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Corks in Federal Hill-opinions since the reinvention?

I must admit, I was a bit taken aback by the sandwich heavy menu and entrees under 20-ish dollars. Part of me loved it, part of me longed to splurge on the old menu. I was told a few old-Corks style entrees will be added soon.

While the mushroom flatbread and braised beef rib aren't reinventions of the form or worth going out of your way to experience, what they are great values, and quite tasty. But what got "wow"s from both me and my wife were the salads. For her the arugula with serrano and creme fraiche, and for me the warm frisee au lardon. Perhaps all it takes to wow me with a salad is copious amounts of pork product, but both of these were great and worth returning for.

Charleston: Dispassionate Excellence

I assumed he was referring to service rather than food. Just a guess though.

C'mon Joe, give us a hint...

Woodberry Kitchen

I think your worries are correct. You should call to confirm, but I believe they have a maximum party size of 8 or so on weekends now. Assuming it hasn't changed since my last few visits, you would be hard pressed to squeeze a group of 10 to 18 anywhere in the place on a Saturday night. It's packed!

Anyone Been to Louisiana In Fell's Point lately?

I ate there on Monday for a quiet birthday dinner for 4 people. My previous visit was probably 2 years ago. I tend give places the benefit of the doubt, to a fault even, and I usually focus on the positives when commenting publicly like this. But I would really have a hard time giving you many reasons why you should consider a reservation at Louisianna.

I remember on the previous visit thinking that it was on the verge of being behind the times, and now two years later I think the place is just. . .tired. It didn't help that there were a total of 6 covers for the entire night, which made the already subdued dining room downright DEAD. But hey, it was a Monday after Valentines weekend, so that's not a big surprise. But I felt like Gordon Ramsay on one of his initial visits in an episode of Kitchen Nightmares where he takes stock of the aging restaurant.

I guess with any critique of a meal it comes down to value, and the menu offers $9 to $15 starters and $29 to $35 entrees, if memory serves. Less for the gumbo. And most wines in the $40 to $100+ range. This puts the restaurant in pretty lofty company price-wise. But it just doesn't deliver. The main problem we encountered was over-cooked meat. But the bigger sin in my mind was that it was uninspired and unexciting. And for $33, I prefer my entree to have some component or technique that elevates it above my own home cooking. Except for the "apple pie" beignets, it wasn't to be found here.

The duece in the corner paid with a company expense account credit card. I'm sure they enjoyed their meal more than we did.

Liberty Tavern, Arlington

I was just there last weekend. (great service by the way, even when they were slammed.) Duck confit appy was good. But my wife's mussels with the tomato-y broth and grilled bread were incredible. Mains were wild mushroom gnocchi and grilled pork chop. Both quite good.

Ixia tonight

I went about two weeks ago and had a nice meal. In retrospect I wish I had ordered more adventurously, but for some reason upscale comfort food was calling my name that night. I started with lobster mac and cheese, followed by the filet. My wife had the grilled octopus to start and then the rack of lamb. The portions are quite large. My only complaint that night was that the very large plate they used for my entree was fairly cold, and it rendered my food room temperature in a matter of minutes. Otherwise, everything was quite tasty.

If I were ordering tonight, I'd be most tempted by the duo of duck or study of salmon. A series of three small plates would also be a fun way to go. In fact that's what I did on my previous visit and it was a better overall meal.

The wine list has some decent choices, and the cocktails are good, if you're into that kind of thing.

Woodberry Kitchen

"Is there a separate bar menu for people who want to eat at the bar?"

No, same menu.

Cinghiale

Yes, I was surprised when ate there on Friday to see that the name on the menu had changed. Stefano is indeed out. Actually I was surprised that I hadn't heard about it here yet. We 'hounds are slacking I guess.

My wife and I ordered three courses each from the Osteria menu (though we were in the Enoteca side-- didn't know that was an option) The last course for both of us was a half order of pasta, so in essense we had a trio of small plates each. And were satisfied both with quantity and quality. Everything was delicious.

But I have agree with many of the reviews upthread about non-food issues. I'm loathe to complain about noise and crowds when I choose to dine at 8:00pm on Friday, when one should expect those things. But man it was noisy and crowded. For some reason the crowds and chaos doesn't bother me at Pazo, and the mirrors and tile floors at Petit Louis contribute a loud, bustling bistro vibe (as intended). But at Cinghiale it's much larger and just doesn't work as well. Maybe it's just that we were seated in a high traffic area, I don't know.

But my primary complaint, which is really a response to Joe H's post above, is the wine tasting procedure. (Server tastes before the customer) In a perfect world this would be a great service to the vast majority of people who haven't had enough experience with corked, or cooked, wine to know what they're looking for, and who would otherwise suffer through a miserable bottle of wine needlessly out of fear of saying something wrong. For this reason I applaud the idea. But this isn't a perfect world. Most importantly, Tony Foreman isn't the one standing at every table tasting the wine. Nor is it the restaurant's head sommelier. It's the server. Who may have had a crash course in wine as a pre-requisite for joining the cinghiale team (I know because I got to read the training manual) but who is not necessarily capable or even inclined at 8:30 on a Friday with 200 covers or whatever to give her small taste its due. The reason for the rant is that my server pronounced my Fontodi Chianti as "showing nicely" when in fact it was horribly corked. Of course she was apologetic and a second bottle was brought immediately, all fine and good. But really, can't we agree that this isn't a Michelin 3 star with one or two sommeliers overseeing every aspect of wine service? Ditch the server's pour, I say.

Frustrated former DC chick now in Canton

You're not far from Patterson Park, home to Salt and Three. Both would get you out of bar-food territory.

And of course there's Matthew's Pizza.

Mezze in Fells Point is worth a try. But I'm drawing a blank on the carry out sandwich right now.

Woodberry Kitchen

I went last night. A fellow 'hound and I discussed this briefly yesterday as well. If you're going in expecting the cutting-edge, modern side of Spike, you might be surprised and/or disappointed. This definitely leans in the comfort food direction. But really well-executed comfort food, with the occassional surprising touch. And reasonable prices to match, I would add.

Based on our server's recommendation, we tried the carrots. Oven roasted until just carmelized on top, and then topped (at the table) with a very thin "jus" of pureed carrot tops (greens) and butter. Unbelievable. Really, really good.

The other big hit, as honeybee mentioned, was the chicken. Half a Springfield Farm bird, deboned and cooked "under a brick"-style with the resulting golden, crispy skin on top, and juicy, tender meat underneath. Quite possibly the best I've ever had. The accompanying grits were woefully underseasoned unfortunately, and were the only true disappointment of the night.

Roasted squash soup was nice. Clams baked with spinach, bacon, and cream were really nice. And the simple ("adolescent") salad was fine.

Riedel stemware was a welcome sight. I wish more restauranteurs cared about this one detail. Also of note was the house-carbonated sparkling water. And for us fans of the departed Artifact, it was nice to see the fancy equipment and Counter Culture beans back in use at Woodberry.

All in all, it might have been a little different than what I was expecting-- the Amish-looking dress code for female servers was curious-- but I enjoyed it very much and look forward to checking out more of the menu.

what's new in charm city?

Nelson (Spike's parter in Woodberry Kitchen...also of Grand Cru fame) told me they were only a couple of weeks away. Though I don't believe he said a specific date. But it is easily the place I am most excited about.

Cinghiale's food and service will likely be up the standards of its proprietors. But if I had to guess, I will be found more often on the enoteca side.

Also on the horizon are the new additions to Central Ave.-- Tsunami and Lemongrass.

LP Steamers

Wow, that couldn't be farther from my experience there a few weeks ago. A group of us had a dozen and a half 60's, and they were perfect, not mushy or dry. And they didn't come out quickly. Maybe I just don't know what reheated crabs taste like, but these were as good as any I've had from reputable places in Annapolis, O.C. and Baltimore.

Been to Wine Market or Corks Lately?

Nice reviews. Thanks. I'm a big fan of both places.

I have to say I've had the EXACT same complaint about the entrees at Wine Market: too many flavors or components on the plate. Not every dish, mind you, but several that I've ordered. Relatively speaking, this is a minor complaint though. And the wine markups are nice.

Artifact Coffee

It's in the Clipper Mill development. Between Hampden/Woodberry and TV Hill/Druid Hill Park.

Don't the answer to your second question, though I agree with your assessment.

Artifact Coffee

Excellent. . .
I just had my "best ever, anywhere" cappuccino at Intelligentsia in Chicago last week. So I have a high benchmark still fresh in my head. . .er. . . mouth. Can't wait to try Artifact.

When is the restaurant opening?

Where do you do your grocery shopping in Baltimore??

Agreed on Springfield Farms. Good Thanksgiving turkeys too. I noticed both local Whole Foods are now selling Springfield eggs, loose, in the produce section.

Lately I've been loving Ikan seafood in Belvedere Square. Better quality and cheaper than WF or Eddies. And while I'm there I usually pick up veggies from the . . .veggie guy. (Can't think of the name.)

Small birthday dinner in Baltimore- recs?

Low-key but excellent describes Chameleon Cafe to a "T". http://www.thechameleoncafe.com/

Salt is good, but less low-key due to its crowds, at least at prime weekend hours. Peter's Inn would be another option.

First Date: Baltimore Restaurant

For what it's worth, I took a nice girl to Salt on a first date, and then to Chameleon on the second date. Now she's going to marry me. So that worked out well.

(Dates #3 and #4 at Ixia and Pazo might have helped too.)

Recent Saffron visits?

Yes, I was there a few weeks ago. The wait for a table at Salt was an hour, so the girlfriend and I decided to try Saffron instead, having never been. Our meal was awesome, which was a relief because I had heard both good and bad things.

Instead of each ordering an appy and a main, we decided to do a tasting menu of sorts, consisting of 6 of the small plates, two at a time, which we each ate half of and then swapped plates. This turned out to be a good way to survey the menu on a first visit. At least 4 of the 6 items were "oh my god..." good: scallop/foie/duck confit; butternut squash ravioli; seared white tuna; and duck confit pizza. The other 2, fried oysters and smoked duck breast over polenta cake, were very good as well, but maybe just a notch below the others. (I don't know why we were in such a mood for duck...)

There were several interesting things to drink from the wine list, though I wish its depth and breadth matched that of the food menu. And the service was fine. All in all, a great meal.

Martick's or Charleston for B-day dinner?

I know Martick's gets a lot of positive chatter on this board, and for good reason. I join the chorus of opinion that it is one of the city's gems. A true original. I've had lovely meals there.

But please know that these two options are completely different from each other. I assume your husband knows since he has been to both. Just strikes me as odd to have it narrowed down to these two. Though you certainly get "true chowhound" points for doing so!

Fogo de Chao in B'More

Their website lists Philadelphia and Minneapolis as coming soon. But no B-more.

Fells Point/Inner Harbor

Nah, there aren't really any restaurants in those areas.

Just kidding.

A quick search would be helpful as these are probably the two most frequent Baltimore topics on the board. If not, at least add a few criteria to your query...

Or I could just tell you to go to Charleston and be done with it.

Charleston question

For a while they had a second, bar-only, menu, which I believe is no more. But I assume you could go to the bar and just get the cheese plate and wine. Otherwise I think it's full menu service. I split a 5 course menu in the bar the last time I was there.

Best of the taco places around Eastern and Broadway in Fells?

Seconded.

4th Cindy Wolf Restaurant?

Crickets, huh....? I got nothing either.

Reminds me of that WWII poster: "Loose Lips Sink Ships."

Need a jeans-appropriate restaurant in Baltimore (or EC/Columbia)

Birches would fit the bill, as long as you/they don't mind having to walk through the bar to get to the dining rooms. Though I don't recall it being particularly smoky.

That said, I recently ate there with my girlfriend and her parents, coincidentally, and had a terribly average meal. The kitchen must have got slammed because we waited close to an hour between apps and mains. And my pork loin was definitely not worth the wait. Happily the other entrees tasted better. But we all left a little disappointed.

As for Brewer's Art (dining room), I wouldn't wear a t-shirt and sneaks there, but I don't thing jeans are innapropriate.

Peter's Inn is smoke free now, isn't it? Kind of a gamble with the small menu, but it just might work.

The only other thing that comes to mind is Helen's Garden, but I haven't been there in a LONG time.

new restaurant every month for a year.....

Since you're talking about once-a-month "anniversary" dinners, I would probably lean in the fancy direction...if it were me.

My list (full of the usual suspects) would be:

Chameleon Cafe
Abacrombie
Ixia
Charleston
Petit Louis
Pazo
Helmand
Ambassador (maybe)
Black Olive (maybe)
Peter's Inn

I know I'm forgetting something... But then instead of two more, I'd hit a few of my favorites again, but in the opposite season, when the menu is completely different. And of course, in 6 or 9 months there could a few new entries to the list that don't exist yet. (i hope.)

Cool idea though.

new restaurant every month for a year.....

About 5 or 6 stools along the L shaped counter. As much as I love the place, I'm not sure it's quite the anniversary dinner kind of place, even though it technically meets her stated requirements. I'd save it for a Saturday lunch.

kyma

I had dinner there about a month ago. I'm still not sure if I like the whole parallel menu concept (and I haven't been to Baltimore's new entry, Nasu Blanca) but at least these two cuisines have some similarities.

The space is quite nice. Though my strongest memory (unfortunately) is that the A/C right over our heads was so strong that I felt like ordering coffee and nothing else. Note to restauranteurs: sometimes it's the small things. They moved us without incident though.

The food was good, but not great. Two of the items we were most excited about from the menu weren't available though. The most memorable, in that it's the only thing I can specifically remember eating, was the ol' tapas bar standby, shrimp with garlic and oil. The remnants of which were great for dipping the crusty bread.

I was pleasantly surprised with the wine list, which had decent Spanish and Greek offerings among the other usual suspects. It's sad that I should be surprised that a Spanish/Greek restaurant would have interesting wines from those regions, but thus is the current state of my low expectations.

So the girlfriend and I both left with luke warm feelings overall, but I want to like the place, so I'm going to pretend that we didn't hit them on their best night, and try again.

Unless you hounds tell me otherwise.

5 guys burgers :pro's and cons

I was just treated to Five Guys by my coworkers for my birthday, at the brand new Canton (Balto) location. (Man, they are building new stores fast.)

Fries are served in paper cups inside your brown paper sack. And they overfill the cup to the extent that you have at least 50% extra fries sitting on the bottom of the bag. I can't imagine ever eating a whole order, unless dealing with a bad hangover. It's a LOT of fries.

Yes, you fill your own drink. One size only, for $2.00 or something.

No combo meals that I saw. The menu is quite simple.

Cajun fries looked and tasted like regular fries with peppery seasoning sprinkled on top. Quite spicy though.