If all goes well, the Centre City Restaurant will open sometime this spring at 529 N. Charles St., where the 24-hour coffee shop the Buttery used to be. After the restaurant and some of the adjoining space have undergone extensive renovation, owner Tony Millon plans to open for breakfast, lunch and dinner - and to have a full-service bar. The menu will be mostly Maryland fare, with specials ranging from shepherd's pie to fajitas.
Revealing a secret
Baltimore's best-kept restaurant secret may be the Plaza Grille at 9 Hopkins Plaza. Its pedigree is impressive: The principals are Rod Fingles, former partner in the Milton Inn; Steve Levinson, owner of the now-defunct Cafe des Artistes; and Jan Tennekoon, formerly with Stratford Winery in California's Napa Valley.
The Plaza Grille is a more modest operation than either of the restaurants above, with an American menu and a larger lunch than dinner crowd. It has a brand-new chef, Dewain Fields, and just last weekend started offering dancing Thursday through Saturday nights.
Hours are geared to Mechanic Theatre productions, with lunch available Monday through Friday and on the weekend when there's a show. The restaurant is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday nights and some Sundays.
Elegance, comfort added
La Tavola (248 Albemarle St. in Little Italy) has changed its Milan-by-way-of-Miami decor into something a little more sophisticated, says owner Piero Conti. The colors are soft, there's a granite bar and, best of all, double doors have been added so diners don't get a blast of cold air while they're eating.
"Before it was a trattoria," Conti says. "Now it's more of an elegant restaurant."
The changes include a new chef from Italy, Carlo Giotti, who's been there a month now, and a new menu. Giotti's signature dishes are ravioloni (large ravioli) with lobster in vodka sauce, risotto with seafood and tuna in a fennel sauce.
The National Restaurant Association has come up with its 1999 Restaurant Industry Forecast, published in the trade magazine Restaurants USA. Included in its trend spotting is a list of top hot items: infused oils, pan-seared foods, espresso and specialty coffee drinks, Asian food - especially Thai - and meatless/vegetarian dishes. Passe (so they say) are taco salad, fondue au fromage, cream-based sauces, chef's salad and blackened fish and meat. Then there are the perennial favorites that never go out of style on a restaurant's menu: asparagus, spinach, berries, lime and cantaloupe.
In last week's review of the Double T Diner, Live restaurant critic Kathryn Higham said her waiter at dinner "was both sloppy and rude." With her review, we ran a photograph of waiter Mark Elsaid, taken several days after her visit. Just to set the record straight, Elsaid is not the waiter who made our reviewer unhappy. As far as we can tell from the photo, Elsaid is serving his three customers both neatly and politely.
Table Talk welcomes interesting tidbits of restaurant news. Please send suggestions to Elizabeth Large, Table Talk, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278; fax to 410-752-6049; or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.