Upstairs at Thames Street Tavern: A room with a view and more

RESTAURANTS

June 04, 1993|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Restaurant Critic

About a month ago the Thames Street Tavern opened a very nice, newly renovated upstairs dining room. Fells Point restaurants seem to acquire a patina almost immediately -- you don't expect them to look this new and fresh. The dining room is being solAbout a month ago the Thames Street Tavern opened a very nice, newly renovated upstairs dining room. Fells Point restaurants seem to acquire a patina almost immediately -- you don't expect them to look this new and fresh. The dining room is being sold as having the best waterfront view in Fells Point, and I won't dispute it. When the windows are open, and a breeze is blowing through the tree right outside, and you can watch the little boats coming in . . . well, almost anything would taste good.

It's a nice room but quite bare, with hardwood floors and simple table settings. The mauve, blue and ivory color scheme is pleasant, though, and there's a piece or two of period furniture to warm it up.

The food is classic bar food: potato skins, nachos and burgers, with a few more interesting daily specials, like stuffed baby Coho salmon. The small, whole fish sandwiched with spinach and chopped tomato tasted utterly fresh. Its vermouth cream sauce was baked into the flesh, not pooled around it. On the same plate came a small romaine lettuce and raw vegetable salad with a vinaigrette that had a bit too much sugar in it. (Of course, my prejudice is that any sugar in vinaigrette is too much.)

Don't ignore the bar food, though -- the Thames Street Tavern does well by it. I liked this version of quesadillas very much, although I've never had any quite like it. The kitchen starts with a flour tortilla, covers it with cheese and chicken or beef, and puts another tortilla on top. The whole thing is grilled, then cut in pizza-like slices and served with salsa and sour cream.

There are several different burgers; but if you're avoiding red meat, or if you just prefer chicken, I recommend the Tavern chicken sandwich, with a tender, boneless breast grilled and covered with melted Swiss cheese and crisp bacon. I liked the fries that come with it, too: thin and crisp with the skins left on.

Seafood is definitely a specialty here, although we didn't have much to choose from because there was no crab meat available. But you can always get good, freshly steamed shrimp, served hot and not too spicy.

In fact, nothing much was wrong with our dinner except the house specialty, cream of crab soup. "It's a chowder," was how our waitress described it. That meant it had potatoes and corn as well as snowy bits of crab, which was OK. What wasn't OK was its pasty texture and its flavor -- almost too spicy to eat.

And then there were the rolls. Or rather, the lack of them. After we'd asked for some bread and were almost finished dinner, the waitress came to our table and explained that the rolls had caught fire.

Come to think of it, we also weren't thrilled that they had no desserts that evening. Sometimes the pastry chef makes chocolate mousse, or fresh strawberries or sponge cake, our waitress told us. But she suggested we try John Steven Ltd. down the street. We didn't, but she did make its desserts sound good.

Thames Street Tavern

Where: 1702 Thames St.

Hours: Noon to 1:30 a.m. daily

Credit cards accepted: Major credit cards

Features: Bar food and seafood

Non-smoking section? No

Call: (410) 563-5423.

Prices: Appetizers, $3.95-$7.95; entrees, $7-$15.95

** 1/2

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