The genealogy is fairly simple—from a longtime Sunny Surplus store with camouflage gear and tents to an empty space to the short-lived, we-barely-knew-ye Blue Grotto restaurant to the current 7 West Bistro Grille. On recent visits, the new place was humming with diners.
It appeals to the college crowd with its happy-hour specials and munchies like wings and mozzarella sticks but also to a wide range of ages with its Mediterranean-influenced menu. The restaurant also has the draw of calm ambiance in the cavernous, open space with a front-and-center handsome bar. It’s not the typical hangout eatery found near Towson University.
The former navy walls of the previous restaurant have been brightened with mango and olive colors, gauzy siena curtains, mood-setting white droplights, and well-spaced banquettes and bare tables. The black, soaring ceiling resonates a trendy chicness.
We would come here just to chill for a while if we were in the area. But we wouldn’t make this a destination. The food is average, though there are successful dishes.
We were happy to see a grilled whole bronzini on the menu. But joy over the white-fleshed sea bass hit roadblocks when we asked to have it deboned. Although the perplexed host assured us that it could be done, the fish arrived with its skeletal system intact.
Then, it was taken away, only to sit a couple of feet from us until a staff member returned it to the kitchen. It eventually landed back on the table—filleted and minus the head and tail—with more adventures than it probably had in its watery lifetime. By that time, it was cool to the touch and rather worn-out looking.
The chicken souvlaki entree was a better choice. A bargain at $12.95, it featured skewers of moist poultry chunks with lemony rice, broccoli, and pita wedges.
We had good experiences with our appetizers, too. The shrimp oreganata featured medium-sized crustaceans in a garlicky, oregano-laced olive oil with pita triangles for dipping. The grilled rack of lamb chops were only three chops, but they were succulent and tender, and paired with a tantalizing tzatziki—the traditional, creamy Greek yogurt sauce.
On a lunch trip, we savored the grilled-chicken gyro, a house specialty filled with its main ingredient, tzatziki, tomato, onion, and feta cheese—all gooey, messy, and wonderful—in a pita wrap. The ordinary shrimp-salad sandwich on a Kaiser roll didn’t dazzle us. And fries that accompanied both dishes have to be the most lackluster in town.
But the noontime trade here is popular with nearby office workers in the county seat. The restaurant offers a lunch club card: Buy six lunches and get the seventh one for free. A lot of diners were ordering the Maryland crab soup. We’ll have to try that next time.
To end on a sweet note, go for the apple galette, a warm, crisp pastry embracing caramelized apples. Don’t bother with the baklava. It’s too cloying and gummy.
We’re glad the owners of 7 West Bistro Grille are trying to offer patrons a sophisticated setting. The service, while not professional, is truly caring, and the staff makes you feel welcome and special. The food just needs more attention.