After the beloved Harvey’s closed in 2000, nothing succeeded in Green Spring Station’s corner restaurant spot until Tark’s Grill in 2008. Owner Terry “Tark” Arenson cannily understood that what makes for a successful restaurant in the county might not necessarily entail glamour and challenging cuisine. Rather, Tark’s, like Harvey’s, specialized in comforting surrounds and reliable food that pleased without surprising. No wonder that new owners Gino Cardinale and Bruce Bodie have opted for only the subtlest changes, and that includes not messing with the name. Cardinale and Bodie know something about success—they’re the team behind City Cafe—and are treading lightly, introducing touches of urban hip to the menu without scaring away the clientele. So far, it’s working pretty well.
Although some interior renovations will take place in 2017, it’s doubtful that the new owners will do anything drastic to the muted, neocasual dining room—maybe a brighter palette and a seafood bar. The friendly service that Tark’s was known for is still firmly in place, and the cocktails are as big as ever.
Many menu updates have been imported from City Cafe by executive chef and CC alum James Jennings, and they’re mostly about nudging old favorites into New American territory. A classic cobb salad boasts a seven-minute egg and avocado ranch dressing; Thai dipping sauce accompanies the fried calamari. Along with crab dip, you’ll find trendy burrata with wild mushrooms and rosemary oil, and crispy lobster nuggets with chutney. We loved the latter, but were less impressed with another starter, a limp and flavorless bowl of Brussels sprouts with bacon aioli.
Among the entrees, you’ll find favorites like crab cakes and rack of lamb—perfectly grilled and gussied up with white asparagus and polenta. While you can choose between a filet or New York strip steak, there’s a bistro-ish flat-iron cut as well. The flat iron is full of flavor and texture. But another beef entree, the barbecued short rib, lacked the unctuousness you want in a cut like this, and it didn’t have much flavor, either. A more difficult dish to pull off was the best of the evening. Chicken medallions, enrobed in Marsala cream studded with pancetta, were a tender rebuke to anyone who thinks chicken is boring.
There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but the diners at Tark’s aren’t looking for that. This is the kind of place where neighborly feeling and the aura of stability count for more than kitchen theatrics. And as we eagerly dug into our chocolate bread pudding—rendered slightly au courant with both dark and white varieties—we reckoned that such reassuring qualities are a mighty good thing these days.
TARK’S GRILL 2360 W. Joppa Road, 410-583-8275.
HOURS Mon.-Thu. 3-10 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 3–11 p.m., Sun. 3–9 p.m.
PRICES Appetizers: $5-16; entrees: $13-32; desserts: $7-8.
AMBIANCE Suburban chic.