Europa -- Since 1982, Europa has welcomed diners looking for hearty Italian fare. The antipasto misto ($10) is always a favorite, with various combinations of tangy, marinated vegetables, rich cheeses and salty meats. Filled with a blend of crab, shrimp, scallops, and cheese and baked in a lemon dill cream sauce, the seafood manicotti ($16) was an exceptionally rich dish. The menu includes a big selection of pizzas and calzones that are a cut above the standard pepperoni and Canadian bacon-pineapple combos. The chicken, spinach and walnut pastry rotolo ($10), a feature unique to Europa, was a straightforward combination of flavors, with the garlicky cheese sauce tying it all together. Desserts at Europa are big and beautiful, as the restaurant employs its own pastry chef. Delicious! 125 S. Wall. Call: 455-4051. (LM)
Herbal Essence Caf & eacute; -- The Herbal Essence Caf & eacute;'s understated mix of old and new results in a very open, bright and comfortable dining area. The crab cakes ($6.75) are crispy on the outside, succulent and tender on the inside. The $3.50 cup of Manhattan-style clam chowder was smashing: rich and hearty, with a mild tomato zing, and clams that were tender and not overly assertive. The thick and delicious corned beef on the Reuben ($5.95) was piled high and the grilled dark rye remained remarkably crisp under the load. The Crab & amp; Artichoke sandwich ($8.25) mixed fresh snow crab with artichokes, parmesan cheese, white onions and a sour cream sauce served atop a French roll and finished with sliced tomato. Sound good? It was. 115 N. Washington. Call: 838-4600. (MC)
Caf & eacute; 5-Ten -- Caf & eacute; 5-Ten is an appealing bistro with an interesting menu, offering intriguing items in nearly every price range. The appetizer of grilled thinly sliced lamb ($9) served with grilled flat bread and a unique hummus was one of the most satisfying I've had recently. The six-ounce culot sirloin steak ($14), which was grilled and served with gruyere potato gratin and seasonal vegetables was perfectly cooked and tender as butter, with a nice reduction sauce for added interest. The potato gratin was a treat, with abundant creamy cheese layered with tender potatoes and topped with a crunchy crust of bread crumbs. Service throughout the evening was top-notch and every effort was made to keep us comfortable and happy. 2727 Mt. Vernon. Call: 533-0064. (LM)
The Park Inn Park Plaza -- Nothing ever changes at the P.I. And that's the way we like it. It's old skool pub grub all the way in a super-casual atmosphere: burgers, deli sandwiches, pizza, soups, salads, some dinner entrees and "others," such as the delectably dangerous-sounding chili dog ($5.75). For pizza, try the 12-inch ML Special ($13.75), with sausage, beef, mushroom, olive, onion and fresh tomato. It's generous with a thin crust, a hint of sauce and a mountain of toppings. The grilled cheese sandwich ($4.75) was delicious and gooey with cheddar and provolone melted between two buttery, toasted slices of rye bread. The side of homemade chili (ordinary but perfectly mouth-watering, with a mound of cheese and onions on top) was a little bowl of satisfaction. The service was friendly, efficient and frequently hilarious. Smoking at the P.I. is most definitely allowed. 107 W. 9th Ave. Call: 624-8111. (MC)
Capsule reviews are written by Lauren McAllister (LM) and Mike Corrigan (MC), unless otherwise noted.