Corrugated aluminum, reclaimed wood, Edison light bulbs – we've seen it all before in other restaurants around town, but Outpost Neighborhood Kitchen on Edgewater Drive in College Park has taken the concept a couple of steps further to great result. Themed restaurants don't have to be kitschy; at 1900s-themed Outpost, you'll feel like you stepped into Newsies without worrying that the servers will break into song and dance while you're dessert-diving.
Since starters are priced between $5 and $8 (not exactly turn-of-the-century prices, but close enough) order two, beginning with pimiento cheese and toast points ($5). There's enough of the spread to take home for folding into scrambled eggs the next morning, or just order more toast points for no extra charge and finish it off right then and there. Pickled deviled eggs ($5) – certainly one of those "foodie-bait" dishes chefs adore – look nothing like their jarred neon-pink namesake, but have the perfect hint of brine to ward off that sulfurous hard-boiled odor and serve as a foil to the rich, fluffy yolk filling.
Three beautifully glazed, if skinny, short ribs are served with the "Radclyffe ribs" entrée ($18), flanked by grilled asparagus and a forgettable wild mushroom risotto. The arborio rice was properly al dente, but the risotto itself sadly clumped instead of spreading into a silky pool. The flavor-forward "Rustic Inn ribeye" (a steal for $17) is topped with a slab of herby compound butter – the electrocardiograph wasn't discovered until 1901, so the fat-on-fat concept is forgivable – and accompanied by a satisfying cauliflower mash only marred by so much garlic it could double as vampire (or, perhaps, date) repellant.
- Photo by Rob Bartlett
Desserts are nothing short of nostalgia-inducing, apropos considering the faux-historic setting. When I was a kid, I attended a summer camp where we clamored for our favorite sweet – a banana split down the middle, stuffed with chocolate chips and marshmallows, wrapped in aluminum foil and thrown on the coals for 10 minutes or so. Outpost's version of the campfire banana split ($6) is served exactly as I remember it from those days, along with a side of vanilla ice cream and (eye roll) an edible orchid. The bacon-inclined will lust after the "breakfast sundae" ($6.50): two Belgian waffle quarters topped with house-made bacon ice cream and candied bacon pieces, topped with a maple drizzle.
Our server, a flannelled and suspendered millennial, was polite and prompt, and we were greeted, seated and thanked at the appropriate times – the latter being most important (take note, managers). I appreciated her brunch tout at the end of the meal, which re-whetted our oh-so-sated appetites for a boozy return to the resto.
There are plenty of restaurants dishing up top-notch fare in the 32804, but Outpost Neighborhood Kitchen proves there's room for one more ... at least.
- Photo by Rob Bartlett