It must have been a terrible challenge for Stephen Hunter, a self-admitted "media elitist" from Washington, to take on and trash the sad closing after 72 years in business of Haussner's Restaurant in Baltimore ["Baltimore's Entree to a Bygone World," Style, Sept. 22].

Is the beloved Haussner's really "Yahooland," inhabited by boorish, crass and stupid brutes (Webster's)? If Mr. Hunter had looked carefully about him he would have seen his own parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts. Sure, it was a place of fabricated "splendor," and the heavy food may have been overrated, but it was pure Ballmur, hon, and for that alone we should be grateful that it lasted as long as it did. (And where else could the Haussners stow all the stuff they collected?)

My favorite corner was the "stag bar," where one could sip frosted mint juleps or Old Overhold rye whiskey poured neat over shaved ice with a lemon twist while surrounded by palpitating paintings of lusty nude frauleins.

Mr. Hunter got it right when he called Haussner's one of "the few last, best places on earth" -- without which "the world becomes one degree less interesting." But for his otherwise unnecessarily cruel and backhanded farewell to a gentle, oddball place with character, personality and charm, he should be dunked head-first into a leftover vat of "Miss Francie's" dense brown gravy in the congealed petroleum-waste state.

JACK SHERWOOD

Severna Park

I drove to Baltimore through a miserable rain Sept. 21 to attend the last rites of a most notable institution -- the closing of Haussner's Restaurant -- and was appalled the next day to read the snide, pseudo-sophisticated article in The Post, which derided practically everything that made this institution famous. The fabulous 19th-century art collection is now reemerging in popular recognition and will no doubt exceed Sotheby's conservative estimates for the sale on Nov. 2 and Nov. 3 (not Oct. 2, as stated in the article).

The writer obviously neither appreciates nor understands the technical superiority and the subjects of artworks that have enchanted the eyes of generations and withstood the ravages of time, weather and unskilled preservation. Patrons both famous and pedestrian have hailed the almost endless food options, which certainly were not nouvelle cuisine served in dainty portions decorated with inedible garnishes.

I wonder if a restaurant displaying Lichtensteins, Rauschenbergs and DeKoonings would ever compel more than 250 people to wait in the rain to enjoy one more experience like Haussner's. It is embarrassing that our sister city has been so generally denounced. I am disappointed that The Post editors saw fit to publish such a scathing appraisal of Baltimore, its citizens and a fine institution that will be lost forever.

HUGH V. GITTINGER JR.

Washington