Youth Will Be Served At Mick's

DINING OUT

December 27, 1992|By ELIZABETH LARGE

Mick's, Towson Commons, Towson, (410) 825-0071. Open every day for lunch and dinner. Appetizers, $1.75-$6.75; main courses, $4.75-$14.95. Major credit cards. No smoking area: yes. Wheelchair accessible: yes.

Mick's is noteworthy first of all for having the most amazing promotion I've ever heard of. For one month after this newest restaurant in the Atlanta-based chain opened, kids ages 3 to 12 could go to the Towson library, pick up a form and draw on the back. The drawing would be good for free dinners for the artist and up to four family members.

Even without the promotion, Mick's is a good place for kids. It has a youth-oriented menu and a child-friendly decor. The name Mick's, spelled out on oversized toy blocks at the entrance, is the first clue that children are welcome; kids also get a free red or blue balloon attached to raisins and crayons. The balloons add a cheerful touch to the jazzy red-white-and-black, multilevel dining rooms decorated with Americana -- a handcrafted quilt here, a barbershop pole there. And it's just sophisticated enough to appeal to singles and young couples once the kids have gone home.

The menu, likewise. Mick's has hamburgers and giant banana splits, but it also offers Southwestern crab cakes and Thai shrimp pasta and a solid alcoholic-drink list. You may not approve of chain restaurants, but they know from experience what their customers need. (Eating out with a 4-year-old, you probably need alcohol.) Chain restaurants usually hit the ground running; they have no problem handling crowds. (You want the service to be great when you're eating out with a 4-year-old.) And many of the more sophisticated chains that have moved into the Baltimore area have surprisingly decent food. But judging by our meal, I can't include Mick's among them.

It's American food, moderately priced, with lots of burgers, grilled dishes, pastas and comfort foods like meatloaf. All these, though, pale in comparison with the desserts, which speak to the fantasies of every child and the child in every adult. German chocolate cake isn't just cake; it's served with warm caramel sauce. There's not only chocolate cream pie on the menu, but a special cream pie of the day. Mick's even has a frozen German chocolate cake drink, with ice cream, four different liqueurs, chocolate sauce, pecans and coconut. (No, I didn't try it. I know my limits.)

But I'm getting ahead of myself, which is easy to do when the people at the table next to you are eating Heath Bar ice cream pie and you haven't even ordered.

The best of our first courses was a chicken quesadilla, a soft flour tortilla filled with a bit of chicken, minced scallion and cheese. It's served with cilantro-intense salsa, sour cream and guacamole. Almost as good was the soup of the day, corn chowder, which had a Mexican flavor as well. It's a sturdy vegetable soup gently spiced with chili, with a little melted Cheddar on top. Fried green tomatoes worked only if you were more interested in the fried crust than the tomato, which might as well have been cardboard for all the flavor it had. More seriously, a red pepper sauce that tasted like spiced pink Miracle Whip made the dish almost inedible.

The safest way to go for a main course may well be a hamburger. It's made with very lean beef so it isn't as juicy as some, but those watching their calories will appreciate it. Mozzarella cheese and bacon add flavor, and the french fries are good.

Mick's offers a grilled swordfish steak as a special each day. This evening it was served with fresh orange segments and a slightly sweet soy-based sauce. It tasted fishy enough to send back to the kitchen. With it came a good linguine tossed with corn and tomatoes. (You can have the linguine as a main course -- not a bad idea.)

Thai shrimp pasta, one of several inventive pasta choices, was not the right choice. The shrimp were merely passable, the vegetables without character in a salty, explosively spicy sauce served over cappellini. A tired salad accompanied the dish.

Ah well, all the more room for dessert.

One of us -- the young one -- wanted an Oreo milkshake and a piece of Heath Bar ice cream pie. The compromise was that two of us would get them and share. Our third dessert was peach cobbler, a nice little peach cobbler, but not something to get if someone else at your table has ordered Heath Bar ice cream pie, which involves a mountain of whipped cream under which you'll find ice cream and crunchy bits of chocolate-covered toffee candy and caramel sauce. Even the Oreo milkshake got ignored.

Next: Banjara

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