Q is for Quirks
Holy Frijoles · Ye Olde Malt Shoppe/Earl's Beauty Inn · Tamber's Nifty Fifties Dining · Captain James Landing
We'll take Hampden's Holy Frijoles (906 West 36th St.,  235-2326) over its pricier Tex-Mex peers any day, Hon--even if we do have to sidle through the tiny dining room and park our carcass on a wooden bench. The servers negotiate the narrow aisle with grace, ferrying heaping platters of great, cheap T-M staples such as tamales, tacos, and gloriously grand chilis rellenos. And yes, the frijoles (beans) are holy, as is the rice. You can BYOB (one warning, and our one complaint--the margarita set-up they offer those toting their own tequila is on the pricey side), or wash down your grub with a bottled Mexican soda. Re: the décor, words like "funky" and "eclectic" come to mind. The same adjectives describe the vast assortment of hot sauces available to give your beans an extra kick.
Come for the ice cream, stay for a haircut at South Baltimore's Ye Olde Malt Shoppe/Earl's Beauty Inn (635 E. Fort Ave.,  752-3680). The beauty salon's in the back; in the front room, there's a retro soda counter where owner Earl Gallion serves up bubbly root-beer floats and thick, creamy milk shakes. Earl's is a charming retro oasis in a neighborhood that's increasingly being de-Formstoned and gentrified into a Federal Hill Jr.
Eisenhower-era malt shop meets authentic Indian restaurant at Tamber's Nifty Fifties Dining (3327 St. Paul St.,  243-0383), a cultural crossover that doesn't clash. If the sight of someone savoring a juicy burger next to a diner tucking into a plate of channa masala (while both sway to the sounds of the Dixie Cups or the Everly Brothers, courtesy of Tamber's constantly humming, oldies-stocked jukebox) doesn't jolt you, you may fall prey to this Charles Village mainstay's odd but undeniable charms.
Why spend thousands on that Caribbean cruise when a nautical experience is at your fingertips at Captain James Landing (2127 Boston St.,  337-8600)? OK, it's not a Caribbean cruise, but anytime is a good time to visit the big boat at the corner of Boston and Aliceanna, what with both the dining room and adjoining carry-out wing open 24 hours. However, you might enjoy your trip if you forgo the overpriced dinner specials. Stick with after-pub grub, or sail away a salty summer evening on the upper deck, enjoying drinks and dessert in the briny Fells Point breeze.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201