When I learned that Todd Conner's had opened in the location where the sports bar Slammers and the Tex-Mex cafe Armadillo's were previously, I saw it as another sign that Fells Point is indeed becoming more gentrified. But then I ate there, and I'm not so sure.
Owners Nikki Popovich and her
partner, Michael "Reds" Cassidy,
have done their best to create a
warm, friendly neighborhood
dining room with a hip vibe. The
small room has its own entrance,
or you can go through the bar.
The wooden floors look newly refinished. The room has been
freshly painted in shades of
cream and grayish-green, colors
taken from the large painting that
dominates one wall. Diamond-shaped mirrors add sparkle.
What makes me wonder if Fells
Point is really so gentrified is that
this pretty dining room was empty except for us the whole evening, while the bar in front got
rowdier and rowdier.
There are only two things wrong
with the dining room. First, on
chilly nights the dining room entrance is going to let in a blast of
cold air. Second, there's a room directly off the dining room with
noisy swinging doors, and the staff
bang in and out continually. It gets
to be incredibly annoying.
If we had been there on a
Wednesday, I'm sure the restaurant would have been busier.
Wednesday is Neighborhood
Night, and if you can prove you
live in the neighborhood, you get
25 percent off your check. Even
on other nights, the cost of your
meal won't be outrageous. The
menu is small, with a focus on
bar food and sandwiches, but
there are some excursions into
fine dining territory, like the
Thames Street Tuna with greens,
Asian vinaigrette, sauteed snap
peas and wasabi smashed potatoes. Most everything is less than
What's best about Todd
Conner's food can be summed up
in one word: fried.
This started with the basket of
hot, crisp and deliciously greasy
homemade potato chips that arrived at the beginning of the meal
instead of bread, and ended with
homemade cheesecake wrapped
in phyllo dough and deep-fried.
When our waitress mentioned
that the chips would be even better with the crab dipping sauce
with red pepper, we ordered
some and it came with even more
The appetizer special was crisp,
gold strips of portobello mushroom fried in a tempura batter
with a creamy onion dip.
Wings are a specialty, in so
many varieties that to list them
would be tedious; but both the
barbecue version and the regular
"medium" (fiery but not overwhelmingly so) -- deep fried of
course -- were as good as wings
Finally, the crunchy-edged waffle fries that come with entrees
were a highlight of our dinner.
The one real exception to the
fried rule was Todd's Tuna Bites,
cubes of ahi tuna seasoned with
Cajun spices, broiled but still rare
inside. The wasabi cucumber
sauce was the best of all the dipping sauces we tried; I'd get it
with anything on the menu.
Just about everything that was
wrong with our meal can be
summed up with one word: overcooked.
The signature crab cakes, with
enormous lumps of crab, the
right amount of seasoning and
very little else, were dry (what a
waste), but not as dry as the salmon fillet, which was supposedly
served with "a slight pink interior." Its citrus glaze tasted a bit like
marmalade, but I wouldn't have
minded that so much if the fish
had been properly cooked.
The Chef's Red Meat Selection, a
sirloin steak ordered medium
rare, came well-done. The
mashed potatoes with it were OK,
but its mixed vegetables were
mostly squash. (This wasn't true
on other plates.) We wanted to try
the homemade coleslaw, but our
waitress told us there was none
-- the produce delivery wouldn't
be in until the next day.
Perhaps the strangest dish of the
evening was the pasta special,
Carne Penne, a sort of pasta bolognese by way of Mexico. The jury
is still out on that one.
TC's, as it's called on the menu,
could end up being a good neighborhood hangout. The folks who
run it couldn't be nicer, and the
problems we had with our meal
were easy fixes. Still, next time I'd
focus more on the sandwiches
and bar food, and leave the more
high-falutin' dishes to other kitchens.