At Fins, start with the wicked shrimp, and let the good times roll

August 05, 1994|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Sun Restaurant Critic

Not many restaurants could get a friend of mine to sing her order for a free beer. (After all, I'm footing the bill anyway.) So give Fins credit: From the moment you walk into this four-story tribute to Margaritaville, you can't help but fall under the spell. You are forced to have a good time.

Maybe it's the freshly renovated interior, the tropical decor of this Jimmy Buffet beach bar. Or maybe it's the jaunty island music that gets you in the mood. It might even be the relentless good humor of the menu, from the clams "Come Monday" casino to "This is the burger your parents warned you about."

But probably it's the fact that even those of us who usually order iced tea find ourselves drinking frozen margaritas here.

In my case, it was the food that put me in a good mood. (Not enough to sing my order, but then I'm not a beer drinker.)

Specifically it was the killer shrimp.

It's the sauce that's the killer: a thin, fiery, dusty-red concoction, which is supposedly simmered for 10 hours before being ladled over Fins' huge shrimp. You get a large bowl of this wicked sauce, which I would have drunk like soup if it hadn't been so spicy. In lieu of that, you can soak the sauce up with the grilled French bread that accompanies it.

Fins' mussels came in a close second to the shrimp. They were fat and grit-free, with melted butter to dip them in and lots of hot, crusty, buttery garlic toast.

This is the place to get an enormous cheeseburger with sauteed mushrooms, cooked exactly as you order it. Or strips of chicken sauteed and drenched in a spicy-sweet Jamaican jerk sauce, with crisp pita triangles on the side. Equally good are the marinated grilled vegetables with warm pita.

This is not the place, however, to order a Calypso salad unless you don't mind hothouse tomatoes in the summer and a vinaigrette dressing that was sweet and very little else. Or potato cheese soup unless you're in the mood for something as thick and rich as liquid mashed potatoes with Cheddar.

Most of the food is bar food -- burgers and sandwiches and salads and munchies, plus a raw bar -- but Fins does have a few dinners: a steak, ribs, lamb chops. These were baby lamb chops, marinated in a delicious mixture of olive oil and herbs. Too bad they were room temperature by the time they got to the table. The buttery broccoli that came with them was perfectly cooked, though.

For dessert, of course, you have to have key lime (as in Key West) cheesecake. Or maybe just a second frozen margarita.

Fins

Where: 2318 Fleet St.

Hours: Open Sundays to Thursdays, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 11:30 a.m.-midnight

Credit cards accepted: AE, MC, V

Features: Casual fare

Non-smoking section? Yes

Call: (410) 732-FINS

Prices: $2.75-$14.95

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