A quantity of food a quality of service

Restaurant: The Acropolis is a Greektown institution where patrons are assured of a good time, if not always a great meal.

March 29, 1998|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,SUN RESTAURANT CRITIC

The Acropolis is one of those Greektown restaurants that have been around forever but you never hear much about. Over the years it's been overshadowed by other Greek eateries, starting with Ikaros, the legendary restaurant known for its ethnic atmosphere, cheap but decent food and big portions.

And then there was Taverna Athena, which opened in Harborplace and therefore had the distinction of being Baltimore's only Greek restaurant directly on the water. People flocked there to eat traditional Greek fare at one of the outdoor tables. (It's since moved and become Opa! in Fells Point.)

These days the talk is all about the Black Olive, the chic Greek restaurant in Fells Point that specializes in grilled fish and is very expensive, a rarity for Greek restaurants around here. In fact, the whole concept of a chic Greek restaurant, especially an expensive one, is alien to Baltimore.

But back to the Acropolis. If it's ever been reviewed, it was back at the dawn of time. You have to understand that this is a modest little restaurant of a certain mold: the neighborhood ethnic eatery where you're promised lots of food and a good time for not much money.

These it delivers. Just don't hope for good food, too.

How can you have a good time and not have good food? you may ask. Well, the dining room, which was renovated not too long ago, is fresh and pretty. The staff is composed of nice people, and the service is excellent. Start drinking a little Greek wine with a piece of bread or two, and you might not notice that, for instance, the eggplant salad has so much garlic it tastes bitter, or that the stuffed grape leaves are smothered in a sea of egg-lemon sauce.

Still, the meat-and-rice stuffing is sprightly. And while so much sauce is somewhat unappetizing, it tastes fine. A tyropita, the traditional pastry made with flaky phyllo dough and softly melting Greek cheeses, is hot and crisp. No problem there.

But from then on our meal goes rapidly downhill. A lamb stew is a special this evening. It comes in a pretty little casserole, and the waitress arranges it gracefully on a plate at the table. But I'm dismayed by the unidentified cuts of lamb, bone in and quite fatty, cooked to the point of falling off the bones. The casserole includes a few cooked carrots and artichoke hearts. The whole thing is awash in egg-lemon sauce -- more egg-lemon sauce than anyone could possibly eat -- this time heavily flavored with dill.

A "Seafood Delite" sounds wonderful; but the phyllo pastry, shredded crab meat, fish and shrimp are covered in a cloyingly thick blanket of imperial sauce. (Do I sense a trend here?)

An enormous portion of moussaka has the requisite ground beef, potatoes, eggplant, bechamel and tomato sauce, but is heavily seasoned and tastes burnt.

A pretty little Greek salad comes with it, but the oregano-flavored salad dressing is as thick as mayonnaise.

Greek vegetables are usually cooked for a long time, but the Acropolis goes overboard with both its endive and its green beans in tomato sauce -- supposedly fresh, but who can tell when they've been cooked to mush.

Oh well, on to dessert. How bad can dessert be? you ask yourself. I find out when my baklava arrives. The pastry and nut confection is as soggy as a wet towel -- a sign, I suppose, that it's been sitting around too long. The other choices, rice pudding and a custard pastry called galaktoboureko, are simply tasteless.

Acropolis

Where: 4714-4718 Eastern Ave.

Hours: Open every day for lunch and dinner

Prices: Appetizers, $2.50; entrees, $8.50-$23.95; major credit cards

Call: 410-675-7882

Pub Date: 3/29/98

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