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Jacques Kelly: For Baltimore Restaurant Week, remembering the eateries no longer with us

Jacques Kelly: For Baltimore Restaurant Week, remembering the eateries no longer with us
Maison Marconi's on West Saratoga Street, shown in the late 1970s. The restaurant closed in 2005. (MCCARDELL / Baltimore Sun)

It’s Baltimore Restaurant Week, and I’m indulging in some thoughts of where I’d go — if only these places had not closed years ago.

I’d start off with the thin buckwheat pancakes at the old Woman’s Industrial Exchange on Charles Street and maybe return at lunch for those homemade, yeasty rolls, chicken salad and tomato aspic. Dessert? Yes, please — charlotte russe.

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For a cheese omelet, I’d go to the Town and Country Room, a crammed and frenetic lunchroom on South Street near the Inner Harbor. The lima bean soup was fabulous, provided you like lima beans.

Horn and Horn on East Baltimore Street near Guilford Avenue was mobbed at lunchtime. No wonder. I would order sliced roast chicken on a baking powder biscuit, perhaps with fried eggplant. The homemade vanilla ice cream there was unusual: It contained small specks of ice, along with specks of vanilla bean. There was also light chocolate, strawberry and coffee ice cream.

In the sour beef and dumpling category, Schellhase’s on Howard Street beat its local competition. I could not say which was better, the beef, the gravy or the dumplings. It was served with dense pumpernickel bread. Bring on a beer, which the proprietor, Otto Schellhase, chilled just right. He also kept a stash of Maryland rye in the days when few people ordered it.

Baltimore had other sauerbraten competitors. Winterling’s in Southeast Baltimore was special, as were their homemade pies. The version served at Haussner’s was not my favorite. I liked the wiener schnitzel and hasenpfeffer. I preferred the Haussner custard pie over its more glamorous glazed strawberry pie. The bread tray, in the era when the old Stone’s Bakery (East Lombard Street) made the salt rolls, was another treat.

The lasagna at DeNitti’s in Little Italy was pretty special. The layers contained sliced hard-cooked eggs.

The old shopping district around Howard and Lexington streets offered lots of choices. The Virginia Dare, an elegant rendezvous, reminded me of something out of Vienna. At one point, the Hutzler’s department store had four restaurants, all busy. I liked the basement luncheonette for its vegetable soup, chicken chow mein and chocolate ice cream sodas. The sixth-floor Quixie restaurant had a dessert cart (bliss on wheels) and offered slices of Lady Baltimore and Wellesley fudge cakes, as well as coffee chiffon pie. There were good entrees too, but the dessert cart won out.

The restaurant next door, at Hochschild Kohn, served a chicken pot pie that tasted like homemade. The seven-layer bittersweet chocolate cake was remarkable too.

I’m not a seafood judge — I don’t care for it. I rely on the taste of my late father, who was born in South Baltimore; he said that George Rossiter made great crab cakes at his restaurant at Hanover and Hamburg streets.

My seafood-loving friends raved about about the lobster cardinale or the shad roe at the old Maison Marconi’s on West Saratoga Street.

As you were seated, a small dish appeared with shaved butter for the French-style bread. Friends have been trying to duplicate the house salad (chopped greens, eggs, anchovies, tomatoes and some sort of mayonnaise) since the restaurant closed in 2005.

I ordered a dish called beef ragout, served with green peas and tiny onions. The menu listed four varieties of sweetbreads — Sarah Bernhardt, bordelaise, creamed or broiled. How to pick from the potato selection — au gratin, julienne, hash brown or lyonnaise? People who normally did not like cauliflower changed their minds when a bowl of this restaurant’s creamed variety appeared.

No matter how much you had, there was always room for the vanilla ice cream and homemade chocolate sauce, served in a separate bowl. I often wonder how many people went to Marconi’s just for the chocolate sauce.

Regulars knew what a Coffey salad was at the old Pimlico Hotel. It was a dish created by one of its wait staff, Claudia Coffey. It was made with iceberg lettuce, hard-boiled egg, onion, tomato, garlic, oregano, Parmesan, anchovies, oil and vinegar.

And yes, there was a Preakness cake. It was a winner too.

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