Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Silver Spring Mining Company

Before last week, Mr Minx and I had eaten at Silver Spring Mining Company exactly once - in the late 90s. Back then, before we got married, we spent most Friday evenings in the company of married friends who were on the Atkins diet. These two were the kind of people who could and would talk endlessly (and of course didactically) about their diet, as if it was the most important, interesting, and indeed, only topic of conversation on Earth. Certainly the only diet. They loved SSMCo because they could get a steak and a cup of onion soup without the crouton and be in high protein-and-fat heaven. Bored by all of it, I'm afraid I remember absolutely nothing about that meal apart from having to wait for a table, and watching our friends greedily slurp up hot onion soup.

Our friends lost weight, divorced, got fat again, and are now completely out of the (our) picture. Without the distraction of their snooze-worthy dinner conversation, Mr Minx and I revisited the Mining Company one recent weekday because 1) we happened to be in the area; and 2) it was dinnertime.

Because it was early, we had the place pretty much to ourselves and were able to take in the scenery. Despite having been open only since 1995, Silver Spring Mining Company has the look of a far older and more established restaurant, with sun-faded photos on the walls and worn carpeting. The bathrooms, however, sported sparkling-clean, vividly purple-and-white checkered floors, which I can imagine are rather hard to take after partaking in a couple of signature cocktails or a pitcher of sangria.

The menu is rather chaotic, with too many photos and colors to distract from too many lists: "Starters;" "Fajitas;" "Specialty Sandwiches;" "Burgers;" "Chicken Sandwiches;" "Chicken;" "Wings;" "Silver Sides;" "Seafood;" "Salads;" "Soups;" "Miner Joe's Favorites;" and "Steaks." After spending several minutes perusing this mess, we decided to start with the fried pickles, because they were new to us. And who doesn't like fried food?

Fried pickles
While the idea was good, the flavor was very commercial. The pickles were from a jar, the breading was very thick and crunchy but rather flavorless, and the "country mustard sauce" promised on the menu was actually a Thousand Island-style dressing, presented in one of those lidded to-go cups used for tartar sauce or salad dressing. The real kicker was the price - a whopping six whole spears for $6.99. For that much they could have bothered to put the sauce in a non-disposable container.

On to our entrées.

Baltimore Reuben
After going back and forth, trying to decide if I wanted to be pedestrian and order a crab cake in order to take advantage of the $14.99 soup/entree/dessert "complete dinner" deal, or order one of the interesting-sounding sandwiches, I opted for a sandwich. The Baltimore Reuben looked good on paper, certainly better than it looked in person: two stacked slices of marble rye spread with Thousand Island and topped with a big ol' blob of mostly shell-free shredded crabmeat, a couple of nicely-cooked (probably steamed) shrimp, three slices of bacon, a slice of tomato, and some Cheddar Jack cheese. The only resemblance to an actual Reuben sandwich was the bread and dressing.

I had forgotten how the combination of crab and bacon can sometimes taste...funky...so I remedied that problem by peeling off the cheese and tomato (oh, that tomato! a razor-thin slice of nearly-white supermarket blandness that is a sin even during the Winter, but worthy of eternal damnation during tomato season), eating the bacon, then replacing the cheese. Without the bacon, the sandwich was...ok. There was a generous amount of crab, but I would have preferred a smaller amount of higher-quality meat, so the texture wouldn't be as...squishy.

All sandwiches come with fries, but I opted for a substitution of cole slaw. It was ok - a little mayonnaisey, but not bad. I probably should have chosen the garden salad or fresh zucchini medley to add some color to the dish. That is, color in addition to the sprinkling of whatever it was sprinkled clumsily around the edges of the plate. So Emeril Lagasse, ca. 1998, not to mention completely unnecessary on a plate containing a sandwich and a side dish that comes in a small bowl. It's not like dust is going to make things look more appetizing.

Jambalaya
Despite knowing full well that jambalaya is a rice dish, not a sauce-over-rice dish, Mr Minx went for SSMCo's version anyway. The "jambalaya" was pleasant, if not authentic, and contained a generous portion of chicken breast chunks, shrimp, and slices of spicy Andouille sausage in a tomato-based creole sauce, with garlic toast on the side. It was certainly better than my choice.

While I wasn't exactly happy with our meal, Silver Spring Mining Company has many fans - enough to support locations in Hunt Valley and Bel Air, as well as the flagship restaurant on Belair Road in Perry Hall. While we were eating, a party of six or so came in to celebrate a birthday and judging by their familiarity with the menu, they were regulars.

I'm pretty sure that's not a label that will ever be pinned on me.

Silver Spring Mining Company
8634 Belair Rd
Nottingham, MD 21236
(410) 256-6809

Silver Spring Mining on Urbanspoon
Posted by theminx on Minxeats.com.