Hard Rock Café · Baltimore Brewing Co. · Waterfront · Lista's · Joe Theismann's · Della Notte · Phillip's
The Hard Rock Café (601 E. Pratt St.,  347-7625) knows how to make you feel hip. Outside this Inner Harbor tourist magnet there's nearly always a line, so your guests can feel like they're part of a scene. Inside, you'll be surrounded by rock paraphernalia and loud music, giving the place a nightclub feel. The extensive menu offers a lot of safe bets--hamburgers, salads, and other dressed-up fast-food selections, plus good desserts--but it's the experience itself that draws the crowds. Don't forget to get your snapshot of the big red guitar.
If you wanna impress out-of-staters with the quality of our local suds, make a beeline for the Baltimore Brewing Co. (104 Albemarle St.,  837-5000). Whether you tipple the malty märzen, the hoppy Pilsner, or any of BBC's other fresh, unfiltered lagers, your guests will be left with a foamy-lipped smile. And after flip-flopping through the years, the restaurant menu is in perhaps its best incarnation yet--a nice mix of German dishes (a best-of-the-wurst sausage platter and sauerbraten) and pub faves (burgers and fish 'n' chips).
When you're down at the Point with old friends from out of town and they squeal with recognition at the "police station" by the pier, steer 'em across the street to the Homicide bar itself, the Waterfront (1710 Thames St.,  327-4886). Detective Munch won't be tending bar but your visitors can get a T-shirt and a snapshot. And you can get a pretty fair meal at one of the few places in Fells Point where you usually don't have to slice through crowds, smoke, or attitude (although you might occasionally have to slice through a pack of Homicide crew members).
If they're more interested in the waterfront than the Waterfront, take your guests to Lista's (1637 Thames St.,  327-0040). The fare at this fun Mexican foodrinkery gets consistently mixed notices (although we have friends who swear by the steak and chartro beans) but the chief attraction is the behemoth waterside deck, a setting that makes everything taste a little better.
Great quarterbacks come and great quarterbacks go but as long as there are Football's Greatest Hits videos, the owner of Joe Theismann's (6751 Dorsey Road, Dorsey,  796-7775) will always be a household name. You and your pigskin-obsessed visitors can get all manner of steaks, seafood, and pasta at the ex-Redskin's place, but just for a giggle, order something with bones and see how many heads turn when you snap 'em.
When it's time to take Uncle Mel and Aunt Rose to "Baltimore's Famous Little Italy," Della Notte (801 Eastern Ave.,  837-5500) is the place to go. The food is great, but more important, it has its own parking. Just pull right in, paisan. No driving around the "Baltimore's Famous Little Italy" Infinite Parking Loop. Then enter the enormous faux-Roman columnar building and let your guests soak in Della Notte's impressive dining area, replete with a giant tree smack-dab in the middle. Show off and spring for one of those fancy bottles of imported water. Yep, il famiglia will be buzzing about the time you took 'em to the place with the tree inside, you bet. Just don't let on that it's a fake tree.
With the openings of new and soon-to-come attractions--the Hard Rock Café, Planet Hollywood, the ESPN Zone--Baltimore is playing hardball to attract tourist dollars. But even these newbies can't top Phillips (Harborplace, Light Street Pavilion,  685-6600) for giving out-of-towners a taste of Maryland. Locals usually steer clear, opting for more authentic seafood restaurants, but for tourists the combo of Phillips' crab imperial, its stained-glass setting, and its always raucous piano bar never go out of style.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201