The master returns to Karson's


January 01, 1998|By Elizabeth Large hTCSO: SUN RESTAURANT CRITIC

Twenty-two years ago, Karson's (5100 Holabird Ave., 410-631-5400) was one of Baltimore's best-known restaurants. Customers lined up around the block for executive chef George Karson's Maryland seafood and steaks. But the restaurant, owned by his parents and an aunt and uncle, "had too many Karsons," he says, to explain why he left in 1976 to open a motorcycle shop in Joppatowne.

After his father's death in 1984 and his mother's subsequent illness, the restaurant's reputation faded. "It was a ship without a captain," Karson says. Last summer, after Mrs. Karson died, the restaurant closed and almost went on the auction block.

Now, however, George Karson has returned as proprietor; the restaurant reopened quietly Nov. 18. "People are trickling back," says Karson, who hopes to return the restaurant to its glory days by "setting the clock back - offering fresh ingredients, great recipes, good portions, good service."

Karson's is open Tuesday through Sunday; dinner entrees are priced from $15 to $30.

Menus growing

Charles Village now has its own Donna's (31st and St. Paul streets, 410-889-3410), which opened in mid-December. More than a coffee bar and only a little less than a full-scale restaurant, this chic new addition to the Donna's empire has been so successful in its short life that owner Donna Crivello is expanding her other coffee bars' menus to duplicate the new one. Besides the usual salads and sandwiches, the coffee bars from Mount Vernon to Bel Air are now offering pizzas, appetizers and entrees. Those last, the majority of them pastas, are priced from $9 to $13.

Not too rich

Rarely do restaurants lower their prices. But Tapestry (1705 Aliceanna St., 410-327-7037), the new Fells Point bistro and wine bar that was formerly Tomcat Alley, found that bistro customers aren't happy with entrees in the $20 range, no matter how good the food. Executive chef Brigitte Bledsoe has added more "mid-range" entrees and four intriguing-sounding wraps for under $10 to the dinner menu, and made it possible for customers to order half salads (one is more than enough for two).

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