Martha & Mary's

American
$$$$ ($14 and under)
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Editorial Review

Martha & Mary's is the kind of mom-and-pop sandwich shop on Main Street that many towns just don't have anymore.

Co-owners Annie Derzak and Jim Morgan opened the Reisterstown restaurant in April 2009 in a building that once housed a Friendly's ice cream shop. They crank out an array of comfort food that's a notch above, and convenient breakfast fare. Portions are generous, the ingredients are fresh and the breads are chewy.

Moran is a former corporate chef for Rainforest Cafe and DuClaw Brewing Co. Derzak, who has worked at those chains as well as Ruby Tuesday, describes their place as family- and budget-friendly, inspired by her experience with her two school-age children.

"After sports or practice, if we wanted to get a bite to eat, there weren't any options that wouldn't kill your wallet or 'kill' your kids," she says.

Sandwiches are served as part of a combo meal, with a drink and a choice of mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables, fries, chips or fruit ($7.99). The extensive list includes an open-faced tuna melt on thick slices of rye and a triple-patty cheeseburger sub.

Thick slabs of Mark's Meatloaf ($8.99) round out the comfort-food menu and are laced with sausage and a hint of fennel. The mashed potatoes with traces of red skin make a particularly good match. The Belly Buster Fish & Chips is as described: a large wedge of white fish with crunchy batter that survives the trip home, as do the fries, which are cut each day ($8.99). Quesadillas ($5.99 to $8.99) stuffed with steak, crab, chicken or vegetables are large enough to share. Convection-oven pizza comes by the slice ($1.99; toppings 50 cents each) or the pie ($6.99 and up). Kids' meals are $4.99.

Martha & Mary's opens early, and Derzak is particularly proud of the breakfast pizza, loaded with eggs (scrambled to order), sausage and cheese - or dressed up like a western omelet (12-inch, $6.99 to $7.99; 14-inch, $8.99 to $9.99).

You'd be correct if you noted religious references in the restaurant's name and in menu items such as Corinthian and Eden salads, Matthew's Meatball Sub and the Revelation Wrap (chicken, herb cheese and vegetables). Derzak's kids attend school at nearby Sacred Heart, and she is an active member of the parish. But when "folks ask if I'm afraid I'll offend someone," she says, "I remind them that Martha and Mary were Jewish."

One dish on the menu is decidedly non-biblical: the Sloppy Joan, named for Derzak's mother. The sandwich epitomizes what the restaurant is all about: "It's the kind of thing people remember from when they were kids, but not a lot of restaurants out there are serving them," Derzak says. Its ground beef runny with tomato sauce, spiced up with a hint of brown sugar and a dash of mustard, is indeed a welcome throwback.

-Martha Thomas (Good to Go, Oct. 6, 2010)