Casual, Cheerful -- And Crowded

DINING OUT

September 08, 1991|By Janice Baker

The sun fell through Weber's west windows just as dinner was served. What beautiful juices on the grilled pork chop, what a glowing caramel-colored sauce under it, and how silvery the chardonnay in the glass. Business at the recently opened eatery was thriving, and no wonder. Even the sun wants Weber's to prosper.

It might be better not to go immediately, though. The noise level is deafening, they're so busy. But eventually, find your way to Weber's for a casual, inexpensive meal in an old pub attractively done up, and cheerfully, raucously welcoming. You can come as you are. We saw a man in a suit eating contentedly by himself. Nearby, at a table for six, everyone wore Saturday-afternoon clothes, and at the bar, the crowd, several drinkers deep, was dressed every which way.

Of course, all those people were there to see each other and to eat the food, but they must also have noticed the look of this turn-of-the-century Canton tavern, recently refurbished after past incarnations as a speakeasy and a gambling parlor. The appointments are handsomely done. In the first room off the street, the walls are the color of cabernet sauvignon, the window shades a beet-greens green. Over an ornate mahogany bar, ceiling fans revolve on pedestals reminiscent of Singer treadle sewing machine legs. In the dining room, old walnut pillars, partly recessed into the paisley-papered walls, rise from the floor to the green, patterned-tin ceiling.

We sampled a variety of foods on Weber's menu, and found a level of preparation well above average. No culinary ground was being broken, though. The three sauces we tasted seemed to be derived from one generic preparation, varied with either white or red wine. But we admired Weber's for coming up with amiable, likable food that didn't taste mass-produced and didn't cost a lot.

In the course of visiting on two different nights, we tried a cup of lager and cheese soup ($2.95) and two appetizers, Thai spring rolls ($4.95) and, at a waitress' suggestion, hot crab dip ($5.95). With real bits of crisp bacon over the top, and a good blending of cheese, onions and beer, the soup was delicious. Our deep-fried spring rolls were filled, like Chinese spring rolls, with sliced cabbage, carrot, onion, mushrooms and shrimp, but some Old Bay-style seasoning and a doctored hoisin sauce made a heavy, shallowly hot and utterly un-Thai combination. The crab dip was gooey, kiddie food -- a chilied, gummy mush of mostly cream cheese mixed with crab, accompanied by crackers for slathering purposes. We understood why it was said people liked it.

From a menu page of salads and sandwiches, we sampled a Greek salad with flank steak ($6.95) and a Marylander sandwich ($8.50), both of which were first-class. The cherry tomatoes in the salad were hard and pale, but the romaine and green pepper were fresh, the black olives were Mediterranean and pungent, the feta was plentiful, the dressing light, and the thin slices of medium-rare beef (as ordered) were tender and appetizing.

The Marylander sandwich was a very edible pile made up of -- starting from the bottom -- an English muffin, Canadian bacon, a tomato slice, a pleasant, moist, herbed crab cake, and, over the top, melted, supermarket-mild Cheddar cheese. To the side were some terrific french fries, lightly covered in an unusual herbed and spiced batter. I want to know how to make them!

We sampled three entrees. Mahi-mahi ($9.50) was the only disappointing one. It wasn't overcooked, but it was too plain, and its sauce didn't suit it -- the generic sauce plus red wine was our conjecture. Blended with white wine, the sauce better suited a special of grilled breast of chicken with artichokes, sliced leek, sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts ($13.50). The au courant combination worked well, though the moistness of the poultry fibers suggested other cooking steps prior to grilling.

A chunky pork chop ($10.25) was excellent, having been marinated, according to the menu, in chilies, honey, vinegar, tomatoes and olive oil. It came with a couple of new potatoes, wittily carved into gigantic mushrooms, and, like the chicken, with sliced, oiled, just-cooked yellow squash and zucchini. (The carbohydrate that accompanied both the chicken and the fish was a big spoon of rice.) Prices, it should be noted, were reasonable. Both nights' service was responsive early on, and grew more haphazard as the evening accelerated.

Desserts were respectable commercial confections. Peanut butter pie ($3) was a three-layered assemblage made up of a brownie, a peanut butter middle and a mint-touched buttercream top. A Linzer torte ($3) was a thick, firm caky affair strong on almond extract, dotted with raspberry jelly. *

Weber's on Boston, 845 S. Montford Ave., 276-0800

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily

Accepts: ** /- *

Features: Contemporary casual American food

No-smoking area: Yes

Wheelchair access: No

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