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November 20, 2007

Top Ten things about Baltimore's restaurant scene I'm thankful for



After our orgy of kvetching last week, the time has come for some thankfulness. Here in no particular order is my somewhat random list of things I'm thankful for about the Baltimore restaurant scene.

Of course I could just list my ten favorite restaurants, but that would be cheating. Plus I'm not sure I could limit it to ten.

Here's my list of things I'm thankful for, and please post your additions to it. ...

* That I no longer need 6,000 ways to say "mediocre." In general, the food in our restaurants is simply better than it used to be. I don't know if it's because of the competition, or the fact that Baltimoreans' palates have gotten more sophisticated, but it seems to me to be true.

* Reviewing restaurants is actually exciting again because, unlike even a decade ago, new places are opening at what seems to be an unprecedented pace. I'm amazed at how I no longer have to review the same restaurants over and over again.

* That nouvelle cuisine went away. It was interesting, but just so precious -- and overhandled food is a little creepy. I wasn't sorry to see tall food disappear either.

* Baltimore restaurants now, for the most part, serve wonderful bread. Of course, the popularity of the Atkins diet nearly killed this trend, and you sometimes have to ask for it these days. But when you get it, restaurant bread is often good baguette or a rustic artisan loaf. 

* There are so many drinkable wines available by the glass -- and often better than drinkable. I remember when about all that was available was a small glass of chablis -- probably Carlo Rossi.

* The Charleston Group for putting Baltimore cuisine on the map as being more than crab cakes. There were excellent fine-dining options before the Foreman-Wolfs came on the scene, but their pr is what got us national attention.

* We have so many great ethnic restaurants. Not so long ago you had to trek to DC if you wanted to try, say, Ethiopian or Persian food. 

* We have places to pick hardshell crabs. No, I'm not going to say crab cakes. I can buy excellent crab cakes at Faidley's (or Eddie's if I want to saute them myself). I don't have to go to a restaurant for them. But picking crabs -- you've got to have atmosphere.

* Being the kind of town where, as a chain restaurant owner once told me, even the national chains have to have a crab cake on the menu. The one exception to this I've found is Fogo de Chao.

* Donna's for introducing lattes to Baltimore 15 years ago, two years before we got our first Starbucks.


(Kenneth K. Lam/Sun Photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 4:16 AM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Top Ten Tuesdays


Persian food? I love Persian food, but am not familiar with a Persian restaurant in Baltimore. Where is it? Please tell me.

The Orchard Market & Cafe in Towson

Nice list, Elizabeth. And while we are giving thanks, may I chime in and express my gratitude for Dining@Large?
It's a great antidote to the doom and gloom of the news, and it's nice to know there are other foodies out there in B'more.

Thanks! And thanks to all of you who add your comments. I know it can sometimes be uncomfortable to put your opinions out there.

"(or Eddie's if I want to saute them myself). "

how can we trust your opinion on food if you think you need to "saute" a crab cake? especially an eddie's one?

I dunno. If you're not going to try it, you'll have to take it on faith. Get the uncooked ones, put a little butter in the pan, and just heat them through. They should be golden on the outside. Yum. :-)

Paul, huh? Sautéing is the proper, traditional preparation. Some today prefer their cakes to be broiled, but that is a newfangled health conscious invention. I love that Faidley’s insist that their customers pay more if they want to commit sacrilege and have their cake broiled.

Yes, I must piggyback on thanking you and your blog as well. Glad to know that there is a one stop shop for eating and eating out in Baltimore.

Hmm. How much is the Foreman/Wolf duo paying you per month for lip service? You seem to absolutely twitter as you again remind us of their 'culinary magnificence' or 'how they have saved the Baltimore dining scene'. Ugh. Enough, already.

I have to agree with Mike - the Foreman/Wolf duo -Their egos are big enough already -

I can't disagree with you there. :-)

Even though Foreman/Wolf are turning into the annoying team that wins the Superbowl year after year or the kid that always comes in first, they have certainly raised the bar in Baltimore dining. I think that Charleston is their best and the other restaurants are their little pet projects that are easily matched in the Baltimore area. Either way, it's time for them to stop. They're on the verge of jumping the shark and reaching into obnoxious, chain restaurant territory. Cinghiale's atmosphere recalls an upscale Maggiano's or Macaroni Grill. And, even though I've had wonderful meals at Petit Louis, they were late on both the French bistro concept and small plates at Pazo. What's next? An upscale pub or gourmet burger joint? Oh, oh! I know! Put a truffle on the burger and charge $60. Boo!!!

We just can't stop talking about crab cakes, can we? I'm with you, Elizabeth, on sauteeing Eddie's uncooked crab cakes with just a little butter--hard to beat. I recently tried Wegman's version and was instructed in no uncertain terms to bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. I'll go back to Eddie's next time the urge strikes.

I'm glad to know that there are others who are equally sick of the Wolf dynasty.

It appears to me that really do get more bang for the buck by advertising in the Sun.

For Persian try the House of Kabob on Harford Road in Parkville.

Wow. And I just complimented their pr, something I didn't think could be argued with.

Ditto on the nouvelle and the stacked foods. But, I am truly grateful for this wonderful blog where folks who enjoy eating, thinking and talking about food can share their thoughts and opinions. Even on days when I do not post, you can believe that I often access the site several times a day. Thanks to you and the Sun.

As far as the "new" Goldberg's bagels is concerned, I've had some and was, sadly, unimpressed. I am definitely fussy about my bagels. Coming from the New York area I am NYbagel-centric. I welcomed Goldberg's move north since it's now closer to where I live. But the thrill is gone. I'm hoping this is due to growing pains and that they will recover in time, but, for now, what was once a great bagel, is painfully ordinary. I am a fussy, but forgiving man. I'll try again in a couple of weeks.

Eddies and Wegmans!!!!! They don't have crab cakes, its processed crab from Indonesia, just like Phillips. There is a world of difference between them and true Maryland lumb crab cakes, in taste, texture, and overall quality. Please do not blur the lines and for everyone thats over the crab cakes ask yourself; have you had a good Maryland lump lately?

For the large numbers of chocolate shops in Baltimore...from Glaubers to's always amazing

I am an American, a Baltimorean to be specific, working in Ethiopia to improve their hospitals. As I sat in the internet cafe (you have not had a macchioto until you have had one in Addis Ababa using Harar coffee), I brought up, and there was a picture of injera, with tibs and wot and other great Ethiopian dishes! I showed all my Habesha friends and told them it was from America, and they loved it! Thanks for getting my Thanksgiving, away from home, off on the best possible foot.

Timothy - A very Happy Thnaksgiving to you, so far away, doing such important work.

I specifically asked the Wegman's man where the crab in their crab cake came from and he lifted an eyebrow and assured me it was from the Chesapeake Bay. Is there any way to verify this, apart from sneaking behind the scenes?
It was a bit bland, but he did ask if I wanted him to sprinkle on some Old Bay, which I declined.

he lifted an eyebrow and assured me it was from the Chesapeake Bay. Is there any way to verify this

That's why I buy the crab meat and make the crab cakes myself. Buy fresh crab meat, not pasteurized. I don't think any of the Asian crab meat is sent here fresh (at least I haven't seen any).

Which Eddie's are you speaking of? I need to try this crab cake, be it from Thailand or Tilghman Island!!

I go to the Roland Park Eddie's. The crab cakes are made with fresh, not frozen, U.S. crab meat.

It is my understanding that all seafood sold in the U.S. must be labeled with its place of orgin.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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