Under new ownership, Maggie's Farm is finding its footing

For The Baltimore Sun

In its five-year lifespan, Maggie’s Farm in Lauraville has had a complicated history. New proprietor Abdul A. Saeed may be the one to bring stability to one of the neighborhood’s favorite hangouts.

Saeed, who took over the restaurant in March, plans to move to the community from Middle River.

“I love the neighborhood and the nice people,” he said.

We’ve been following Maggie’s since it opened in 2012 in the space formerly occupied by the Chameleon. Over the years, we’ve watched the changes in owners, chefs and decor.

On a recent visit, we were comforted that the low-lit, red-hued dining room and bar strung with romantic rouge lights remain the same. It’s a cozy place for dalliances or family gatherings.

Chef Matthew Heaton, who has worked at area restaurants including Birroteca, now heads the tiny kitchen. So far, the New American menu with global influences doesn’t deviate much from its predecessor.

We saw several items on the list that we had eaten there before. Saeed assured me that the restaurant will still be changing the menu seasonally and relying on local ingredients.

The Syria native, whose family runs Jilliano’s Pizza in Essex, is adding his own culinary influences with a falafel platter featuring hummus, tahini sauce, tabouli and pita bread. We didn’t order it, but we will the next time we’re there.

The restaurant still serves an array of craft cocktails (think a boozy electric blueberry lemonade); draft beer, as well as cans and bottles; and an interesting wine list, including a pleasantly fruity pinot noir from California’s Central Coast.

Our waiter was top-notch, even when the restaurant became more crowded. He advised us to order our appetizers before choosing our entrees, in order to pace the arrival of our dishes.

We started with crispy Brussels sprouts, which even our vegetable-wary teenager enjoyed. The flavorful orbs were coated with sweet saba syrup and dotted with grapes and salty guanciale (an Italian cured meat).

We also liked the juicy mussels in a white-wine broth enhanced with tomatoes, lardons (bacon) and fennel. Grilled focaccia bread was great for dipping.

The Korean fried-chicken bun had some pluses. The tender meat was tangy with barbecue sauce and got a kick from piquant pickles on top. The bun, though, was doughy and heavy.

The 6-ounce house burger was impressive upon delivery, with a steak knife plunged into the brioche bun, holding together its ingredients. The beef patty was layered with bacon, cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, pickles and a fried egg. Unfortunately, the egg was overcooked, so we didn’t get the benefit of a runny yolk adding to its composite richness. The accompanying fat steak fries were salty, delicious wedges.

We were wowed by the Thai crispy beef noodles. Long strands of pasta glistened with nam pla, a fermented fish sauce, along with tomatoes, onions and peppers. A generous amount of meat nuggets and Thai basil completed the dish.

The shrimp fried rice was a terrific preparation, offering a surprising number of plump crustaceans and a welcome scattering of haricots verts as well as red cabbage, zucchini and scallions.

When it came time for dessert, we didn’t realize that fresh peaches were supposed to adorn the peach cake. It wasn’t clear from its description. Instead, we received a fruitless olive-oil cake, which was quite good on its own, swirled with thick whipped cream. The menu also promised ice cream, which wasn’t included.

The campfire dessert stayed true to its mission, showcasing a deconstructed version of s’mores. A flourless chocolate cake was glazed with a dark-chocolate ganache and a dollop of marshmallow ice cream, while bits of honey-graham shortbread, drizzled with chocolate, were scattered on the serving board. The parts became an engaging whole.

Throughout our dinner, the genial Saeed was a presence in the dining room and vestibule, greeting visitors and striking up conversations.

Under his guidance, we’re hoping that Maggie’s Farm can settle down and do what it does best — feed its loyal customers — without any other distractions.

Maggie’s Farm

Rating: 3 stars

Where: 4341 Harford Road, Lauraville

Contact: 410-254-2376, maggiesfarmmd.com

Open: 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday

Prices: Appetizers, $6-$20; entrees, $15-$28

Food: New American with global twists

Noise/TVs: The ambiance is lively, with conversation and blues music wafting through the dining room; one TV, which wasn’t turned on during our visit.

Service: Our waiter was polite and engaging.

Parking: Street parking or the parking lot at the nearby Safeway

Special diets: Can accommodate

Reservation policy: Accepts reservations

Handicap accessibility: Not accessible

[Key: Superlative: 5 stars; Excellent: 4 stars; Very good: 3 stars; Good: 2 stars; Promising: 1 star.]

lsuzanne@comcast.net

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