Parkside caters to neighborhood families, foodies

The Baltimore Sun

The Parkside Fine Food & Spirits occupies the wide first floor of a midblock building in Lauraville. Its ambience suggests a funky antique store that woke up one day to discover it was a restaurant and bar. It's warm and colorful, and there are old furnishings, such as church pews for booth seating. It's yet another amenity for an emerging neighborhood that appears ready and willing to support businesses that respond to its needs and desires. There are so many young families in the northeast corridor, and Parkside means to be a welcoming place for hip parents and children day and night. There's not only a children's menu, but also a separate play and dining area for children and parents. I'd like to imagine that over the years the toddlers will graduate to the grown-up tables, and, eventually, the bar.

This children's lounge separates the Parkside's bar and dining room from an area in the back that sells homemade breads, pastries, deli salads, and the specialty smoked fish and meats that are the Parkside's pride. There are crafts for sale, too, and the area looks a little forlorn. I don't know that it's working. There's certainly plenty of room, but it's something of an energy suck. (As is, the dining room up front is too big.) The back area needs another look, and I think the owners will get around to it. I say this with some confidence because our visits to the Parkside came just before an overhaul of the dinner menu. Some of the dishes remain, but co-owner Chris Cashell said the new menu, likely available now, is more cohesive.

Cohesiveness is a good idea, but the quirky randomness of the original menu charmed me; it seemed to fit the Parkside's ambience. There were the six entrees when we visited: Baltimore coddies (made with homemade salt cod), sauerbraten, batter-dipped chicken, pork tenderloin, vegetarian paella and maple-glazed salmon. There were a couple of pasta and pizza choices, too, a few salads and soups, and a handful of appetizers, including something called "The Bachelor," a daily specialty appetizer, which is on the new menu.

The smoked trout appetizer is a keeper. Served with toast points, caramelized onions and creme fraiche, the trout is luscious and arousing. A companion platter, composed of homemade pates and mousses, caught our eye, too. Lunch is fine here all around, with a good selection of sandwiches and little bites, much of which shows off Parkside's in-house smoking and roasting skills and attention to detail. We were very happy with the smoked turkey club; a roast beef sandwich with herbed horseradish Boursin and roasted shallots; and a goat-cheese-stuffed risotto cake served with sun-dried tomato preserves and mesclun. I was impressed with the choice of seasonal salads - slaw and potato salad, of course, but barley and quinoa salads, too. The house salad included roasted acorn squash, golden beets and homemade croutons. Adding smoked salmon to it made for a good afternoon meal.

We also enjoyed dinner at the bar, which Cashell was proudly manning. The batter-dipped chicken we ate was not destined for the new menu, but it showed off the kitchen's skills. A roast chicken was due in its place. A maple-glazed salmon was cooked well but wasn't flavorful enough.

I got a sneak peek at the new menu; it has a bacalao, or salt cod, appetizer on it. That's enough to get me back in the door.

the parkside fine food & spirits

Address: 4709 Harford Road

Call: 410-444-6004

Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-12 a.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. Sundays

Credit cards: American Express, Visa, MasterCard

Food: *** (3 stars)

Service: *** (3 stars)

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

Appetizers: $6-$13

Entrees: $12-$17

on the menu

* Smoked trout platter: $11

* Frenchman's platter (Homemade pates served with sun-dried fruit, olives and pepper crisps): $11

* House salad: $6; with smoked salmon, $10

* Risotto cake: $6.50

* Roast beef sandwich: $8.95

* Smoked turkey club: $9.25

* Baltimore coddies: $13

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