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Edge of an Empire 

A hangout becomes a nicer hangout at City Limit.

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Students are notoriously hard to get rid of, though, and you'll still see the new, roomy booths filled with the occasional frat brother and gaggle of blondes. Nonetheless, this new incarnation has more of a neighborhood feel to it — if your neighborhood is Three Chopt Road and points east.

A disproportionate number of ladies seem to have some affinity for the hanging lamps, modern paintings and textile-stretched trapezoids that punctuate the dark wood and the black ceiling of City Limit. Although dramatically outnumbered by their female counterparts, plenty of the upwardly mobile in suits abound as well, trending more toward pink button-downs with khakis and no socks.

A couple of big flat-screen TVs dominate the bar, which is, thankfully, physically separated from the dining area by the long line of booths that runs parallel. Without those booths, City Limit would come dangerously close to resembling a sports bar, albeit a sports bar dreamed up by the corporate interior decorator of Starbucks — trendy but funky-free. The jeans-clad servers are young and attentive, and food arrives quickly from the kitchen.

Cox has devised a menu of a sort of pan-Southern cuisine. The restaurant offers everything from ribs to different kinds of po'boys; Southwestern items make an appearance too, like a gooey, not-quite-melted queso dip and low-heat black beans with rice. Twists on the whole po'boy idea are intriguing, but the difference between "po'boy" and "panini" and "sub" seems to mean that the first comes on a flattened sub roll, the second on flattened bread and the last, well, we all know what a sub is. A Cuban po'boy, for example, consists of a heap of pulled pork, thinly sliced ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard, all squished within an inch of their life. Not bad, but it sounds exactly like a regular Cubano sandwich, and I don't really see where the Louisiana influence comes in.

At lunchtime, City Limit does better with traditional offerings, like a nicely charred medium-rare burger served with a mountain of shoestring fries.

The portions get smaller at dinnertime, and as entrées are by definition more expensive, this is unfortunate. Only two smallish medallions come with the Bourbon Street steak. And although the meat is perfectly cooked, the brown sugar and bourbon sauce is flat and lackluster. It seeps into the chunky mashed redskin potatoes, but a separate dish saves the small side of tender, smoky collards from the encroaching tide. The crawfish étouffée is thick with crawfish tails and fragrant with celery, but it loses its way with an excess of Cajun seasoning laced heavily with salt.

Even some of the brunch entrées come in bowls instead of plates to hide their small size. The juevos rancheros (no, that's not a misspelling; it should be "huevos," but "juevos" is Spanish slang for a man's, well, eggs) are just a couple of eggs topped with a smattering of cheese, a cilantro-spiked salsa and a handful of crunchy tortilla strips. The more substantial bistro eggs come on a plate, and again, these guys really know how to cook their meat, but the Creole hollandaise tastes as if it came out of a powdery Knorr packet and was blasted with a little Emeril Lagasse seasoning.

Maybe it's all the desserts attracting the ladies. I saw one floating by, ringed with forks, and if the chocolate mousse cake is any indication, the potential for violence can be averted only if another slice is ordered after the first bite. Ditto for the espresso crème brûlée, although its meager sugar crust needs another shot of fire to thicken it up a bit.

While the fine desserts reflect the kind of polish Cox wants to put on this former university hangout, the ghost of Potter's Pub still lingers, and upscale pub grub — not bad, but nothing too special — is what City Limit offers. S



City Limit $-$$
7007 Three Chopt Road
282-4232
Lunch: Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Dinner: Monday-Sunday, 5:30-11 p.m.
Brunch: Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.



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