Tom Strawser has been to Indonesia. Germany. The United Kingdom. In all, he’s worked in six foreign countries and five different states opening more than eighty restaurants. But the Cumberland native is most proud of the restaurant he opened six months ago, Bill Bateman’s in Perry Hall. Strawser is the owner of the franchise at 9629 Bel Air Road.As one of thirteen Bill Bateman Bistros, Strawser’s restaurant offers the standard Bateman menu. However, he has well honed ideas on how to make the Perry Hall bistro successful. “I have an award-winning chef, Shawn McClure. We can give our customers a little extra, like a fresh catch of the day or oysters grilled on the half shell,” said Strawser.
I had the grilled oysters; six for $8.99 that were served with bacon, fresh goat cheese and barbeque sauce. They were exactly as Strawser described them, “Very different.” The flavors blended together. They were spicy and warm and the cheesy flavor added a little kick to them.
Strawser, who works nine to twelve hour days, opened the Perry Hall Bill Bateman’s last June. “We’ve been open just six months,” he said. “We are serving three to four thousand people each week.” Add the three thousand weekly carry out meals he also serves and Strawser’s franchise is one in which Bill Bateman, himself is very proud.
Bateman, who is a good friend, “takes a lot of pride in his food, he made it all himself,” reported Strawser. Bill Bateman’s homemade Crisfield crab soup, which sells for $5.99 a bowl, is his personal recipe. Hearty, the soup is considered a tomato based Eastern shore favorite. It has crabmeat, fresh carrots, potatoes, corn, peas, onions, green beans, a spicy tomato stock and a generous garnish of crab meat. It is one of the best traditional Maryland crab soups I have ever tasted.
Wings of all varieties are also featured on the menu. From Old Bay to Kentucky Bourbon with southern sugar and spices. Strawser also serves wings so hot they are called “wings from hell.” They start at five wings for $4.79. Ten wings are $8.99, twenty are $16.99. The burgers are all fresh certified Angus beef, served on a toasted Kaiser roll with French fries and they start at $7.49 for “just a plain old fashioned burger.” A burger topped with crab dip, cheddar cheese, crabmeat and Old Bay seasoning is $10.99 and the double-stacked burger with American cheese and bacon is $12.99.
A sampling of the chef’s specials that Strawser serves — along with the enormous Bateman menu — is unusual. White corn, grilled and sprinkled with old bay and feta cheese is $2. Lobster and crab mac and cheese; jumbo lump crab mixed with lobster and a rich artisan cheese sauce, cavatappi pasta and a parmesan crust is $14.99. The trio of dips for $11.99 includes crab, Rueben and spinach and artichoke with tortilla wedges, celery and carrots.
I had Chef McClure’s chicken stuffed with roasted red peppers, spinach, bacon and pepper Jack cheese. It was served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes for $12.99. The chicken was tender and spicy with the warm, blended flavors of the stuffing. The potatoes melted in my mouth. Delicious.
Strawser, who began working at Bill Bateman’s in Towson seven years ago, opened three of Bateman’s restaurants before he bought the franchise in Perry Hall. He took a break to sit down with Christy Carpenter, his girlfriend, who helps with the bookkeeping. Strawser constantly scans the room; jumping up to help someone serve a dish or select a wine.
For me, he recommended the Blackstone Merlot, which was smooth and enjoyable at $6 a glass. From time to time, he would disappear into the kitchen, and reappear to reveal more about his restaurant. “We gutted this place and redid it, blew out the walls and gave it more freedom,” he said, pointing to the bar area that he expanded. Strawser added that he has spent twenty years in the restaurant business and smiled, obviously enjoying himself.