Bluestone in Timonium is one of those dependable restaurants you can count on for friendly service and well-executed food. It may not be the most exciting place in town or have the most adventurous menu, but you’ll leave happy and satisfied.
We did on a recent visit. From our arrival, when a staff member held the door open for us, to our exit, when a hostess thanked us for coming, we felt appreciated.
The restaurant knows what it’s doing after having been in business since 2001. So does its chef, Scott Walker, who has been overseeing the kitchen for eight years.
We were led through the noisy bar, which was packed, to our table in the bright terrace room. It’s been a while since I’ve been in a restaurant with a noticeable mixed-age group, including a number of senior citizens and a toddler or two. Maybe we can credit the suburban location.
There are no surprises on the drinks list, which offers recognizable wines; beers, including local craft brews; and dependable cocktails like martinis and margaritas for less than $10, which seems like a bargain these days.
We liked that you can order tavern fare like a burger, shrimp wrap or Italian salad for dinner, though we were sticking to appetizers and entrees. A delivery of hot club rolls to our table reminded me of the type of bread served at restaurants of yore.
Our most ambitious starter was the sauteed shiitakes and shrimp, featuring plentiful mushrooms and seafood over Asiago-cheese polenta in a garlicky sherry broth. We could have used toast to sop up the juices.
The Burrata marinara came with thick slices of garlic bread to dip into the rich tomato sauce. The creamy cheese ball, rolled in Parmesan crumbs and flash-fried, was marvelous.
Fried green tomatoes are the rage on local menus these days. Bluestone gives theirs a Baltimore nudge with jumbo lump crab scattered atop the crispy slices swabbed with lemon beurre blanc sauce. Unfortunately, there was something garlicky about the dish that was a distraction.
We enjoyed the simplicity of the seared Antarctic sea bass and its impeccable partners, fat asparagus stalks glistening with lemon olive oil and roasted potatoes.
The Crisfield stew is one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, our affable waiter told us. We appreciated its charms and can understand the attraction. Similar to a cioppino, the stew’s tomato broth was studded with scallops, flaky fish, shrimp, mussels and soft potato chunks. A hunk of Italian bread clung to the side of the bowl for dunking. And the generous portion was great for lunch the next day.
But Bluestone serves more than seafood. Our herb-braised short ribs were terrific. The fork-tender meat paired well with a sweet-potato puree, roasted trumpet mushrooms and tangled onion rings on top.
The strawberry short stack caught our eye, even though the fruit is out of season here. The ruby-ripe berries, which hailed from California, were surprisingly good. They were stacked with rounds of sponge cake and globs of whipped cream thickened with mascarpone into a mouthwatering, multilayer tower.
The Key lime pie in a graham cracker and cinnamon crust resonated with citrus. Stripes of mango coulis were a refreshing addition. Even the pie hater in our group devoured it.
Bluestone may be slightly off the beaten path in a bland business park, but don’t dismiss it. After more than 15 years, the restaurant is delivering a solid performance.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Where: 11 W. Aylesbury Road, Timonium
Contact: 410-561-1100, bluestoneonline.net
Kitchen open: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Prices: Appetizers, $10-$14; entrees, $20-$38.
Food: Mostly seafood
Noise/TVs: The enclosed terrace room was buzzing with conversation, but it wasn’t overwhelming; three TVs.
Service: Personable and efficient
Parking: Parking lot
Special diets: Can accommodate.
Reservation policy: Accepts reservations.
Handicap accessible: Yes
[Key: Superlative: 5 stars; Excellent: 4 stars; Very good: 3 stars; Good: 2 stars; Promising: 1 star.]