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One night in Baltimore - big dreams, small budget.

Hi everyone,

My boyfriend and I are heading into Baltimore from DC for a poor-man's Valentine's Day trip. We'll be spending the night on Friday in the inner harbour and are looking for a place to dine. We're both foodies, and acknowledge how annoying that word has become, he has a thing for small craft breweries, I love wine, we both enjoy restaurants that emphasize local food and organic ingredients. No steak houses, sports bars, or chains. Woodberry Kitchen looks lovely but they don't have any reservations for that night (and it might be too much of a hike). We don't have much cash to drop but are willing to dig into our very-teeny-grad-student pockets for a wonderful meal. Mood is important too - nothing stuffy or in-your-face trendy.

Is that too much to ask? Thank you all in advance for your expert advice...

Jan 31, 2010
mjn in Washington DC & Baltimore

The best of the best?

Thank you all so much for your suggestions! They were all very helpful in narrowing down the choices - in the end, I gave a list to my dad and let him do the work, and he chose Hamersley's and Clio.

Both meals were amazing, although in different ways - Hamersley's felt warm and welcoming right away, service was fantastic and friendly. There was a lot of wine at both of these meals, so I'm not going to be able to give exact descriptions of food, but I had a really interesting skatefish and lobster terrine to start, followed by scallops with asparagus that included some sort of custard-like centerpiece: all phenomenal, and very interesting flavour combinations. Portions were perfectly sized, although I'll admit to eating far too much of the yummy foccacia bread before hand. My boyfriend (taking full advantage of the visiting parents as well) raved about his duck appetizer. We shared a molten chocolate cake for dessert that was tasty although not quite molten - might have been slightly overcooked. All in all, a really wonderful meal. The only complaint might be that they were out of quite a few menu items, but they informed us of all that right away and I'd rather they not try to fudge things with less than perfect ingredients.

Clio was also delicious, although I wasn't as fond of the atmosphere. Service was attentive, again, but slightly excessive and somewhat aloof. We had a great Meritage for wine but it was too warm to drink and we had to get some ice to put it on - might have just been a result of the high temperatures that day. The whole restaurant was quite warm! But the food! I tried the sea urchin and lobster cassoulet, which was totally surprising, and followed that with the crispy halibut. Portions were small, yes, but I was stuffed - the flavours were all so rich and exciting and amazing that I just had to savour everything. There was a lot of sharing bites and marvelling and trying to identify certain unknown flavours. My mom was on cloud 9 with her duck.

I experienced some sticker shock at both places (especially Clio, and especially their wine list!) but I chose to avert my eyes and enjoy being a kid for a few days. Both were completely worth it. I know some people have said Hamersley's has gone downhill or become stale, but everything at our meal was wonderful and if I were going to eat somewhere again, it would be there - the atmosphere was just more relaxed. Then again, if I was trying to wow some real gourmets, I'd probably take them to Clio. Or let them take me.

The only other destinations for food were Charlie's for breakfast - it's a guilty pleasure, a fun Boston experience, and their Cape Cod French Toast with cranberries makes me as happy as any gourmet meal - and the cafe at the Kennedy Library and Museum since we were stuck out there at lunch time. That said, can you beat $1.50 for a decent salad at a museum cafe with a beautiful view of the harbour and city? I'm certainly not complaining.

Now it's back to 3 bowls of cereal a day...

Apr 24, 2007
mjn in Greater Boston Area

The best of the best?

Hi all - I've been in Boston for a couple of months and my parents are coming in to visit next weekend. I've heard a lot about the great food in this city but haven't been able to try much since I'm on a really tight budget. But not next weekend! I'm looking for some recommendations for some fantastic food and wine now that money isn't (too) much of an issue.
My dad is a wonderful cook and a huge wine snob so we're looking for places that fit the bill - amazing food, extensive wine list, but not too pretentious or stuffy. We're not into anything that is very touristy, more along the lines of smaller places that feel welcoming and like they could be real neighbourhood favourites. We love European food - French and Italian - and anything with a bit of an experiemental edge. I've heard the buzz about places like L'Espalier, Clio, No.9 Park, but I'm worried they sound a bit too...much?
I haven't spent much time in the North End so I'd be happy to check that out, and I love the feel of the South End - but we're happy to go pretty much anywhere.
I know this is very open-ended but I'd love your help! I don't want to waste this great opportunity for some wonderful meals after a few too many bowls of Annie's Mac-n-Cheese. Thank you!

Apr 13, 2007
mjn in Greater Boston Area