Lots of food, little flash at Christie's

October 14, 1994|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Sun Restaurant Critic

We walk into Christie's, a tavern in Hamilton, and all eyes turn to stare at us. All eyes consists of six.

One woman looks up from her book, her eight-ounce steak, her 10-ounce baked potato wrapped in foil and her glass of red wine (Gallo). She's the only person sitting in the dining room at 7 on a Sunday night. Two guys at the bar stare at us and then go back to the Bengals-Dolphins game.

We stand there, uncertain, and wait for somebody official to appear. The dining room is cheerful (in spite of the large poster on what to do if someone at your table chokes), with a blackboard full of specials -- more gourmet than you'd expect from the surroundings.

But if the food is so great, where are all the people?

We're about to make our escape when the waitress appears. Like deer frozen in the headlights of a car, we've waited too long. We allow ourselves to be seated.

We order, and the beginnings of our meal arrive pretty quickly. A flavorful potato chowder, not as thick as I feared it would be, and a salad consisting mostly of white iceberg and white onion. But the rest of our meal doesn't arrive until an hour after we order it.

Maybe that's why we're almost the only customers -- in spite of the fact that the food is surprisingly good. (Oh, I'm not wild about the sour beef and dumplings special -- the beef isn't tender enough.)

But check this out: for $13.95 I get the Sampler, a mountain of plump chicken wings in an incendiary sauce (blue cheese dressing and celery on the side, of course); a pile of freshly steamed shrimp; half a rack of ribs, meaty and tender with a smoky-spicy sauce; a charcoal broiled Delmonico steak, incredibly thin but still tender and rare; wonderful fat sweet potato fries; and an excellent, fresh-tasting cole slaw.

A broiled seafood dinner has those same good shrimp, nicely cooked scallops, an orange roughy filet that isn't as fresh as it should be, and a delicious heap of crab imperial made with large lumps of crab meat -- worth the price of admission ($13.50) alone. On the side, more of that fine cole slaw and "O.C. fries" with their skins on.

Desserts are courtesy of Mrs. Pose, who has branched out from her famous plain cheesecake to chocolate turtle and other elaborations on the theme. You can also get pecan pie (not very good, but we're given a quarter of the pie) or a chocolate sundae -- Hershey's syrup, whipped cream, candied cherry and all.

Really, not a bad meal, considering it would feed a family of four for a week. The problem with the service seems to be more the kitchen's fault than the waitress': Maybe it's because she has to write notes to the chef and send them up on the dumb waiter, then wait for the food to come down. It's not the most streamlined system in the world.

Christie's

Where: 4528 Harford Road

Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 3:30 p.m.-11 p.m., Sunday 3:30 p.m.-9 p.m.

Credit cards accepted: D, DC, MC, V

Features: American food

Non-smoking section? Yes

Call: (410) 426-8700

Prices: $5.50-$14.95

** 1/2

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