Circle Drive-In's back, and the food is fine



May 26, 2004|By Tom Waldron | Tom Waldron,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

I'm told the Circle Drive-In used to be the cat's pajamas back in the day. Of course, the small eatery on Dundalk Avenue has been closed for years.

That was a shame, given its prominent location and its cool circular design highlighted by glass-block windows.

But the Circle is back in business, offering mostly grilled or fried food and ice cream. When I think drive-in, I think curb service and trays hung off open windows. You don't get that at the Circle, though; you have to order at a service window. An aqua awning highlights the Circle Drive-In & Ice Cream Co.'s white concrete building, and there are a couple of new wooden benches and colorful planters out front.

Most importantly, there is a roomy parking lot for the once-a-month car show the Circle presents. (The next one is June 19, in the evening.)

Service was perfectly friendly if a bit slow. But the food was all fine, particularly given the reasonable prices.

The solid chicken-noodle soup ($1.95) appeared to be homemade, as advertised, and was loaded with shreds of chicken in a nice broth. Chicken tenders ($3.95) were deep-fried, naturally, and huge; they disappeared quickly at home.

The "Plain Ole Cheeseburger" ($3.25) featured a delicious, smoky slab of ground beef on a fresh roll. The cheese steak ($4.50) had that perfect, tangy-cheese flavor accented by fried onions.

A chicken-salad sub ($4.50) had plenty of chicken, as well as plenty of mayonnaise and celery, but not much flavor. We were all set to try the "Margarita Griller," made from a chicken breast marinated in "top-shelf" margarita mix, but the Circle was out of chicken breasts that evening. Onion rings ($2.50) were delicious, combining golden-brown batter and slightly sweet onion.

Dessert, of course, revolves around ice cream. You can do the sundae thing or the malt thing. We settled on a small cone ($1.35) of soft-serve - chocolate and vanilla swirled together. It could not have been better. A chocolate shake ($3.25) was pretty good, even though the ice cream came out of a machine. We didn't notice until later that you can have a shake made with actual hand-scooped ice cream for 50 cents extra.

The Circle sits just south of Eastern Avenue on Dundalk Avenue, in the heart of union country. There is plenty of parking, even if you're not driving a '57 Chevy.

Circle Drive-In & Ice Cream Co.

Food: ***

Service: ** 1/2

Waiting area: ** 1/2

Parking: ***

Where: 555 Dundalk Ave., Baltimore

Phone: 443-524-3610

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; noon to 10 p.m. Saturday; noon to 9 p.m. Sunday

Prices: Soups, salads, burgers, cheese steaks, subs and grilled-chicken dishes from $1.95 to $6.95; no credit cards

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