Hammerstein's stacks up nicely as traditional deli with modern touches

June 11, 1993|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Restaurant Critic

Hammerstein's

Where: 326 N. Charles St.

Hours: Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday

10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Credit cards accepted: No

Features: Gourmet deli

Non-smoking section? No

Call: (410) 837-0295

Prices: Sandwiches, $2.25-$5.95

***

This place ought to be packed at lunchtime. The food is good and more interesting than you'll find at a lot of sandwich places, and it's moderately priced. But I'm not complaining. I like not having to wait in line at this pretty little gourmet deli- and I like having my choice of the several cafe tables.

Hammerstein's looks like other delis with its refrigerated cases of salads, meats, cheeses and drinks; but what you notice most are the terra cotta tile floors, the clean white walls hung with American folk art prints (the dominant motif is cows), the pretty dried flower arrangements. There are a few black enamel cafe tables and chairs; most customers seem to carry out.

The food is deli-plus. By that I mean you can get a traditional hot pastrami sandwich, a meatball sub or potato knishes, but you can also have fresh mozzarella and marinated roasted red pepper -- not canned -- on sourdough. (That was the sandwich of the day a couple of weeks ago.) Hammerstein's also offers a brown bag lunch: the sandwich special, a cookie and a soda.

My choice, though, is the half-sandwich, pasta or soup, and drink special. Last week the sandwich was prosciutto, provolone, tomato and a tangy herb vinaigrette on sourdough. The sourdough was more like good bakery white bread than real sourdough; but it went very well with the chewy, salty Italian ham, soft cheese and ripe tomato. And the vinaigrette was a fine alternative to mayonnaise.

My pasta was pasta primavera, simple and pleasing -- as much a salad as pasta, with crisp slices of cucumber, ripe chunks of tomato and a well-seasoned mayonnaise tossed with the pasta. Another good summer dish is Hammerstein's gazpacho, a refreshingly chilled and flavorful salad-soup.

Or you might have a shrimp salad platter, with big, firm shrimp tossed with a lemon-herb dressing on a bed of romaine. With it get the excellent cut-up fresh fruit -- strawberries, melon, kiwi and grapes.

As for dessert, the baked goods look gorgeous and a fudge brownie with walnuts and chocolate chips was. But a chocolate chip cookie and a blondie were stale.

Hammerstein's is open for breakfast as well as lunch. You can have bagels with cream cheese, eggs, bacon or ham. Don't ask for the cappuccino that's on the menu, though. Instead you'll find a flavored coffee of the day, which has always been hazelnut when I've been there.

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