Top Ten Bistros
The concept has gotten even trendier, if possible, since then. These days the word seems to be used for any new restaurant that wants to imply it's casual, fun and serves alcohol.
I didn't think people felt as strongly about bistros as they do about, say, diners or chains until I got a message from someone on my home phone urging me to include Liberatore's Bistro on my list. THIS IS NOT A GOOD THING. First of all, calling me at home with a recommendation for a Top Ten restaurant is an automatic disqualification of said restaurant. Liberatore's wouldn't have been on my list anyway. Not because it's not good, but because I haven't eaten there.
Two others that are new and I haven't eaten at: Ciao Pizza Bistro Italiano at Quarry Lake and Carpaccio Italian Bistro in Annapolis. Feel free to put in your two cents if you know anything about either.
Then there are those restaurants that seem bistro-ish to me even if they don't label themselves as such. I included one in my list.
Here they are: ...
* Aida Bistro & Wine Bar in Columbia. Proof that you can have a bistro in a suburban shopping center. The food is Italian and homey, with an imaginative flair.
* Artful Gourmet Bistro in Owings Mills (9433 Common Brook Road # 103, 410-356-2606). Unpretentious, good food. Italian, American and Spanish, with a little French thrown in for good measure.
* b Bistro in Bolton Hill. One of my favorites, but on the upscale end of the bistro scale. Good food and a very pleasant outdoor eating space on a not-too-busy street.
* Bicycle Bistro in Federal Hill. It's stretching the definition of bistro to include the Bicycle here, but the food is so good it's hard to leave it out. And the restaurant has labeled itself as a bistro.
* Jack's Bistro in Canton. Wildly imaginative bistro fare, which includes cassoulet but also a Red Curry Rubbed Hanger Steak Noodle Bowl.
* Luca's Cafe in Locust Point. The only one on my list without "bistro" in the name, but I've been there recently enough to feel confident in my recommendation. It's definitely a bistro in spirit if not in name.
* Meli Patisserie & Bistro in Fells Point. This is almost more a restaurant and lounge than a bistro, but prices are in the right range, and you can get casual food and drink there.
* Petit Louis Bistro in Roland Park. As close as you'll come to an authentic French bistro experience in Baltimore.
* Regi's American Bistro in Federal Hill. Its slogan is as good a definition of an American bistro as any: "You will feel as comfortable ordering a burger...as...pecan-crusted Idaho rainbow trout in tart lemon butter."
* Timothy Dean Bistro in Fells Point. This one was tough, because I had an excellent meal there, but not very recently. I've been hearing mixed things, including that it might be close to closing. Still, Dean is a fine chef, so if I'm going only on what I know personally, I would include it in any list of top bistros.
(Colby Ware/Special to the Sun)