Greek-accented diner food


April 10, 2002|By Tom Waldron | Tom Waldron,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The reassuring smell of a greasy grill hard at work emanated from the Ashland Cafe in Cockeysville as I pulled into the beat-up parking lot. It was a smell that triggered countless memories of good, cheap Greek diner food. And despite the chichi name, the Ashland Cafe is essentially a good, cheap Greek diner, although one open only for breakfast and lunch.

The low-slung, beige brick building sits amid antiques stores and muffler shops at the corner of York and Cockeysville roads within easy reach of Interstate 83. Parking at the side and rear isn't grand, but it's adequate.

Customers enter the restaurant past a refrigerated case displaying desserts, most made elsewhere, including an impressive-looking lemon meringue pie. The dining room features a three-car miniature passenger train circling overhead and a Keno board blinking for the midday gambling crowd.

The cafe opens before dawn and serves breakfast all day, but I was in no mood for eggs or waffles. The lunch menu offers the usual diner fare: everything from meatloaf and club sandwiches to a pork-chop platter and breaded eggplant parmigiana. I opted for the day's soup special, a $1.99 cabbage soup, the lunch special of chicken souvlaki and french fries for $5.99, a bacon cheeseburger for $2.95, an order of onion rings and an eclair for dessert.

The Ashland doesn't have a separate waiting area for people placing takeout orders; carry-out customers must stand and shuffle to make room for each other.

As I waited, I marveled at the cafe's efficiency. At noon, the place was packed with eat-in diners and carryout folks like me. But a small army of cooks, waitresses and counter help seemed to have the rush well in hand. The cashier wasn't the least bit rattled when I completely changed my order after he had already rung it up, and my meal appeared in about five minutes.

The cabbage soup turned out to be the highlight of the meal. It was light on the cabbage, but was packed with smoked sausage and chunks of potatoes and carrots, in a slightly sweet beef broth. The chicken souvlaki was also a good choice - thick pita bread wrapped around chunks of herbed chicken, shredded lettuce and tomato pieces, with a plastic container of creamy tzatziki sauce.

My heart sank when I saw the bright yellow American cheese covering the burger. But it turned out to be surprisingly tasty, thanks to the decent quarter-pound ground-beef patty and two strips of crispy bacon. All in all, just the kind of greasy, yummy burger I'd hoped for when I took my first whiff in the cafe parking lot.

The chocolate-drenched eclair looked delectably gooey, but alas, it was just a shade too sweet.

If you know of a good carryout restaurant, send the name and address to us at foodedit, or fax the information to us at 410-783-2519.

Ashland Cafe

Food: ***

Service: ****

Waiting Room: *

Parking: ***

Where: 10810 York Road, Cockeysville

Hours: Monday: 5 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Tuesday-Saturday: 4 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday: 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Prices: $20 to $25 will feed a family of four. Visa, Master Card and Amex on orders exceeding $10.

Phone: 410-666-3838; fax 410-666-0235

Outstanding: ****; Good: ***; Fair or uneven: **; Poor: *

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