Charles Village/ Remington / Waverly
3107 St. Paul St., (410) 243-1611
It's a college bar. No, it's a sports bar. No, it's a cop bar. No, it's a neighborhood bar. Different folks see CVP differently, but its pub-grub fare suits them all. Burgers and fries, chili in a bread bowl, an array of cheekily named club sandwiches, ribs, wings, nachos, hearty salads, and more fill out a menu that has changed over the years about as much as table salt. And that's a good thing.
300 W. 30th St., (410) 235-0171
Dizzy Issie's is a typical Baltimore corner bar, very relaxed and welcoming and flowing with cheap beer. But it's like a cheap bar run by your mom, with old-fashioned, solid home cooking that sticks to your ribs. (And talk about cozy, there's even a fireplace.) The turkey on the club comes from an actual bird, and the burgers taste like fresh-ground steak. Nothing here will surprise you, but then who wants to be surprised when it comes to shooting pool and eating curly fries?
Mount Vernon: 800 N. Charles St., (410) 385-0180; Charles Village: 3101 St. Paul St., (410) 889-3410; Cross Keys: 5100 Falls Road, (410) 532-7611; UMMS: 22 S. Greene St., (410) 328-1962; www.donnas.com
at Cross Keys,
A decade and a half ago, before the word “Starbucks” had ever crossed Baltimore's collective lips, the original Donna's in Mount Vernon introduced this town to lattes and machiattos and hazelnut sodas. Donna's also helped make roasted vegetables, bread dipped in olive oil, and mesclun greens into ubiquitous '90s restaurant staples 'round these parts. It can only be a good thing that Donna's has expanded over the years, bringing to various corners of Baltimore a healthy, culinarily savvy menu of interesting salads (like Granny Smith apples, walnuts, and Gorgonzola) and deluxe sandwiches (after all these years we still heart Donna's pan bagna). Not to mention quite possibly the best bread pudding anywhere in the universe.
Baltimore Museum of Art, 10 Art Museum Drive, (410) 889-3399, www.gertrudesbaltimore.com
With the some of the best Maryland crab soup anywhere, Gertrude's is the spot for Free State foodies, thanks to celebrity chef John Shields' artfully prepared seasonal menu, which is heavy on the seafood and easy on the eyes. The build-your-own entrées are popular here, as are the gorgeous crab cakes. Rivaling the food for tasteful flair is the outdoor patio, which overlooks the Baltimore Museum of Art's meandering sculpture garden. A perfect place to impress out-of-towners without breaking the bank; also ideal for a quiet lunch among the academic cognoscenti of adjacent Johns Hopkins University.
138 W. 25th St., (410) 235-5100
Don't make the mistake of coming to New Wyman Park for dinner or at all on Sundays. This is strictly a meat and potatoes, breakfast and lunch for the working masses type of diner. Wyman Park's seriously cheap and good food, however, is worth shaping a schedule around; it's all cooked with care from scratch, the way diner food is supposed to be but so seldom actually is. Homemade soups are always great, and the turkey club is carved from an actual bird; a good rule of thumb for selecting from Wyman's menu is gravy equals good.
227 W. 29th St., (410) 889-4444, www.papermoondiner24.com
The PaperMoon offers mainly classic diner chow, but it's like diner food that went to college. Smarter. Made with better ingredients. Chicken tenders, for example, are perfectly crisp outside and moist inside, with nary a drop of grease, and the mashed potatoes involve garlic and tons of butter; meat loaf actually tastes like meat you'd want to eat even if it was not ground and slathered in gravy. The PaperMoon always rocks breakfast; it's more like brunch, with fluffy pancakes and challah French toast and deluxe omelets. Vegetarians are treated with special consideration, and all this is available 24/7.
3130 Greenmount Ave., (410) 467-7698
Pete's Grille has three drawbacks. It's small, so finding a seat at the counter--and there are only counter seats at Pete's--is nigh impossible during the lunch rush or any time on weekends. They only serve breakfast and lunch, and close early even for a breakfast-lunch-only joint. Otherwise, Pete's is a darn near flawless restaurant. Prices are terrifically cheap, and the food is homemade and excellent. Tenderly supervised long-cooked home fries reach Platonic perfection here, and the thick, thick, thick shakes are made with old-fashioned milk-shake mixers.
3316 Greenmount Ave., (410) 889-6003
The granddaddy of Thai dining in Baltimore is as good as ever. Thai standbys like pad Thai and tom kha kai soup are rendered with flair, while the curries--red, green, or yellow--can be tailored to your choice of meat or seafood as well as degree of heat. Vegetarians will be pleased to know that any dish can be prepared with tofu, even if not so offered on the menu. Nightly specials explore more exotic fare not found at most other local Thai places, and the staff here is especially polished and professional. Dining at Thai Restaurant still feels like a special occasion, even when it's not.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201