Jilly's may be more memorabilia than meals to remember

January 08, 1993|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Restaurant Critic

Jilly's

Prices: First courses, $1.50-$4.95; entrees, $6.95-$11.95.

** The first thing to know about eating at Jilly's in Pikesville, and perhaps I should put it in capital letters, is: DO NOT PARK IN MR. CHAN'S LOT.

I'm not kidding here. As a sign in Jilly's says, "Mr. Chan's towing service is even faster than his waiters" and "Mr. Chan voted Baltimore's #1 tow-er." Ignore that tempting lot right behind Jilly's and head instead to the Hebrew Funeral Home across the street, which is where you're supposed to park.

So you've found a safe place to park, and you've made your way into Jilly's, and you've even gotten a table, which isn't always easy to do. This is a Pikesville hot spot (so much so that another Jilly's has opened in Ellicott City). Interestingly, it doesn't just appeal to the young folks -- although it looks like it would. Everybody seems to love Jilly's.

Eating here is like eating in a club basement, with lots of wood paneling and a big central bar. From where I sat, I could see no fewer than six television screens, but the nice part was there was no sound. I could watch the news and listen to the rock and roll from the jukebox.

The whole place is decorated with memorabilia: blown-up stills of Marilyn Monroe, an ancient Coke machine, a real stoplight, a handsome jukebox. The table tops are yellowing historic newspaper pages under glass, so you have something to read while you wait for your meal. And there's lots of neon everywhere.

The time has come to stop stalling. On to the food, which if not exactly dreadful did make me wonder why all those people were crowding into Jilly's. It could be the ribs, if you like them falling-off-the-bone tender, as if they had been boiled to death (although they tasted smoked). They are meaty, though, and they do have a thick, sweet, vinegary homemade-tasting barbecue sauce. The french fries that came with them were second-rate and the coleslaw was just about inedible.

Homemade lasagna had a sauce that was so meaty it was like eating hamburger sandwiched between pasta, with a chewy cheese topping and marina sauce pooled over all. The garlic bread was a soggy roll. The iceberg salad included lots of brown-edged lettuce.

Now I'm not so foolish as to think most restaurants make all their own salad dressings, but I don't see why some illusion can't be maintained. House dressing at Jilly's means an individual package of Kraft's House Parmesan pepper.

You'd do better asking for the sesame dressing that comes with the Oriental salad; it's good and seems to be made on the premises. The Oriental salad itself is rather strange: a great mound of finely shredded iceberg topped with an equal amount of turkey and Chinese fried noodles.

First courses run to soups -- our cream of broccoli wasn't bad -- and bar food like onion rings, which are crisp and greasy and pretty good.

Desserts are limited to cheesecake or Oreo cheesecake, which were served at room temperature. Not a good idea.

Yes, yes, prices are reasonable. But still . . .

To end on an up note I'm going to have to comment on Jilly's service. No complaints there: It was swift and savvy.

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