Appetizers the highlight of Olde Philadelphia Inn's inconsistent menu


There is nothing old or inn-like about the Olde Philadelphia Inn. And I dare say this shopping center restaurant's only link with The City of Brotherly Love is its location on what was once a main road between here and there. Why, there's not even a cheese steak on the menu.

Perhaps this large, informal restaurant once lived up to its name. Our waitress said it used to occupy a large blue house, now boarded up, across Philadelphia Road. But today the restaurant fills two storefronts -- one for the bar, the other for the dining room -- in an L-shaped congregation of groceries, video stores and copy centers.

The menu, like the decor, is a bit schizophrenic. There's a large sampling of traditional bar food -- burgers, steamed seafood and noshers galore -- alongside about 20 dinner offerings, including the specials the night our family was there: lobster and a %J seafood platter.

When we tended toward the bar food, as with our appetizers, my husband and I were pleased. When we chose the more serious fare, we found it lacking in taste and quality.

The Olde Philadelphia Inn is friendly and casual. Children seem welcome; there is a separate menu for them and crayons and balloons to entertain. Youngsters' drinks are served in paper cups with lids and straws, and there are plenty of high chairs.

The dining room is big, but booths and partial walls keep it from being dense. A squadron of young servers bustled about bringing food and drink promptly.

The four of us shared two appetizers from the extensive list of mostly fried fare: Incredible Onion Rings ($2.25) and Fried Cheese Combination ($4.25).

The onion rings lived up to their billing; the large onion slices were tender and delicious with a great batter. The basket of cheese -- different kinds in a variety of shapes, all lightly coated -- was a treat. Our youngsters particularly liked the Cheddar cubes.

From the children's menu, our daughters chose Chicken Fingers ($2.50) and a Grilled Cheese Sandwich ($2). One came with curly fries and the other with straight; all of this was acceptable to our young critics.

I tried the Seafood Platter ($14.95) and my husband chose the Steak Combo ($11.95), a New York strip steak and shrimp salad. (He could have had shrimp, scallops, scampi or a crab cake as his seafood portion.)

Included with the entrees was an unusually ambitious and delicious salad. It was large and colorful with more veggies than one has come to expect. My husband found his blue cheese dressing exceptional.

The rest of our dinners were not as successful.

To label the seafood platter huge is an understatement. On a fish-shaped platter laden with greenery were a crab cake and healthy portions of shrimp salad, scampi, sauteed scallops, sauteed shrimp and broiled fish. The fish, topped with lightly sauteed onions, was very good, as were the tender scallops. But the crab cake was only ordinary and the scampi and sauteed shrimp nearly tasteless.

The shrimp salad on both our platters was mealy and unpleasantly heavy with dressing.

My husband's meat, small and tough, bore little resemblance to a strip steak. In fact, to call it that is a disservice to the cut.

We both ordered fried eggplant, one of our favorites, from the long list of vegetables included with the entrees. Again, the portion was large, but the quality was not equal to the quantity. The interior was soft and flavorful, but the coating was hard and dry.

Our youngsters ordered French Silk Pie ($2.75), which was creamy and rich. After our mediocre entrees, my husband and I were surprised at how good the pie was, even though we got only a taste or two.

With coffee, four cocktails, sodas and milk, our bill was $56.08.

No one should leave the Olde Philadelphia Inn hungry, and we did not. But the unevenness of the food left us somewhat disappointed.


Olde Philadelphia Inn

Philadelphia Road

White Marsh


Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.

Reservations: Recommended on weekends, especially Friday.

Credit cards: Major credit cards accepted.

Handicapped access: Accessible.

Smoking: Separate areas designated.

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