Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Phillips Seafood

We stopped off at the Maryland House rest stop in Aberdeen, Maryland for a late lunch. It was always the plan to stop at one of the Maryland rest areas since they looked nice and renovated and like they had a lot of options for lunch. We were pretty impressed by the exterior of the rest area, bright and shiny and new, but didn't take much time to look at it from outside since the wind chill was still unfortunately in the 20s. Way too cold.

There were some familiar chains at the rest stop, stuff like Nathan's, Wendy's, and Dunkin Donuts, but also some more unique spots, like Currito (looked similar to Chipotle) and Phillips Seafood. Although Phillips looked a little (a lot) on the pricey side, we decided to stop there. It would be a little bit of a splurge, but our thought was, "When in Maryland, get some crab!" A remembered stopping by for some chowder once before on a business trip, but this was our first time trying it together.

We ended up spending about $35 at Phillips for our lunch, which was more than we expected for some fast food, but we hoped it would at least be tasty. We only got 3 things, so that should give you an idea of how expensive Phillips is. We didn't even get some of the more expensive things, like the crab cake and crispy shrimp platter (which was $20.49) or the lobster roll (also $20.49) or the seafood sampler basket (that one was $21.49).

One of the no-brainer choices for us was the crab cake sandwich ($14.99), which was a soft bun topped with "Phillips' famous lump crab cake," lettuce, and tomato. The crab cake was a single crab cake ball, and it was so much smaller than either of us expected that it would be, no bigger in diameter than a ketchup packet. (We measured.) Our first thought was, "That's it? That's what we paid $15 for?" We were planning to share everything, so neither of us got very much crab cake at all.

The crab cake was okay, but nothing special. The first bites were a little fishy for both of us, but for me, that eventually subsided the more I ate, and for A, it got better with the addition of some tartar sauce. I added tartar sauce too, but that was less about fishiness and more because I just found the whole thing rather flavorless. We know they distribute their crab cakes widely in frozen departments, so someone must like them, but trying this one here, their famous one, for the first time really didn't make us want to go out and buy them. It was a little disappointing overall since the sandwich was so small and then the crab cake was just mediocre to us. The sandwich also came with some seasoned waffle fries, which were fine but literally a handful of maybe 6 fries total. They gave us more ketchup packets than they did fries.

The second thing we tried was the baked crab pretzel ($11.49). Just like the crab cake sandwich, this wasn't very large considering how much it cost. It was supposed to be one of those large, soft, doughy pretzels topped with some crab meat and cheese, and then baked until the cheese was melted and browned. In theory, it sounds like this should have been good. Sadly, it was also just okay.

When we cut it open to split, we thought that it looked more like a tuna melt on a piece of bread. The base was supposed to be a pretzel, but for the most part, it just tasted like a bready pizza. The pretzel as a whole wasn't anything special, the flavor came more from the cheese than the crab, and the best bites were when you got crab, cheese, and pretzel/bread together, which didn't happen as often as you would think since there were only bits of crab and they didn't cover the whole pretzel. For the amount we paid, we really thought there should have been more crab, more cheese, and more pretzel.

We also got the New England clam chowder ($6.49) which came with oyster crackers. This was the only bright spot of the meal. It wasn't absurdly overpriced like some of the other menu items (at least not compared to Manhattan prices), and it was actually really good. We found it both sad and amusing that a place which is supposed to specialize in crab had a better clam chowder than any of the crab items. Considering how cold it was outside, this chowder was exactly what we were looking for. In retrospect, we probably would have been happier if we both just got a cup of chowder and not all the other stuff.

The chowder was rich and comforting. There were clams, potatoes, celery, onions, bacon, and lots of cream. The only not so great thing about the chowder was that they topped it with a lot of Old Bay (of course, it's Maryland). It was fine mixed in, but A licked the chowder off the cover which had a disproportionate amount of Old Bay, which turned out to be a little too salty. Other than that, the chowder was good and definitely better than anything else we had eaten at lunch.

Considering the size of everything we ordered, we weren't really full when we left the rest stop, and A was actually still hungry, so it was a good thing that when we stopped off at Costco an hour or so later that they were offering tons of samples. We got some seven layer dip, Canadian bacon, cheddar cheese, shamrock ravioli with pesto, blue crab dip, tuna salad, clam chowder (yes, more), wild salmon, and cashew clusters, and felt so much better. Our curiosity about Phillips Seafood was certainly satisfied by this meal, even if our appetites weren't, so we probably will not need to stop by overpriced Phillips again. If we did get anything again, it would be chowder, just chowder.

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