1019 E. Lombard St., (410) 563-2666, attmansdeli.com, $$
One of the few "real" delis left in the city, by which we mean they don't simply serve up commercial lunch meats. Chicken salad is good, shrimp salad and pastrami are very good, and corned beef is excellent. Essential sides include half-done pickles (get them sliced), matzo ball soup, and amazing western fries. Potato pancakes, coddies, and dessert cakes tend to be meh. Hot dogs are awesome here, available with bologna (B-more style) and/or chili. Lines can get really long, so call ahead; or if you're stuck in one, be ready and order assertively.
B is one of those neighborhood restaurants that feels like a well-kept secret even though it's been around for years. Maybe its snugness accounts for this, or the fact that restaurants in Bolton Hill are scarce, so going there to dine feels like an anomaly. Regardless, b's ever-changing array of homemade ravioli and seasonal fare brings us back. That and well-priced wine by the glass, homemade ice cream, hand-pulled mozzarella in season. . . .
One of the most anticipated openings of last year, B&O American Brasserie (attached to the new Hotel Monaco) impresses with its sleek two-level interior and upscale comfort-food menu. Friday nights find Baltimore's young professionals taking over the first level; if you want to eat and hear your companions, request a table upstairs when making your reservation. Then sit back with a cocktail and dig into rich-as-sin chicken-liver mousse and house-smoked trout or meat dishes such as pot roast and braised pork shank.
Brewer's Art is really three venues in one: the dark dungeonesque downstairs bar, the always crowded upstairs lounge, and the elegant dining room. You can eat in all three, though you can't order bar food in the dining room, which is too bad; the burgers rock, the sausage platter with sauerkraut and potato salad is the perfect pairing for a Proletary Ale, and the only way you get our favorite rosemary fries in the dining room is if you order the steak frites. Still, that's not a bad compromise, just a slightly more expensive one.
A cheery little spot located across from the Walters Art Museum, food here ranges from standard breakfast and sandwiches to homemade Korean dishes. Service is usually pretty fast, but when busy it can get bogged down. The homemade soups are very good, as is the unapologetically greasy and delicious bacon cheeseburger (get it with mayo, trust us), and the perplexingly tasty egg salad sandwich. Be forewarned, it closes early (around 3 p.m.) and parking sucks.
It's the place right near Scores and, um, if that means nothing to you, the Dog House is an old-school lunch counter near the detention center and the city impound lot. Needless to say it's known mostly to city employees, but it's worth the trip for its various yummy grilled hot dogs and the famous meatloaf sandwich, which is usually two gargantuan slabs comically ensconced in puny white bread slices, for under $5. Homemade soups are also good here. The place only serves breakfast and lunch.
If you have a yen to eat with your fingers, this is the place to fulfill it--Dukem's Ethiopian specialties arrive arrayed on giant spongy buckwheat pancakes called injera. Diners tear off pieces of bread to scoop up tasty treats such as lamb or beef, stewed until tender in exotic spice mixes such as berbere (chile ground with garlic and other spices) and mitmita (bird's eye peppers with cardamom and salt). Vegetarian and vegan dishes are also marvelous.
Dining at Feast feels like eating in someone's home because you are, more or less. Located in the actual dining room of the 4 East Madison Inn, chef/owner Sandy Lawler's restaurant offers preparations of locally sourced food Thursdays through Saturdays. House-made charcuterie and seasonal tarts shine, as do down-home desserts like poached pears. The tables can feel a little cramped and the historic floors slope, but that's just part of this very charming experience.
You'd be hard-pressed to find Geisha Sushi if you weren't looking for it. Located in the bottom of an office building, it can be a little lonely in the evenings when the day's lunch customers have gone. But the sushi is well made, and the day's selections are based on whatever is fresh in the market. Be sure to ask for the Korean menu if cooked food is more to your liking, although be warned that many of the dishes are tweaked for a perceived notion of American palates.
Baltimore's beloved Afghan restaurant is also consistently one of the city's best. Elegant yet affordable and affable, the Helmand is great for an impressive first date or a comfortable just-because-it's-Tuesday dinner. Dishes such as aushak (leek-filled dumplings), kaddo bolani (luscious baby pumpkin with garlicky yogurt), and zesty shornakhod (potato and chickpea salad in cilantro vinaigrette) are deliciously different. Courtly service and a well-rounded wine list complete the Helmand experience.
The crust at this pizza restaurant is thin, but not paper, with a good balance of crunchy and chewy, though a bit on the sturdy side for some. We love it, but really it's more a vehicle for the excellent toppings, which, other than the roast duck, are pretty standard, just made with top-notch ingredients. Mushroom ragu is awesome, and mozzarella is house made. The antipasto plate is also quite good. BYOB and self-serve water/plates/silverware. Always order the larger size, because the small is tiny.
Sexier than a Bollywood heroine, Indigma melds traditional flavors with modern cool. Here, pakora features avocados, the samosa comes open face, saag paneer boasts subtle spicing, and everything is served on modern white dinnerware. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Indigma boasts one of the prettiest dining rooms in town, dressed in sari pinks, golds, and reds. The effect is as luscious as the food.
Joss' Baltimore location shines as brightly as its space in Annapolis, providing superb sushi in a sleek, mod setting. Offerings go beyond the basics, from nigiri such as escolar and jellyfish to sweet shrimp and salt-ice carpaccio salmon. Omakase--chef's selections--can be ordered in $20 increments. Put yourself in the chef's hands and prepare to be wowed.
A relatively recent addition to Baltimore's food scene, Marie Louise has already become a midtown stand-by. Reasonably priced and casual French-American food prepared with thought and care is the restaurant's bailiwick, but the unassuming space adds a comfortable upstairs bar, a dynamite mini-pâtisserie, and a balanced brunch menu. The French onion soup is aces, as is a juicy strip steak, and the bistro burger (with caramelized onions and bleu cheese) satisfies your fancy-burger itch at $8.95.
Mary Mervis is easily spotted by the throng of people vying to place their orders, even during off hours. We don't know exactly what it is about this place that makes its sandwiches taste so good, but a lot of people seem to feel the same way. Corned beef is especially good; try it on white. The effect of the bread sticking to the roof of your mouth while chewing the beef is oddly pleasant. Shrimp salad is also excellent.
It used to seem like every city but ours had a fantastic little ma-and-pa Vietnamese storefront restaurant, so thank heaven for Mekong Delta. The extremely affordable fare at this simple, warm, and welcoming café is screamingly fresh, and we are so very happy that meat-o-centric dishes like pho are also available in vegetarian renditions. Both are done well: Beef is tender and perfectly seared, while tofu is lightly fried and deliciously seasoned. Soups are the true stars--the beef pho broth is complex, while the delicate seafood soups are paeans to the flavors of fresh, sweet fish and shellfish.
Mount Vernon's innocuously stylish sushi spot is usually bustling, but for years it's been a favorite place of ours to eat alone. The friendly, efficient, and noninvasive service means you can read while dining without fuss and the menu offers a dependable assortment of deliciousness. Start with an octopus and seaweed salad and inquire about sushi specials, then order an assortment of rolls (the ozeki's eel and avocado always delivers yummy goodness) and individual pieces: Minato's mackerel, unagi, sea urchin, and fatty tuna never disappoint. Best of all, you can get half way through a New Yorker in one tasty sitting.
Walking into Red Maple is like walking onto the set of a slow-jam music video: couches next to fireplaces, a dance floor, and plenty of low lighting. Red Maple's ever-changing menu of finger food doesn't settle on one cuisine--the mini burger trio pairs a black bean burger with an Asian barbecue burger and a lamb burger--and nothing is truly entrée-sized, but it's easy to split a variety of small plates among friends who don't mind fighting for the last spring roll.
Red Springs Café serves up soul food in ample portions, mainly from its "hot bar." Sides on hand include greens, rice, mac 'n' cheese, sautéed cabbage and carrots, candied yams, corn, and mashed potatoes. For entrées pick between fried or baked chicken, barbecued ribs, Cajun fried catfish, and baked or fried tilapia. Everything comes with sweet corn bread and--as if they were needed--desserts are available, too. Currently lunch only.
Yes, the pupusas are good, even the pre-made ones you get if you arrive later in the day. Soft flour is hand patted around cheese, flattened, and fried until browned without and gooey within. But the chicken tamales rule, cylinders of savoriness shiny with yummy pork fat, barely solid with moistness, wrapped in banana leaf and just two bucks each. Wash them down with any of the fruity agua frescas, we like cantaloupe the best. The hot sauce it makes is good as well, but use it on the other Latin dishes--it's a shame to desecrate the near perfect tamales.
Dinner at Sotto Sopra just feels like a night out on the town. Maybe it's the cosmopolitan café vibe of the dining room, the formally dressed staff, or its uptown take on Little Italy that offers homemade pastas and sauces without heavy-handedness. Think gnocchi so light only a smear of sauce weighs it down, or ravioli stuffed with duck rather than ricotta (though that's often on the menu, too). Salmon glazed with honey and lavender is a reliable favorite.
Soups are, of course, the thing at this small no-frills spot above OK Natural. The daily vegan, vegetarian, and meat varieties ladled out here are wonderful--though use the sea salt that comes with, the kitchen errs on the side of underseasoning. The surprise is how amazing the sandwiches are, particularly the eggplant, red pepper, and goat cheese panini. Get a bowl of soup and half of this transcendent hot, melty sandwich for $8 and you will be happily stuffed to the gills.
Speaking of delicious, hulking sandwiches, if you want an incredibly good sandwich that can serve as both lunch and dinner, Trinacria is the place for you. This Italian market offers sauces, pasta, cookies, and other sundries, but we go for the sandwiches, especially the muffaletta, a mass of Italian meats and olive spread that should not under any circumstance be entirely consumed in one sitting--we've done it, but we've paid for it dearly. Trinacria is off the beaten path, but when something is this good, it's worth hunting down.
Yes, the service can sometimes be pokey during peak lunch hours, but the food at this airy café is worth exploring, and the hard-working woman behind the counter is a total sweetheart. Easy grab-and-go staples include what taste like homemade savory spinach or beef pies, while favorites include the Zachi blue sandwich--a tasty combination of lean turkey breast stacked with piquant blue cheese, caramelized onions, and slightly bitter arugula mayo--and any one of its Middle Eastern leaning salads. Also, don't pass up the lentil soup when it's du jour.
Zhongshan celebrated its opening on Park Avenue last year with a shower of fireworks. And why not celebrate the return of Chinese food, including dim sum, to Baltimore? Since then, Zhongshan has tweaked its menu, expanding its dim sum offerings and adding hot pots--sort of a Chinese version of fondue, where diners can plunge bits of meat and vegetables into hot spiced cooking oil to cook--but you can still find classics such as pork in earthy garlic sauce or simple, impeccably fresh steamed greens.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201