Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Best Of: Restaurants

I have had a lot of great experiences eating out these last few years, and it's difficult to winnow this list down as well.  What were my favorite eating out experiences during The Baltimore Snacker?  Well, I could not list all of them, but I tried to list about 20-to-30-ish in the Baltimore area (plus a handful of others elsewhere).  They're in alphabetical order by type of cuisine, and I try to do one of each type of eating establishment for variety.  Also note: yes, I am missing a lot of places, in a lot of neighborhoods.  This reflects my favorites.  That doesn't mean yours isn't any good.  Believe you me, I may not have even gotten to eat at your favorite in all the years I've been writing this blog.

Favorite African: Dukem (Ethiopian - Mount Vernon, with another location in Washington, DC; featured in the post "Dukem #2", published December 17, 2006) - Always a good place for some filling beef wot and lamb fitfit.  Get an Ethiopian lager or stout while you're at it.

  • Honorable mention: The Yabba Pot (vegan/soul food - Station North/Charles Village - apparently it's now closed); Peju's Kitchen & Lounge (Nigerian / West African / Caribbean - Woodlawn); I'm still meaning to try Tam Tam (Senegalese - Rosebank) on York Road.

Favorite African-American/Southern/Barbecue: TIE: Reginald F. Lewis Museum Café (Little Italy/Downtown - first featured in the post "Not a Festival - Reginald F. Lewis Museum", published July 10, 2007) and Miss Shirley's (various locations and food truck - first featured in the post "Food Truck Fight!!!!!", published June 26, 2012) - The café at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History is one of the best museum cafés I've ever eaten at: some of the tastiest fried catfish and macaroni and cheese in the area.  As for Miss Shirley's, they have lovely grits, especially with the unexpected addition of mascarpone.  Fascinating.
  • Honorable mention: Andy Nelson's BBQ Restaurant (Cockeysville - surprising enough, I've never blogged about this one either); Blacksauce Kitchen (food truck, often at Waverly farmer's market - not blogged about this one either.  I'm slackin'...)
Favorite American/Eclectic/"New American" (the last of which could be anything really, since nobody knows what the hell it means): The Food Market (Hampden - first featured in the post "The Food Market in Hampden") - Chef Chad Gauss used to be at the City Café, which had some wonderful food while he was there.  Sure the food there is still pretty good, but Gauss definitely took the best stuff with him to his new Hampden location.  It's pricey and super-busy, so go on a weeknight, preferably during Restaurant Week.
  • Honorable mention: City Café (Mount Vernon); Owl Bar (Mount Vernon); Mount Vernon Stable (Mount Vernon); Rocket 2 Venus (Hampden)
Favorite Baked Goods: Iced Gems Baking (cupcakes - Reisterstown & food truck; first featured in the post "Iced Gems Baking", published May 13, 2010) - Love their English rose cupcakes - with real rosewater, I might add - and their vanilla chocolate, chocolate vanilla and vanilla vanilla offerings.
Favorite Brewpub: Heavy Seas Alehouse (Little Italy - first featured in the post "Random Bites: December Edition", published December 26, 2012) - My sister and her husband just loved this place when they stopped here from Savannah over Christmas.  So many good recommendations from the waitstaff, and so many good beers, made right in Halethorpe, I might add.

Favorite Burger: Alonso's (Roland Park; first featured in the post "Exit 25: MD-139 (Charles Street, to area colleges)", published February 22, 2008) - This was a tough one to winnow down, and the ones in the "Honorable Mention" category were justthisclose to being at the top.  But I have to go with the easy choice: their one pound burger is definitely one to take home and finish later, but it's still a yummy burger.
  • Honorable mention: So, sooooo many: City Café (Mount Vernon); Gino's (Towson); Marie Louise Bistro (Mount Vernon); Owl Bar (Mount Vernon); Shake Shack (various locations, including Upper West Side, Manhattan, New York, and Downtown, Washington, DC); Sláinte (Fells Point)
Favorite Candies: Rheb's Candies (Violetville; first featured in the post "Rheb's Candies", published December 8. 2007) - Family lore has it that my grandmother worked there for a short time in the 50's.  Such wonderful candies they have there, all homemade, hon.
Favorite Central Asian/Middle Eastern: The Helmand (Mount Vernon; first featured in the post "The Helmand", published September 23, 2006) - I wasn't sure how to formulate this category.  Where to put the Helmand: South Asian?  Central Asian?  I settled on this.  Or I could just create a category just for Baltimore's favorite Afghan restaurant.  Wonderful pilau, shawerma and my favorite dish of course, the kaddo borawni.  This was the second restaurant I ever blogged about, by the way.
Favorite Chinese (Americanized or otherwise): TIE - Asian Court (Ellicott City - first featured in the post "Asian Court", October 1, 2011) and Golden Gate (Catonsville/Arbutus - first featured in the post "Exits 12B-C - MD-372 (Wilkens Ave., East and West)", published September 12, 2007) - Asian Court is one of the few (but becoming more common) places to find food that would be recognizable as "Chinese food" in China.  Wonderful dim sum.  Golden Gate is a more Americanized Chinese place, with the reliable old orange chicken (my favorite of theirs), though they, too, are starting to make more "Chinese Chinese" dishes available to the public.
Favorite Crab Cake: G & M (Linthicum; first featured in the post "G & M", published April 5, 2007) - Yes, I went there.  I chose a favorite crab cake place.  I've had other good ones in this city but there's a reason why G & M keeps making Top 5 lists all over Bawlmer: big ass crabcake with so little filler it'll amaze you how they got it so big.  Complete with cole slaw and those bright red pickled apple slices that are so ubiquitous in Charm City.
  • Honorable mention: Faidley's (Lexington Market); Lansdowne Inn (Lansdowne - No, it's not the best crab cake, but it holds a very special place for me since my father often walked there from the house to get himself and Mom crab cakes.  Again, not the best crab cake in the area, but they are a sentimental favorite of mine.  Plus we held Dad's wake there after his funeral.  We had spaghetti that time though.  Again, sentimental favorite.).  
  • Avoid: Royal Farms Crab Cake (seriously, Royal Farms?)
Favorite Deli: Attman's Delicatessen (Little Italy/Corned Beef Row - first featured in the post "Trekkin' around Little Italy and Corned Beef Row", published October 13, 2008) - A Bawlmer institution that I've been lucky to know since childhood, when my father would drag my sister and I there to get a few pounds of kosher dogs, lots of bologna and corned beef.  Oooooh, I can still taste it.
Favorite Diner: Towson Diner (Towson - first featured in the post "Exit 26A and B: MD-45 (York Road, to Lutherville and Towson)", published March 6, 2008) - Snappy, friendly service and good, filling pancakes, Reubens and the like.  Still haven't ventured to try the mile-high cakes yet.  So much cake.

Favorite Farmers' Market / Local Food (Farm-Affiliated) Store: 32nd Street Farmers' Market (Waverly; first featured in the post "Waverly Farmers' Market", published June 7, 2008) - Open every Saturday (except, maybe, in a snowpocalypse), they've got good stuff there - not just the myriad of fresh veggies and fruit but so much more!  Everything from buffalo (Gunpowder Bison) to meat pies (Curry Shack) to milk, butter and so on (South Mountain Creamery).
Favorite Gay/Lesbian Bar: The Club Hippo (bar/gay & lesbian - Mount Vernon; first featured in the post "The Hippo", published October 11, 2006) - With a wide selection of beers on tap (DeClaw, Dogfish, New Belgium, Leininkugel, Shiner, Natty Boh, all the usual suspects) plus a big dance floor (that I never use 'cuz I can't dance, and don't ask me) that doubles as the scene for many a drag or leather competition, this is my go-to place in Mount Vernon.  See it fill up Monday nights for RuPaul's Drag Race or Wednesday nights for BINGO!
  • Honorable mention: Grand Central (across the street - are we really everywhere or just at the corner of Charles and Eager?); Nellie's Sports Bar (Shaw/U Street, Washington, DC); DC Eagle (Washington, DC)
Favorite Hot Dog: Haute Dog Carte (hot dogs - Mount Washington; first featured in the post "Haute Dog Carte", published September 3, 2010) - Hands down.  Just the "regular" dog is special enough, but those special dogs?  Oh my.
  • Honorable mention: Ann's Dari-Creme (Glen Burnie); Weenie World (Dundalk - now closed) 
Favorite Indian/South Asian: Indigma (Mount Vernon; first featured in the post "Indigma", published September 2, 2007) - Oh, this was a tough one.  There are so many good Indian places in and around Baltimore these days it's difficult to choose.  But you gotta hand it to Indigma: they suffered a massive fire and bounced back bigger than ever.  Their buffet is one of the most interesting, though not terribly pricier than the others.

Favorite Irish Pub: Sláinte Pub (pub/Irish - Fells Point; first featured in the post "Sláinte Pub and the Amazing Last Minute Goal", published June 23, 2010) - Yes I go there for the soccer.  And I stay there for the food (Irish bibimbap and Friday $1 oysters, anyone?  Plus their fish and chips are definitely worth a look or two) and the Guinness.  They do have other beers, too.

Favorite Italian (non-pizza): TIE: Sotto Sopra (Italian/Sardinian - Downtown; first featured in the post "Sotto Sopra", published June 13, 2008) and Chiapparelli's (Little Italy - last featured in the post "Tidbits: Boys of Summer Edition", published August 29, 2010) - Have had very good service in both places.  At Sotto Sopra the food is real Sardinian home cookin'.  Can't afford Opera Night, but I try to eat cheap anyway.  Chiapparelli's for Restaurant Week is also a beautiful thing.
Favorite Japanese: Minato (Japanese - Mount Vernon; featured several times, including "Minato the Threequel", published September 1, 2007) - My go-to place for sushi and friendly service.  Their Maryland roll is fascinating, especially on $7 special maki roll night.  Try not to miss happy hour.

Favorite Korean: Jong Kak (Korean - Koreatown/Charles Village; first published in the post "Jong Kak", published April 20, 2008) - My friends and I don't even have to say where when one of us suggests "Korean".  The barbecue is always filling and flavorful, the pajeon never too greasy, and the panchan goes well with a nice crisp bottle of Hite beer.
Favorite Local Grocery Store, Hon, Ethnic or Otherwise: Geresbeck's (supermarket - Middle River; first featured in the post "A Dangerous Love Affair with Geresbeck's Bakery", published October 18, 2007) - Their cakes are just wonderful, and the smearcase is legendary.  And don't forget some chocolate top cookies.  Yes, I'm specifically raving about their bakery here.  Yum.

Favorite Mexican: TIE: El Nayar (Catonsville and Elkridge - first featured in the post "El Nayar", published June 16, 2009) and R&R Taquería (Jessup/Elkridge - first featured in the post "Random Bites: December Edition", published December 26, 2012) - It's tough to find authentic Mexican in this area, but thankfully it's becoming easier!  El Nayar's taco plate is some of the more authentic I've had in the area, while R&R has the best cochinita pibil in Baltimore hands down.
Favorite Pit Beef: Chaps Pit Beef (Armistead Gardens/Hopkins Bayview - I have not yet blogged about this, though watch this weekend) - Yes, we should bow to the king here - Chaps Pit Beef is a local legend, and it should be: wide selection of pit beef and BBQ, though I have to zero in on the pit beef.  Just plop some horseradish and "tiger sauce" on it and a little bit of hots.  Woh-ho-ho. Lansdowne is really getting built up these days.  But right near the new Wal-Mart and the Home Depot is a long-standing SoWeBaltCo (Did I just make up a new term?) tradition: that wonderful little pit beef truck with juicy pit beef and lots of horseradish and barbecue sauce to go with.  If only I was in the area more often when it's there.
Favorite Pizza/Pizza and Subs: Vito's Pizza (Cedarcroft/Lake Walker; first featured in the post "Vito's Pizza", published April 8, 2009) - Good pizza of all kinds, since the owner - from Naples - knows what he's doing.  Delicious.
  • Honorable mention: Pasta Mista (various locations, including Canton and Towson - New Yorkers who live down here swear by it); Iggie's (Mount Vernon)
Favorite Tapas/Small Plates: 13.5% Wine Bar (Hampden; first featured in the post "13.5% Wine Bar", published August 24, 2009) - A job hunt at the time didn't deter me from one of my favorite Hampden eateries.  Their wall o' wine is intimidating unless you just stick to cocktails or beer.  They have wonderful selections of cheese, pizzas and many different finger foods. 
  • Honorable mention: Tapas Teatro (Station North/Charles Village - this was, in fact, the very first restaurant I ever blogged about).  
  • Avoid: La Tasca (Inner Harbor- warmed-over frozen mixed veggies from a bag - yum.  Easily the most bleh, half-assed tapas I have ever had.  But that's what I get for eating at a chain restaurant in the most touristy part of the city)
Favorite Thai: Thai Restaurant (Waverly; first featured in the post "Thai Restaurant", published April 14, 2010) - the fried crab wings (yes, crab wings) alone are reason to go there.  The pad thai is good but explore their many other offerings, will ya?
Favorite Vegetarian/Vegan: Mango Grove (Columbia; first featured in the post "Mango Grove", published February 16, 2008) - It's not often I will go out of my way to eat vegetarian food, but when I do, I prefer Mango Grove.  Two words: bread pakora.  And the dosa?  Lovely.

Favorite Vietnamese: Pho Miss Saigon (Glen Burnie - first featured in the post "Exit 3B - MD 2 South (Ritchie Hwy to Glen Burnie)", published June 11, 2007) - Good filling phò and not that pricey.
  • Honorable mention: Mekong Delta Café (Downtown - Seemed to be closed for a while but now it's back open); Pho #1 (Woodlawn); Phò Dat Thành (Towson); Saigon Remembered (Belvedere, er, Timonium)

Favorite Wine/Beer/Liquor Store: The Wine Source (Hampden; featured several times, including "Baltimore Beer Week Continues...", published October 14, 2009, "Get this wine - but I DARE you to close it back up!", published July 14, 2008), and "Sake, Sake Everywhere (Post #999)", April 17, 2009) - They have always been so knowledgeable about any wine that this non-wine person might ask about.  Wondrous selection of beers, too.  Also sample the cheese and charcuterie section while you're there.
Also worth noting...

Favorite Dearly Departed Restaurant: Zodiac Restaurant (American - Station North [now closed]; last featured in the post "Last Call at the Zodiac", published August 9, 2008) - For a quick bite before a show at the Charles Theatre or (now relocated) Everyman, I loved this place for its goofy decor, its line of vegan desserts and very non-vegan entrées (I so fondly remember their hamburger, and the mashed potatoes even more so), and its apparent hauntings which I had never experienced.  Since they shut down operations in 2008, apparently the Club Charles next door carries some of their same menu offerings.  The Zodiac still exists, though not as a restaurant: it's now a comedy club.  Maybe that ghost is having fun pushing patrons down the stairs again?

Favorite Coddies:  I hate coddies.  Never liked 'em.  I have no favorites.  There, I said it.

And now, just a handful of favorite eats out in other parts of the country and the world...

Aroma (Chinese/Malaysian - Soho, London, England, UK; featured in post "Aroma", published January 6, 2007)

BCD Tofu House (Korean - various locations, including Los Angeles' Koreatown; featured in the post "From Bulgogi Tacos to Avocado Salsa: A Day of Eating in LA", published May 26, 2010)

Bojo (Indonesian - Leidesplein, Amsterdam, Netherlands; featured in post "Amsterdam Trip Part Drie: Little Bites Here and There", published March 25, 2008)

Bool BBQ (Korean/Mexican - food truck, Los Angeles; featured in the post "From Bulgogi Tacos to Avocado Salsa: A Day of Eating in LA", published May 26, 2010)

Casa Maya (Mexican/Yucatecan/Maya - Mentone, California; first featured in the post "Casa Maya", April 7, 2007)

The Castaway Restaurant (American/brunch - San Bernardino, California; first featured in the post "Easter Sunday Eatin' Part 1: Castaway of San Bernardino", published April 9, 2007)

Duplex Diner (American/gay and lesbian - Adams Morgan, Washington, DC; featured in the post "Adams Morgan for Capital Pride", June 17, 2011)

Meskerem (Ethiopian - Washington, DC; first featured in the post "Day at the Smithsonian / Meskerem (or, "Hey, where did all the Ethiopian restaurants go?")", published December 31, 2008)

Moon River Brewing Company (brewpub/American/Southern - Savannah, Georgia; first featured in the post "Georgia on My GPS Part 3: Moon River Brewing Company / Savannah Candy Kitchen", published June 27, 2009)

Pig & Fish (pub/American - Rehoboth Beach, Delaware; first featured in the post "Tidbits: Rehoboth in August Edition", published August 6, 2011)

Rudy's Barbecue (barbecue - Austin, Texas; first featured in the post "Austin City, Unlimited Part I - Of Barbecue and Barbacoa", published June 5, 2012)

Shake Shack (hamburgers/shakes - most locations in New York, New York, with locations in Washington, DC, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; first featured in the post "Weekend in New York: The Food", published July 17, 2009)

Wagamama (Japanese/ramen - various locations, mostly in the UK and continental Europe, with three stateside locations, all in Boston, Massachusetts; featured in several posts, including "Wedding in Provincetown Part II: Back to Boston", published September 23, 2011)