (appetizer plates), and several entrées were served on long, thin plates. These presentations were just different enough to lend Houlihan’s an upscale feel.

With the open display kitchen and focus on mesquite grilling, one would assume grilled items are masterpieces. I would vote for highlighting even more grilled foods on the menu.

We began with Crispy Shrimp in a spicy, creamy sauce with napa slaw and banana-ginger vinaigrette that was a favorite. Light and flavorful, this seasonal offering proved to be a winner.

The very popular Goat Cheese and Artichoke Bites are coated in a breading containing fresh thyme and lemon zest. Two different sauces were puddled and drizzled under the rounds in a very attractive and tasty arrangement.
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We also tried the Jumbo Stuffed ‘Shrooms with a creamy horseradish sauce. When these huge coated balls were delivered to our table, we were all surprised. We had to investigate to find the filling, which we determined to be a creamy garlic cheese. The entire mushroom with filling is breaded and then deep-fried. We all agreed that guests would be well-served by notice on the menu about this dish’s deep-frying. Calamari had a unique treatment. Lightly breaded with peppery buttermilk batter and fried, the accompanying sesame ginger sauce gave it an Asian slant and a dot of hot sauce lent some real heat. Calamari is a “go to” dish for each of us and we enjoyed this treatment, but felt the portion size was a touch less than other servings we’ve sampled.

Baby Back Ribs with horseradish and honey mustard sauces was the winning choice as an entree. The ribs were meaty and tender enough to fall off the bone. The Pickle Fries as a side dish were thinly sliced lengthwise, breaded, and fried. This was new to us and didn’t quite fulfill that crunch my friend was expecting from a traditional French fry. Eyeing the open display kitchen and grill, I had to try the Filet Mignon along with the Grilled Shrimp. This Houlihan’s gang knows how to grill (perhaps a tribute to the restaurant’s Kansas City roots). The fi let was grilled perfectly as ordered with cross-hatch grill marks and the essence of mesquite—the high temperature charcoal certainly imbued its flavor to the dish.

Another friend chose the Rustic Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Fritters. We were told that fresh tomatoes are roasted daily and pureed by hand for this mildly spicy concoction that’s tweaked with a bit of cream. The fritters are actually small mozzarella balls, breaded and fried, then buried in soup. She rounded out her main meal with the Wild Mushroom and Arugula Flatbread, which is one of the featured specials for the season. The house says it has a shot at the permanent roster if it’s popular. We vote yes: this oblong thin crust pizza was divine with the mixed mushrooms and arugula still showing green. The truffle vinaigrette and cheeses were delicately full-flavored, but without overwhelming the vegetable stars.
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Our waitress Susan handily “vetoed” any thought of skipping dessert by pointing out that each dessert is made in-house. We zeroed in on tradition: homemade apple pie with vanilla ice cream. The warm “large enough to share” portion arrived with extra forks and a plate abundantly filled with plump apple slices covered with what seemed to be an apple crisp topping. The topping was more abundant than the bottom crust and that suits most folks just fine. We absolutely ate every morsel!

The Crofton Houlihan’s is located in the same vicinity as the mega movie theatre and its menu works well for popping in before or after a film. They offer daily drink and appetizer specials, as well as half-price bottles of wine on Tuesdays.

With nearly three decades in the food, media production, marketing, and public relations fields, Annapolis-based Rita Calvert has created myriad programs, events, cooking sessions on national television, the stage, and The Annapolis School of Cooking. She has partnered in writing cookbooks and product lines to showcase the inspiration, art, and nourishment of food.

1407 S Main Chapel Way
Crofton/Gambrills, MD21054
Entrées: $10.95–23.95
Wine (glass): $6–19
Wine (bottle): $20–75
Desserts: $7
Open Sunday–Thursday, 11 a.m.–10 p.m.,
and Friday–Saturday, 11 a.m.–midnight