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November 14, 2010

Your weekend dining

stickyOn Friday, as we do every week on Dining@Large, folks posted about their weekend dining plans. I always like to hear how things turned out. 

My restaurant dining was limited to a few bites at Tapas Teatro, which I posted about yesterday and a few more bites Saturday night at the upstairs bar at Bluegrass Tavern -- a bowl of white yam soup with nutmeg streusel bacon vinaigrette and grilled oysters with maitake mushroom butter. As you know, I like it at Bluegrass. I like how under control everything is. There was a promotional dispenser of Wild Turkey American Honey liqueur at my elbow. I couldn't take my eyes off of it. When I left Bluegrass, I somehow walked the wrong way on Hanover Street, headed toward where I can't tell you. I must have had some of that stuff.  

Here's what you all said you were planning. Even if you didn't post on Friday, tell us now about your weekend dining adventures.

Ted Lingelbach was promising a trip to Red Brick Station at the Avenue at White March. I'd like to hear more about Chuck the Bartender.

Hal Laurent was having a birthday dinner at Charleston; pigtown*design was going to Woodberry Kitchen.

Meerkat was keen on tasting the gluten-free crust at Brick Oven Pizza, and Zevonista (whom I still owe a contest prize to) was planning a visit to Victoria Gastropub.

Lisah was taking a vegetarian friend out to The Dogwood for dinner.

Theminx was headed to Thai Luang in Herndon for that duck her family loves so much.

Robert of Cross Keys was headed to Chinatown before the Kris Kristofferson concert at the Strathmore and Hank Dietle's Tavern after. We heard about some other dining choices nearby the Bethesda concert venue.

Summer was first headed to Sticky Rice Baltimore with a Living Social voucher, then was planning meals at Mi Viejo Pueblito in Brewers Hill and at Bastille in Alexandria. 

My friend Nicole had a noodle date with her daughter at Pho dhe Thanh in Towson (but by doing so missed out on some amazing apple strudel from Bonjour bakery)

Michael Gray was headed for the Epic Buffet (that's it's real name) at the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races (that's it's real name).

Baltimore Sun photo of Baltimore Sticky Rice/Kenneth K. Lam

Posted by Richard Gorelick at 7:48 PM | | Comments (19)


The slots-subsidized Sunday buffet at the Charles Town races is well worth the occasional pilgrimage. Especially if you're a horse player, fast for a few days beforehand and can resist the siren song of miles of whirring, clanging, chirping, buzzing slots you pass en route to the trackside dining room. Yesterday's menu included prime rib and ham (carved to order,) pot roast, baked flounder, fried chicken, oysters on the half shell, shrimp, crab salad, a half-dozen different pasta salads, an omelet station, a waffle station, sausage, eggs benedict, a cheese board, cherry, blueberry and pumpkin pies, chocolate mousse, death-by-chocolate cake, cheesecake, peach crumble and maybe 50 or 60 other all-you-can-eat alternatives -- all for $18.95 per person. Most of the food (at least what I sampled) was fresh, tasty, well-prepared and well-presented.

Had the "Clams Casino" flatbread at VGP; wife had the burger. Good pub grub, as usual, but they merely served as a base for the wonderful brews. I had the Stone Cali-belgique, an IPA made with Belgian yeast. I didn't like it as much as their Arrogant Bastard, but it still hit the spot.

Tried the flagship Lemongrass location in Annapolis. We had a party of six, and even though we made reservations, the restaurant's policy is to only bump you to the top of the wait list. We waited for an hour next door in the Mexican restaurant. When we were finally seated, dinner was awesome, form the food to the service. Still, I wished the manager would have done something to make up for the long wait.

On a side note, captcha seems to have lost its mind. I can't even read some of these words, let alone spell them.

My weekend dining experience was disappointing on a number of levels. We went to an ethnic restaurant featuring a cuisine in which we're well-versed and often cook at home. Upon being seated at a table with a deader-than-dead crumbling single flower in a vase, the hostess handed us menus and also wanted to give us the wine list, but we told her we did not need it. She shot us that same look of semi-disgust with which other non-drinkers are no doubt acquainted. She then picked up our water glasses by the rim and filled them. Gross. I would have ordered my favourite beverage, but the menu singled out this particular one for one refill only. Considering a glassful costs maybe a few pennies, and finding this menu proclamation unfriendly and off-putting, I declined on principle. The disinterested waiter, seemingly apprised that alcohol would not be boosting his tip, arrived and took our orders, then returned and wordlessly, but with exaggerated gesture, whisked the wine glasses off the table. That table, by the way, was bare and offered no clean place for the silverware if I wanted to place my napkin on my lap. The appetizer arrived, but when we finished, only our plates were collected, and not the silverware, which I then held in my hand until dinner arrived. Some of the food was just OK (my homemade versions are better), some of it was awful - either over-peppered, jarringly wrongly paired, or devoid of much taste at all. Leaving the close to 20% tip was preferable to having to wait for change.

It's a shame one visit to this restaurant was way more than enough, as this place has some sophistication and pays attention to presenting its food artfully. But giving attitude to non-drinkers is a no-no and never happens at the places we love (The Prime Rib, Sab's, etc.), but unfortunately happens at lots of places to which we'll not return. We also won't go back to places unversed in basic sanitation practices or places that fancy themselves sophisticated, but don't provide clean silverware for each course and leave days-old dead flowers on the table.

Didn't make it to Sticky Rice on Friday, but very much enjoyed the rest of our weekend's dining.

Mi Viejo Pueblito did not disappoint me, but some of my fellow diners were dismayed that the food they ordered was not spicy enough for them. I noted that they ordered from the Tex-Mex portion of the menu, which I don't suggest. This is a Mexican restaurant, order the Mexican food, i.e. not the chimichanga. My sopes were wonderful!

We slipped in brunch at Bistro RX on Sunday. Great food, but the portions are just a bit too big for me for breakfast, so I split up my steak and eggs, and the chef packed my steak to go. It's in my lunchbag for today.

Bastille was a real treat. I had the most excellent gnocchi with mushroom ragout and a truffle "emulsion", which tasted good, but looked like bubbles... I wish it didn't look like that. For dessert I had an awesome poached pear with raspberry sauce, and of course, a spoonful of my husband's Valhrona Pot de Creme.

My husband and I went to Harbor East for a rare date night. We went to Oceanaire, for research purposes, because I am trying to visit all four restaurants that serve the farm-raised oysters I am writing about.

We ordered a sampler of Rappahannocks and Choptank Sweets. My husband made a meal out of three appetizers - a cup of chowder, a shrimp and grits and a tuna tartare. He liked the chowder, but none of them blew him away and I have had better tartare - though after reading the excellent Four Fish I don't think I'll be eating much tuna anymore. I had halibut in a polenta and pancetta sauce. The polenta/pancetta was a diet-busting success - creamy and delicious. But the halibut was salty. The waitress told me it was a bit salty, but said she would ask the chef to tone it down. i didn't have a drink - again, research! needed brain to be in working order. But husband had a $10 bloody mary and he liked it.

I'm glad I can expense part of this, because our bill came to $112, without tip. Now, maybe we ordered a little too much, but with no dessert and only one drink, it seemed expensive. I think when we went to Woodberry for my birthday and ordered similarly, with dessert and coffee, it was $90 - and really, really worth it.

I couldn't help but wonder, who are all these beautiful people in Harbor East, spending $400 on a Kate Spade dress and untold thousands on Arhous furniture? It was a baltimore I did not recognize - probably because the last time I was there, it was basically Charleston, Whole Foods and a large hole.

Friday night's dinner was much more of a slam dunk - Havana Roads cafe. Five dollar chili. Bite of husband's pork sandwich. Pretty close to food heaven.

We went to Sticky Rice for dinner and found it kind of disappointing. The sweet potato sushi we had as an appetizer was tasty, but we're used to low sodium soy sauce. The real thing was a salty surprise!

We were in the mood for noodles and hoped Sticky Rice would be more like Hai Ricky!, which was a great small chain restaurant in the Chicago area that served an amazing selection of noodle dishes wok fried in an open kitchen.

Clint ordered the tofu & vegetables with udon noodles and I had the coconut shrimp & vegetables with rice noodles. Both were bland and actually not very hot (thermally). It would be great if there were more choices in noodles to go with the various combinations--there are no flat rice noodles on the menu . Pad Thai or drunken noodles would be nice additions.

We had decent service from a nice waitress. The sushi menu looked intriguing and we will probably go back for that. But, they need to take it up a notch on the noodles.

Made it out to Salt just ahead of the weekend. Tried the Plum Glazed Quail with foie gras and spiced pecan brussel sprouts, truffeld pomme puree. Was my first time trying quail, and that would be the way to do it if you'd like me to eat it again. Exquisitive Food for a fall evening - hightly recommend you try it.

Was at the Cylburn Soup n Walk again this past Sunday (they'll offer four more in the spring). Atwaters provided a mixed greens salad with brussel sprouts and a Lentil and Barley Soup with Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower and a nice hunk of fresh baked bread. Delightfully earthy and a wonderful complement to the fun tour featuring Barks, Berries, and Buds.

this past weekend we went for a 4 day trek down to savannah georgia. not sure if people are interested in this on this blog, but thought i would write up our experiences in case anyone here ever wanted to take a trip down there (highly recommended).

Thursday - flew in and headed to 700 drayton for lunch, which is an old mansion right on the corner of a large park. the mansion is old and they mixed in some great contemporary pieces to create a great look for the place.

I had the shrimp and grits which featured tasso ham (drool) as well as mushrooms and asparagus. rich indeed but really good. my GF had the bbq pulled pork sandwich which was good (but not as good as the shrimp/grits imo)

prior to dinner we stopped by the rooftop bar of the new bohemian hotel The Rocks which is right on the river, had outdoor seating along with an outdoor fire and some really cool oyster shell chandeliers. really great place for a drink and to take in the river

for dinner we stopped into Vic's, which is right on the savannah river in a redone cotton warehouse. we started with crawfish beignets with a sweet tabasco syrup (as good as it sounds). i had the grouper with brussel sprouts while my GF had the tuna. both were really good. (did i mention the warm biscuits that came with dinner? )

Friday - We'd heard that we must check out mrs. wilkes for lunch (only open 11-2pm mon-fri) since it's been a savannah institution since the 40's so headed over to the nondescript location around 11:15 only to find the line out the door and around the block.

an hour and a half of waiting later we were finally let into what looks like your grandmas living room, filled with 8 seat tables shared among everyone. as soon as you sit down there are 22 various bowls of items ready to be passed and shared (all homemade): fried chicken, mac n cheese, mashed potatoes, black eyed peas, green beans, baked beans, stewed okra, cabbage, cream of corn, sausages, bbq'd pork, mashed sweet potatoes, biscuits (which were basically lard bombs of awesomeness), etc. Not to mention sweet tea. To say it was worth the wait would be an understatement.

I can see why this isn't just a place tourists go to. the opposite of "fancy food", but the same result (if not better).

for dinner we hit up Alligator Soul and am glad we did. we arrived to our table only to find a small box of 2 pecan desserts thanking us for picking them on our special trip. for dinner i had an amazingly fall off the bone lamb shank which was accompanied with roasted pistachios, dates, orzo pasta, and finished with a tomoto/pepper sauce. my GF tried the fresh catch of the day: gumbo i think, although details are hazy as i was totally swimming in lamb-shank bliss.

of note was the "special treatment" we got from the place. our server jamie was extremely attentive and even offered us a couple glasses of their new mulled spiced cider wine since we were too full for dessert (they were even nice enough to give us the recipe which we will certainly be trying...stay tuned), and capped the night by giving us a couple liquor infused maraschino cherries.

Saturday - for lunch we hit the french carry out place Papillote, where i got the duck confit in crispy wraps (kind of like a crispy crepe) and my GF got the shrimp and prosciutto salad. we also started the picnic with a cheese plate that had 4 different kinds of cheeses, grapes, dried plums, walnuts, and was served with a couple slices of their amazing homemade buttery brioche. we capped off the lunch with some of their amazing chocolate mousse.

saturday for dinner we went to check out Belfords in the city market. we were highly anticipating this meal and were pretty disappointed in it. while the service was good, and the food wasn't exactly horrible, we felt compared to the previous places it wasn't nearly as good (and for the same prices).

For appetizer we tried the crab cake, which was good but nothing any better than i've had in baltimore (should have known better than to order a crab cake, i know). for entrees i had the cajun lobster ravioli which was heavy on the cream sauce and light on the shrimp/scallops/lobster. I am always underwhelmed by lobster ravioli's but since this had allegedly won awards i decided to try it anyways only to confirm my suspicions.

my GF had the blackened salmon and shrimp, which was more successful than my choice, but i found it a bit concerning that the "chefs potatoes" looked to have been scooped out with an ice cream scoop ala middle school cafeteria style.

we decided to get our tab and head to The Olde Pink Houses awesome basement tavern for their Praline Basket dessert. basically pralines are melted and curved to make a sugary "basket" and it's filled with fresh fruit/berries and a scoop of ice cream. a great way to finish the weekend in savannah.

after all those big meals we made sure to walk everywhere, but i am seriously gonna have to go on a vegetable only diet for the coming weeks to offset those great culinary 4 days.

hope that helps someone on a future visit, i can't recommend it enough. gorgeous city.

The birthday dinner at Charleston was excellent. A full report would probably be a bit much here, but highlights included a Stilton flan with local frilly red mustard greens and lardons, Taylor Bay scallops with English peas and porcini mushroom sauce, and the pan-roasted squab with cornbread and tasso stuffing and whisky reduction.

Thanks for that Ryan! We'll be in Savannah next week and I was JUST trying to pick out restaurants! perfect timing! I was unsure about Mrs. Wilkes' because I'm not a fan of lines or community tables, but it sounds like I may have to get over that...

We took advantage of the $5 tickets to the Baltimore Aquarium on Friday night. Then headed to Pazo for a late dinner. Food was great but the noise level was beyond any decent conversation. I second Rona on the glamorous women in Baltimore. I felt like the country bumpkin from Howard County. :-)

summer -

glad i could help out. good timing.

mrs. wilkes is definitely a must, the wait is longer if you don't get there for the first sitting, so maybe if you get there around 10:30 you wouldn't have to wait as long.

Also some places worth trying: got a personal guided tour from savannah dan that was really really good (much better than the trolley tour we previously got), gryphon tea room, circa 1875 for drinks or dinner, scad store, casimir's lounge for a drink

also some places we didn't get to try but heard great things about: vinny a go-go's for pizza, crystal beer parlor, olde pink house for dinner, local 11 ten, cha bella

make sure to walk around and check out all the squares. really pretty and very walkable, especially after all that good food.

ryan97ou--either you took very good notes or you have an incredible memory! Thanks for your posts.

thanks dahlink, it's all from memory, although my girlfriend just reminded me that her dinner at alligator soul was swordfish and not gumbo.

doh. i blame the mint julips.

I missed strudel!! Drats!

The noodles were yummy as usual. Hubby ended up going as well and it ended up feeling like that episode of Seinfeld with the soup nazi when he started asking the proprietor questions about the menu. LOL! I had to tell him to just pick a number, darn it, before none of us will be able to get any pho!

Went to the Chinatown Express, where I had the seafood noodles, pork/leek dumplings and house fried chicken for lunch. The

I then went to the Dean and Deluca in Georgetown, which reminded me of how much I love Dean and Deluca and how much I hate Georgetown. Anyway, I had a wonderful truffle oil chocolate there.

I then made it back to the Strathmore, where I had a tasty Moroccan dish of beef and lamb with olives and raisins at their cafe.

As for Kristofferson, what can you say about the guy. He's a poet, he's a picker
He's a prophet, he's a pusher
He's a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he's stoned
He's a walkin' contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction.

Finally, the evening concluded at Hank Dietel's with cheap beers. There's no food or liquor at Hank's. The menu is made up of three things: bottled domestics, draft domestics and potato chips. Do you really need anything else?

Thanks again Ryan! :-)

Sorry for the late post. The beef at Red Brick as usual is great. As for Chuck the Bartender, he is one of those bartenders who is able to work a large bar - filled at Happy Hour - without breaking a sweat. Chuck automatically remembers my lady friend gets a Cosmopolitan without a reminder. Since I switch brews, he has to ask about my choice. When Chuck is on duty, you never have to wait for a drink

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About this blog

You are reading the archives. For updated blog posts about the Maryland food scene, see Richard Gorelick's new Baltimore Diner 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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