The Old Bowie Town Grille boasts old-town flavor but also appears to be reaching out to a legion of regional diners who are seeking moderately contemporary fare.
The renovated building sits at the corner of Chestnut and 11th avenues in Bowie’s Old Town.
Fans of local history will be impressed with the images that grace the walls. Framed photographs in black and white and color showcase some of the highlights of this small Prince George’s County city’s past.
The interior is somewhat reminiscent of a small steakhouse: Nicely spaced wooden booths line the exterior walls while tables take up the center of the room.
Appetizers include oysters on the half shell (wait till October and November for the freshest local oysters), Crab Straight Up ($11) and a Calypso scallop martini ($9).
The scallop martini is served with skewered grilled scallops seasoned with Caribbean spices and plated with a lime-mint sauce.
The “straight up” crab starter was about as pure and honest as crab gets. Jumbo — and I do mean jumbo — lumps of succulent crabmeat were dressed very lightly with a sweet-and-sour sauce. The slight tang of the sauce added just the right contrast to the sweet crab, while the perfect portion did not smother it.
A house salad was average but fresh and reminded me of something from my youth. Iceberg lettuce, carrots, radishes, onion, tomato and blue cheese, definitely an old-town offering passed on to the present. Caesar salad had a rich, tangy dressing with a generous helping of Parmesan.
Two chicken salads are offered, one with a cilantro-lime dressing and one with Thai peanut dressing.
Sandwiches include the Big B, a knife-and-fork pot-roast sandwich dressed with sauteed onions and mushrooms, topped with a red wine sauce and served on a baguette.
The Old Town Burger is a half pound of ground Angus beef served with a choice of cheese and garnished with lettuce, tomato, onions and pickle, all served on a toasted bun.
The portobello sandwich is grilled portobello mushroom sliced and topped with Monterey Jack cheese, red pepper cream, shredded lettuce and tomato relish, served on a baguette.
As for the main plates, Old Bowie prides itself on its fresh fish offerings. The kitchen brings in varieties from the Chesapeake Bay, Atlantic and Gulf regions. A daily specials board is chalked up seven days a week.
Catch a glimpse of the board when you arrive or ask your server. On this night, the server was well informed about what was coming from the kitchen.
Specials included crab cakes, specially prepared tuna, rockfish — a local favorite — and a turf plate of steak Bearnaise.
Crab cakes ($19 for two) are touted as a specialty, and although they aren’t the best you can get in this area, they definitely are a notch above most. Beautiful lumps of tender crabmeat were held together with minimal binding. Just the slightest hint of mustard nicely balanced the richness. The cake was pleasantly moist and the exterior not overly crusty.
Grilled tuna ($19) was accompanied by a tomato-and-avocado salsa. The tuna and salsa had the same seasoning, a surprising little bit of a kick that tantalized rather than burned. The tuna was cooked to perfection, including the grill marks, and was nicely medium rare. The cold salsa played off the hot tuna; the sweet tomatoes and avocado balanced out the kick of the seasoning; and the balsamic vinaigrette added a layer of richness.
The menu offers three steak options, two chicken dishes and more. Pasta plates include French Quarter ($18), which is grilled salmon, shrimp and New Orleans Alfredo sauce atop fettuccine, and Cajun seafood toss ($19) with shrimp, scallops and crawfish in a creamy Cajun sauce served over pasta.
Dessert offerings are fairly standard for this area: Key lime, toffee crunch and Snickers pies; cheesecake with raspberry and mango coulis; chocolate and vanilla ice cream; double-fudge brownie; carrot cake.
Chocolate banana layer cake ($4) won out, and it was the perfect choice. Four layers of moist, rich cake offered a prominent and pleasing banana flavor complemented nicely by a generous but not overbearing amount of miniature chocolate chips. The chocolate icing was smooth and creamy, rich and buttery, but not too sweet.
RESTAURANT: Old Bowie Town Grille, 8604 Chestnut Ave., Bowie; 301/464-8800
HOURS: Monday and Tuesday 4 to 11 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
PRICES: Appetizers $9 to $11; soups/salads $4 to $14; sandwiches $8 to $10; entrees $15 to $27; pastas $13 to $19; desserts $3 to $5
CREDIT CARDS: All major cards
PARKING: On site
ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible