Sunday, February 25, 2007

Maybe we should have tried something else...

Bad food and poor service is one thing; an identity crisis is another. When you go to an Italian restaurant, you expect to see pasta and veal gracing your menu, not hamburgers and tacos. Often times, in my opinion, restaurants that place both on their menu, that can’t quite decide who they are and what type of food they want to serve aren’t worth your time. Al Pacino Café, based in suburban Baltimore, Maryland, is a textbook worthy example of why a restaurant should keep a limited menu, and stick to their specialties.

First of all, the sign over the restaurant says Al Pacino Café – which, according to a friend, is named after the owner who shares a similar appearance to the actor by the same name. Yet, the name on the menu, and on the website, is Café Isis – which isn’t a well known Italian-American actor, but instead an ancient Egyptian God.

Beyond this initial confusion, the Al Pacino Café/Café Isis (I’ll refer to it from here on out as APC/CI – as they can’t even decide on a name, much less a theme) menu is all over the place. A turkey burger, gyro, and steak sandwich all share places next to each other at a menu, as do pastas with Cajun and Indian flare.

At its heart though, APC/CI brands itself as a Middle Eastern/Mediterranean restaurant, and so I opted for something seemingly simple and cheap – an order of hummus and a gyro.

An appetizer order of hummus will run you about $7.00, yet comes with about a $3.00 portion of hummus on a very shallow dish. The dish is accompanied with a very large piece of pita that seemed baked in their pizza oven, as it was slightly burnt on the bottom, and unevenly cooked. The hummus wasn’t bad, but the pita could have been better, and they could have given a lot more bang for my buck.

Moving on to my gyro, I need to preface by saying that I’ve never met a gyro I didn’t agree with. My favorite gyro spot in the DC area is Quick Pita in Georgetown, and I never enter Georgetown without leaving with something from there.

So with that, I’m sure you can imagine my disappointment with a gyro served with what looked like microwaved strips of lamb, mayonnaise instead of the traditional cucumber sauce, and a pita that felt and tasted like it had been sitting out in the open for a few days. This was probably the first gyro I couldn’t finish.

Served with a side of spicy curly fries which were actually quite tasty, what seemed like a steal for a mere $8.95, ended up being a massive waste of money.

After leaving a good amount of my food on the plate, all I wanted to do was get out of there, and get back home where I had some real food waiting for me. Yet, once again I was disappointed, as it took almost a half hour for myself and my friends to get our check – mostly due to the fact that the owner was lecturing the one waitress over what seemed to be a screw up at another table.

I really wish I could relay some redeeming quality to this restaurant; a restaurant with two names, that covers four continents worth of food should be able to get something right – unfortunately, I probably won’t return to see what that is.

Al Pacino Cafe/Cafe Isis
1809 Reisterstown Rd
Pikesville, MD 21208
Phone (410) 653-6868
Fax (410) 486-5527
Store Hours:
Monday thru Sunday 11:00 a.m.- 11:00 p.m.
Cafe Isis

1 comment:

Marc said...

While I understand and agree with most of your critiques of the place, here's an argument (that should be noted for the record): Evan and I both liked our meals. I thought my chicken schwarma (sp?) was good.