Michael's Steak & Lobster House (6209 Eastern Ave.,  633-6485, michaelscrabcakes.com) is the sort of place where everyone carries on some kind of tradition. Doug Heisey Sr. sits at the bar peeling steamed shrimp, flanked by his two sons, Doug Jr. and Rick. They're both tearing into the filet mignon and crab cake dinner. The pair drove down from their homes in Bel Air, picked up their father, and brought him here, as they have done every week for 12 years. "We call this 'boys night out,'" says Heisey Sr. popping a shrimp into his mouth. "My other son used to come with us, but he moved to Maine," then adds, with a laugh, "His loss."
Jerry and Rosalie Clark have been coming here since the restaurant opened in 1990. "We have a standing reservation and always sit in this same booth. And we time our arrival so we always get our favorite waitress, Rose." Rose has been waiting on the Clarks for 24 years. She always knows that Jerry is going to order the fish or the pork and Rosalie will have the broiled crab cakes.
Michael Gerapetritis, for whom the restaurant was named, was a chef at Jimmy's Famous Seafood in East Baltimore before he purchased the building on Eastern Avenue. Michael's opened for business on April 1, 1990. Gerapetritis, a beloved member of Baltimore's Greek community, ran the restaurant until his death in 2006. His wife and four children now run the operation.
The family connection is obvious; on any day or night the Gerapetritises are seemingly everywhere. In the kitchen, Gerapetritis' wife Fotini still does the cooking, as do son Tommy and daughter Sofia, who also purchases the ingredients. Daughter Voula serves as hostess and answers the often-ringing telephone, and her sister Penny is behind the bar serving beer and mixing cocktails.
My party of four arrived at 7 p.m. on a Tuesday. Michael's is known for its nightly specials, specific to each day of the week, but our schedules chose the date for us. The dining room was crowded, but we lucked into a table immediately, and our waiter, Theo, wasted no time taking our drink orders. We perused the large and varied menu—entrées include lamb, chicken, veal, and seafood options, as well as Greek and Italian dishes. But after all the reading and earnest discussion, we decided to try the specials. Tuesday night's offerings included a 24-ounce roast prime rib ($14.95), a 1 ½ pound whole Maine lobster ($24.95), or a stuffed filet mignon with crab imperial ($19.95). Throughout the cheery room, customers were dining on meals similar to our pending orders, a testament to the popularity of Michael's beef offerings, but there was no shortage of broiled lobsters being delivered to the tables surrounding us.
Our beef dishes were delicious and prepared just as requested, and a dining companion eating the crab imperial declared, "I'm in heaven." Our meals came with a substantial selection of vegetable side dishes. The potato salad and the "Greek style" green beans, made with red tomato sauce, peppers, and onions, were especially prized. Somehow we found room to share desserts: lemon meringue pie and "Dark Side of the Moon" chocolate cake ($5 each), both fresh and decadent. Selections such as baklava or rice pudding are also homemade.
During a rare, quiet moment in their hectic day, siblings Penny, Tommy, and Sofia find a minute to sit at the bar and reflect upon the restaurant business. "On any given week we slow-roast 3,000 pounds of prime rib," says Tommy. Sofia quickly adds, "Plus another 3,000 pounds of porterhouse and T-bones." Penny points around the room at the nautical decor, "This was all here when my father bought the place. Everyone loves the tradition so we haven't changed a thing."