We went to 10 local spots in search of what $10 can get.
When it comes to dining out in the Baltimore area, $10 can take you further than you might think.
To test this theory, we went to 10 local eateries to see what delicacies we could get for $10 or less. In some cases, it’s a discounted plate of food or classic cocktails during happy hour. Elsewhere, an Alexander Hamilton yields a slew of smaller bites. And in a number of restaurants, $10 can get diners a hearty meal any time, any day — no discount required. (Note: Prices don’t include tax or tip.)
What to eat: The Neighborhood Bird
Michael Castagnola estimates he’s eaten the Neighborhood Bird, a sandwich of Taiwanese curry-fried chicken thigh atop a slightly sweet steamed bun, about a dozen times since Ekiben opened in Fells Point in 2016.
“It’s delicious,” the 36-year-old Patterson Park resident said. “I think it’s expertly fried. They match a good amount of seasoning with an expert fry on a steamed bun. It brings the classicness of fried chicken with Asian flavor.”
The $9 sandwich has attracted both local and national attention — Travel & Leisure recently named Ekiben as the best place for sandwiches in Maryland.
“For the quality and the quality it’s a good deal. You receive a good meal,” Castagnola said. “You don’t need to buy anything beyond the Neighborhood Bird to leave full.
What to eat: Three pinxtos: veal tongue bocadillo ($4); jamón croquette ($2) and tortilla Española ($3)
Total: $9 ($4.50 during happy hour, which is 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close on Monday-Friday; 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday)
Whenever Alberto Acosta has friends visit from out of town, he makes sure he takes them to La Cuchara.
The variety of Basque-inspired eats is a perfect way to expose some of his friends to new cuisine. Even when he’s not entertaining guests, the Lake Walker resident frequently visits the Clipper Mill restaurant.
“I can’t stop myself from going,” he said. “The service is outstanding. The general manger greets you every time you come in. … The flavors wow me every time. It’s an experience and a journey every time I eat there.”
Acosta particularly enjoys the happy hour offerings that feature half-price pintxos (small bites) and primeros (small plates).
His favorites? The veal tongue bocadillo, which features veal, charred cabbage and pimentón (a paprika-like spice) atop a grilled, house-made roll; jamón croquette, which combines Gruyere and serrano ham to form a fried ball; and tortilla Española, a cold, egg-based dish.
“It surprises me that you are able to find that great of a deal. It’s a good place to go back to,” Acosta said. “They have the best happy hour in Baltimore. If you are looking for great food and great drinks at a low cost, it’s great.”
With jumbo lump crab meat stacked atop fresh avocado and mango salsa, served with crostini, the crab stack at TellTale in downtown Baltimore is the best deal around, according to Akia Braswell, the restaurant’s food and beverage manager.
“It’s simply delightful. You really can’t go wrong with it,” she said. “It’s so representative of Baltimore with other flavors. It’s the perfect combination of everything. You can’t beat it.”
The dish is a particular steal during happy hour, when the price drops from $12 to $9.
Since the crab stack was unveiled in June, it has been a customer favorite, Braswell said.
The tacos del mar (tacos of the sea) are fresh, citrusy bites that are popular among customers, according to Carlos Raba, chef and co-owner of Clavel.
There are several varieties to chose from.
For example, El Luchador features a thick piece of wild cod in a light Negra Modello beer batter, served with house-pickled cabbage slaw, crema de habanero, and cilantro on top of a fresh soft tortilla.
“We put a lot of work into that dish,” Raba said.
Another option, Al Gobernador, consists of diced wild-caught Pacific shrimp dressed with salsa and served with melted queso Chihuahua and pico de gallo.
“The combination of really good cheeses [and] shrimp made in a sauce is a good combination of citrusy and a little bit of fat,” Raba said. “It’s a really good bite. You don’t see the combination a lot of shrimp and melted cheese.”
The flavor complexity of the tacos del mar make them a must, Raba said.
“There are just so many elements. That’s why it’s so good,” he said. “Two of those are a good deal.”
Blue Moon in Fells Point and its sister location, Blue Moon Too in Federal Hill, are known to draw huge crowds for their creative, hearty, flavorful breakfast offerings.
While much of the attention goes to the Cap’n Crunch French toast and the Frito pie French toast — which are more than $10 each — it’s actually the cost-effective Full Moon platter that is “ordered more times than not,” according to Amy Tucker, a waitress at Blue Moon Too.
“It’s a little more food for your buck,” Tucker said.
Let’s do the math:
The Full Moon consists of two slices of French toast or pancakes; two eggs (any style) and two pieces of breakfast meat for $9.95. As stand-alone menu items, a short stack of plain pancakes or plain french toast is $6.95; a side of meat is $4.95; and a side of eggs is $3.95 — adding up to more than $15.
“You’re essentially getting the eggs for free,” Tucker said. “That’s how I word it to my customers.”
Tucker typically orders the Full Moon when she eats at work.
“It gives you a little bit of everything,” she said. “It gives you that little bit of sweet and savory.”
Blue Moon Cafe is located at 1621 Aliceanna St., Fells Point; Blue Moon Too is at 1024 Light St., Federal Hill; bluemoonbaltimore.com
What to eat: Brisket sandwich with chips and soda
Duff Goldman swears by the brisket sandwich at Edmart Deli in Pikesville. In fact, he featured it on an episode of the Food Network show “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” in 2010.
The sandwich is piled with tender beef brisket cooked in an oven with a mix of spices, including garlic, kosher salt and paprika. Every so often, Edmart will see an influx of new customers after a rerun of Goldman’s episode airs, said Shelley Kelly*, who owns the deli that her parents started in 1958.
“We still keep in touch with Duff,” she said.
You can get your hands on the Charm City Cakes founder’s favorite sandwich, served with cole slaw or sauerkraut, a soda and bag of chips, for just $9.99.
In fact, customers can get a sandwich with a quarter pound of any meat for the same price.
“There's a lot to choose from,” Kelly said.
Edmart Deli is located at 1427 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville; edmartdeli.com
Ida B’s Table
What to eat: Octopus po’boy sliders, $9.
The first time Cassandra Bagley, assistant manager of Ida B’s Table, was offered chef David Thomas’ octopus, she declined.
“I refused to taste it,” she said with a laugh. “But then I saw a lot of people order it.”
By the end of her shift, she had finally tried the dish — and regretted not having done so sooner.
“I was mad because I could have been eating it all night,” she said. “It’s tender. It’s flavorful. It’s not what you expect.”
The octopus po’boy sliders — featuring two brioche buns topped with marinated grilled octopus, chipotle coleslaw and sweet potato remoulade — are one of the most popular items at the recently opened Ida B’s, which specializes in soul food. This dish is only available during happy hour and dinner.
“It’s the work that goes into it. It’s the quality of seafood that makes this a great dish,” Bagley said. “I think it’s underpriced.”
Ida B’s Table is located at 235 Holliday St., Downtown; idabstable.com.
B&O American Brasserie
What to drink: Two cocktails of the day during happy hour (4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday-Friday)
Brendan Dorr, head bartender at B&O American Brasserie, considers the restaurant’s cocktail of the day to be one of the best deals in the city.
“To get a high-quality cocktail for that price? … It’s a pretty stellar deal,” he said.
On a recent weekday, B&O was serving up the Leaves of Fall cocktail, made with Rancio Sec wine, applejack brandy, lemon, honey and nutmeg; and an Italiano, made with Aperol, Meletti Amaro liqueur, soda water and an orange twist.
But patrons can expect a wide variety when it comes to the cocktail of the day — the bartender working the shift gets to choose the recipe, Dorr said.
“Sometime [the cocktail of the day is] a classic. And sometime it’s a variation of a classic. Sometime it’s a totally creative cocktail,” said Dorr, who founded the Baltimore Bartenders’ Guild. “It can be a broad range of things. We have featured low-proof cocktails like an Americano and higher proof cocktails like a whiskey sour and gin and tonic.”
B&O American Brasserie is located inside the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Baltimore, 2 N. Charles St., downtown; bandorestaurant.com
La Scala Ristorante Italiano
What to eat and drink: Mac and cheese ($6) and an import beer ($3.50) during happy hour (4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday; 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday)
Three years ago, La Scala owner and head chef Nino Germano decided to introduce mac and cheese to his Mex-Italian-themed happy hour menu.
The dish, a large helping of noodles and pancetta in a blend of cheeses — the recipe is a secret — became an instant hit.
“It’s one of our best-selling items,” he said. “If you make anything with pancetta, it’s going to be good. It’s the flavor. Mac and cheese is an American dish. We give it a twist with the pancetta.”
If the dish was served on the dinner menu, Germano said, he would charge about $11. But a good happy hour is supposed to bring in people during their slower time, he said.
“Hopefully people come in and stay for dinner and drinks,” he said.
And speaking of drinks, during La Scala’s happy hour, imports such as Peroni, Moretti, Heineken, Amstel Light and Stella Artois are $3.50, which is less than their normal price of $6.50 each.