If you know Canton at all, the Hudson Street Stackhouse is easy to find. It's across the street from the Safeway, in the shadow of a tall industrial structure that looks like a shot tower. The Hudson Street Cafe used to be here; Dominic DeSantis reopened the building this past summer after a lengthy renovation, and he's done a good job. It seems as if he wanted the Stackhouse to be more of a neighborhood joint than a destination restaurant. There are nods to Canton's industrial past - some reclaimed furnishings, the ugly-beautiful Frankenstein floor uncovered during renovations and an impressive riveted-steel beer-tap island designed by David Hess.

The large, C-shaped bar has been placed right up front near the windows. It's an inviting bar, and new arrivals are greeted and served quickly. I'd feel comfortable hanging out here any time, with friends or with a good book.

The Stackhouse opened in July but didn't start serving food right away. The dining room is farther back, and it's comfortable but plain. The menu is still short, but it seems not so much half-hearted as just tentative, as though the management wants to take things slowly and figure out what its patrons like and want. I'd like to see the Stackhouse pick up the pace. The kitchen here seems very competent, at least with the basics. If this were my hangout, I'd really just want more choices.

I first heard about the Stackhouse via text message from a friend, who was in the middle of eating the Dominic sandwich and wanted me to know about it right away. I went with him next time to try it. It is a very good sandwich - your basic hard, crusty roll, stuffed with prosciutto, capicola, fresh mozzarella and plum tomatoes, and dressed with basil, balsamic vinegar and oil. It's constructed exceptionally well, and the ingredients are robust. The Stackhouse stripper is another winner in this vein - a steak executed simply but confidently. Seasoned with just salt and pepper, the steak reminded one of my friends of the kind of steak preparation his own dad likes. It's a dad steak, and it came with a paragon of a baked potato and plain sauteed spinach.

I thought the crab cake was good, too. It's made, again, the way you'd make it yourself, with just enough wet stuff to hold it together and not too much spicing. But the hamburger, although it looked hand-formed to me, wasn't seasoned enough, at least not for me.

Among the half-dozen available appetizers, the Mussels Hoegarden is a standout, making good use of the beer flavor (Belgian and German labels dominate an impressively curated beer list), garlic and herbs. And the garlic bread served with it is fantastic: thin slices of baguette brushed very delicately with oil, topped with roasted garlic and toasted lightly.

And then what? Spinach-artichoke dip, potato skins, fried calamari, steamed shrimp. Even for a neighborhood joint, those are getting kind of tired. On a short specials menu, the Stackhouse was offering, beside the steak, a pan-seared tuna entree (or was it a glorified appetizer?), which was fine but a little familiar; a big entree salad with portobello mushrooms, red peppers, gorgonzola and almonds (actually very nice); a sauteed fresh calamari appetizer; and an individual pizza. It's all just a little, well, boring.

I'd go back for the Dominic sandwich and definitely the steak. On Thursday, the steak (a few ounces smaller, actually), with a salad and baked potato, is $12.95 - that sounds like a great deal. It comes with free dessert, too. (Only a brownie a la mode was listed when I last visited.) It's fine to keep things short and simple, but the Hudson Street Stackhouse should guard against complacency.

hudson street stackhouse
Where: 2624 Hudson St.

Call: 410-342-0592

Open: 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 5 p.m.-11 p.m. Friday; noon-11 p.m. Saturday; noon-10 p.m. Sunday

Credit cards: MasterCard, VISA, AMEX

Appetizers: $4.50-$7.99

Entrees: $7.99-$17.99

Food: ** 1/2

Service: *** 1/2

Ambience: ***

on the menu
•Potato skins with crab meat and mozzarella - $7.95

•Fried calamari - $7.99

•Sauteed calamari - $8.99

•Flame-broiled burger - $7.99

•Dominic sandwich - $8.99

•Stackhouse salad - $10.99

•Pan-seared tuna - $11.99

Maryland jumbo lump crab cake - $13.99

•Stackhouse stripper ( New York strip) - $17.99