In the last three years,
845 S. Montford Ave., has been a revolving door for restaurants. It was just two years ago that
reviewed Meridian 54, which preceded the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Tangiers, and followed local favorite Red Fish.
Hollywood Burger Bistro
is the latest business to take a chance in this Canton address, and it may not be the last.
The focus here, as the restaurant’s name suggests, is burgers, most named for “celebrities” (though not all associated with Hollywood), and all weighed down with a range of toppings. Some are classic, such as the bleu cheese crumbles on the Mohammad Ali. Others are downright unappetizing, like the “creamy chowder” of scallops, grilled shrimp, and sautéed tomatoes that tops the Tom Brady blackened burger or the “peanut butter bacon,” sweet potato fries, and “italian [sic] chocolate” that cover the Reese’s peanut butter and chocolate burger, one our server fessed up to being “scared to try.” And who can blame her?
Novelty is novelty, certainly, and loading up burgers with toppings is not entirely unwelcome, but Hollywood seems to be promoting one thing and offering another. The menu preaches the virtues of a healthy burger and of the “purity and tenderness” of its meat (grain-fed, hormone- and steroid-free Angus beef from California’s Imperial Valley) and then offers the Lindsey [sic] Lohan burger loaded with “espresso spices, mushroom, onions in a bailey’s [sic] Irish cream reduction.”
That said, it is possible to navigate the excesses of Hollywood’s menu and find a decent burger. Both the Jim Kelly (buffalo sauce, bacon, and a choice of ranch or bleu cheese sauce) ($11) and the John Waters (crab dip, bacon, fontina) ($14) arrive at the table cooked to order, albeit after a considerable wait in a dining room devoid of other diners. The crab dip on the Waters is cheesy and bland and the fries are lukewarm, but the patties are clearly fresh and formed in house. Each burger is adequate, but neither compares in flavor or flair to some of the other very fine burgers cropping up around town, and that becomes an issue if you’re touting yourself as a burger joint.
The rest of Hollywood’s menu is composed of familiar bar fare such as chicken tenders ($8), a variety of sliders ($6-$11), and cream of crab soup ($6.50), reminiscent of melted white chocolate and made unnecessarily sweet courtesy of more Bailey’s. Continuing the name-dishes-after-someone-famous theme, there’s also a handful of entrées such as the John Travolta (chicken in Tuscan marinade) and the Obama (a yellow curry with chicken and shrimp), as well as a sprinkling of Greek dishes.
These, too, could be better executed. While an appetizer platter purports to be spanakopita and tyropitakia ($6) (small triangles of phyllo-wrapped spinach and cheese, respectively) the dish yields only slightly greasy spanakopita, drizzled in a sweet reddish sauce that claims to be red pepper coulis but tastes more like jam. And the Zach Galifianakis ($16), though plump with tomatoes, onions, and tzatziki, seems overpriced for what is essentially a gyro.
The biggest stumbling block at Hollywood, however, is neither the food nor the dark, uninviting dining room, but the seeming overall lack of care. While it’s tempting to label a space unlucky when a restaurant doesn’t work out, there are also certain factors that can increase the chances for leaving a good impression. Clean menus, for example, printed with consistent use of capitalization and free of misspellings, show diners that someone bothered with the details. Using the same spelling of the name of an establishment on building signage, menus, register receipts, and the web site keeps customers from being confused. Hollywood (Hollywoods?) hands out creased menus stained with food and wine and littered with enough mistakes to make a copy editor’s eyes cross (jalapeno’s for jalapeños; typopitka for tyropitakia). This general sloppiness, compounded by disinterested servers who have to be prompted to offer anything beyond water as a beverage and act more as adversaries rather than advocates of the restaurant’s menu, makes a diner wary, and rightly so.
It’s fine to have a gimmick, and it could even be cool to challenge diners with weird pairings. But there are hundreds of places in Baltimore to have a burger and a beer, and many of them know how to do the basics and then some. Hollywood Burger Bistro needs to figure this out too.
Hollywood Burger Bistro is open for dinner seven days a week; brunch on Saturday and Sunday.