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Is Baltimore Boring restaurantwise?

I haven't seen anything new or interesting with regards to the Baltimore dining scene. It seems as though none of you Chowhounds are dining out or posting anything with regards to the experiences you are having if you do go to a restaurant.

I haven't been able to dine out as usual for personal reasons, so it is a sad situation. I miss all of the "action" and comments. At least I have been able to live vicariously through all of you active diners with your postings.

Are there any new venues that I should look into for future dining out experiences. My palate is still champing at the bit for Wit and Wisdom. When the budget allows, that would probably be my first choice to get back into the dining out scene.

Anyhow, hope all of you are enjoying your restaurant experiences and am looking forward to reviews.

Saw some pretty negative comments regarding the Mount Washington Tavern. Has the place gotten itself back on track. It never was a primary go-to restaurant for me--just some place to go close to home on a casual weeknight dinner out.

FoiGras

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  1. Hey Foi,

    Little time to post due to nursing school crunch, but I've had some amazing meals in the last month:

    The Food Market: "The Chicken" perfectly cooked, moist, great sides.

    The Helmand: Just as good as ever, Had the pulau and another chicken dish (curry like); flavors were aggressively restrained (in that they were all assertive but not one dominated the entire dish).

    Friday was City Cafe: The Baltimore Club...OMG! Can't believe I ate the whole thing! Crab cake and shrimp salad! Also had the mussels as an app, About 18-20 mussels in a nice creamy broth, not heavy at all with the coconut milk, and the mussels tasted so fresh.
    G

    3 Replies
    1. re: gmk1322

      I agree in part with Hal. Most restos elsewhere that get lots of publicity are little different in menu from those in Baltimore--see the Red Rooster and the Dutch Their may be--probably is--a difference in execution, but the set-up is equally boring. TBS there are exciting restos elsewhere that are cutting edge, such as the Momofuku chain, which we dont have, but outside NY, SF, and a couple of other places, there is little there, other than execution. And we do have many places that execute very well.

      i have long complained on this blog about the fact that national writers ignore us despite the studied and long-time excellence of Cindy Wolfe and Spike Gjerde, and others.

      Perhaps the problem is that food writers wo might look at B-more focus on DC which certainly has a more vibrant food scene, esp ethnic. And because we're in the AMTRAK corridor it is easy to overlook us in comparison with other cities in the corridor. It does not help that the local food writers lack national reps; publicity is, after all a large part of the game.

      1. re: tartuffe

        Agree on many points but mostly with the "execution." Even for the best of Baltimore Wolfe and Gjerde has to offer, IMO, while they very well may be the best in town, similar can easily be found in cities that sandwiches us or easy access who execute the concept to dish with precision much better (and at better price).

      2. re: gmk1322

        Sounds as though you've had some yummy meals lately gmk1322. I've got to get back on the chow-wagon. FoiGras

      3. The Baltimore dining scene isn't boring, it just doesn't get much action on Chowhound. It's more that Chowhound is boring.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Hal Laurent

          I was cut off in mid-reply to Hal. I cannot blieve that we are less vibrant a scene than Birmingham, Clvelan, or Minneapolis. We simply need better publicity.

          1. re: tartuffe

            Agree with Hal...Chowhound has become somewhat boring..only make infrequent visits...!!

            1. re: Hue

              Agree as well. I don't know if it's that CH is boring, but it does seem that this is the DC board, with a little Baltimore thrown in. Even the topic subject lines seem to assume DC, unless otherwise noted. "Looking for <insert item here>"...uh, where? Most times, it's DC.

              Am I guilty for not contributing to the Baltimore-ness of this board? Absolutely. Will have to work on changing that.

              Speaking of which, I have a birthday dinner coming up. I'll have to do some research, but would love to hear about any recent outstanding experiences.

        2. Three comparatively new restaurants I have enjoyed are Herb and Soul in Parkville-- recently renovated (very little reaction from this board), Fork and Wrench in Canton and Artifact, which is fun to visit, has outstanding pastries and good lunch time entrees.
          Birotecca was disappointing-- smug, poor service and hellishly loud. Off to the Monday night special again at Corner BYOB.
          There's definitely food fun to be had in this town, though we are not cutting edge.

          1. Hi FoiGras,

            I'm so glad to see you back posting! I was wondering what happened-- you always helped keep this board alive! I think Hal summed it up well-- there's a lot going on, but not a lot of chatter here, which is disappointing for a food lover like me!

            My recent most memorable meal was at Birroteca-- I adore their melt-in-your mouth calamari and their pesto veggie pizza. I also just had a delicious meal at the Ambassador. While I think it's over-priced, it was heavenly to sip wine on their beautiful outdoor patio while eating delicious Indian food (I find the Bengan Khas appetizer-- eggplant with a tomato sauce--to be addictive, and adore the luscious paneer that is served with all the entrees).

            Hope you get back to the scene soon-- I've missed your posts!

            6 Replies
            1. re: stephanieg

              Hey stephanieg-thanks for your kind words. You also keep the board alive.

              I've never been to the Ambassador as I haven't really delved into Indian cuisine (had a nasty experience years ago). But after reading your description of the eggplant in tomato sauce, you've got me interested. How is it different from the Italian eggplant in tomato/marinara sauce?

              I love eggplant--especially grilled or tempura style.

              Hopefully I'll get back into the dining out scene. There are so many places I want to try-- Wit and Wisdom, Fork and Wrench and the recently reopened Chesapeake Restaurant. I viewed their menu on their website. Am hopeful that there will be items from their previous menu--Crab Imperial and their divine prime rib (which I always found to be equal to, or better then, the Prime Rib's version. FoiGras

              1. re: FoiGras

                That's a good question. The texture of the Ambassador's dish is really like silk-- the eggplant melts in your mouth. And their version is more garlicy than the Italian version-- I'm not sure all the other spices used, but it's so rich and heavenly. It comes with fresh naan bread, and the sauce is so delicious you'll want to use the bread to sop all of it up! If you're an eggplant fan (which I am too!!!), I think you'll really adore it. They also make a fabulous benghan barta, which is basically mashed up eggplant with garlic and other spices. It has a chunky texture, but is so smooth and silky as well.

                I hope the service at Fork and Wrench has improved since my last visit (which was a year ago). We loved the food, although we felt the portions were a bit skimpy for the price, but the service was so bad we have yet to return.

                1. re: stephanieg

                  At F&W, I watched a waiter clear my plate, pick something off the plate that looked like basil and give it a sniff test. As this was happening, I told him I wasn't sure what was on the plate, but it didn't smell of anything. He agreed and walked away...it was weird. Meal was good, but the prices are too high and the menu is all over the place.

                  Excited to check out Chesapeake this weekend.

                  1. re: gregb

                    gregb--can't wait to hear your comments on the Chesapeake. FoiGras

                    1. re: FoiGras

                      Sadly, I had to skip. I'll be there soon.

                  2. re: stephanieg

                    Hi stephanieg--I'll have to reconsider my thoughts on "Indian" cuisine based on your lovely description of the eggplant dishes you tried at Ambassador. Those dishes, along with the outdoor/garden dining, are enticing enough.

                    How odd that Fork and Wrench, with high prices (albeit small portions) also has inadequate service. That is definitely a turn off. FoiGras

              2. I second that recommendation for Artifact. They serve dinner Wednesday through Sunday now. It's been really good each time.

                1. 5 days later and there's only 9 reply's, now 10....

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: 3MTA3

                    Not sure if this is just coincidence or not but I started to notice a drop off in posts about the time the site was redesigned.

                    Does seem odd as there seem to be a lot of dynamic things happening in the food scene right now in Baltimore. I've still got a pretty sizable list of new places to try out (Fork & Wrench, Ouzo Bay, Food Market, etc) and it sounds like there are more on the horizon with Spike's new place, pizzablogger's place, and others.

                    Also just saw Baltimore Magazine is naming its top 25 crab cakes, that should provide some good material for a few days at least...

                  2. I hope this doesn't come off snobbish but I am completely bored with Baltimore's restaurant scene, and have been for some time. With the exception of Charleston and Pabu you can find some version of the exact same dishes in basically every restaurant.

                    I can't begin to tell everyone how sick of hearing that a new Baltimore restaurant is "new American - farm to table." Give me a break.

                    My in-laws live in DC and I am there frequently. The variety of quality restaurants compared to Baltimore is startling. I had one of the better meals of my life at The Source two weeks ago. I challenge anyone to name me a restaurant doing anything nearly as inventive as Scott Drewno at The Source up here in Baltimore. You just can't.

                    I should mention that I compare DC to Baltimore because that city was considered a food desert as recently as a decade ago. Look where they stand now.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: hotel

                      hotel--I really don't deserve to make many comments on the recent dining out in Baltimore scene--have been out of "commission--unfortunately."

                      Like you, what is this big deal with "new American-farm to table" designation? Geez--years ago when I dined in San Francisco--and the wine country--Waters--John Ash, etc. it was a given that the ingredients were "pure" and homegrown,
                      Just like Wolfgang Puck and Spago and goat cheese pizza--over 30 years ago.

                      I don't believe that you are snobbish. Hey, there are truly some really worthwhile restaurants in our area. Believe it or not, I don't actually want to be WOWED every time I eat out. Good food, service and atmosphere are most times enough for me and Hubby. AND--we actually like a various number of the chain restaurants and reserve our upscale dining for weekends and/or special occassions.

                      I only posted my topic as I hadn't seen must activity with regards to the Baltimore dining scene, which unfortunately I haven't been able to recently participate therein. Hubby and I LOVE DINING out--We used to go out at least 5 nights a week. Of course, when we were blessed to travel frequently to all of the major U.S cities, we truly enjoyed the best of the best in the dining arena.

                      Enjoyed your perspective on the local dining scene. I DON'T want to suggest that Baltimore doesn't have some wonderful restaurants. There are some newer venues which I haven't as yet tried. In fact, it has always disturbed me that Baltimore has always been scored as a second-class city--for dining and other reasons.

                      I am a Baltimore gal and love this city. She may have her flaws, but she can hold her own as a destination city. This is a great city and we can always find some wonderful, perhaps not superlative, dining experience. Those are rare even in the most sophisticated cities.

                      As far as Charleston--Hubby and I used to dine there about every month or so--back about 15 years ago--there was a standard, not prix fixe menu. WE always entertained out of town guests there. In fact, the standard menu actually cost us more then what it would have been had it have been the prix fixe menu. AND--the last time we went with the imposed prix fixe menu--we were not very impressed. Maybe just an off night.

                      With regards to your comment about D.C. now becoming a food destination--yes, D.C. wasn't making any waves for a long time. It was only many years ago that the Watergate had the great restaurant--which escapes the name--but the chef eventually went to the Rio Hotel in Vegas and opened a lovely restaurant--we enjoyed dining there. Sadly, the chef (sorry--can't recall his name or that of the restaurant) has passed away.

                      Enough of my blubbering--dining to tonight on my "excting" marinated steaks, salad of sugar snap peas, slivered carrots, chopped red bell peppers, pickled tiny bites of cauliflower. red onions, dried cranberries, grape tomatoes and slivered almonds--a mismash. But good with a light lemony/fruited dressing. (Can you guess that I am not really a good, even adequate cook? Hubby is happy and that is all that counts. FoiGras.

                      1. re: FoiGras

                        The restaurant you were thinking of was Jean Louis at the Watergate. The chef, Jean Louis Palladin passed away unfortunately several years ago. He also tried to open a place in NYC but due to poor financing it only had a brief life span. This was during his time at the Rio. He was a great chef and one of my daughters had the good fortune of training under him in Washington, Vegas and NYC.
                        On a completely different level I'm looking forward as are several others on here to an upcoming dinner at Fork and Wrench. Last but not least, can't wait for Ryleigh's to open their Baltimore County branch on Padonia Road sometime in August. Not an epicurian delight but good food at very affordable prices.

                    2. Okay, I'll throw in my 2 cents. As a lurker (mostly), in general I just find too much repeition of the same places over and over in the posts here -- there's too much focus (and complaint) on "dining" as opposed to places to just go and get some good food. After a while I just give up because it seems like it's always the same 5 recommendations/complaints. What I want to know about are all the good hole-in-the-wall places where you can get a good meal.

                      So, not to be a complete whiner, here's a few offerings I'll throw out (because I should speak up if I want to be listened to):

                      Cinco de Mayo grocery for cripsy, porky chicharones

                      El Taquito Mexicano on Eastern for barbacoa (when they have it) and generally great (and real) Mexican food.

                      Neopol Smokery and Grand Cru in Belvedere Market because smoked things and good wine just seems right

                      Haute Dog at the upper end of Falls Road

                      Artifact Coffee (though I haven't been there since they switched to a regular dinner menu -- their weekly fixed menu had some regularly adventurous offerings thatwere fun to try)

                      Herb and Soul

                      Tooloulou -- recommened by a Louisana friend as having proper po'boys.

                      When you start thinking about it, it seems like there's a lot of interesting and new things happening. It just seems like no one's talking about them.

                      1. I'm limited in what I can offer because I only eat Halal meat, which makes me effectively a pescetarian dining out at most places, with the additional limitation of not consuming alcohol. It's tough, but forces me to be a better home cook I guess.

                        We have been to quite a few good Japanese restaurants in Manhattan. I maintain a list of places to visit on our future trips. But the one Japanese restaurant I can't wait to visit is Pabu. I read everything I can about the place online. From a business point-of-view I still can't understand why they opened in Baltimore instead of DC, but I'm glad they did.

                        If you are into Neapolitan-style pizza, we have quite a few places now: Hersh's, Verde, and the upcoming Paulie Gee's Hampden. And even a few interesting non-Neapolitan places: Joe Squared and Chazz are coal-fired. Every few months Iggie's seems to introduce new pies. I would say we are no longer boring when it comes to pizza. I don't feel the need to drive down to Pupatella like I used to.

                        I would also recommend Artifact with one caveat. Each of their individual components are very good, even stellar. However, I don't always agree with the ratios, or how it's assembled, or feel like sometimes there are too many components. So I would try to get as many items on the side as possible. For example, a few weeks ago I had their soft shell sandwich. The soft shell was perfectly fried in a cornmeal crust, and every other component was good, but it didn't work all together for me. I wish they had placed the fried crab directly on the bread (instead of layering lettuce underneath it) so the bread could soak up the juices. Also, the sandwich was open faced on a thick slice of bread. The crab kept sliding around, so I sliced the bread into two slices to make it a proper sandwich and then I could hold the crab in place. The fennel aioli and pickled green tomatoes overwhelmed the crab a little. I wish the aioli was on the side and I could break off the legs and claws and dip them in there if I wanted. There is a lot of care in every part of their preparation, though, and their service has been great lately, so I keep finding myself back there. Don't get me wrong, on a few occasions I have felt they really missed the mark -- even on some long standing "bestsellers" -- but they have never made me feel awkward when I asked for something else instead.

                        I also usually prefer basics done very well (Probably why I can't get enough Neapolitan pizza.) I sometimes think "boring" basics done well are hard to find anywhere. I can't remember the last time I had a really good pad thai anywhere. One with good char, an un-timid sauce, and all the works like garlic chives, pickled turnip, and fluffy pounded dried shrimp. I just spent the better part of Saturday making papri chaat. I wish I could find a place that does it right, but I haven't had luck so far. Maybe there would be too much noise on Chowhound, though, if everyone was chiming in on their favorite basic food.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: bmorecupcake

                          Great dissection of an Artifact dish, Bmorecupcake. I bet if you wrote to Spike Gjerde (or Heather, who chefs at Artifact) with your critique, there would be some response, and maybe a change.
                          This long running post shows there is interest in Crabtown food. Maybe we should start a theme on the one good dish that otherwise mediocre local restaurants serve, and hope that DC hounds don't hijack it

                          1. re: bmorecupcake

                            There once was a place in Lex Mkt that served a soft shesandwich on white bread--wit L&T. Pure heaven

                          2. Finally went to Peter's Inn for first time last night. It might be "boring," but in the best possible way -- the sort of place one would look forward to visiting on a weekly basis for many years. We had never been, but were made to feel right at home. (Oh, and by the way, the food was terrific, without any flashiness at all.) What we in D.C. wouldn't give to have a neighborhood joint like that.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Marty L.

                              You really enjoyed it that much? I went a couple months ago and was really unimpressed. Undercooked risotto, over salted seafood stew. Pretty bad considering how much the tab was.

                              1. re: Marty L.

                                I know I'm late to this thread--was just searching for mentions of Hersh's, which I tried last weekend for the first time and liked a lot. Re Peter's, I want to love it but don't. I've been there half a dozen times over the years, and while it might have impressed at one point, it sadly feels very dated to me at this point, both in menu and in execution. Like an 80s/90s relic or something.

                              2. Honestly, I don't think the Baltimore dining scene is boring at all. I think there's a lot of really great restaurants continuing to pop up.

                                Fleet Street Kitchen is doing some cool nose-to-tail dishes from pork their sourcing from their own farm, plus freshly foraged dishes. No one is doing that in Baltimore.

                                Of Love & Regret is doing a great job on the gastropub front.

                                Thames Street Oyster House is also super tasty for seafood.

                                Ten Ten American Bistro puts out some fantastic dishes. I think they're also owned be the same people that own Fleet Street Kitchen and Bagby Pizza Co. They've got a fantastic Brunch too.

                                I think part of the problem is Baltimore diners are notoriously conservative and inventive, intriguing restaurants that would normally be lauded in other markets don't survive. I agree with some of the posts here that Baltimore has come a LONG way and I'm excited for things continuing to evolve in the city.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: foodadven

                                  Foodaven, I wholeheartedly agree with your conclusions, though some of my faves would differ.