A cavernous one-time door factory on Key Highway is home to one of the latest incarnations of the microbrewery trend -- the scruffy warehouse as bar, restaurant and brewery. For those who have tired of the yuppie-inspired pseudo-British pubs, this is probably a good thing: Lots of elbow room and nothing breakable in sight.
Globe's menu emphasizes seafood, but the restaurant's best dishes are bar food. Fresh-cut fries are simply outstanding. Chicken wings are also great, served Buffalo-style with a thick blue-cheese dressing. Crab soup is made gumbo-style without a trace of shell.
FOR THE RECORD - In the Dining Out guide of Sept. 18, an incorrect phone number was listed for Troia, the Bistro at the Walters. The correct number is 410-752-2887.
The Sun regrets the errors.
Be sure to order a pint of draft beer, particularly the Baltimore Bitters. Unfortunately, there's not much variety among the entrees to go with the beer. The house's only chicken breast resides in a sandwich. Broiled tuna is a pale thing that suggests the broiler hadn't been preheated. Teriyaki mahi-mahi is only slightly better. Carrot cake and chocolate cake are satisfactory. The only alternative is cheesecake.
Hard Rock Cafe Baltimore, Power Plant, Inner Harbor, 410-347-7625. **1/2 $
The Hard Rock Cafe has been Baltimore's hottest ticket since it opened this summer, so expect to wait for a table. Go to see more rock and roll memorabilia collected in one place than you ever dreamed possible (Madonna's underwear, vintage posters). Gawk at the blue Cadillac hanging over the guitar-shaped bar. Buy yourself a Hard Rock T-shirt. And then, almost as an afterthought, drink thick chocolate malts in Hard Rock Baltimore souvenir glasses and eat fat bacon cheeseburgers and superb french fries.
To generalize, this is what good chain-restaurant food should be. Not too ambitious, generous portions, consistent quality from restaurant to restaurant. Bar fare, like the nachos, piled high with pinto beans, sour cream, salsa, melted cheese and peppers, is probably a better bet than more complicated offerings. Order the salads, burgers, sandwiches and decadent desserts like the chocolate chip pie and you can't go far wrong.
Indian Pavilion, 635 W. Pratt St., 410-752-5700. *** $ $
Aficionados of Indian food are required now at the Indian Pavilion. The restaurant is enduring a difficult period -- construction fences to the west (the Maryland Shock Trauma Center), construction fences to the north (a University of Maryland medical library). Tucked into the heart of this chain-link activity sits a small, old Baltimore building, which has, inside, a pleasing, immaculate, carefully appointed dining room.
Our waiter knew cooking methods and ingredients and guided us well in ordering. We liked very much the medium-hot chicken vindaloo's zesty splash of vinegar soothed by potato. Mulligatawny soup was subtle and comforting. Spicy samosas packed with potatoes and dotted with peas were greaseless and tasty, the sauce a perfect mix of coriander, lemon, onion and hot pepper. A boneless lamb dish made from a Patiala (North India) recipe was light on coconut and heat, and balanced in spice.
Desserts were excellent: two gulab jamun (cakelike milk balls) in rosewater-perfumed syrup, and a pistachio-powdered square of kulfi, a vibrantly milky ice.
J. Leonard's Waterside, 500 Harborview Drive, 410-625-0500. *** $ $ $ $
Even with a storm rolling in, J. Leonard's Waterside was a picturesque spot for dinner. We hardly noticed the handsome teal dining room, our focus was so drawn to the seascape outside.
We got more than a view here, though. Grilled seafood was done to perfection, from an appetizer of sea scallops on golden saffron cream to a 2-inch-thick swordfish steak, cooked just right all the way through. The intensely flavored garlic mashed potatoes served with the fish could have satisfied us alone, they were so good.
Our waitress, who was terrific, suggested the tournedos Atlantis. Take two petite filet mignon on thick Madeira demiglace. Top with jumbo shrimp filled with crab and smothered in dill bearnaise. It was fantastically rich, a throwback to another time, say, when cholesterol was still a foreign word. We ended with cool, firm spoonfuls of creme caramel, and fudgelike chocolate mousse in pastry shells. The evening's only unpleasantry was the Maryland crab soup, which tasted canned.
J. P. Henry's, 425 York Road, Towson, 410-828-5095. **1/2 $ $
Almost overnight, J. P. Henry's replaced Mick's at Towson Commons. But the new restaurant continues, as the old did, to focus on family-friendly food -- from nibbles to main meals.
If the kids have a hankering for chicken tenders with gooey mustard and barbecue sauces, Mom is leaning toward beef fajitas and Dad is eyeing the shrimp in lobster cream, this is the place. While you won't be wowed by the kitchen's culinary skills, you'll see that J. P. Henry's delivers a consistent performance with decent food and friendly service.