Jeff Fitchett believes that a decent steak doesn't have to break the bank. At Poor Boy Steakhouse, he proves it.
Fitchett, working with Kyle Algaze, opened the Severna Park restaurant last fall in the space vacated by the duo's other spot, the Breakfast Shoppe (now in the space formerly occupied by the lauded, but short-lived, Cynthia's).
The concept was years in the making, and the team's perseverance and planning paid off. Poor Boy's food works, the service is attentive, and while the steaks aren't bargain basement cheap, they are moderately priced.
When we arrived just before seven on a recent Thursday night, Poor Boy's cozy space was nearly empty; it remained quiet as we ate. The vibe is casual, with rough wood, rusty metal decorations and cute tuxedo T-shirts that fit with the restaurant's good-food-for-a-low-price mission.
Moments after we sat, our waiter brought us a basket of warm rolls with sweet honey butter. Crusty on the outside and fluffy in the middle, the rolls — and their quick delivery — set the stage for the rest of dinner.
We started with an order of "whatchamecallems" ($8.99), touted on the menu as Poor Boy's "signature app." The little fried balls of potato, cheddar and beef arrived, smoking hot, in a paper-lined basket. Alone, they were crunchy but not terribly interesting, but dunked in peppadew aioli, they came to life. The aioli's cool temperature and slight spice brought out the best in the salty beef and cheese.
Poor Boy's has a liquor license, but instead of offering a full bar, they stick to a few basics, including a Patron margarita. The wine list is California-heavy, carefully edited and reasonably priced. The whatchamecallems were a good match for a crisp glass of Uppercut sauvignon blanc ($5.99).
The list of canned craft beers is impressive. We enjoyed the Maui Brewing Co. coconut porter's ($6.50) toasty coconut flavor, and discovered that our waiter was also a fan. When we ordered our drinks, he enthusiastically touted the porter's award-winning history. A few minutes later, he brought us a newspaper clipping backing up his praise.
All of Poor Boy's entrees come with two side dishes or one side and a salad — a welcome change from the "everything's a la carte" approach taken by most steak houses. Our house salad, dressed in sweet champagne vinaigrette, was crisp and fresh. The caesar, however, was a little rough around the edges. While the dressing was salty and creamy, as it should be, the romaine was brown in spots.
Fitchett and Algave believed their key to success was finding the right steaks at the right price. To keep costs down, they don't purchase USDA "prime" cuts of beef and the restaurant doesn't dry age their meat. "You can't get around a $40 steak when you do that stuff," Fitchett explained over the phone.
Prior to opening Poor Boy's, the duo struggled to find a meat purveyor willing to sell high quality steaks in small batches at a reasonable price. After exploring local farms with no success, they partnered with Creekstone Farms, a Kansas company selling all natural black angus beef. Poor Boy has gone all in on this relationship with Creekstone — the farm's name appears everywhere: on the menu, on the restaurant's wall, on the backs of those tuxedo t-shirts. That's a smart move; the meat is good.
The 14-ounce ribeye ($27.95) filled the plate, though it was on the thin side and less tender than some ribeyes we've had in the past. But the steak was seasoned well, cooked properly, and had lots of beefy flavor. Fresh green beans, salty with a bit of crunch, complemented the meat.
The eight-ounce filet ($25.95) was neatly trimmed, tender, well-seasoned and cooked just to medium rare. We topped the filet with crab imperial ($2.99) made with local crab. Though the imperial was slightly dry around the edges, the sweet crab, with just a touch of spicy seasoning, made the dish.
On the side, a small bowl of garlicky mashed potatoes, was a little too salty, but whipped to an impressively smooth texture.
Revisiting the wine list for dinner, we discovered that the Brownstone merlot's ($5.99) spicy fruit stood up to the ribeye's strong flavor. The Snap Dragon pinot noir ($5.99), on the other hand, was a tinge too warm, with less personality.
Poor Boy does not make desserts in-house and it shows. While we enjoyed our choices, visually, they didn't jibe with the rest of the meal. The red velvet cake, sweet layers of cake, alternated with tangy cream cheese icing, was trimmed into a too-perfect circle. We loved the tuxedo cake's ($5.99) subtle variety of chocolates and the mix of soft and crispy textures, but the cake, presented under a smooth chocolate dome, was just too pretty. A down-home cobbler would've been more appropriate.
At the end of dinner, the chef, Breakfast Shoppe veteran Rob Hemphill, came out to chat. Like our waiter, he was friendly and easy to talk to. The people, the food, the casual vibe — all approachable and unpretentious. And thanks to Fitchett and Algave's due diligence, the bill was just as easy to handle.
Poor Boy Steakhouse
Back story: The crew behind long-standing Severna Park favorite, the Breakfast Shoppe, opened Poor Boy last fall, with a goal of serving good steaks at reasonable prices.
Parking: Lot in front
Signature dish: The eight-ounce filet, a fist-sized chunk of tender beef, topped with sweet, local crab imperial, will satisfy steak and seafood lovers.
Where: 342 Ritchie Highway, Severna Park
Contact: 410-457-7059, poorboysteaks.com
Open: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday for lunch; 4:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday for dinner
Credit Cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover
[Key: Excellent: ✭✭✭✭; Good: ✭✭✭; Fair or Uneven: ✭✭; Poor: ✭]Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun