Wine Merchant offers sublime beef sandwich

TAKEOUT

December 31, 2003|By Tom Waldron | Tom Waldron,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Wine Merchant occupies a handsome brick building set amid the parking lots, doctors' offices and upscale stores of Greenspring Station in Lutherville.

Its main goal is to sell inebriants (take a look at the reproduction of a painting of an open wine bottle and a half-filled glass of red wine behind the cashier). And it appears that the shop offers a nice selection of wine and liquor, including several 18-year-old scotches.

As usual, though, we were there for the food. It turns out that the Wine Merchant also operates a fine deli that offers the basics and more. I had heard about the deli from a friend who raved about the chili. Alas, our recent visit came late in the day, and the deli had sold out of chili. But we soldiered on, trying three sandwiches and three of the day's selections of prepared salads. All our dishes were good or very good.

The highlight was a beef tenderloin sandwich ($8.50) - delicious, thick slices of rare beef on a fresh roll, with tomato, lettuce, lots of horseradish, onions and a mayonnaise-based sauce. It was expensive, but sublime.

A turkey club ($5.89) was also well done, with a towering pile of turkey surrounded by crisp bacon and other goodies, on white toast. I could have done without the slice of cheese, but who's complaining? And a chicken-salad sandwich ($4.79) was perfectly acceptable, with big chunks of meat and tasty pieces of multigrain bread.

The salads all cost $5.99 by the pound and vary from day to day. The best was tortellini with a mild pesto sauce and sun-dried tomatoes. Cajun chicken came with penne in a piquant mayonnaise-based sauce. The dish was a bit gooey, but produced a stirring, peppery aftertaste. Asian noodle salad was made with linguine, snow peas and carrot slivers - not so Asian, but still good.

The deli sells a handful of desserts made elsewhere, including cookies. We tried a package of three sugar cookies ($1), but stopped eating them after a couple of very sweet bites.

For the early crowd, the Wine Merchant sells a few egg sandwiches, bagels and pastries.

Wine Merchant Deli

Food: ***

Service: *** 1/2

Waiting area: ***

Parking: ***

Where: 10741 Falls Road, Lutherville

Phone: 410-321-6500

Hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday

Prices: Salads, soups, wraps, subs and sandwiches from $1.99 to $8.50; credit cards accepted

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

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