Where: 5414 Belair Road
Hours: Mondays through Fridays, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 p.m. to 9:30 or 10 p.m.; Saturdays, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Sundays, 3:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Credit cards accepted: Major credit cards
Non-smoking section? Yes
Call: (410) 488-8144
Prices: Appetizers, $2-$6.95; entrees, $4.95-$14.95
5/8 Somewhere along the line Bo Brooks went from being a neighborhood crab house to big business. How can you tell? Well, when the waiters and waitresses all wear T-shirts that say "Bo Knows Crabs," that's a clue. And you can buy crab meat picked at Bo BSomewhere along the line Bo Brooks went from being a neighborhood crab house to big business. How can you tell? Well, when the waiters and waitresses all wear T-shirts that say "Bo Knows Crabs," that's a clue. And you can buy crab meat picked at Bo Brook's own processing plant. (Place your order with your waitress.) And where once the only dessert was Mrs. Pose's cheesecake and no one had room for it anyway, now there's homemade strawberry and peanut butter pies, Heath Bar cheesecake, raspberry sherbet and more. Plus after-dinner liqueurs. What? After-dinner liqueurs? At Bo Brooks?
Still, Bo Brooks has managed to retain much of that neighborhood-bar-with-crabs feel. And in spite of the fact that Bo Brooks has a fairly extensive menu of seafood, crabs are what to get here. Your table will be covered with brown paper before you sit down, and just about everyone around you will be working away on a pile of hard shells and a pitcher of soda or beer.
Bo Brooks has as good a recipe for crab seasoning as you'll find anywhere. Its crabs are spicy enough, but the sweet taste of the meat still comes through. Call ahead for availability and price, though. If I had known in advance that there were only smalls (at $28 a dozen), I might have postponed our visit. Aficionados say small crabs are the sweetest and most tender, but it's a lot of work to pick them. And when you overcook them, which is easy to do, the crab meat gets soggy.
To me, about the perfect dinner here would be half a dozen steamed crabs (when the larger sizes are available) preceded by clams casino and a salad. Bo Brooks' clams casino have the virtue of simplicity. The clams are covered with a few seasoned crumbs, a little melted butter and a curl of bacon. They aren't overfussed with and they aren't overbaked. As for the salad, the greens and vegetables are fresh and the dressings are pretty good (even though you do have to pay extra for blue cheese, a real throwback).
If you want more of a dinner, Bo Brooks has just about every crab creation known to man, plus shrimp, oysters and flounder. A broiled seafood platter included a crab cake made with back fin, flounder, a soft crab, three small, delicious shrimp and some scallops. The seafood was very fresh, and I liked the simplicity of its preparation. The biggest drawback is that the seafood is served on the plate it's broiled on, so everything keeps cooking because the plate is so hot. Eat fast.
With dinners you get a salad or two vegetables -- perhaps "home style green beans," canned green beans with barbecue seasoning, or an excellent potato salad. You could start with the house specialty, cream of crab soup -- a sort of chowder with lumps of crab. I wasn't wild about it, but it's a better choice than the "Bo Brooks favorite," onion rings, which were surrounded by great gobs of undercooked batter.
We saved room for dessert, if not an after-dinner liqueur. The homemade strawberry pie was pretty good because the strawberries were flavorful, but for once homemade wasn't necessarily better. The Heath Bar milkshake cheesecake from Kaspar's (a local bakery) was a knockout, creamy and lightly chocolate with a dusting of praline on top.