Atwater's is a notch above

TAKEOUT

Carryout worth trip to Belvedere Square

November 12, 2003|By Tom Waldron | Tom Waldron,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The rebirth of Belvedere Square was carefully planned and long anticipated. It's great to be able to stop at the refurbished market in North Baltimore for produce, smoked fish or sushi.

One of the engines that seems to be powering the market's new life is Atwater's bakery, where all kinds of crusty loaves, scones and pastries can be found. Atwater's also has a nice carryout, which operates from a kitchen where customers seated around a horseshoe-shaped counter can watch the action.

On a radiant Saturday afternoon, Belvedere Square Market was bustling. Dressed in crisp white, the Atwater's staff is large enough to meet the demand of weekend diners.

The menu of soups and sandwiches changes daily. A friend tipped me off to the crab-and-shrimp bisque ($5.85). It was silky and padded with plump lumps of crab and deveined shrimp. The bisque wasn't too creamy and was delicately seasoned.

The other soup, black bean with merguez sausage and saffron ($4.45), wasn't quite as thick as I prefer, but stocked with rice, beans and nibbles of the mildly savory sausage. The soup comes in large carryout containers that hold more than enough for a meal, especially since it comes with a thick wedge of Atwater's bread - which on this day happened to be crowded with bits of salty kalamata olives.

I ordered both sandwiches on the menu: the ham, salami, mortadella and provolone with olive tapenade on garlic Italian bread ($7.50) and the turkey breast with lettuce, tomato and pesto mayonnaise on honey oatmeal bread ($7.50). One quibble: There was a switcheroo on the sandwich spreads, so the tapenade landed on the turkey, and the pesto mayo landed on the Italian deli sandwich. Otherwise, both sandwiches were quite good: enormous, fresh and fun to eat.

Dessert also held a surprise. I had ordered a lemon-buttermilk tart ($3.50) and an apple dumpling ($3.50.) I found out at home that the lemon tart was missing. In its place was an apple tart ($3.50). Both apple treats were good, but nearly identical. A trip back to the market proved worth it; the lemon tart was the best of the three desserts - a flaky crust around a subtle lemon filling. Atwater's is certainly a notch above most carryouts. And it's a pleasure to have such a place, one that can become a social hub, at an important city crossroads.

Atwater's

Food: ***

Service: ** 1/2

Waiting area: *** 1/2

Parking: *** 1/2

Where: Belvedere Square Market, 529 E. Belvedere Ave., North Baltimore

Phone: 410-323-2396

Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday

Prices: Soups and sandwiches, $4.45 to $7.50; credit cards accepted

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

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