NOTE: Click on a restaurant's name to get more information in our Eat Guide.
1501 Sulgrave Ave., (410) 466-3884
In theory, providing the northwest corridor with a Strapazza-like casual and moderately priced Italian restaurant was a sure bet. And it still might work if the new kitchen smoothes out its kinks, the menu is broadened beyond its initial offerings of the most time-tested restaurant favorites (chicken Marsala, fettuccine Alfredo, veal parmigiana), and the very few offbeat offerings are constructed out of better ingredients. Pasta dishes do suggest some promise, and they're big and hearty. The biggest problem, though, might be the expectations-lowering, retirement-community dining rooms, which cast a pall over the proceedings.
1619 Sulgrave Ave., (410) 466-1000
Chiyo Sushi is a reliable, if overly formulaic, sushi restaurant that succeeds with an informal (though cramped) atmosphere and good, friendly, committed service. If the sushi production seldom rises above the ordinary, the fish itself is fresh and well-tended. Friendly as they are, the staff seems reluctant to take diners on a journey. But whether it's worth getting excited about seems beside the point to its loyal clientele, who seem contented just to have it nearby.
1609 Sulgrave Ave., (410) 542-9000, www.crepedujour.com
Crêpe du Jour's namesake creations alone make this small, warm-hearted eatery worth a visit. Crêpes both sweet and savory form the backbone of the menu and make an enjoyable lunch or light dinner on their own; particularly good are classics like delicate yet deluxe crêpes Suzette with citrus zest, butter, and Grand Marnier. At dinner, however, Crêpe du Jour's menu expands to classic French plates like carre d'agneau (lamb chops in a red wine demiglace) and steak Onglet (gussied-up steak frites). Before you ask, of course escargot are served. Weekend brunch at Crêpe du Jour's outdoor tables is particularly pleasant.
1605 Sulgrave Ave., (410) 367-5808
Desert Café's Middle Eastern and North African menu makes for great carryout but its whimsical interior--stars dangle from the ceiling, and banquette seating is piled high with comfy pillows--invites diners to stay. Classics are good--the enormous hummus sampler platter begs to be shared among many--but inventive updates like the curried mango chicken salad are even better. Given Desert Café's more-than-generous portions it is hard to save room for dessert, but once you check out the weekly roster of homemade treats, you'll be glad you did.
1615 Sulgrave Ave., (410) 664-2971
Effusive chef Ed Bloom fills his bright and snazzy dining room with the heady aromas of good Creole cooking. His definitive specialty is an intense, sweat-inducing gumbo, constructed from a slow-cooked dark roux and three stocks, outfitted with a choice of andouille sausage, blackened chicken, shrimp, or steak. Also remarkable: the Creole shrimp boat with green-lips mussels and blackened fish, the pan-fried chicken with pan gravy, the fresh vegetables, and the three daily homemade soups. If the front porch isn't open, seat yourselves at the curvy bar by the kitchen and watch the food-loving staff in action.
1700 Newbury St., (410) 367-6903, www.mtwashingtavern.com
Notorious as a preppy headquarters, the Mount Washington Tavern is a multistory institution complete with a retractable-roof garden atrium and reclaimed furnishings from Old Baltimore. The tavern's menu has evolved of late, accommodating such unmasculine fare as grilled eggplant with goat cheese, ahi tuna clubs, and chicken with sun-dried tomatoes and brie. But the lacrosse-boy selections still predominate--hearty Black Angus steaks, raw-bar items, oversized burgers, and a smashing Reuben. Sunday brunch features a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar. After 25 years, it's all taken for granted, but things really click handsomely here.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201