I wouldn’t expect a good Sunday dinner at a McMansion of a bar/restaurant/music venue. But that’s exactly what I received on a recent trip to 510 Johnnys, a hulking space of a business known for its live bands and game day specials.
The restaurant, which has been open for five years, shares a large parking lot with Target and is located just off Marketplace Drive in Bel Air.
When we were handed three different menus by a pleasant employee at the host stand, I honestly had doubts about the meal we were about to consume.
I thought there was no way a bar-centric restaurant could pull off serving an array of classic appetizers, burgers, salads, seafood, pasta and main entrees. But somehow 510 Johnnys did just that.
We knew to order the Boom Boom shrimp from reading customer feedback online. The fried shrimp coated in a creamy slightly sweet and spicy sauce lived up to the hype. It was perfectly cooked and the sauce was a unique spin on the Bang Bang shrimp served at a number of big box chain restaurants.
The honey Old Bay wings were crispy and coated in sticky, sweet Old Bay sauce.
We took advantage of the Sunday game day specials, which included a mix of $5 martinis, mixed drinks and crushes.
The Apple-Tini could have been a little more tart and the Lemon Drop could have been a tad more sweet. But they were $5 each. I couldn’t complain that much.
The food came out quickly and was cooked to the meat temperatures we requested. It also lived up to the descriptions that our server provided when recommending specific dishes.
The All-American burger was a hulking sandwich that was well-seasoned, topped with a hearty amount of cheese and a sweet, smoky barbecue sauce. The cheeseburger was particularly impressive. It also featured the same bun and juicy ground beef patty. The amount of red onions was a bit overwhelming, but the excess onions could easily be picked off. The fries were coated in a seasoned batter. They were thick and masterfully fried.
The pastas were also good.
The Chicken Mama Mia was a mix of chicken breasts, spinach, tomato and mozzarella atop a bed of your choice of pasta. I got linguine. The pasta absorbed the combination of toppings and was a good, flavorful experience.
The seafood combo platter, which consisted of a crab cake, shrimp, scallops and a side, also delivered. The crab cake did not contain a lot of filler. And although the crab meat could have been more flavorful, it would certainly satisfy a seafood lover. The shrimp were large and battered to perfection. The scallops were also pleasing.
The Sunday night specials menu consisted of about a dozen entrees that came with a side, soup and salad.
We got the Prime Rib special ($20); T-bone steak special ($19); and shrimp and crab tortellini special ($20). All three were excellent. The meats were well-seasoned and cooked perfectly to our desired temperature. The tortellini came with a good amount of shrimp and lump crab meat. The salads were fresh, hearty and filling. And the soups — particularly the crab soups — were authentic and a welcome part of the meal.
The sides were the disappointments. Although the red skin mashed potatoes were the highlight of the offerings, the mac and cheese was a step above boxed mac and cheese. It could have used better cheeses and some baking to distinguish it from an afterthought dish by a working parent in the 1980s. The Brussels sprouts with bacon were inconsistent. Some were overcooked and some were hard. They reminded me why the vegetable was unpopular until recently. And the baked potato was simple with sour cream and butter. There’s not much that can go wrong there.
The desserts were another pleasant surprise. Prepared daily by the famed Yia Yia's Bakery, we got the Snickers cheesecake and the strawberry cheesecake. The strawberry featured whole fresh strawberries and a rich, sweet strawberry sauce. I preferred that to the Snickers version, which tasted slightly stale. Desserts are $3 each when you order an entrée that costs more than $15. It's a great value considering the large slices of cheesecake.
I'm glad that 510 Johnnys did not reflect its initial appearance. And honestly, I wish the business would play up its food offerings. They are pretty solid.