Paul's Homewood Cafe: Eclectic Eating on "The Circle"
by Gabby Crabcakes
By whatever name you call "The Circle" at the intersection of West Street, Spa Road and Taylor Avenue in Annapolis, don't overlook Paul's Homewood Cafe.
You'll find Paul's across from the Amoco and next door to Branzell Plumbing just east of The Circle. Keep your eyes peeled for the sign. Park in the back and enter at the door nearest the rear.
Long and narrow Paul's is small and quaint in proper cafe style and uses every inch of space. The first thing you're likely to see is the open efficient kitchen and prep area. As a friend said, you can be assured of clean preparation when everyone can watch. For a front-row seat, choose the counter.
A few steps down, the dining room seats 30. Tables, adorned with fresh flowers, are draped with green and white checked cloths by day, white by evening.One wall features a large hand-painted mural of a cafe and street scene; on other walls, original art rotates periodically, displayed on consignment. A nice touch is live music. This month, Tom Lagana plays acoustic guitar in the dining room every Thursday evening.
The menu offers a surprising twist: a variety of authentic Greek dishes. Some very good family recipes have made it into the eclectic menu of this family business. Or you can play it safe with a Homewood burger (6 oz. charbroiled with cheese and fries, $5.95) or blackened chicken Caesar salad (two 6 oz. chicken kabobs on a heaping bed of fresh greens with tart homemade dressing, $9.95).
But the real treat comes from more adventuresome selections like grilled pork tenderloin served with an apple and sun-dried cherry and pecan chutney ($16.95). This was a large portion of tenderloin grilled to order and fanned over an unusual yet tasty chutney for a perfect pairing. Or try the lamb rack ($17.95), marinated and seared and served with red bell-pepper polenta and raspberry-Dijon demi-glacé.
All entrees come with house salad, starch and vegetable -- baked potato and squash/zucchini medley on our most recent visit.
If your interests are Greek, you may want to try the Meze Platter -- perfect for the indecisive eater-- which includes a selection of Greek appetizers: the best spanakopita I've ever had, dolmathes (aka stuffed grape leaves) and a large Greek salad ($13.95). I highly recommend anything with feta cheese (the house salads all come with it). It is so creamy!
Another good bet is one of the nightly dinner specials. Be forewarned if you are a late eater: they do run out. On a recent evening, choices were tropical salmon served on pineapple with two coconut shrimp ($18.95), rockfish sautéed with white wine and butter ($16.95) or veal tips on pasta.
Complement your meal with a glass or a bottle of California, French or even Greek wine. The most expensive bottle runs $22. Service is friendly and informal, and the staff -- mostly family -- is familiar with the many repeat customers. Your wait person will probably make your salad, garnish your plate and pour your beverage. With so much responsibility, servers can be overwhelmed. Plan accordingly, especially on weekends when Paul's is at its busiest.
Paul's Homewood Cafe is open seven days a week, serving from 11am with brunch on Sundays.
Next time you're heading to The Circle, stop short and duck into the eclectic Paul's Cafe.
Paul's Homewood Cafe
919 West St., Annapolis 410/267-7891
Proprietor: Chris Nicholas
Reasons to Go: Traditional Greek favorites and imaginative cafe cuisine.
Something to Think About: Due to
limited seating, groups of 30 or more might want to consider the catering