One thing for sure you can say about Parrot Island: Baltimore has never seen anything like this before.
The huge complex on the water between Fells Point and the Inner Harbor opened quietly last month with a restaurant and bar, two parking lots, a thatched-roof hut, 50 palm trees and flaming tiki torches. It looks like something out of Disney's Adventureland.
The restaurant is located in an attractive open-air pavilion with upholstered banquettes and white tablecloths. The menu is casual, which makes sense. After all, this is a place where most people are in shorts when the weather is warm enough, and the music from the bar is so loud you can't really talk. (I understand that a new menu is coming soon, one that does have fancier dishes on it.)
The current menu is simple -- a few appetizers and soups, some salads and sandwiches, nine entrees with an emphasis on seafood. The separate dessert menu is surprisingly elaborate.
What you want to get here is "Peg Leg's pulled pork sandwich." (Don't worry. You don't have to order it by its full name; "pulled pork sandwich" will do.) The pork is tender, juicy and full of smoky flavor, with a tangy barbecue sauce.
Or you could get the quesadillas. They are so beautifully embellished with pencil-thin lines of sour cream and dabs of cilantro salsa they look like nouvelle cuisine. But they taste pleasingly familiar: melted cheese enclosed in soft flour tortillas.
End your meal with the hot chocolate pudding, a fabulous dessert that's really a fallen souffle with a deliciously runny center.
These were the high points of our meal. You may be tempted by the shrimp and corn fritters with fresh coconut and macadamia nut chutney, but you'll find they taste like shrimp encased in corn bread. "Wild mushroom ravioli served with roasted garden fresh vegetables" turned out to be an Italian version of wonton soup, with the ravioli in a thin, undersalted broth.
The tenderloin brochette consisted of four tender filet mignon chunks on a skewer, but in place of the promised silver queen corn on the cob, the meat lay on a bed of corn off the cob tossed with slices of potato. The fresh grilled red snapper, a bit overcooked, was placed on a handsome salad of Euromix greens. You decide what you think of the addition of pecans and raspberry puree.
The key lime filling ran out onto the plate when I cut into my tart, and the bitter cup of tea came without a tea bag and was as dark as coffee. Instant, perhaps? Still, it was pleasant to sit there on such a nice evening once the bar calmed down.
But I'm worried about this place. It's getting cooler. The palm trees are drooping. What's going to happen once winter comes? Amazingly enough, Parrot Island will stay open. "They're going to cover it with a tent," the hostess told us.
701 S. Eden St.
Hours: Open every day 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Credit cards: Major credit cards
Prices: Appetizers, $3.50-$9.50; entrees, $5.50-$13.95