Kiss Cafe is both cozy and cavernous

Eats: dining reviews, Table Talk

January 08, 2004|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The skies had been dumping rain, snow and sleet all day, and I wasn't sure I wanted to leave my cozy house at all. But my two best buddies were up for it, so we went to the Kiss Cafe.

Visibility on the roads was terrible, and the drive took forever. We were all grumpy by the time we got there, but our collective mood began to improve as soon as we walked in the door.

The Kiss Cafe, in the Can Company on Boston Street, is cavernous and bright, with that unfinished, ductwork-exposed ceiling that seems to be everywhere these days. Warm amber lighting and colorful local artwork kept the space from seeming cold and industrial.

Tables were scattered around the huge space, and several were occupied by individuals who seemed to be out on dates with their laptops. (I later learned that Kiss Cafe has free wireless Internet access.)

Near the entrance, shiny coffee urns, each dispensing a different java variation, stood in a row near a big pile of local freebie newspapers. Across the room, a few patrons perched at the modern-looking bar, with its metallic base and sleek marble top, sipping drinks and watching football. A pastry case loaded with oversized muffins, cookies and other sweets was near them.

The upstairs was smaller, but still had room for another bar area, more tables and several pool tables that looked as though they've seen plenty of activity.

Back downstairs again, we were most cheered by the beautiful fire crackling in the fireplace to the right. In front of it were two gray leather sofas and a low coffee table. Within moments, my friends and I were in those sofas, sipping decaf lattes in mismatched mugs and checking out the orange paper menus our server had brought over.

The menu was more ambitious than I had expected, considering the Kiss Cafe seems to focus so much on coffee, booze and billiards. (Its cute logo has no food in sight -- a wine glass and two pool cues form the "K" in kiss, and steam from a coffee cup forms the "ss." T-shirts are expected shortly.)

Yet, in addition to salads, sandwiches and burgers, there were eight entrees, including pork chops, crab cakes and meatloaf, plus seven appetizers.

The fried calamari was the best of the appetizers we tried. The little rings and tendrils were crispy and hot, served with a bowl of sweetish marinara sauce. The crab balls had a nice crabby flavor but were on the dry side. The strips of skewered white meat in the chicken satay were tender enough but too salty and were served with an overly sweet peanut sauce.

The main courses each arrived with two side dishes, and the stylish black plates were so crowded that food was practically spilling over the sides. The slice of stale bread perched on top didn't help matters.

The meatloaf, especially, was comfort food at its best, rich and yummy, with a slathering of ketchup on top, just like the kind I make at home. Lumpy garlic mashed potatoes were a good match.

The barbecued London broil was a bargain at $12.95, with its slices of tender meat in a thin, tangy sauce. A side of wild rice was overly salty, but the steamed vegetables were a simple foil.

Also on the salty side was a chicken breast that was otherwise nicely grilled and juicy.

Instead of listing the desserts, our server invited us to walk over to the pastry case and see for ourselves. We chose a slice of flaky apple tart, a tower of rich chocolate cake with banana filling, and a chocolate cake-cheesecake combo. No complaints there.

As we drove back, my friend joked that the food had been so salty she could help the Baltimore road crews that were out battling ice just by licking the asphalt. I was just glad we had found a restaurant that had put us all in a better mood on such a miserable night.

Kiss Cafe

Where: 2400 Boston St., Can Company, Canton

Call: 410-327-9889

Open: Daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Credit cards: All major cards

Prices: Appetizers $4.95-$8.95, entrees $7.95-$22.95

Food: ***

Service: ***

Atmosphere: ***

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

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