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Eat Feature

N is for New School

Joy America Café · Spike and Charlie's · Sotta Sopra · La Tavola · Opa! · Viccino Bistro · Café Pangea

Joseph Kohl

Eat Special Issue 1999

Alphabet Soup We know where we like to go for a good burger--and we'll bet you do too. Or a good omelet. Or a good...

A is for Appetizers The Helmand · Café Madrid · Henninger's Tavern · Café Zen · Grand Palace · Morgan Millard · Al Pacino Café · Sarah's Café · Iola Café

B is for Breakfast Jimmy's · Blue Moon Café · Golden West Café · Morning Edition Café · Helen's Garden Café · Hull Street Blues Café · Loco Hombre · Weber's on Boston · Suburban House

C is for Carry-out DiPasquale's · Cosmos · Rotisseria · Chow Mein Charlie's · Chokchai · Thairish · Caribbean Kitchen · Viccino's · Michaelangelo's · The Roost

D is for Dessert Vaccaro's · Cheesecake Factory · Adrian's Book Café · Moxley's · Louie's Bookstore Café · Coney Island

E is for Expensive Charleston · The Black Olive · Milton Inn · Polo Grill · Chart House · Oregon Grille

F is for Frugal Pete's Grill · Trolley Stop · Fazzini's Italian Kitchen · jr. · Rallo's · Mamie's Café · Caribbean Food Carry Out · Silk Road Café · Frisco Burritos · Winterling's · Valley View Inn · Fresh

G is for Guilty Pleasures Anne's Dari-Creme · Howard's Delly · Maria D's · Johnny Rockets · Thrasher's · Steak Out Express · New System Bakery · Krispy Kreme

H is for Happy Hour The Brewer's Art · Mick O'Shea's · Brass Elephant · Speakeasy Saloon · Calvert House · Nick's Inner Harbor Seafood Co.

I is for Incendiary Sushi Café · Ko Hyang · Joung Kak · Thai Landing · Sisson's · Café Tattoo · Austin Grill

J is for Java Needful Things · The Hidden Bean · City Café · Donna's · Empire Café · Xando · The Daily Grind

K is for Kids Friendly Farm · Hacienda Mexican Restaurant · Fuddruckers · Overlea Diner · Funk's Democratic Coffee House and Bistro · Mount Vernon Stable and Saloon

L is for Lunch Women's Industrial Exchange · Sascha's Daily · Mughal Garden · Akbar · Bombay Grill · Nate's and Leon's · Snyder's Cafe and Deli

M is for Meat Prime Rib · Shula's Steakhouse · Ruth's Chris Steak House · Alonso's · The Crease · Bill Bateman's · Lenny's · Attman's · Boomerang Pub

N is for New School Joy America Café · Spike and Charlie's · Sotta Sopra · La Tavola · Opa! · Viccino Bistro · Café Pangea

O is for Old School Haussner's · Tio Pepe's · Ikaros · Acropolis · Bo Brooks · Forest Diner · Angelina's · Kawasaki · Thai Restaurant · Perring Place Restaurant · Sanders Corner · Sabatino's · Matthew's Pizzaria 

P is for Pub Grub Peter's Inn · Simon's Pub · Duda's · Sobo Café · Koco's Pub · Kisling's · McCabe's · Dougherty's Pub · Charles Village Pub

Q is for Quirks Holy Frijoles · Ye Olde Malt Shoppe/Earl's Beauty Inn · Tamber's Nifty Fifties Dining · Captain James Landing

R is for Romantic Corks · Pierpoint · Banjara · Ambassador Dining Room · Tersiguel's

S is for Seafood Gunning's Crab House · Gunning's Seafood Restaurant · Faidley's Seafood · Legal Sea Foods · John Steven Ltd. · Anne Arundel Seafood · G&M Restaurant · Mo's Fisherman's Exchange · Bill's Terrace Inn · Bay Caf

T is for Tourists Waterfront · Hollywood Diner · Café Hon · Obrycki's · Bertha's · Lista's · McCormick and Schmick's · Wharf Rat · Gallery Sandwich Shoppe · Hard Rock Café · Planet Hollywood · ESPN Zone

U is for United Nations Restaurant · Silk Road · Braznell's Caribbean Kitchen · Orchard Market and Café · Ze Mean Bean Café · Saigon · House of Kabob · Desert Café · Restaurante San Luis · Little Havana · Café

V is for Vegetarian Golden Temple · Liquid Earth · One World Café · Wild Mushroom · Puffins · Sin Carne · Village Market

W is for Worth the Drive Captain Billy's · Captain John's · Cantler's Riverside Inn · Gabler's · Baugher's Family Restaurant · Rudy's 2900 · Olney Ale House

X is for XXL New No Da Ji · The Yellow Bowl · Micah's Cafeteria · Cactus Willie's

Y is for Yeast Baltimore Brewing Company · Big Sky Bread Co. · Stone Mill Bakery · Ellicott Mills Brewing Company · Capitol City Brewing Co.

Z is for ZZZ Sip & Bite · Double T Diner · Valentino's · Star Light Diner · Bel-Loc Diner · Gampy's · Nam Kang

Posted 2/24/1999

A restaurant's not always just a place to eat. Sometimes it's a badge of hipness, a means to impress. And sometimes it's an adventure in new tastes and sensations, new twists on old, played-out cuisines. The following places reinvent the old styles with flair--together or singly, they are a tonic for the jaded Baltimore diner.

There's just no kid in school newer than the Joy America Café (800 Key Highway, [410] 244-6500), which does its imaginative best with food to equal the unbridled and unconventional artworks displayed in the American Visionary Art Museum, where the restaurant is housed. Food here is not merely cooked; it's "achiote seared," "Thai grilled," or "fire roasted." It's rubbed with blue-corn-tortilla dust or jasmine adobo. It's certainly like nothing you've ever had before. It's also generally excellent, and worth a splurge.

Occupying a spot nearby on the cutting edge are the playful Gjerde brothers, who lend their names to Spike and Charlie's ( 1225 Cathedral St., [410] 752-8144). Try their braised-duck pizza with shiitake mushrooms and acorn squash. One night we visited, the breadsticks were skinny and three feet long. They hung over the edge of the table. The menu tilts toward Italy, but gives a nod in other directions as well. Nothing looks quite as it's described, but you can't quibble with the taste. Spike and Charlie's is as serious about the wine as it is playful about the food. You can guzzle your way through a series of two-ounce "samples" or go for a big glass. And the desserts are works of art--you want to snap a photo before desecrating them with a spoon.

The closest we've ever seen Sotta Sopra (405 N. Charles St., [410] 625-0534) get to "old school" was when they played "I Love the Nightlife" and fired up the spinning disco ball one night as we dined. Otherwise, it's strictly nouvelle at this popular downtown Italian, from the cool lines and elegant archwork of the interior design to the de rigeur skinny breadsticks (in a just-so rustic bucket) they bring to your table. But while nothing's cheap here among the beautiful people, much of it is very, very good, especially the creative homemade pasta dishes and lush desserts.

La Tavola (248 Albemarle St., [410] 685-1859) stands out in Little Italy, and not just because of the garish sign outside and the, um, eye-catching purple and yellow décor. Not for nothing is it a two-time defending champion as City Paper's Best Italian Restaurant--the pastas are fresh, the toppings and sauces innovative (we're especially fond of the calamari alla griglia, black linguine with perfectly grilled squid), the wine list bountiful, and the prices reasonable by the neighborhood's standards ($12 to $16 for most entrées). Word of warning: If you go on a weekend night, be prepared to linger over your bread basket and drinks--the place gets crowded, and the service can get slow.

There's Greek food, and then there's authentic, way-they-really-make-it-in-Greece Greek food. Opa! (1911 Aliceanna St., [410] 522-4466) definitely earns its inclusion in the second category. This is no corner gyro-and-pizza joint. Dinner in Opa!'s airy, attractive dining room is like a quick trip to the Aegean, only without ever leaving Fells Point. Fare here is lighter than traditional Greek menu heavyweights, with excellent fresh fish and even some vegetarian dishes cooked to order in the open kitchen while you watch. We wouldn't miss the taramasalata appetizer if we were you; other must-try dishes are the whole grilled fish and the baby rack of lamb.

On its menu cover Viccino Bistro (1317 N. Charles St., [410] 347-0349) promises "creative Italian cuisine," and the items listed within--jumbo shrimp stuffed with goat cheese and seafood and fresh herbs in mascarpone risotto, to name a couple--don't disappoint. The Bistro's cooking is more innovative and a mite fancier than at most of Baltimore's traditional Italian haunts, but for once we'll take the frills. Presentation and flavor get high marks, and the atmosphere is pleasingly simple, forcing eaters to focus on the food.

Café Pangea (4007 Falls Road, [410] 662-0500) might be a few blocks north of Hampden's burgeoning Avenue, but this airy, sophisticated café is very much of the new Hampden. Though it's one of the city's first cybercafés, people come here for the menu, not the mouse clicks. The fresh, inventive sandwiches are a real draw, stuffed as they are with such fascinating ingredients as oven-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, grilled peppers, goat cheese, and mint leaves. Many are served on warm, crumbly foccaccia. And on clement days, an outdoor patio lets you picnic under the Hampden skies. What could be nicer?

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