Restaurant review: Palmere's has solid American fare in Little Italy

Little Italy is known for being mobbed with classic pasta-and-red-sauce restaurants. But bars? Not so much.

Since opening in April, Palmere's on Eastern Avenue is slowly becoming the neighborhood watering hole for Little Italy and Harbor East residents. The bar, which used to be Dego Dame's, serves pub food — it's not trying to be fancy. And more often than not, it succeeds.

The main bar area feels like a cramped living room — a hint that Palmere's was once someone's rowhouse. The brick walls and three flat-screen TVs help solidify the feeling that you're at a rich bachelor's house to watch the game. The upstairs, which serves as a dining room, is roomier, but not by much.

We were at a high-top table against the back wall downstairs when our bartender, who was also our waitress, took our orders from the not-very-Italian menu. Nearby, small groups of people relaxed after work with a bite to eat and a few adult beverages.

The bartender barely had time to bring us our Newcastle Summer Ales ($5), before the appetizers were ready. The fried pickles ($4.95) were just-out-the-fryer hot and served as chips, not spears. They were flaky and briny, and came with a side of ranch dressing. While they were good, they needed to be eaten fast so the pickle chips wouldn't have the chance to get soggy from the steam or excess pickle juice.

The best dish we had was the trio of meatball sliders ($7.45). The slider was great because the bun was soft on the outside and crisp on the inside, where it met melted mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce and the golf ball-size meatball. The house-made beef meatball was dense and herby but also delicate and flavorful. We didn't have it, but the meatball sub is made with the same meatballs and would also be a great choice. We're sure it would have been better than the sandwiches we ordered.

Our capable waitress recommended the Italian cold-cut sub ($7.45), a house specialty. With a little more attention, this sub could have been more than just mediocre. The bread, at once crunchy and pillowy, was the best part. It was salty in some spots, and bland in others, with all of the hot pepper spread slathered down the inside fold of the sub. The cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and dressing were fine, but the uneven seasoning made it plain.

The half-pound hamburger ($7.45) was a little overcooked but better than most bar burgers. The burger was meaty, slightly charred from being cooked on a grill top and much better-tasting for it. A topping of bacon (50 cents) made it even meatier.

Another missed opportunity was the side order of fries, which were undercooked and oily. If restaurants took the time and cooked their fries a golden-brown and not flaccid beige, this world would be much better for it.

Palmere's doesn't serve dessert, so either just have a sweet cocktail or head out into Little Italy for one of the many places that do serve sweets.

As a bar, Palmere's is good. As a bar that serves food, it's slightly better than average. A tweak here and there, and Palmere's could dish up bar food that's way above average. If you go there expecting a cold beer and a decent sandwich while watching a football game, you wouldn't be disappointed.


Back story: Formerly Dego Dame's, Palmere's is a not-so-terribly Italian bar in Little Italy. It's quickly becoming a favorite of the neighborhood residents.

Parking: Little Italy is notorious for having scant parking. You might be able to find a spot on the street, or you can settle for one of the many parking garages in the area.

Best dish: The meatball sliders had melted mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce and a house-made meatball the size of a golf ball.

Where: 1018 Eastern Ave., Baltimore

Contact: 443-835-1953

Open: 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Mondays-Fridays, noon-2 a.m. Saturdays-Sundays

Credit Cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover

Appetizers: $2.95-$7.45

Entrees: $6.95-$7.95

Food: ✭✭✭

Service: ✭✭1/2

Atmosphere: ✭✭1/2

[Key: Outstanding: ✭✭✭✭ Good: ✭✭✭ Fair or Uneven: ✭✭ Poor: ✭]

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