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Eat Feature

Contemporary American

Posted 3/4/2009

Abacrombie Fine Food and Accommodations

58 W. Biddle St., (410) 837-3630, abacrombie.net, $$$

Corks Restaurant mastermind and WYPR-FM radio personality Jerry Pellegrino, along with executive chef Jesse Sandlin, has breathed new life into Abacrombie. The small subterranean space had gotten a bit stodgy. The new menu is intriguingly varied (you can have escargot or mac 'n' cheese to start) and pulls from a variety of influences (entrées include scallops with chimichurri sauce, mushroom "Stroganoff," and a cassoulet with duck sausage). Even the desserts feature a new sense of fun with Abacrombie's take on a root-beer float.

b, Bolton Hill Bistro

1501 Bolton St., (410) 383-8600, b-bistro.com, $$

There's something about eating at b that rips the word "delightful" out of even a pessimistic mouth. This is especially true if you're fortunate enough to get a table outside on a warm spring night. Apart from a menu filled with reasonably priced scrumptious food, the candlelight setting suits this regal residential corner of Bolton Hill perfectly. Pastas of note include the pancetta fettuccine dish and the fresh take on Italian pear and Gorgonzola sachette. One cautionary note: It's popular and small, so try to go at a nontraditional dinnertime.

Bicycle

1444 Light St., (410) 234-1900, bicyclebistro.com, $$$

Over the years, Bicycle has gone through several sets of hands, yet somehow managed to remain the same kind of slick yet homey restaurant that first got diners' attentions when it opened in 2000--pretty enough for a special occasion, but comfortable enough for a weeknight nosh. Chef/owner Nicholas Batey's menu works the same kind of magic--don't miss the spicy corn soup with blue crab or the better-than-a-salad-has-any-right-to be roasted beet salad with goat cheese. A list of good $18 bottles of wine helps keep the check from getting out of control.

Brass Elephant

924 N. Charles St., (410) 547-8480, brasselephant.com, $$-$$$

With its historic Mount Vernon building, impeccably conscientious service, and graceful presentations, the Brass Elephant is a local institution for a reason. Such posh finery costs you, of course, which is why we tend to stick to ordering from the slightly less wallet-bruising menu in the Tusk Lounge, where a few of the dinner menu's offerings make an appearance. Otherwise, save up and dive whole hog into chef Marcus Olson's neo-classic fare. Might we suggest a duck or seafood preparation?

Brewer's Art

1106 N. Charles St., (410) 547-6925, thebrewersart.com, $$$

Forget about what we've had there in the past, because it's probably no longer on the frequently changing menu. Doesn't matter: Chef Dave Newman can be trusted. Whatever your protein choice, it will be cooked perfectly, sauced or spiced artfully, and laid atop some starchy thing and vegetable (sweet potato hash, say, or bacon-y greens, probably locally-grown) that complement it brilliantly. There will be a salty-savory taste unlike anything you've experienced with something sweet, fruity, and/or tangy cutting through it. It'll all sing, and whether you pair it with site-brewed ale or one of their excellent wines, you'll leave happy.

Chameleon Café

4341 Harford Road, (410) 254-2376, thechameleoncafe.com, $$$

Chameleon has been churning out kick-ass fine dining in the Hamilton/Lauraville area since before it was cool. Owner/chef Jeff Smith's menu nods to French cuisine without being hamstrung by it. The resulting dishes never fail to surprise and excite--his annual Maryland menu consistently garners raves--from perfect pieces of meat (if you order steak expect to make yummy faces that border on obscene) to unexpected fish preparations.

The Dogwood

911 W. 36th St., (410) 889-0952, dogwoodbaltimore.com, $$$

Since the subterranean restaurant opened in 2007, the Dogwood reeked potential what with chef/owner Galen Sampson's focus on local ingredients and the nonprofit arm Chefs in the Making. And in the last year, the Dogwood has finally started living up to expectations. The dining room is lovely and modern, the food is exceptional--the menu changes frequently according to what is in season locally--and the once-shaky service has smoothed out. Splurge on the chef's tasting menu with paired wines or keep it frugal with the $15 gnocchi special on Monday nights.

Gertrude's at the BMA

10 Art Museum Drive, (410) 889-3399, johnshields.com, $$-$$$

Hometown boy John Shields continues to make good at the elegant/downhome restaurant he named for his grandmother. Crab cakes are an obvious choice here, but don't overlook the oyster po' boy or even the pulled pork quesadilla. Specials like $12 entrees on Tuesdays and half-price glasses and bottles of wine on Wednesday make eating near the BMA's Sculpture Garden even more appealing.

Hull Street Blues

1222 Hull St., (410) 727-7476, hullstreetblues.com, $$

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Locust Point's Hull Street Blues still lays out a beautiful spread every Sunday for its famous brunch, one of the best in Baltimore, with an array of breakfast meats, smoked fish, and fresh fruit. The lunch menu sports familiar salad, sandwich, and pasta options, while the dinner menu reaches a bit higher with a couple of Asian-influenced fish entrées, as well as steaks, shrimp, and crab cakes, with many available for a measly $12 on Tuesdays.

Linwoods

25 Crossroads Drive, Owings Mills, (410) 356-3030, linwoods.com, $$$

Classy and elegant, if a bit pricey, Linwoods never fails to deliver a quality meal. Dishes are rich and ample--see shrimp and grits, the corn pudding that accompanies lump crab cakes, beef tenderloin with bleu cheese, or New York strip made carpetbagger-style with the addition of fried oysters. Service is professional and the view into the kitchen still impresses.

The Parkside Fine Food and Spirits

4709 Harford Road, (410) 444-6004, theparksideonline.com, $$

Built on the premises of a 1920s theater in Lauraville, the Parkside's huge, open-floor-plan restaurant also incorporates a kids' play area, a bakery, and a food market. The place has a cozy atmosphere despite its size, in part due to the eclectic casual décor. Not everything on the menu will take your breath away (the desserts, with the notable exception of the vegan chocolate cake, look better than they taste). However, entrée items like the coconut pork topped with savory chimichurri and appetizers such as the coffee-rubbed beef are worthy of relish.

Peter's Inn

504 S. Ann St., (410) 675-7313, petersinn.com, $$-$$$,

Although the menu changes frequently at Fells Point's Peter's Inn, you can always count on sitting elbow to elbow in the narrow bar-cum-dining room, finding a plethora of toiletries in the ladies room, and the inclusion of a seven-ounce filet mignon, or 13-ounce N.Y. strip steak with mashed potatoes and "100% pure butter" among a combination of seafood dishes (often steamed mussels and clams with chorizo) and dinner salads (like sashimi tuna on a bed of seaweed). Be there before dinner service begins at 6:30 p.m. to claim a table.

Pierpoint Restaurant

1822 Aliceanna St., (410) 675-2080, pierpointrestaurant.com, $$$

Hard to believe it's been open for 20 years now, but Pierpoint continues to deliver high-quality regional dishes with a focus on Maryland classics. There are, of course, the smoked crab cakes, but don't miss the awesome Balto box, an appetizer that includes the cakes plus refined iterations of coddies, fried oysters, and clams casino. The Maryland fried chicken breast with grits and greens and Moroccan lamb chops with saffron mashed potatoes are also exceptional.

Salt

2127 E. Pratt St., (410) 276-5480, salttavern.com, $$$

Probably the vanguard of upscale bar food (now something of a trend in Baltimore), the shiny and colorful Salt provides a place for the well-heeled in East Baltimore to mingle over fancy cocktails and imaginative, elaborate takes on comfort foods that draw from global influences. The kobe and foie gras sliders are awesome, as are bourbon-glazed seared scallops and pork belly, and lamb stroganoff. Service can be spotty, particularly on those busy weekend nights.

The Wine Market

921 E. Fort Ave., (410) 244-6166, the-wine-market.com, $$-$$$

Now in its fifth year, the Wine Market only seems to be getting better. The New American menu consistently offers interesting preparations, like salt-roasted veal loin or sake-marinated slow-roasted black cod, and the a la carte brunch with its gourmet bacon breakfast burrito and crab, roasted red pepper, and asiago frittata shouldn't be overlooked. Wine with dinner is still a relative bargain if you purchase from the shop in the front.

Woodberry Kitchen

2010 Clipper Park Road, (410) 464-8000, woodberrykitchen.com, $$-$$$

Five years ago, we wouldn't have believed that one of the best restaurants in town would be next to the Woodberry light rail stop. But, Spike Gjerde's farm-to-table restaurant has pulled it off. Woodberry Kitchen is packed every night, largely because of the variety it offers. Grab a flatbread special for a casual affordable night out with friends or go whole hog with a small plate and entrée for a fancy dinner with someone special. Whatever you get, it is sure to illustrate Gjerde's expert flavor combinations and simple, but sublime preparations.

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