A real Philly cheese steak, right here


January 18, 2001|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Sun Restaurant Critic

I lived in Philadelphia for several years, but I never quite understood why-heresy coming here-a Philly cheese steak is so much better than any other cheese steak.

Aficionados who do care, though, can find the real thing at Federal Hills newest Irish pub, MaGerk's, at 1061 S. Charles St. Owners Paul and John Dolaway are from Philadelphia, and that's where they get the rolls for their popular cheese steaks. Other hot sellers are the chicken cheese steak and the MaGerk: cooked salami, fried onions, white American cheese, tomato and "special sauce" on a kaiser roll. Um, I'll take the cheese steak.

The Dolaway brothers gutted the space that had been Tio Loco and rebuilt it from the ground up. The pub has 14-foot ceilings, the original exposed brick (circa 1902), a 25-foot-long bar and four huge windows that open up in good weather to create the effect of an open-air cafe.

Fountain favorites

When Hometown Girl in Hampden moves this spring to 1001 W. 36th St., where Cavacos Pharmacy & Confectionary used to be, the new quarters will feature an old-fashioned soda fountain. On the menu: malts, phosphates, sundaes and all the other good things drugstore soda fountains used to serve.

"Don't expect a diner-type '50s soda fountain," owner Mary Pat Andrea warns. She's thinking of something more in tune with the turn-of-the-last-century architecture of the building - a Victorian soda fountain. Not to worry. Andrea promises you'll be able to get a hot-fudge sundae, even if hot fudge hadn't been invented by 1900.

Less noisy, more fun

I wanted decent food and my daughter wanted action, so we ended up at Petit Louis, the bis-tro at 4800 Roland Ave.

When it first opened, Petit Louis was known as much for its noise level and mob scene as its steak frites. To my delight, the place has mellowed out. You still get the atmosphere and good food of a casual French eatery (be prepared to pay for it); but even though the bistro was busy, people weren't shouting. Best of all, there was a real fire in the fire-place and we had a cozy little table next to it-just what we needed on a chilly evening.

Eat and be seen

Have you noticed that the latest Zagat guides are organized by purpose of eating out, such as "people watching" and "singles scene," as well as cuisine, and location? The trade magazine Restaurants USA points, out that's one sign of a continuing trend: Eating out has become a "primary leisure activity." In response, look for more and more "entertainment" restaurants like the Rainforest Cafe and Jillian's.

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 410-783-2519; or e-mail to elizabeth.large@baltsun.com.

Elizabeth Large's restaurant reviews appear in Sunday's Home & Family section. This Sunday: Jillian's Hibachi Grill in the Arundel Mills Mall.

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