McCabe’s re-opened under new ownership in mid-2010 after sitting closed for over a year. Inside, there are a dozen wobbly wooden tables crowded tightly into a narrow room framed by a long exposed brick wall, the bar and a small window facing Falls Road. Our friend Marta was a fan of the “old” McCabe’s and assured us that it looks the same.

On the limited menu, Marta smiled finding her favorite onion soup ($5) and cheeseburger with fries ($11) but at “new” McCabes, the burgers originate from local, all-natural Springfield Farms; additional bacon, mushrooms, and fried egg options can push up the price. There are a few appetizers ($8-13) plus chicken breast, pulled pork, fried cod, or veggie eggplant sandwiches ($10-11) and a half dozen entrees including a veggie polenta lasagna ($16-25) as well as steak or tuna entrée salads ($14).

Marty and Marta both started with onion soup; the small bowls arrived with a (not overly abundant) layer of melted cheese over toasted baguette atop of a meaty but un-salty broth, which won a thumbs-up from both. John started with a cup of the Guinness beef stew special ($4); it was tasty with chunks of beef, but the Guinness wasn’t obvious.For the main course, Marta had her traditional cheeseburger with fries, while Marty requested a single crab cake with grilled asparagus and fries ($18). Marty really liked his light-on-filler crab cake and fries (but the asparagus was just “ok”). Marta was really pleased with her meal (but that devil Marty snatched half of her fries!) John decided on a steak salad: a half dozen chunks of steak surrounding a large bed of baby spinach with a light balsamic dressing was really good (but the salad was unfortunately light on the menu-promised pine nuts, blue cheese, and pickled onions.)

Although our young waitress was friendly and engaging, our entrees took more than 25 minutes to arrive on a not-so-busy week night. But her praise of an apple cobbler with a scoop of Breyer’s ice cream ($6) lured us into sharing the dessert. The four-inch wide cobbler was warm with the ice cream on the side and big enough for each of us to enjoy a couple of spoonfuls. While Marta and Marty praised it, John thought that the apple filling was bland and the pastry was a little stale.

Marty liked the new McCabe’s, but John wasn’t all that impressed. He questioned why McCabe’s well-heeled regulars seemingly trek out of their way to this small bar surrounded by un-gentrified, row houses when there are new equal or better alternatives in the heart of Hampden. While Marty and Marta may return, John prefers the atmosphere (and burgers) at Hampden’s Golden West, Rocket to Venus, or Dizz Grandview.

DETAILS: McCabes, 3845 Falls Rd in Hampden; 410-467-1000. Open Tues-Sun, lunch 11am–3pm, dinner 5–10pm; Full bar, vegetarian options, off-street parking in the adjacent Meinke Muffler after 6pm. Facebook.com/McCabesHampden

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