Dogwood's reopening in December 2009 ushered in a new menu (casual fare and more formal entrées), an oyster bar, and a better wine list with inventive cocktails and house-infused spirits, all under the thoughtful hand of chef/owner Galen Sampson. "Local," "sustainable," and "community" are still buzzwords, with the restaurant re-dedicating itself to its apprentice program for folks in transition from addiction, incarceration, or homelessness. The restaurant's good words are backed up by good food, from a killer green chile cheeseburger to Wednesday night cioppino to pan-seared rockfish. Welcome back to the neighborhood.
Europe is located just past Reisterstown Road Plaza, and adjacent to its large reception hall there is a little carry-out counter where all manner of really well made Eastern European and Russian food is sold by the pound. The stuffed cabbage is excellent, easily beating out that found in any sit-down restaurant in the city. Various meats, pickled vegetables, cheeses, and even some wine are also offered here.
Golden West deserves its reputation for blasé service, but you'll forgive the hungover hipsters once your food arrives. New Mexican breakfast dishes--available all day--are the West's forte. We have trouble venturing beyond the huevos montuleños, with fried eggs, yellow corn cakes, killer green chile sauce, and feta cheese. But vegans have options here, too, and not in that lame portabello-burger kind of way. Think homemade tofu chorizo in a vegan burrito, followed by a slice of vegan cake. Ingredients are locally sourced, except for the green chiles, which are flown in from Albuquerque.
Grano's dining formula is the heart if simplicity--pick a sauce, pick a pasta, and enjoy. It may not be complicated, but it's certainly working. Grano recently opened a second space when the tiny counter at 36th and Hickory proved too small to meet the demands for its carbonara, Bolognese, and pesto. Both spaces are BYOB and offer the same friendly service and good food. Call ahead for reservations at the Chestnut location; go early and hope for the best on the Avenue.
An offshoot of the adjacent pizza and subs place, King's Kabob is surprisingly good. The kabobs, though well seasoned and savory, can be a bit dry, especially the seafood versions. However, baba ghanouj and hummus are outstanding, both impeccably fresh and smooth, the former with a bit of peppery heat to accentuate the rich, roasted eggplant. Stuffed grape leaves are a far cry from the usual canned stuff, warm, tender and mild. Most impressive is the bread, which is baked to an airy poof, to order, glistening with a gossamer coat of clarified butter.
Sometimes you crave culinary adventure and sometimes you just want a good Cobb salad and some iced tea in a setting that encourages lingering. This North Baltimore staple can handle the latter desires as well as any spot around. The expansive menu sticks mostly to classic American lunch, brunch, and dinner fare and the kitchen turns out fine versions. The multiple bars/dining areas--most especially the soaring, sunny atrium and rooftop watering hole--provide a variety of pleasant loitering options.
Rocket to Venus is one of those places we sometimes forget to remember. That might be due to the restaurant's schizophrenic menu, which includes such disparate dishes as cheese steak, gnocchi, and beef bulgogi. But the atmosphere is blue-lit and mellow, and the food is reliably good. Try the spicy kimchi pierogies, the crisp roasted Brussels sprouts, or the Vietnamese banh mi sandwich, with crunchy radish and creamy pâté. Stay away from the poutine--Quebecois fries smothered with dense cheddar cheese curds and thick gravy--unless you're craving a gut bomb.
Fresh fish, fat rolls, and solid Japanese dishes make this restaurant tucked behind the Lake Falls shopping center in Mount Washington well worth seeking out. The sushi is the draw here with a truly enormous array of stunt rolls, all larger and more packed with fish than expected. The nigiri and sashimi are right on, too, with healthy slabs of succulent, melt-in-your-mouth raw fish. But it's the little touches that make Sushi Hana (both here and in its Towson location) so special: the hot towel at the beginning of the meal, large sheet--front and back--describing what's in each roll, and the friendly and pleasantly brisk service.
Village Square Café gives the ladies who lunch at Cross Keys one more lunch (and breakfast) option. Though it's hard to imagine them chowing down on the generously sized meatball sub or digging into chocolate chip pancakes, the dining room's muted mural and sweeping drapes make for comfortable café dining, and the straight-ahead menu makes it family friendly. Dinner, served Thursday through Saturday, is strictly casual fare: entrée salads, sandwiches, and thin-crust pizza.
The city's premier locavore dining destination--everything on the menu has an extensive local, seasonal, and artisanal pedigree, from Lancaster County Ladyfinger popcorn to Roseda Farm tavern steak--is also one of Baltimore's finest restaurants. Despite the whole earnest organic/seasonal/sustainable dining thing, Woodberry maintains a sense of fun--witty accompaniments like pretzel spaetzle alongside braised short ribs and a haute version of chicken 'n' waffles keep things less than super serious, despite the fact that this kitchen has mad skills. Those of us with skinnier bankrolls can still stop in to enjoy the best bar snacks in Baltimore.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201