Peter N. Karangelen, 81, proprietor of the landmark Kent Lounge

July 31, 2005|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Peter N. Karangelen, former longtime owner of a popular York Road bar and restaurant, died of heart failure Wednesday at Manor Care Dulaney Towson. He was 81.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Federal Hill, Mr. Karangelen was the son of Greek immigrant parents who operated Karangelen Candies from a stall at Cross Street Market.

Mr. Karangelen was a 1942 graduate of Southern High School, where he was an outstanding football player and wrestler. He entered the University of Maryland on a football scholarship and as a sophomore was captain of the varsity team.

His sophomore year was interrupted in 1943 when he was drafted into the Navy. After serving in the Pacific, he returned to the University of Maryland for two more years.

After the death of a brother, Mr. Karangelen left College Park to take over operation of his vending machine company.

In 1955, he married Helen Kent, whose father had established the Maryland Restaurant in the 500 block of York Road in Towson in 1927. Her father closed the restaurant in 1955 and opened the Kent Lounge across the street, in the building that had once housed the Biograph Theater.

Mr. Karangelen joined his father-in-law in the business that year and for the next 42 years - until he sold the lounge to a nephew and retired - held court while dispensing drinks and food to loyal customers.

Surrounded by chain restaurants, pubs and yuppie bars, the Kent Lounge remains a reminder of another time.

"Duck into the Kent Lounge, where Peter Karangelen has been presiding for 37 years, and it's like taking a time machine back to the Eisenhower years," a Sun critic wrote in 1992. "The neatly paneled, dimly lighted bar and restaurant look as if they have been preserved in amber since 1955 as a haven from fashionable intruders such as Towson Commons."

"He certainly was a fun-loving character, and when you ran into Peter, your day was immeasurably brightened. He served honest drinks and good food," said Lou Panos, a former Evening Sun columnist who writes for The Towson Times. "The Kent Lounge was to the neighborhood what the old Penn Hotel was to the politicians, lawyers and judges."

Out of Mr. Karangelen's kitchen rolled orders of crab balls, shrimp salad, sauerbraten and dumplings, a hot turkey sandwich billed as "a Kent Lounge tradition," steaming bowls of homemade chicken noodle soup, grilled tuna on a bed of Spanish rice, and apple pies with chunks of sweet apple surrounded by a flaky crust. Sometimes, he had the chef whip up a few Greek dishes.

"And he had great crab cakes, which is the universal ethnic food," Mr. Panos said.

Although Mr. Karangelen enjoyed an occasional drink, he preferred chocolate milkshakes.

"He had a mixer that dated back to the 1930s, and that's what he used to make his shakes," said his daughter Dana Kent Karangelen of Baltimore.

Mr. Karangelen, who lived in West Towson, was a member of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Shriners and the Masons.

He was a member of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, Maryland Avenue and Preston Street, where services were held Friday.

Surviving, in addition to his wife and daughter, are another daughter, Penny K. Heisler of Phoenix, Baltimore County; a brother, Frank Karangelen of Tarpon Springs, Fla.; a sister, Ann Georges of Norfolk, Va.; and two grandchildren.

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