Monday, February 8, 2010

Birches - I Wish It Were My Neighborhood Pub

by Erin

Last week, I had an appointment to give blood for the first time. I was nervous - what if I pass out? What if they say my blood's no good? What if they don't have cookies?? In an effort to have a good first blood-giving experience, I wanted to have a hearty dinner the night before and lunch the day of. I kept telling everyone I needed to "iron-load" (like carbo-loading before a big game, I guess?), so I made plans with some friends for dinner the night before.

We met up at Birches, an unassuming restaurant in the Canton neighborhood, which until that afternoon, I had never heard of. Birches was recommended by my friend and co-worker Mat, who lives (literally) around the corner, and is a huge fan. I trust Mat's palate - after all, he and I have had multiple discussions about the wonders of cheese-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon or proscuitto.


My friend Max and I walked into Birches on a blustery night (though most of them seem blustery these days, don't they?) and were greeted by the friendly hostess. We asked if our other friends were there, and she said "Oh yeah, Mat's at the bar!" I guess they really do know him there.

We sat in the bar area (we could have sat in the dining area, but the bar was cozy and bustling) and got to perusing the extensive menu. While the menu has many upscale entrees, we were in the mood for pub grub, including their dollar sliders that night. (Sliders have iron, right?) They had two kinds: cheeseburger minis, and buffalo chicken minis. We got a whole mess of them - too many, in fact - but they were outstanding! They were served on toast, and the burger had a little aioli on it, and the chicken had some yummy bleu cheese dressing on it (though not as good as BCD Moms - obvi).






I got a wee side salad of their caesar, which was interesting because the dressing had a lot of balsamic in it, yet it still tasted like caesar. The salad also had caramelized red onion and grilled tomatoes on top, which were a nice touch. Lydia also got a salad (for her main dish), which I don't remember much about except it had spiced popcorn AND fried plantains on top - yum!



Max and Mat also got the cream of crab soup, which was delicious and creamy, with lots of Old Bay and crabmeat. Do you see crab as a theme here?



Arguably the best part of the meal, however, were the fries. They have a whole fry MENU, with 6-8 different fry toppings. We had a hard time deciding what to get but we settled on the "Crabby-Ass fries" and the "Onion fries." We had these as our appetizer, which was a good tactic -- they came out fast and fresh.

Both dishes began with a mountain of freshly cooked fries. The crabby-ass fries were then topped with a creamy crabmeat mixture (mostly crab). Essentially, this was crab dip on fries, but there was WAY more crabmeat than in a typical crab dip. Magnifique!



The onion fries were equally delicious and I appreciated their uniqueness - putting caramelized onions on top of fries isn't that wild of an idea, but I never even heard of it before! So delicious, and totally addicting.



Last, we ordered chocolate cake for dessert. But this wasn't any ol' chocolate cake - they are made to order so we had to order ours when we put in our dinner order. It came out hot and gooey, and had a great chocolate sauce on the bottom (though there was some booze in the chocolate sauce, and I personally felt it wasn't cooked out enough). The ice cream on the side didn't hurt either.



In sum, I truly loved Birches. I wish it were my neighborhood bar for the following reasons: (1) awesome food, (2) great service, (3) cozy atmosphere, (4) they have board games in the bar!, and (5) they are a Terps basketball bar! Could there be a better combo for a restaurant? I will definitely be back...perhaps for the next Terps game!



Thanks for taking us to Birches, Mat!



BFFs...waiting for fries



Lydia enjoys her frites! Sooo delicious...

Oh, and the update on the blood-giving? It went swimmingly. I didn't pass out, and there were cookies - lots of 'em!

Happy blood-giving and iron-loading,
EP


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