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Where would you go in Baltimore for *your* birthday??

Mine is in a couple weeks and I'm in desperate need of recommendations. In the last six months, I've been to Blue Hill Tavern (passable), Waterfront Kitchen (unmitigated disappointment), and Thames Street Oyster House (great oyster stew, gloppy risotto). I've been to Cindy Wolf restaurants more than I can count and had a bad experience at Brewer's Art last go ("go" being the operative word).

We love imaginative food, interesting wine lists and an energenic vibe. It's a bonus if we see more dresses and sport coats than fanny packs (what can I say..we love to dress up for a date).

Any thoughts for me? Where would you go? Thanks!!

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  1. B&O American Brasserie or Bluegrass Tavern. Both may be a bit more informal than you're looking for, though.

    Prime Rib if you want that 1960s retro look. Good wine list, not sure I'd call it energetic or imaginative.

    I'd recommend Tio Pepe for a fancier atmosphere, but it's been many years since I've been there.

    1 Reply
    1. I have an upcoming birthday and want to try out Wit and Wisdom. Last year I went to Tio Pepe's (it was quite good) and also the Prime Rib (got to dress up both times). Hubby is also planning to take me to Elkridge Furnace Inn and the Orgeon Grille. Yippee!! Three bonus dining out experiences. FoiGras

      5 Replies
      1. re: FoiGras

        Foi...I'll be interested to hear your review of W&W. I thought about going there, but I was less than impressed with the reviews (overpriced, mediocre food). I just did that at Waterfront Kitchen and didn't want to go 0 for 2. Tentatively, I have reservations at The Black Olive. I've not been there in 10 years and thought it might be time for another go. I seem to remember the service being as bad as the food was good (they were sufficiently distinguished in both).

        I wonder...has anyone tried The Olive Room?

        1. re: Christina D

          I heard that W&W got a new chef in June, so things may have changed. He's a pretty highly respected chef. Black Olive's food is always good IMO, but the service ranges from horrible to very good.

          B&O and Blugrass are both excellent. I'd avoid Oregon Grill -- overpriced and you pay more for atmosphere than good food.

          1. re: JonParker

            JonParker--many times you are spot on. So, based on what you just provided with regards to a new chef at W&W, I guess I'll follow through on my first night birthday dnner.

            I can't be enthused about B&O--it was good, but....Wish I could be more specific. Maybe just an off night on the part of my hubby and myself. It happens.

            Do want to try Bluegrass for a more casual, less celebratory night out. Their menu looks enticing.

            Okay--okay, I know.....Oregon Grille is expensive, etc. But I love their roasted oysters and truffle mac'n cheese. Hey, it's not ALWAYS about the food. The atmosphere is elegant and relaxed. The accompanying pianist offers the romance. Get it? I used to love going to the Rainbow Room in NYC--it really wasn't about the food. And, of course, the Oregon Grille can't compare to the Rainbow Room--it definitely was one of a kind.

            Thanks always for your input. I do take it seriously and into consideration and always concede when I am wrong. FoiGras

            1. re: FoiGras

              We didn't fall in love with B&O either and like you, I'm not sure I can put my finger on exactly why. I know that our server was a little ditzy, she didn't leave the best impression. The bar was nice (drinks were really interesting, although the lounge area was uncomfortable), and I remember the food as being ok, but nothing spectacular.

              Come to think of it, maybe I just put my finger on it. :o\

          2. re: Christina D

            I'lll update once I go to W&W.. but, like you mentioned....maybe over rated?
            I've seen mixed reviews onthe Olive Room and it is another restaurant I am anxious to try. Like you, I dined at the Black Olive about ten years ago and was totally unimpressed., Can't offer anything specific other then, from recollection, the tables were awfully close together. Since Hubby and I aren't inclined to dine on fish, well, I guess that says a lot. Although there were other tempting options. I woudn't hesitate to return, but have many more places I want to try out beforehand. FoiGras

        2. For "my" birthday....
          Prime Rib, not exactly imaginative food, but excellent food, excellent service and it does have ambience, not an energetic vibe, more MAD MEN 60'ish stylish , or perhaps Nick and Nora Charles 40ish!!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Hue

            We always loved the Prime Rib but our visit last week dampened our ardor. Somewhere between the overcooked shrimp cocktail, the supermarket produce in the house salad, the gloppy and overseasoned bisque which lacked real shellfish flavor, and the supermarket butter and sour cream accompaniments, we had an epiphany. Had the Prime Rib started to cheap out, or had it just failed to keep up with the improved sourcing and execution in today's restaurant kitchens?

              1. Woodberry Kitchen, or Chameleon. Most people won't be in dresses, but you won't feel out of place. These are my two favorites in the city, along with Cinghali.

                1. Personally, I would go to Charleston. But since it sounds like you'd prefer not to go to one of Cindy Wolf's places, then my second choice would be Pabu.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Guy Incognito

                    I had never heard of Pabu. It looks interesting. Have you been?

                    1. re: Christina D

                      I have not been yet, but I've heard good things. I'm not from the Baltimore area, but am thinking of driving up from DC just to try it. Good Japanese food is hard to find around here...

                      1. re: Christina D

                        Pabu is really, really good-- the only serious sushi in Baltimore and the rest of the izakaya menu has some standout dishes as well, but it's definitely not a dressy affair. I'd suggest Wit & Wisdom over Pabu if you're looking to dress up. Clayton Miller was putting out some really beautiful cuisine that I thoroughly enjoyed when he was at the helm at Trummer's (he's also logged time at the French Laundry) and I don't doubt that he's doing the same at Wit & Wisdom.

                        Otherwise, is DC totally out of the question?

                        1. re: stellabay

                          Pabu is great. And the Sake sommelier really knows her stuff. She does a sake tasting 101 that will leave you feeling like you have a phd in the topic (and also drunk)

                      1. My husband and I just did a joint birthday dinner at Charleston. We really enjoy eating there once or twice a year. The service is lovely, the food excellent. That doesn't much help you if you're tired of Cindy Wolf, though. Have you been to Bagby's Ten Ten? Making a meal of appetizers there is great, but maybe too informal.

                        1. This is off the path but I'd say Grace Garden. It swings wildly the other way on atmosphere but after trying the same types of neo-rustic Americana dishes in expensive restaurants filled with loud patrons in shorts and flip flops you just have to say "let's have fish noodles, phoenix purse, and boneless steamed duck wrapped around chinese sticky rice" instead and literally have a meal that will blow your expectations for how wonderful food can be.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: kukubura

                            Heh. I was going to say, for MY birthday I would go to Hunan Taste in Catonsville. The food is a bit more traditional (okay, a lot more) and quite different in character, but the quality and flavor are equal to GG.

                            And if you don't want fish noodles, phoenix purse, or eight treasure duck, (I have no idea why!) you could have the steamed pork belly with potatoes and seasoned rice powder, the whole fried fish with crunchy bones and rice powder, the best twice cooked pork in the area, and the best fuqi fei pian in the eastern half of the country.

                            (I haven't had the 8T duck at GG yet, nor any of the other off menu specials discussed here a few months ago, but Pacifica Cafe in Gaithersburg did an outstanding job with the duck.)

                          2. Thanks for all the recs. We cancelled our reservations at Black Olive and went to Peter's Inn. It was our first time and truly the best restaurant meal we've had in years. Service was friendly, but spotty and too slow. The food, however, more than made up for it. Apps were tuna "nachos" and filet mignon tartare with quail egg. Mains were lamb chops with cherry bordelaise and carrot risotto. I damn near licked the plate when the tartare was gone and we were amazed at how well the nachos paired tuna and beets. They seemed like the most natural combination in the world. My husband's lamb chops were too rare for my taste, but perfect for him. The carrot risotto was just a smidge overcooked (not al dente), but was well seasoned and delicious. We passed on dessert, but left very, very happy. We'll most certainly be back.

                            1. For my birthday, I typically want to try a place I've never been to before. This year I went to Ten Ten and was very pleased.