This is the spot if you enjoy noise, crowds, red meat


The Original Steakhouse and Sports Theatre can be chaotic. And loud.

It's certainly crowded. Reservations aren't taken, and on a recent Saturday night, I was told a table wouldn't be available for at least 90 minutes. Clearly, the restaurant, part of a small Florida-based chain, has been doing well since it opened last November in a new Edgewater shopping center.

Pager in hand, my friends and I ambled off to the bar. At least our wait wasn't boring. The rip-roaring standing-room-only bar area had more than a dozen televisions, including several giant ones, showing race cars, a hockey game and other sports.

A no-smoking dining room off to one side also had several televisions. Brick walls, a long wood bar and high ceilings with exposed ductwork give the place a trendy, upscale warehouse feel. Near the front door, rotisserie chickens twirled on a spit behind a glass wall, and hunks of meat were on display.

After an hour and a half, our hovering paid off when a small round table near a bank of video games became available. The pager still hadn't flashed, so we decided to eat there, perched on the high-backed stools, instead of waiting for a booth.

With all the smoke and televisions and noise, I admit I was prepared to hate the food. But the main courses turned out to be pretty good. Red meat is a focal point of the menu, but seafood and chicken are taken seriously, too.

In a later phone call, general manager Tim McLaughlin said the meat is first aged, then cut by an in-house butcher, then aged again before it's cooked to order over mesquite.

Whatever they're doing is working. The New York strip was tender and flavorful. Those chickens spinning by the front door turned out to be perfectly juicy, although the skin was saltier than I would have liked. And an enormous slab of ahi tuna was cooked to order and arrived with a yummy and subtly fruity teriyaki sauce. A lobster tail looked dangerously dry on the plate but turned out to be moist and sweet.

The lackluster appetizers hadn't prepared me for this level of quality. Choices are minimal and include wings, chicken tenders and spinach dip. A creation called cheese wraps was nothing more than lukewarm, greasy egg rolls stuffed with cheese and made bearable only by the addition of chopped jalepeno. The potato skins, topped with cheese, bacon and squiggles of barbecue sauce, were equally lukewarm and greasy, and nestled a single, improbable lump of chicken.

Entrees came with a choice of soup or salad and a side. My companions ordered the soup of the day, Chicken Harvest, and I had the salad, a generous serving of lettuce, tomato and cucumber, enhanced with shredded cheese and bits of bacon. Side dishes were uneven. Broccoli was undercooked and under-seasoned, but the sauteed mushrooms were firm and nicely seasoned. We also got a basket of warm, very sweet rolls.

The soup was delicious, but it certainly wasn't Chicken Harvest, with those thick blocks of beef and potatoes in a rich cheese broth. Turns out the kitchen had switched from Chicken Harvest to Cheesy Beef and Potatoes, and our server hadn't noticed. Oops.

Desserts are made in-house, and even the ice cream is hand-cranked. The Key lime pie, which so often is little more than lime gelatin in a crust, tasted like the real thing, with a delicate balance between creamy and tart.

If the vanilla ice cream had been firm, the sundae would have been fantastic, with rich warm fudge, whipped cream, brownies and chopped nuts. But the ice cream had melted, turning the entire concoction into a creamy soup.

Original Steakhouse and Sports Theatre

Where: 139 Mitchells Chance Road, Edgewater

Call: 410-956-0790

Open: Dinner daily, plus lunch on Saturdays and Sundays

Credit cards: All major cards

Prices: Appetizers $5.95-$8.95, entrees $6.95-$20.95

Food: ** 1/2

Service: **

Atmosphere: **

Outstanding: ****; Good: ***; Fair or uneven: **; Poor: *

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