Martha & Mary's stands along Reisterstown's bustling Main Street, a corridor packed with small shops offering everything from antiques to ski equipment.
The strip bristles with signs. It's impossible to read them all while driving the posted speed. But this restaurant's name stands out in blue and white on a sign large enough to be seen for at least a couple of blocks. On days when weather permits outdoor dining, wrought-iron tables and chairs are topped with very visible canopy-class umbrellas. And in back, there's ample free parking.
First impressions: The door opens to a bustling dining area. Tables can be pushed together and chairs moved around to accommodate a post-game soccer team or a window table for two. A few booths partially line one wall.
The place was never fully packed during this visit, but it was always busy and buzzing. It sounds almost like an indoor community swimming pool. No attempt, not with carpeting, drapery, tapestries or suspended ceiling, has been made to dampen the echo-chamber tone of the space. The overall effect is of youthful — but not rowdy — energy.
When you place your order at the counter, you'll want to grab a menu; the overhead boards don't by any means list all the kitchen has to offer.
Breakfast is served till 1:30 p.m. The lunch and dinner fare is available till closing. The menu's range includes old-fashioned comfort foods like biscuits and gravy, chipped beef and meatloaf. Or imagine any tavern or diner trend, and Martha & Mary's probably works a version of it, including wings, sliders, wraps, pizzas and pretzel melts.
Servers bring your order to the table, which is convenient — it's not likely you'd be able to hear your name or order number shouted above the din.
The dish: The Crab-Adilla ($8.99) comes with three toppings: a red salsa, guacamole and sour cream in plastic tubs. The half-moon quesadilla is cut into four triangles and filled with mozzarella and cheddar cheese and crab dip.
The sour cream's mild, cool presence goes a long way toward lightening the pastry shell and its gooey contents. The guacamole was heavy on avocado but light on spice. The salsa, on the other hand, packed an enduring heat, which felt adventurous for a place that seems to have a pretty good handle on a restrained popular palate.
On the whole, the quesadilla was all bar-food fun, dripping-from-the-fork melted cheese inside a toasted cover that had more of a pastry than tortilla texture. Don't look for chunks of crab here. Think tangy crab-flavored cheese dip. A palm's worth of diced tomatoes counterbalances the carb bomb.
Parting thoughts: Price is another draw at Martha & Mary's. All 27 combo meals — entree, drink and one side — go for $7.99. Unless you go for a large pizza, you'll be hard-pressed to find anything on the menu above $8.99.
Martha and Mary's isn't built for a quiet business lunch. It's a flip-flop-friendly, bring the kids — or more likely, let them bring you — neighborhood stop that will fix you up with your guilty dining pleasure of choice.
Martha & Mary's
Where: 75 Main St., Reisterstown
Contact: 410-833-3336, marthaandmarysrestaurant.com/
Lunch hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-8 pm Sunday
Lunch entrées: $7.95-$14.95
[Key: Outstanding: ✭✭✭✭ Good: ✭✭✭ Fair or Uneven: ✭✭Poor: ✭]
Dining time: 35 minutes