The dish: Paratha ($8)
The Verandah, one of the many little shops along The Avenue in Hampden, serves three styles of parathas — essentially Indian stuffed flatbread.
There's a ground turkey filling for the meat eater, a vegan job with avocado, potato and peas, and the vegetarian number with paneer and peas. I chose the paneer, mostly because I wanted to see how the Asian cheese worked in a pocket sandwich.
The surface of Verandah's parathas have that marvelous mottled tandoori effect: patches of blackened, toasted and pale flour. Since this kitchen uses whole wheat, you get autumnal gold, reddish brown and rusty tan colors, which make for an exceptionally appealing effect.
If you're familiar with the cuisine, you'll taste India in the first bite: cumin and dried mango powder. You might anticipate a wave of heat, but this paratha was temperate. The bread and paneer-and-peas filling must have helped dampen the heat.
The cheese and legumes are wrapped in a shell — about six inches in diameter — and cooked. Served in quarters, it's an earthy, savory carb load that comes with a side of cool cucumber yogurt chutney.
The dish also included a scoop of finely grated carrot, slivered almonds and black mustard seeds for a simple side salad that brought color and crispness to the plate.
With one exception — a curry chicken with basmati rice for $10.50 — everything on Verandah's paper menu was under $10. Verandah can also take care of your mid-day snack needs with a flaky-crust samosa, in either chicken-eater or vegetarian fillings. Their ginger mint lemonade tops the specialty drink list that also includes a mango lassi and unsweetened iced tea.
The menu is as minimalist as the dining area. It could be handled out of a food cart. And, in a way, it has been. Verandah has made an appearance at the Waverly and downtown farmers markets. Most of the restaurant's fare lends itself to grab-and-go dining, but there are a few tables and the space is sort of Hampden homey hip.
Verandah's been on The Avenue since mid-August, but it feels like it might have been here forever among the rowhouse shops with quirky names. It's fitting then that this kitchen offers an Indian cuisine you won't find on most of the buffet lines around town.
Where: 842 W. 36th St., Baltimore
Contact: 410-889-0999, theverandahbaltimore.net
Lunch times: 11:30-4 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, 11:30 p.m.-9 p.m. Thursday-Saturday
Lunch entrees: $3.75-$10.50