Fells Point Area
129 S. Broadway, (410) 522-4777, www.restaurantearcos.com, $$
Why We Go: Totally addictive Mexican dishes and unbelievably gorgeous handcrafted dining rooms and patio area. Think brick pavers, elaborately carved woodwork, and an authentic barbacoa grill out on the patio.
What We Eat: A cold margarita with salt and lots and lots of guacamole, for starters. The tacos dorados with beef are a nice staple, but our favorite dish here is the enchiladas de pollo with tangy salsa verde, cheese, and sour cream.
What We'd Change: It can be a little breezy and damp in the dining room, and sometimes the service can be a bit slow. Wear layers and be prepared for a casually paced meal.
814 S. Bond St., (410) 276-7141, www.theblackolive.com, $$$
Why We Go: For ridiculously fresh fish and some of the most authentic Greek food we've tasted outside of the country itself.
What We Eat: Any of the whole prepared fish from the day's offerings. You don't have to know a lot about fish either, as the helpful staff will give you a detailed tour of the fish case before you order. The grilled lobster is also a standout, and don't miss the stuffed grilled calamari. We're talking a whole squid, not just measly little rings, filled with feta and manouri cheese. It's unbelievable.
What We'd Change: We wouldn't mess with the Black Olive for the world.
1600 Thames St., (410) 276-9719, $
Why We Go: Because it's a real neighborhood corner bar where you can get a solid bite to eat and a cold beer without being overrun with tourists and college kids.
What We Eat: Burgers, beer, and onion rings are staples for us here, but when we're feeling fancy we order up some crab cakes.
What We'd Change: Nothing. Don't mess with perfection.
1812 Bank St., (410) 342-2172, www.henningerstavern.com, $$
Why We Go: Still our favorite second-date place. If nothing sparks in these deeply sweet Fells Point dining rooms, we give 'em the heave-ho. We like eating dinner at the bar anyway, absorbing the wisdom of Baltimore's best blow-hards.
What We Eat: Those breaded oysters on spinach with Pernod sauce--years into the game, they still taste original--and how happy are we when we see an oyster poor boy on the bar menu?
What We'd Change: We find ourselves sniffing around for a daily special that will convince us that the kitchen is still engaged.
801 S. Broadway, (410) 327-3273, $
Why We Go: Because it's the one place in Fells Point where you can get a no-frills diner breakfast without breaking the bank.
What We Eat: Why, eggs, bacon, and pancakes, of course. But we've been known to order the surprisingly tangy and delicious spinach pie as well.
What We'd Change: The fact that, without exception, this place is always so crowded we have to wait for a table unless we can snag an open seat at the counter.
1800 Thames St., (410) 327-5561, www.johnstevenltd.com, $$-$$$
Why We Go: The atmosphere is historic Fells Point tavern. The food is traditional stuff you'd probably come across in any respectable harbor-side tavern. The covered patio spring through fall is a fantastic place to peel steamed shrimp.
What We Eat: It's all about the shellfish for us: huge shrimp steamed and doused in Old Bay, oysters on the half shell, steamed mussels, and crab cakes. The salmon BLT and the crab pizza are good on days when you need something a little more filling to go with your pint of whatever.
What We'd Change: The sticker shock we get every time we look at the menu and see those entrèe prices, which are way out of proportion with the reasonably priced lunch, appetizer, and steamer menus.
1606 Thames St., (410) 563-7600, www. kalismezze.com, $-$$
Why We Go: To mix and match small plates of delicious Mediterranean treats.
What We Eat: We're suckers for pretty much anything in the extensive seafood section of the menu, ranging from the expected--calamari and shrimp--to more unusual items like shark fritters, Moroccan fish stew, and marinated eel, but we crave the tarama, a cod-roe dip so creamy and delicious we'd lick it out of the bowl if we ran out of pita.
What We'd Change: The upstairs dining area is a bit lacking in romance.
1718 Eastern Ave., (410) 522-9485, $$
Why We Go: We're impressed with ourselves for knowing about this modest Ecuadorian restaurant where the portions are completely immodest, bordering on obscene, and where the family seems genuinely invested in your enjoyment.
What We Eat: The deep-fried plantain stuffed with Ecuadorian cheese followed by the gargantuan churrasco platter: marinated steak with avocado, rice, chopped tomatoes, french fries, and fried eggs. Then we go lift.
What We'd Change: Just a little more guidance from the staff in assembling a sensible and satisfying meal.
1626 Aliceanna St., (410) 276-6606, $
Why We Go: Remarkably fresh vegetarian and vegan-friendly sandwiches with some organic ingredients, a relaxing atmosphere, and hands-down the very best smoothies in town.
What We Eat: The mellow green Hippy Lippy smoothie, the mouth-watering, crisp TLT sandwich with a side salad, and assorted vegetarian and vegan desserts.
What We'd Change: We'd love to see our favorite lunch spot extend its hours further into the evening to make it a viable dinner option.
811 S. Broadway, (410) 522-9191, $$
Why We Go: It smells so nice when we walk in. On Wednesdays for kebab night, and any weekday for the cut-above buffet.
What We Eat: The best thing to happen to a chickpea in years, Mehek's vegilicious channa masala.
What We'd Change: That common lament: getting the restaurant to trust our spice-tolerance is an ongoing project. And the service sometimes seems oddly paced.
708 S. Bond St., (410) 327-9823, www.oneeyedmikes.com, $
Why We Go: We've never spent one second here that we didn't feel respected and valued by the staff. The food keeps getting better and better, and innovative new items are constantly being introduced.
What We Eat: We always order up some potato pancakes with apple sauce and sour cream, and even though the big-ticket items are solidly good, we can't keep our hands off of the club sandwich. Besides, we don't wanna miss out on the homemade potato chips.
What We'd Change: One day, a Stoli O on the rocks went up two bucks., We'd like to see that trend reversed.
D425 Aliceanna St., (410) 534-7296, www.pazorestaurant.com, $$-$$$
Why We Go: Sexy-atmosphere-good-times-dining before, during, or after a big night out. We can spend a little or spend a lot and still walk out smiling.
What We Eat: Honestly, we could make a meal out of the Pugliese “rustic bread of Purgatory” and some olive oil, but to clear our palate between hunks of bread we're huge fans of almost all the small plates featuring vegetables--sautèed broccoli, spinach, and grilled mushrooms--and have yet to meet a piece of meat or shellfish we didn't want to take home with us, but didn't have to because we cleaned our plate. With the “rustic bread of purgatory,” of course.
What We'd Change: The raw tuna and sautèed hake plates left us flat, so we'd take a look at other fish options.
504 S. Ann St., (410)675-7313, www.petersinn.com, $$
Why We Go: This is the place to take your friends visiting from New York. If you've got a good poker face, you can convince them that every little Baltimore bar has food as good and creative as Peter's. If only.
What We Eat: The menu here is always changing--whatever gets written up on the chalk board--but those willing to take a chance on something new will be handsomely rewarded. (Blackened lamb chops with cheese grits? Bring it on.) For the rest, there's always a steak on the board.
What We'd Change: It's tempting to suggest more seating, as wait times for a table can be excessive, but it's always worth it, and nothing should ever upset the neighborhood joint ambiance they've got going now.
1822 Aliceanna St., (410) 675-2080, www.pierpointrestaurant.com, $$-$$$
Why We Go: Nancy Longo's funkily intimate Pierpoint paved the way for numberless Fells Point culinary adventures, and 18 years later it still feels like a discovery.
What We Eat: We don't go often enough, though, to resist another session with Longo's signature smoked crab cakes. They are that good, and we love the Brussels sprouts and matchstick fries that come with them, too.
What We'd Change: We want Pierpoint to never be erratic or grouchy and we want to always receive on the plate exactly what it says on the menu, every single time.
2127 E. Pratt St., (410) 276-5480, www.salttavern.com, $$-$$$
Why We Go: Well, partly we're suckers. We actually think that city life is better with some well-placed flattering of the creative class, even when it feels as bullying as it does here. We're serious, we prefer self-consciousness to unconsciousness.
What We Eat: A starter of fried salt-cod cakes, followed by the braised lamb stroganoff with wild mushrooms. Yes, the duck-fat french fries, too.
What We'd Change: We want to make reservations for dinner, at least on weekends. This place only accepts them for parties of six or more. Whatever the policy's intentions, it comes across as smug.
1717 Eastern Ave., (410) 534-5650, www.tdbistro.com, $$$
Why We Go: Timothy Dean has mad skills, and we feel confident that everything the kitchen sends out is the product of his considerable technique and vision.
What We Eat: The chestnut soup with tempura sage, the Thai curry mussels with lemon grass and Thai basil, and the oven-roasted free-range chicken. None of it fussy, all of it so good
What We'd Change: They changed it. Those jittery opening months, when unseated diners crowded hopelessly in the bar for their turn at bat, are ancient history. Upstairs rooms now handle those big parties that used to camp out all night long in the dining room.
1710 Thames St., (410) 537-5055, www.waterfronthotel.us, $$
Why We Go:CFor years the Waterfront Hotel seemed to suffer from some kind of Homicide curse (the TV show, not the felony). That's changed, though, it's been steady for more than a year, and it's a welcome addition to bar-food rich, good-food poor Fells Point.
What We Eat: Quesadillas, mostly. If you're looking for something different, how about wild game stroganoff with duck, venison, and beef. That ain't buffalo wings.
What We'd Change: Give Andre Braugher a new show that doesn't get canceled just when it starts getting . . . oh, about the restaurant? It's a little pricey.
1739 Fleet St., (410) 675-5999, www.zemeanbean.com, $$-$$$
Why We Go: Good Slovak comfort food, not the easiest cuisine to come by in most cities. There's also a great brunch menu, and discounted dinners on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
What We Eat: The goulash and the pierogi.
What We'd Change: We wish the Bean had more dessert offerings. According to Grandma, no Slovak meal is complete without a poppy-seed roll.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201