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Apr 14, 2011 10:55 AM

Top ten over-rated restaurants in Baltimore

or would that be the bottom ten? Anyway...

10. Chameleon Cafe: The very nice and earnest people that operate this not very charming spot on York Road should be commended for sticking it out in a tough setting, but their aims exceeds their grasp. They specialize in an ambitious yet poorly executed faux-French menu accompanied by a amateurish yet affordable wine list. The good news is you'll never be totally disappointed because every one is just so darn nice.

9. Matthew's Pizzeria: Oops! Not really a restaurant (according to B-more Mag, pizzerias are NOT restaurants) Matthew's has been serving not very good pizza in a rundown space since 1948. But at least it's been consistent over the years.

8. Black Olive: Maybe a Greek restaurant, or a seafood restaurant, or a Greek seafood restaurant, their stunningly high prices for really very average food places them squarely on the list. Their very pretentious wine list adds insult to injury.

7. All local crabhouses: C'mon, B-more, this is supposed to be what you're about! Instead, we are typically offered over-priced, over-cooked, over-Old Bay'd blue crabs from the Gulf of Mexico. But, hey, don't forget the undercooked fries and waterlogged corn-on-the-cob!

6. Sotta Sopra: A jewel of a space, Sotta Sopra continues to pull in the crowds for no apparent reason. Is it the rot-gut liquor poured into top shelf bottles? The pounded pork masquerading as veal? Or the charming, and welcoming Eastern European staff that charms all despite their utter lack of skill and knowledge. Tutto bene, eh Ricardo?

5. Corks: having passed their tenth anniversary, and undergoing a facelift, Cork's looks no different and continues to plod along, offering substandard fare, inept service and over-the-hill wines by the glass. "Chef" Jerry Pelegrino still spends more time in others' restaurants than his own, which frankly, is probably a good thing.

4. Woodberry Kitchen: Although quite possibly the most attractive restaurant in the city, Woodberry's pale impression of the farm-to-table concept leaves much to be desired. The menu is confusing and not so much poorly executed as boringly so. The crowds overwhelming the space seem to have far more enthusiasm for the food than the cooks. Great bartenders, however.

3. Brewer's Art: Lodged in what could be a stunning old brownstone, the poor housekeeping of the space echoes the mediocrity of the restaurant. Worn and tarnished ideas indifferently offered by too-cool-for-school staff is the hallmark of Brewer's Art. A case in point; the self-proclaimed famous rosemary fries are mostly served cold because as one employee explained, 'we serve a shitload and only have one fryer'. Maybe buy another?

2. Jack's Bistro: Weirdly quirky food ideas that seldom taste good are the backbone of this restaurant. It also bills itself as 'where the chef's go'. Really? Who? A show of hands, maybe?

1. Kali's Court: Overwrought, loud, and really bad, this Fell's Point destination has been packing them in for years despite is stunning indifference to quality. Does anyone go there twice? I mean, other than masochists? It has all the nauseating slickness of a mid-priced chain as it pretends to offer signature fine dining. Not.

Black Olive
814 S. Bond Street, Baltimore, MD 21231

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  1. I agree--we have some overblown, overhyped, overpriced places...but this reads like an out-of-towner looking down his nose at us locals. Chameleon, bootstrapped from a 36th St. coffeeshop and Louisiana-derived French as opposed to trying to pass off as real French from France, is not on York Rd, and in fact made possible all the new places on Harford Rd. that came after. Matthew's is not trying to pass itself off as certified by the pizza police, it's where neighborhood people and those that appreciate our neighborhoods go for affordable, gooey, faux-crab local concoctions that we like. And the crabhouses--they're real, they're Maryland, and we love them, at least the better ones on the east side, because that's where the crabs are, least most of them. True, some places are in the business of selling hype, and they deserve your criticism. The unpretentious places have earned our appreciation.

    2 Replies
    1. re: chowsearch

      Of course you're correct regarding Chameleon's location, my mistake, but regardless of their origin, and despite their obvious efforts, I still stand by my comments. I'm actually B-more born and bred, and those east-side crab houses that you refer to are, sadly, long gone. And as to Matthew's, its not the pedigree that I question, or their popularity, but rather the quality. Longevity is no substitute.

      1. re: cheflarryj

        Andy Nelson's.... (w/ the exception of one person here)

    2. The original comment has been removed
      1. The original comment has been removed
        1. Folks, please remember that personal attacks of any kind are strictly forbidden, and will be removed.

          Please keep in mind that we're here to rate the chow, not the Chowhound. We encourage you to add your own opinions and reviews of the chow at these restaurants, but please refrain from critiquing the way other hounds post.

          1. Looking at the places on your list that I have been to, I think some of your criticism is valid if often overly harsh. As chowsearch pointed out, we don't go to Matthews expecting hand crafted pizza from a wood oven, we go expecting the garlicky, delicious mess that we've loved for years. I love the place and will continue to.

            In spite of a couple of iffy experiences in the past, my last visit to The Black Olive was superb and did not strike me as overpriced at all. I'm not a wine drinker, so I can't speak to that. I think I've been there four times and had two absolutely perfect experiences and two
            marginal ones (although I always thought the food was good). If they could keep their A game going they'd be in my top five.

            I live in Federal Hill, go to Corks reasonably often, and think it's a perfectly serviceable neighborhood restaurant. I wouldn't drive miles out of my way to go there, but they have some very good and reasonably priced dishes, and I've never had any service problems. I love their fondue. I really don't understand why it's on your list at all -- it's not like there's a lot of buzz surrounding it. It's hard to call something overrated when people aren't really talking about it. The night you will find me at Corks is most likely Monday, and Jerry has been in the kitchen every time. While I like some things more than others, nothing has been bad, and it often has been really good. Also, half price steaks every night but Friday and Saturday, and it's well sourced beef well cooked. That's pretty much my definition of a great neighborhood joint.

            I don't even know what to say about your comment about crab houses. Some are better than others, and we have to import a lot of our catch from down south, but they are still blue crabs.. As for the comment about the fries and corn on the cob, I really don't expect good anything from a crab house but crabs and beer. If they can do that, who cares about the other stuff?

            You're dead right about Kali's Court. It's really a shame because it's a very nice space that deserves much better food and service. But you're right, it's really bad,considering its price point. This was my biggest disappointment in Baltimore dining, and you're 100% right -- no one but a masochist would go there twice. It really is a great space though.

            What I really want is for Edward Kim to come back. Everything I ever had from him was fantastic. Perhaps if we could arrange for him to take over Kali's Court...

            Kali's Court
            1606 Thames Street, Baltimore, MD 22231

            Black Olive
            814 S. Bond Street, Baltimore, MD 21231

            7 Replies
            1. re: JonParker

              Last I heard, Edward Kim has gone corporate and was at the Westin BWI. Soigne's owner, Lisa Heckman opened and still runs Iggies in Mt. Vernon. I appreciate your comments, however I believe the locally harvested blue crab was sweeter and meatier than what we currently see from the Gulf. Perhaps that's a function of shipping or freshness?

              1. re: cheflarryj

                Well, the crabs are always shipped live, so I don't see how it could be a freshness issue. I didn't know Kim was still around -- has anyone been to the new place? I never ate at Soigne, but I loved Saffron with a passion.

                1. re: cheflarryj

                  More like supply. For several years now there has been a dearth of Chesapeake-bred blue crabs, so restaurants have come to rely on Gulf crabs. Apparently the Chesapeake harvest is expected to be pretty healthy this season, however, so we may see more of them on local menus.

                  1. re: cheflarryj

                    Well, there is live and then there is living. Ever taste a shrimp or lobster (or a fish or an oyster) just caught? A revalation of an experience compared to a lobster that has been in a tank for a week or a shrimp that has been frozen. Same with a crab. Fresh from the bay is a world away from crabs shipped in a basket for a couple of days (or more) from the Gulf.

                    1. re: ClevelandDave

                      Crabs are usually flown in that day. They only last alive for about 36 hours and thats if you loose pack ice them to hybernation sleep allowing them room to breathe. A "days" old crab would be a dead crab.

                      1. re: hon

                        Flown in? Doubt it. Driven by truck more typical. Maybe they get to the market the next day, probably two.

                        1. re: ClevelandDave

                          Again "Cleveland Dave", live crabs wouldn't keep 2 days. I have been told on several occasions by different crab houses that the crabs from the gulf are flown in.