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Restaurant is a Plum nestled in alley

January 09, 2005|by E.T. MOORE

The Plum is tucked away off Washington Street in downtown Hagerstown. The lunch crowd has to navigate an alley to find the main entrance to the restaurant.

When you arrive, there's no doubt about it. If there is, just glance up at the giant plum hanging from the ceiling. It's reassuring.

It was confusing when we walked in. Do we seat ourselves? Do we order, then sit?

But maybe that was just us. A helpful server set us straight and directed us to the counter to order. The menu, written in many colors on a dry-erase board, is loaded with choices and detailed descriptions - more, even, than the take-home menu.

It kept two of us busy as we waited for the third member of our party and watched the the cozy three-room place fill up.

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It's a place where many local politicos and other bigwigs have lunch. We recognized at least three when we were there.

Maybe because it's a good place for a leisurely meal. It tends to be too crowded to get in and out quickly.

The crowd and animated conversations make it a lively lunch destination. The high ceilings make it feel less crowded.

When the other member of our party arrived, we stepped up to the counter, but we were too late. One of the favorites was gone for the day.

The Plum's fresh Lettuceless Salad specialty has no lettuce but just about everything else: bite-sized chunks of cauliflower, broccoli, green pepper, red onion, red and green apples, raisins, mild cheddar cheese and sunflower seeds. It's a healthful combination of savory and sweet enhanced by a creamy buttermilk dressing.

It's a popular mix that you might want to reserve with a call-in order. We didn't think that far ahead. So we adapted.

We ordered a hummus plate ($4.95), two cups of chili, a cup of cream of turkey soup, three sandwiches - a Cheese Monster ($4.95), a Quintessential Ham-n-Cheese ($5.25) and The Downtowner ($5.25) - two soft drinks, a brownie and a Trail Mix Bar ($2.50). Admittedly, this was a little a bit of overkill for lunch, but we looked at the menu for too long and were faced with too many options.

After ordering, we took a slip of paper with our order on it and found a table. We waited awhile before a server came by, took the slip and returned with the water we were waiting for.

The servers were smiling and helpful, but I only saw two of them to manage the lunch rush. That didn't seem like enough. They never stopped moving, but we still had to wait for drinks. Food arrived more quickly, though.

The cream of turkey soup was certainly creamy - and tasty. The chili was average, however.

The hummus plate was loaded with vegetables and crisp baked pita.

The sandwiches are special.

The Downtowner was pure satisfaction. If you don't necessarily like vegetables but recognize their necessity to your diet, this is the way to go. Sauted zucchini, red onion, tomato, portobello mushrooms and assorted bell peppers are joined by garlic, basil, and melted mozzarella and provolone cheeses. Highly recommended.

The Ham-n-Cheese, served with potato chips and a pickle, was heavy and tough to eat more than a half of it without feeling sluggish.

The Cheese Monster was a hearty blend of cheeses in a pita brightened with tangy salami, tomato and red onion. Alfalfa sprouts provide a subtle bit of crunch and relief for any potential remorse that might tug at the cholesterol conscience.

We've tried other items before. Jim's Chick Filet is always good, and so is the Chicken Pita Fajita.

A favorite is the Hartwick's Heap, which is packed with turkey and ham, plus a lot more. The cole slaw and Thousand Island dressing add the right flavor, and bacon adds extra crunch. It usually falls apart well before I finish it - a sign that it's an ample portion.

The Plum


Hours: Serving breakfast and lunch from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Prices: The bill for three - including an appetizer, three soups, three sandwiches and two desserts - totaled $38.75.

Phone: 301-791-1717

Location: 6 Rochester Place, Hagerstown.

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