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May 6, 2008

Top Ten Places to Take Tourists (That Aren't Tourist Traps)

CostasInn.jpgThis topic reminds me of how I met Marty Katz, the local editor for the Zagat Survey. I was doing a story on Tim and Nina Zagat, who were here promoting their restaurant guide. Marty told me he had interviewed for the job several years ago by taking the Zagats to Charleston, the Greek restaurant Samos, and Kelly's for steamed crabs.

I met them at Cafe Hon in Hampden for breakfast, then we rode in a town car to Faidley's for a mid-morning snack, and I abandoned them at Iggies, where they were having a press lunch.

All those restaurants, clearly, are good places to take tourists, although Cafe Hon is starting to sell so much Hon stuff it's beginning to feel a little bit like a tourist trap. 

For the purpose of this exercise, I'm going to assume your friends are visiting for a week. That gives us plenty of time for day trips to Annapolis and Ellicott City: ... 

1) Saturday: Your guests arrive. They want to experience Old Baltimore, so you decide to make the trip to Dundalk and the Costas Inn, where they can get steamed crabs and crab cakes.

2) Sunday: You want to avoid the Inner Harbor. You take them to lunch at Mama's on the Half Shell in Canton and then let them explore Harborplace on their own.

3) Sunday night: They want to take you out to a nice (read "expensive") restaurant. You're in the downtown area anyway, so you decide on the Black Olive in Fells Point.

4) Monday: They've seen Hairspray and know about Hampden. You want to show them how little they know. You choose Dogwood for dinner, demonstrating that Baltimore, too, has locavore-friendly restaurants.

5) Tuesday: Nobody's up for a big meal, and they want to see more of Old Baltimore, so you take them to Duda's Tavern in Fells Point for classic Baltimore pub grub.

6) Wednesday: Because you have things to do, you send them to Historic Ellicott City for a day of shopping and exploring on their own. You suggest Tersiguel's, the French restaurant, for a change-of-pace dinner.

7) Thursday: You want to show them the New Baltimore, but they are still craving seafood. You take them to the Blue Sea Grill near Power Plant Live. They can order crab cakes while you get something more exotic.

8) Friday: You manage to get them off their crab cake kick long enough to agree to the Bicycle in Federal Hill, a "global bistro." They are delighted to find a sauteed crab cake with sweet corn emulsion on the menu.

9) Saturday: You plan a day trip to Annapolis, ending with dinner at O'Learys Seafood in Eastport.

10) Sunday: One last meal before they go. They realize they haven't been to Little Italy yet, and insist on seeing Baltimore's most famous neighborhood, next to Hampden, before they leave. You take them to the newly renovated La Scala.

(2003 photo of Costas Inn by Gene Sweeney Jr./Sun photographer)


Posted by Elizabeth Large at 4:15 AM | | Comments (37)
Categories: Top Ten Tuesdays


Good list. Now, it's time for the alternate suggestions. For pub grub, we like to take guests to Dizzy Izzie's in Remington. It typifies a Baltimore trend -- quirky neighborhood 'joints' with surprisingly good food and welcome prices. Two restaurants that suggest the city's sophistication, off the traditional tourist track, are Brasserie Tatin and Timonium's Christopher Daniel. There''s something pleasantly Parisien about both. And despite its detractors, we've had good luck taking friends who crave a crabcake to G&M.

Makes me want to move away and come back to visit my friend, Elizabeth. What a week!

If they're buying, they can stay at my place.

Great list. However, you can't always get into Costas on a Saturday night. Those crabs - and the crab soup! - are that good.

Several years ago, I had a date-dinner at Tersiguel's. The date part was horrendous. Even now, I turn away from thinking of it, but the food was wonderful. Very good fish with delightful vegetables. (I've lost the details of the food along with the details of the evening.)

Every time I go to La Scala, I fall in love with Chef Nino all over again!

I'm sorry, but any guest hanging around that long is going to have to fend for him or herself by

Though Dudas does have good pub grub, causing me to eat chili bake even when it is hot outside, it tends to smell a bit like wet dog inside the last couple times we've been there. You might want to have them eat outside.

Terrific itinerary, EL. I may even invite a friend or two to visit.

Btw - since you abhor the term "locavore," why use it at all? Before you know it, Hallmark will have a line of Locavore Day cards.

A very good point. Perhaps because it's fun to make fun of it? EL

My favorite place to take guests was not on this list but on another...Matthew's Pizza. Great, casual atmosphere and the best pizza for miles! I make a trip myself when I'm back in town. I wish they would open a restaurant on the Eastern Shore!

I'd also go to the Brewer's Art either for dinner or a pre-dinner beer and rosemary fries, to show that Baltimore beers are as good as anybody's. Resurrection Ale is still my favorite beer on the planet.

Another great place for crabs if Costas is too busy--Mr. Bill's Terrace Inn! Reminds me of Bo Brooks when Bo Brooks was a neighborhood crab house and not a trendy-wannabe seafood restaurant.

I love Mr. Bill's! But I've referenced it so often on this blog I thought I better give another place a chance. We will discuss crab houses in depth during Crab Week. Be there or be square. EL

Fine list, fine list.

The only thing I would add is that if they wanted to go out for breakfast, I'd take them to Pete's Grill in Waverly where Olympic swimmer and gold medalist Michael Phelps goes to fuel up during training. Just wait until they learn what he eats there on a daily basis in training!

Just a heads-up for Michael - If your hypothetical out-of-towners are visiting between now and May 12th you can't take them to Dizzy Izzie's. I tried to take my dad and brother there on Saturday night for pub grub and a sign on the door said they're closed until 5/12, but didn't specify why.

Other Breakfast Options: Blue Moon Cafe in Fells on Aliceanna. Sometimes there's a wait, but it's worth it. Also, if you need some late night food/early breakfast after being out Sip N Bite on Boston Street is great!

subsitute Bill's Terrance Inn in Essex for Costa's and add Mathews in there somewhere.

See my comment about Mr. Bill's under an earlier comment. EL

I'll second Blue Moon...24-hour biscuits on Friday and Saturday!

My out of town guests are huge fans of (aside from Samos): Akbar, Kawasaki, and Mezze. And of course some of the various brunches around town.

Great list! And Michael is dead-on suggesting Dizzy Issie's. A few more favorites: Pizza John's (come on, Baltimore's not all about crab cakes) and Mr. Bill's Terrace Inn (best steamed crabs)

For crabcakes and pub grub I would take them to Koco's Pub on Harford Rd. in Lauraville.

A friend from Melbourne, Australia often describes her hometown as being "all about the food". When she visited Baltimore I took her to Arcos, Samos, and The Helmand. She enjoyed the meals at each place so much that she considered immigrating!

EL wrote: "Be there or be square."

Now that's a blast from the past!

A restaurant that I like to take out of state clients and friends is the Poplar Inn in Dundalk. Great food, friendly service and old Baltimore kitchy charm.

Whenever I hear about Mr. Bill's Terrace Inn, I always think of their Zagat review from a few years ago. It said something like: There's no Bill, no terrace, and no inn.

"There's no Bill, no terrace, and no inn."

All true, but what there is and all that matters is the best crabs in town!

Mr. Bill's owner/commander Steve named it for his dad. The only advantage Costas has is they take reservations for under six, including reserving the crabs. Mr. Bill's reserves for six or more. Now that Samos is so crowded because it's so great, I've been taking people to Zorba's on Eastern for charcoaled fish and lamb chops. It's hard to impress New Yorkers, but we can do it. Especially with a Faidley crabcake, any grade.


You can come by for that hundy I promissed

"There's no Bill, no terrace, and no inn."

There IS a Bill.

As long as you're in Ellicott City, you might want to have them fall by The Ellicott City Brewing Company and have a few pints of Jack Frost to get them warmed up for Tersiguel's.

Also, maybe a quiet dinner at Henninger's would satisfy more than Duda's (although Duda's is also most excellent).

For crabs, Bill's Terrace Inn or Bo Brooks, yum yum!

It may be crowded on a Saturday night at Costas Inn, but you can make a reservation up to a month in advance to assure yourself a seat or just walk in and wait like any good restaurant. Their crabs are the best. They have a variety of food on the menu from stuffed shrimp to Steak Triantafilos, which is delicious. Their imperial is the best around!

My list:

Jimmy's and/or Blue Moon (Fells Point).

Chiapparelli's (Little Italy)

The Sunset (Glen Burnie)

Cacao Lane or Tersiguel's (Ellicott City)

Isabella's or Monocacy Crossing (Frederick)

Jalapenos (Annapolis)

Arundel Seafood (Pasadena area)

LP Steamer's is the place for crabs. I've already divulged too much info by revealing that, so off I go

Blue Sea Grill really is a great place for out of towners to get great Maryland Crab Cakes, while locals get to enjoy something a bit more edgy. If you are looking for another Baltimore favorite, Exec Chef, Fabio, does a great Soft Shelled Crab with Watermelon and Avocado!

I am quite familiar with Black Olive. This is good in all kind of services.

David Lee - is it my turn to fight with Eddie?

Aww, come on, hasn't Eddie had a difficult enough time lately.

Eddie hasn't ever had to deal with Jenny Craig. You wanna talk tough times!

Hey Valerie - It's okay, just take it One Day At A Time

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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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