Food makes the grade at P.J.'s


March 31, 1995|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Sun Restaurant Critic

This time of year, the Hopkins campus is where it's happening, from lacrosse games to the big spring fair at the end of April. And P. J.'s Pub across Charles Street is where a lot of beer drinking is happening.

P. J.'s has 13 beers on draft, plus a large selection of imported bottled beers. What it also has, even though you don't hear much about it, is some pretty decent bar food.

The basement bar-dining room offers more atmosphere than you might expect. P. J.'s is a college hangout, but one with some history behind it. It looks settled in, comfortable, substantial. True, the decor consists of a couple of pinball machines, some important sports jerseys, a trophy shelf and three televisions. But the lighting is soft and warm on the handsome bar, and the green and white checked oil cloth tablecloths are cheerful.

As for food, you won't find any surprises, but the pizzas are made with a homemade crust, highly seasoned tomato sauce and lots of mozzarella. Sunday nights a 16-inch pizza costs $4.47.

The star of the show is P. J.'s hamburger, which is fat but not too fat, has a great charred flavor and comes medium rare when you order it that way. With it get what the menu calls "Sully fries" -- potatoes hand-cut into thin strips with the skins still on and fried to golden crispness.

P. J.'s Buffalo wings are plump and juicy, with a spicy-sweet sauce, crisp celery and a thin blue cheese dressing. The smoldering-hot chili is made from scratch and comes with lots of grated Cheddar. A pit beef sandwich has a generous amount of tender top round on a kaiser roll and a dark, potent barbecue sauce.

Then we made the mistake of straying from the bar food and ordering a salad. It featured brown-edged iceberg; much too much of some pale, unidentifiable grated cheese; chopped winter tomato; green pepper; and lots of sliced black olives.

Our waitress, who had done a great job up until then with our complicated order, was nonplused when we asked about dessert. I got the feeling we were the first ones ever to pose the question to her.

"I'm not sure we have any, but I'll check," she said.

You know somehow that you don't want to order a dessert the waitress isn't even sure she has, so we passed when she came back to report that there was Oreo cheesecake and Chambord cheesecake.

Have another Buffalo wing instead.

P. J.'s Pub

Where: 3333 N. Charles St.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily

Credit cards accepted: AE, MC, V

Features: Bar food

Non-smoking section? No

Call: (410) 243-8844

Prices: $2-$7


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