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Fun Dinner in Baltimore - Tuesday

Looking for a fun place to have dinner and hang out with two colleagues from Europe on Tuesday. Both have been to Baltimore several times and have done all the high end places (and the ESPN Zone I might add). I'm having a hard time thinking of places with decent food that would also be fun.

No limits on food type (i.e., burgers, Thai, fish, etc. are all fine). Low brow but good food and fun atmosphere is perfectly fine. There is an expense account involved, but we can't go over the top. I will be driving, but since our office is in the Inner Harbor, would prefer 'downtown' or nearby (15-20 minute drive or so).

Any suggestions? Thanks for your help.

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  1. Hard to beat Cafe Hon in Hampden for a fun Bawlmer dinner. www.cafehon.ezsitemaster.com

    13 Replies
    1. re: treetop tom

      IMHO, it's pretty easy to beat Cafe Hon. For Baltimore flavor (seafood), Mama's on the Half Shell on O'Donnell in Canton.For very good crab cakes in a bar setting: Koco's on Harford Rd. Right down the street is Chameleon Cafe: excellent haute cuisine in a comfortable, friendly setting, surprisingly affordable www.thechameleoncafe.com ). Good cheap Korean: Nam Kang on 22d by Maryland Ave. None of these will break the bank, all are quite good. Where exactly are your clients from?

      1. re: ko1

        Both are British, one currently residing in Luxembourg and the other in London (but raised in southern Africa).

        1. re: eddieandcleo

          Oh, well then pretty much anything will impress them. :) I just didn't want to suggest Baltimore Italian for Italians, etc. If you're looking for good seafood and hitting a few bars for beers afterwards, try Mama's. The Fells Point suggestion from Bmore Hound (One-Eyed Mike's) or Henninger's or Mezze in FP are good for that kind of thing, too. If you're looking for something spicy, go to Nam Kang's. If you want upscale food without breaking the bank, try the Chameleon.

          1. re: ko1

            Given that London is the food capital of Europe these days, it'll be hard for them to be impressed by anything in Baltimore.

            1. re: Roland Parker

              HAHAHAHA! London/English food sucks! 'Food capital of Europe' seriously, I hope you're joking!

              1. re: jp4401

                Nope, not at all. Do a google search and you'll be surprised. As with most large cities there are terrible food to be had in London, but the sophisticated culinary scene is hardly bested by any other city in the world. A well-eaten Londoner won't be impressed by anything Baltimore has to offer, except, perhaps, the portion sizes and low prices.

                1. re: jp4401

                  Actually, I think London has some great places to eat - Gordon Ramsay and The Fat Duck are 2 places I would love to try. But as I did not win the Mega Millions last week, my culinary tour of London will have to wait for another day...

                2. re: Roland Parker

                  Sorry, being of Irish descent and with the holiday coming up, I couldn't resist a gratuitous shot. I did end it with a smiley face, though! Historically, food in England and Ireland has pretty much sucked. London and Dublin are both filled with good restaurants now. Didn't mean for it to get ugly. My bad. Think about the Chameleon for dinner, Eddie and/or Cleo.

            2. re: ko1

              Mama's on the Half Shell, like all the other restaurants/pubs/bars in Canton are fun if you enjoy the screaming obnoxious 20-somethings who descend every evening and turn the area into a zoo on the weekends. Not too bad if you don't linger, but later in the evening, watch your step (literally). Sort of a "Fells Point East." A nostalgic trip back to your college days maybe, but no longer my idea of fun.

              1. re: treetop tom

                Uh, I have been going to Mamas since they opened and white it gets crowded it certainly doesn't attract the 20 year old crowd that other places in Canton who are geared towards them do. Do some 20 somethings go in there, Sure but thats the downstairs bar, the upstairs dining room is just fine.

                1. re: hon

                  To each his own. Personally, I don't enjoy dodging puddles of vomit on the sidewalk when going out to dinner, which is what happened last time I ate at Mama's. Just giving fair warning.

                1. re: ko1

                  You can do alot better food-wise then the Cafe Hon, I live in Hampden and we never eat there, it's a tourist trap.

              2. Waterfront would be a good place, so would One-Eyed Mike's. I think One Eyed Mike's would be a particularly good place for friends from Europe; it's a very welcoming bar with good food.

                Jack's Bistro for something a little different.

                Salt for something a little more sit-down-ish.

                2 Replies
                1. re: BmoreHound

                  I was also thinking One Eyed Mikes (Bond St. Fells Point). Casual food, but also some great specials they serve up now and again. Unique with the Grand Marnier theme.

                  Henningers (Bank St. Fells Point) would also be a good call - another neighborhood joint, but with top notch food. Peters Inn (Ann St. Fells Point) is another in this category (good food - local feel).

                  1. re: a70wilson

                    Whoops, I forgot Peter's, another solid call in Fells Point.

                2. Peter's Inn on Ann Street in Fells Point is a solid place. Dive rockabilly bar atmosphere with outstanding food...a truly unexpectedly good kitchen serving up specials written on a chalk board every night. Very Baltimore, very good. To me Matthew's PIzza is about the most fun restaurant to eat at in town. Best Pizza within probably 150 miles, great Baltimore atmosphere, just a terrific place. Another decent place with good (though probably not as good as the previous two) pub food is Friends on Aliceanna in Fells Point. This is a great bar with a good jukebox, great beer selection, pool table, and way above and beyond the call of duty kitchen. Last but not least try Tapas Teatro on North Charles Street...Tapas is always fun and the Tenderloin is delicious.

                  Do not go to Cafe Hon. The food is awful and the place is an overpriced, cheeseball, tourist trap, whose claim to fame is being basically an unofficial John Waters theme restaurant. I wish they'd move out to the County.

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: Jonny Pops

                    Peter's Inn has good food, but very Baltimore? Seared day boat scallops with black lentils and a champagne beurre blanc didn't make it onto the table very often when I was a kid growing up in Bawlmer. Typical salad/garlic bread sides and no desserts. No desserts? In Bawlmer?

                    1. re: treetop tom

                      It's very Baltimore in that it's unique, it's quirky and it caters to a local clientele. There's more to Baltimore than just crabcakes, Schmidt's Blue Ribbon Bread and Berger cookies, TT.

                      1. re: Jonny Pops

                        True, JP. You forgot to include Natty Boh, Wockenfuss and Almond Smash. Sorry, but when I think of very Baltimore cuisine, seared rare tuna on fried won tons with seaweed salad isn't exactly what jumps to mind. Don't think that was ever on the menu at Connolly's (or Connelly's as Mama's on the Half Shell called it on their menu when they were claiming to be the second coming.) Jeez - if you're going to lay claim to one of Charm City's most venerable seafood houses, at least spell the name correctly.

                        1. re: treetop tom

                          I'm with JP...what makes Peter's Inn "very Baltimore" is that it's a neighborhood-looking bar that serves actual good food. They aren't the only instance of that in Baltimore, and it's something that is pretty much never seen in DC.

                          That doesn't excuse Mama's for misspelling Connolly's, though.

                          1. re: Hal Laurent

                            Yeah, I don't understand Treetop's response on Peter's. A good recommendation and the OP said nothing about it being a Bawlamrese restaurant, just good and fun for foreign business clients without costing an arm and a leg.

                          2. re: treetop tom

                            Almond Smash! Awww man I forgot all about that! Can you still buy that stuff down there?

                            Hold up I couldn't wait...I answered my own question. Here http://bryanfischer.typepad.com/thebl...

                            Anybody know any other places?

                            But back to our little discussion. The Baltimore I know is a diverse place...with lots of ethnic groups, types of food, walks of life, cool neighborhoods all combining into a great city. Peter's is definitely a neighborhood place in that great city that's doing it's own quirky thing. Ergo Peter's = Very Baltimore...plus they must serve Natty Boh there.

                            1. re: Jonny Pops

                              I understand your distinction, JP. It just initially struck me as funny to consider Peter’s “very Baltimore.” No offense intended. We can find Almond Smash at the Mars Supermarket here in Ellicott City (and I am guessing at all Mars) and sometimes at the Walgreens in Woodlawn. I couldn’t believe my eyes the first time I saw it. Still tastes the same after all these years and at .99 for a 2L bottle, still a bargain. They also have other Suburban flavors like Golden Ginger Ale and Grape. A real “blast from the past.”

                              1. re: treetop tom

                                EC...my hometown! Now where exactly is the Mars though? I'm guessing either in Normandy SHopping Center where it used to be a Safeway I believe...or maybe in one of the old Super Fresh locations, like 40 & St. John's Lane or the Triangle Shopping Center at 40 & 29? And has Ellicott City gotten any better Chow-wise? It was a real nightmare when I was growing up there.

                                1. re: Jonny Pops

                                  Mars moved into St. Johns Plaza several years ago. There is a good Mexican restaurant (Mi Casa) across St. John's Lane from the Mars. Some of the old classics are still around, including the Forest Diner. The Double T chain also built a diner right next to the Forest Diner, but both are able to co-exist. An influx of Asian folks has brought Chinese, Korean BBQ and Thai restaurants to the Triangle Shopping Center, all pretty good, especially the BBQ. Dimitri's Grille is still on Frederick Road in Oella/Catonsville. Oella has been gentrified and the old mill is being converted to apartments.

                              2. re: Jonny Pops

                                Just an FYI, the local Coke Distributor/Bottler has the rights to Almond Smash and other Suburban Club labels here in Mob Town. I know the
                                the buyer at Mars Supermarkets has to prod them to keep the item in stock...it takes shelf space away from the Coca Cola items...and at .99 for
                                a liter its a great deal...try mixing it with a little vanilla ice cream!!!!!

                                1. re: Hue

                                  The bottlecap on my 2L bottle of Suburban Golden Ginger Ale says "Manufactured by independent bottlers under the authority of Pepsico, Inc." Oh well, I don't care who gets it to us as long as they keep it coming!

                        1. Ammici's in Little Italy is definitely something to consider. Not sure how "fun" it is, but it is quite casual. The prices are very reasonable when compared to other Italian restaurants. The food is incredible. They have an appetizer that is huge shrimp, in a cream sauce, in a pastry bowl... heaven. All the pasta dishes that I've tried were great, and the salads are very well done. The place is kind of small, so make reservations.


                          1. LP Steamers on Fort Avenue in Locust Point offers fairly good seafood in a casual setting. No fancy fish dishes, it's strictly crabs/shrimp/lobsters, but also has a good coconut cake for dessert. Caveat: it may not be the best time of year for seafood.

                            Helen's Garden in Canton on the square is another good, not too expensive, place that has a diverse menu sure to satisfy all tastes, ranging from burgers to steaks and pasta dishes. website at http://www.helensgarden.com/V2/

                            1. I think we have just named every restaurant in Baltimore.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: BmoreHound

                                And not a soul mentioned Martick's

                              2. I'm surprised that no one as mentioned Pazo in Fells Points. When I think "fun" dinner I think of tapas. It's convenient to the Inner Harbor and it has free valet parking. Most importantly the food is quite tasty (although it can get to be expensive).

                                I also suggest the Helmand for Afghan and Dukem for Ethopian. Both inexpensive, very good, and frequently recommended on Chowhound. Both are located in Mt Vernon, a short drive north of the harbor.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: viperlush

                                  Thanks for all the great ideas. We've already done Pazo multiple times for work-related events, as well as Charleston and Petit Louis. I'm not a big fan of Helmand...I know it's great but just doesn't float my boat. I'm inclined towards some of the places in Fells, especially since if we don't like the looks of one place, we can move on.

                                  BTW, I took another colleague, this one from Denmark, to Mama's on the Half Shell. While waiting for a table, we got seats at the bar. Ending up staying there. Had beers and good dinners and great service from the bartender. She still talks about that place.

                                  1. re: eddieandcleo

                                    Mamas is one of my favorite places!

                                2. I enjoy eating at the bar at the new Pazza Luna. The downstairs has been refurbished, the staff fun, the food very good and good price point on the menu. They do have specials that run a bit higher.

                                  Their vegetarian lasagna is awesome and I love the antipasti mista that 3 can nibble on easily.

                                  Good food, nice atmosphere, good price point.

                                  If you want more upscale "contemporary" Italian try Sotto Sopra which has a very New York City atmosphere and I also recommend Gino Troia's place in Canton in the old Bruschetta location.

                                  If you are willing to travel a bit outside the city, try Mari Luna on Reisterstown Road near the county line. Only problem, no reservations.

                                  1. Damn, this has been one of the more interesting threads. I agree that Cafe Hon really sucks. I've just heard good things about Henninger's--any particular dishes? I don't think we have quite mentioned every restaurant in Baltimore, but Fell's Point sounds like a good place to take the out-of-towners to. Please don't suggest Black Olive--I think that was the most over priced meal I've ever had. Yikes. Oh, and London does now have some of the best restaurants in the world. And there is something to be said for a city that has an Indian Carry-Out on every corner. Yum.

                                    1. Thought you all might want to hear a report. We ended up walking over to One-Eyed Mike's and having dinner. Excellent choice. The atmosphere was very casual and the food was really good. We ate primarily off the extensive specials list. Two of us enjoyed the Thai grilled shrimp (with a drizzle of chili oil) as a starter, while the third had the chorizo-white bean soup. For mains, I had the Surf and Turf special of petit filet topped with gorgonzola and a mushroom-red wine reduction sauce, crab cake (too much filler but the lumps of meat were huge so I could eat around the filler), asparagus and potato 'cakes'. R had the single crab cake, and S had the New Zealand lamb chops with mashed potatoes. We split the chocolate lava cake and creme brulee.

                                      I think the desserts disappointed the most, as they were okay but we all said our homemade versions were better. The service was casual but attentive. No hassles about hanging out at the table for four hours.

                                      Once again, thanks for all your suggestions.