What you think of dinner at Poulet, Pikesville's newest eating place, depends on what you're comparing it to. If you're out for a nice, relaxing meal at a neighborhood restaurant, this is definitely not the place to go. But if your alternative is a McDonald's - if you need your food fast and cheap - you'll be very happy with Poulet.
Rotisserie chicken is what Poulet specializes in, and rotisserie chicken is the hot new trend in the food world. A franchise called Boston Chicken is supposed to be moving into the area soon; but right now if you want chicken roasted with herbs on a spit, which makes it crisp-skinned but keeps it moist inside, you'll probably end up at Jonathan Soudry's newest venture.
Mr. Soudry is the owner of La Provence and some smaller places in Hopkins Plaza downtown. That helps explain, for instance, the fancy desserts in what's essentially a cafeteria. Poulet must be one of the few fast-food places that has a pastry chef turning out praline meringue cakes and tiramisu.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Your dinner will probably start with a wait in the cafeteria line. In back of the steam tables you can see the special rotisseries imported from France rotating what seem to be hundreds of chickens. The meal most people get is either a breast or leg quarter plus two side orders for $5.95. The choice of go-withs is impressive: rice, home-fried potatoes, fresh broccoli and cauliflower, a good Caesar salad made with crisp romaine and lots of Parmesan, pasta or tomato salads and -- unexpectedly -- spaghetti with tomato sauce. The emphasis is on what's seasonal and fresh. This is upscale fast food (except for that spaghetti, which is probably the only thing your kid will eat so don't sneer at it). Any of the side orders comes a la carte; we saw some customers having a big plate of Caesar salad with garlic bread sticks instead of the full meal. It's too bad to skip the chicken, though; it's as good as advertised, with fewer calories than fried chicken.
You can begin your meal with a couple of different kinds of soup ($1.95). The evening we were there the crab soup was exceptionally good while the chicken gumbo was exceptionally salty. That's about it as far as first courses are concerned. Poulet also offers a few non-chicken items like rotisserie turkey, swordfish (which it was out of the night we were there), tuna salad and sandwiches.
As tasty as all this sounds, keep in mind that your dinner is likely to be hectic and noisy unless you take your rotisserie chicken home. The decor is by Rita St. Clair Associates, but in spite of their best efforts it's just a big room jammed with loud people. My advice is to get in and get out as fast as possible.
Where: 1340 Reisterstown Road.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Credit cards: None accepted.
Features: Rotisserie chicken.
Non-smoking section? Yes.
Call: (410) 484-9400.