Frazier's: sophisticated food, casual atmosphere

MATTERS OF TASTE for the family

March 19, 1992|By Mary Maushard

*TC There are no balloons at Frazier's; no kiddie cups with lids; no connect-the-dots place mats; no crayons. There isn't a children's menu.

Nevertheless, this long-time Hampden ''restaurant and taproom,'' tucked into the basement of a corner row house, is a good place to eat out with children. It's small and informal and the regular menu offers pizza, pasta, side dishes and plenty of sandwiches for youngsters to choose from.

For adults, there are at least a dozen full-course meals, economical daily specials and cocktails.

Frazier's has a clubroom decor, befitting its location. The tables are covered with green plastic and the walls with a hodgepodge of celebrity photos: a young Boog Powell, a young Shirley Temple, a young Jim Palmer, a young Uncle Milty.

With 10 tables, a bar with six stools, a couple of video games and a compact disc jukebox, Frazier's is great for those who like it cozy. Claustrophobics should go elsewhere.

Five of us descended on Frazier's early on a recent Sunday evening. Only a few middle-aged to elderly couples and some singles were dining and drinking. Because Frazier's is small and its tables are close together, there's a chance that loud children could disturb other patrons, but because Frazier's is a casual, neighborhood place, there's also a good chance that no one would mind -- which, I think, was true during our visit.

We started with Frazier's Sampler ($8.95) a good-sized appetizer plate that included fried shrimp, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks and meaty potato skins, served with sour cream and two kinds of cocktail sauce -- one heavy with ketchup, the other light and spicy without fire.

The mozzarella sticks -- gooey cheese oozing from a crunchy cover -- were a big hit with our daughters and their friend. In fact, all of us thought the whole thing was pretty good.

We then began a main course marathon that looked more like a smorgasbord than a sit-down meal.

For the kids: One cheeseburger ($6.95); one hamburger ($5.95); one grilled cheese ($3.50); two side orders of macaroni and cheese ($1.50 each), and some garlic bread ($1.95).

For the adults, one ''backfin jumbo lump crab cake'' sandwich ($7.95) -- there's a crab cake dinner, too, for $15.95 -- and baby back ribs ($11.95).

The sandwiches were all served with excellent -- they tasted homemade -- fries with the skins on, and pickles. The ribs came with two vegetables; my husband chose string beans and fried eggplant, which was a standout even in this land of plenty of good fried eggplant. It was lightly breaded and cooked just until crispy; the eggplant was tender and mellow. Definitely worth the trip.

The rest of our food was generally good. The broiled crab cake, served traditionally on crackers, was large, plump even, and flavorful with little filler. The huge serving of ribs were very meaty but seemed to have been steamed, then lathered with barbecue sauce. Smoking would have helped immensely. The homemade macaroni and cheese (a rarity these days) won raves from the little aficionadas. The garlic bread was better than most.

We learned something about the burgers. They, too, were large; too large for our youngsters. The burgers were almost an inch thick and, with the bun, bigger than our little diners' mouths. Given the price and the size, two children could easily split one. We brought a lot home for lunch another day.

For dessert, we shared one dish of vanilla ice cream ($1.50), one hot fudge sundae ($3) and a piece of pumpkin pie ($2). Our 3-year-old chose the pie and I was surprised that she ate all of it -- except what I could talk her out of. It was homemade, creamy and delicious, and a welcome taste this far from the holidays.

The ice cream and the sundae, served in large tulip dishes, disappeared quickly.

Our young waiter was also tending bar, but he was friendly and accommodating. When he didn't know the answer to a question, he quickly found out what we wanted to know.

With good food and good service in a casual atmosphere, our family outing was pretty much a success. I was a little surprised at the bill. With two cocktails, two beers, three Shirley Temples and two coffees, it came to about $72.

That may explain why the clientele seemed to be more Roland Park than Hampden.

Frazier's serves fresh, high-quality food, and we had sampled plenty of it. We had not taken advantage of a Sunday special: two dinners (from a choice of four entrees) for one price, $9.95.

Still, for a burger-and-beer place on the corner, some of the prices -- the burgers and the sundae, for instance -- seemed high. Maybe we're too used to fast food.

** 1/2 Frazier's Restaurant and Taproom 857 W. 33rd St., Hampden

Phone: 889-1143.

Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to midnight; Sunday, breakfast 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; dinner until 9 p.m.

Reservations: Recommended on weekends.

Credit cards: Master Card and Visa accepted.

Handicapped access: Not accessible.

Smoking: No separate areas designated; no cigar or pipe smoking permitted.

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