It's in a sprawling mall in the 'burbs. And it looks homogenized. But locally owned Barrett's Grill, surrounded by chain restaurants you'd recognize anywhere, has managed to carve out its own identity, offering a reasonably priced American menu that will appeal to the nearby movie crowd or visitors to the complex grandly called Hunt Valley Towne Centre.
The restaurant, in the space previously occupied by Greystone Grill, won't dazzle diners with fussy fare. This is food that Grandma would recognize: cheeseburgers, crab cakes, ribs, and meatloaf. What's not to like?
It also has a hearty grill section on the menu with steaks ranging from a six-ounce filet mignon for $22 to a bone-in cowboy rib-eye for $35, the most expensive offering.
We started with an oozy, lumpy crab and artichoke fondue, served with salty cracker-like triangles. This cheesy starter is fun to share, and there's plenty of dip for scooping. The "shrimp cargot" featured six fat shrimp, each nestled in its own little indentation in the dish—à la the presentation of escargots (hence the name). The kitchen is heavy handed with the Havarti, but the nuggets underneath in a garlic-perfumed butter are worth delving into—and there are crunchy baguette slices to sop up the sauce.
We had a brand-new waitress. It was her first night. And I think her heart sunk when we ordered a bottle of wine. (Bottles are half-price on Tuesdays and Thursdays.) She had never opened one before, she told us. She had just turned 21 two days earlier!
I appreciated her telling us. I'm sure she was nervous—she probably would have been horrified if she knew I was reviewing the restaurant. To her credit, she popped out the wine cork with aplomb—and was visibly relieved and joyful. She's going to do great.
There were a few glitches, though. The kitchen didn't time the delivery of courses evenly. We ended up with our salads while we were still digging into our appetizers. Then, we had to swap our unfinished starters for the greens ourselves, while the uneaten food sat for too long on our table.
Besides that unevenness, we enjoyed the meal and the setting. The color scheme is a calming grey with bare wood tables and sleek, curvy banquettes, creating a peaceful oasis. There is a Zen waterfall as you enter the dining room and a central rock garden with small green shrubs. (If you didn't know, it could be a spa offering facials and massages.)
Our entrees—a simple grilled salmon fillet, slightly charred, with a drizzle of whole-grain mustard sauce, and a juicy herbed half chicken with crispy skin—were delicious. We opted for fluffy mashed potatoes and the chef's vegetable of the day—tender Brussels sprouts, cut equatorially and gently coated with butter.
The desserts are prepared in house and provide the same kind of comfiness as the rest of the meal. The warm apple-crumb cobbler with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream and zigzag of caramel sauce was a straightforward representation of the old-fashioned treat. The list also includes bread pudding, crème brûlée, and a cheese plate with nuts and seasonal fruits.