No lofty pretension at Treehouse just top-notch service and solid fare

November 20, 1992|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Restaurant Critic

The name comes from Treehouse's mezzanine of blond wood, which overlooks a large bar area and is decorated with photos of trees. It does have an airy feel to it, but that's undercut by the two television screens, one extra-large, at the bar below. It's half sports bar, half sit-down restaurant with a children's menu; the combination doesn't quite work.

Still, the Treehouse is one of those restaurants every neighborhood needs. It's the place where you can get a decent hamburger and a beer, homemade soup and something a little fancier like a crabcake dinner if you feel like splurging. Unassuming. Quiet. (Of course, maybe it's only quiet on a Sunday night, which is when we were there.) Nice waitress. Modest check.

The menu offers lots of sandwiches and bar sorts of snacks (nachos, potato skins) but also full dinners and a couple of ambitious specials like chicken stuffed with fresh spinach, shrimp and red pepper, sliced and served on orange butter sauce. (Someone in the kitchen must have gotten bored turning out Treehouse burgers and tuna melts all day.)

But most of the patrons must come for the more -- shall we say -- classic dishes, so we stuck to them. The soup of the day, broccoli and Cheddar ($1.95), wasn't the usual cup of wallpaper paste I half-expected. It was a pleasantly light, creamy soup with neither the cheese nor the broccoli dominating. Six steamed shrimp ($6.50) were large, fresh, just steamed and jazzily spiced. I found the potato skins ($2.50) with melted cheddar, crumbled bacon and sour cream a bit greasy, but then this isn't a dish you order if you care about calories.

You can't go wrong getting a hamburger at the Treehouse, even though I tried to talk my friend out of ordering a questionable-sounding pizza burger ($5.25). But the kaiser roll was soft and fresh; the hamburger, a half-pound or so of good lean beef; and the pizza sauce kept to a minimum. With the melted provolone and sliced pepperoni, it tasted like a pleasant variation on a bacon-cheeseburger -- not at all as outlandish as it sounded.

The Treehouse has ribs as a specialty -- pretty daring considering it's practically next door to the Corner Stable, one of the most popular rib places in the area. These were tender baby back ribs, a generous portion for $6.95. (That includes two vegetables.) The Treehouse's ribs were decent enough without having that wonderful smoky flavor of great ribs. And the spicy-sweet sauce didn't infuse them; it just sat on top.

With them I had a large but not very interesting salad and perfectly cooked fresh broccoli. (I would have liked it even better with butter, lemon or some sauce.)

Desserts aren't made on the premises except for the chocolate mousse cake ($1.85), a creation of the owner, according to our waitress. It has a layer of rich chocolate mousse over a layer of chocolate cake and more chocolate jimmies than it needs. Our other dessert, a slice of lemon meringue pie ($2), had gotten a little soggy.

Speaking of our waitress, she managed the perfect balance of friendliness and unobtrusive service. Because of her, the Treehouse gets three stars rather than two and a half.

Treehouse

Where: 9926 York Road, Cockeysville.

Hours: 11-2 a.m., Mondays through Saturdays, 4 p.m.-2 a.m., Sundays.

Credit cards accepted: Major credit cards.

Features: American food.

Non-smoking section? Yes.

Call: (410) 628-2190.

***

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