Cafe's forte: Indian specialties


December 01, 2004|By Tom Waldron | Tom Waldron,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

On a recent stormy (and dark) night, it was a pleasure to step into the brightly lit Belvedere Towers Cafe in North Baltimore. Fresh carnations and white tablecloths lent the carryout a cozy, bistrolike air, although I have to admit the coziness was diluted slightly by the cereal boxes, sodas and other grocery items displayed for sale.

The food from a crowded menu was similarly mismatched. It was a rout for the savory, well-cooked Indian food; the pizza and a selection from the "overstuffed subs" column were ho-hum.

Our house favorite - chicken tikka masala ($8, on special) - was filled with bite-sized chicken swimming in a creamy sauce with just the right amount of tomato-y tang.

Baigan barta ($8.40), a dish made of eggplant roasted and then simmered with tomato, onion, herbs and spices, was superb and worthy of a sit-down restaurant. Both dishes came with a generous helping of basmati rice. The naan ($1.25), puffy, hot and fresh, was also a winner.

Aside from the Indian dishes, the cafe offers a familiar list of subs, sandwiches, burgers and wings. It also makes a whole bunch of pizzas, including the usual and not-so-usual pies covered with seafood (crab, scallops, shrimp and Old Bay) or steak. We stuck to the basics, a small plain pizza ($5.99, on special). The fresh-made dough was medium-thick and appealing. However, the cheese did not have that mild mozzarella flavor we are sticklers for.

A 12-inch cheese steak ($7.99) was no match for its Philly ideal, yet was eminently edible. Also pro forma was the Greek salad ($5.99), which was filled with chunks of iceberg lettuce, so-so tomatoes, feta cheese and pitted black olives.

The results were clear: Stick with the Indian specialties. As with so many carryout restaurants, the cafe tries to do too much. However, as with nearly all carryouts, the cafe knows how to make at least some things quite well - in this case, Indian things.

Finally, from a selection of cakes, we opted for the chocolate kind, ($2.50), which was a bit dry.

The cafe is tucked away near the northeast corner of the intersection of Northern Parkway and Falls Road.

Belvedere Towers Cafe

Food: **1/2

Service: ***1/2

Waiting area: ***1/2

Parking: **

Where: 1190 W. Northern Parkway, Baltimore

Phone: 410-464-0002

Hours: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday

Prices: Pizza, salads, subs, sandwiches, pasta and Indian dishes, $3.99 to $17.99; credit cards accepted

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

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