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Eat Feature

The Summer of Love Diet

Michael Northrup
Szechuan Restaurant

Eat Special Issue 2003

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Posted 2/26/2003

We're not talking about subsisting purely on love, peace, and sheer grooviness, man. The Summer of Love diet involves eating the foods you consumed back during the summer of '67, thereby magically returning you to the sylphlike flower-powered Body Mass Index you sported 36 years ago. (If your personal soul train had not yet pulled into Spaceship Earth in 1967, not to worry--you will return to the goal weight of your most previously copacetic incarnation, dig?)

Fortunately, Baltimore is larded with eateries that were with us then and are with us still. Werner's Restaurant (231 E. Redwood St., [410] 752-3335) has been slinging the city's most authentically vintage hash since it took ownership of the marvelous preserved-in-amber Deco dining room the eatery has occupied since 1950. You'll recognize this downtown lunchtime stalwart's menu from reruns of the Andy Griffith Show: creamed chipped beef, homemade soups, and the finest grilled cheese sandwiches in town.

For the city's fattest crab cake, however, you must head for Hamilton, where Angelina's (7135 Harford Road, [410] 444-5545) has reigned supreme since 1952. The cakes are large, lumpy, and pleasingly plump, but our favorite Angelina's aspect is that they're served the old-fashioned way, fried in oil, unless you specifically request them broiled. There's an equally old-fashioned Italian menu--chicken parmigiana, shrimp scampi, veal cutlet--along with good, old American seafood cholesterol classics like crab imperial and clams casino. The hefty crab cakes, however, are the true stars in this particular culinary cabaret.

The Women's Industrial Exchange (333 N. Charles St., [410] 685-4388) must be the city's most genteel dining venue as well as its least expensive. Ladylike lunch favorites, such as subtle, impeccably fresh chicken salad served with airy homemade rolls and tomato aspic, are served for very small dollars. Everything you order seems to come with a deviled egg and a small ramekin of WIE's exemplary from-scratch mayonnaise. It's like having lunch at your grandma's house: Between the motherly, solicitous waitresses, humble but heavenly desserts like yellow cake with chocolate icing, and knitted afghans in the gift shop, you'll definitely be feeling the love.

Venerable Szechuan Restaurant (1125 S. Charles St., [410] 752-8409) has been around since 1930, long enough to employ General Tso and his chicken back there in the kitchen. Its extensive menu of classic spicy dishes serves Federal Hill/Otterbein denizens as well as William Donald Schaefer, who holds this to be his favorite Chinese restaurant. Snuggle into one of the cozy booths for any of the entrées that feature gloriously gloppy sauces, such as orange beef--but if you like it truly hot, better ask ol' General Tso to turn up the heat.

At Maison Marconi (106 W. Saratoga St., [410] 727-9522) you can dine in opulent old-school style on Continental entrées like three different kinds of sweetbreads, sole meuniére, or lobster cardinale. Opened in 1920, this restaurant was one of H.L. Mencken's favorites, and we're confident that were the Irascible One to return tomorrow, he'd find Marconi's just as he left it--menu, décor, waiters, and all. But even old H.L. would lighten up over one of Marconi's famous sundaes with exquisite homemade chocolate sauce.

Nearby Martick's Restaurant Français (214 W. Mulberry St., [410] 752-5155) is a relative Jean-come-lately, having opened in the mid-'70s. It's definitely a time warp to eat at Mo's, however, from the classical French cooking (incomparable pâté, bouillabaisse, beef burgundy) to the trademark swanky snakeskin wallpaper and hulking espresso machine. The food is very good and reasonably priced, but we go for Mo himself, and the only-in-Baltimore atmosphere. Oh, and the bread pudding.

Although Peppermill Restaurant (1301 York Road, Lutherville, [410] 583-1107) and Mount Vernon's Tyson Place (227 W. Chase St., [410] 539-4850) are working the same culinary waterfront, the two could not offer more different dining experiences. Though both menus feature trés old-school items (surf and turf, chicken Baltimore) at inexpensive prices, the comfy, cheery Peppermill is so popular with the seniors it's like God's waiting room, although the blonde wood and pastel décor are reasonably contemporary. Low-lit, moody Tyson Place, on the other hand, is pretty much the real 1967 (the 1967 of Spiro Agnew's silent majority, that is) on the hoof. We're betting you won't run into any drag queens in the Peppermill's ladies room, though (spillovers from Leon's, which shares rest rooms with Tyson Place). Blue hair or big wigs--you decide.

There's no place finer than Suburban House (911 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville, [410] 484-7775) for traditional Jewish soul food along the lines of brisket and gravy, matzo ball soup, and latkes (potato pancakes). The menu actually reflects some current food trends--for example, we recently spotted turkey wraps as a special--but that's completely beside the point. We trek all the way out to Pikesville for the borscht and blintzes, not salmon teriyaki. Bring on the stuffed cabbage.

If there's a more classic lunch room in Baltimore than the New Wyman Park Restaurant (138 W. 25th St., [410] 235-5100), we'll eat the cook's white paper hat. This unassuming spot serves terrific homemade soups and workingman's fare like meat loaf with gravy, turkey with gravy, french fries with gravy, and corned beef hash (hold the gravy). In another welcome throwback to days of yore, pretty much everything on the menu is less than $5.

A longtime favorite of the boys in blue from nearby police headquarters, Sabatino's (901 Fawn St., [410] 727-9414) is to Italian food what Dean Martin was to movies in the 1960s: entertaining and enjoyable, if not necessarily a world-class performer. The locally famous bookmaker salad is a must, and Sab's homemade pastas are a cut above standard Little Italy tourist fare. More important, however, we ask you where else in Baltimore can you find a restaurant offering 10 different veal preparations--and at 3 a.m. to boot?

Speaking of Little Italy, we also enjoy Chiapparelli's (237 S. High St., [410] 837-0309) as much for the photo of then-President Carter arriving to dine on the restaurant's famous house salad as for the house salad itself. There's also a very nicely spicy pasta puttanesca (not that J.C. would have ordered a dish deriving its name from the world's oldest profession--though he may have lusted after it in his heart), and the homemade spinach and ricotta-stuffed ravioli are justifiably touted as Baltimore's best. Don't forget the cannoli. Diet? What diet?

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