November 28, 2008

New Town Diner

11316 Reisterstown Rd
Owings Mills, MD 21117
(410) 654-0066

Legend has it that there exists a place where no man dares to go. Only blind fools and weary travelers venture into the darken spaces of their inner walls. Unfortunately, on Wednesday I fell victim to one of these places. I'd like to think of myself as the weary traveler.

On Wednesday I went to the New Town Diner in Owings Mills on Reisterstown Road with two of my friends. You see - I had a coupon. You know the coupon - the scourge of mentally deficient cashiers. But this one seemed straight-forward. If I purchased one meal at the regular price the second meal was free. Sounds simple enough, right?

We arrived at 12:15 and were immediately seated at a booth next to the front window. As we were being seated the hostess and one of the waitresses began to bicker. They didn't try to hide the fact that they were mad at each other. If I'm not mistaken, the waitress cast no shadow. This should have been my first sign.

Another waitress came and took our drink orders quite quickly. Coke, Diet Coke, and ginger ale. She returned in a quick moment and took our orders. My friend requested the egg salad sandwich on a Kaiser roll, I got the open-faced ham and Swiss sandwich with fries, and my other friend got an Italian hogie and an order of fries.

My hogie friend quickly realized that his ginger ale was flat. The waitress took it and replaced it with Sprite. At this time I begin to scout out the restaurant. There are not many people there. Perhaps 6 tables are occupied out of the 20 or so. I recall that the diner used to be a lot more crowded for lunch.

Our conversation is animated as we discuss our plans for Black Friday shopping. IPods and plasma screen TV's for one, digital gadgets for the other, and pretty much nothing for me since I can no longer afford to purchase anything beyond food and gas.

15 minutes have now passed and we are REALLY hungry. We start looking for the waitress. She has disappeared. 20 minutes have passed. 25 minutes. This is getting ridiculous. Everyone else now seems to have been served. Finally, a little past 30 minutes from arriving our food is finally brought to us. We are famished. It is now 12:45.

My friend begins to eat his egg salad sandwich. He says it's okay. Not bad, but nothing special. Hogie guy likes his sandwich.

I look at my open-faced sandwich. It's a foot long toasted sub roll with 3 slices of deli ham and a slice of cheese. Are you kidding me? The bread has been toasted to the point where it has no moisture and is like eating an over-sized Saltine cracker. After 3 bites I surrender 2/3 the bread and put the whopping 3 slices of ham on what would be the size of a dinner roll. My fries? I think they were cooked in yesterday morning's sausage grease. They are an orange-ish-brown color and lack something called flavor, unless you consider burnt fat a flavor. But I'm so darn hungry that it doesn't matter.

Plus - there's that rule - never send any food back. You know they're going to take a dump on it or something. So I complacently ate my giant saltine and ham and cheese.

Since we had about 5 minutes left for our lunch break we practically had to swallow our food and run out. I presented the coupon to the cashier. He was an older man. He read it and said, "I'll have to get someone else to take care of this." What? Is this something new?

I glance around the counter and there are signs everywhere about using said coupon. So obviously this is not a new coupon. I even noticed a sign that says, "Give us your buissness card and you can win a free meal." You read that correctly. Buissness. How do you stay in buissness when you can't spell business? I really wanted to give them the buissness.

Another cashier comes and reads the coupon. She reads it over and over. "I guess one of the meals is free?" she asks. "Yeah, I guess so." I'll give you one guess as to why she's not a rocket scientist.

So - overall - the atmosphere of the restaurant - gloomy. A lot of unprofessional hand-written signs on the wall. With misspellings. The service - the waitress was really nice, but the wait time was totally unacceptable. The food - my friends said their food was fine, but they are not writing this blog , so I'll say the food was abysmal. For $9 I got 3 slices of ham and a slice of cheese on an over-toasted foot-long sub roll. Who wants that? I sure don't.

I would not recommend this restaurant to anyone. Avoid this place at all costs. It's a waste of your money, a waste of your time, and a slap in the face of your intelligence. The best thing that could happen to this place is a meteor shower hits it in the middle of the night and totally destroys it and the employees find jobs outside of customer service. Grade - F.

August 27, 2008

Sotto Sopra

Certainly not a planned visit, my daughter and I decided to have lunch at Sotto Sopra because of its proximity to the Walters Art Gallery, which we visited on Thursday, August 14th.

The outside is cute with a canvas canopy overhanging what could be a sidewalk cafe. Inside we were greeted with a very artistic room full of painted walls, tall ceilings, and mirrors. The building appeared to be mid to late 19th century in age and was very interesting. The tables were close together giving us adequate access to conversations on both sides of us. And one of our neighbors must have thought that everyone in the restaurant wanted to know about his life in the theater and music industry.

We were quickly seated by an extremely sweaty waiter with wet arm pits. This helped to quell my hunger a bit. The restaurant was fairly crowded and it appeared that only 2 waiters were working the entire floor.

After viewing the lunch specials, we decided on our meal. My daughter chose the Grilled Chicken Sandwich with prosciutto, mozzarella, sautéed mushrooms, fresh herbs, and lemon aioli with a mixed salad. I picked the Cappellini al Pomodoro fresca, which is Italian angel hair pasta with roasted tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil and garlic. My daughter asked for water and since I was driving my child, I chose a water, too.

The food took about 15 minutes, a bit longer than I would have hoped. We were really hungry. And thirsty as they didn't refill our water glasses as regularly as would be expected. Perhaps they poo-poo water drinkers. I do tip as if I had purchased a soda.

When our food was served it was definitely hot. My pasta was decent. It definitely tasted like fresh homemade pasta, but the flavor of the overall dish was somewhat bland. The portion was not that great, either. I was definitely still hungry when I finished.

My daughter's meal was a decent portion, but she said that the chicken was dry. Additionally, the mixed salad was somewhat on the bitter side. At meal's end she said it was okay, but knowing my daughter she was just being polite.

Overall, I was not impressed with our experience. The bill totaled about $35, which is fine, but I want to come out of a restaurant either full or satisfied with a good tasting meal. This time, neither of my hopes were fulfilled. Perhaps you can have a better experience with dinner. I would not recommend having lunch there.

August 21, 2008

Lebanese Taverna

719 S. President St
Baltimore, MD 21202
(410) 244-5533

This is the second time I've visited the Lebanese Taverna in Harbor East. One of the most striking things about this restaurant is its very modern, sleek and ethnic décor. You instantly feel hip when you walk through the doors.

My friend and I sat at the bar for awhile waiting on our other friend and I have to say, I would definitely come back here just to meet friends for a drink. I love the atmosphere. It also helps that the staff is incredibly nice and attentive. They offer a variety of flavored mojitos (I love a good mojito) and I decided to try a melon mojito. Delish! My friend got a raspberry mojito and it was also delicious (but I'd recommend the melon!).

Once our friend arrived, we were quickly seated for dinner. I wouldn't necessarily say that the server was fabulous but she wasn't awful. She brought out some fantastic bread with olive oil. A friend complained that the bread wasn't served warmly and I have to sort of agree here. We were served warm bread AT THE BAR.

One thing I love about this place is that wide variety of menu options. They have your meats, seafood and vegetarian entrees. I ordered the FATTEH BEL BATHENJAN - eggplant and chickpeas, topped with toasted lebanese bread, smothered with warm yogurt and sauteed pine nuts garnished with pomegranate seeds, when in season ($14).

It was good although a little too creamy for my palate.

My friend ordered the FATTEH BEL DJAJE - seasoned chunks of chicken breast layered over chickpeas toasted pita, smothered with warm yogurt sauce, pine nuts and garlic garnished with pomegranate seeds, when in season ($15).

I think she liked it? I didn't hear any complaints!

My other friend decided to order some tapas for variety. She got the FALAFEL - chickpea and fava bean fritters served with tahini ($6), BABA GHANNOUGE - eggplant puree with tahini, lemon juice and garlic with olive oil ($6) and (I think) the KIBBEH YOGHURTLIEH - small kibbeh balls topped with pita, yogurt, butter & pine nuts ($6).

I sampled some of the bab ghannouge and it was fabulous. She also seemed to enjoy her meal very much.

Overall - I'd recommend this restaurant. It's located in the uber hip Harbor East so parking may be somewhat of an issue but they offer valet! Even if you don't want to stop here for dinner, it would be a great start point for drinks and there are plenty of other restaurants in the area.

I do feel it necessary to mention, however, that my husband wasn't a big fan of this place the first time we tried it. I do have to agree that the food doesn't match the ambience but I still think it's worth checking out if you're in the area.

August 19, 2008

One World Cafe

100 West University Parkway
Baltimore, MD 21210

My husband and I decided to give One World Café a try mostly because I had decided to go vegan for the week. Sadly, Baltimore doesn't offer many vegan-friendly restaurants. One World happens to be 1 of 3 vegan friendly restaurants in the city.

Regardless - we made the trek across town to check it out. I hadn't visited this place in over 7 years and didn't remember it being anything but a coffee house/bar. I looked it up and was pleased to see that it offered so much more! Although some of the reviews weren't very promising. One of the biggest complaints was in regards to parking since it's located right by Johns Hopkins University.

We were surprised that we were able to park so easily, closely and for free. My husband pointed out that school wasn't in session so this was probably why it wasn't a problem.

We walked into the restaurant and were quickly seated. I thought our server was attentive and nice. She wasn't super friendly but I don't usually expect anyone to gush or hang about to make small talk.

Their menu is very user/vegan friendly and they clearly mark all menu items with a small "V" to indicate if the dish is vegan or not.

We started off with the Mexican refried pinto bean dip ($4.95) - Topped with house salsa, fresh cilantro & tortilla chips.

The dip was great. Our only complaint was that their chip to dip ratio wasn't very good and we were scooping a TON of dip onto one chip since there weren't enough chips.

I decided to get the Steamed Veggies & Ginger Baked Organic Tofu ($9.95) - served over organic brown rice, topped with tangy tahini sauce.

I thought the dish was good. Plenty of food and chock full of vegetables. I wasn't crazy about the ginger flavor or the tahini sauce but I should have known better. I wasn't really in the mood for something so "creamy" and that's exactly what the tahini sauce is. I think on another day, I would have loved this dish.

My husband went with the Lasagna ($13.95) - made of specialty cheese and pasta loaded with vegetables and made completely from scratch.

He liked his meal but said, "I wasn't overly impressed."

I ate the leftovers for lunch the next day and have to say this was fantastic! It's not often that I get to eat lasagna that is full of vegetables. Most likely - I would order this the next time I visit.

Overall - I'd recommend One World Café for vegans, vegetarians or those who have a vegan/vegetarian in their lives but who are omnivores. They have a wide variety of menu options that looks like it would satisfy all palates.

August 13, 2008

Pasticcio Italian Kitchen

2400 Boston St.
Baltimore, MD 21224

My husband and I are always on the lookout for a good pizza place. What can we say? We love pizza. Pasticcio's was recommended by some pals whose food critiques we fully trust.

One a particular weeknight, we were craving pizza but wanted to try our hand at a new place (instead of the usual place we love). Since we were curious about Pasticcio's, we thought it was a great opportunity to pop by.

Upon entering Pasticcio's, we were surprised to see that it was a sit-down restaurant (with carry-out) since the restaurant prior was more of a self-serve type establishment. The interior reminded me of a pizza parlor that would be located on the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland. Take from that whatever you will…

We shared a Greek salad as a starter.

The salad was okay and I have no real complaints about it. I mean, we ordered a salad in a pizza place - what do you expect? I was incredibly disappointed in the bread that they brought out with the starter. It reeked of frozen Italian bread (or at least national chain brand that you buy from the grocery store). It was hard and tasteless.

Onto the main course. I'm not quite sure why neither of us opted for pizza since that was what we were originally craving. I ordered a penne pasta dish that consisted of artichoke hearts and mushrooms.

I was served a pasta dish whose cheap-o canned sauce was watered down and tasteless. To make matters worse, it was served with what appeared and tasted like frozen Italian bread! I was incredibly disappointed.

My husband claimed that his cheesesteak was equally awful. That was about the only word he used to describe it and he's got a pretty unpicky palate when it comes to junk food.

While our waitress was very polite, she wasn't very attentive and after waiting for about 15 minutes for our check - my husband walked up to the counter to request it.

My friends were surprised that I didn't like this establishment so I'm willing to give it another shot - but I'm definitely going for pizza! We noticed a lot of customers picking up pizza so perhaps it isn't so bad.

My husband isn't quite so willing to go back and has deemed this place "Nasty-ccio's". Proceed with caution.

August 4, 2008


400 West Lexington Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
(410) 576-7777
Buffet Lunch - Mon-Fri: 11:30AM - 2:30PM
Dinner - Tues-Sat: 6:00PM - 9:00PM

This might be the worst good review I have ever written and it should be reason enough that I shouldn't wait so long to post a review on a restaurant.

Last week, Baltimore hosted its semi-annual Restaurant Week. This generally gives people a chance to branch out and try restaurants they either wouldn't normally try or it just gives people the idea that they must eat out as much as possible during this week.

My husband called me at work this past Thursday and asked if I was interested in trying out this restaurant. We're big fans of Indian food so finding a good Indian restaurant in the city is very exciting for us. He e-mailed me their sample menu and I was pleased to see vegetarian options (although most Indian restaurants are vegetarian-friendly).

The restaurant is located just outside of the famed Lexington Market (and was ridiculously difficult for us to find). While the area surrounding Lexington Market is a bit sketchy at night, there is a parking garage located directly across the street for customers.

When we walked into the restaurant, we were quickly seated at a u-shaped table. It was a bit strange to be sitting next to my husband while eating (since we normally sit across from each other when dining out). The restaurant was dimly lit and decorated with exotic pillows, lights, etc and was playing Indian music videos on a large projector screen against the wall.

The waiter was incredibly friendly and attentive.

Now here's the part where it helps to write a review the next day. Due to the dim lighting, I wasn't able to take any pictures therefore I don't really remember what I ordered. I can tell you that all of their orders are customized to the customer's preference (i.e. you can order something very spicy or mild).

Everything we tried was amazing. My husband's dishes were so spicy that he was sweating about 3 bites into his meal and he loved every bit of it. Between the appetizer, naan, entrée and dessert - it was impossible to finish everything so we requested a take-home bag.

The waiter neatly packed our leftovers and we were pleased to discover they he included an ice pack! We've never had that before.

We're definitely going to revisit Memsahib and highly recommend that everyone give it a try.

July 14, 2008

Liquid Earth

1626 Aliceanna Street
Baltimore, Md 21231

I have found Vegetarian heaven in the form of Liquid Earth. Liquid Earth is located in Fell's Point directly across the street from the very popular Blue Moon Café. I find this to be particularly funny because Blue Moon Café is known for using tons of butter and meat while Liquid Earth boasts fresh, natural and vegetarian menu options.

I had been meaning to try this place for awhile now but it wasn't a big priority since they didn't appear to be a restaurant to me. We were looking for a place to grab lunch on Sunday and generally just pick up a sandwich from Whole Foods. On this particular day, Whole Foods was out of my fave sandwich so fate led me to Liquid Earth.

When you walk into Liquid Earth, it's very charming. You can tell the owners are big believers of reusing and recycling as none of the chairs match, there are a lot of interesting knick-knacks and my coffee was even served in a mug you would generally find in someone's home (and not just a plain old white mug or a specific restaurant mug). I liked this place already.

There is a large chalkboard that features all of their drinks/juices and it can be a bit overwhelming. Luckily the staff is very patient and very friendly. We sat down to eat our lunch and I was thrilled that I had more than 2 options to choose from! They had a section on their menu dubbed "Vegetarian" and one dubbed "Vegan". While the Vegan side is a bit smaller, there is a note under the Vegetarian section that you can substitute Vegan cheese for a slight increase in cost.

I ordered the Raw Vegetarian Roll which is described as an "oversized spinach flour tortilla layered with hummus, slivered red cabbage, organic carrot strips, organic sprouts, cucumbers, green bell peppers, radish and button mushrooms". I was surprised by the size of this meal and appreciated the presentation. And the taste? Incredibly light and fresh. I was practically licking my plate clean.

My husband ordered the Liquid Earth Club. This vegan sandwich consists of their organic fake bacon organic baby field greens, red onion, avocado, sprouts and tomatoes stacked on multigrain bread with Nayonnaise (vegan mayo). My husband enjoyed his sandwich and agreed that he would come back to Liquid Earth (and this is a big deal since he's a meat-eater!).

I ordered a cup of coffee with soy milk and my husband decided to go for one of their juice drinks. He tried the Facelifter (honeydew melon, mint, ginger, orange and grapefruit). They served it in a measuring cup and a glass. I liked this presentation because it gave you an idea of how much you're drinking. I took a sip of this drink and loved the light fruitiness of it. It's a great summertime drink.

Before we left, we noticed they had a large display of desserts. We decided to try a vegan chocolate chip cookie and a vegan oatmeal raisin cookie. Delish! You wouldn't even guess they were vegan.

Overall - I would definitely recommend this place and it will probably become a regular Sunday lunch spot for me. If you're not so into the vegetarian thing, you should at least stop by for a juice! Maybe next time you're waiting in the ridiculously long line at Blue Moon Café, you can pop in for a juice.

The only thing to keep in mind is that this place is CASH ONLY. But being in Fell's Point, there are ATMs abound so there is no real inconvenience.

July 11, 2008

Jack's Bistro

3123 Elliott St
Baltimore, MD 21224

I had heard a lot of good reviews from friend's about this fairly new Canton neighborhood restaurant. I was pretty excited when my friends agreed to meet up for dinner here.

It's a cute little corner bar/restaurant with lots of kitschy-ish and swanky-ish artwork/décor all around. I can't think of a good word to describe it so you're stuck with those words. While we were waiting on one person to arrive, 3 of us sat at the bar to enjoy their Happy Hour special:

2 happy hours every day- 5pm-7pm and 11pm-1am
$2 off apps, beer and glasses of wine

My friend was drinking beer from the cutest little glass featuring an owl on it and being the true beer connosieur that I am, I decided to give it a go. I hope you picked up on the sarcasm - I picked a beer based on its graphic. Come on! Hitachino Nest-White Ale ($6.50). It was a very light Japanese beer and it didn't disappoint this non-beer drinking gal. But I think the cute little glass helped.

My husband tried the Rogue Smoke House Beer and said it reminded him of a campfire. I don't know if that's good or bad but the other word used to describe it was "bacon" so I didn't try it.

Because we were starving, we split an appetizer of grilled cheese and tomatoes. I'm not sure what the cheese was (provolone, maybe?) but we were served 2 mini grilled cheese sandwiches that appeared to have been cut from the bread with a biscuit cutter on top of a layer of tomato soup. It was very creamy and very good.

When our friend arrived, we all sat down in one of the booths and continued drinking and eating. I was told that we had to try the Mac and Cheese and Chocolate ($8.50). It consists of: Shell pasta, 5 cheese sauce, And Belgian Milk Chocolate. Sounds gross, doesn't it? It was actually pretty good. Weird but good. I don't think I could have eaten an entire bowl of it but it was the perfect appetizer to split with another person.

My friend ordered a tomato and mozzarella tower app that was also delicious. I'm not sure what the official name of this appetizer was but it was tomatoes stacked on top of mozzarella cheese. You know what I'm talking about!

We were also served some rolls with a homemade horseradish/cheese spread. Delish.

For dinner, I ordered the Bohdi Dal ($14). It is the only vegetarian entrée the offer and it consists of mild Indian curry, lentils, squash, tomatoes, and pita bread. Very good! It wasn't too spicy but it wasn't bland at all. It was the perfect balance for my palate.

I also ordered a side of the battered eggplant fries ($6) because it sounded interesting. I love eggplant so I was curious was eggplant fries would taste like. Salty friend deliciousness. Order some!

My husband ordered hangar steak (I think) and enjoyed it very much.

My friends ordered the Bistro Crab Cake ($18.75) that contained Dijon horseradish sauce, salsify fritter, and purple Okinawa yams as well as the BBQ'd Short Rib ($17.50) with Merlot Dijon BBQ sauce, French coleslaw, jalapeno, bacon and smoked gouda grits.

Everyone was quite satisfied with their meals and I saved enough room for dessert. S'mores. Yes, you read that correctly - they have a s'mores dessert!

It's a marshallow coated in graham cracker crumbs and covered in chocolate sauce. Talk about amazing. It's also served with chocolate ice cream. I was in heavan!

As for the service…
The bar service was good. Our bartender was nice and mentioned that the cute little Japanese beer glasses were the only 2 they had. Perhaps she overheard me gushing over the glasses and said it as a warning to not take one home with me. Ha!

The beer my husband had ordered wasn't chilled yet so she said she'd put one on ice for him while she got him something else and I thought it was nice of her.

Our table service was good but the server was just a little strange. I can't complain too much though because he was quick and attentive.

Overall - I'd definitely recommend this place to anyone. Next time you're in Canton, you should drop by. Just note that they only accept reservations for parties of 6 or more people. However, we dined there on a Thursday night with no problem (there were only 4 of us).

June 23, 2008

Annabel Lee Tavern

Annabel Lee Tavern
601 S. Clinton Street
Baltimore, MD 21224

I recently had the pleasure of dining at the Annabel Lee Tavern last Saturday (6/14). This tavern used to be a little dive bar known as the Clinton Street Inn that I never bothered to check out. Once the new owners moved in and it became the Annabel Lee, friends raved about this place.

The tavern itself a bit small with a narrow walk through the bar in front. The back of the tavern opens up slightly to accommodate several tables for dining. I would guess (I didn't count) that there were probably about 6 small tables in the back? You can also dine at the bar.

The decor of the tavern lives up to it's name in that it is dedicated to Edgar Allen Poe. The walls are painted a deep burgandy with the words of Annabel Lee painted across the tavern. The mood of the bar is that of a very cozy study.

My husband and I were starving when we arrived (approximately at 9:30pm). We didn't have reservations but we had 2 very patient friends waiting at the bar for us for about 2 hours. My guess is that you should probably make a reservation if you're going to dine there on a Friday or Saturday night as the tavern was packed. The staff was very friendly and made great suggestions for meals.

We started off with the Baked Brie en Cruet (Phyllo encrusted with brown sugar and pecans) for $7.50. It was A.MAZ.ING. We commented that it seemed more like a dessert than an appetizer but that doesn't mean we won't continue to order it everytime we go back to this tavern.

My husband had also ordered the soup du jour and I can't remember for the life of me what it was. He enjoyed it very much.

For dinner I ordered the Spinach and Portabello Burrito with roasted red peppers rojo salsa ($10.75). Again, amazing. I love when a vegetarian entree isn't smothered entirely in cheese or cream sauces.

My husband ordered a fillet of meat and also enjoyed it very much. And I don't remember what my friends had ordered but they are regulars at this tavern so I can tell you right now they loved their meals.

We ended our meal with the Edgar Allen Pate. It's a tri-chocolate pate served with maderia raspberry coulis ($6.50). My only complaint? There isn't enough of it! It was delicious and it was probably a good thing that the serving was a bit small (because in actuality it was just the right amount to satisfy my craving).

Overall I would recommend this restaurant to anyone. The staff is friendly, the cuisine is fantastic and because it isn't located in the uber popular area of Canton, parking is quite easy. You can check out their menu online but they also offer different menu items daily (posted on the board behind the bar).

The only downside of my experience here was that the service was a bit on the slow side but my friends assured me that it was only due to the high volume of traffic. Regardless, if you're in the neighborhood - check this place out!

June 10, 2008

The Black Olive

The Black Olive
814 S. Bond Street
Baltimore, MD 21231

I had been dying to try out this restaurant for a long time. It is located in Fell's Point along one of the cobblestone roads that make driving it a pain in the ass but look very pretty. Being a vegetarian makes going out to eat a little difficult because it's hard to find a restaurant that offers a palate of vegetarian options outside of a salad.

I met up with a group of friends (there were 5 total). We had a reservation at 6pm on a Sunday evening and were surprised to find the restaurant quite empty. A few friends waited at the bar for us and mentioned that their drink choices were fabulous (one had an organic white wine and the other an organic beer (Pinkus).

We were promptly seated at a table near a window. The inside of this restaurant reminds me of an old stone cottage. I'm not quite sure how to explain it. The windows were arched and had old vases in them. And the chairs were cushioned! I know it sounds ridiculous to compliment a chair but it was very comfortable.

The waitress was friendly and happily answered all of our menu questions. She also mentioned that if we wanted fish, we could take a look at them? As a non-fish eater I didn't quite understand this but I guess if you're a fish-eating connoisseur, this is a big deal.

They brought out some bread for the table with olive oil. The bread was amazing! Very dense, almost cake-like and delicious.

My husband and I split an appetizer of the village pie upon the waitress's recommendation. The village pie consists of spinach, red swiss chard, leeks, sheep’s milk cheeses in a homemade phyllo. Very greek and very delicious.

I ordered the "vegetarian special of the day" which consisted of grilled mushrooms, green peppers, onions, zucchini on a kabab with some roasted beets, hummus and an eggplant dip on the side. Very good although not really worth $28. I think I'm used to equating high cost with big quantity or perhaps a more exotic flavor. Like I said though, it was very good.

Amongst my friends, they ordered free range prime beef tenderloin grand filet ($38), Grilled yellow fin tuna steak, sushi quality ($29), the Black Olive Special Grill ($34) that consisted of Lobster, octopus, clams, sardines, scampi, shrimp, mussels, calamari and scallop on the grill and the Appetizer Combination ($20) that consisted of A beautiful plate of our four traditional spreads: tarama, tzatziki, melitzanasalata and hummus, with olives and feta cheese.

Everyone was very satisfied with their meal and the waitress kept up stocked with breads and beverages.

For dessert, my husband and I tried the Rein de Saba ($9). It's description sold us:
Flourless chocolate cake made with Belgian chocolate, roasted ground hazelnuts
and a rich ganache frosting, lush beyond belief.

I don't quite know what "lush beyond belief" really means but the cake was very good. Very chocolate-y although not quite as creamy as cakes made WITH flour (I'm guessing that was the difference?).

My friend sampled the pear tarte tartin ($9) and seemed to enjoy it as well.

Overall I would highly recommend this restaurant. Make reservations though because it seems to fill up! Halfway through our dinner we noticed quite a large crowd filling up the restaurant. They offer a large variety of food and boast organic ingredients.

April 8, 2008

The Schmitter Sandwich: Philly Goodness on a Roll

I admit it openly, I am not a native Baltimorian. I am instead a Philly Boy. I have been raised on cheesesteaks with sliced steak and processed liquid cheese and pretzels that you buy on the side of the road. Nothing warms my heart more than the site of a Wawa and the blissful thoughts of Rita's Water Ice. There is just something about Philly food. It is food for the people. One of the best examples of this is the Schmitter Sandwich.

The Schmitter, originally created at McNally's Tavern, is one of the specialty concessions served at Citizens Bank Park and Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. The sandwich is considered by some to be one of the best cheesesteaks in the city. While I am a traditionalist who likes my "Cheesesteak, Wiz, Wit" the Schmitter holds a special place in my heart (mostly the clogged Artery part). The sandwich is comprised of some fantastic guilty pleasures, all Philly favorites. Yum. Just take a look at this artists representation of all of the goodness that goes into each one of these handfuls of deliciousness.

As you can see the Schmitter is no kids sandwich. Three slices of cheese, sliced steak, fried onions, grilled salami, and special sauce with stars in it (okay, so the stars are only in this representation, but boy are they delicious). There are tomatoes, clearly there to ensure the nutritional value of this monster. Overall it is one of the best sandwiches I have ever had.

The Schmitter is one of those food items that people travel to get. Either at McNally's or the stadiums, people come for the sandwich (the also potentially come for Beer and Baseball/Football). One of the nice things is that the Schmitter has taken a little bit of a tour in recent memory. The Florida debut happened at Superbowl XXXIX and took a trip up I-95 to be enjoyed by those crazy and annoying Mets fans at Shea Stadium (sorry, I couldn't help myself).
If you get the opportunity I highly suggest getting your hands on one of these delectable sandwiches. They are a real unique Philly treat.

April 1, 2008

Penne Con Cavolofiore

Last night I had the pleasure of stretching my culinary legs into the kitchen as opposed to the dining room. It was a friend's birthday and we decided that the best celebrate would be to cook a good meal and a cake. I decided to take on the the main course and pulled out one of my staple recipes. Penne Con Cavolofiore, aka Penne with Cauliflower, by none other than Mario Batali. I came across this recipe in Food Network Favorites: Recipes from Our All-Star Chefs, which is a fantastic book that I have been slowly working my way through. The book has a nice mix of different types of recipes from Food Networks Stable of Celebrity Chefs, including some real winners from Mario, Paula Dean and Bobby Flay. I highly suggest picking this one up.

This particular recipe is great because it classic Italian. Simple ingredients and simple preparation ends in a completely amazing meal. I would highly suggest trying this one out.


  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 pounds tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped, or 4 cups plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 1/2 cup very hot water, plus 6 quarts
  • 2 tablespoons salt, plus more, for seasoning
  • 1 pound dry penne
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 bunches Italian parsley, finely chopped to yield 1/2 cup
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated caciocavallo, Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino
In a 12 to 14-inch saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat and add garlic. Cook gently until softened and very light golden brown, then add tomatoes and cook, stirring, until tomatoes begin to break down. Add cauliflower and stir well. Add 1/2 cup very hot water, lower heat to medium and cook 30 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender.

Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Add the penne, and cook according to package directions, until tender yet al dente.

Drain and add to pan with cauliflower. Stir in parsley and black pepper to taste and toss 1 minute over high heat. Divide evenly among 6 warmed pasta bowls, top with grated cheese, and serve immediately.

March 28, 2008


1300 Bank Street
Baltimore, MD

Although the link above is to the Lemongrass restaurant in Annapolis, they recently expanded with a new restaurant in Baltimore. Technically its located in Little Italy but for those of you from the area, its actually on the North side of Little Italy just shy of Fell's Point. And honestly - its in a shady little part of town. There is a parking garage directly across the street that should bring out-of-towners some sense of comfort and security, but for those you too cheap to pay for parking (*cough* me!), you can probably find some street parking.

Lemongrass is apparently pretty popular in Annapolis and I was pleased to see that they offered a number of vegetarian dishes. I had read some mixed reviews of the new Baltimore restaurant (mostly in regards to their "poor" service) but still wanted to give it a shot. I went with some girlfriends to celebrate a birthday.

I called them a week in advance to make a reservation. A man answered the phone and was very polite. He took my information and said I was all set.

I arrived with one friend in tow about 30 minutes before the reservation. Since we were still waiting on 2 more friends, we sat at the bar and didn't check in at the "hostess" desk yet. Lucky for us - it was happy hour! Their happy hour special was $3 glasses of house wine (white or red... and I think the white was actually a combination of several white wines), and $4 asian imported beers.

My friend got the glass of white wine and enjoyed it but I splurged and went for the Lemongrass martini ($7/glass). I'm not much of a martini drinker and generally only order them to feel fancy, but this one was amazing. It was a blend of a vanilla-like flavor with lemon. It sounds weird but was actually quite tasty and there was definitely no bite to it from the alcohol. Don't be fooled though, there was definitely plenty of booze in there... trust me.

When I went to check in with the hostess, my reservation was not there. I had read some reviews from people complaining about their lost reservations so I wasn't entirely surprised. We were fortunate because we were eating on a Wednesday night so there was plenty of space.

Since Lemongrass markets itself as a Thai restaurant, their swanky decor in the bar (giant hindu statue, etc) wasn't unusual. But I was a little surprised that the giant artwork next to our table was a scene from The Sound of Music. Seriously... that's Julie Andrews.

The server was very nice and I was really digging his Fu Manchu moustache.

We started off with some appetizers: some crispy string beans and the Papaya Salad (julienne green papaya, roasted peanuts, string beans and tomatoes tossed with spicy lime dressing).

We devoured both quickly.

For dinner, we ordered:
- Veggie Delight (stir-friend mixed vegetables and tofu in a light garlic sauce)
- Asparagus Shrimp
- Some chicken dish and some beef dish (I should have paid better attention to what my friends got).

Most of their dinner options are below $15 so it was pretty inexpensive. I thought my veggie delight was very good. It wasn't greasy and the garlic sauce wasn't overwhelming. I do have to say, however, that this isn't the most authentic of Thai restaurants. If you're looking for authenticity over ambience, you may want to go elsewhere.

We also ordered desserts: friend banana with vanilla ice cream and... fried ice cream. When the server told us the specials, I think we all shot each other a confused look. I thought fried ice cream was a Mexican dish? I guess its not.

Because it was my friend's birthday, he brought it out with a candle and spared her the silly song.

Overall, we enjoyed everything we got and thought our server was very nice and attentive. I recalled reading a lot of reviews regarding the bad service and aside from the reservation snafu, I wasn't seeing any of it.

Until the next day.

I went to check my bank balance and it appeared that my $30 charge (we all split the bill) was $136. What?! I thought perhaps he accidentally ran my card for a different bill (since our bill didn't even equal $136) and promptly called the restaurant. The woman on the phone said she'd pass along my info to the manager. I was freaking out but am happy to report that the manager, Kim, called me back within the hour and was nothing but polite and helpful. She researched the previous night's records and saw that the server had accidentally ran my card with the total bill (although the number is still off) but cancelled it and their records show that they are only authorizing a $30 charge to my card. She noted that the initial swipe of the card registers with most banks but should be removed within 2 business days.

So all in all - the food was decent, priced VERY well, and their food service was decent enough. My recommendations would be to make a reservation and call back to CONFIRM your reservation before you go over (especially if its on a Friday or Saturday evening). I would also recommend parking in the garage across the street unless you're the type that likes to live dangerously and want to see if your car will get broken into.

March 26, 2008

Noodles and Co.

Atkins conscious eaters need not apply. Well maybe for a couple things.

Noodles & Company is a relatively new chain that focuses on a single ingredient, noodles, rather than a single style of cuisine. I was originally skeptical about this place, but after a couple years of going I will admit that Noodles is a pretty good, relatively cheap meal and rarely a disappointment. I was also pretty excited to see that a new location was opening mere minutes from my office.

Noodles concept is pretty simple. Their menu is divided into three parts, Asian, Italian and American. From there you have the choice of a couple of different pasta dishes, a salad or a soup. Finally, add your protein and you are off an running. Choices range from Japanese Pan noodles with to Wisconsin Mac and Cheese.

This restaurant appeals to me in lots of ways. First, I am a noodle freak, particularly with Asian flavors. I can never seem to replicate the taste at home. Also, any restaurant with "Chicken Sauce" on the table must be good. For those of you who don't know the the term chicken sauce... well, learn it. Or you could learn the actual name, Sriracha Chili Sauce. It is very spicy, but delicious... but I digress. Noodles also has the whole mix and match thing going for it. For example, I am not sure how many people would put Braised Beef onto Creamy Mac and Cheese, but do you know who does... This Guy.

When I was in grad school, looking for a "home cooked meal" or at least something quick and delicious, noodles was the place to go. I could pick up something that was warm and filling while still being simple affordable. If they had setup WiFi I think Noodle could have been my "Coffee House" of choice.

Adding to the flavor of this place is the website. It is fun and it gets the point across. I like that as well. Noodles has a sense of humor about itself. Most places like this tend to think that they are better than they are, but noodles just keeps it simple.

If you are ever in need of a good fast meal, not that expensive, but full of potential flair give Noodles & Company a try.

March 25, 2008

Fogo de Chao

There is something about a restaurant where men run around with swords skewered with meat. You would expect this to be something that happened only once in a blue moon. Something awful must have happened in the kitchen. The chef is running around crazy trying to stab his sous chefs because they sent out an underdone steak or overcooked risotto. Fogo de Chao, a chain of Brazilian Churrascaria (aka steakhouse) is a restaurant where you consistently see men running with swords of meat.

Located right off of the Inner Harbor, Fogo brings a unique dining experience to patrons. To start you are pointed to the salad bar. I am normally turned off by salad bars, not because I don't like salad, rather I am never happy with the mix of build your own ingredients and mayo based picnic fair. Fogo's bar had a pretty good selection. A mix of smoked Salmon, Marinated Mushrooms, Asparagus - white and green, Mozzarella and Tomato salad, all and all a really great spread... BUT IT IS A ROUSE.

The salad bar is a distraction. The star of the show is the fourteen cuts of meat that are proudly brought to your table by the faster than fast Gauchos, who will politely slice off a piece for you to enjoy. In order to prevent you being asked every three seconds if you would like a new cut Fogo imploys the "Button System". You are given a coaster like device, one side is green and one side is red. Since most of you are from a town with at least one intersection, I am sure you have all seen a traffic signal before. You can extrapolate the meaning of each side of the button from that. The only issue that I have with the button system is ensuring you are getting a taste of each cut. You still end up turning away the guy with the rib eye and the guy with the bacon wrapped fillet in order to get to the guy with the lamb chops.

The meat was all very tasty. Cooked over open flame, everything has a nice smokey flavor to it, and you can really taste the differences between different cuts. My personal favorites included the salt and garlic sirloin called Picanha, and the bottom sirloin known as Fraldinha. Others enjoyed the lamb chops and bacon wrapped fillet and chicken. My only complaint about the meat is that there is no good direct accompaniment. I am not asking for A1 or anything, but there are things other than salt and pepper that could enhance the taste of the wares emanating from the Fogo kitchen. The fried polenta and mashed potatoes are pretty good, with the

With all the the hustle an bustle of this restaurant there are a couple of tips that people should follow when headed to Fogo:

  1. Reservations - Particularly for a large group you are going to want to make these in advance. While a party of two would have no problem walking in, anything more than that could be difficult.
  2. Go for Lunch - The price is much cheaper for the lunch meal. There is also a salad bar only option, but i wouldn't suggest it. As good as the salad bar is, I am not sure it is a meal.
  3. DON'T BRING SMALL CHILDREN - I cannot stress this enough. When we visited Fogo there was a large family with a toddler walking around on the floor. It almost became entertaining to see if the Gauchos could bob and weave there way around the kid. Upon further reflection leave your kids at home, you never know what could happen, your kid may end up looking like bottom sirloin.

  4. Get a Glass of Wine - This was a mistake made by my party. When you have that many different kinds of meat there is something about a glass of wine that really cleanses the pallet.

  5. Go Slow and Enjoy the Show - Fogo is really a dining experience rather than just a meal. There is a great deal of fanfare in the way the meat is run out of the kitchen.

Overall I think the Fogo is a pretty accessible meal. It is in between a standard steakhouse and fine dining. It is something you should experience, but not a weekly meal. If you go more than once every six months make sure you have regular heart checkups.

March 24, 2008

Pazza Luna

Pazza Luna
1401 E. Clement Street
Baltimore, MD 21230

Pazza Luna is located in Locust Point right across the street from a new townhome development. I had found out about this place through a friend who lives in the new community. She and her husband frequent this place so much that the folks inside know their names. I always thought that would be such a cool thing.

Locust Point is the neighborhood next to Federal Hill and I feel like its been turning around a lot lately. There are lots of new homes, new restaurants, bars, etc. Being a resident on the other side of town (Canton/Highlandtown), I don't make it over there very often. I actually think that works both ways with people in Federal Hill not coming over to Canton. But I digress...

I met up with some girlfriends to take advantage of Pazza Luna's happy hour special: $1 Martinis! You really can't beat that. Because my friend is such a regular, she was able to secure a large table that isn't considered a part of the bar but where we could still enjoy happy hour (you're not technically supposed to get happy hour specials outside of the bar area).

When I first walked into the restaurant/bar, I noticed how cute it appeared. I'm sure cute isn't a great descriptive term but I liked it. The bar area itself is a little small but the table to the side seated 8 comfortably and I found myself completely enamoured with the table. It looked like it was made of perfectly aged wood and I wanted it for my own dining room! For dinner, the restaurant is upstairs but I didn't get a chance to check it out.

The waitress was very sweet albeit a little slow with the service. We were seated right by the kitchen so she often passed us without asking if we needed anything. I didn't complain because I understood they were kind of doing us a favor but it was starting to irritate me. I theorized that the slow service was how they kept patrons from taking TOO much advantage of the $1 martinis. They also seemed to have a shortage of martini glasses so the waitress noted that they had to take our glasses, wash them and then serve our drinks.

They had a little menu with some interesting flavored martinis. I tried the Blueberry Lemon Martini and it was fabulous. It was just the right amount of sweet with just enough tangy to not overwhelm me or make me feel sick. Some friends tried a Raspberry Peach Martini (it looked like a creamsicle) and another blueberry martini that looked like a slurpee. Everyone seemed to love whatever they got.

Also a part of the happy hour special is a "small plate" menu that boasts dishes for $4.50 (and I think this also includes their appetizers). I was thrilled to see that they offered a vegetarian pizza.

Amongst my friends, people ordered: fried calamari, fried polenta, vegetarian pizza, mozzarella & tomato, salads. Everyone loved what they ordered.

My vegetarian pizza was amazing. It was a thin crust with artichokes, eggplant and onions. The sauce was a little sweet and I was on the verge of licking my plate when I finished. My friends thought my pizza looked divine as well but when they ordered it, they didn't receive any of the same toppings! Instead, they were presented with a pizza covered in carrots and onions. I thought that was a little strange but was thankful that I got to eat the kick-ass pizza.

Wednesday nights (the night we went) is also another special: $10 pasta.

My only complaint has to do with the slow service. When it came time to pay the bill, we simply inquired about the number of acceptable credit cards. I know this is annoying (although one of my friends noted that when she was a server, it wasn't difficult to split checks) - the waitress groaned, rolled her eyes and asked that we not give more than 5. I found this to be unprofessional and rude. Just say 5 and be done with it! No need for the theatrics.

So while I didn't actually eat any dinner, I took a glance at the menu and would definitely give this place another shot.

I highly recommend this restaurant/bar. Just hope you don't need to split a check 6 ways!

March 18, 2008


Salerno's Restaurant & Catering
1043 Liberty Road
Eldersburg, MD 21784
(410) 795-8400

Solerno's is a restaurant located on Route 26, otherwise known as Liberty Road, in Eldersburg, Maryland in Carroll County. It is one of the original restaurants in the area. It's been serving diners before the big-name chain restaurants like Chili's moved into town.

Solerno's, though an Italian name, is mostly a seafood restaurant. However, every St. Patrick's Day they have a, get this, St. Patrick's Day Special. Since cabbage and corned beef stink, my wife bans me from eating it, let alone cooking it, in the house. So I make my annual trip to Solerno's on St. Patrick's Day.

Since my wife was with my other two kids at the dentist, I took my 8 year-old daughter with me. We started off with a cup of Cream of Crab soup. Topped with Old Bay, it was nice and hot and spicy. A little lacking in crab meat, it still had a nice taste. I think they stress the cream in the Cream of Crab.

The main meal was the corned beef, potatoes, cabbage, and 2 slices of rye bread. The sliced corned beef was very sumptuous. Soft and salty and with an oh-so-good taste. My daughter despises the sight of fat, but this corned beef didn't bother her.

The cabbage was a little bland. It tasted as if it was blanched in hot water (what other kind of blanching is there?). It had no seasoning or added taste to it, which was fine. I was combining the tastes with the corned beef and potatoes. The potatoes were quartered and steamed. The overall meal was good.

As a drink, Solerno's offered Killian's draught for $1. The glass was 20 ounces, more than enough for me to have with a meal. Magically, the glass and the beer seemed to stay cold for the entire meal.

My daughter can be highly influential, especially when we are having a daddy-daughter dinner. So she decided that we were having dessert. The waitress persuaded us to have the Irish Brownie. It consisted of a home-made brownie with mint ice cream covered in a Bailey's Irish Cream whipped cream. Let me tell you, this was awesome! The brownie was hot, chocolaty, and gooey. The ice cream was great and the whipped cream was phenomenal. My daughter even said, "That waitress wasn't kidding when she said this would be good!"

The ambiance of the restaurant is fair. There's nothing fancy. There are televisions with ESPN in one corner and Keno in the other. Most of the patrons were retirees and they didn't get too wild. Solerno's is not a restaurant you go to for ambiance. You go there for food. And the food is good.

Other foods on the menu are seafoods, sandwiches, steaks, burgers, and salads. Prices range from $8 to about $25 for surf and turf. The wait staff is mostly young and friendly. Service was quick. The meal was served before I was done my soup and we did seem to wait for the soup a bit longer than I had anticipated.

Overall, I like Solerno's as a good family restaurant that caters to a lot of tastes. There's nothing fancy, but you can expect to get plenty of tasty food. This isn't where you take your wife for an anniversary, but it's great for a sit-down meal. Try it sometime!

March 11, 2008

The Helmand

The Helmand
806 North Charles Street
Baltimre, Maryland 21201-5308

Sometimes being a vegetarian is tough. Being a vegetarian that loves to go out to eat is even tougher. I'm usually relegated to the limited vegetarian friendly fare of spaghetti with plain red sauce. Yum.

I get pretty stoked to find a vegetarian friendly restaurant that offers exotic flavors, nice ambience and also satisfies the appetite of my meat-eating husband.

Enter The Helmand.

The Helmand is located in the uber hip neighborhood of Mt. Vernon. It's located down the street from The Brass Elephant and The Hippo and across the street from Akbar. We had read a good review about this place and wanted to check it out since we're always seeking a good restaurant that we can both enjoy.

My first experience with The Helmand was just with my husband. When we arrived, we were surprised to see that there wasn't really a waiting area… or even any sort of front area. We were right by people eating at their tables. There was a small crowd of people standing waiting to be seated and it was awkward to be practically on someone's lap as they ate. They do have a small bar in the back of the restaurant but it was also packed. Fire hazzard, much? But perhaps this is their tactic to get you to eat more because I found myself drooling over people's meals.

When we were seated (after waiting about 10 minutes), we were sat at a very tiny corner table that we had to squeeze past a few patrons to get to. Once we were seated, everything was fine. The décor of the restaurant lends itself to the exotic fare being offered with tapestries and other interesting wall art.

Finally, the waitress came by to take our order. I had inquired if the bread I was seeing on everyone's tables was something we could expect (like most restaurants) but was promptly told no. Apparently it’s a separate order. Regardless, it's delicious. I generally prefer my bread to be a little crispier but this was great nonetheless. It was flat bread that was thicker than I anticipated. It was very soft, chewy and not too buttery. I highly recommend splurging and ordering the side of bread.

The rest of the waitress's service left much to be desired and I felt like saying, "I'm sorry, are we bothering you by placing our order?" but lucky for them, the food made up for it.

I ordered a glass of Malbec wine to go with my vegetarian entrée (apparently vegetarian entrees are weekend specials). I ordered the Vegetarian Dolma: Baby eggplant filled with spinach and simmered in sun-dried tomato and herb sauce. Served with challow. (Challow is afghan white rice).

While I wasn't blown away by exotic spices, my meal was good. It was filling, delicious and enough to bring me back for a second visit despite the turdy waitress.

My second visit to The Helmand was with a group of friends (6 people total). We found ourselves in the same waiting situation but decided to head over to the bar in the back. There were no seats available so we were left standing in the wait staff's way for awhile.

We were seated about 15 minutes after arriving and I would say the waiter was much better than the waitress I had the first time around. Although I would say it was a little slow… its hard to tell when you're with friends sometimes.

I ordered a glass of Pinot Noir (the only kind they offered by the glass) and tried a different vegetarian entrée. This time I had Dolma Murch: Bell pepper stuffed with seasoned vegetables, beans and wild rice simmered in a sun-dried tomatoes and rhubarb sauce. Served with challow and a side order of sabzy (spinach).

I have to say, I enjoyed this dish much more than my first dish. The spinach was fantastic. It had a little spice to it but was not overwhelming. The rest of the meal was slightly spicy but not much at all. In general, I just thought it was more flavorful than the vegetarian dolma. I didn't finish my meal because I had eaten so much of that damn delicious bread but was able to take half of it home.

When I asked for a take-out box, I was met with a not so friendly face but the waiter obliged. Although he didn't take the sabzy and it was whisked away by the busboy before I could say a word.

Now here is where I think The Helmand's tactic of making you stand uncomfortably close to other patrons pays off. I saw a couple eating some ice cream and had to have some (despite being incredibly full). It was "Afghan Ice Cream" which really meant that it was vanilla ice cream (very vanilla… like vanilla beans vanilla) with cardamom and dates, dried figs and fresh mango at the bottom. I highly recommend this dessert.

A friend of mine ordered some rice pudding with fresh fruit on top but only enjoyed the fruit portion and not the pudding. The pudding was a little bland.

All in all - I highly recommend giving this restaurant a try. Just be prepared to stand around and wait for a bit (reservations are highly encouraged!) while standing uncomfortably close to dining patrons.

March 3, 2008

Rub: It is supposed to be about more than just meat.

Every so often you hear about a place and your expectations begin to rise. You hear how good the food is, how fun the people and atmosphere are and your own anticipation builds. You hear that it is a magical place where all of your dreams about “low and slow” can come true and you cannot wait to try it. Then you get the chance to try it and your expectations, your hopes and dreams are crushed with the mighty blow of a pretty bad restaurant. This was my experience at Rub BBQ in the Riverside section of South Baltimore

Rub is billed as a classic, Texas style, Barbecue. They have a number of classic southern Que items on their menu with the occasional, we are a restaurant in the city, twist. The atmosphere is pretty laid back, a mix of a BBQ place and a sports bar. It was a couple minutes after being seated that my initial positive impressions and excitement were crushed like a little boy who didn’t get the bike (read Nintendo Wii) that he wanted for Christmas.

First let’s talk about the service. Rub prominently displays their signature drink as “Lone Star Lemonade”. It is on their website, their menu, even their menu cover (I mean the laminated piece of paper that is clipped on the front of the heavy clipboard, which contains the actual food you can order). When the waiter asks us for our drink orders and our response is “Two of The Lemonade” you would imagine we would be getting the signature drink. You would be wrong. Minute Made… Seriously… Minute Maid. This was followed by another futile attempt where the waiter wanted to bring what was basically a Zima. When we did finally get the “Signature Drink” and it was very good, and pretty whimsical, being frozen and served in old milk jugs. The drink could not make up for the next service mishap. My dining companion and I were served on two plates, which would have been great, except the individual items looked like they were thrown onto the closest thing that the kitchen staff could find. We had to play a little game of Three Card Monty between us until the food was in the right order. Isn’t grouping the food onto a plate so it can be served to the person who ordered it Restaurant 101? I thought so.

We decided to order the fried green tomatoes for an appetizer. Once again these did not hold up to their potential billing. I am all for salting food when it comes out of the fryer, but you shouldn’t drown items in salt. Hopefully the people at Rub get this message. Entrees included samplings of brisket, turkey and Texas flat ribs accompanied by corn pudding and sweet potato fries. The meat on the plate almost saved the meal. The Brisket was very good, tender and flavorful. The Texas flat ribs, a beef rib as opposed to the standard pork that is prevalent in the area, were also full of flavor. The turkey was moist and tasty. In fact the meal could have been saved if it wasn’t for the lack of taste in the sweet potato fries (I guess they got the message about the salt and decided to go without it) and the incredible heat in the corn pudding. I appreciate the attempt as a corn pudding that is not sweet, but seriously, if all I taste is pepper and the burn of Serrano chilies, well it is just not successful. If Rub paid attention to more than just the meat it would be a great place.

I really want to say good things about Rub, I just can’t. I will hopefully find better barbecue in the city.

February 23, 2008


There is something about a small local place where you are recognized every time you walk through the door. There is an appeal to a simple place with fantastic food. There is something great about a place where you feel comfortable no matter the situation. For me, the place that has all of these characteristics is Geckos.

This corner bar on Fleet Street has a great atmosphere, great people and an innovative Southwest Menu. Some of the highlights include a seafood chili with large shrimp, muscles and chunks of fish; a wide range of quesadillas and burritos; and some delicious classic and not so classic burgers. Each one served with homemade tortilla chips and salsa.

A true positive for Geckos are the daily specials. The best available ingredients that day are created into a number of dishes which range from blue fish to bison. Some very creative dishes are available each day. I have never been disappointed by the specials. You can follow up any of these delicious dishes with deserts that can include homemade ice cream or a unique frozen Key Lime Pie.

Come on a Monday and make your meal of appetizers, as they are half price. Thursday is Taco night. These are just some of the weekly specials that make the dining experience different and affordable each and every time you come.

If you are looking for an excellent Sunday brunch, Geckos has you covered their as well. Apple stuffed French toast, Mexi eggs, fresh baked muffins, barbecued fish and fresh fruit salad are staples on this small, but tasty buffet. Add in all you can drink Mimosas and a Crab and Spinach eggs Benedict and you can become very satisfied for a pretty low price.

Overall Geckos is a staple of mine. The best part of the place are the people. Owner Nick and Bartender Scott are there to great you and you feel like you become part of the family. Geckos is an absolute Baltimore gem.

February 22, 2008

Welcome to Eat Charm City

Hello Folks. Glad you could make it. Pull up a chair, this is going to be a tasty ride!!

Eat Charm City has been born. I am starting this blog out of my personal passion for good food. To give some background I am a mid-twenties single guy from Philadelphia. I moved to Baltimore to go to school and, with the exception of a couple brief hiatuses back to Philly and DC, I have been here ever since. Oh... and I love to Eat, Drink and be Merry.

I am starting this blog to fulfill my desire to have a great site where I can review the food of the city, talk about some of the great chefs that I like and maybe give a recipe or two. My hope is that this will become a place where people can share their thoughts on Eating in Charm City. Please contact me by leaving a comment or emailing, eatcharmcity at gmail dawt com, if you have have any recommendations, reviews or thoughts or anything else you would like to share.

Look Out Charm City, We're coming and we're hungry!