1444 Light St., (410) 234-1900, www.bicyclebistro.com, $$$
Why We Go: It feels like we're in a real grown-up city here, and although we actually do like the commotion inside, we fight for a place on the patio outside on summer nights.
What We Eat: We're still adjusting, really, to new chef Nicholas Batey's somewhat revised menu, but we've got our eye on the Mongolian short ribs. And what happened to the meat trio?
What We'd Change: We'd start by putting the street address on the damn web site, a possibly inadvertent but nevertheless revealing instance of the restaurant's tendency toward self-love.
1026 S. Charles St., (410) 752-3810, www.corksrestaurant.com, $$$
Why We Go: The enthusiasm Chef Jerry Pellegrino exudes on his WYPR radio inserts is on manifest display in his Federal Hill dining rooms, where food and wine is taken just seriously enough.
What We Eat: Oh, we're remembering a wasabi-encrusted ahi tuna creation with baby bok choy, seaweed salad, mushroom soy, and sushi rolls, but we're looking forward to the fried sweetbread club sandwich.
What We'd Change: The front dining rooms, for all the good eating going on in them, lack sex appeal and snazz.
1105 S. Charles St., (410) 752-8561, www.matsuri.us, $$
Why We Go: Because Matsuri offers some of the best sushi in town, with a killer menu of inventive stunt rolls. It also features a number of other Japanese delicacies that go well beyond the perfunctory teriyakis, like udon, soba, or ramen noodle soups, yakitori, and tonkatsu.
What We Eat: We love the fact the Matsuri has a full Japanese menu, but we always find ourselves ordering the sushi.
What We'd Change: The only complaint we have with Matsuri is that parking in Federal Hill is a pain in the ass, but the fact that we brave it to eat here speaks volumes.
6 W. Cross St., (410) 752-1518, $$
Why We Go: Hearty, inexpensive, comfort food served in a neighborhood cafè atmosphere.
What We Eat: The homemade mac and cheese, disgustingly, sinfully creamy and dense, is irresistible on a damp winter evening. We also love the chicken pot pie and the Cincinnati-style five-way chili. If we're in the mood for something just a bit more upscale, Sobo's usually has a menu full of specials and entrèes, such as thyme-marinated pork loin or strip steak, that are priced well under $20.
What We'd Change: The lighting. We'd like Sobo Cafè just a little bit more if the lighting were a tad softer, warmer, and more soothing.
1006 Light St., (410) 528-2146, www.ten-o-six.com, $$-$$$
Why We Go: Because we can have inventive upscale Thai food and Aunt Kathy can have traditional American salmon or steak, and everyone gets a great meal. And the service is friendly without being intrusive.
What We Eat: The $19.99 three-course meal on Tuesday and Wednesday nights is ideal. The choices are limited but include favorites like the coconut shrimp, crunchy Thai calamari, and a wonderfully spicy seafood dish in which scallops, mussels, shrimp, clams, and salmon bathe in panang curry. And you get desserts like Key-lime pie.
What We'd Change: Have we mentioned how much we despise parking in Federal Hill? Also, the upstairs dining room could use some sprucing; if the food says fine dining, the dècor should, too.
6019 Light St., (410) 385-8587, www.thaiarroy.com, $$
Why We Go: To get a fix of the warm and spicy goodness of a perfectly concocted nam prik pao, gang dang, or mussa mun at a price that doesn't give us a bellyache.
What We Eat: Call us boring, but we can't get enough of Thai Arroy's kee mao (drunken noodles) with chicken and larb kai. And no meal here is complete without a syrupy sweet o-lieng--Thai iced coffee.
What We'd Change: Not too crazy about the dècor, which might be described as small-storefront-restaurant-meets-your-grandmother's-living-room.
601 E. Fort Ave., (410) 727-4799, www.captainlarrys.com, $
Why We Go: If forced to choose one bar for the rest of our lives, Captain Larry's probably wouldn't be it. But it'd be a good backup plan. Friendly staff, convivial crowd, nice space, good eats, all the booze you can drink: not a bad place to spend eternity.
What We Eat: Burgers, among the best in town. Unless it's Wednesday, half-price crab cake night. We're cheap that way.
What We'd Change: Bring back the scrapple sandwich!
1222 Hull St., (410) 727-7476, www.hullstreetblues.com, $$-$$$
Why We Go: Locust Point has changed a lot in the past few years, as the Formstone came down and the real estate prices went up, but at Hull Street you can have your choice of casual dining on the bar side and the full white table cloth treatment on the restaurant side.
What We Eat: On the bar side, sammiches--roast beef or a Fort McHenry burger. On the fancy side, it's salmon or steak.
What We'd Change: Tax credits for anyone who puts the Formstone back on their rowhouse.
1100 E. Fort Ave. (410) 576-9294, www.lpsteamers.com, $-$$
Why We Go: To whack the crap out of some steamed crabs at an old-school neighborhood joint where we never feel bad about having crabby hands. Also, we hear the rooftop deck is worth checking out, though we've never managed to snag a seat up there.
What We Eat: Crabs, covered in Old Bay, on brown paper, smashed to pieces with a wooden mallet, just as God intended. And a nice cold beer.
What We'd Change: Well, we'd sure like a seat on the rooftop deck. Also, a little proofreading in the menu and behind the counter never hurt anyone.
1036 E. Fort Ave., (410) 962-9890, www.nasublanca.com, $$$
Why We Go: David Sherman is full of good ideas. Lately, we've abandoned the noisy upstairs dining room for the bar downstairs, where we feel more comfortable dabbing at the small-plates menu.
What We Eat: The amazing crispy-skinned duck confit with serrano ham on braised lentils, and those fish cheeks in garlic, chile flakes, and sherry.
What We'd Change: Seriously, what is up with the Japanese and Spanish thing? Just slip an explanatory note in the menu, and we'll stop fretting about it.
E600 Insulator Drive, (410) 347-4123, www.nicksfishhouse.com, $$-$$$
Why We Go: The view, bay-bee. Drinking by the water and gazing upon the Hanover Street Bridge, which from Nick's looks like one of those paintings they showed us back in art-in-the-dark.
What We Eat: Crabs in season, and boring tavern fare and fried stuff that we don't even eat in bars but which seem like the price diners have to pay for the atmo.
What We'd Change: Keep getting fresher. A catch of the day isn't enough. Everything should be insanely local and in season. We're willing to pay.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201