4 W. University Parkway, (443) 449-6200,
$$$, B, L, D, BR, P, R
This American bistro styles itself as “one of Baltimore’s most fashionable restaurants,” delivering classics with a twist such as the Alizée french toast for breakfast, honey-grilled salmon for lunch, and a port wine demi-glazed filet mignon for dinner. Don’t forget about happy hour—$6 appetizers and drink specials.
2404 N. Charles St., (667) 303-3256,
$$, L, D, DV
Kinda like Chipotle, in that you can choose your bowl types, proteins, and toppings, but better, because you’re building Korean bibimbap bowls with succulent meat, fresh vegetables, and sticky rice. Plenty of other Korean-inspired dishes on the menu too, if you don’t want to build your own bowl.
3120 St. Paul St., (410) 243-5200,
$, B, L, D, BR, BYOB, Out
This Charles Village meeting place just might be the Picasso of the panini: When it’s available, try “the Brewhouse,” which comes with Guinness beer jam, Granny Smith apples, and brie on sourdough.
Charles Village Pub
3107 St. Paul St., (410) 243-1611,
$$, L, D, BR, Out, 10 p.m.
You might not go to CVP (as the kids call it) specifically to eat. But once you start drinking and talking, you don’t really ever want to leave. Then the wings or heaping helpings of nachos or the house-made chili starts to beckon, and soon you are so drunk, full, and satiated that you can hardly wipe the grease off your face. It’s OK, just order another beer.
2601 N. Howard St., (410) 235-5004,
$, B, L, D, OUT
In addition to a long list of lattes, teas, and other beverages, this coffeehouse offers sandwiches, soups, and salads for all meals of the day. Of course there are the cafe staples like bagels and muffins too. And, after President Obama visited in early 2015, they renamed his order (roast beef and cheddar on white bread) the Commander in Beef.
3105-B St. Paul St., (410) 235-1004,
$$, L, D, DV, BYOB
Crammed in the midst of a strip of chains near Hopkins’ Homewood campus is the cozy Masala Kitchen. Masala’s pride is its discerning use of traditional spices and flavors in its Indian food—there’s no excess of oily flavors in its goat curry and tandoori chicken.
3 E. 33rd St., (410) 366-4115,
$$, L, D
The Japanese and Korean fare here keeps Hopkins’ Homewood campus satisfied. Try the dolsot (stone pot) dishes.
One World Café
100 W. University Parkway, (410) 235-5777
$$, B, L, D, BR, Out, 10 p.m.
A haven for Baltimore’s vegetarian—and vegan—community, One World doesn’t exclude the carnivore. It’s also a perfect meeting spot: Start with coffee; if it goes well, switch to drinks.
3130 Greenmount Ave., (410) 467-7698
$, B, L
This classic lunch counter is just that: all counter, no booths. And during peak hours, you’ll likely be standing along the wall, waiting for a spot to open up. When it does, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best pancakes, omelets, and burgers in town.
■ Where to pop the question
Ambassador Dining Room
3811 Canterbury Road, (410) 366-1484,
$$$, L, D, Out
We’ve all seen (or heard of) the various ways people propose in public, and it would seem that restaurants are among the most popular spaces for public proposals. While there are plenty of posh places around Baltimore to drop to your knee and pop the question while your partner fishes that surprise ring from the bottom of the champagne flute (I don’t actually recommend this tactic), consider instead a quiet proposal in Ambassador Dining Room’s outdoor garden area. Even in chilly weather, the white-tablecloth restaurant with its well-dressed staff often has the patio seating open, albeit enclosed and heated, making it easy to maneuver to the short, quiet path just off the outdoor dining space. The garden is lush in the warmer months with a gorgeous, large fountain as its centerpiece, but still remains pretty and private in the chillier parts of the year (if you’re concerned about access, chat with the friendly owners ahead of time). Grab your glasses of wine and go for the short stroll in between courses, or wait until the end and take your coffee. Make sure it’s spiked, though. Just in case. (Jennifer Waldera)
St. Mary’s Restaurant
120 W. 25th St., (410) 889-9600,
$$, L, D, 10 p.m.
Winner of City Paper’s Best Jerk Chicken in 2015, St. Mary’s serves other Jamaican classics such as curry goat and oxtail, and its jerk chicken wings could put those of any sports bar to shame.
Sweet27 Bar and Restaurant
127 W. 27th St., (410) 464-7211,
$$, L, D, BR
This South Asian- and Caribbean-influenced American bistro has something for everyone: enchilada mole, vindaloo, Middle Eastern korma. The menu also satisfies those with gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free diets.
3327 St. Paul St., (410) 243-5777,
$$, L, D, BR
Cheese steak and channa masala on the same menu? Sure, why not? Choose American diner food or Indian dishes—or both—here and take in the 1950s-inspired decor while you eat.
102 E. 25th St., 102 E. 25th St., (443) 388-8478
$, B, L, D
This soul-food restaurant’s first location on Harford Road did well enough that the duo behind it opened this second location last October. Comfort food is the name of the game here—think baked chicken with mac and cheese, chicken and waffles, sandwiches, and build-your-own baked potatoes.
101 E. 25th St., (410) 777-5277,
$, B, L, D, OUT
Terra Café offers a tasty variety of paninis, omelets, wings, sandwiches, and more—try the Yard Bird ($8.50) if you want a bit of a kick, or choose from eight flavors of wings. In addition to a solid menu, Terra Café aims to create a community and offers its space for art events, live music, open mics, and discussions.
3316 Greenmount Ave., (410) 889-6003
$$, L, D, P
Something of a hidden gem with its modest, unassuming exterior. If this dissuades you, that’s a shame, because it offers some of the city’s best Thai food with intimate service.
Yum’s Asian Bistro
2501 N. Charles St., (410) 889-2828,
$$, L, D
Hands-down the prettiest room in town where you can sit down to a plate of kung pao chicken. Yum’s covers the typical Chinese-American fare, along with sushi and a few Thai dishes (the kitchen turns out a very respectable pad Thai). Well-priced super meals come with soup, shrimp toast, and crab Rangoon.
■ Where to go for an older relative’s birthday that will make everyone (i.e. multiple generations) happy (or at least, not complaining)
Gertrude's at the BMA
Baltimore Museum of Art, 10 Art Museum Drive, (410) 889-3399,
$$$, L, D, BR, P, Out, R
You know the challenge of finding a restaurant for a multi-generational family celebration. Said restaurant must have a crab cake on the menu and offer decent portions for a reasonable price (preferably with sides included). If at all possible, it must serve classic manhattans and martinis, as well as beer and wine beyond Bud and Sutter Home. It can’t be too hip or too fusty. And the wait staff has to accommodate your 4-year-old nephew and your 84-year-old uncle.
Easy. Go to Gertrude’s, John Shields’ homage to his grandmother and to Maryland cooking. Seafood comes traditionally prepared or with a more modern twist. The dining room, just off the lobby at the Baltimore Museum of Art, is a lovely setting whether you’re sitting inside under the twinkling ceiling or outside next to the sculpture garden. Servers are gracious, as is Shields, who is known to make a sweetly appropriate fuss over grandmother or great-aunt. No one will feel out of their depth. It will be perfect. (Mary Zajac)