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
Baltimore's ubiquity in the visual arts doesn't just make folks happy over at the Maryland Film Commission; it makes for numerous dining opportunities for locals saddled with visitors eager to sample some of that Charm City flavor they've caught on TV or at the 'plex. Take Homicide fans to Fells Point's Waterfront (1710 Thames St.,  327-4886), aka the Homicide bar; there, they can sit and guzzle where Lt. G's squad does same and partake of some decent pub grub as well. Take Barry Levinson fans to the Hollywood Diner (400 E. Saratoga St.,  962-5379), aka the Diner diner, where they can linger over lunch in Boogie, Shrevie, and company's booth. And take John Waters fans to Café Hon (1002 W. 36th St.,  243-1230), keeper of the Bawlmer flame in Hampden, the neighborhood Pecker called home. The Hon is a bit more upscale since moving into bigger digs a few years back, and the once-simple menu has exploded to full-course dinners. But the BLTs, chicken and egg salad, and stellar pies will still take you back to a simpler time.
Obrycki's (1727 E. Pratt St.  732-6399) is probably Baltimore's most famous crab house, and thus the one your out-of-town guests will have most likely read about in their guidebooks or The New York Times travel section. Not that that's some major problem, unless you disapprove of swankier-than-the-crab-house-norm digs or the unusual (to us, anyway) crab spice (black-pepper- rather than Old Bay-based). Both have their partisans, and it's important when entertaining to give the people what they want. (Provided they want it in season--Obrycki's closes up shop for the cold months. Your visiting relatives will have to wait until March 15 for this taste of Baltimore.)
A popular bumper sticker does not a good restaurant make, but Bertha's (734 S. Broadway,  327-5795) manages to balance its dual roles as tourist trap and hometown hangout. You make that first trip for the butter-drenched, garlicky mussels, but you come back for the overstuffed shrimp salad, the spicy crab soup, the Thursday-night jazz. And don't forget the weekday-afternoon high tea.
A cavernous beanery on the water in Fells Point, Lista's (1637 Thames St.,  327-0040) offers up Mexican-American food in servings proportional to its floor space. The primary attractions for both locals and visitors are Lista's outdoor deck and excellent margaritas, which go especially well together on temperate evenings, when you can suck back one (or more) of the latter while gazing across the East Harbor at South Baltimore's industrial wasteland. The guacamole, gazpacho, and steak are standouts; most other fare is standard issue, but the monstrous combo platters (especially the uno) are enough for two to fill up on before a Point pub crawl.
Another chain restaurant in the Inner Harbor? Yawn. Still, McCormick and Schmick's (711 Eastern Ave.,  234-1300 ) is an attractive spot, all glossy woods and stained glass. The menu, printed twice daily (lunch and dinner) is just as fresh as the fish, which is flown in both mornings and afternoons. We gravitate more toward the appetizers, though--one friend of ours is still dreaming about the raw oyster sampler, which collects six varieties from briny deeps around the world. And after a long day of downtown spending, M and S' happy-hour specials--oyster stew, Caesar salad, and the like for $1.99--can make a nice light meal.
God knows it was a lot easier to watch the Orioles last season with a few stiff belts under your belt. We're hoping for better things this year, but in good times and bad it's never a bad idea to take your pals out to the Wharf Rat (206 W. Pratt St.,  244-8900) before you take them out to the ball game. A pint or two of the fine house-made brews is an excellent warm-up for a night at the Yards. If your friends like what they can taste, feed 'em more of the same on the next day's trip to Fells Point at the original Rat (801 S. Ann St.,  276-9034).
You've just finished an exhausting jaunt through the Walters Art Gallery. You've waded through throngs to see some internationally renowned special exhibit. You've spent hours admiring ancient artifacts, Renaissance portraits, and triumphs of interior design. You're rubber-legged and a mite peckish. Cross the street to the Gallery Sandwich Shoppe (13 W. Centre St.,  752-1383), where the friendly staff will fix you up with something nice (and inexpensive) spilling out of bread. Or, give yourself the treat you really deserve for ingesting all that culture: One of the Gallery's fine, frosty milk shakes.
You are now leaving Baltimore . . . the signpost up ahead . . . the Hard Planet Zone. Now, where to go: Hard Rock Café (601 E. Pratt St.,  347-7625), Planet Hollywood (201 E. Pratt. St. [Harborplace],  685-7827), or ESPN Zone (601 E. Pratt St.,  685-3776). Well, choose your meal's motif. (Do you want to dine under Jim Palmer's Jockey shorts, Elton John's platform shoes, or Kim Hunter's Planet of the Apes monkey mask?) Or, alternately, choose your desired aural inundation (booming movie trailers, shrieking referee whistles, or Def Leppard cranked to 11). You could also go straight to the wallet and decide how much you're willing to pay for a hamburger ($6.99 at the Rock; $7.95 on the Planet; $8.25 in the Zone). And don't forget to save some time and money for your final (and perhaps most crucial) decision: choosing a T-shirt.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201