Our twelve favorites
Happy days are here again.
Economy be damned. This past year, Baltimore became a haven for new restaurants, many with impressive chefs in the kitchens. We expect these upstarts to have a big impact on next year’s “Best Restaurants” list. Old-timers would do well not to rest on their laurels. Here are the 10 new kids to watch.
Bond Street Social 901 S. Bond St., 443-449-6234. What we like: This contemporary, wood-encased, fireplace-loaded space encourages sharing with its “social” drinks and small plates, convivial staff, and friendly bars.
Chazz: A Bronx Original 1415 Aliceanna St., 410-522-5511. What we like: Actor Chazz Palminteri and chef Sergio Vitale formed an awesome partnership to present Italian-American cuisine, featuring coal-fired-oven pizza, complemented by a chic décor that reflects New York locales.
The old-school cocktail is making a comeback.
On a chilly January night, the line at Maisy’s in Mt. Vernon was out the door. No, it wasn’t a hot new DJ or big-ticket fundraiser. It was an event for the Forgotten Cocktail Club, a group dedicated to old-school drinks that was started by B&O American Brasserie bar manager Brendan Dorr and Blackwater Distilling production manager Jon Blair. “Everyone wants their food to be local and organic, and that has trickled down to cocktails,” Dorr says.
It’s become fashionable to shorten the lengthy names of some grape varieties for the sake of brevity. Many folks now refer to Cabernet Sauvignon as “Cab” and Sauvignon Blanc as “Sauv Blanc.” I don’t like it, but I can live with it.
There is a problem, though, with asking your friendly neighborhood wine shop for a good Pinot. There are different kinds: Blanc, Gris, and Noir. Save everyone the awkwardness and say the whole thing.
Not sure which one you want? Here’s what you need to know, using three wines as examples.
Sometimes, a sad event leads to a happy new beginning. That was the case for chef Luca Pesci, who lost his job after the death of his boss and the closure of the restaurant Boccaccio. He eventually landed at Vito’s Cafe in Cockeysville—a move that has benefited not only the former chef but the restaurant, too. Pesci gained needed employment, and Vito’s has now become a go-to place in suburbia.
This crab patty makes Baltimore proud
The search for a great crab cake never ends in Baltimore. When we heard that John Steven Ltd. (1800 Thames St., 410-327-5561) was boasting about the merits of its patty, we had to check it out. Indeed, the longtime Fells Point restaurant deserves its bragging rights. The crab-cake sandwich on a soft potato roll (market price; $15 for lunch on this visit) is a moist mound of broiled lump with little filler. It’s stacked with lettuce and tomato, and served open-face with a tiny container of Dijon and hand-cut fries (or kettle chips if you’d rather).
Towson dining goes upscale
Towson’s dining scene is what you’d expect in a college town—lots of burger, pizza, and sushi joints. But Brian Recher, owner of the Recher Theatre and the Rec Room and Patio with his brother, Scott, saw a need for fine dining. Enter Towson Tavern (516 York Rd., 410-337-7210), the brothers’ newest venue.
Taharka Brothers sets its sights on restaurants
Baby, it’s cold outside—and inside, too, at the Taharka Brothers factory in Hampden. The guys (Sean Smeeton, Felton Barney, Darius Wilmore, and several young adults they are mentoring to become co-owners) are churning out gallons of ice cream for distribution at area restaurants, including Phillips Seafood, The Dogwood, and Alonso’s. Their product is still sold seasonally at a Mt. Washington retail shop, now run by Uncle Wiggly’s, but the focus has shifted to wholesale.
We pick our very favorite 45 places—and rank our top 10
Decisions, decisions! That’s the challenge we face each year as we reflect on which restaurants should be included in our annual “Best Restaurants” list. There are so many choices in a town that’s finally getting national recognition for its food scene. We debated our findings and came up with 45 Baltimore-area restaurants that we think are the crème de la crème. But 10 of those rose a bit above the rest, and we couldn’t resist ranking them.
Channel your inner Giada or Emeril at these area cooking programs
What’s cooking in Baltimore? From sushi to Thai food to homemade pasta, pretty much every cuisine under the sun. Lucky for us, Charm City is blessed with an array of classes for fledgling cooks and experts alike.
People are heading home to the range for a couple of reasons. “The meteoric rise of the Food Network helped fuel foodie awareness and enthusiasm,” says Jay Blotcher, a media specialist for the Culinary Institute of America in New York, a leading training ground for chefs.
Heavy Seas beer expands its brand with a new alehouse
Back in 1989, Hugh Sisson opened Baltimore’s first brewpub, Sisson’s. After several years, he decided to leave the pub, move his beers to a larger platform, and established Clipper City in Halethorpe, which is the area’s largest brewery and home to Heavy Seas beer.
Now, more than 20 years later, Sisson is coming full circle by opening Heavy Seas Alehouse this month, a branded restaurant located in the old Holland Tack Factory.
The country’s cuisine comes to the market
Before Marta Ines Quintana opened Havana Road Cuban Café (8 W. Pennsylvania Ave., Towson 410-494-8222), she had a line of products in stores offering a taste of her native land—from savory mojo to sweet dulce crema. Now, she’s taken another step in sharing her authentic cuisine. She recently introduced refrigerated packaged meals to area Whole Foods Markets. Of the nine microwavable dinners available, including vegetarian options, we sampled two and were pleased with the results.
Big love: Celebrate Valentine’s Day with bold wines
“How deep is your love?” the Bee Gees once asked. The same could be asked about your choice of Valentine’s Day wine. Are you planning a cozy fete to express your feelings or do you require a vinous prelude to a night out on the town? Whatever the case, here are three bold wines to represent your big love.
Imagine the perfect food-lovers’ expedition: A ride through the rolling hills of Maryland horse country, and, at the end of the road, a quaint, pre-Colonial stone house turned restaurant. It’s a place that grows its own vegetables in expansive gardens on the property and sources its meats and dairy products from local farmers. Imagine that there’s a creative young chef in the kitchen, who, guided by that farm-to-table ethos, turns out dishes that highlight pure flavors and proper cooking rather than fussy preparations and heavy sauces.
Bringing back the past in food and spirit
Irene Smith is a go-getter. She was on board last year for the food-truck trend with her Souper Freaks mobile van. Then, she set her sights on the vacated dining space in the Woman’s Industrial Exchange (333 N. Charles St., 410-244-6450). In December, she officially opened the Woman’s Industrial Kitchen, an homage to both the comfort food once served by doting waitresses and to other Maryland women—famous and unknown. Tables, for instance, pay respect to Billie Holliday, Emily Post, and Nancy Pelosi with photos and passages. The menu reveres women, too.