Charles Village Pub does bar food right

February 18, 1994|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Sun Restaurant Critic

The Charles Village Pub is a classic Baltimore tavern, a model of how it should be done. And it's done it so well for so many years now that there are spinoffs: Charles Village Pub Towson and Charles Village Pub West in Catonsville.

There's a lesson to be learned here. An awful lot of people are perfectly happy with a good burger and a beer for dinner -- especially if the waitress is friendly and gets the food on the table quickly, and the tab stays under 10 bucks. Lesson for the '90s: Real men and women don't have to eat mesclun salads and tiramisu.

The Charles Village Pub has resisted the impulse to add a lot of dinners to its basic menu of sandwiches and bar munchies. The soup of the day is likely to be something like tomato, and it tastes like Campbell's to me. But, hey, it comes immediately, it's steaming hot, and the price is right.

You could make a meal of the Charles Village Pub's munchies when you feel like lots of carbohydrates and fat. (And who doesn't this time of year, whether you indulge yourself or not.) My favorite is the pizza skins, which start with small scooped-out potatoes. They're filled with a bit of tomato sauce and lots of mozzarella -- satisfyingly greasy and gooey with melted cheese.

Fried clams arrive in an enormous pile. The fact that actual shellfish are involved is beside the point. The point is crisply fried tidbits -- lots of them -- which you dip into cocktail sauce.

Buffalo wings are plump little morsels; their fiery sauce will take the roof off your mouth. You'll need extra celery and blue cheese dressing to cool the heat.

The best bet here is a hamburger, which comes in a variety of sizes -- 4, 8 or 12 ounces. It's solid beef, not a lot of fat. Cheddar melts into every nook and cranny, and the bacon is extra crisp.

Ribs are a Charles Village Pub specialty. The Danish baby back ribs are meaty and tender, but the barbecue sauce is quite sweet and the ribs swim in it. There's not a lot of choice for go-withs: The several rib and chicken platters come with french fries and coleslaw, and that's it. I wouldn't be surprised to learn the fries were frozen, which would be OK at the price if they weren't undercooked, limp and pale. The coleslaw is too sweet and too mayonnaise-y, so no taste of the vegetables comes through.

For those of you who aren't into beef and fried food, the pub does have some salads, like a chicken fajita salad with iceberg lettuce, bits of white meat, grated Cheddar and salsa. Not bad, although the very concept of honey ranch (the house dressing) sets my teeth on edge and the reality isn't much better.

You can have any dessert you want as long as it's cheesecake. This is rich, creamy and fresh cheesecake, made by Kasper -- an excellent example of why the Charles Village Pub has done well over the years: It keeps things simple. If it offered eight different dessert selections, the one you ordered would most likely be stale.

Charles Village Pub

Where: 3107 St. Paul St.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day

Credit cards accepted: AE, MC, V

Features: Bar fare

Non-smoking section? No

Call: (410) 243-1611

Prices: $3.95-$12.95

** 1/2

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