No frills, but good service

TAKEOUT

December 15, 2004|By Tom Waldron | Tom Waldron,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

You just never know.

At least, that is my guiding philosophy as I seek out good carryout restaurants across the Charm City region.

Most recently, I took one look at R.C. Rodgers and almost turned around. I had seen a mention on the Web of the R.C. Rodgers Gourmet Deli in Catonsville and figured it was worth a try. The deli, it turns out, is hardly gourmet and, like an afterthought, it's tucked into one side of a cramped liquor store on Frederick Road.

But something told me to give it a chance. Maybe it was the endearing sign taped to the deli case apologizing for having to charge 30 cents for lettuce and tomato because of the high price of produce.

In the end, I was glad I stuck with the place. No, Rodgers Gourmet Deli is not about mango chutney or pesto mayonnaise. It is, though, about fast, friendly service and no-frills, reasonably priced food prepared with above-average care.

First of all, we loved the pulled-pork barbecue sandwich ($5.50). The meat was well cooked -- even crunchy in some places -- and thoroughly suffused with the slightly sweet sauce. Served on a fresh roll with good coleslaw, the sandwich was a winner I'd like to try again next time I'm in Catonsville around lunchtime.

A bowl of chili ($2.95) also met expectations, thanks to a nice tomato flavor and plenty of cheese and onions on top. A tuna-salad platter ($4.80) was adequate although nothing to brag about, because of too-bland tuna.

A delicious Italian cheese steak ($5.25) was served on a fresh roll and disappeared in a heartbeat once the 16-year-old got home from swim-team practice. The rare roast-beef sandwich ($4.35) came on pumpernickel with raw onions and horseradish and was perfectly OK.

The only bummer was the Cajun chicken sandwich ($4.50), which featured next to no Cajun spices. Plus, the chicken breast was too dry.

Dessert choices included cookies, rice pudding and brownies -- none of which are made on the premises. We opted for a big black-bottom muffin ($1.99), which was moist and laced with chocolate chips.

Rodgers serves a basic breakfast menu -- eggs, bacon, home fries and toast -- until 11 a.m. There's plenty of parking.

R.C. Rodgers Gourmet Deli

Food: **1/2

Service: ***1/2

Waiting area: **

Parking: ***1/2

Where: 900 Frederick Road, Catonsville

Phone: 410-747-4044

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday

Prices: Soups, sandwiches, subs, crab cakes and salads, from $2.19 to $16.75; credit cards accepted

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

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