Cadillac Grill: Good lines, but needs some work under the hood

January 22, 1993|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Restaurant Critic

The Cadillac Grill space was once, according to our waiter, a Cadillac showroom. Hence the name. It must have been in its very distant past, because at least two eating places have come and gone there since then.

A more unlikely spot for a car dealership is hard to imagine; the space is exceedingly long and narrow, with booths running along both walls all the way to the back. But the look grows on you: The interior is off-beat and interesting, with its tile walls and floor from another era, the gently arched decorative ceiling, its marble-and-oak bar. The tables are covered in richly colored print oilcloth over white linen, with white linen napkins. Each table has fresh flowers.

This is a quieter restaurant than many lunch places -- although iwas almost full the day we ate there -- perhaps because of the carpeting, perhaps because each group is somewhat isolated by the booths.

I'm describing just the kind of lunch spot the area needs, whicis why I'm hoping the food improves. If I could have eaten my meal with my eyes closed, it would have helped. This isn't a cheap lunch, so you expect more attention to be paid to the looks of the food. A sliced steak salad, for instance, had thin slices of red-rare flank steak that clashed horribly with its bed of purple-red radicchio and slices of pale-pink winter tomato covered with pinkish orange Russian dressing. Ugh. It didn't taste bad, although I didn't like the crumbled blue cheese with the Russian dressing, and oyster mushrooms were a strange addition.

And here's a hint for the kitchen: Don't put a doily under the soup cup. When the minestrone, which was a bright blood red, sloshed over into the saucer it was exceptionally unattractive. This didn't taste like any minestrone I've ever had, but more like a violently spiced tomato and cabbage soup with two -- count 'em two -- kidney beans.

An appetizer of Thai chicken marinated in soy sauce, pineapple juice and honey tasted fine, but the peanut sauce looked like straight peanut butter. It tasted like peanut butter mixed with honey, and had to be spread on the chicken with a knife.

We did best with a sandwich called "Markham's Grill." Crabmeatshrimp, Swiss cheese, coleslaw and Russian dressing were grilled on rye -- a good, sloppy seafood version of a Reuben with western fries.

Desserts are made by Mrs. Pose. The waiter came back to say my first choice, a raspberry-chocolate cake, hadn't been defrosted. Then he came back a second time with an apologetic "Don't blame me, I'm only the waiter" to say the grill was sold out of my second choice, a slice of apple pie. So I helped my friend eat not-very-exciting apple cinnamon cheesecake.

The fact that we ended up feeling friendly toward our waiter in spite of everything indicates how very good the service was. Everything, in other words, worked at the Cadillac Grill except the food.

Cadillac Grill

Where: 12 S. Calvert St.

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Credit cards accepted: Major credit cards.

Features: Lunch, appetizers.

Non-smoking section? Yes.

Call: (410) 385-2203.

Prices: Appetizers, $4.50-$6.25; lunch, $4.95-$9.50.

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