Over the river and through the woods ....... well, you know the destination. But the next day? Battling that tryptophan hangover, you head off to the mall. Black Friday. It's as much of a modern-day tradition as Thanksgiving at grandma's.
Sometime during your shopping frenzy (even though a few short hours ago you swore you'd never eat again), you find yourself hungry. Hungry for what? Certainly not turkey. Here's an overview of your MNOs (Mall Nosh Options) for that kickoff to the annual holiday season.
Westfield Annapolis Mall not only has a plethora of places to do your holiday shopping, but they have more than three dozen places where you can get something to eat. Whether you want to grab a quick bite in the Food Court or take time out to sit down, order a cocktail, and then enjoy a nice lunch or dinner served at your table, they've got you covered.
If your dining-while-shopping philosophy tends more toward Eat to Live as opposed to Live to Eat, then the Food Court might be your best bet. Unlike the limited options you find in many malls, Westfield Annapolis Mall has a couple of exotic choices as well.
David Reel, who works near the mall and lunches there frequently, says the best food is at Mezeh Mediterranean Grill. With favorable prices ranging from about $5 to less than $8, Mezeh offers a Build Your Meal concept in which you select items from different categories, allowing you to choose among couscous, tabbouleh, hummus, kefta and more.
"This is my favorite lunch, Chicken Shawarma with rice," says Reel.
Offering the same combo concept with the same attractive pricing structure is Curry Masala where diners begin with that tasty Indian bread naan, then add rice (choose among Basmati rice, white rice or brown rice), and finally a main course such as their delicious Chicken Tikka Masala.
That inviting lunch is only $7, but one may add additional main course items on a graduated price scale. It's easy to find Curry Masala in the Food Court - with those mouth-watering curry aromas, your nose will lead you right to it.
Those in the mood for Asian food can visit Panda Express, Thai Max, or either of the Sarku Japan locations (Noodles and Company has some Asian-inspired dishes as well). At Panda Express, the cafeteria-style food looks fresh and attractive. If shopping has whetted your appetite, choose the $7 combo with their popular Orange Chicken and Beef with Broccoli.
Two Eastern Shore women were just finishing their Panda Express meal recently as they planned their trip back to the mall for Black Friday. They said they like the variety of selections in the Food Court, but say that they always pick up pretzels from Auntie Anne's for the long trip back home.
Doris Gee of Dunkirk, another frequent mall shopper, also is impressed with the diversity of dining opportunities at the mall. There are several places she likes, but she often picks up sushi at Sarku.
If your tastes tend toward cuisine from south of the border, you'll find several choices at the mall: Chipotle, Taco Bell, and the recently opened Café Rio.
"People don't know us here on the East Coast, so they should come in and discover our concept - everything fresh and everything made from scratch," says Gustavo Gaviria, general manager at Café Rio.
Gaviria especially recommends dishes that feature their specially sauced slow-braised barbecued pork.
Quick or full-serve
Pizza is a staple when it comes to mall fare, and Westfield Annapolis offers everything from a quick slice on the run to a sit-down meal at a full-service restaurant. Pizza lovers may choose among Sbarro, Squisito, California Pizza Kitchen, Romano's Macaroni Grill, and newcomer Maggiano's Little Italy (the latter two offer flatbread pizza.)
Sula Hughes-Crowdy of Annapolis prefers either California Pizza Kitchen or Cheesecake Factory when she shops at the mall, but says, "You can't beat the Food Court when you need something quick. They've got it covered when it comes to variety."
Hughes-Crowdy also lauds the convenient layout of the mall, with fast-food choices near the movie theaters and the more traditional restaurants near such high-end stores as Nordstrom and Lord & Taylor.
Maggiano's Little Italy, with its red-checkered tablecloths, dark wood and soft lighting, has a pleasant kind of retro Italian feel.
"We offer a two-for-one classic pasta meal ($13) that allows diners to enjoy one pasta dish here in the restaurant and get another one to take home for dinner," says Terry Gibbons, the general manager. "Having dinner taken care of should definitely appeal to tired shoppers."
Gibbons also suggest shoppers take a break during Maggiano's happy hour, with appetizers and drinks ranging from $3 to $6 between 3 and 6 p.m.
Burgers and bars
Burgers are another mainstay of mall fare, and there are several places at Westfield Annapolis to get a good hamburger or cheeseburger. If you're in a hurry, try the rave-worthy burgers at Five Guys, but if you'd rather sit down and let someone serve you, consider Johnny Rockets or Red Robin.
Red Robin has a full bar and it definitely has a sports bar feel. Manager Ashley Bergman recommends their new Royal Red Robin ($10.50), a novelty by virtue of the fact that it has not just bacon and cheese, but an egg as well.
When asked why Black Friday shoppers should choose Red Robin over other eating establishments in the mall, Bergman had a ready answer: "We're fun, we're quick, we're hospitable and we're family-oriented."
If you plan to shop at odd hours, don't worry about finding a place to eat at the mall. Says Johnny Rockets manager Javier Vargas: "We will open at 11 a.m. on Thanksgiving and will remain open continuously until 11 p.m. on Black Friday."
Boasting a bright and happy 1950s diner vibe, Johnny Rockets has a full breakfast menu for early shoppers as well as their award-winning burgers (try the Route 66 for $8.79). Feel like indulging yourself? How about a Mocha Fudge Milkshake ($5)?
The popular 4 Seasons Grille recently opened a new location at Westfield Annapolis, and fans can find the same menu items they enjoy at the Gambrills restaurant. Manager Steve Deslauriers particularly recommends the Seafood Mediterraneo ($16 or $23) featuring scallops, shrimp and jumbo lump crab.
Even more options
In addition to various other sandwich and fast-food eateries, rounding out the dining opportunities at Westfield Annapolis are a steakhouse, a country French café, and a restaurant that celebrates the felicitous blending of Portuguese and African cooking.
Nando's Peri-Peri, using seasoning adopted by early Portuguese explorers into what is now Mozambique, offers an intriguing menu. One popular main course is the Butterfly Flame-Grilled Chicken Breast ($9). Their side dishes are interesting as well.
Stoney River Legendary Steaks is a favorite destination of diners and mall shoppers looking for a good steak. Stoney River prides itself on quality food, great service and especially the Coffee-Cured Filet Mignon ($28 or $32). Unlike many steakhouses where everything is a la carte, this steak comes with two side dishes.
If you feel like a touch of France while you're shopping, stop in at la Madeleine for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Especially recommended are the Quiche Florentine ($5.89) or anything from the pastry case. They list the calorie content in parentheses, but don't look.
For those who plan to venture out of Annapolis for their Black Friday shopping forays, Arundel Mills in Hanover, the Village at Waugh Chapel in Gambrills and Marley Station Mall in Glen Burnie offer an interesting array of dining establishments.
Arundel Mills, in addition to their own Sbarro's, Nando's Peri-Peri and Johnny Rockets, has a branch of the ever-popular Dave & Buster's Grand Sports Bar where fun always adds an accent.
If you're looking for some tasty Maryland craft beer with your lunch or dinner, Arundel Mills has the Duclaw Brewing Company. Looking for something spicy? Try Kelly's Cajun Grill (sample the Bourbon Chicken), Chevy's Fresh Mex (fresh salsa hourly), or Moe's Southwest Grill (they pride themselves on their burritos).
If you're looking for a unique way to top off your day of shopping, consider Medieval Times. You'll not only feast in a replica of an 11th century castle, but your dining experience makes you a part of the show.
If you decide to top off a day of shopping with a visit to the Maryland Live Casino (adjacent to Arundel Mills) you'll find still more dining options: The Prime Rib, Phillips Seafood, Cheesecake Factory, and renowned Chef Bobby Flay's Bobby's Burger Palace.
The Rams Head Center Stage is offering a special Thanksgiving show for the evening of Black Friday if you care to top of your day of shopping with some entertainment.
The inviting sprawl of the Village at Waugh Chapel, located along Route 3 in Gambrills, has attractions for diners as well as shoppers.
If you'd like to relax with some down-home comfort food in a casual setting, you might want to set your sights on Bob Evans or Applebee's. The popularity of these two restaurants has endured through the years.
A yen for Asian food might take you to Fuji (which offers a range of pan-Asian entrées as well as a wide variety of sushi) or to Grand Fortune Buffet, where you can select from a number of popular Chinese items.
Chipotle's fresh Mexican offerings is the place to go if you're looking for something quick and spicy, and sub-lovers might try the popular Smokehouse Brisket Sub with Melted Cheddar at Firehouse Subs (which was started by actual firefighters).
Looking to take a break from shopping? Relax in the pleasant ambiance of 4 Seasons Grille. Enjoy a drink or a glass of wine and savor a dish from their extensive menu (perhaps a nice pasta dish like Wild Mushroom Ravioletti for $12) before you head back out into the fray.
The dining options at Marley Station Mall in Glen Burnie include some of those found at other area shopping destinations, including Chick-fil-A, Sbarro and Auntie Anne's.
Other choices include China Bowl, Japanese Grill, Café Euro, El Pueblito, Subway and Ruby Tuesday.
For a quick pick-me-up while shopping, drop by Rita's Italian Ice.
If you're headed back to Marley Station during the Christmas shopping season, check out the Bayou Grill, which will be opening in December.
Wherever you shop on Black Friday - you'll find lots of bargains, lots of other people getting their first dose of holiday spirit, and lots of good places to eat. Save those turkey sandwiches for later.