PaperMoon Diner: color by Crayola, food with calories

THE REAL DISH

April 03, 1994|By Mary Corey | Mary Corey,Staff Writer

The PaperMoon Diner, unlike the '30s song, has no cardboard sea, penny arcade or honky-tonk parade.

But it does have plenty of kitschy charm, retro and newfangled food, and a color scheme straight out of the Crayola eight-pack.

Dropping by on a dreary Monday, we knew our senses were in for a surprise when we saw the yellow neon sign on the lawn and ceramic cow in the window. When we walked in, our eyeballs did a serious double take. We don't believe we've ever eaten in a restaurant with a purple ceiling, green walls and fans speckled with red and yellow polka dots.

Although there's an equally vibrant dining room in the back, we opted for two seats at the counter. We resisted the urge to play Elvis Costello on the jukebox and amused ourselves instead by watching the home fries sizzle and two Generation Xers nuzzle in the corner.

In this age of sun-dried, oven-roasted, low-fat cuisine, we have come to cherish places that unabashedly serve creamed chipped beef, hot turkey with mashed potatoes and eggs all day long. The diner does make some concessions to the '90s, serving baguettes, cappuccino and smoked salmon. And the chef wears a floral apron.

In between admiring the sponge-painted knotty pine walls, our companion slurped down his chicken noodle soup and proclaimed it far superior to Campbell's. (We hadn't seen anyone use a straw to polish off a bowl of soup before, but who were we to criticize? He was paying, after all.) Our cheeseburger was better than average and came with a mound of skinny -- and not too greasy -- fries.

The diner at 227 W. 29th St. is the brainchild of Un Kim, 36, a former deli owner, and Dan Robinson, 29, a Maryland Institute graduate who previously worked at Harvey's in Greenspring Station. After searching for a year, they found this Remington spot (formerly a coffee shop), renovated in less than a month and opened two weeks ago. With his art background, Mr. Robinson designed the riotous interior. So far, the highest praise he's received came from a customer who compared the decor to a Romper Room set.

Steak and eggs -- or the Naked Cow as it's called -- is the priciest entree at $6.95. For the budget-conscious, there's a grilled cheese sandwich for $2.95.

But here's the best news: The diner is open 24 hours a day. Next time we get a midnight craving for buttermilk pancakes and bacon, we know where we're heading.

WHO'S THE AVERAGE RESTAURATEUR? If you've ever wondered about the men and women who run the dining establishments you frequent, here's news. The National Restaurant Association just released a comprehensive study analyzing everything from age and income to personality and hobbies of the country's restaurateurs.

Among the findings:

* 80 percent are male.

* 92 percent are white.

* 63 percent are between the ages of 35 and 54.

L * The average male restaurateur is 5 foot 10 and weighs 191.

* The average female is 5 foot 5 and weighs 142 pounds.

When asked to describe themselves, more than three-quarters of the 2,000 surveyed said they are "kind" and "intelligent," while only 10 percent considered themselves "egocentric" or "insecure." Perhaps their salaries contributed to their positive outlooks: Half make $75,000 or more.

The survey illustrated something most of us already knew: Running a restaurant is a tough job. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed work at least 60 hours a week.

Although their jobs keep them in a restaurant, they listed "eating out" as their second favorite pastime behind spending time with their families.

Most startling, though, was their taste. High on their list of favorites? Run-of-the-mill hamburgers and ice cream.

THE INN CROWD: We hear that the Antrim 1844 Country Inn in Taneytown has assembled a four-star staff to help get its restaurant up and running. Sharon Ashburn, who worked at the Pavilion and Tabrizi's, has been named chef, while Stewart Dearie, of the former Conservatory, has become general manager and maitre d'.

The former plantation has been an inn for several years, but the restaurant only opened to the public several months ago. The room, once a smokehouse, is furnished with period antiques and a grand piano. In warmer weather, Mr. Dearie says the veranda will be open, allowing diners to watch the sun set over the Catoctin Mountains.

A five-course dinner is $50 per person, excluding tax, gratuities and beverage. Seating begins at 7:30 p.m. Meals include appetizers, a salad, sorbet and a choice of entrees and dessert. So far, Ms. Ashburn says the filet of beef with Cuban black beans and rainbow trout topped with scallop mousse, shrimp and crab have been top sellers.

INN PART II: Do we sense a trend here? Yet another spot -- Elkridge Furnace Inn -- recently expanded into the restaurant business.

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