Charles Village Area
A107 St. Paul St., (410) 243-1611, www.impactbusiness.com/cvp, $
Why We Go: Burgers and Charles Village carry-out on Sunday is like an acid flashback to our coed days of yore.
What We Eat: French onion dip and chips, cheap burgers, verging-on-obnoxious nachos, finger-licking chicken wings, individual pizza pies, large grilled chicken Caesar salad, and locally named sandwiches.
What We'd Change: The beer could be colder, and the waitstaff could earn their tips.
300 W. 30th. St., (410) 235-0171, $-$$
Why We Go:~Because this Remington hot spot comforts and uplifts us even in our darkest or, frankly, happiest moments. Plus, cheap beer.
What We Eat: Real home-cooking: turkey clubs, chubby bacon cheeseburgers, Chesapeake Bay steamed shrimp, special blue plates of meat loaf and steak, curly fries, onion rings, and fish and chips, followed by a spin on the cake/pie dessert carousel. You know, diet food.
What We'd Change: Every time we sing Dizzy's praises, the wait for a table under the seasonal strings of lights grows, and we were there first--whine.
800 N. Charles St., (410) 385-0180; University of Maryland Medical Center, 22 S. Greene St., (410) 328-1962; 3101 St. Paul St., (410) 889-3410; Village of Cross Keys, 5100 Cross Keys Drive, (410) 532-7611; www.donnas.com; $-$$$
Why We Go: 'Cause it's near the office. Seriously, though, Donna's is a dependable source for a good cup of coffee and a quick, affordable quasi-cosmopolitan lunch or dinner that may not strain the frontiers of gastronomy but will feature good ingredients put together in an interesting way. It's easy to take for granted, but you shouldn't.
What We Eat: The classic Donna's roasted vegetable salad is one of the healthier and tastier things you can grab for lunch in the 410.
What We'd Change: Some serious attention to the daily soup specials would be welcome. When they're good, they make a nice light meal with a hunk of bread. When they're not, it's like Army chow.
Baltimore Museum of Art, 10 Art Museum Drive, (410) 889-3399, www.johnshields.com/restaurant/rest/gertrudes.html
Why We Go: Chef John Shields' restaurant benefits from one of the best locations in town--brunch on the slate patio overlooking the Baltimore Museum of Art's sculpture garden on a sunny spring Sunday amid the fountain and bronzes can't be beat--but the menu is down-home Murrilyn at its roots, with plenty of local faves (crab, rockfish, oysters, um, meat loaf) done up in artful versions. Plus it's a surprisingly adaptable place, occasion-wise--from dates to family dinners to weekday lunches.
What We Eat: Go for the signature Build Your Own Crab Cake special. We like the Gertie's with remoulade.
What We'd Change: We know it's located in an art museum and all, but we have on more than one occasion wished that the menu's fundamental down-homeness manifested itself in the waitstaff's sometimes snobby vibe.
2126 Maryland Ave., (410) 685-6237, $$
Why We Go: To load up on Korean food, aka Asian soul food--spicy and comforting and usually way too much. The fact that it's open until 4 a.m. only helps.
What We Eat: The spicy, porky kimchi jigue, which never fails to heat us up, or the mouth-searing jampong seafood noodle soup when we're feeling the need for something that at least seems healthier.
What We'd Change: Nam Kang recently did some much-needed remodeling, so howsabout a makeover of the actual menu? A more detailed and user-friendly version for clueless gringos might help.
3 E. 33rd St., (410) 366-4115, $$
Why We Go: Because sometimes when we're in Charles Village we want to eat something besides a hamburger or crappy chain restaurant fare, and because Niwana's lovely subterranean dining room is a place where sushi lovers and noodle fans can happily munch together.
What We Eat: The Spicy Mindy roll is a neat variation on the usual spicy tuna, and the vegetarian yaki soba is flavorful and filling. We're also fans of the crunchy but not heavy tempura and the mai tais.
What We'd Change: The Hopkins lacrosse player looking waiters are fun to look at but occasionally drop the ball.
227 W. 29th St., (410) 889-4444 , www.papermoondiner24.com, $
Why We Go: Three words: 24-hour service. Also there's nothing better than getting diner food at 2 in the morning that uses Havarti or avocado as its key ingredients, instead of grease.
What We Eat: Sometimes it's the chicken tenders–the perfect balance of breading and meat. Or, in the morning, French toast made with challah. Then there's always the chocolate cake, if you still have room.
What We'd Change: The “all waiters serve all tables” policy means you rarely wait to be taken care of, but during the slow hours it can also mean you get three or four different waitrons asking to take an order you've already put in.
3130 Greenmount Ave., (410) 467-7698, $
Why We Go: Nestled in Waverly, Pete's has the feel of a small-town diner. It's homey with good-natured cooks, sizzling griddles, and neighbors chatting and bumping elbows at the bar.
What We Eat: The pancakes. They've got that alluring fresh-off-the-griddle smell, and appear light and fluffy but are deceptively filling. Add a side of home fries and a cup of joe, and you're in breakfast heaven.
What We'd Change: Seating can be a little scarce, especially on weekends. And at 1 p.m., breakfast is over a tad too soon for those of us who aren't exactly early birds.
3327 St. Paul St., (410) 243-5777, www.tambersrestaurant.com, $-$$
Why We Go: Convenient, affordable, and unfussy if unremarkable Indian food in a casual, relaxed atmosphere where the curry-phobic significant other can get potato skins and soup.
What We Eat: Perfectly average samosas and an above-average shahi paneer, those cheese bits in a savory tomato cream sauce that never needs its accompanying rice.
What We'd Change: The fact that it feel's like we're getting a glimpse of our AARP-discount dining experience every time we step into the cafeteria-ish dining room.
3316 Greenmount Ave., (410) 889-6002, $$
Why We Go: Some of the best Thai food in the city at an affordable price. Plus they're ready and willing to bring the spicy when asked.
What We Eat: The masaman curry with tofu.
What We'd Change: Sometimes they get so crowded on the weekends that service takes a dip.
418 E. 31st St., (410) 243-0072, $
Why We Go: The magical combination of Indian and Caribbean flavors, made and served by some of the nicest people you'll meet. That, and it's cheap.
What We Eat: Anything in a roti--jerk chicken, curry chicken, veggies, it's all good. A supersweet Jamaican cola provides a nice finish.
What We'd Change: If we could help wrangle the red tape, we'd add seating. A sandwich counter works for a fast lunch, but the friendly folks here invite a longer stay.
2433 St. Paul St., (410) 662-8638, $
Why We Go: Because it's one of the few--perhaps the only--vegan restaurants in town.
What We Eat: The menu changes regularly, so we tend to order the Yabba Pot's samplers, which allow us to sample two or three different items for one low price. The African nut stew is definitely a winner.
What We'd Change: We'd move the restaurant to a bigger location. The St. Paul Street storefront is a bit small, hot, and sometimes too crowded.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201