East County Times Dining Guide

Paula, standing, visits with a group of business professionals who are regulars for lunch a few times a week at Hazelwood Inn




By Allson McAlister

Last week, I had the chance to visit a restaurant with which I was unfamiliar so I had no idea what to expect. To say I was highly impressed would be an understatement. Talk about a best kept secret! I felt like Id unearthed a hidden treasure. The Hazelwood Inn, located off of Golden Ring Road, serves up some truly delicious food. Although the restaurant has been a neighborhood landmark for more than 50 years, the current management came in around 2000. Owner Elias, Chef Max and Dining Room Manager Paula work hard to ensure their guests have a pleasantly satisfying dining experience. My co-worker and I were really blown away by just how awesome everything was that we tasted the day we went for lunch. We started off with a sampling of appetizers. The coconut shrimp - nice sized, succulent shrimp in a crispy coconut coating - were divine, especially dipped in the accompanying homemade sauce. With hints of orange, its a blend of sweet and sour that complements the shrimp quite nicely. A popular item in lots of restaurants is the crab pretzel and Hazelwood Inns version features lots of creamy crab dip and melted cheese. It was very good. A more unusual item on the appetizer menu is the southwestern eggrolls. Stuffed with chicken, bell peppers, black beans, spinach and corn and deep fried to a golden brown, these were huge. Served with a tangy Ranch dip, these eggrolls are scrumptious. While all the appetizers were incredibly delicious, I was most impressed with the stuffed mushroom caps. Ive ordered my share of stuffed mushrooms at various restaurants over the years, but I have never had stuffed mushrooms as big and tasty as the ones at Hazelwood Inn. These mushroom caps were huge! And the Crab Imperial filling featured large lumps of crabmeat. If youre a fan of stuffed mushrooms, you must order these. They are to die for! Though we were pretty full after just the appetizers, we sampled a couple of entrees as well. Of course, we had to try the crab cake. This approximately eight-ounce jumbo lump cake was excellent. Seasoned just right and broiled to perfection, we didnt encounter one shell throughout the entire cake. Delicious!!! Best of all, the crab cake is featured in a current special. Monday through Thursday from 4 - 9 p.m., customers can get the crab cake or the New York strip with two sides for just $9.99. Thats a heck of a deal! Another popular seller at the Hazelwood Inn is the sour beef and dumplings, so we sampled that as well. The beef was tender and flavorful, and the sauce is really good. So good in fact that some customers ask for extra dumplings but no meat. They just want the sauce, Max laughed. In addition to the beautiful dining room where guests can enjoy a quiet dining experience, Hazelwood Inn also features a carryout, a bar/lounge and a lovely upstairs room available for parties. The carryout is open seven days a week with beer, wine and liquor available for sale. The party room, which holds up to 100 people, is a wonderful space in which to host your next big catered event and features its own bar, bathroom and fireplace. While I did not have the pleasure of meeting Elias, I did have the opportunity to talk with both Max and Paula, both of whom were extremely friendly and quite enthusiastic about the restaurant. You can tell that much care goes into the preparation of the food. Max said all of the soups and sauces are made in house and they even sell their dressings to go. The extensive menu has something for everyone, plus there are daily lunch and dinner specials, making the Hazelwood Inn a popular restaurant with families. From Greek entrees to Italian pastas and pizza to a good old juicy hamburger, youre sure to find more than enough tempting taste treats to try. The Hazelwood Inn, located at 4937 Hazelwood Ave., is open seven days a week, from 11 a.m. - midnight Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. - 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information, call 410-866-3116.

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