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January 6, 2009

Top 10 Restaurants the Baltimore Area Needs

ItalianRestaurant.jpg

 

With this Top 10 Tuesday I tried to avoid simply listing every ethnic cuisine we don't have a restaurant for. That would be easy. I also decided to make it very personal. This is my list of places I'd like to see open in 2009; for more general suggestions, here are the restaurants other readers yearn for.

If you're a first-time Top 10 Tuesday reader, please take a look at this before you jump into the fray.

Here's my list: ...

1) Every visitor wants Baltimore to have one great, local, nontouristy seafood restaurant on the water, and by "water" I mean "Inner Harbor." I know and you know that every good restaurant in the city has good seafood, even the steak houses, but I can't convince the tourists who call and e-mail me. If we had such a place that I could recommend, it would make my life easier.

2) A fine-dining vegetarian restaurant.

3) The best Italian food I've ever had was not in Italy (where admittedly we were eating on the cheap) but in St. Pete Beach, Fla.  It was a tiny, mom-and-pop operation; and its owner was an exquisite chef. When he had to have a knee replacement, he had to sell his restaurant. I want that restaurant here.

4) A Moroccan restaurant.

5) I want a decent place in my neighborhood that I can walk to that has a $10 blue plate special every weeknight. When I'm too tired to cook that's where I'll go, but I don't want to have to get in the car.

6)  An elegant little place for lunch that has ladies' food -- dainty servings of curried shrimp salad with fresh fruit and little biscuits, that sort of thing. Tea in the afternoon, of course, will be a given.

7) An In-N-Out Burger.

8) And while I'm asking for West Coast places, could we please have an Urth Caffe?

9) An authentic Chinese restaurant that everyone agrees is wonderful and isn't in Odenton.

10) A classic French restaurant, as opposed to a bistro.

(I couldn't figure out how to illustrate this, so the photo is of a restaurant in Italy I couldn't afford but thought was quite beautiful.)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 4:08 AM | | Comments (118)
Categories: Top Ten Tuesdays
        

Comments

Love the photo--it takes me right back to Yurp.

Here's a smile: in the thirteen years I had the Old Waverly History Exchange & Tea Room, two of my most favourite afternoon tea regulars who enjoyed "ladies" food (as per #6 above - minus the shrimp, of course, because I keep kosher - was a gay male couple who owned a theatre showing only X-rated movies.

I agree with #1, the need for a first rate seafood restaurant right on the water - like the old days. The diner who likes what we have now calls frozen fish sticks seafood, and likes them too.

I couldn't help but chuckle about the comment for number 9 and the authentic Chinese restaurant not in Odenton. I lived in Odenton and regularly went to one of the "authentic" restaurants you seem to imply (Hunan La Rose). Living now in West Virginia, you don't find too many of those types of restaurants, they are mostly Cinese carry out, not sit down. My wife and always talk about Hunan La Rose and how great it was. Thanks for the rememberance.

Steve

We have a few good BBQ places now and a few good jerk places--but none that serve both--that's what I'd like to see.

Also--I'd like to see a restaurant that knows how to prepare various offal in great, tasty ways, like Kabab Cafe in Queens, NY

I highly agree on the in-n-out burger request. They are simply the best; especially as a fourth meal; or even for breakfast. I want one now.

To add to your west coast demands, I vote fro yo. It doesn't have to be a Pinkberry, but a decent knock off with fresh fruit toppings would be nice. DC is crawling with them now. It may be a passing fad, but frozen yogurt is always good.

PS-I would LOVE a really really good sit down coffee shop that opens at 5. Ok, maybe 5:30. And no, Royal Farms doesn't count. I am aware that this is a ridiculous request.

Mmmmm.... In-N-Out.... my wife is from Southern California. The Double Double with fried onions is by leaps and bounds the best fast-food burger on the planet. I've heard that Five Guys comes within the same orbit, and they do handcut fries in the store like In-N-Out. Still, it's just not the same.

A nice little coffee shop that opened really early would be ideal for me since I'm at work at about 6:30 a.m.

It would be just lovely to have a coffee shop that sells hashish that you can smoke on premises.

EL - I've been to St. Pete Beach numerous times and love this little Italian Pizza joint/Restaurant right down the road from the Don Cesar Hotel. It may be the one you're referring to. Owned by a New Yorker.
There's also a place that has pretty decent Maryland crabcakes there! Owned by Annapolitans.

What I think Baltimore needs is a good Italian bakery where you can get fresh baked breads. Bread that is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I have to drive out to Pasta Plus in Laurel to get a decent loaf of Italian bread!

...I'd like to see a restaurant that knows how to prepare various offal...

Just the thought of devouring viscera gave me major spasms.

The new Parkside is going to be my #5. Their flatbread is really good and only $8 on Wed. night. I think another night is "home cooking" specials and another night is hot sandwich specials.

I'm definitely all for the In-and-Out, and the vegetarian restaurant; maybe Great Sage can open a second location?

While we're on the West Coast bandwagon, can we have some El Pollo Loco outlets, please? Mmmm...roasted chicken, tortillas, beans, salsa. That's my idea of good fast food.

We need Corner Bakery to come to town. They have them in DC - much better than Panera and more variety in their offerings

If you're just daydreaming, ok. But you don't really want In-N-Out to expand across the country to the east coast. See: Krispy Kreme.

NickinEC
there used to be a bakery on Central Ave. near Bank St. called Maranto & Sons (?). It was in a row house. I don't know if it's still there, but it's worth a look. I get decent bread at DiPasquales or Mastellone Deli. During the summer & fall the baltimore farmers market has a good selection of bread.

My vote is for a Soup Plantation. Also, a Jack-in-the-Box. Yes, they were lousy when they were in Columbia years ago, But they have since come out with a Chicken Fajita Pita that I adore.

I know it's not In-N-Out, but there is a Fat Burger coming soon in Columbia. I can't wait for that place to open and check it out.

Does anyone if there are any taco stands in the area...like they have on the west coast?? That would be a great addition!

I saw a show a while back about a pizza shop in New York that made pizza for those with lactose intolerance or milk allergy.... As a mom with a child with a milk allergy I'd love to have a place to take my son with kid friendly fare that can accommodate his dietary needs. I’m sure the vegans in the area would appreciate it as well. On that note how about a vegan bakery also…

For years I've said that the Aquarium needs to have a restaurant attached to it.

I want an Indian place that I don't have to get on an interstate highway to drive to from northern AA. Right now the only ones I know of are in Catonsville or all the way down in Naptown.

It isn't just authentic Italian bread that is so hard to find. Try finding a loaf of real Jewish Rye! I have to mail an order to Zingermann's in Ann Arbor to get what I'm looking for. This shouldn't be. I've sorted through H&S Bakery's stock and gone to Goldbergs in Pikesville to no avail. I might as well buy Arnolds or Pepperidge Farms bread. Joan & Gary's in Pikesville [now Goldbergs] used to bake the real stuff, but sadly they are no longer in business. At least we know it can be done in Baltimore!

EL--

Connely's used to fit the bill for the non-touristy seafod restaurant on the water. The restaurant pre-dated the major development around the harbor, but like other Baltimore-specific restaurants (i.e. Housner's, Danny's, etc.) it is now a distant memory.

But Conneley's was a really good seafood place. It sat right on the Inner Harbor on Pratt Street.

Maureen, the thread that EL references has a bunch of info about taco stands in the SE. In summary, there is a taco truck on Broadway a few blocks north of Eastern. Also, there are a ton of good places along Eastern from Broadway through Greektown.

Jewish Rye not that hard, Bill. Try Pariser's, 6711 Reisterstown Rd., 410-764-1700. Call first because they sell like crazy and they are already out today as I write this at 10:54 am.

Shawn, I totally agree that the Aquarium should have a restaurant!

RayRay, the Waverly (Farmers) Market, on Saturday mornings, has good bread year 'round. Seeems to be about the same bakeries as at the Sunday morning market when that's open. AND! I was at WM this past Saturday and could actually find a parking space not only in under (what always seems like) 3 days) but right on the lot! There are far fewer people during the winter months, so it's sort of nice (although I love the crowds on Sunday) They still don't want dogs.

I worked at the Aquarium for five years when they first opened. They used to have a restaurant, but they expanded and took over the space. Plus, if memory serves me correctly, they didn't exactly do a booming business. It was sort of a cafeteria/restaurant, definitely not fine dining.

RayRay -- I think you may have been referring to F & S Maranto, though they currently appear to be solely a wholesale bakery. They have a decent Italian or Vienna bread that is available at many Giant Food stores, among other locations.

NickinEC, you ain't just whistlin' Dixie. Try finding a loaf of real Jewish Rye around here. Bread is something that Baltimore doesn't do.

RayRay
Thanks. I'll check out your suggestions. There was a DiPasquale's in Fallston that had a nice meatball sandwich on crispy Italian bread, but last time I was in the area they had closed.

How about a White Castle burger place? They just aren't the same when you buy them frozen from the grocery store.

While In-N-Out Burger would be awesome..how about a Sonic!? We are inundated with commercials about the various flavors of drinks/slushy/icey-esque things offered there, but there isnt one I know of in the Baltimore area?...A shame! ...An excellent bakery I have recently been to is Yia-Yia's Bakery in White Marsh...
breads...pastries...sandwiches...fabulous!!!

Shawn
Maybe a seafood restaurant so the fish can watch the humans at feeding time:-).
Eve
I've been a regular at the Baltimore farmers market for years, but I haven't been to Waverly yet. I love dogs (I have a greyhound and a pomeranian living with me), but I don't think they should be at the farmers market.

There are plenty of taco stands on US 1 between Baltimore and Fredricksburg, VA. There are quite a few located in Northern Virginia between Alexandria and Woodbridge and there also are plenty between Arbutus and Silver Spring. This is authentic Latin/South American cooking too.

Speaking of West Coast places - Rubio's (spelling???)...awesome and inexpensive fish tacos...

What about a really good Portuguese Restaurant - - like you would find in Jersey. That would be amazing!

Love the Urth Caffe in LA...especiallt the one in West Hollywood. Everything on the menu is beautiful and healthy, and so are the patrons...best people watching outside of Paris.

As for an upsacle Vegetarian Restaurant, which we had one oh too briefly wih Puffins, even DC does not have such a place.
Amazing in this day and age, of supposedly health awareness, that burgher joints prosper, and vegetarian ones are not to be found.

Satisfaction is finding a cozy restaurant, with anything resembling a vegetarian plate i.e Oregon Grille ...

You did not mention the following:

-Good but home style Gasthaus style German place. Someone in Germany must have a dream to come to the USA we need to get the city and the ethnic community to make this happen and help out through a few encouragements.The only German place in this once german city is clueless. The Baltimore brewery tried but was too modern cusine and failed.
We need a reasonably priced place with authentic, simple home style german recipes. Leberkase, bratwursts, potato salad, schnitzels cooked properly.....

Irish Place- Yes we have more so called Irish places in the city than we once did but we need ones that are not there primairly to take our money whilst serving mass produced microwaved garbage. Then there is the domination of the television and televisions without sound ruins any pub like atmosphere.

English Place-
Again....meat pies, affordable peasant food and atmosphere lacking

Another problem is we simply need eateries less intersted in picking our pockets and more interested in service and simple good food cooked well.
One of the blessings of the financial crisis is that cultivation of the wealthy elite will not be able to continue. Like the Irish potato famine eateries have cultivated those who can pay outrageous prices for inexpensive food. If the financial crisis brings the affordable beer that is one dollar or less then it will be a great improvement.

If prices are lowered and food is made well and simple and on the spot then places will benefit by having more customers. Those who keep prices at the current rip you off level will fail.

And another thing.
We need a good bar eatery that does not have the following
-chicken tenders
-stuffed jallopeno peppers
-mutzarella sticks
-potatoes only in the form of fries
-onions only in the form of rings

Why in the world do places that fry up monotonous frozen same kind snacks think that they are even trying to have an identity!

I stopped going to O'shes on charles when I got repeat frozen centers to their otherwise ok potato wontons! Yuck~!

Can't they mix up a simple batter and do it fresh?

Conrad Bladey
Peasant
cbladey@verizon.net
You want recipes- I have got them.
Food Folklorist

Missy,
One of the best meals I've ever had was at a Portuguese place called Forno's in Newark,NJ. I agree that a place like that would be a popular and welcome addition to Baltimore. I don't see that happening since this town doesn't have a history of Portuguese immigrants and neighborhoods like North Jersey does.

Does it have to be in Baltimore City? What about Tersiguel's in Ellicott City for classic French dining?

A real good NY/Jewish-style DELI!!!

I mean the bucket of sour and half-sour barrel pickles on the table; The HOT corned beef and pastrami, which you don't have to ask for hot, because that's the only way they make it; the egg creams made fresh, not in a can, and; yes, real fresh rye bread!!!

Attman's is OK. But it doesn't hold a candle to any decent deli you find in NY/NJ.

Thank you, Joyce W. With such heavy demand for Pariser's rye bread it would seem there is a big market ripe for some entrepreneurs to exploit. I'm hoping....

#2 - If Great Sage (Clarksville) moved into the city, it would qualify. I think it's worth the drive currently.

Al Pacino's Cafe/Cafe Isis makes pizza with soy cheese, if requested.

We have a vegan bakery Vegetarian Desserts Bakery 827 N. Howard St. as featured in the Sun on Oct 16th.

The bakery on Central Avenue was Marinelli, not Maranto. I miss their bread.

Piedigrotta Bakery was at that location after that, but they recently moved around the corner.

I'd give a lot of business to a cheap pho place if one opened in the city ... it'd have to be cheap enough to ensure you wasn't paying for novelty or atmosphere. I just want to pay less than $10 for lunch without driving to Catonsville!

My kingdom for a fine-dining vegetarian restaurant! Perhaps with a chef who's read the Vegetarian Epicure and the Moosewood cookbooks, at the very least.

On another note, what can we do to get Legal Sea Foods back in town? They got caught in a lost-lease situation. Hey, they'd be perfect for that (as yet unnamed) waterfront spot!

in terms of chains, i'd love to see gordon biersch open in baltimore. i'd also like to see a restaurant known for seafood that isn't a chain or tourist trap. so many times visitors come to baltimore asking for a great seafood place, and i come up short. though there is that place right over the hanover street bridge...anyone been there?

A Portuguese restaurant would be great, especially if it had a bakery that made Portuguse custard cups. As a transplant from north Jersey that's one of the things I miss the most.

That and Jersey Italian Hot Dogs with fried potatos, onions and peppers.

the Aquarium used to have a Friendly's. What Baltimore needs is a Barnaby's Family Inn.

Hal VoR
I think you're right. They were primarily wholesale, but if you went around back they would sell you a loaf or two still hot from the oven.
MMMM I can almost smell it now.

LoriAnn,

I would also like to see somebody open an Italian Hot Dog restaurant ala Jimmy Buff's in north Jersey. Such restaurants should be located close to coronary care units of major hospitals in the area for obvious reasons. Ah, food of my youth. Portuguese custard cups are another delight I yearn for. The Ironbound section of Newark is justifiably famous for great Portuguese food. Arroz de Mariscos is a dish I'd like to find in Baltimore. You never know. Could happen.

I'd love to have a good, inexpensive buffet restaurant that is clean and has fresh food, like Q'cumber in Minnesota. Or an over-the-top, Vegas-style buffet. And it should be somewhere where I wouldn't have to parallel park or pay 20$ for parking.

NickinEC - What is the name of the St. Pete Beach crabcake place? I spend lots of time down there, too and am wondering for next time...thanks

I'd like to find a place that serves a real variety of great soups all year long at a reasonable price. Really, $6 for a cup of glumpy broccoli cheddar???

Oh yeah...(Thanks for reminding me LoriAnn)

A REALLY GOOD PLACE TO GET A HOT DOG (I might be happy if Pollock Johnny's was closer to my house).

I would love to see a GREAT sit down, nicely decorated soul food restaurant in the city...mac and cheese, greens, and good fried chicken are comfort food. Homemade sweet potaote pies would be a PLUS!

Uhhhh....we need a lot more than this!

For starters we need much better pizza places. The pizza in Baltimore is inexcusably bad for a town so close to NYC and Philly. The exception to this is Matthew's, of course, but it is a fluke, to be honest - a quirky place that developed on its own that makes a product different from everything else in the area. As for the other typical pizza places around town, it seems they take their cues from the chains rather than the real pizza places only a few hundred miles to the north in Philly, NJ, NYC & New Haven, CT. Quality becomes impossible to achieve because virtually zero places even know what it is.

Bread is a similar story. How many places in Baltimore use the same Wonderbread-like H&S rolls? It's amazing. Even at a so called "NY Style" Jewish deli like Attman's, a fluffy, preservative filled, completely soft roll is served as a matter of routine. Real bread has a crust on it. Good bread has a delicious crust on the outside and is soft and moist inside. Again, you can find this all over Philly (100 miles north) or NYC (215 miles north), but Baltimoreans simply seem clueless about it. Like a lot of things in this town, it's as though people want to fail.

In the interest of time, I'll keep the rest short and sweet:

- We need real Brazilian food - not Fogo de Chao.
- The quality of Mexican is improving around town, but it could still be better.
- We need a quality burger place that's not a chain.
- Baltimore seriously needs to develop a real brunch culture without outrageously overpriced menu items like the $18 omelettes you find at places around town.
- More African American owned restaurants.
- A good ice cream/milkshake joint.

thing i miss most about Balto is the seafood. But still enjoy reading column. Best tacos in central florida are from Tijuana Flats, a small chain started by a UCF college kid. Only about 13 stores right now but DEFINITELY good, fresh tacos, burritos, enchilladas, etc.
Meanwhile, i still long for my Balto crabcakes.

"I want an Indian place that I don't have to get on an interstate highway to drive to from northern AA. Right now the only ones I know of are in Catonsville or all the way down in Naptown."

Rick,
Have you ever tried Tamber's in Charles Village on West 34th St? They have great Indian food. Also, Lumbini's on Charles St in Mount Vernon opened about about a year ago and serves a wonderful potato dish called aloo jeera. Forget the counties, man, keep your Indian restaurant money in the city!

kcmd- Nick's seafood house sits on the north side of the Hannover st bridge. I'm pretty sure its the same Nick with the stall in the Cross st market. Great location, excellent selection of micro/imports on tap, and an outside crab deck/pier that really kicks in the summer time; but the food hasn't been consistent in my experiences there.

Where is the Italian place in St. Pete? I live right next to there and would like to try it out.

Thanks,
Steve


A chain such as Magianos (cousins of the Corner Bakery) would be great.
I dont get the fascination with In-N-Out, and yes I've had several tries there with different co-workers over the years.

Re #1 ... you want a "local, nontouristy" seafood place at the inner harbor to recommend to visitors... but if you continually recommended it to visitors and it were located in the hub of Baltimore tourism, it would BE (or become) a touristy place, no?

Piedigrotta's bread is horrible, but their cream puffs are to die for. I thought I didn't like them until the counter woman handed me one.

I bought a dozen, and ate them before dinner.

BurdO, you could try Bouillabaisse Cafe on Park, between Mulberry and Saratoga. 3 different soups every day, all from scratch, inexpensive (a 16 oz. soup with bread is under $4, unless it is a seafood soup, then it is under $6). I think Angela could put in a little more salt, but don't mind adding more myself.

Amy, Lumbini is Nepalese.

I've seen real Brazillian food at street festivals in Highlandtown, and I just noticed a Brazillian store of some kind on Eastern the other day, so maybe we'll get a real Brazillian restaurant in Highlandtown soon.

I dare you to tell me the difference between Nepalese and Indian with respect to Lumbini or Kumari. For example the Seafood Pakora at Lumbini. Which ocean is Nepal near? Seriously, I think they are both Indian with a few dishes from Nepal.

Also, a Cuban restaurant. Or several. One of the fancy sit down variety and one of the walk up stand type where you can get a Cuban sandwhich and one of those tiny insanely caffinated coffees.

VoodooPork, Lumbini is Nepalese with a few standard northish Indian American style dishes. They aren't bad, but they aren't authentic anything.

Seafood pakora isn't something you'll find in India or in Nepal. Pakoras are made with veggies of various kinds.

To explain the difference between Nepalese food and Indian food, I'd first have to explain the differences between regional Indian cuisines. I'm not up to that, frankly, but I did live in India for a year.

You are right, though, that Lumbini has a lot of typical American northern Indian-style dishes.

Lissa and VoodooPork,

Lumbini asserts itself to be a
Nepalese AND Indian restaurant
http://www.lumbinirestaurant.com/

But it is true that you have to travel outside our fair city to get dosai and South Indian food. My recommendations for that dish are Mango Grove in Columbia and Udupi Palace in Langley Park.

Amy,
I don't know the diff between Indian and Nepalese either. But I want a place closer to my house in the burbs. If you want me to keep my Indian restaurant money in the city, how about Fed Hill?

I'll second the mention of Great Sage as an excellent vegetarian option...

But in the other direction, where will the FatBurger be located in Columbia???

Now if there was only a good Highlandtown restaurant in Brazil.

Trivia from Wiki: Lumbini is one of the 14 zones of Nepal and is home to Lumbini site, the birth place of Siddhartha Gautama, who later became the historical Buddha.

Seafood or fish in an Indian or Nepalese restaurant scares the hell out of me.

I've never been to Lumbini but I've been to Kumari a bunch of times. The food seems lighter than the usual Indian. Both menus look similar with a small section of what I assume is Nepalese dishes. Momo anyone? Lumbini has a Greek salad; that's funny.

I knew a Nepalese sushi chef. Nobody seemed to blink if a sushi chef was vaguely Asian, even if they were from a landlocked country.

Lissa, I had something called a fish pakora in Dharamshala. It was made with freshwater fish so I guess you wouldn't call it seafood (no, we're not going to have that conversation again) but it was quite tasty. Almost like fish & chips. This was street food, not in a restaurant. Don't remember if it was a Tibetan or Indian vendor.

Being raised in NJ and having lived in Baltimore for numerous years, I can tell you right now that Baltimore is sorely lacking in:

1. An authentic delicatessen with pickles on the table and matzoh ball soup on the menu.

2. Real pizza. Thin, greasy, the kind you need to fold to really eat.

3. Good Italian. Little Italy has it's moments, but on the whole doesn't hold a candle to Jersey Shore Italian food.

4. Remotely edible Chinese food. It's just sorely lacking here.

5. A bagel place in the city. Real, boiled-type bagels. The kind where you can by them by the bag and pick up some lox, too. Greg's Bagels comes the closest. Great place. But I'm looking for those big, doughy, boiled ones.

Seconding DEB's request for a good soul food place, with tasty greens and mac 'n cheese. I'm planning to try The Roost on Reisterstown Road and Granny's in Owings Mills, but haven't made it out there yet.

Oooh, good topic!

If you'll indulge a northern Anne Arundel resident to comment on needs in her area, here are a few:

a good pizza place, not a chain, and not these mushy, messy, sorry excuses for pies;

a Jewish deli. Oh wait, there aren't any Jews in north county, 'cept for our county executive.

a bagel shop. Ditto.

a coffeehouse, and not Starbucks or Panera. An independent place where you can sit and soak in the alternative crowd ambiance and have coffee and listen to live music or poetry nights. Sorry, this is a long-held, secret desire.

And another long-held, secret desire from a Philly transport: a good hoagie shop. No one here knows what hoagies are and gives sorry excuses like Subway. *sigh*

Are you sure that "authentic" Italian restaurant in your picture is not an olive garden or some other horrible bland chain? Sure looks like one. I agree with that comment above regarding Attman's. Lately they seem to be getting by on just reputation. Last two times I was in there my knishes tasted freezer burned.

I took the photo myself in Florence. EL

As the ex-partner of a bagel maker, and the daughter of a New Yorker, I think Suburban House is the S**t when it comes to Jewish deli. They don't have pickles on the table but they have big jaw breaking sandwiches and wonderful matzoh ball soup with matzoh balls the size of tennis balls, if not bigger!
When I lived in Pikesville, I was constantly in the city, so c'mon it's not far! Except for you, Jennifer. AA Co is far from there and you have my sympathy but I have driven out to Snyders and G&M upon occassion, so if the desire is there...

Courtney's in OM is the S**t when it comes to bagel shops. Susan kettles and bakes in shop and even has bialys. They are located on OM Blvd. Yes, it's a schlep from the city but c'mon if you really want the real deal, it's worth it!

Laura Lee, I'll defer to you on fish pakora in Dharamsala. I have not been there. It isn't something I saw in South India or on any of my trips to North India.

The Fatburger in "Columbia" is actually in Elkridge, at 6630 Marie Curie Drive, in Gateway Overlook (the same shopping center as the "Columbia" Trader Joe's store), off Route 108 near its intersection with Route 175. It will allegedly open this coming Monday, January 12, according to somebody else's blog.

I'm a firm believer in keeping my money local - decreases my carbon footprint, Baltimore City needs every penny of sales tax re-distribution, and supporting locally-owned neighborhood businesses builds community and raises property values. However, some winter Sunday mornings, with no downtown farmer's market, and under the cover of darkness, I motor out to Towson to be at Towson Hot Bagel's door when it opens at seven. Holy Grail stuff, particularly the cinnamon raisin, poppy, and sesame bagels. Wherever you get bagels, make sure to ask for them well-done or dark, as it makes all the difference, even for subpar bagels. One more bagel recommendation - the Black Russian bagels at Goldberg's.

The last thing Baltimore needs is anything resembling New Jersey. The entire state pretends to be a close cousin of NYC, but in reality is the red-headed step child.

Jennifer,
There is one place that has great pizza and subs, but its on Philadelphia Road in Baltimore County. Its called Philadelphia-Style Cheesesteaks.

In AA County, there is a good pizza/sub shop in the Bay Forest Shopping Center, on Bay Ridge Road in Annapolis. Take 97 to 665 and head down about 5 miles.

Suburban House is OK in a pinch. Their soup is pretty good, and the sandwiches are good size, but the meats are still packaged and COLD. Good corned beef should go from the steamer to the slicer.

As far as Courtney's goes, Susan is great, but...the bagels lack the crust of a good NY bagel, are more doughy than chewy, and are rather small. Towson bagels are among the best I have tasted in the area (still not NY/NJ), and they are only $10/dozen get 4 free on Mondays or Tuesdays.

I think NY/NJ transplants just have certain expectations when it comes to Deli, Bagels, and Pizza that Baltimoreans just don't understand. Must be the water.

Joel, I'll agree with you about the corned beef. It surely comes from Sysco. But Courtney's bagels, IMHO are the right sized and do have the tooth feel that NYC bagels have. Guess we agree to disagree.

It would be interesting to know who makes Towson bagels dough - do you know?

Amy is right ... Baltimore needs a SONIC!!

Avenue Pop- I have to agree with you about Tijuana Flats in Florida. I just moved back to Baltimore and really miss their enchiladas/tacos and wide variety of hot sauces. Yum!

We had a place in Jacksonville- "European Street Cafe"- that had everything! They had delicious sandwiches, soups, sauerkraut entrees and pastries. It would do well here.

We also had a wonderful hot dog joint- "Orange Tree"-that had hot dogs and personal pizzas (cheese & pepperoni ) only. You could choose from a variety of toppings on the hot dogs. We need one of those too..

The Fatburger in "Columbia" is actually in Elkridge...

Ooooh! Sounds like RiE should scope it out for us!

Having been born and raised in NJ and having lived in Baltimore for a long time, now, while making several trips a year "back" to NJ, what I know is that Balttimore already has enough problems without trying to emulate that mess.

We need a Sonic.

For good burgers not a chain try Burger Bros. in Towson. My husband and I love them.

Ooooh! Sounds like RiE should scope it out for us!

DONE, and picture provided to EL. They really will open on Monday and I hope to be there.

R-i-E - skip the relish. It is overpowering.

Wow, I didn't know how many Jersey ex-pats were in Baltimore. I thought we were all from Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.

Sonic is okay, but 5 Guys has a much better burger.

Sonic's drinks are probably what sets them apart, how they can mix up whatever you like. I like the diet limeade.

What I'd like to know is how does Noodles & Co. make their tofu so delish? Anybody ever work there that can share the 'secret' with me? I'm so happy with that little chains' stuff, I can't picture needing any place out (that does the soup, salad kind of thing).

To BurdO and Steve from Tampa:
The place for Maryland crabcakes in St. Pete Beach is called the Brass Monkey. You can eat out on their deck and watch the terrific sunset over the water.
The Italian place is called Gennaro's. It's right next to a laundromat and doesn't look like much on the outside, but has great pizza and pasta dishes. A small dining room so go during the week.
Both are located in the Pasa Grille (sp?) section of St. Pete Beach.

I'd LOVE to go to Parkside, but where in heck do ya park? Ditto for Lauraville House. Anybody?

DIM SUM! DIM SUM! DIM SUM! DIM SUM!
Every other large city has multiple DIM SUM restaurants. WE NEED this NOW!

I'm a dedicated carnivore, but the best upscale vegetarian restaurant in the world has to be Greene's in San Francisco. WOW! If there was such a place here, I'd probably live there!

Nothing really significant to add, just wanted to push this post into the Century mark!

How about more restaurants where they don't look at you like you have two heads if you say you're not going to have an alcoholic beverage? Where it's understood that a meal can be a meal without wine or beer?

For some diners, alcohol is just not a sane option. Don't treat us like we're childish or uncultured because we don't want to have to be bailed out of the drunk tank three days later.

I know there's more than one or two non-drinkers in Baltimore. Maybe, oh, I know I'm dreaming, just maybe a few interesting nonalcoholic beverage options could be featured on a menu? Something not for children?

My husband and I are glad to order bottled water, and you can make a big production of pouring it for us and putting it in an ice bucket just like wine. But a little variety would be nice.

Some servers in some restaurants get it, some don't.

We had the misfortune of being accosted by, for lack of a better word, a "barker" for a Thames Street restaurant last summer. We were looking in the window for a menu, or at least a clue, since it was fairly newly opened.

She ran to the front. We asked for a menu. She said something about two for one beers. "We don't drink." "Or there's margaritas for $2." "We don't drink." "Or there's blah blah other drink." "WE DON'T DRINK."

She looked at us as if we'd slapped her. "WELL, I'm SORRY." And stalked away.

A sign in their front window now indicates they are under new management. Actually I think it says something like "we don't even know those people that ran the restaurant before, we're from out of town and we don't read the paper, please please please don't blame us."

Angry sober people wouldn't be so mad if they had a few drinks.

JoAnne, I don't drink, and I've haven't noticed waitstaff looking at me oddly because I don't. Even when I'm in a bar. Well, not in the past 5-10 years, certainly not since I moved to Baltimore.

I just drink tap water most of the time, but, really, what more than water, sodas, juices, coffee and tea could one want?

Fells' Point is known for drunken shenanigans. Thames St. probably isn't the best place to be looking for anything besides skunked beer. I do spend a good bit of time down there, as there is a kayak dock, so I'll duck into places to get a snack after paddling. I just avoid the ones with 15 drink specials on the chalkboard out front.

JoAnne, just look your server in the eye and tell her what you'd like to drink, i.e.; "Iced tea, please" or "Just ice water" I truly believe that servers have more to do than care about whether or not anyone drinks alcohol.

As proof, I offer up my dad, who had to give up all alcohol - including his beloved beer - a few years ago, due to some medication or other. He goes into a long, long story with everywaitperson about hos he'd love to have a beer but just can't... until their eyes roll back in their heads. Really. They don't care.

As for the Cheese Steak, go to Sghetti Eddie's on Coldspring. The bread actually has a crust. Unfortunately, most of the sub and sandwich bread in Baltimore comes from H and S Bakery, which produces bread in the old world Wonder Bread style. Also Eddie's puts broccoli rabe on their steaks, which you just can't get anywhere else in Baltimore.

Oh, and as to comment about sales tax and Baltimore City, local governments don't receive a portion of sales tax generated in their jurisdictions. All sales tax is a general fund revenue for the state. Other states do this, but not here. Also, cities in other states are able to levy a meal sales tax in addition to the regular sales tax. Virginia cities have that tax.

RoCK,
That might be true of Eddies, but you can't go wrong with Olympia in the Parkville Shopping Center. Yes, they probably use the H&S bread, but they stack on the meat, cheese and fixings and are excellent. Plus, its cheap at like $5-6 for a sub that will stuff you.

After all, if you are ordering a cheesesteak, you probably aren't looking for health food.

Cheers and GO RAVENS!

While it's not a restaurant, Baltimore City desperately needs something like a Pinkberry. All we've got are full-fat ice creams, and while Pitango in Fells is delicious, it's an indulgence...

PCB Rob - You are absolutely right about Olympia! I actually thought about you the other day...I stopped and got a Pitbeef from Charcoal Grill and watched Cash Cab as I was eating it for dinner!

Baltimore needs a Dicks Last Resort. Dicks Last Resort is in Vegas, San Deago, Myrtle Beach, and I think Boston. That place would fit in great in Baltimore.

Thanks Trixie!

I miss Olympia and the Charcoal Grill. They don't have pit beef down here, its all barbeque.

At least I can watch Cash Cab!

PCB Rob - I wonder if any places around here ship their pit beef? Maybe Boog's does, since he is well known. Don't know how well it would do holding up to shipping...

FL Rob - at least you can still get crab meat and Old Bay, hon!

Trixie,
I might do some web searching later on to find out. Perhaps someone does, since you can order meat online from any number of places.

Joyce,
They even sell Old Bay in the stores down here. But not crab meat, and I'm gonna order some soon. Especially soon if the Ravens beat the Steelers and go on to Tampa.

I think crab cakes would be a fine Super Bowl treat.

Alas, I haven't yet found a place that ships pit beef. But I did find an interesting article on Baltimore pit beef on the NY Times site.

Lissa: I don't drink, and I've haven't noticed waitstaff looking at me oddly because I don't. Even when I'm in a bar. Well, not in the past 5-10 years, certainly not since I moved to Baltimore. I just drink tap water most of the time, but, really, what more than water, sodas, juices, coffee and tea could one want?

I dunno, why is there more than one red, white, and rose wine on a wine list?

There are about a million different mixed drinks, every restaurant has at least a few wines, and some dozens, and beer abounds. But you can't even get both diet coke and diet pepsi in the same place.

A nice real lemonade? Good ginger ale or ginger beer? Sasparilla? There are lots of gourmet sodas out there, such as Jones or Vernor's, but none seem to find their way into restaurants, with the exception of the ones where you serve yourself a bottle out of the cooler, like Iggies' pizza.

Fells' Point is known for drunken shenanigans. Thames St. probably isn't the best place to be looking for anything besides skunked beer. I do spend a good bit of time down there, as there is a kayak dock, so I'll duck into places to get a snack after paddling. I just avoid the ones with 15 drink specials on the chalkboard out front.

Yes, I know there's drinking going on in Fells Point. I like to walk to dinner sometimes.

And Thames Street isn't a total wasteland. You might try Meli sometime if you want good food, though it's not cheap. I can't recommend Slainte's gumbo any more since they canned their chef.

JoAnne, just look your server in the eye and tell her what you'd like to drink, i.e.; "Iced tea, please" or "Just ice water"

Golly, I never thought of that. *facepalm*

I truly believe that servers have more to do than care about whether or not anyone drinks alcohol.

As proof, I offer up my dad, who had to give up all alcohol - including his beloved beer - a few years ago, due to some medication or other. He goes into a long, long story with everywaitperson about hos he'd love to have a beer but just can't... until their eyes roll back in their heads. Really. They don't care.

Sorry your dad is a bore about not drinking. But you seem to confuse what he does every time he goes to a restaurant with my one-time rant here.

I don't go on and on about it. My husband and I just react to "here's the wine list" with a smile and "no thanks, we won't be drinking." The reaction isn't always terribly encouraging. Maybe the server is unhappy thinking the bill and therefore the tip will be smaller.

Anyway, I wasn't only talking about the waitstaff. The people who run a nice restaurant seem to put a lot of time and effort into wine pairings. Building up a nice wine cellar. Having or even making their own microbrew. Having drink specials or special drinks. It would be nice if more restaurants put some effort into wooing people who won't be spending money on beer or wine or mixed drinks.

For crying out loud, give us something to spend on and we might spend on it. If our only drink options cost $1.50, you're screwing yourself out of a profit.

Frank Fontaine:
Angry sober people wouldn't be so mad if they had a few drinks.

Glad to see that not drinking is just as popular here as everywhere else. Tell someone you don't drink and some people take it as a personal insult, or a challenge.

Yeah, maybe it was just a joke. Getting this response for real too many times makes it a little less funny to me.

I think you need a drink or something.

What about a Whataburger? I remember the ones in Florida- the concept is closer to a Wendys, in that they make the burger according to your selections, but the difference is the size. They are at least 8" diameter, and with all the usual stuff on them, are a big, yummy meal. I believe it is a Texas based chain, but I've never seen one north of Georgia.

we got a Dicks Last resort and its doing great!

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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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