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August 9, 2009

Cheaper restaurants and Restaurant Week



Last night my husband and I had a glass of sangria at the Tapas Teatro bar, and I got a chance to look at its Restaurant Week menu.

It convinced me that it might make sense to go to a less expensive place and try its prix fixe menu, even if you wouldn't usually pay more than $30 there.

In Tapas Teatro's case, it would be a chance to try a real dinner, where you would usually only get small plates. ...

The choice was of three appetizers, none of which would be overwhelming; steak, rockfish or paella for a main course; and flan or panna cotta for dessert. It sounded good to me.

I'm still hoping people will post mini-reviews of their Restaurant Week experiences here as a guide to others.  Especially if you have a hidden gem to recommend.

(Algerina Perna/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 1:55 PM | | Comments (43)


Did you see a movie at the Charles with Cap'n James and his wife?

Went out both Friday and Saturday night and did not choose the restaurant week menu

Restaurant Week Summer 2009:

Over the past few years my wife and I have taken full advantage of restaurant week to try the many new places in Baltimore. Last night we went to the Don't Know Tavern. Their name really should be "Don't Know When to Quit Tavern." Although they offered quite a bit of food for restaurant week, what they excelled at in quantity they failed in quality.

The good: The blackened scallops.
The fair: The salads and the onion soup.
The bad: Lobster ravioli, tournedos au poivre (undercooked), the rack of lamb (over cooked), the duck duck goose (under cooked), the cocktails (too weak). Even the desserts were disappointing as no one in our party finished theirs.

The chef must have no confidence in his abilities as everything was way over-salted or over-peppered.

One more thing- the service was kinda slow.

With the crowd that frequents the Don't Know Tavern, the owners should stick to wings, burgers, poppers, and sandwiches.

I went to Taverna Corvino last night with some friends for restaurant week. It was excellent. It's slightly different than other restaurant week menus because it is tapas. You get to choose 3 tapas plates from a menu of about 12 items. Then you also had a choice of 2 desserts or a cheese plate. So you really got 4 courses. Although the plates are smaller. I was plenty full at the end of the night though.

I had the caprese salad which was excellent with wonderful buffalo mozzerella and heirloom tomatoes. Jumbo prawns prepared in garlic and lamb chops were my other selections. The lamb was some of the best I have ever had. I chose the tiramisu for dessert. I can never understand why anyone would ever choose cheese over dessert.

The rest of my party was also suitably impressed with their choices. The only dish that did not exceed expecations was the tagliatelli with gorganzola cream sauce. Apparently it did not taste much like gorganzola and was kind of bland.

They also provided us with a $10 gift certificate to use on our next visit prior to Oct. 15, which I think is an excellent idea to get people to come back when it's not restaurant week. I'm definitely looking forward to going back again.

BL, you've already posted the same comment under a different topic. Kindly refrain from making duplicate posts. (You did get a response to your original post from jason z, so that one post ought to be more than enough.)

Dear hmpstd-

Thank you. Is there anything else you'd like me to do?

If you are taking requests, BL, I'll let you know you annoyed me, too, by posting the same thing in multiple threads. Some folks, their first post, I just want to fall all over myself making sure they stay and say things. Other people...I hope they find a blog to their taste. Elsewhere.

Not that it matters. Elizabeth runs the place, it is her you have to worry about annoying, and she doesn't annoy easily.

Mini-Review of B 10 South-

Four of us went Friday night to check out the menu. It was a first time for all of us, so I can't compare to "normal". Drinks at the bar were priced well, and the red Sangria refreshing and not too heavy. However, the bar is missing both Meyer's dark rum and bitters. According to our bartender, that is in keeping with local tastes, but it left DH's Hurricane tasteing strange.

Overall, the decor is significantly more upscale/dance club than the food. I don't have the appropriate vocabulary to descibe the decor; it reminded me of Ixia, only lighter in color and artwork.

All four of us were happy with our meals. The BBQ chicken pizza was the hit of the appitizers, but the Southern spring roll showed a great sense of humor about food. It just needed a bit more of the sauce it came with. A thin (to my eyes, spoiled by Whole Foods as I am) steak was perfectly medium rare, as ordered. Two of us ordered the dry-rub ribs, and I hope to God these are part of the regular menu. Spicing was great, not too salty, and the meat was cooked just long enough to fall nice off the bone while still having its own flavor. The sides- a slightly Asain cole slaw, and corn-on-the-cob were just right, too.

Most of us had the triple chocolate cake for dessert, and it's sort of hard to mess that up. DH's Grand Marnier cheesecake was also good. The alcohol provided a nice lift to the weight of the cheescake.

Give this guy a break! I didn't know there were blog police. Let him speak his mind. Who are you people?

Alice, there is speaking your mind, then there is being repeatedly redundant. That is just piling on to the scrum, twisting a serrated knife inside a body and miscommunicating most eloquently.

Alice, surprisingly, is posting from the same computer as BL. EL

repeatedly redundant


We had a completely different experience than BL at Don't Know on Saturday night.

There were four adults and a baby (yes, we took a baby to dinner).

The good: The tuna appetizer got four thumbs up and the scallop appetizer got three thumbs up (I don't like spicy food). The french onion soup got four thumbs up. The lamb, the filet and the duck, duck, goose were all good - but I don't like lamb or duck or foie gras, so I didn't try those. My dining companions really enjoyed them.

The fair: The salads - I'll agree with BL here. The Southwest ceasar was a wierd take on ceasar salad - but it wasn't bad, just different. The tomatos in the seabass cioppino tasted like they were from a can. The fish itself was excellent though - flavorful and cooked perfectly. The gnocci that came with the filet was a little bit bland - but the plate was still clean at the end of the meal.

The bad: the timing of courses - the first two courses came out right after each other. There was a good 25+ minutes between the departure of the second course plates and the arrival of the entree. Then another 10-15 minutes for the desserts.

We had two orders of chocolate pie and two orders of apple crisp for dessert. The chocolate pie was delicous, but I didn't care for the apple crisp - it had a bit to much of a spice, but I couldn't figure out which one. The presentation was nice though.

The wait staff was excellent and attentive. And there was room in the front of the restaurant for the baby to walk in circles while we waited between courses. We'll be going back.

I'm sure the other dinners who paid to have a babysitter enjoyed your child walking around the front of the restaurant. Get a sitter next time or stay home

Can you clarify a point about Restaurant Week for me (if you even know)?

On the website, the restaurant list has some markings next to each restaurant... one is for lunch, one is for weekend, one is for special event. Some have all three checked, many have just 'weekend' checked.

Does a dot next to weekend mean the deal is only available on the weekend? I hope not. Last year I went to Ruth's Chris on a Wednesday and enjoyed the specials. A bit silly to call it Restaurant Week if half (or more) of participating locations only offer the special on the weekend.

I think it means that all the restaurants listed are doing Restaurant Week for dinner during the week. That's a given. If they are also doing it on the weekends, for lunch, or have special events, they also get a dot. EL

is it just me or has the snark picked up considerably here lately? There are ways to let people know that you disagree with them without acting like an ass yourself. Get a grip here people, we're talking about food not health care.

Yay NEPA! Couldn't have said it better myself.

We've had some new people commenting who, perhaps, should have lurked for a day or two first. Happens every so often. Nothing to worry about. They'll move on or adjust.

I suspect that every popular blog has the same problem. Along with a coterie of people who enjoy each others cyber company, there are occasional visitors who stop by just to carp, crab and grouse (words which qualify this as a food-related posting.)

I agree with NEPA and Dottie

Michael, you're right -- I've been getting a lot of grousing comments lately. Must have something to do with the hot weather.

Lissa seems to have taken it on herself to become the police on this blog. She even tells EL what to do and which posts to remove. If you don't make miss liss happy, then get off the blog.

A friend and I went to Meli Bistro last night. Our original reservation was for 9PM (the earlierst available, other than 6PM). I was pleased that they (OpenTable) were able to change that reservation to 8PM... especially since, by eight, they were out of about half of the available options. As it turned out, this is only a mild complaint (albeit frustrating), because the plates we were able to order were quite satisfactory. My "shrimp-and-grits BLT" starter was particularly good (although the "grits" seemed more like polenta....). My friend's veal-cheek entree was also very good. Service was cheerful and attentive. We ate downstairs in the "lounge." The low table was a little weird, but the banquette in the quiet corner was quite cozy. One reason I had decided to go to Meli was that their RW menu was so extensive; some of that appeal was muted by their failure to plan how to sustain those options even into early evening, but, all in all, a good time was had by all.

Hey, LMA, who are you?? Lissa is a regular and has a total right to speak her mind without someone hiding under a snarky fake name giving her snarky hell.

It's as if some of you people have never used the internet before -- it's not going to be nice all the time. If one does something dumb, generally you will get called on it. Just move on.

I had a nice lunch at City Cafe last week. Watermelon and goat cheese bruschetta for a first course, steak frites and, my favorite part... the third course was your choice of either a frozen cappuccino or root beer float that you could get "to go."

I thought the take away desert was a nice touch for anyone rushed to get back to the office.

Hadn't been there in a while and the interior has been totally redone, as has the menu. It seems to be moving beyond its coffee house roots to become more of a serious food destination.

Apologies for the multiple copies of the same post. No idea how that happened. At least BL had the decency to make multiple copies of the same post on different blogs.

charmcity, the blog ware just seems to duplicate posts sometimes. It used to be you had to click multiple times to do that, but now you don't.

My party and I went to Tabrizi's near Key Highway for restaurant week this past Saturday. The only thing worse than bad service is disgustting food. This place had both. The fried sardine appetizer tasted like they pulled it from the harbor two weeks ago and over-cooked it to try and mask the flavor. The lamb kebabs were over-cooked, bland and tasted of charcoal you get on the grill when you overcook something (suprise). None of the meats came out at the right temperature. A medium-well steak cam out practically raw. We did not get a bread basket until we finished dessert. The incompetent waiter did not bring out cream and sugar with the coffee. It was an all around DISASTER. I almost walked out without paying, but did not feel like dealing with cops that night. Tabrizi's is an abomination of a restaurant. The staff should be ashamed of themselves for the wreck they have created. I am not joking here folks...I never rip a restaurant like this. But I could not in good conscience let anyone else choke down this detestable food (if you can call it that).

charmcity, no need to apologize -- you probably didn't intend to make the same post several times in quick succession. (BL, in contrast, deliberately re-posted the same stuff on a different topic nearly four hours later.)

A friend and I visited the Lebanese Taverna for the first time on Sat. for lunch. I had the hommos for an appetizer and she had the grape leaves, for and entree she had the lamb/beef swarma and I had the salmon. Her dessert was the baklava and I had the ice cream trio. Everything was wonderful, my generous piece of salmon was excellent, it came with a side of tomato bulger and roasted veggies. I have to admit the taste of savory ice cream was unique but I would recommend the Taverna highly for restaurant week. They gave us a coupon for 10 bucks off a return visit and I hope to go again soon.

Went to Yellow Dog in Canton Friday and was surprised that the restaruant week menu was available. All four of us were happy - the ceviche was excellent, so was the salmon. several raves about the mac & cheese (no chocolate but a hint of something spicy). I'm looking forward to Meli tonight

Amy, what was the savory ice cream flavor?

Six of us went to B10 on Saturday night, and had a (mostly) fantastic meal. ORRichard's recent review and Frequent Little Italy's above comment are pretty much exactly the same as our experience.

The decor is nice, but we all thought they need to separate themselves from the club upstairs in a better way, as we were still there at 9 p.m., and the music from upstairs was just thumping in our heads. Also, though I liked the sofa/coffee table vibe in the B10 bar area, it seems like they would be better served to make that more dining space in some way. Yes, people can sit at the couches and eat, but after my Red Maple experience last year, it is just not comfortable for me.

We had a 7:30 p.m. reservation that they were not able to accomodate right away, so we went to the bar for a drink. However, they did remedy the reso situation very quickly, and had turned a banquette around to accomodate our party, so they were ready for us by the time our drinks were even made. The drinks were all fine, including an apologetic and accomodating bartender who offered to sweeten up our mojitos if they weren't satisfactory.

Onto the food....for appetizers, the table was evenly split between the smoked shrimp eggrolls and the strawberry salad. Both were excellent and a great start. For the entree, I think our table ordered just about everything off the RW menu except the pork chop. I won the menu lottery with the delicious dry rub ribs, and had the rest of our table begging for another bite of my dish. They were perfectly spiced and fell away from the bone easily. The ribeye was definitely a bit thin, but no matter, as it had an excellent spice and was served with rum glazed carrots that had my friend in sheer awe. He generally doesn't like cooked carrots (either do I), but these were just unbelievably delicious. They melted in your mouth and he couldn't get enough of them. The other entrees of Seafood over Grits and the Andouille Cornbread Stuffed Chicken were certainly good, but not the winners of the night. For dessert, we tried them all, and the clear favorite was the Grand Marnier cheesecake. I had the chocolate cake, which was good but quite dry.

Chef Michelle came out to greet our table, and was very welcoming and sweet. She told us that she used to be a pastry chef too, so she currently makes all the desserts too. Additionally, they are starting brunch in a couple of weeks, and she gave us a sneak peek at the menu. Needless to say with a brunch menu with dishes like Bananas Foster French Toast, Fried Chicken and Waffles (Sweet Potato Waffles nonetheless), and Fried Shrimp Eggs Benedict with a Creole Hollaindaise, we will be back...and soon.

ps-I swear, one of these days I am going to win the longest post prize. This place always makes me so long winded!

She does pastries and the other food, too? That is a rare chef, who has the talent and temperament for both of those.

Lissa, that was exactly what I said to the rest of the people at my table. Part of the brunch they are getting ready to start includes her homemade scones.

Dawn, I'm probably going to be wordier than you right now .

Just got back from a RW dinner at Oceanaire. Enjoyed it quite a bit, and compared to the regular menu, it was very much a bargain.

It reminds me of a steak house, except for fish. Sides are a la carte. Lots of dark wood and leather. White coated wait staff. A very high ratio of wait staff to customer. And futzy, old fashioned, adorable touches like a relish tray, which included a very tasty dollop of pickled herrings.

I haven't had a relish tray on any table I've been sitting at since my grandmother passed. I love relish trays. I need to start making one up at home occasionally. I'd forgotten...

My friend and I were seated in a huge booth. Considering we were there just before dinner rush, even with reservations, we were pleasantly surprised to get a solid, semi-private booth.

The menu had the RW week selections in a box in the centre of the regular menu. The top of the menu said where the various fishes were from, and if they were sustainably harvested (yes, the Chilean sea bass was MSC certified). There were 4 appetizers, 6 entrees (4 fish, 2 meat) and 3 desserts to choose from.

My friend found her Maryland crab soup to be a bit spicy. I found the chili sauce on my fried calamari too sweet, but the calamari itself was dreamy. Light crunchy coating, soft, melting squid. I'm not sure I've ever before had a plate of calamari where every piece was cooked perfectly. Not a hint of rubber in a single piece.

My friend liked her crab cakes, which had a mildly horseradish sauce on the side. Subtle, but the crab really came through. I'm not sure, Hal, but I suspect it really is blue crab.

My rockfish was very tasty. It was a wedge shaped piece, which is why it was a little underdone in the centre, but I'd rather that than a dry end. Not a bone in it. It had a mild guacamole and some pico de gallo.

We got an order of creamed corn, because we both like it and haven't had it for years. It was real, not canned. I would have prefered a tad less sugar and a lot more black pepper (and, in the only bad detail in the place, there was ground pepper in a shaker on the table), but it was real and very good.

My tangerine sorbet was ok. Desserts were the weakest part of the menu.

Service was pleasant, fast and courteous without being overly formal. While it was a bit of an intimidating room to walk in to, our waiter put me at east quickly.

I didn't expect to enjoy the meal nearly as much as I did. I'd cheerfully go back, either for RW or if someone else were paying the bill .

I'm not sure, Hal, but I suspect it really is blue crab.

At Oceannaire prices, they certainly ought to be using the good crab meat.

At Oceannaire prices, they certainly ought to be using the good crab meat.

Agreed. Still, at RW prices, it wasn't bad at all.

I've only had Faidley's crab cakes besides my bite of this one. The Oceannaire was...crabbier. Maybe a bit more filler, but tasted more like crab, if that makes sense.

Our peerless leader's recent review of the Prime Rib reminded my wife that it was among the better known Baltimore restaurants we hadn't sampled since moving here. Restaurant Week was the obvious opportunity. And EL's review was on the money. The service was smoothly professional, the signature prime rib succulent, the sides (creamed spinach and mashed potatoes) superb and the atmosphere, underscored by a tinkling piano, convivial. (He even played "As Times Goes By.") There were a few deviations from the Restaurasnt Week menu, published on the web, such as an additional salad option (a flavorful Caesar) and a $4 surcharge for the prime rib. That was surprising. But it was a relatively minor sum and balanced, at least for me, by a first-rate Cabernet Sauvignon at nearly half the price (by the glass) of even the least expensive reds on the restaurant's year-round wine list. As the restaurant filled, it was obvious that newcomers and regulars were receiving the same gracious welcome. Which could be among the reasons that the Prime Rib remains so successful while other classic restaurants are candidates for reinvention.

It seems there are two predominating strategies for Restaurant Week:

1) An excuse to try a place I wouldn't have considered previously.

2) A chance to finally try a place I wouldn't be able to reasonably afford otherwise.

I use both of those, EG. I also use it as an excuse to IM a friend or two, and say something like, "Hey, RW is coming up! Wanna go somewhere?"

I like excuses to spend time with friends.

The Prime Rib is continuing its restaurant week special "through the fall." I agree with most of the comments made about the restaurant. However, the service the night we went was spotty; long wait to order and between courses. But the waiter did bring me sorbet instead of the listed desserts. The key lime pie is, I think, impossibly sweet. My husband liked the chocolate mousse pie. The real disappointment was the caesar salad. Too much vinegar, no green romaine leaves, and not enough anchovy.

There's been a surcharge for the prime rib for at least a couple of years. It's only $4.

Thanks for the good news, Del. I'm really hoping get there druing the special.

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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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