Spike and Charlie take over the Joy America Cafe

TABLE TALK

April 01, 1999|By ELIZABETH LARGE | ELIZABETH LARGE,SUN RESTAURANT CRITIC

As if the Gjerde brothers didn't have enough on their plate, now Spike and Charlie of Spike & Charlie's and the new Atlantic have taken over the Joy America Cafe in the American Visionary Art Museum. Spike Gjerde is also an owner of Federal Hill's new Italian cafe, Vespa.

No immediate changes or major overhauls are planned for Joy America, says Charlie Gjerde. "We just want to make it more accessible." (Former owner Peter Zimmer was known for his off-the-wall fusion cuisine and fanciful presentations.)

"The menu will still be fun," says Gjerde, "but it was a little too wacky for Baltimore. We're going to lower prices so lunch doesn't cost $16 for an entree."

Spike Gjerde is working on the new menu now, Charlie says. Look for more Southwestern dishes and specials that play off museum exhibits.

Tuscany and California

Germano's has long been one of the most reliable restaurants in Little Italy, known for its good Tuscan food. Now owner Germano Fabiani has opened a new place in Owings Mills, Tosca Grill, at 100 Painters Mill Road. (It's in the building that replaced the Country Fare Inn.)

The name comes from combining "Tuscany" and "California," Fabiani says -- the two cuisines represented on the menu. He sees plenty of parallels between the two regions, from the importance of fresh produce to the wines.

You'll find some dishes like the California pizza with pineapple on Tosca's menu, a pizza that Fabiani says is "out of this world."

"Nevertheless," he adds with a laugh, "everyone in the kitchen is Italian."

Max's goes uptown

"Max's is growing up," says owner Ron Furman, by which he means that the Fells Point bar is about to become the proud parent of a restaurant, Max's at Camden Yards. Located where Nates & Leons was at 300 W. Pratt, the new place will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. Furman's wife, Gail, will be running the show.

Much of the American menu will be beer-related, with dishes like chili cooked with beer and beer-battered items. "Beer is what we do best," says Furman, who points out that there will be 20 beers on draft for the outside seating alone.

Rainforest Cafe

The much-hyped Rainforest Cafe has finally opened in Towson Town Center. You can't complain that the place has no atmosphere: It's a replica of a tropical rain forest, complete with vegetation and animals. The PR material calls the Minnesota-based chain a "wonderland" with "continuous tropical rain storms" -- not my idea of the perfect place for dinner at the end of a hard day, but, hey, I'm not 12, either. As a parent, I know the value of constant entertainment when you're eating out with the kids. If the Rasta Pasta and the Volcanic Cobb Salad are as good as promised, I can put up with trumpeting elephants and Tracy the Talking Tree.

Table Talk welcomes interesting tidbits of restaurant news. Please send suggestions to Elizabeth Large, Table Talk, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278; fax to 410-752-6049; or e-mail to elizabeth.large@baltsun.com.

Pub Date: 04/01/99

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