C is for Carry-out
DiPasquale's · Cosmos · Rotisseria · Chow Mein Charlie's · Chokchai · Thairish · Caribbean Kitchen · Viccino's · Michaelangelo's · The Roost
It's a long way from Greektown, but unassuming Cosmos (5427-29 Harford Road,  426-2775) dishes up some of the most satisfying souvlaki in town--and trust us, we know our souvlaki. Imagine: tender chunks of pork and sauteed onions, peppers, and tomatoes stuffed into a warm pita, slathered with tzatziki sauce, and studded with Greek olives. So what if the tzatziki tastes more like cucumbers and sour cream than cucumbers and yogurt? Add fries and Greek salad and you have a platter worthy of the Olympian gods, at a price mortals can afford. Greek and Italian specialties, a full range of subs, and pretty good pizza make the drive up or down Harford Road worth your while.
At Rotisseria (219 S. Broadway,  563-3712), a literal hole-in-the-wall on the approach to Fells Point, we stand mesmerized by the trussed, rosemary-flecked chickens rotating on a spit over hardwood charcoal. This is how the joint began, years back--those crispy, moist birds, beans and rice, fried yucca instead of fried spuds. The menu swings more toward Italian now (this being the carry-out component of Germano's of Little Italy), but you can still get that chicken bagged to go with sides of yucca, plantains, beans and rice, plus a small plastic cup of incendiary green sauce. Expect some of those colorful Fells Point characters to stop in while you're waiting. Grab a stool, inhale mouth- watering aromas, and enjoy the show.
Chow Mein Charlie's (508 W. Cold Spring Lane,  889-8886) has the best steamed dumplings in all of Baltimore. The fried ones aren't bad either, and pretty much everything you order from this Roland Park carry-out goes above and beyond the call of duty. The egg rolls are extra plump, the shrimp toast almost sickeningly rich, and the cold sesame noodles as thick as your finger. But you won't want to go overboard on the appetizers; save some room for the spicy Kung Pao chicken or the mixed vegetables in spicy black-bean sauce.
In the cultural wilds of Norebo, where the term "restaurant" is most often misapplied to one of three dozen or so interchangeable pizzas-and-subs joints, Chokchai (6620 Harford Road,  426-3244) stands as a necessary culinary haven. From the perfect spring rolls to the steamy, dreamy soups to the rich, Thai-style curries (which top out at $6.95), Chokchai easily eclipses the low-expectations-affirming carry-out standard. Ignore the place's "American menu"--local pizza spots and greasy spoons can handle that--and instead dig in to an awe-inspiring plate of pad thai. And unlike at most storefront carry-outs, vegetarian tastes are accommodated.
Ever wonder how Thairish (804 N. Charles St.,  752-5857) got its name? Owner Kerrigan Kitikul seems to have an affinity for the Irish: He married an Irish woman, and he adopted his rather Irish-sounding first name before that--to make it easy on us tongue-tied Westerners. But his food's hardly Irish (thank God); instead, Kitikul takes his cue from the coconut-milk-based curries and rice dishes of his homeland. The real star here is the chicken masaman curry, tender poultry in a savory sauce with barely steamed carrots and broccoli. For his ever-bustling lunch crowd, Kitikul isn't above throwing in a couple of ringers, such as blackened catfish or pan-fried flounder, but stick with the Thai in Thairish and you can't go wrong.
It's small and cramped and in the summer it's very hot, but if you crave authentic Jamaican food served up with real island warmth, you can't beat Caribbean Kitchen (218 N. Liberty St.,  837-2274). The tiny lunch counter offers the usual lunch-counter stuff (including a huge and inexpensive lake-trout sandwich that puts most places to shame), but the Caribbean specialties are the Kitchen's primary draw: wickedly spicy jerk chicken, succulent curried goat, golden plantains, and yummy Jamaican beef and chicken patties, all served up with a kind smile. You'll walk out feeling irie.
Though the menu at Viccino's (1315 N. Charles St.,  576-0266) spans spaghetti and meatballs, tiramisu, and Caesar salad, its strong suit is the happy- medium pizza--a fresh, quality pie for a cheap, chain-pizza-joint price. This isn't the chi-chi brick-oven variety, but the crust is never greasy and, while it borders on the doughy, it's tastier than most. The real secret weapon is the sauce, thick with tomato and nicely sweet. The toppings cover the standard gamut and then some, and the calzones follow suit.
Michaelangelo's (235 W. Read St.,  462-3662) delivers decent, reasonably priced pizza and pasta, but what really separates this tiny Mount Vernon storefront from its peers is the bread--crispy, doughy, chewy, yeasty rounds that, halved and stuffed with meat and veggies, make for some of the most heartily satisfying sandwiches to be had in these parts, carry-out or otherwise. And Michaelangelo's garlic bread is a work of art.
There are times when only down-home Southern cooking will do. At those moments, we hop into the car and head over to the Roost (5281 Reisterstown Road,  578-0232) in Northwest Baltimore. Victuals are served strictly carry-out, but what a feast you'll take home: luscious candied sweet potatoes, slightly sweet yet tangy collard greens, crispy fried chicken, meaty barbecued spare ribs, rib-ticklingly good peach cobbler. But the best thing perched at the Roost, bar none, is its outstanding lake trout. Fresh, golden-brown, and gargantuan in size, the Roost's whiting known by another name is worth the drive all by itself.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201