Sunday, December 30, 2007

Best of 2007 Part I: My Favorite Eats in (and out of) Baltimore

Like last year's best of list (Post #100), this one got a little long. Unlike last year's, I decided to break this up into a few different posts. This first one will be my favorite places in Baltimore. Later I'll mention a few different things - favorite foods on the road, my least favorite places to eat, as well as the most exceedingly average ones I can think of.

Ten favorite restaurants/bars in this or any area (in alphabetical order) - I'd go out of my way to get to these places...

Chiyo Sushi (Japanese, Mount Washington) - There is so much good sushi in and around Baltimore, and it's easy to please me with sushi. But this is my favorite one. Some average reviews in 2005, so maybe it's gotten better since then (see here and here). The service is good, the plates are beautifully arranged, the food is damn good, and when my sister and I went back a second time, the waitress actually remembered what we had ordered a few weeks back. Dang.

Dogwood Restaurant (American / eclectic / local ingredients, Hampden) - I haven't eaten at the deli yet, just the restaurant. And I only ate there once. It impressed me that much. I went with some friends of mine and we sampled each others' food. The best thing about Dogwood? They go out of their way to use locally produced ingredients. They just reopened after being closed, too.

Dukem (Ethiopian, Mount Vernon) - I keep going back for their wots and their mead (honey wine). Except for the last time I went, where they were pretty busy, I like the service, too.

El Salto (Mexican, Brooklyn Park and Parkville) - I have to re-reiterate: THEY ARE NOT CLOSED DOWN!!! Some of the best Mexican food in town.

The Helmand (Afghan, Mount Vernon) - Two words: kaddo borawni. My favorite dish in what is easily my favorite restaurant.

Nasu Blanca (Japanese / Spanish, SoBa) - My favorite dining experience during the last Restaurant Week. I hope they're doing the upcoming one next month. Eclectic and interesting food.

Petit Louis Bistro (French, Roland Park) - And this was a close second to Nasu Blanca. The vichyssoise was sooooooo good.

Rocket to Venus (American / eclectic, Hampden) - This place is difficult to describe. It has everything! Southern food. Midwestern food. Fancy food. Hearty food. Good eclectic American cuisine. Interesting food in an interesting setting. Told you it's difficult to describe.

Suzie's Soba (Korean / Japanese, Hampden) - Suzie's has good sushi, but her Korean dishes are the best thing on the menu. The freshest bibimbap, in a big clear bowl. Yum.

Taneytown Deli (deli, Catonsville) - How did I miss this place growing up so close to Catonsville? Five different kinds of Reubens at this place.

Honorable Mention - Chiu's Sushi (Japanese, Harbor East), Kyodai Rotating Sushi Bar (Japanese, Towson), Regi's American Bistro (American / brunch, Federal Hill), Zodiac (American / eclectic, Station North) - I'd go out of my way to get to these places, too, just not as quickly. I still love 'em

One more honorable mention: Della Notte (Italian, Little Italy) - I never got around to writing about it, but I will mention it here. My sister and I went there last week before we went to see Avenue Q at the Hippodrome. My God, the place is amazing! It's like eating in a Roman villa. And the food was amazing, too: goat cheese ravioli, teeny fried saffron rice balls, rabbit in a tomato sauce that managed to be intense and mellow at the same time, and an amazing creme brulee for dessert. The reason I didn't write about it is that immediately afterwards, I came down with a nasty intestinal virus, and my sister got sick, too (though she just had a cold). So I wanted to wait before I said anything to see if it was in fact the food and not some colossal coincidence. I am happy to report that it was, most likely, the latter, because since then a few other family members came down with it. Perhaps the richness of the food exacerbated the Crohn's and worked with whatever I got to just make me miserable all week. But I'm highly doubtful I'd get sick if I went back to Della Notte.

Lastly, try this place if you find yourself in...

...the Inland Empire (Southern California)? Tokyo Restaurant (Japanese, Yucaipa) - Who would've thought? Tasty, fresh sushi in the desert? And in fucking Yucaipa of all places? (You'd have to have lived in the IE to understand the gravity of that statement.) Café Sevilla (Spanish / tapas, Riverside) is a close second, with wonderful tapas.

...London? Tuk Tuk Thai Noodle Bar (Thai, Charing Cross) - The last place I ate before heading for the airport. Never wrote much about it, but their pad thai was really good. Still hoping to make it to the Pret-A-Manger (sandwiches, various locations) up in...

...New York City? Woorijip (Korean, Manhattan) - Cheap, tasty cafeteria-style Korean. I ate it on the ride home on Amtrak.

...Ocean City? Shenanigan's Irish Pub (Irish / American, Boardwalk) - Those little burgers are filling enough, especially with a good pint of Guinness.

...Philadelphia? Sahara Grill (Middle Eastern / Arabic, Center City) - Just good, hearty Egyptian cuisine.

...Richmond? New York Deli (deli, Carytown) - I admit, I was looking for Chesapeake cuisine here (but I can find that in Baltimore). Who knew I'd like the deli the best? But Farouk's (Indian, Carytown) was about as good.

...San Francisco? Dim sum crawl (Chinese, Chinatown) - I can't recommend any one place - you just have to walk up and down the street and pop in for a piece of dim sum here, a piece there, and a piece somewhere else.

...Washington? Logan Tavern (American, Logan Circle) - Interesting food, and I mean that in a good way.


Jamaila said...

Speaking as a proud native of the Pacific Northwest, I have to inform you that southern California is not in any way part of the Inland Empire, unless it's a way, way different one that I don't know about. The Inland Empire usually refers to Eastern Washington, Northern Idaho, and parts of Oregon and Montana. At least the one I know about does. ;)

Also, I'm SO going to Petit Louis as soon as I can convince Don to spend the money. Dogwood sounds awesome too.

The one thing I hate about Halethorpe is that there just aren't any actual restaurants. Everything else about living here is awesome, but to actually eat anything we always wind up going to Columbia (because we are too lazy to try to find parking in the city).

John said...

Jamalia: Petit Louis and Dogwood first. If they are taking part in the upcoming Restaurant Week, it's just $30 for prix fixe dinner menus and $20 lunch all week. It's worth going for sure.

As for the Inland Empire: There is indeed one in the greater LA region that you don't know about, and I lived there for 6 1/2 years! In fact, Wikipedia says there are three "Inland Empires" in the US - the one in SoCal (that I know), the one in the Pacific NW (that you're from), and one in northern Georgia (Atlanta is the big city there - hmmm, would that be NoGA?). The one I know has Riverside and San Bernardino as its big cities. It's not known for its culinary achievements. Foodwise, my IE's biggest claims to fame are its century-old citrus industry and its being the birthplace of McDonald's (THAT'S something to be proud of!)

Julie said...

I've been to about half the Baltimore restaurants you list. I'll have to keep the rest of them in mind for future outings.