25 Places to Get Meals for Two for Under $40.
We’re not cheapskates. Really. But we like a good deal as much as the next person, especially in an economy that seems to constantly drain our pocketbooks. When we’re eating out, we know how fast the dollars add up. We felt confident that there were places around town offering a decent meal without us having to succumb to a quarter-pounder and fries. (Not that we don’t enjoy that, too.) We had a budget——$40 for two people. We also wanted to go to restaurants where we could share a meal at a table. We’re happy with what we found: a range of great food at affordable prices.
Fall weather calls for fireplace restaurants.
1. The Ambassador Dining Room, 3811 Canterbury Rd., 410-366-1484. Considered one of the most romantic restaurants in Baltimore, The Ambassador scores high with its stately fireplaces, tuxedoed waiters, and its lush Indian cuisine.
2. Bond Street Social, 901 S. Bond St., 443-449-6234. Several glass fireplaces and an indoor fire pit provide a toasty atmosphere for sharing “social” plates with friends and lovers at this contemporary space that’s as cozy as a ski chalet.
Cookies benefit from the extras.
I’m not the only one who raids the kitchen cabinets to add extras to my cookie dough. Several local shops have discovered the joys of combining dried fruits, assorted chocolate chips, and even pretzels in their recipes. The Fresh Market’s Kitchen Sink Cookies are a crunchy combo of chips, raisins, nuts, and more. Evergreen Cafe’s Everything cookie and Whole Food’s Jumble cookie are also studded with a satisfying mix of yummy additives. But the winner may be another Everything cookie, pictured, found at Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore’s Lamill Coffee.
Spike Gjerde of Woodberry Kitchen opens an offshoot.
The über-cool, barn-chic — think rustic wood and stone — Artifact Coffee, 1500 Union Ave., 410-235-1881, capitalizes on the top-notch coffee service offered at big brother Woodberry Kitchen, and adds breakfast, lunch, and (soon) dinner to the mix. The baristas look like they’ve stepped out of a production of Oklahoma! with their farm dresses and Little-Boy-Blue shirts and trousers, but the service is professional and friendly. The pour-over coffee ($3.50) is a must.
Many restaurants are making their own potato chips.
Some local chefs are thinking outside the bag—at least, when it comes to potato chips. Goodbye, brand names. Hello, chips made in the restaurant kitchen. Places like The Dogwood Restaurant, Todd Conner’s, McFaul’s IronHorse Tavern at Sanders’ Corner, and Heavy Seas Alehouse are among those frying up their own crispy spud slices. Matt Seeber, executive chef at Heavy Seas Alehouse, says, “If I can do it myself in-house, then why not?”
<p>Start the evening at The Waterfront Deck</p>
Ruth’s Chris Steak House at Pier 5 hit on a brilliant idea when it took over the outdoor deck once occupied by Pizzazz Tuscan Grille. The upscale restaurant is now able to provide treasured waterfront real estate to its diners. The setting at The Waterfront Deck (711 Eastern Ave., adjacent to the Pier 5 Hotel, 410-230-0033) is sophisticated with a sleek, black bar, comfy orange couches, silver-colored chairs and tables, and a canopy of umbrellas. Open daily in the evenings, you can enjoy a full dinner there.
A new brewery in Woodberry pumps out local craft beer.
Back in 2009, Jon Zerivitz needed a hobby, so he picked up a home-brew kit. “Pretty much after the first time I brewed, I knew I wanted to do something in the beer industry,” he says. Through mutual friends, Zerivitz, pictured, left, met Kevin Blodger, the medal-winning head brewer at Gordon Biersch in Chicago, a Baltimore native who wanted to come back home.
Your sip tip of the month. Malbecs: Big, Bold, and Beautiful.
It wasn’t so long ago that Merlot was the grape variety that reigned supreme in people’s minds and in their wine glasses. Then, the movie Sideways came along, and Pinot Noir soared to popularity. Now, another grape variety has stepped into the limelight—Malbec. Full-flavored, dark, and structured, Malbec wines may lack the versatility of lighter varieties like Pinot Noir, but they satisfy a hankering for a robust red. Here are three examples:
Punto Final Malbec Reserva 2008
$19, Southern Wine & Spirits
A hobby becomes a bartender's bread-and-butter.
Johnny Rad’s bartender Evan Tanner never planned on becoming a pickle maker. But that’s exactly what happened. “I like pickles,” he says. “I couldn’t find the kind I like.” He began experimenting with home canning and came up with flavors like Old Bay and onion and lemongrass and dill. “It ties into being a bartender,” he says. “Flavors are one of my passions.” Tanner, 40, now has the required licensing and is selling his jars of Tanner’s Pickles at shops like Green Onion market and The Wine Source. He also plans to build a processing plant.
The affable chef/co-owner of Chazz and Aldo’s makes meatballs with a passion as he eyes the future.
Like its creator, the veal meatball at Chazz: A Bronx Original is Italian at its core, yet brilliantly unique in its construction. Its presence, similar to Sergio Vitale’s, looms large over the Harbor East restaurant from which this local chef appears poised to become the next big thing on the national food scene. Restaurateur and appetizer share other traits. Both are burly, sweet, and, in Baltimore, beloved. “We knew we wanted to do a meatball,” the 6-foot-3 Vitale says. “I also knew that I didn’t want to do it on top of pasta. It’s not the way it’s served in Italy.
Townhouse Kitchen + Bar (1350 Lancaster St., 443-268-0323) fits right into the glitzy Harbor East restaurant scene with its sophisticated, polished look and power-people vibe. The huge bar is a great place to check out the crowd, or you can nestle into the cozy, black-leather booths or grab a seat at one of the plush sofas in the well-lit lounge.
<p>More farm-fresh recipes from local restaurants.</p>
Cavatelli with Heirloom Tomatoes and Goat Cheese
2 cups heirloom tomatoes, cut in half if they are small or in bite-size pieces if they are larger
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1/4 cup thinly sliced elephant garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 lemon, zest and juice
1/4 cup dry white wine
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
1/2 cup FireFly Farms fresh goat cheese, crumbled into pieces
4 cups homemade cavatelli (see recipe)
How one local crabber followed his dream.
As a criminal-justice major at Towson University, Tony Conrad once dreamed of a career with the FBI. But after four years of working in telecommunications, the lifelong waterman could no longer ignore what seemed a clarion call to catch crabs. “My cousin Billy was a waterman,” explains Conrad, 37. “My great grandfather was a waterman, [and] my great, great grandmother had a seafood restaurant in the 1800s.”
Chill-out wines for alfresco dining.
Summer is in full swing, which means it’s picnic time. From Patterson Park to backyard hangouts, we love having a nosh with nature. But what to drink? A picnic wine must be able to pair with different foods, can’t be too expensive, and must be chill-able—because sometimes the humidity demands a cool thirst quencher. Here are three wines that meet our criteria.
<p>Local chocolatier finds a recipe for success.</p>
First, Oprah. Then, Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Next, Diane Sawyer. The elegant chocolates made at The Velvet Chocolatier (10403 Stevenson Rd., Stevenson, 410-365-9883) have been creating quite a stir. Oprah Winfrey named them one of her favorite picks in 2011. (She’s partial to the caramel cups with dark chocolate and sea salt.) Louis-Dreyfus discovered these decadent morsels while filming Veep in Baltimore.