9002 W. 36th. St., (410) 243-1230, www.cafehon.com, $-$$
Why We Go: Eating a turkey club in the wood-paneled cozy bar with a tasty draft beats waiting for a seat at Golden West.
What We Eat: Comfort food that makes us wanna crawl home and take a nap, including but not limited to: burgers, the aforementioned turkey club, shrimp or egg or chicken salad, and yummy fries with gravy or chili.
What We'd Change: Maybe we're cheap, but the prices are a touch high for the offerings, Hon. Idea: quit selling the cat-print crap and focus on our bottom line.
3626-A Falls Road, (410) 662-7779, $
Why We Go: Homey but fairly standard diner fare off Hampden's Avenue and away from the attendant art-school dropouts.
What We Eat: You know, diner stuff--grilled cheese and fries, eggs any style, and a serviceable crab cake. A refill on the coffee, please, and no ingredients we can't spell.
What We'd Change: In theory, David's is open 24 hours on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and closes at 11 p.m. other nights. In practice, it's tough to say--the hours seem to have shifted as they go through their opening year, and late-night visitors are occasionally greeted by a locked door.
911 W. 36th St., (410) 889-0952, www.dogwooddeli.com, $
Why We Go: Not only does Dogwood have a delicious array of sandwiches, salads, and smoothies, but it makes a point of using organic and locally grown ingredients.
What We Eat: The Green Pit Bull smoothie and the Farmers Market salad.
What We'd Change: We wish Dogwood would expand its menu a bit and use some of that locally grown produce to provide more vegetarian options.
1105 W. 36th St., (410) 889-8891, www.goldenwestcafe.com, $-$$
Why We Go: This Hampden joint built its reputation on its homey Southwestern-flavored breakfast--huevos rancheros, polenta, etc.--and that's still what gets us in the door most often. These days they serve equally appealing chile-spiked lunches and dinners, and its smokeless bar is a hit, too.
What We Eat: Anything that comes with the applewood-smoked bacon is good. And the fruit-friendly pancakes are ridonkulously fat and happy-making--two of them are likely more than all but the most serious eaters can stomach.
What We'd Change: When it's busy the wait for food sometimes tests patience, even with this sweet and mellow staff.
908 W. 36th St., (410) 235-2326, $
Why We Go: For the beans, which are totally addictive. If we go too long without Holy Frijoles! refried beans, we start to get the shakes. Oh, and to feel like one of the cool kids.
What We Eat: Anything with those refried beans. We love the burrito with beans and chorizo, the chimichangas, and the nachos so big that when you order them takeout they come in cake box. And don't forget the side of guacamole.
What We'd Change: Even post-expansion it can still be pretty tricky to get a seat at this popular bar/eatery.
3360 Chestnut Ave., (410) 235-7887, www.rockettovenus.com, $-$$
Why We Go: Located in the former Showalter's Saloon, Rocket to Venus offers great food for very reasonable prices in a cool, retro atmosphere. That the custom-made jukebox is filled with a mind-blowing array of music--including many local bands--doesn't hurt either.
What We Eat: We're drooling just thinking about the pork dumplings with jalapeño dipping sauce. The fried oysters and the heaping Szechwan noodles stand out as well.
What We'd Change: On our initial visits the service was pretty bad--long waits to be served, difficulty getting drinks refilled, and on one memorable occasion a waitress who stood over us and watched us fill in the tip on our bill--but a recent visit showed vast improvement.
1009 W. 36th St., (410) 243-0051, $$
Why We Go: For the immensely satisfying noodle-based dishes that borrow from Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese cuisines.
What We Eat: Any dish made with the house-made buckwheat noodles. They taste delicate but are deliciously filling. And banana tempura for dessert, every time.
What We'd Change: The pricing. At most places noodle dishes are cheap, but not so at Suzie's.
3811 Canterbury Road, (410) 366-1484, $$-$$$
Why We Go: The most visually attractive lunch buffet in town, unordinary Indian fare.
What We Eat: The fennel-iscious tenderloin of lamb and the exotic cheese, fruit, and nut vegetarian Navrattan curry.
What We'd Change: Slightly more attentive and involved service would be a refreshing treat at these prices.
105 W. 39th St., (443) 278-9110, www.brasserietatin.com, $$$
Why We Go: For a wide variety of French offerings in an elegant atmosphere that is hip without feeling ridiculous in a location convenient to Hampden and Charles Village.
What We Eat: The grilled salmon with sweet potato and prosciutto hash and a port reduction leaves most restaurants' blah salmon offerings in the dust. The specials here consistently impress.
What We'd Change: Parking in the area is pretty challenging, and while the restaurant's web site claims that it has complimentary parking, we haven't been able to find it.
500 W. University Parkway, (410) 243-5454, $$
Why We Go: We show up more for the yummy Lebanese food than for the atmosphere, but that's us. We still don't feel comfortable in the hushed and tufted apartment building dining rooms.
What We Eat: The butta meshwe, roast duck in pomegranate sauce, or the lahm al shahi, tender cubes of lamb in yogurt sauce.
What We'd Change: Cheer up, guys! What's everyone so gloomy about? It's just food. And the rice and vegetables lag behind the meat.
C13 W. Cold Spring Lane, (410) 889-5272, www.missshirleys.com, $$
Why We Go: Upscale and inventive takes on traditional Southern brunch along with soups, salad, burgers, and breakfast, all available for staying in or carrying out. And since Miss S.'s moved across the street, seating has tripled.
What We Eat: Almost everything, but it's hard to get past the unique egg dishes, like the the Shore Thing featuring smoked ham, jumbo lump crab, shrimp, and Swiss cheese, and the Bayou omelet with andouille sausage, blackened shrimp, tomato, and cheddar.
What We'd Change: The deviled eggs sound great on the menu, but trust us, and avoid ordering them if you're hungry.
100 W. University Parkway, (410)235-5777, www.one-world-cafe.com, $-$$
Why We Go: Because our doctor says we can't live on burgers alone. At least not for very much longer, and we figure an organic meal would serve as a nice treat to our colon for putting up with us all these years. And sorry, liver, One World serves booze, too.
What We Eat: Breakfast. Fluffy buttermilk pancakes, homemade Belgian waffles and thick French toast, along with a variety of omelets offered in sharable portions should be reason enough, but the eggplant gyro stuffed with spinach and peppers and other healthy sandwiches and platters are good enough to make eating smart not feel like a chore.
What We'd Change: More servers. One World sometimes get a little overwhelmed with the big Sunday-morning crowd.
4800 Roland Ave., (410) 366-9393, www.petitlouis.com, $$-$$$
Why We Go: French food gets no more convivial or appealingly casual treatment around town than it does here. The menu is classic without being stodgy, the kitchen generally turns out top food, the wine list impresses, and, in case you were wondering, we've never seen the staff treat anyone like a rube.
What We Eat: Hard to go wrong with the steak frites, a no-brainer customer fave, but nothing makes us happier on a cold day than Petit Louis' duck leg confit. Yummy, yummy fat.
What We'd Change: Truth be told, not much.
1609 Sulgrave Ave., (410) 542-9000, www.crepedujour.com, $$
Why We Go: We go sit on the enclosed Mount Washington terrace, drink strong coffee, scarf down a Nutella crepe, all without ever letting go of our big red balloon. The last of the modestly priced French cafès.
What We Eat: We don't see too many crocques monsieurs and madames these days, so we'll sometimes pass up a crepe in favor of one of them.
What We'd Change: You've fallen off the city's mental map, we think; maybe it's time to freshen up the menu or roll out a winter special.
1615 Sulgrave Ave., (410) 664-2971, $$-$$$
Why We Go: There is no place in Baltimore like it. You'll be greeted as a friend when you walk in, and you'll feel like one by the time you leave.
What We Eat: The Chipeppa, a red pepper stuffed with Gouda and andouille sausage, is a Creole-spicy-amazing appetizer, and makes for a satisfying meal coupled with a house salad and a bowl of soup--say, the beef stock-based onion, if they happen to have it.
What We'd Change: The dining room furniture is eclectic-funky, so choose your seat carefully if you're tending toward the Paul Prudhomme end of the scale.
Lake Falls Village, 6080 Falls Road, (410) 377-9060, www.glaszcafe.com, $
Why We Go: Gourmet sandwiches, salads, pastries, and prepared foods in Mount Washington that are way better than what you'd find at nearby Whole Foods.
What We Eat: The Mediterranean grilled chicken sandwich with pesto, goat cheese, and roasted peppers on sun-dried tomato bread and anything from the tantalizing pastry case.
What We'd Change: The layout. We know it's a small space, but we'd love to be able to get to the to-go case without giving another patron a lap dance.
5700 Newbury St., (410) 367-6903, www.mtwashingtontavern.com, $$
Why We Go: The lovely brunch, to rekindle fond memories of reading The Preppy Handbook in 1985.
What We Eat: A disarmingly good crab soup, the meal-sized cobb salad, and the ingenious ahi tuna club served with a side of wasabi cream.
What We'd Change: Bring back the DIY Bloody Mary bar for Sunday brunch.
5318 Park Heights Ave., (410) 542-4985, $
Why We Go: Because everyone's roti is different, and this Caribbean carry-out across the street from Pimlico has been making it from scratch for 19 years. It's soft yet grainy and just a little thinner and flakier than what's found at other Caribbean spots around town.
What We Eat: The chicken patty is full of chunks of white meat, and mashed curry potatoes, put it in between some pillowy, fresh-baked cocoa bread. Eat the whole thing like a sandwich and you can probably skip dinner.
What We'd Change: The neighborhood is a little sketchy at night, so bring a friend.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201