Take a drive to the Old Country Restaurant: Josef's serves German dishes with Continental aplomb. That is, when the FTC service people show up.

September 29, 1996|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,SUN RESTAURANT CRITIC

We all need to take a drive to Pleasantville Road every once in a while. At the end of the trip is a restaurant where the clock has stopped, where no one has ever heard of calories or cholesterol and where the list of appetizers includes both hot apple fritters and snails in garlic butter.

And something as trendy as tiramisu would never, never be on the dessert menu. (OK, it has sneaked onto the pastry tray, but it's not official. A nice, old-fashioned apple strudel with ice cream is official.)

The restaurant is Josef's Country Inn. The owner is Josef Gohring, who's also executive chef at Peerce's Plantation. In fact, Josef's may remind you of a homier, less-expensive version of Peerce's. It may also remind you a little of Haussner's, with its knickknacks and art, its motherly hostess and its German specialties.

This is the place to go when you need comfort food -- comfort food in the form of great heaping plates. For example: two mammoth smoked loin pork chops with piles of flavorful sauerkraut and potatoes. It would feed a family of four.

Sauerbraten and wiener schnitzel and the like are by no means all that Josef's has to offer. The hearty Teutonic fare is balanced with classic Continental specialties, such as the veal Oscar made with tender veal, good crab meat, two asparagus spears and an ocean of bearnaise sauce.

Don't think you can eat light by ordering fish. A huge fillet of flounder is sauteed to a buttery golden brown, topped with three little oysters and washed in a dill-sparked cream sauce.

A few of the specials are more au courant, like the salad of the day, with fresh but overcooked tuna, Italian cold cuts, sliced red onion and cucumbers over leaf lettuce.

A nod to vegetables comes with each dinner in the form of miniature carrots over-seasoned with rosemary. (The a la carte vegetables run to red cabbage and fried onion rings.) But you don't come to Josef's for vegetables. You come for food like the "hot crab symphony," a creamy dip that will block up your arteries when you look at it. Ditch the soggy toast on the side.

You come for that slice of pecan-chocolate pie, served warm with a scoop of ice cream, or the cherry cobbler.

One downside to dinner at Josef's, if our experience was any indication, is the service. Not that the hostess wasn't sweet and great with directions to get us back home. Not that our waitress wasn't friendly and knowledgeable about the food. There just aren't enough waitresses, so we sat for long periods of time staring glumly at our dirty plates, never seeing a wait person and never getting our water glasses filled. And we never did get coffee spoons. We ended up stirring our coffee with our knives.

Josef's

Where: 2410 Pleasantville Road, Fallston

Hours: open Mondays through Saturdays for lunch; every day for dinner

Prices: appetizers, $3.75-$7.95; entrees, $11.95-$25.95. Major credit cards

Call: (410) 877-7800

Pub Date: 9/29/96

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