NOTE: Click on a restaurant's name to get more information in our Eat Guide.
340 N. Charles St., (410) 727-7971, www.banthai.us
A handy midtown stop for pad Thai and other Thai takeout staples, Ban Thai also features a large, comfortable dining room and attentive waitstaff. The mee krob appetizer, built on sweet, crispy noodles hiding large shrimp, works well as a topping for other mild dishes like pad king (noodles with lean slices of beef) and pad see-ew (noodles stir-fried with chicken and broccoli). More complex sweet-sour-peanut mixtures are well-prepared and artfully arranged. Go for the gaeng goong (curried shrimp in coconut milk) for a hot time. Both Thai and Long Island iced teas are available to cool the palate.
353 N. Calvert St., (410) 837-2274
Caribbean Kitchen is not fast. It is not fancy. It does, however, turn out some of the most consistently kick-ass Jamaican food in Baltimore. The kitchen will kindly tone down the jerk chicken for the timid, but we love Caribbean Kitchen's incendiary seasonings and always ask for more, more, more. Curry goat is marvelous--rich, intensely flavored meat sliding off the bone in a glorious golden spicy sauce. The flavored rice and peas plus the buttery cabbage-rich mixed vegetables that come with every combo help put out the fire, but it is even better to add a side order of soft, sweet fried plantains and a genuine D&G ginger beer.
313 N. Charles St., (410) 727-6080, www.cindyhutsoncuisine.com
If Frank Lloyd Wright had ever designed a moderately priced bistro, it might've looked like this resourceful midtown restaurant, the rare place that gets the dreaded “upscale casual” right. The midrange menu items get serious attention from the kitchen--seek out the brick-oven pizza and the pressed sandwiches. The more serious fare rewards, too, with great steaks and curry-dusted crab cakes. The downstairs lounge is hot, but be careful, as hefty cocktail prices can pad the bill.
120 E. Baltimore St., (410) 837-7482, www.cypriana.com
Arguably downtown's most popular walk-up lunch spot. The perfect falafel pita, outfitted with two--count 'em--chickpea fritters sustains many thankful vegetarians. Others begin there and move on to the meat pitas, the melty grilled panini, the generous rotisserie chicken, and fresh salads. The only discouraging words can be uttered about the prices, which are a dollar more than you'd like to spend on what is basically street food, even really good street food. The constantly filled outdoor tables offer unparalleled perches for watching people dressed in business attire.
13 N. Charles St., (410) 659-7600; 907 S. Ann St., (410) 327-9400; www.kawasaki- restaurant.com
Mobtown's oldest sushi purveyors have two full-service restaurants: in a downtown townhouse and on the water in Fells Point. The view's better in Fells, but parking is much easier downtown; the service and sushi are great at both. Take off your shoes, fold your legs under a low table, and let the clean flavors of raw fish rid you of the nasty. People say the tempura is good, and there are all manner of complicated rolls on the menu, if you're into that sort of thing, but with seafood this fresh, why spoil it? Just chase the yellowtail with sake, and then order some more yellowtail.
328 N. Charles St., (410) 539-7504, www.mickosheas.com
Heralded for Monday's $5.99 burger night (fries and a Guinness come with that, too), along with other come-hither weekly specials, this friendly downtown pub serves up more sophisticated fare--crab cakes, grilled salmon, London broil--along with the requisite offerings of classic Irish pub grub. The best of these are the Guinness-battered fish and chips and the ploughman's platter of Irish bangers, brie, baguette, Granny Smith apples, and crumbled blue cheese. The thick-bread, grilled cheese sandwich is hard to beat, but the live music can be distracting.
800 St. Paul St., Baltimore, (410) 230-0450, www.redemmas.org
Nestled in a clubby basement decorated with elaborate iron sculptures and rotating art exhibits, Red Emma's features a limited but filling menu, with items like veggies and sprouts on a bagel with soy cream cheese. Munchies abound--homemade brownies, cookies, scones, biscotti, for dipping in the elaborate, expertly crafted coffee drinks. And the fair-trade coffee seems to cost less here than unfairly traded coffee at other bookstores. Rare propaganda pamphlets spill from the shelves lined with books on Situationist philosophy, computers are available as well as wireless internet, and speeches, concerts, movies, and news you may not have heard.
527 N. Charles St., (410) 539-8880, www.saschas.com
Inside this renovated 19th-century Mount Vernon townhouse, Sascha's 527 boasts 16-foot ceilings supported by towering marble pillars. Lunch is cafeteria-style, offering a variety of grilled panini and focaccia sandwiches, daily specials, quiche, pot pies, salads, and vegetarian sides. Rather than one main dish, the dinner crowd can sample the pan-global cuisine with smaller “taste plates” to satisfy those cosmopolitan cravings. Grilled sandwiches and pizzas complement a variety of seafood and meat entrées, along with Sascha's famous greens. Dabble in the fine selection of wine and beer, or wash it all down with a “Saschagria” or one of a selection of “Sascha Tinis.”
405 N. Charles St., (410) 625-0534, www.sottosoprainc.com
Sotto Sopra features light, contemporary Italian cuisine served by a friendly, attentive staff in a cavernous and artfully lit room--or on one of three small tables on the sidewalk outside. The salads are fresh and gently seasoned, leaning more on arugula and spinach than on lettuce, more on goat cheese than on Romano, and more on sun-dried tomatoes than on beefsteak ones. The pizzas are similarly fashioned of roasted vegetables and cubes of lean sausage rather than more traditional fare. Dinner is roulades of branzini or portobello ravioli instead of linguine with clam sauce or scampi. And the pastas are made on site.
231 E. Redwood St., (410) 752-3335
Dining at Werner's is like being in a one-sided relationship. The often-brusque staff does not seem to care in the least what you think of them. No matter how you make with the smiling eye contact or amusing chitchat, they simply are not impressed. Don't take it personally--it's not you, really it's not. It's merely standard operating procedure at this venerable downtown breakfast and lunch spot, where the focus is on simple home-cooked food served fast and cheap. Save the smile for the cashier.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201