Outside the City
NOTE: Click on a restaurant's name to get more information in our Eat Guide.
7624 Belair Road, Overlea, (410) 668-5100, www.Amerscafe.com
Eager-to-please little Amer's Café uses its wood-burning oven to excellent ends. Witness the fluffy, puffy, fresh-baked pita bread that accompanies the silky, garlic-scented baba ghanouj, tender schwarmas, and other Middle Eastern specialties, or the delectably crispy-crusted pizzas. Each of Amer's individually named flavors of pizza ventures far beyond boring tomato sauce and cheese; one favorite is the piquant Dahb, made with tangy marinated eggplant, roasted red peppers, pickled peppers, sun-dried tomatoes and lots of garlic. Add belly dancers every Friday and Saturday night and the house policy of letting kids make their own pizzas and you've got a recipe for fun.
11007 York Road, Cockeysville, (410) 527-1226, www.Andynelsonsbbq.com
On top of Andy Nelson's roof there is a giant pink pig sporting the letter Q on its belly. Under Andy Nelson's roof is the finest barbeque in the land. Painstakingly hickory smoked and slathered in proprietary spice mixes and homemade sauces, Andy's meat is succulent and deeply flavored. The Memphis-style ribs and pulled-pork 'que are the main attractions, but equally important are the Southern-style sides. Collard greens are smoky, the corn bread sweet and tender, and the zesty, peppery baked beans not to be missed. Get yourself a giant glass of real-thing Southern sweet tea and you have got yourself a truly righteous meal. Can I get a witness?
4100 North point Blvd., Dundalk, (410) 477-1975, www.costasinn.com
Is it truly necessary to drive to Dundalk to feast on steamed crabs? Oh, my, yes it is, if you want a reliable source of good crabs at not crazy prices. Costas Inn does many things well--crab cakes are also eminently worthwhile, and the steak Triantaphilos, a 12-ounce New York strip steak sporting a generous sombrero of lumpy, creamy crab imperial, is heartstoppingly good. But Costas Inn really shines when the always-efficient waitresses spread the table with brown paper and dump out the tray of big, fat, heavy crabs crusted in Costas' proprietary rock salt-studded crab spice.
6300 Baltimore National Pike, Catonsville, (410) 744-4151
Double T offers the quintessential diner experience: Shiny chrome-and-neon exterior, open 24 hours, always bustling. The menu has pretty much anything you'd expect a diner to serve: Triple-decker sandwiches? Check. Hot roast turkey? Check. All manner of omelets, pancakes, breakfast meat, and home fries? Check. And what diner would be complete without a bunch of bad-for-you baked goods? Double T has cheesecakes, cream puffs, Boston cream pies, and cannolis that scream at you from their glass bakery shrine, begging to be eaten.
6734 York Road, Towson, (410) 377-7300
High marks for the Philly-style cheese steaks, lasagna, calzones, and especially the pizzas, which have a maniacal following. The great white and chopped-tomato versions inspire particular admiration. The service is quick and energetic, but thanks in large part to the shopping-center ambiance, regulars are as likely to carry out as eat in.
1 W. Pennsylvania Ave., Towson, (410) 339-7500
Kyodai isn't the best sushi in town. Hell, it isn't even the best sushi on its street--that distinction goes to the delectable Sushi Hana. But Kyodai offers instant gratification. Diners choose from luscious pieces of maki, seaweed salad, and other Japanese delicacies as they glide by on a conveyor belt around the sushi bar. It's an excellent place to go when you're in one of those I'll-know-what-I-want-to-eat-when-I-see-it moods. And the parade of food means you'll never be bored if you stop in for a so¬o bite to eat. Plates are color-coded by price ranging from $2.25 to $5.50, which can be a good deal, or a nightmare if you have zero willpower when it comes to raw fish.
11299 Owings Mills Blvd., Owings Mills, (410) 654-0500
Mamma Italia is one of those strip-mall restaurant hidden gems that you always hope to, but so rarely do, find lurking in the suburbs. There is pizza, which is thin-crusted and very fine, and all manner of subs and such, but Mamma Italia's real talent lies in the pasta department. Check the specials board for what the kitchen is cranking out that day, and hope that the seafood farfalle in its delicate but zestful tomato-cream sauce is on it. Always available and worthwhile are the tasty concoctions known only as “spaghetti pie,” mile-high wedges of pasta baked in layers with cheese, vegetables and/or meat.
8815 Orchard Tree Lane, Towson, (410) 339-7700, www.orchardmarketandcafe.com
This landmark area restaurant introduced the delights of Persian cuisine to Baltimore diners. Flavored with aromatic sumac, almonds, and pomegranates, grilled dishes and khoreshes (stews) still dominate the menu. Try the sautéed Bulgarian feta; the chicken or duck fesenjune poached with a classic walnut-pomegranate sauce, the pan-seared salmon topped with toasted almonds, or the charbroiled lamb with cilantro yogurt. The food is extremely pretty here, and the candlelit dining room is an inspiration for any restaurateur with his eye on dressing up a strip-mall location.
5764 Baltimore National Pike, Catonsville, (410) 719-7500
Pho #1 is much more than a storefront pho joint. It's actually a glossy, classy Vietnamese restaurant with full bar, plasma TVs, and kicky Asian pop music on a bitchin' stereo where a full menu of Vietnamese specialties is served. So you can get your bun and your goi cuon alongside 23 different varieties of pho. One favorite is the pho tai nam gau with rare tenderloin, well-done brisket, and medium flank steak heaped in the star anise-scented broth. Pho #1 offers phenomenal service, getting food to the table within minutes of placing the order. This kind of fast food we can get behind.
911 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville, (410) 484-7775, www.suburbanhousedeli.com
When it's time for damn the (saturated fat) torpedoes, full-speed-ahead dining, Suburban House is the place to get your arteries clogged. Even potentially healthy items like beet and potato borscht come with a sour cream side, but few of Suburban House's treats bother with the appearance of wholesomeness. Bring on the fried potato pancakes, the cheese blintzes, and the heaped-high Reubens that leave a glistening print on your plate.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201