Souris' offers a few pleasant surprises in addition to saloon fare

April 23, 1993|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Restaurant Critic

Souris' Saloon has been at the corner of York and Allegheny since 1934, but these days it's not the same Souris'. At the end of last year it was taken over by new owners and turned into more of a restaurant, less of a bar. It also expanded; much of the space you see now was a dry cleaner's and storage area.

I never went to the old Souris', but apparently the best of what used to be there has been kept and renovated. The pressed tin ceiling was preserved, as well as the wooden booths and paneling, the mirrors and wonderful art deco appointments. The curved booths were moved up from the back to the main dining area. Even though it doesn't have the slickness of a highly designed restaurant, it's a pleasant place to be. And the friendly people who work there don't hurt either.

Souris' food is classic saloon food, with a few exceptions. You can get burgers and nachos and potato skins, club sandwiches and hot crab dip. It's hard to make any generalizations about it based on our meal -- which was too uneven -- but I can say I've had worse food for a lot more money.

Here are a few examples.

Cream of crab soup is a specialty, and if it hadn't been grievously over-salted, it would have been better than anyone would have a right to expect. Not too thick, it had the taste of real cream and nice lumps of backfin, even this time of year.

A house salad was ordinary, with uninteresting lettuce, pale tomatoes and big, greasy croutons. But the Souris salad, a large Greek salad, had crisp romaine, riper tomatoes, tiny Greek olives, lots of cheese and an excellent dressing.

Jerk chicken, slightly charred strips of white meat, had the fire tamed a bit for uninitiated taste buds; it was delicious (and still quite spicy). But the last thing it needed was a honey mustard sauce for dipping. Mustard? With jerk chicken?

A house specialty is the grilled petit filet mignon, a steal at $7.95. We got two -- yes, two -- tender filets. (It's just one if they're large, our waitress told us.) Their bearnaise sauce was surprisingly good for a saloon -- although there was enough to float a small boat on. The filets come on top of English muffins and bean sprouts. If you can keep an open mind about bean sprouts with bearnaise, they add a not unpleasant bit of crunch. The English muffins need to be well-toasted, though (ours weren't), or the whole thing gets soggy. French fries -- try to keep an open mind about french fries and bearnaise -- come on the side.

Souris' has a good selection of desserts, baked by the hostess. Unfortunately, serving the brownie as a brownie sundae didn't hide the fact that it was stale. If you crave chocolate, try instead what's called a chocolate mousse cake. Sounds light, doesn't it? But actually it's a solid slice of fudge disguised as a cake.

Souris' Saloon

Where: 537 York Road.

Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight.

Credit cards accepted: Major credit cards.

Features: Deli and grill.

Non-smoking section? No.

Call: (410) 296-1997.

Prices: $2.75-$7.95

** 1/2

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