Hours: Mondays through Thursdays, 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 11:30 a.m. to 3 a.m.; Sundays, noon to 2 a.m.
Credit Cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.
Atmosphere: Neighborhood casual, from suits to sweat shirts.
Price range: $1.95 for grilled cheese sandwich to $4.95 for dinners.
Special facilities: Highchairs; carryout; wheelchair inaccessible; free parking at night; buses to Oriole games; Sunday champagne brunch; free entertainment Sunday through Tuesday evenings; half-priced pizza on Wednesdays.
Here is a place that can grow on you if you give it half a chance. It's a neighborhood restaurant and pub cut in the classic mold--a railroad boxcar with a tiny bar at one end and 80 seats given to dining the way it ought to be.
Open more than a year now, Mulberry Street Annex is locally owned and operated by an Irishman who prefers Italian food, South American chefs and perky waitresses who lend the place a charm and vitality it might otherwise lack.
The restaurant, in a quiet tree-shaded neighborhood of upper Wisconsin Avenue near the Maryland line, has attracted a steadily growing clientele who want good food at a fair price.
Our last visit to the Mulberry, so named for the owner's favorite street in "Little Italy" in Manhattan, is illustrative of the value and good times to be had. On a quiet Tuesday evening we slipped in, four hungry adults, three children and one cranky teen-ager, and found a quiet table in the cool dark hall.
The first order of business was to order the antipasto for one ($4). Yes, for one, because when this platter comes to the table five or six people can easily fill their plates and come back for more. Heaped high with lettuce, onions, black olives, pickled cauliflower, carrots, artichoke hearts, tuna, anchovies and slices of red pepper, it is undoubtedly one of the most generous dishes in this and any other restaurant in Washington.
Bread and butter and a decent house wine ($1.50 a glass) set a proper tone for eating the antipasto, while a few other side orders arrived. A bowl of cream of broccoli soup ($1.50) won the adults' hearts. Salads accompanying dinner orders were abundant and interestingly put together with lettuce, cucumber and fresh tomato.
The youngsters' pizza arrived piping hot from the kitchen ($5.25), smothered in mushrooms, green pepper and onions ($2 extra). They washed it down with the standard American refreshment for youngsters--gooey soft drinks (65 cents each). Everyone liked the pizza, but I thought it needed more zest. In any event, I was booed down heartily by the assembled crowd.
A house specialty that delighted everyone was rigatoni ($4.50). The price fetches a diner bread and butter, a beautiful salad and a heaping platter of perfectly turned rigatoni, a broad tubular noodle cooked al dente, and topped with an obviously homemade tomato sauce. This abundant dish, ordered without meat sauce by our vegetarian, was served with a lovely riccota cheese.
The day's special, stuffed peppers with corn and a salad ($4.25), was just as appealing, with a generous salad, canned but presentable corn and a stuffed pepper brimming with tangy sauce and lean meat.
Hamburgers ($3.50), served exactly to our order, were of good quality meat on fresh bread. Lettuce, tomato, onion, lots of snappy chips and tangy pickle discs made them that much better.
Mulberry's has cold beer in the bottle or on draft ($1) and the usual assortment of wines and other drink. But dessert is the real joy.
We had the killer cheesecake ($1.50), thick, heavy and delicious. The German chocolate cake ($1.50) was fresh, delicate and overwhelmingly chocolatey; the pecan pie ($1.80) came topped with canned whipped cream but was otherwise sweetly and heavenly endowed.
While there are no dark sides to the Mulberry, one small thing needs improvement. A mill with fresh pepper and real parmesan cheese would do wonders for the place. Before setting out to the Mulberry we grind our own cheese to sprinkle on the otherwise fine food.
The tab for our hungry crowd of eight was $51.80 and as usual, we had to take home a doggy bag with antipasto and some pizza.