Big servings, cheap and fattening: a perfect combination at Bateman's

March 07, 1996|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,SUN RESTAURANT CRITIC

There's no magic to making it in the restaurant business. You just serve huge quantities of the food everybody knows you shouldn't eat, from loaded skins to ribs with fries to black bottom cheesecake.

The more we hear we should be consuming a diet heavy on whole grains, vegetables and fruits, the more of us head for Bill Bateman's Bistro.

Not that you can't have a very nice salad at this college hangout/family restaurant/sports bar, but the closest most customers are going to get to a green vegetable is the celery sticks that come with the chicken wings.

Even though everybody is worried about fat, and even though we all know a Buffalo wing dipped in blue cheese dressing has 8 trillion calories, people are lining up for the Bill Bateman version. On a Friday or Saturday night, the wait for a table can be as long as an hour and a half.

This is for the privilege of sitting in dining rooms so noisy you might as well give up any idea of talking and simply dive into the pile of wings, which are plump, fiery hot and deliciously greasy, with a generous amount of celery sticks and a thick blue cheese dressing to dip them in. We had the original wings, but there are 14 other choices, from "atomic" to "wings from hell."

Mr. Bateman, who owns two other restaurants, knows that what sells well is food you can eat in your sweat clothes, dishes that cost under 10 bucks. The menu is a compendium of the '90s version of comfort food: quesadillas, enormous hamburgers, fries with gravy, pizza.

Those pizzas are made with big, soft, bread-like crusts, topped with everything from seafood imperial to chili. I liked the comparatively modest "bianco," with ricotta cheese, lots of olive oil and garlic, broccoli florets and chopped fresh tomato.

Quesadillas also come in a variety of flavors. The 12-inch tortillas we tried were filled with melted cheese and sauteed onions with bits of grilled vegetables to add a little pizazz.

The baby back ribs were less interesting to me. They were fall-off-the-bone tender but had too much too-sweet barbecue sauce; pale, oversalted fries; and tasteless slaw.

While nothing is very expensive here, it costs even less to eat on specials nights -- all the wings you can eat on Mondays and half-price burgers on Sundays. This respect for the customer's pocketbook is the great drawing card of Bill Bateman's, and why everyone from 4 year olds to retirees ends up here with the Towson State kids. That and the fact that it's fun food, the kind that makes your soul happy if not your bathroom scales.

Bill Bateman's Bistro

7800 York Road, Towson (410) 296-2737

Hours: Daily 11 a.m.-1 a.m.

Credit cards: Major credit cards

Prices: $2.29-$12.95

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