Upscale Comfort Food
Kudos to Ale Mary's for celebrating that most inexplicably underexposed member of the potato side-dish family, the tater tot. Here you can get tots as an appetizer or alongside any of the ponderous well-crafted sandwiches in various states of loaded-ness--topped with cheese, extra-tasty bacon, or even crab meat, with ranch dressing for dipping. Pure genius. The menu ranges from bar food standards to more ambitious entrées, produced in an impossibly small kitchen, which can make for extended waits, but hey, that's what the beer is for.
Upscale comfort food has made a big mark on Baltimore's restaurant scene in recent years and Annabel Lee's offerings, which include duck-fat fries and Kobe beef sliders, are particularly tasty. This small bar-restaurant near Patterson Park has the ambiance of the late 19th-century and takes its theme from the Poe poem of the same name. Still, the wine-colored interior projects an inviting, not Gothic, air. On any given night the specials menu features interesting items like pan-seared scallops at reasonable prices, and the bar has the relaxed feel of a neighborhood hangout.
Butter pickles and escargot. Charcuterie and meatloaf. There are damn few restaurants in Baltimore that so ably bridge the city's rising culinary ambition and its down-home roots as new NoEBo favorite Clementine. There's plenty comfy about the unpretentious storefront, and no menu as liberally fond of mashed potatoes, grits, and bacon as this one, is ever going to get too high-flown, but Chef Winston Blick elevates homey cuisine with artfully chosen compliments and maximum flavor. An awesome breakfast and lunch spot that also offers a dinner experience worth savoring--can't lose.
Corks renovated in September and the result is a cooler contemporary space with a larger, more affordable menu (the restaurant's hours have also expanded). Some new dishes are playful, like the merguez corn dog made with lamb sausage and served with popcorn, but all are high-quality takes on homey favorites (witness multiple grilled cheese offerings, from a gorgonzola/radicchio/balsamic syrup combination to Humboldt Fog and pear on white). Larger entrees are still available, as is Corks' well-maintained, American-focused wine list.
There's something homey and unchanging about Henninger's snug dining room even after so many years. (Can it really be 20 or so?) The menu hasn't changed much with mainstays like Portuguese fisherman's stew bursting with shellfish and linguica sausage, plump crab cakes, and Pernod-spiked oysters. The final tab always seems to be higher than you expect it to be, but such is the price of Baltimore charm these days.
Discussions with customers about Pop Rocks in the fish are rare at most bistros. But at Jack's, run-ins with less-adventurous palates is par for the course. Thankfully, the fish with the ingredient that may have killed Mikey has been rotated off the menu. The kitchen's daring, however, still includes oddities like the much-discussed mac 'n' cheese and chocolate appetizer and the sous vide lobster and shrimp "hotdog." If you still miss all the fizzy popping, the vodka-infused bubble tea and champagne-based Fritz are heavenly cocktails. Despite the quirks, Jack's is really less about gimmicky food than reliably delicious dishes.
The staple menu items here are the upscale comfort-food selections, like the thick and dense mac 'n' cheese, the chicken pot pie, or the strip steak. But the menu, which changes daily, also features a variety of specials ranging from pan-seared duck breast to Thai noodle dishes to seafood specials. There's nothing fancy about Sobo--the ambience is bright, clean, and cheery, and the prices are reasonable for the quality (and quantity) of the food the kitchen dishes up, which makes it the perfect spot for a midweek dinner with friends.
Featuring rustic classics treated to a "New American" overhaul and Mediterranean-influenced comfort foods, the seasonally changing menu at Three . . . is quite compact, listing but a handful of small plates and entrées that nonetheless please with focused, layered flavoring and the use of quality, sometimes locally sourced ingredients. Homemade desserts tend to be fantastic, and the homemade potato chips are magically thin and crisp, while the service, though generally friendly, could use some polish.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201