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August 2, 2009

Aging restaurants



Last week my neighbor and haircutter extraordinaire Tom M. were talking about restaurants. I always like hearing what he has to say because he owned a Fells Point bar in the '70s before he became Baltimore's best colorist. (Yes, of course this is my natural color.)

He still has lots of friends in the restaurant business so he knows stuff, like the fact that the owner of Zorba's in Greektown goes to New York on Thursday to get fresh fish.

Anyway, we ended up discussing how some of the area's best-known restaurants, which have excellent food, are no longer attracting younger people, even ones who have money. ...

They may go with their parents and enjoy their meal because the food is very good; but when they are on their own, they don't want to eat where their parents do.

This is a relatively new phenomenon, isn't it? It must be or restaurants wouldn't have survived as long as they have. The way things are going now, some restaurants will be dying out when their current generation of customers does.

But how does a restaurant make itself appealing to a younger crowd without changing the very things that have made it so popular in the past -- and without alienating its current customers? If I knew that, I could make a fortune as a restaurant consultant.

(Jed Kirschbaum/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 6:55 AM | | Comments (26)


Um, can't help much with this one, as I grew up across the country. While my parents did take us to fine restaurants, my father's very favorite place to eat was Denny's. Needless to say, I have not set foot in one since leaving home.

On the other hand, I have have two grown sons, and we enjoy eating in the restaurants they have taken us to, when we go to visit them. Maybe it's because we are on their turf when we visit.

I suspect the food itself would need to be updated every so often to reflect current trends such as tapas, lighter fare, calorie counting, etc....

(Yes, of course this is my natural color.)

Black on white is your natural colour?

I'm not local, but my mother's idea of a good restaurant was Sambo's. My father, on the other hand, liked to hit really good places a couple times a year while we were on vacation, but we ate at home the rest of the time.

However, I'm probably not typical in my dining habits, anyway. I eat mostly cooked from scratch food at home, with the occasional splurge at a good place every month or two with friends, and cheap ethnic food every week or two, often on my own. None of this is how my parents ate.

the owner of Zorba's in Greektown goes to New York on Thursday to get fresh fish.

Mental note: don't get the fish at Zorba's on Wednesday.

Side note: a huge hug for NotableM who sent me photos of Haussner's menu from 1997. Mucho thanks.

La la la, look at me, I'm Lissa, I have a canoe.

Canoe envy?

No, necktie envy.

You can have all the canoes you want, Owlie. Just don't walk over to Harbor Worst, and point at my kayak and scream, "What an *adorable* canoe!"

Besides, my kayak is longer than canoes. Pbbtt.

I think there's some truth to this. I think society has gotten more casual, so as much as I'd like to go to the Prime Rib just to try it, I wouldn't want to go somewhere that required my husband to wear a jacket because he doesn't even have to wear one to his office.

My parents took me to lots of great restaurants as a kid, but the things we ordered then... fried shrimp, fish with heavy sauces, big steaks, etc... aren't something I would order now. The problem may be that the tables are turning.... now I get to pick the restaurants, and my parents like where I take them.

I received an e-mail from The Prime Rib rescinding the jacket policy for the summer. I realize I may be in the minority, but I think this is just plain wrong. Part of the pleasure of a special occasion restaurant is seeing diners dressed appropriately, and for me, that means gentlemen in jackets.

sometimes a canoe is just a canoe

I don't know why wearing a jacket is so difficult for some men. I'm quite comfortable in a jacket. It's the pants that I would love to jettison.

Do gentlemen still need to wear a necktie at The Prime Rib?

Yeah, I saw the change in dress code for the Prime Rib, and I don't like it, either. There needs to be formality in some places. I wouldn't wear jeans to a funeral, I don't wear them to a nice restaurant, either.

(And, I'm someone who notoriously dresses down most of the time.)

I saw the Prime Rib's change of dress code on its website, although its dress code page doesn't indicate that the no-jacket policy is only for the summer. That page also advises that ties are no longer required for the DC location, although the DC FAQ page still states that ties are required. (The Philly location was, and remains, business casual.)

My Grandfather & Father had a restuarant in downtown Baltimore for almost 40 years. However they closed up when Balto. started to rebuild in the '60's & I was too young to get involved. But, I have always cooked, had a small catering service - food and recipes are a hobby - and I remember going to all the Old Great restaurants in Baltimore.
Does anyone know how I can get recipes, or menus from places like - Miller Bros., Oyster Bay, Marty's on Fayette St., Martick's, Baum's, Savioa, Shellhause's. I would Love to get some menus or recipes from the old restaurants. Help. Thanks

Robert of Cross Keys wrote: I'm quite comfortable in a jacket. It's the pants that I would love to jettison. Oh my, the mental pictures I'm having..............

Jettisoning the pants are fine if 1) one is Scottish and 2) one wears a kilt.

See Sean Connery for how to do this right. My mother swooned every time she saw him dressed up. She claims there is nothing sexier than a man in a kilt.

Interesting, as DH and I finally had dinner at Tio Pepe on Friday. We felt very much as if we were stepping back in time. I'm glad we got to experience it, and I can very much recommend: the red sangria; the seafood and fruit appitizer; and the roast duck.

But I guess my 2 cents, in this case, would be "go back to Spain and see what is popular now." It's great to have an authentic Spanish place in town. But I'm curious to see what an updated authentic Spanish place would be like.

As it is, for that kind of money, I'd prefer the Prime Rib, Da Mimmo, McCormick and Schmick, or Charleston's Prix Fix.

Lissa- your mother has excellent taste in men. Sean Connery is amazing, and he carries off a kilt like nobody's business.

Liam Neeson can carry off the kilt as well.

My dining habits reflect what Lissa said, for the most part -- though Harford County offers a decidedly limited selection of good authentic ethnic restaurants. A month into my new job, time will tell what adjustments get made to my dining out habits. For the time being I'm eating lunch once or twice a week at all of the locally owned eateries on Main Street to introduce myself.

Unlike Lissa, I do occasionally wear jeans to funerals. No one objects, mostly because no one has ever tried to sneak a peak under my cassock! Stories about what clergy do or don't wear under their robes are legion. And after 28 years in the same diocese, I'd better not give an example!

I think there is some truth in this. Chiapparelli's is basically the only restaurant I take friends to that in turn I dine at with my parents. My parents' selection of restaurants is a much shorter list than what my friends would be interested in.

Additionally if I go back to when I was younger, so many of the restaurants have either shut or changed dramatically.

We went to the Prime Rib a couple of weeks ago, and I was surprised to see three or four men in polo I know why.

Lissa, your mom is SO right! Many years ago I took a cruise, and one of the entertainers was a Scot who wore a kilt. We had a couple of dates, and eventually, I found out what Scots wear under their kilts...giggle. On another cruise -- all well-known jazz artists -- one day Dizzy Gillespie decided we should have a date that evening. What a BLAST! Oh, the good ol' days.

Went to the Valley View Inn off of Old Harford Road yesterday. I was the only one in there under 60. The fried chicken was really good, juicy and cripsy. My wife's porterhouse was cooked to order and didn't have a livery taste I sometimes find in steaks I order outside of expensive restaurants.

RoCK - In my experience, the food at V V Inn has always been satisfying. The menu is full of good old comfort foods. Their hot turkey platter is great, real carved turkey, homemade gravy, excellent fries (no gravy on the fries though, I like them crisp).

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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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