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Feb 28, 2011 09:25 AM

Baltimore-Old school restaurants? No touristy or chain places please

I'm coming to Baltimore this weekend with my 13yo son who's a good eater. I embarrassingly have never really spent time in Baltimore and would like to check out some restaurants that are old school/Baltimore institutions (aside from Phillips).

We live in Philadelphia so ethnic food is abundant here and doesn't have any novelty for us. I'm particularly interested in anywhere good in little italy. I'll have a car so willing to drive. Staying in Timonium. Any suggestions for things to check out aside from the Aquarium would be great too. The only areas in Baltimore I've been are Charles St, Fells Point and in the burbs.

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks

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  1. You don't get much more old school than Tio Pepe on Franklin St. I'd hit the Walter's Art Gallery and then head to Tio Pepe for dinner one night.

    Also, the Visionary Arts Museum is pretty cool and has a new American restaurant upstairs - Mr. Rain's Funhouse (although I'm not a fan and wouldn't recommend you go). IMHO you will be disappointed in Little Italy. Having spent an abundant time in Philly, you will not find anything on the level of Modo Mio (my favorite) or even La Viola in Little Italy. If you are dead set on eating in LI, Aldo's is your best bet, but the salad at Chiapparelli's is worth eating. If it's just Italian you are looking for, go to Sotto Sopra.

    If you are looking for basically the best meal you can get without breaking the bank head to B&O Brasserie (don't miss the crispy pork belly if you go). I like to send people from out of town to Henninger's Tavern, Peter's Inn, and Captain Larry's for a good taste of the local flavor.

    Henninger's Tavern
    1812 Bank St, Baltimore, MD 21231

    237 S High St, Baltimore, MD 21202

    Peter's Inn
    504 S Ann St, Baltimore, MD 21231

    Captain Larry's
    601 E Fort Ave, Baltimore, MD 21230

    Sotto Sopra Restaurant
    405 N. Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21201

    1. When I think of old-school Baltimore, I always think of Tio Pepes and the Prime Rib. Both have extensive menus with solid food. Also, both are a quick ride from the Science Center, which definitely would be a hit with a 13 year old.

      Sabatinos and Chips in Little Italy are also long-standing, Baltimore institutions, but the food is nothing special.

      Enjoy your visit and let us know where you end up.

      Prime Rib
      1101 North Calvert Street, Baltimore, MD 21202

      4 Replies
      1. re: stephanieg

        Tio Pepe is indeed old school Baltimore, but I have to confess I was disappointed when I ate there bout three weeks ago. The sauces were heavier than I recalled; the fish (dorade?) was a bit overcooked; and the desserts were a bit tired.

        The Prime Rib, on the other hand, never disappoints.

        Prime Rib
        1101 North Calvert Street, Baltimore, MD 21202

        1. re: stephanieg

          I concur about Sabatino's but if you do end up there the double sided garlic bread is worthwhile to order. When a working group I'm in was there last we ended up at a place with an indoor Bocce court down near the Inner Harbor. It was decent; nothing out of this world, but not bad. Nice place, but I forget the name and can't seem to easily find it through search.

          Here's a thread that is probably helpful:


          1. re: Dennis S

            You must be describing La Scala! I rate their food as consistently very good, but nothing to die over.

            La Scala
            1012 Eastern Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21202

            1. re: stephanieg

              Yes! And that's a perfect description. We had a private room, service was above par, but the food was just above good. Apparently when the matron Mamma is there the desserts at least are outstanding (I'm not a dessert person). I don't think she was there when we were (I think I understood that she traveled often).

        2. When I think "old school" I think of Pappas Seafood Restaurant at 1725 Taylor Avenue. Old school enviornment, waitresses, platters with free sides, etc. And their crab cake is one of the best in town.

          1 Reply
          1. re: kim2310

            Pappas is like eating in a nursing home dining room and the crab cakes are made with imported crab meat which I find pretty tasteless.

          2. for "old school" near where you are staying, The Ocean Pride in Lutherville and Michael's in Timonium fit the bill.

            5 Replies
            1. re: hon

              I agree with hon. Ocean Pride is a great Maryland seafood restaurant, perhaps the best in Baltimore, and it is nearer than the city. I also agree with the poster who opined that Philly's Italian food is superior to that of Baltimore.

              1. re: elgringoviejo

                I think Mamas on the Half Shell is much better then both places but they said they would be in the Timonium area...

                1. re: hon

                  Never been to Mama's, but Ocean Pride is old school Maryland seafood and that's how I roll. You are a very reliable and excellent poster so I hope to check out Mama's some of these days.

                  1. re: elgringoviejo

                    I recently gave Mama's another shot and I just don't get it. The bar atmosphere is nice, but the food is run of the mill. I had pasty crab dip and everything else was super greasy.

              2. re: hon

                I go to Michael's with some regularity for family reasons. It is only acceptable

              3. 1. The Prime Rib: the icon of old school baltimore- excellent prime rib, seafood including crab cakes, steaks and fish. large drinks. used to require a sports jacket for men and would supply you one if you didnt have one
                2. Tio Pepe: another baltimore icon- great authentic spanish cuisine. large menu and even larger specials list daily. fresh seafood and fish dishes are great. sangria and for desert they have great souflee' and pine nut cake
                3. Ikaro's: old school greek restaurant in the greek town area. there several other places in the same vicinity that some claim as their fav's
                4. Bertha's: famous for "eat Betha's mussels" bumper stickers- bar in Fells Point.
                5. Lexington Market: larger version of the Reading Terminal Market: hit the raw bar at Faidley's seafood for oysters and clams and get the most expensive of their crab cakes as an iconic baltimore dish. Also get some fresh roasted nuts, go to the Berger's bakery stand and try their iconic chocolate top cookies. fun for sat daytime
                6. Vacarro's: italian pastry shop with gelato and home made pastries- our version of termini bros. located in little italy
                7. Chiapparellii's or Sabatino's: similar to south philly red gravy italian restaurants. Both have a great home made salad dressing on the house salad. rest of food is ok--once was great

                Lexington Market
                400 W Lexington St, Baltimore, MD 21201

                Prime Rib
                1101 North Calvert Street, Baltimore, MD 21202

                2 Replies
                1. re: dining with doc

                  I'm also from Philly and I really didn't get Bertha's. The mussels were ok, but they were just steamed and served by themselves with a dipping sauce on the side. In Philly, we steam the mussels in a broth, let the mussels release their liquor into the broth, and serve it all in a big bowl with lots of crusty bread to dip (or on top of pasta). That broth is where all the flavor is.

                  1. re: Philly Ray

                    I disagree. When I went, the mussels were very fresh and perfectly cooked, and the dipping sauces were sublime. I think it's great for the price. BTW, most places here do serve mussels in sauce (white wine, tomato, whatever) with bread, Bertha's just happens not to.