Fabulous fries far from boardwalk

TAKEOUT

Takeout

March 17, 2004|By Tom Waldron | Tom Waldron,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Every so often, this job delivers an unexpected revelation. Most recently, it was the discovery of some mighty fine french fries coming out of a basement in a Towson bank building.

I mean, these were terrific, Rehoboth Beach boardwalk-quality fries being cooked by Cafe Gourmet, and costing just a buck.

The Cafe Gourmet - one of two in Towson - sits on the lower level of the Mercantile-Towson Building, a no-nonsense edifice with lots of marble. The cafe holds down a small, noisy space next to the offices of Patuxent Publishing, and it's easier to find by coming off Pennsylvania Avenue.

Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, the eatery caters to Towson workers. It offers a breakfast menu, including one item I suppose I'm dying to try next time: "Heart Attack Pack Sandwich," with egg, bacon, sausage, ham and cheese on toast.

The lunch menu is heavy on salads, wraps, sandwiches and pastas. We were pleased with almost everything we tried from the moderately priced menu.

The Bambino Burger ($5.75) was a hit, a tasty slab of ground beef on a fresh roll. For an extra dollar, it came with the fries. The Fly by Night Charlie ($4.95) turned out to be an upscale tuna melt, and a very good one, with sprouts and Havarti cheese on an English muffin.

The Philly cheese steak ($5.25) was packed with shaved meat and was devoured by my 15-year-old son, who pronounced it "solid." The Wrap it Up ($5.25) was essentially a Caesar salad with big chunks of chicken, wrapped inside a sun-dried tomato tortilla. It, too, was a winner.

A cafe salad ($4.25) included a nice selection of greens and came with a tasty garlic-laced Italian dressing. One item on the menu - sun-dried tomato and pesto pasta ($5.75) - seemed to be misnamed. While there were indeed a few tomatoes in view, there was, alas, no sign of a pesto sauce. The penne dish was, however, perfectly fine.

The one disappointment was the crab soup ($3.75) which was too sweet and lacked that peppery punch one expects.

Dessert offerings were few. I picked a brownie ($1.50), which was laced with chocolate chips and may have been the sweetest thing I have ever eaten.

As for parking, there are some metered spaces on the street, and garages nearby.

Cafe Gourmet

Food: ***

Service: *** 1/2

Waiting area: ***

Parking: **

Where: 409 Washington Ave., lower level, Towson

Phone: 410-823-3080

Fax: 410-823-3107

Web site: www.visitcafegourmet.com

Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday

Prices: Soups, salads, sandwiches, pasta and burgers, $3.75 to $6.95; credit cards accepted

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

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