Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. Though folks who know me best know I’m one of those guys who won’t shut up about The Wire, a Baltimore walkabout was Anne’s idea. Setting aside my fandom, as a major history buff she was first to remind skeptics who made worried faces at us for this plan that Maryland was one of the original thirteen American colonies and, urban decay notwithstanding, remains packed with notable history and architecture from ye olde Founding Father times. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do. And if we just so happened to run across former filming locations without getting shot, happy bonus…
After spending a few hours driving and walking around the grounds of Antietam, we were overdue for lunch. First we turned to Google Maps for nearby recommendations, which led to a merry chase up and down the nearby town of Sharpsburg for a barbecue joint that apparently didn’t exist, or perhaps was in someone’s basement, or possibly was floating in the clouds above us. I can’t say I was shocked, as Google Maps has let us down before — multiple times on our 2015 trip to New Orleans, in fact. Eventually we gave up and headed northeast toward Baltimore, hopefully to or near one of its higher-rated suggestions in the next town of Keedysville.
This time the restaurant existed, but showed up several blocks earlier than my phone told us to expect. Thus fate brought us to Bonnie’s at the Red Byrd, exactly the kind of diner you want to find when you’re starving and you’re dozens of miles away from the nearest corporate franchise.
Business was still steady at 2 p.m. on a Sunday. Seating us took a few extra minutes, as did returning to take our drink orders. Once we’d settled in, service was just fine from there. We started with an appetizer of fish nuggets lightly coated in sugar, not the kind of thing we see every day. We’re not the kind to fixate on the more popular starters like fried cheese sticks or Bloomin’ Onions.
Our lead photo is my own meal, a crab cake sandwich surrounded by cole slaw and a scoop of potato salad. Throughout our trip, Maryland never let us forget they’re major players in the American crab industry. Everywhere we went, crab was likely to be available. I’ve never seen crab cake sandwiches listed on so many menus in any other city or state. Maryland is also the first place I’ve ever seen Old Bay seasoning kept on tables next to the salt and pepper. Apparently they love their Old bay the way other states love their barbecue sauces.
Anne opted out of seafood because she reckoned we’d have our fill of it later in Baltimore. Instead she went all-in on the diner comfort food and got herself a simple chopped steak doused in brown gravy and taking up half the plate. She would’ve accepted no less, even if there was no chance of her finishing a plate this size without my help.
Most of the place was too crowded for decor beyond the standard diner trimmings. Most of their extras were stashed in the hallway leading to the restrooms.
By the time we finished all of the above, neither of us had room for dessert. All we could do was admire their plentiful display case and weep on the inside.
We regretted missing out on their bakery of delights, hopefully none of which was saturated with Old Bay. But I promised myself that once we reached Maryland, whether that evening or another day, I would find room for the greatest Maryland desserts of all time. We very nearly made good on that promise, but that moment of joy was a few days away. We still had dozens of miles standing between us and Baltimore, and at least two more stops on our sightseeing agenda along the way.
To be continued!
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