Try the New York-style pizza


July 20, 2005|By Tom Waldron | Tom Waldron,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

As I entered Caramel's in Pikesville on a recent evening, a young Orthodox mother was shepherding out an astonishing number of contented young children digging into colorful snowballs.

It was a good sign, but inside, the restaurant, which features a large photograph of the New York skyline, looked a little worn-out, like a party of 24 had just finished dinner, with stuff cluttered on some of the tables and on the floor.

A few other families, couples and kids were picking up pizza or waiting for ice cream. Caramel's is a kosher dairy restaurant, with plenty of cheese, salads, potatoes and pasta but, in accordance with kosher strictures, not a trace of meat.

After placing our large order, I watched the staffers move methodically through their work. There was little of the crispness that you often see in humming pizza places. I had to wait long enough that I did a mental redesign of the restaurant to get rid of its inefficient setup and lack of a clearly designated place for customers to order and pay.

Back at home, the tasters tore into the food. The best thing we tried was a medium New York-style pizza ($7.95), which had thin crust, a good amount of cheese and an unremarkable sauce. A deep-dish medium pizza ($11.95) had too much cheese for our tastes.

I put together a small but tasty salad at Caramel's salad bar ($5.25), including tangy cucumbers, pickled carrots, delicious roasted eggplant and (unfortunately) iceberg lettuce.

An order of falafel ($5.25) lacked zip, although the accompanying tahini was a nice add-on. We sampled two knishes ($2.95 each), potato and mushroom, which were quite large but disappointing. Finally, meatless lasagna ($4.99) needed more spice.

The bottom line from our dinner: Stick to the thin-crust pizza.

Caramel's has a good selection of ice cream - soft, nonfat and hand-dipped, as well as banana splits, shakes and sundaes. We opted for a piece of cake ($4), which was made elsewhere and left no lasting impression.

There's parking on the street and in a small lot behind Caramel's.

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Food: **

Service: **

Waiting area: **

Parking: ** 1/2

Where: 700 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville

Phone: 410-486-2365

Hours: 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday; open one hour after sundown to 1 a.m. Saturday

Prices: Pizza, salads, soups, falafel, baked potatoes, knishes, calzones, pasta and ice cream, $1.95 to $17.95; credit cards accepted

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

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