Sidecar could be a cool hangout

EATS

Attracting clubgoers, theater patrons, office workers and students with modern-day pub food, the grill has potential

dining for $25 or less

August 28, 2008|By Richard Gorelick | Richard Gorelick,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Bedrock's Sidecar Grill feels like the kind of contemporary retro spot where characters on teen television shows gather for french fries and pizza. Think of it as the Peach Pit for the quickly evolving west side.

This bright new dining space is attached to the Bedrock pool lounge and nightclub, which itself has the easygoing vibe of a university union - two levels of boozy fun in a mammoth old bank building, with seven pool tables at last count. The Sidecar Grill is sweet-looking, its walls and tile floor done up in the colors of midcentury kitchen appliances, the booths with Formica-style tabletops. It's not like a theme park here, though - there's been some restraint.

Bedrock's clubbers might be the most obvious patrons for the Sidecar Grill, but there are other communities to consider in this neighborhood: folks going to and coming from shows and events at the Hippodrome and 1st Mariner Arena, nearby office workers, and staff and students at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. The Sidecar Grill appears to have all of these constituencies in mind. It's open for business at 11 a.m. weekdays and serves a late-night menu right up until about an hour before bar-closing time.

Although the Sidecar doesn't turn out to be a destination for gourmet adventures, it doesn't pretend that it is. The menu consists mostly of modern-day pub food, which means pizzas and sandwiches but wraps, too, and new classics like ahi tuna and portobello mushrooms. Appetizers include nachos, chicken tenders, wings and mozzarella sticks. The most elaborate entrees are a crab cake platter with a corn-and-red-pepper risotto and skewers of Cajun-grilled filet mignon. If anything feels missing, it's the kind of stuff you're craving after midnight - hot turkey and roast beef, with gravy on the french fries, or a Monte Cristo sandwich, some of the things that the bygone Gampy's did so well.

The food is surprisingly inconsistent, and things you'd think would be right up the kitchen's alley come off less well than more challenging items. A seared ahi tuna appetizer is worth trying, with a pretty sesame crust over fresh-looking fish. The accompanying wasabi sauce was weak-tasting, though, and too creamy. But Angus-beef sliders, which you'd expect to be good, weren't really. The meat itself was underseasoned (or not seasoned at all) and the sandwich needed some kind of sauce to make it special.

The house's version of a macaroni and cheese, though, was very pleasing, with a generous tossing of cheddar, mozzarella and jack cheeses over cavatappi, all perked up with snowy white crab meat and a dash of Old Bay. We'd order this again.

The fish and chips here are good, too, beer-battered cod fried up to a handsome brown and a pleasing crispness. The house fries are a small disappointment, though, if only because the Sidecar is the kind of place that should have killer fries. These weren't crispy or flavorful enough.

Of the sandwiches ordered from a large list, an excellent and gooey grilled cheese sandwich makes great use of buttered sourdough bread and applewood bacon, but the cheesesteak didn't fly, mostly because the onion-and-peppers topping overwhelmed the very tender and tasty steak.

We didn't get around to ordering pizza, which the menu says is made from fresh dough and baked in a stone-hearth oven. But we did have room for a deep-fried Snickers bar, which uses honey-sweetened pizza dough as its crust. With vanilla ice cream, of course.

The Sidecar Grill strikes me as a place that will evolve into a proper Peach Pit hangout (for adults) if fun people start to go there, and the coolest kids will go where they're serving the best french fries. It sounds like I'm kidding, but it's a fact.

bedrock's sidecar grill

Where: 401 W. Baltimore St.

Call: 410-685-7665

Open: 11 a.m.--2 a.m. Monday-Friday; 4 p.m.*--1 a.m. Saturday and Sunday (*8 p.m. in summer; 4 p.m. after Labor Day)

Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, AMEX

Food: ** 1/2 ( 2 1/2 STARS)

Ambience: ** 1/2 ( 2 1/2 STARS)

Service: *** ( 3 STARS)

[Outstanding: **** Good:*** Fair or uneven: ** Poor: *]

on the menu

* Angus-beef sliders ($6.99 for two)

* Seared ahi tuna appetizer ($9.99)

* Crab cake platter ($19.99)

* Cajun-grilled filet mignon ($14.99)

* Macaroni and cheese with snowy white crab meat ($9.99)

* Grilled cheese sandwich with applewood bacon ($8.99)

* Cheesesteak ($9.99)

* Fish and chips ($9.99)

* Pizza ($7.99-$9.99 for individual sizes; $14.99-$16.99 for large)

* Deep-fried Snickers bar ($6.99)

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