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The Tavern at Triangle Park

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A grandiose name like might be associated with a charming Colonial public house situated amongst idyllic manicured gardens. Nice though that image is, it has nothing to do with the actual Tavern at Triangle Park, an ordinary place in a small West End strip mall.

The Tavern's menu, like its décor, is eminently familiar but also without a theme, which is not a criticism. Themes, after all, can be confining. The appetizer selection includes onion rings, bruschetta and hummus. There are big salads, burgers and sandwiches, and entrees such as chicken provencal, crab cakes and vegetable stir-fries. Appetizers are in the $5 to $6 range. Salads and sandwiches hover in the $6 to $8 range, while entrées, which run the gamut from $9 to $19, are mostly around $11.

For starters, we sampled a miniature wheel of baked brie ($6.50) warmed and drenched in a thin "raspberry melba sauce" that was something like a syrupy jelly of questionable quality. Then, wishing very badly that we had ordered something more akin to onion rings, we reached for our next selection — "Tavern bruschetta pomodoro" ($5.50). Three exceedingly soggy pieces of inferior "French" bread were topped with mediocre chopped tomatoes, tasteless black olives and a touch of melted Parmesan.

The entrées, or at least one of them, proved a little better. A black bean quesadilla ($9.50) was a simple but welcome change of pace. This folded flour tortilla was grilled without being greasy, and filled with melted cheese and a nicely seasoned black-bean puree. The white rice accompaniment was a tad dreary, but it was a nice enough little meal. Crawfish étoufée ($10.95) on the other hand, looked right but tasted wrong. It looked like the real thing. It had the "holy trinity" of Cajun cuisine — green peppers, onions and celery. It had a (slightly) browned roux. The crawfish were plentiful and as good as one might expect for being so far from crawfish country. So why did it taste so wrong? First, it had an overpowering white-wine flavor; second, it was drastically underseasoned, lacking the punch and complexity of the spices one expects in Cajun fare, and, finally, the roux was too blond to impart the rich nutty flavor that I prefer in étoufée.

Next time I'm getting onion rings, a cheesesteak and ice cream. I bet that's what everyone else was eating.

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