''Are the mashed potatoes real or instant?'' my husband asked.
''Fake,'' the waitress answered, looking him in the eye. ''But with gravy it's hard to tell the difference.''
How's that for honesty?
''If you don't like them,'' she added, ''let me know and I'll bring you something else.''
It was Tuesday night, the end of a difficult day for my husband and I. We had met at Perring Place to relax over a drink, have supper and share the day's hassles.
We weren't looking for gourmet food; we were looking for comfort food. It had been that kind of day and Perring Place proved to be just what we were looking for -- relaxing, comforting, old-fashioned. Dining here doesn't require high energy.
Perring Place is near one end of the Perring Place Shopping Center, a strip of stores -- several vacant -- along Perring Parkway just beyond Northern Parkway.
Step inside you begin to be comforted. One door leads to the bar, the other to the dining room, which actually is the same room as the bar, the two being separated by a three-quarters wall.
Paneled walls lined with typical restaurant paintings, ersatz Tiffany fixtures, swinging kitchen doors on the back wall -- it's that kind of place. Not what we'd pick for our anniversary, but perfect for what we wanted on this Tuesday in August.
Perhaps the only thing discomforting about the atmosphere was the piped-in music, which faded in and out, almost startling you with its volume on the way in. The lighting, too, is rather bright, xTC though not shockingly so.
After drinks -- less than $3 for premium liquors -- we began with a Greek Salad ($3.95).
There wasn't much truly Greek about the salad. Oh, it had some feta and calamata olives. But it came with a creamy dressing on the side that bore no resemblance to what my husband and I think of as appropriate for Greek salad.
It was about what we expected here -- a decent salad but not a Greek Salad.
The entrees were considerably better. I had Rockfish ($13.50); my husband, Calves Liver ($9.95).
I must digress to note that in the year and a half we have been doing these reviews my husband has been looking for reasonably priced liver. This is one of the few times he has found it. Why he would look for it, I don't know. Personally, I can't imagine anyone eating the stuff.
The fileted rockfish, served with lettuce and a spiced apple ring, was good. Thick and lightly broiled, it was fresh and cooked just right; rockfish, I always remember after ordering it, does not naturally have a lot of taste.
The liver, he said, was superb -- crisp on the outside, tender on the inside, flavorful and satisfying. It was adorned with bacon slices and homemade onion rings -- the only part of his entree I sampled. The onion rings were excellent. We wished we had ordered a full helping of them.
Vegetables were included with the meals. I had cauliflower -- it looked over-cooked but wasn't -- and a baked potato. He had the aforementioned mashed potatoes -- they were, he said, quite good with gravy -- and fresh lima beans cooked just to perfection.
I also detest lima beans. Like the liver, this was a dish I took his word for. His word: ''terrific.''
Our waitress offered a bevy of homemade desserts, and we succumbed, but were disappointed. The Cheesecake ($1.95), dusted with graham cracker crumbs, was light and too fluffy. It tasted as if it had come from a mix. The Chocolate Mousse Cake ($2.75) was similar. It looked great, but did not deliver on taste.
The coffee (75 cents), on the other hand, was great. It provided a comforting end to a comforting meal.
Our bill, with two drinks and two glasses of wine, was just less than $47. Besides being honest, our waitress was friendly and efficient.
Perring Place is not a restaurant worth raves, but I find it comforting that neighborhood spots like this with good food at decent prices still thrive -- they're perfect for casual, uncomplicated meals.
** 1/2 Perring Place Restaurant
Perring Place Shopping Center on Perring Parkway
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-midnight; Sunday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Reservations: Not usually necessary
Credit cards: Major credit cards accepted.
Handicapped access: Accessible.
Smoking: No pipe or cigar smoking in dining room; no restriction on cigarette smoking.