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What are Balt most over-rated Restaurants?

I saw this for Wash DC and figured that I could steal it see how things go. In no particular order I will say these are my choices for most over-rated. The Oregon Grille; Aldo's; Sulivan's (I know its new but how many steakhouses is there a need for?) I thought I would be able to come up with more. Now to counter that I would say the most underrated places. For me they would be the Abacrombie, it's in a difficult location but I've never had a bad meal there, either under the old ownership or the new regime. I'm a sucker for Tio Pepes, the shrimp in garlic is to die for, and literally with the amount of butter, you just might! I am a big fan of Jordans in Ellicott City which is like 20 min drive from the center of Baltimore City. The service has always been top notch and the same with the food.

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  1. The Helmand IMO and not a restaurant but Faidley's in Lexington Market.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hon

      Hon, I share your opinion re the Helmand. I never understood the hype.

      Anyway, a similar thread was started by Warthog about 3 years ago. It will be interesting if things changed:

      Rave reviews, but I just don't get it

    2. Second Aldo's. I was surprised to see it in the 2009 Eat issue of the City Paper. There are far better Italian places, IMHO.

      Black Olive is totally overrated in my book. The apps are merely OK, you can do a similar fish at home. The service was so horrifically negligent and incompetent that I haven't been back in over 10 years, and have no plans to do so.

      Blue Sea Grille is another one that I don't get. Way too expensive for fresh seafood that you can make at home. I know it's a beautiful place, but it's about the food! And the thank you note that the server mails you is creepy.

      ITA that Abacrombie is underrated. People who go have great things to say about it, but it's not very widely talked about.

      1. Pazo - or is it so overrated that everyone here takes for granted how overrated it is? Have had much better food at the same price or less.

        I have to disagree on The Helmand. Went there for the first time about 2 months ago and thought it was off the charts good.

        2 Replies
        1. re: dianamac23

          I agree, all my experiences at the Helmand have been stellar...it is a place I want to return to again and again.

          On the overrated side: Amicci's
          This place makes me so mad. Its the place to go in Little Italy and yet nothing there is even a little authentic, it is the same cheese-laden, weak tomato-sauce, carbo-loaded American style Italian food that you can get at any chain. Why there is such a fuss is beyond me.

          1. re: contessa15

            "Why there is such a fuss is beyond me."

            Because it's actually one of the neighborhood's better options.

            This should in no way be even remotely misconstrued as an endorsement.

        2. Sabatino's.

          Not because it's rated highly and isn't that great.

          Because no matter how low it's rated, it isn't low enough.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Dmnkly

            Totally agree with Pazo and Sabatinos - eww!

            1. re: Dmnkly

              I think this is the case with a big chunk of the Little Italy restaurants.

              1. re: gregb

                Are there any good restaurants in Little Italy? I haven't been in years. The last time I went, we ate at Sabatino's and I thought the pasta was good. Not gourmet by any stretch of the imagination, but good homestyle pasta. I would appreciate your recs if there are any good or decent restaurants in LI.

                1. re: Gigi007

                  Homestyle's great. Overcooked and ketchupy is not.

                  La Tavola's your best bet in Little Italy, IMHO. Pastas can be quite good.

              2. re: Dmnkly

                Agreed. Took a girl I was dating there about a week and half ago because she wanted pasta and because I had fond late-night memories about their gnocchi. Our waitress was friendly, nice, helpful and made our experience pleasant, but the food was worse than the worst I've ever eaten.

                I ordered the gnocchi, which was just okay, but my girls' lasagna was atrocious. It was the most foul bite of food I've ever experienced - in my life. The moment that forkful of lasagna hit my mouth, I wanted to spit it out. Absolutely and utterly disgusting.

                1. re: onocoffee

                  It's rare I encounter food that's so bad I want to spit it out -- usually only if the food tastes like it's gone bad / rancid -- but perhaps that's just my personal reaction. Just trying to understand - what was it about the taste of this lasagna which inspires such an extreme reaction (most foul bite ever experienced)?

              3. Chingiale and Pazo are very much over-rated. Chingiale being overpriced for small portions. Albeit, the quality of the food is quite exceptional. I do, indeed, perfer quality over quantity, but the quality wasn't remarkable enough to outweigh the small portion.

                Pazo--if you want to dine with strangers.... The tables are so closely situated and the food is not outstanding. Hardly even average.

                Totally Under-rated is Cafe Troia. Lovely atmosphere with very exceptional food. FoiGras

                6 Replies
                1. re: FoiGras

                  I may disagree with you based on my recent visit to Chingiale. Their $25 prix fix 3 course menu definitely has a winner in the lasagna. The meal was enhanced by the company. Old friends now living in Oregon and makers of the best Osso Bucco I've had the pleasure of tasting. The price range of the pastas offered on the menu is $15 to $18 I think. I didn't care as much for the Piemontese style pasta flavored with wild boar but the lasagna met with approval from our formerly local "Nonna" who is known well enough for hers that her recipe has been used as a treasured gift from her daughter in law to friends. (Who would have thought that we are old enough to pass on recipes to subsequent generations.) The lasagna made me want to go back and try other menu items.

                  Since I had enjoyed a $15 rissotto with porcini mushrooms a few nights earlier at Gino Troia's Grano, I realize that Cinghale may be elbowing its way back into contention for my Italian dinner dollar.

                  1. re: baltimorejim

                    I agree -- the last three meals I've had at Cinghiale (difficult spelling, but necessary for Googling!) have been delicious. The prix-fixe dinner (I think around $54) offers plenty of food, and the service has been excellent.

                    1. re: bordeauxfan

                      I have been to Cinghiale 4 times now and each time it gets better and better. Went for the soft opening and like you would expect, food was extremely slow. But and this is a big But, their sausage filled ravolies is so simple but delicious. I feel that I must get it every time I go there from now one. I haven't done the sunday supper yet and have heard mixed reviews about it.

                      1. re: youngfoodieguy

                        I had a super-romantic anniversary dinner there earlier this month. Tuesday evening with 1/2 price wine, and they nicely divided all three of our courses so that my partner and I had tastes of everything.

                    2. re: baltimorejim

                      Totally agree with Cinghiale being a very different place today than when it opened. I posted a year ago bemoaning underseasoned food and microscopic portions. Several visits over the last few months have brought consistently prepared, sometimes even inspired, food. The wine list is hands-down the best Italian selection in Baltimore, and everything gets decanted and served in Reidel. So, the real question in asking if it's overrated is: what is the expectation?

                    3. re: FoiGras

                      I would never do Pazo for a romantic night with the wifey. And I will say that I'm not a fan of everything on the menu. Last time I was there, there was a $72 24 oz steak. That is crazy. Ruth Chris or Capital Grill will get my steak bucks before Pazo. But to their defense, I absolutely love their pizzas, empenadas, bread, and some of their other tapas. It is a beautiful place though.

                    4. The Brass Elephant. An absolutely garbage pile of a restaurant. Went there for lunch a couple of years ago and every dish tasted like it had been left out in the sun for a couple of days, except for a seafood bisque which was tasty but I still had to send it back because, while the menu included a long, seemingly complete list of ingredients, it turned out it was filled with bacon, which I don't eat. Thanks for the deceptive ingredient list, guys! Won't be back!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: kukubura

                        Thanks for resurrecting the thread. Now I can imagine that I put a curse on this misery of a restaurant and forced them to close.

                      2. I like the concept of this post, but not the replies that are just a defense of popular places. Though an obsessed food lover who does not need elaborate food service, I find that neglectful, greedy or snobbish service can sour any dinner experience.

                        So I will not be returning to Tio Pepe's to wait forever in their crowded bar, to Cinghiale to servers who continually try to increase my check, or to the class conscious service of Prime Rib. The Cheesecake factory deserves a place in the seven layers of hell for convincing people that a long wait, a huge plateful and a long menu make up for factory produced food.

                        In another, better category is Dogwood: I appreciate their social mission, so I regret that there is nothing to get excited about in their food.

                          1. Cinghiale was my first thought when I saw the title of this post. I've dined there twice...first after they had just opened and recently (within the past month). Both experiences were eerily similar. I loved the wine and atmosphere, but thought the food was terrible. No matter what the course, the kitchen couldn't get a decent balance of oil, acid and salt. Every dish had plenty of oil, but either had too much salt to compensate for the lack of acid or just none at all. It's a shame, I would have thought that they'd be capable of much better execution.

                            1. I applaud the OP's effort to stir the pot, no pun intended, but Baltimore is the sort of town, and the size of town, that doesn't generate a lot of hype or buzz (which we could then pick apart as being unfounded, etc.) about its restaurants. There's just not the quantity of restaurants, particularly high-end restaurants, that would lend itself to this kind of analysis. Nor are there the quantity of media outlets you would see in a larger city to trumpet new restaurants and then to be later set straight.

                              Different story in DC , NY and beyond. But for a restaurant to be over-hyped, it has to be hyped in the first place and that's just not how it's happening here.

                                1. Philips Seafood Restuarant.

                                  1. Jordan's - No wonder it went out of business

                                    Mama's on the Half Shell - "But it's in a trendy location, so it has to be terrific!" Ummmmmm....No. Mediocre seafood at best. Be careful not to get run over by the throngs of hyped-up college kids on the way out. Go out to Schultz's in Essex - it is so much more than just a crab house.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: treetop tom

                                      I happen to really like the food at Mamas, what did you have that you thought was mediocre?

                                      1. re: treetop tom

                                        I like some things at mama's- oyster stew, oyster sandwhich. Fish.

                                        But, I don't understand what they are doing to the mussels. Mama-mussels are good, you don't need to put all that crap on them. heres a recipe mussels, white wine, garlic, olive oil, butter, parsley; cook til done, serve hot with bread.

                                        the crab cake is not terrible.

                                        1. re: Steve_C

                                          I do agree about the mussels, thats why I get them steamed naked with lemon and butter on the side. The crab cake is way better then that pasturized crab meat crab cake I had at Pappas which also won the City Paper's best crab cake - that I don't understand.

                                        2. re: treetop tom

                                          No, not the Half Shell, "Nacho Mamas" has some of the worst Mexican fare in the city.

                                        3. It's been a bit difficult to think about restaurants that fall under this category, and my opinions have changed as I read other people's comments.

                                          Sometimes, people have been stating high price as their reason for an over-rated vote. I find this a bit... unfair. Rarely have I found that information on food hype to be without some sort of price context. Usually it's 'you'll be paying this much, but the food is <good, bad, etc>. If you don't think food is worth the value, that's certainly a reason not to like the restaurant, but for some reason I don't think it's the right sole reason to place it in an over-rated category. I dunno.

                                          Also, these nominees are just places that I tend to see sometimes "hyped" by chowhounders. There's plenty of hype by regular people out there that never makes sense to me (Yay Ruth's Chris? Yay Mo's Seafood? Sigh...).

                                          With that in mind. I have to say that without a doubt, my first vote for most over-rated restaurant is Chiapparelli's. I really wanted to like it, and I know that it's not a largely hyped location, but I do not understand the devotion to their salad. I've gotten it all three times I've been there and all three times it was bland and lacking in fresh ingredients. And this is just the salad: their standard food was consistently sweet, heavy, and overcooked.

                                          Other places include Tio Pepes (though I chalk the hype up to mostly fond nostalgia so there's really no anger here) Matsuri (or really any sushi place that has any 'hype'), and Pasta Blitz (nothing really to add, just wanted to keep the structure of the parenthesis).

                                          And finally, the single statement that may get me exiled from BaltoCHOW:

                                          Grace Garden. Yeah, I said it. Please don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed eating at Grace Garden immensely for many meals, but the kind of reverence that is thrown at it on these boards is a bit over the top. Yes, I understand that Chinese in the area is terrible and as such the Li's have brought a truly welcomed breath of fresh air (albeit far away fresh air). However, if I were to be fair, I'd say the restaurant still compares only decently to mediocre to the good chinese establishments around the country (and even some chefs that have come and gone around the area). I think we sometimes lose sight of that in our excitement of having a traditional Chinese place to call our own. Trust me, I get it: it's new, it's popular, it's definitely everything we strive for in CHOWhound ... but it's still a pretty standard definition of 'over-rated'.

                                          Or probably that's just my opinion.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Wangus

                                            Grace Garden...no you didn't...

                                            1. re: Wangus

                                              While I think Grace Garden is pretty amazing for anywhere, and not just getting lots of love b/c it's a bright spot in Baltimore's dreary Chinese food dining scene, I am weirdly glad that someone's not totally enchanted by it. It would be boring if we all agreed on everything, and, in general, I think dissent is a good thing.

                                              That said, my near & dear to local CHer's hearts but over-rated restaurant is Fiesta Mexicana. It's a wonderful, homey place, run by people who care about bring "authentic" Mexico City-style food to Baltimore, but it just fails to inspire me.

                                            2. I almost always obey bumper stickers, but I refuse the eat Bertha's mussels.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                Szechuan House in Timonium Maryland is Definitely overrated. I don't see what some people see as so great about this place. And now they have some late night menu with lesser prices. Must be really hurting with the economy lol. Maybe you get a big portion. But really, it's quanity over quality here. And if cheap is your thing.. knock yourself out with this place.

                                                1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                  Bertha's is an institution in Fells Point and one of the last original bars, ya just have to take them as they are. You don't have to eat, but at least sit in the bar room and have a drink with the locals.

                                                  1. re: 180hearted

                                                    Oh, I'll drink at Bertha's, alright. But she can keep her mussels.

                                                    Kinda like for me, Old Ebbett is about the booze and the oysters and the atmosphere and just about nothing else.

                                                2. Cinghiale, Cinghiale, Cinghiale! (And this is based on many meals there.) Also, Bicycle and Brass Elephant -- so not sorry to see them go.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: sweetpotater

                                                    I think Bicycle is another example of something changing over time- not always for the best. I lived in Otterbein in '01 and went there the weekend it opened and thought it was great, something different & fresh, ppl were excited to see it open and it was pretty popular from the start. The original owner/chef also had a stall in Cross Street market and made great soups & sandwiches for lunch- he sent me a postcard about the opening, came over to my table to thank me for coming to see the place, really made me feel special and in turn I talked the place up. After returning to the area in '07 after 6 yrs in NYC I was excited Bicycle was still in business and we went to dinner there. The charm was gone, it was much larger and "scenier" and had a new owner/chef and it just seemed to be all hype. It made me sad.

                                                  2. Woodberry Kitchen hands down

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: sas

                                                      Haven't been to Woodberry as yet. Have only seen very favorable comments on this board.

                                                      So, what factor determined your opinion as to the restaurant being over-rated? I may not be so enthused to go after hearing your comments. FoiGras

                                                      1. re: FoiGras

                                                        FoiGras - it has gotten pleny of mixed reviews and several bad reviews, especially within the last year on this board. Check out this thread (you will see sas has a comment on that thread too that WK is over-hyped):

                                                        1. re: crackers

                                                          Crackers: I remember that thread when it came out, but I looked over it again to make sure I wasn't mistaken. It seems to me that the majority of reviews were either good or unbelievably glowing. A quick skim (I admit to not reading every word of the entire page) showed a couple reviews that were distinctly just unhappy about the food as a whole. Yes, there are some mixed reviews (I noticed some interesting reviews that were unhappy about the fact that there seemed to be other people eating in the restaurant... the horror!), but I the feeling I got from that thread was heavily slanted towards the positive.

                                                          Sas' comment over there was the same as his/her comment here: short, and so like Foi, I'd be very interested to hear more elaboration.

                                                          1. re: Wangus

                                                            The WK reviews are certainly more positive than negative but there were more than a couple of mixed or negative reviews. And more importantly to me, several come from frequent, long-time posters whose opinions I value. My one experience at WK was very good, but it was a private cocktail party, not the regular menu. My most "over-rated" votes go to Tio Pepe's and Faidley's crabcakes.

                                                            From the WK thread, these comments could lead one to think the place is over-rated.

                                                            "apps and small plates are better than entrees"

                                                            "the food was surprisingly mediocre"

                                                            "The service was strange."

                                                            "It wasn't outstanding, but then again, wasn't terrible. An average resturant meal, I guess."

                                                            "the place is loud and uncomfortably crowded with parking inconvenient, as is the valet."

                                                            "the food was, on the whole, mediocre, and not worth the high price tag that accompanied it."

                                                            "Frankly I thought they were pricy. My kitchen burger was dry and salty. The others were not that impressed either - couldn't hear their comments (very loud there) but they were making faces."

                                                            "The food was good/ok, but didn't knock our socks off."

                                                            "Whatever you do, make sure you dont get seated upstairs. The service is HORRIBLE."

                                                            "All in all, I guess I wanted more."

                                                    2. Even though I participated in this thread when it first started, I've been reading it since its revivial and I realized it makes me sad. In the current economic times, with so many restaurants closing, I feel like, as food lovers, we should be supporting the local food scene, not tearing it down. To me that means pointing out things the restaurants in question do well, as a means of encouraging and rewarding deliciousness, instead of focusing on the areas where they fall short.

                                                      So in that spirit, I want to acknowledge that the biscuits Miss Shirley's serves with many of its lunch entrees are indeed awesome.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: charmedgirl

                                                        The two aren't mutually exclusive, charmedgirl, and I'm inclined to believe that both are important. Digging and pimping the gems is only half the equation. The other half is getting people to let go of the junk. I'm not a native (nor even a resident, anymore) so I don't have the emotional attachment, but I'd watch the hordes descend upon Sabatino's every weekend and all I could think about was how many good restaurants those dining dollars could be supporting.

                                                        I'm not saying every average meal should be flogged. But true crimes against food cannot go unpunished.

                                                        1. re: Dmnkly

                                                          I have no problem giving honest feedback when someone asks (Q: "How is the cake at Charm City Cakes?" A: "Dry and lacking in flavor.") But an entire thread, the sole purpose of which is to be negative and critical, merely for the sake of being negative and critical, IMO, is not how we should be directing our energies.

                                                          To each his own. Lord knows you and I have disagreed before. ;-)

                                                          1. re: charmedgirl

                                                            I'm inclined to think that a thread on CH won't really impact that Sabiatino's of the world all that much. I agree that we should be supporting the local food scene, but this economic climate is also impacting diners, and if this thread helps someone decide to go an unheralded gem, rather than an over-hyped restaurant, I think this thread has served its function. (Both for the diner and the dining establishment.)

                                                            But, when I responded to this thread a few days ago, I honestly thought that I know where the big name restaurants are, but what I really want to learn is of the places that don't garner all that much attention but should.