A taste of home is on the menu at McCabe's


The '90s have caught up with Hampden, which may be good or bad depending on your point of view. Here's McCabe's, a neighborhood bar known for its hamburgers, serving its tuna salad with a "light balsamic vinaigrette." And that tuna salad is blackened tuna steak salad.

McCabe's reopened recently after being closed for two years. It's a fairly lengthy time to be closed for renovations, but owners Chip and Lauren Miller both worked at other jobs and wanted to do the remodeling themselves on their days off.

I can't quite remember what McCabe's looked like before, but the general effect is the same -- a bar on one side, the pleasant dining room on the other. It's a lot fresher and cleaner-looking than it used to be, though.

You get the best of both worlds at the new McCabe's: good bar food and good home cooking. Everything is made from scratch. This is straightforward American -- a lot of sandwiches and salads, a few platters.

I'd rate McCabe's hamburger as good as you'll get anywhere in Baltimore. The beef was flavorful and very lean. (I actually prefer a little more fat in my burgers, but I know I'm in the minority on this one.) It was cooked medium as ordered, and the fresh kaiser roll was lightly toasted.

It's not one of those burgers that are so big you feel slightly queasy at the thought of all that meat; but you won't go away hungry, either. On the side: McCabe's hand-cut, crisp, lightly seasoned french fries.

If you want a real three-course dinner, start with one of the homemade soups, such as the fine chowder, creamy and chock full of clams. Or try the shrimp Licato, with fresh mushrooms in a light cream sauce tinged with Pernod. Otherwise it's Buffalo wings, steamed shrimp or mussels or jalapeno poppers.

Given the price of crab meat these days, you wouldn't expect McCabe's crab cakes to be made with lump crab, and they aren't. But they are very respectable, with not much filler, lots of chopped parsley and zingy seasonings.

Just to prove that homemade isn't always better, the coleslaw that came with them was dreadful: sweet and tasteless.

Save room for dessert -- specifically Mom's bread pudding, which is great comfort food. Bread pudding aficionados might not approve, because it's dominated by the warm custard sauce spiked with orange liqueur. I loved it.

Equally good was a carrot cake that, according to our waitress, "she" -- presumably Mom -- had just taken out of the oven.


Where: 3845 Falls Road

Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m.

Credit cards accepted: MC, V

Features: American food

Non-smoking section? No

Call: (410) 467-1000

Prices: appetizers, $4.95-$7.95; entrees, $13.95-$16.95


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