The food at Adrian's Book Cafe is an excellent afterthought

May 27, 1994|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Sun Restaurant Critic

It's not quite a trend, but there certainly seem to be more bookstore cafes in Baltimore than there used to be. Louie's, of course, is the granddaddy. I think of it as a restaurant with the books being a nice little extra. Borders is a bookstore first and foremost, then a place to have a cappuccino after some serious browsing. Adrian's Book Cafe in Fells Point falls somewhere in between.

Adrian's consists of a small but well-laid-out bookstore in front and a counter and a few tables in back. It's owned by David Davighi, who used to make his living flying planes, and Avril Haines, a former physics graduate student at Hopkins who put her studies on hold to open the bookstore-cafe. They named it after Ms. Haines' mother, artist Adrian Rappin. (Her paintings are displayed on the cafe walls.)

The cafe itself feels like a bit of an afterthought. And that's too bad, because the food is very good. The mostly vegetarian casseroles and super-rich desserts are provided by Taylor Royall caterers. There is, for instance, an excellent "enchilada bake," with layers of tortilla filled with two kinds of beans, salsa, and Cheddar, ricotta and Monterey jack. It's a huge serving: hot, soft, gloppy and packed with flavor. But that's all there is on the plate -- not a lettuce leaf or any other kind of garnish. No bread comes with it. And if you order a separate house salad, it's so large you'll never be able to eat both.

That salad is good, too, with its mixed greens, tomatoes and cucumbers. It has a fine lemon-pepper dressing and slices of kiwi, which work better than you'd expect, and would work even better if they were peeled first. I wouldn't have minded a little bread with the salad, though.

A huge slab of spanakopita, with flaky phyllo pastry and lots of spinach and feta was good and would have been wonderful if it hadn't been too salty.

The waitress warned us that the roasted vegetable lasagna was that day a traditional tomato and ricotta cheese lasagna, but it was as fine a version as you're going to get.

Only a brie sandwich disappointed because the good cheese was served on something that looked like a baguette and tasted like a soft kaiser roll. (Maybe it's just as well I didn't get bread with the salad or lasagna.) Sandwiches come with an excellent side salad -- with its raw vegetables and creamy dressing, it was quite different from the house salad.

Adrian's has espresso and cappuccino, and plenty of luscious desserts like peanut butter pie and moist carrot cake. You can also get more modest treats, like chocolate chip cookies and yogurt bread (if you haven't had it, it's a cakelike quick bread).

What an odd place Adrian's is. Excellent food, but there doesn't seem to be any interest in creating a meal. And no ice for your drinks, although they do have all sorts of fancy waters and fruit spritzers and real glass glasses.

Adrian's Book Cafe

Where: 714 S. Broadway

Hours: Wednesday to Monday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m., Tuesday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Credit cards accepted: AE, MC, V

Features: Light fare

Non-smoking section? Yes

Call: (410) 732-1048

Prices: Under $6

** 1/2

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.