Atmosphere: A Bavarian beer garden in an American barn.
Hours: Open weekends only: Friday and Saturday nights, 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. with band beginning to play at 9 p.m.; Sunday, family day, 2 to 10 p.m. with band playing from 5 p.m. to closing.
Price range: Admission Friday and Saturday, $2 a person; Sunday, $1 a person and 25 cents each child. Sandwiches, 60 cents to $3.50; dinners, $4 to $7.
Reservations: A good idea Friday and Saturday nights.
Credit cards: None. Expect to pay cash.
Special facilities: Large parking lot; accessible to handicapped; booster chairs but no highchairs available. Live music.
You'll either love it or you'll hate it. Blob's Park, a Bavarian family-style beer garden located just off the Baltimore-Washington Parkway in Jessup, is a hard place to be neutral about.
Established on its present site almost 50 years ago and modernized and expanded in 1976, Blob's Park's barn-sized dining room and dance hall holds almost 600 people. For $2 a person admission, regular patrons routinely fill it on Friday and Saturday nights. On Sunday, which is Family Day (admission $1 for adults, 25 cents for children), cars crowd the large parking lot.
Groups sit at long family-style tables to eat bratwurst and sauerkraut or cheeseburgers and french fries. They munch fat pretzels, drink pitchers of dark beer, and dance to the music of a spirited German band that moves easily from "You Are My Sunshine" to a lively polka. The band plays lots of sing-along music, specialty dances, and, every once in a while, even a Ladies' Choice.
Everyone dresses informally, except for the waitresses, who wear dirndls; you may also spot a feathered alpine hat or two in the crowd. On a Sunday evening, babies sit parked in strollers next to their parents' chairs and older children move about freely without bothering anybody. Blob's Park is the sort of place where adults sway in their seats to the music or dance in the aisles beside their tables. Gray-haired ladies take a turn around the dance floor with their grandchildren.
It's all very like an enormous ethnic wedding reception and it's all very jolly. But it won't be everybody's mug of brew. It's also noisy, crowded, informal and unceremonious. If you've never been there before, you may feel like a foreigner in a strange country.
There was no hostess the night we were there, and everybody but us seemed to know where to sit and how to get a menu and service. By wading into the crowd to stop an employe, we finally discovered that we should sit at any empty table and wait for a waitress to arrive.
If we chose not to wait, we could go to the bar for our own drinks and get in line in front of a kitchen window to order food. There seemed to no abundance of waitresses; we got in line.
In addition to the music and dancing, the crowd must like the prices at Blob's Park, which offers several traditional German and American platters, including bread, butter, vegetables and coffee, for $4 to $5. Sandwiches range from a 60-cent hot dog to a $2 crab cake on a roll. Cheeseburgers ($1.35) and french fries (60 cents) compare with McDonald's prices.
Our three daughters had no trouble shaking down the simple menu: cheeseburgers, french fries, and colas for them. We thought we should sample the German fare, and ordered sauerbraten and dumpling with red cabbage and green beans ($5); and bratwurst (two of them) with sauerkraut and beets ($4).
Both dinners approximated mediocre cafeteria food, but the girls found their cheeseburgers and french fries just fine. Desserts, with the exception of an Italian rum cake not ordinarily available, were just fair.
The band is fun. But don't expect great food. Your best bet is to eat simply and enjoy the music, the dancing, and the low prices.
When we were ready to leave, we tallied our expenses, including admission, pretzels, food, drinks, and a minimal tip left at the serving counter where we collected our food. The total was $30.75 for five of us.
Directions: Take Baltimore-Washington Parkway to Rt. 175 East. As you come off the parkway, turn right at the firehouse. You will see a Blob's Park sign and then the park itself on the left.