Get a glimpse of the marquee outside The Pikes Diner and you might think some films are playing inside.
From its original opening in 1937 to the closing of the theater in 1987, that was the case at 921 Reisterstown Road, according to owner and manager Will Reich. But these days it's all about the food. With more inspection, the marquee boasts “All Day, Breakfast Lunch Dinner."
This Pikesville joint has had many lives. In its current incarnation, which is just coming on the sixth year, you can get some delicious diner food.
Foodies come for the fried chicken, crabcakes and, of course, breakfast anytime. But they also come for the kitsch.
While the diner's gig as a theater is over, the Hollywood movies theme continues inside where likenesses of Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe, and a very creepy Hannibal Lecter, replete with voice and moving eyes, greet customers.
Sit down at the counter or make your way to one of the tables or booths in the large dining room. The ceiling remains from the movie theater days.
And all around are vintage movie posters framed by white lights. Up front is a movie camera that looks like it should be in a museum.
Reich, who is also the owner of Jilly's sports bar across the street, and Jilly's in Ellicott City, is proud of the diner's menu.
"There’s a little something for everyone," he said. And it’s true.
The menu at the Pikes isn’t pages long like at many traditional diners, but it hits all the right spots.
The breakfast special is simple, yet very popular: Eggs, breakfast meat, home fries, toast and coffee, all for $4.99.
Lunch also boasts a mix-and-match special: a cup of soup, salad, and half a sandwich for $6.99.
My dining companion and I were there for dinner, so we dug into the appetizer and entree sections.
The potato skins were hearty and delicious and had more potato than your usual skins. They didn’t come with enough sour cream, and he we had to ask for more. But we surely could have stopped there; they were quite yummy and satisfying.
I ordered the signature fried chicken, my dining companion ordered the ribs.
I save ordering fried chicken as a rare treat, and this was worth it. The coating was delicious and neither too crispy nor too soggy. The meat inside was moist and delicious. The flavor was perfect.
Reich said he always offers a customer’s money back if the fried chicken isn’t the best they’ve ever had, “and no one’s ever asked for a refund.”
I opted for a double order of cole slaw and that was a good call. It was just sweet enough and was a great complement to the chicken.
My dining companion got the ribs, described on the menu as “fall-off-the-bone." While they did not fall off the bone, they were hearty and tasty, with a rich barbeque sauce that had a slight bite to it, and a smokey undertone. She found the cole slaw to be as good as I did.
Also on the menu are Italian selections, seafood, and burgers. There are signature entrees like the ones we ordered, and of course the hearty, anytime breakfast: omelettes, waffles and hotcakes. New on the menu is a breakfast burrito.
There are 13 flavors of chicken wings ($7.69), and an ample, yet not overwhelming, menu of sandwiches ($7.69-$12.99).
The waitress brought our check without trying to sell us dessert, but we asked anyway. The plate she brought out had four choices, and we selected the peanut butter pie.
It was a bit dry on the outside (as if it sits in the fridge pre-sliced), but the inside was creamy and delicious, with both peanut butter and chocolate layers. The whipped cream helped make up for the dryness on the outside, and all-in-all we were stuffed before we could finish it.
The delicious food is there year-round. But the most famous draw for the Pikes will not be back until spring.
It's the "Elvis Show:" That special time when 60 seats are set outside under the marquee, with a die-hard local Elvis impersonator performing for customers and anyone who is traversing Reisterstown Road.
The food itself is worth the trip, but it sounds like the Elvis show is the icing on one of their creamy desserts.
The Pikes is open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, call the diner at 410-653-5545.
The Pikes accepts Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover, as well as cash and debit cards.