Hooray for Hollywood
You Won't See Stars, but the Food's Not Bad
This location is closed
There are three things most people want to know about a restaurant: the quality of its food, whether the servers are competent, and the size of the portions. These issues were not on my mind when I visited Baltimore's branch of the Planet Hollywood restaurant chain, which is partially owned by big-time movie stars, among them Bruce Willis and Demi Moore. No, all I could think was, What's gonna happen to the restaurant now that Bruce and Demi have broken up?
Luckily, I regained my senses and decided the marital woes of the Die Hard man and G.I. Jane weren't any of my business--the food was what mattered. Good thing, too, because Planet Hollywood, surprisingly, isn't a bad place to eat. The Tinseltown atmosphere is fun, the wait staff is super friendly (if not perfectly responsive), and the food is pleasing.
Visiting the movie-kitsch-filled eatery on a Saturday night, we expected an exceedingly long wait for a table and were pleasantly surprised to be seated in a tolerable 30 minutes. After a round of sodas ($1.95 each), we ordered an appetizer, the Popeye Parmesan Spinach Dip ($6.95). About 10 minutes later we received the dip (creamed spinach and parmesan cheese blended together with small mushrooms), about eight slices of parmesan cracker bread, and a small bowl of roasted-tomato chutney. The dip was slightly sweet and boasted a robust tomato-y flavor; the crunchy bread made a perfect complement. The chutney seemed unnecessary, but was a nice touch.
The interestingly titled Last Tango in Paris Chicken ($8.95) was a decent choice, even if it wasn't served with butter. (If you haven't seen the X-rated Marlon Brando classic, just know that there are myriad uses for the dairy staple.) The sandwich was a different kind of tasty: Grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato, and ham sat atop a honey-wheat bun. The ham was delicious, but the chicken could have used some butter--it was a little dry. The accompanying french fries, crunchy outside and pillowy soft inside, were terrific.
The Secret Garden Grille ($7.75) was a pleasant surprise. It wasn't the best vegetarian burger I've ever had, but it hit the spot. Made from mushrooms, onions, whole grains, low-fat cheese, and spices, the veggie patty was perched on a honey-wheat bun, garnished with lettuce and tomatoes, and doused with a barbecue-like sauce. Best of all, it came with those great fries.
I like Mexican food, so I opted for Butch Cassidy and the Chicken Fajita Kid ($11.95). Don't let the incredibly cheesy moniker fool you; this dish won't make you long to leap from a cliff. The mix of grilled chicken, onion, and pepper was a little heavy with onions and peppers, but once I picked out the nicely marinated chunks of chicken and placed them in the tortilla with grated cheese, lettuce, and sour cream, the fajita came to life. The tortillas were hot and moist, and the cheese and lettuce fresh and flavorful. The dish also came with perfectly-prepared Mexican-style rice and guacamole. I'm not a big fan of the rich avocado delicacy, but one of my dining partners described it as "orgasmic."
Another member of our group wasn't especially hungry, so she decided to sample Planet Hollywood's most famous appetizer, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken Crunch ($6.50). Yes, another stupid name--but the offering wasn't at all dumb. The dish consists of chicken fingers breaded in Cap'n Crunch cereal and deep-fried. Served with Creole mustard sauce, they made a sweet, delicious meal. Unfortunately, the fried chicken was ungodly oily--grease formed a puddle at the bottom of the plate. Rumor has it this dish is the favorite food of Planet Hollywood co-owner Arnold Schwarzenegger. Maybe it contributed to poor Arnie's recent heart problems.
By this point we were pretty stuffed, so we split a dessert. The Lethal Weapon Brownie ($5.95) was the perfect choice. We were served a brownie topped with chocolate and white-chocolate ice cream (no doubt representing Danny and Mel), chocolate and caramel sauces, whipped cream, and chopped nuts. It's the original sin.
Next time you find yourself at the harbor, give in to curiosity and treat yourself to dinner at Planet Hollywood. Sit next to Sylvester Stallone's Judge Dredd costume. Have rest-room attendants make you feel guilty for not tipping them when they hand you paper towels (hey, we don't make as much money as Schwarzenegger and Stallone). And if you're worried the impact of the Bruce/Demi contretemps on Planet Hollywood, fear not: The chain will go on. As our waiter explained, since both Willis and Moore own stock in the franchise, both of their faces will remain in the giant mural at the restaurant's entrance. It's not the most appetizing sight, but hey, that's show biz.