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visiting baltimore, where to get? and pizza find.

I'm a noth Jersey pizza snob. had an amazingly good pie at Pizza Blitz, York and Timoniom. In spite of the awful name, family is from Naples. The pie was ordered fresh (not a warmed up slice) and "well-done". They have a nice menu besides the pies.

I am staying near Towson and looking for low cost crab cakes, gyros, and italian sausage (fresh or cooded).

What is Pit Beef? And is there a neighborhood joint worth trying?

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  1. Someone else is going to have to explain pit beef, I've lived in Baltimore my whole life and it's just a meat sandwich to me :)

    You can mostly get it on the side of the road at various stands and at sporting events. You can also get it at the Sunday Farmer's Market under 83 - there's a stand all the way in the back corner that always has a really long line. I've never actually tried it b/c who really eats pit beef at 8 in the morning?

    1. Someone else will probably recommend Michael's on York Road for crab cakes -- I've heard they are good, but the other things I've had on the menu are horrible, so you take your chances.

      I haven't had the gyros, but I love the chicken kabobs at Kabob Hut on Allegheney in Towson. Good cheap place to eat. Grapevine Cafe is a newish Greek place also on York Road that's gotten good buzz. A bit up York Road is Andy Nelson's BBQ, still one of my favorite places. Great ribs and pulled pork. They have pit beef but I've never managed to try it.

      And I think the place you ate was Pasta Blitz. They have a branch in Columbia that I thought was decent.

      18 Replies
      1. re: JonParker

        I have had the pit beef at Andy Nelsons and I can't figure out how it differs from the roast beef you can buy at a deli counter. What I imagined is much different than what I got (what I imagined is probably damn good, I wonder where I can get it).

        Anyhow, I assume Andy's prepares pit beef correctly, but I don't know since I've never been to a place that specializes in pit beef.

        1. re: smt

          Pit beef is sold in little holes in the wall and roadside stands on Pulaski Highway. It's been quite a while since I've been out that way. Maybe someone else can chime in on the current places.

          1. re: JonParker

            The only one I can think of is Chaps @ 5801 Pulaski Highway (East side of downtown)

            1. re: viperlush

              Chaps is great. The series of pit beef places on Pulaski Hwy [so called Pit Beef Row] seems to have not lasted. I went to find a few of the other less known ones and they had gone out of business. Chaps seems to be the flagship of the 'strip'. Pretty good sandwich.

              There used to be a good pit beef stand near me at Greenspring Station back when we called it Windy Valley. There were Pony rides too.

              1. re: thedanny

                Chaps IS great. I used to be a fan of Big Al's (which had a location on Pulaski Hwy as well as Eastern Blvd), but they closed. Actually, I think Chaps is better, and they have simply amazing french fries. (Try getting them with gravy for a true Bmore experience.)

                If you want to pick up local Italian sausage, look for Roma sausage in your supermarket. (Well, they sell it as least at my Safeway in SE Balto). For Polish sausage, the local fav is Ostroski's (not the one of Bank St, but the one on Washington).

                I also agree that good crab cakes are never cheap. I haven't been to Ocean Pride in years, but I do remember their crab cakes being very good, and it's right there in Towson/Lutherville.

                1. re: baltoellen

                  Oddly, Ostrowski's of Bank St. makes very good Italian sausage. I like their hot Italian sausage better than Roma, although both are good.

                  I used to really like the Italian sausage from Mastellone's on Harford Rd. near Parkville, but I never seem to make it out there 'cause it's not conveniently located for me. I haven't been there since DiPasquale's bought them out, although I've heard DiPasquale also bought the sausage recipes.

                  1. re: baltoellen

                    The best sausages in Baltimore is Binkerts in Rosedale. The last of the Baltimore German butchers. Truly superb stuff, and the place also sells its own cold cuts that are also excellent and can't be found elsewhere in the region. It's a bit out of my way, but when I go there, I buy ten pounds or so of sausages and freeze them (prices are also very competitive, a pound of their sausage is usually no more than $4).

                    I have to say that as a life-long Baltimorean, I've never heard of the french fries with gravy as a Baltimore thing? Then again, it may be a tradition that never found its way to my part of town.

                    1. re: Roland Parker

                      Fries with gravy would be more likely to be found in a diner or other greasy spoon than in Roland Park. :-)

                      1. re: Hal Laurent

                        I also guess that Barry Levinson memorialized it as a "Baltimore" thing in the movie, Diner. Then again, I think much of that was supposed to take place in NW Balto, and, while close to Roland Park, certainly NOT Roland Park! :-)

                        I just wrote a review of Tyson's Tavern where I ate last night. I had the Greek salad and the most excellent french fries with, you guessed it, gravy! Whether or not it's an actual Baltimore invention, it is one of the great food pairing! :-)

                        1. re: baltoellen

                          Fries with gravy were certainly around just north of Baltimore where I grew up.

                          1. re: Hal Laurent

                            Fries with gravy are everywhere, from the Cafe Hon to Kislings!

                          2. re: baltoellen

                            The inspiration for the Diner in the Levinson movie was the Hilltop Diner on Reistertown Road. Definitely not Roland Park!

                        2. re: Roland Parker

                          Binkert's is not Italian sausage but it is amazing German sausage. I'm told they supply the German Embassy. And the cold cuts are all house-made including house-made Westphalia. The blood and tongue loaf is phenomenal. He gets his pigs from the Amish. Oh, and I was born in Hampden, and have been enjoying fries and gravy out and about in Baltimore since I was a child in the 60s. ;)

                          1. re: ko1

                            Oh, and Binkert's is strictly a butcher. They don't make sandwiches, etc. You have to take the food home and prepare it. I'm making their weisswurst, brats and imported sauerkraut tonight as a matter of fact.

                            1. re: ko1

                              Oh yeah, this Catonsville girl was raised on fries and brown gravy!

                    2. re: JonParker

                      I have to laugh a little bit about Baltimore pit beef. I was watching one cooking show or the other and the host said it was a Baltimore tradition. My wife, who was born and grew up in the city, had never heard of it. Then I saw something (maybe about Chaps?) that said it was a Baltimore tradition since 1975 (or roughly then). Well, that would explain her ignorance, as she had married me and we had moved elsewhere several years before that.

                      I believe traditional Baltimore pit beef uses top round with a dry rub and is grilled over a hot fire, rather than slow cooked or smoked. It is served (at least it should be) quite rare. It needs to be cut VERY thin, across the grain or it will be chewy and inedible. It is traditionally served with onion and horseradish sauce. I have actually made this myself several times at home and, when not overcooked and sliced thin enough (some more 'modern' places now use a spiral slicer rather than slice by hand), this is a GREAT sandwich. We stopped several months ago at one of the 'joints' on Pulaski; I believe it was Chaps. Others seem to have closed. This is definitely not 'upscale' dining, but good eats nonetheless.

                  2. re: JonParker

                    Oh Jon--I was sorely disappointed with Grapevine Cafe. I ordered 2 orders of tzatziki and 1 order of taramasalata since I had a craving for it. Each of them came with pseudo-pita bread triangles, with baked on butter, garlic powder, and some green flakes (I'm assuming parsley). This is what I got: Medium condiment sized cups of each. FOR $17.50! The taramasalata tasted a lot like mayo with a little fish roe in it--TERRIBLE. The tzatziki tasted like sour cream with dill and garlic powder. TOTAL rip off. If you can't get the benchmark Greek appetizers right, then you aren't a real Greek restaurant in my book. I'm still floored by the miniature siz-ed portions for $17.50 for wannabes!!! Never, ever again.

                  3. Good crab cakes are never cheap cheap, I would recommend the Ocean Pride on York Road in Lutherville just above Towson. Pit Beef is cooked on a *hopefullly* charcoal grill (as opposed to a gas grill but it is always cooked on a grill) where as roast beef is baked in an oven. It is very yummy!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: hon

                      The Canopy in Ellicott City and Catonsville actually has good pit beef, and pit ham, pork and turkey. Havent eaten there in a while, but it was always pretty good, not dried out.

                      1. re: AckAck

                        I like Canopy too. A giant sandwich with BBQ sauce, mayo and onions....mmmmmm.

                        1. re: thedanny

                          What, no horseradish? Heresy! ;)

                    2. It's tough to find great pie in Towson area in my experience. If Fortunato's down York Road is still open that was the best I had found in the Towson area. Pasta Mista on Dulaney was good in a pinch as well. I have made special trips downtown for Dog Pub pizza (Fed Hill&my favorite) and recently tried Py in Canton Square which was good. I read something on these boards about a coal oven pizza place opening recently but have yet to try. Brick Oven Pizza in Fells is also good if you find yourself in Fells and hungry after the bars :)

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: BaltoPhilFood

                        Fortunato's is still there. I like their pizza a lot.

                        1. re: BaltoPhilFood

                          Re: Coal Oven Pizza. I can only assume this is the new place in Perry Hall, Phat Pug Pizza. Its ups and downs (mainly downs) have been covered extensively here on Chowhound (see http://www.chowhound.com/topics/43280...) as well as E. Large's Balto Sun Dining blog (http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/enter...)

                          I don't know what to say about this place. I am a huge pizza fan, and Baltimore is certainly lacking, but there is no way I'm trekking out to Perry Hall only to be disappointed. If I happen to find myself am in that area, am hungry, and feel like taking a chance, fine, but no way I am making an effort. Sorry guys.

                          1. re: BaltoPhilFood

                            As a former NYer, when I want pizza that comes closest to home (so traditional slicnes not anything fancy), I like Pasta Misto in towson.

                          2. matthew's pizza on eastern ave in balt. it is authentic. definately get it with "both" cheeses. for something a bit more modern with different toppings, i would try pazo. fun atmosphere also.

                            1. I'm also originally from Jersey but have lived here (Baltimore) for 20 years now. NJ pizza is tough to find around here. Try Mathews in Canton/Highlandtown if you feel like making the drive from Towson.

                              No such thing as a "good & cheap" crabcake...it's one or the other. Try Coco's in Laurelville on Harford road on Wednesday night for half price night....thats the best moderately priced cake I've been able to find.

                              Pit Beef is slow cooked with alot of dry rub on it.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: jimmitch923

                                I went camping out in Western MD, and there was a little restaurant selling $3 crabcakes. That's right $3! Actually, for $3 they weren't bad.

                                1. re: thedanny

                                  You sure that was crab you were eating?

                                  Also...a "good" crab cake to me is defined by lump crab meat that cannot be consumed in less than 4 bites.

                                2. re: jimmitch923

                                  It's Koco's in Lauraville and the price is reduced to about $20 on Thursday nights for a platter (not half-price). Wednesdays are rib night.

                                3. The best crab cakes (and authentic Baltimore experience) can be had standing up at Faidley's at Lexington Market. You should order the most expensive lump version, but if you can't stomach the price, there are lower-cost varieties that are still better than lots of what's out there.

                                  1. Gyros? No place really stellar comes to mind. But there is a place in Towson on Chesapeake Avenue called Greek Isles that sells gyros. Years ago it was owned by this Greek guy that had health problems which forced him to close. The gyros he made were pretty darn good. Recently, they reopened using commercial, frozen gyro meat and I found it to be too salty and not as good as I remember from the previous owner. It's worth checking out and deciding for yourself.

                                    Burger Brothers on Allegheny Avenue makes a tasty burger and excellent onion rings. Though if the place is jammed and they're busy, I suggest waiting 30 minutes and coming back when it's slower. The owner/cook does a great job but if the place is jamming, the kitchen gets stressed and the quality slips a little.

                                    Pit Beef is a Baltimore thing and you can find a great example of it on Church Lane in Cockeysville at a place called Charcoal Deli. Get it with fries.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: onocoffee

                                      The original post was from over a year ago!

                                      1. re: onocoffee

                                        It's never too late to reply to a post... and I'm not just saying that because I'm a repeat offender. ;)

                                        I often search the board and I really appreciate when people will tack on recommendations long after the original post.