PaperMoon Diner's food waxes and wanes and comes cheap

April 08, 1994|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Sun Restaurant Critic

To call PaperMoon a diner is to miss the point. In fact, to call it a restaurant is to miss the point.

We're talking visual excitement here. The sign outside is so wonderful that I'll buy the T-shirt as soon as it comes out.

PaperMoon is in the spot where the Open House used to be -- a coffee shop whose great virtue was that it was open 24 hours a day. The new owners, Un Kim and Dan Robinson, have painted the funny little house with eye-popping colors, filled it with funky furniture and funkier art, and come up with a menu of diner food (hamburgers and chicken pot pie) and more au courant delights such as salmon omelets, hazelnut coffee and death by chocolate.

To appreciate PaperMoon fully you should be an Xer; but whatever generation you fall into, you have to like a place where almost everything costs less than five bucks. It's hard to generalize about the food other than it's cheap. The best I can do is tell you what we had and let you draw your own conclusions.

One taste of the sweet potato fries and you're in hog heaven. It's a misnomer; these are sweet potato croquettes sprinkled with cinnamon: crisp outside, fluffy inside, loaded with fat and calories and every good thing. How could the kitchen that made these temptations turn out a bad, yes, bad chocolate milkshake? It wasn't even very cold.

Ah, but they redeemed themselves with the flavorful meatloaf dinner with real mashed potatoes, lumps and all, and lots of good gravy. But how could they substitute frozen green peas for the greens without telling us? And does anybody actually eat that corn bread?

If you can make a handsome sandwich of grilled eggplant, mozzarella, tomato and vinaigrette on a baguette, how come you can't turn out a decent hamburger where you heat that big, bready roll and cook the french fries beyond the point of pale limpness?

Why the indifferent vegetable soup when you have very credible chicken, mozzarella and Monterey jack quesadillas?

If you can create an elegant house salad of crisp romaine, fresh vegetables and balsamic vinaigrette, how come you're serving soggy white-bread toast and mushy, underdone hash browns with your good smoked salmon and cream cheese omelet?

At least PaperMoon takes its desserts seriously. I'd skip the death by chocolate even though it's a steal at $1.95. (If it's not Ms. Desserts, it's so close it doesn't matter.) Have the fine homemade bread pudding, the apple pie with a pretty good crust and a superb unfussed-with apple filling, or the hot fudge sundae.

Note, by the way, that five of us had all this food, plus various soft drinks and teas, and the bill was under $50.

PaperMoon Diner

Where: 227 W. 29th St.

Hours: Open 24 hours a day

Credit cards accepted: No

Features: Eclectic

Non-smoking section? No

Call: (410) 889-4444

Prices: Around $5

** 1/2

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