The palm trees in front of Jilly’s tip you off that this isn’t just another restaurant on Pikesville’s equivalent of “Main Street.” Inside, a mix of tables and booths on three levels and at least a dozen LCD TV’s all under an unfinished ceiling of exposed rafters contribute to a noisy and raucous joint that’s casual, appealing, and friendly.

The reasonably priced menu offers a dozen starters ($3-10), several homemade soups ($3-$6), a half dozen salads ($8-$14), a couple dozen sandwiches & burgers ($4-$9 which include fries), and a surprising number of entrees under $10 (as well as steaks and crab cakes $15-$20). Our group of four asked our waitress what appetizer she’d like, and she recommended the Super Nachos ($9) so heartily that the four of us decided to share an order of them. Marty decided on a Bison Burger, John opted for the Chef Salad ($8), while our friends Tom and Paul ordered the Chicken Pot Pie ($9) and the Smoke House Burger ($9 – Paul took advantage of an unusual option to get a baked potato instead of fries).

The super-sized bowl of nachos proved more than ample for the four of us and arrived with chili, cheese sauce, diced tomatoes, and salsa over a bed of chips. The nachos got a “thumbs up” from all of us. Marty’s bison burger arrived topped by fried onions and BBQ sauce with a side of fries; it proved too much for Marty to finish off. John’s salad arrived in a deep bowl with tossed greens topped with grape tomatoes, turkey, ham, bacon, and egg wedges – with ranch dressing on the side as requested. It was delicious and a bargain for the money. Paul’s burger arrived topped with gouda cheese, bacon, fried onions, and smoked tomato sauce along with his baked potato; it was big and delicious and hit the spot. The biggest hit was the Chicken Pot Pie – it arrived looking impressively homemade in a large oval chafing dish with a side dish of fries! Tom found it chock full of pieces of chicken breast and veggies under a flaky pastry top. Half of the pot pie got packed up (and made for a great lunch). Our waitress kept an eye on us checking in to fill drinks and making sure all was well. She did her best to tempt us with dessert, but between the nachos and the large portions, we had no choice but to pass.

Jilly’s reasonably priced food was surprisingly good and exceeded our expectations. Combined with the casual, boisterous feel of the place and its friendly staff, Jilly’s earned a “thumbs up” from both of us. We’ll be back to try more of their food (and maybe sample more of the 20+ different beers on draft!)

BASICS: Jilly’s (Pikesville); 1012 Reisterstown Rd; 410-653-0610; Open 7 days/week; breakfast, lunch & dinner from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (11:00 p.m. on Fri/Sat); full bar; veggie options; menu at www.valpak.com/img/menupdf/3245126630801menu.pdf

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