At Regi's, the order of the day is quesadillas -- and patience

March 05, 1993|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Restaurant Critic

Regi's is one of those restaurants South Baltimore does best: a small, quirky place that has a personality all its own. Restaurant is maybe too grand a word, although the menu is more extensive than a lot of places I've written about. It's a bar thatRegi's is one of those restaurants South Baltimore does best: a small, quirky place that has a personality all its own. Restaurant is maybe too grand a word, although the menu is more extensive than a lot of places I've written about. It's a bar that serves food -- whether you're sitting at the bar or in the little dining room next to it, you're still eating in the bar and sharing its noise and smoke.

If that doesn't bother you, the tiny dining room is appealing, with its brick walls the color of cafe au lait, its white tile tabletops and period mantelpiece, a palm in one corner and original paintings of hot urban landscapes -- lots of orange in them. It's a warm little room, just what you need as winter draws to a close.

What I didn't need was a snappish waitress and as erratic a meal as I've had in a long time.

In the waitress' defense, she was the only one working; considering that, she did a great job. I'd snap at my customers, too. But I can't think of a good excuse why the kitchen could turn out something as super as Rick's Texas quesadillas and then come up with a dog like the Tuscan grilled pork chops.

Those quesadillas were filled with melt-in-your-mouth tender strips of chicken and crisp bacon with a little cheese, cilantro, pesto and tomatoes. Stuff them with the guacamole, salsa and sour cream that come on the side, and you've really got something.

So you would think the gorgeous big pork chop with its marinade of cider, olive oil, rosemary and fennel would be something special, too. But it was tough and so covered with fennel that all I could taste was licorice flavor. I ended up eating instead the delicious roast potatoes that came with it. A mixture of colorful fresh vegetables made this a pretty plate, but half of them were too undercooked even for me.

Equally disappointing was a first course of chicken satay, with a marinade that made them inedibly salty. Try instead the spinach, clam and mushroom soup -- a pretty little concoction with lots of cream and a swirl of red pepper puree.

One of us decided to dine on chili and half a Regi's salad. The chili is a good choice; it's a beefy mixture packed with spicy flavor and built into a "sundae" of chili, cheese, onions and sour cream. It comes with excellent sourdough bread. The salad has real crumbled bacon and feta as well as the usual assortment of lettuce and vegetables, but its creamy lemon dill dressing was much too acid.

Desserts aren't made on the premises, but Regi's does its part by choosing good ones to offer (like peanut butter pie and carrot cake and chocolate torte) and making sure they're fresh. I can't comment on the coffee because, although we ordered it, we never got it.

If you're a regular, you probably know exactly what to have and what to avoid at Regi's, and you don't mind the long waits between courses because you know the waitress is doing the best she can. And secondary smoke doesn't bother you. If you're not a regular, you can still have a fine time at Regi's. Just stick to the quesadillas.

Regi's

Where: 1002 Light St.

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 12 midnight Friday and Saturday.

Credit cards accepted: AE, M, V.

Features: Casual fare.

Non-smoking section? No.

Call: (410) 539-7344.

Prices: Appetizers, $3.25-$6.50; entrees, $5.75-$11.50.

** 1/2

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