2013 was an interesting and challenging year for DiningOUT – here’s my thoughts on the good and the not so good memorable encounters of 2013!
Best Crab House on the water?
Nick’s Fish House, located off the beaten track on the water at the foot of the Hanover Street Bridge, became a favorite fish and crab house. The water side views from picnic tables out on the deck or from a table inside the dining room are an unexpected surprise considering how close Nick’s really is to the hustle and bustle of nearby Federal Hill or the Inner Harbor.
Most Over-Hyped Restaurant ?
There was an awful lot of press and media attention and reviews of “The Chesapeake” making a big deal about the dubious “re-opening” of the old Chesapeake. Reality is that the new “Chesapeake” has very little to do with the old “Chesapeake” that closed 25+ years ago outside of (dubiously?) using the same name and occupying some of the building where the old one used to be. Inside, the new and old Chesapeake have nothing in common. My friend Marty who had eaten at the old “Chesapeake” found nothing nostalgic about the new “Chesapeake”; To top it off, the menu seemed pricey and what we ate was, at best, average. Close runner-ups: Cunningham’s (in Towson) and the “Food Market” and “Birroteca” (both in Hampden) were equally disappointing compared to all the hype that they had received.
Best Gay-Friendly Newcomer in Mt. Vernon?
“Tavern on the Hill”, a short walk from the Mt. Vernon gay bars, has become a favorite casual restaurant. Beyond the location, the american/bar food is good, the prices affordable and the owners/managers are always around and paying attention to their customers are all good reasons to know about Tavern on the Hill.
Most disappointing oldie but (formerly) goodie?
A visit to Chiapparelli’s, a long time standard in Little Italy, provided some awkward deja vu moments. While Chiapp’s looks the same as it did 20 years ago, the combination of small portions, lukewarm food that was supposed to be hot, and a waitress who came off as she had better things to do than wait on us all added our disappointment. The once famous Chiapp’s salad was mildly interesting but ice berg lettuce in a creamy white dressing seemed pale and dated compared to current salads of baby greens and spinach. To given Chiapp’s the benefit of the doubt, we visited them during “Restaurant Week”; our experience only seemed to confirm the suspicion that patronizing restaurants during “Restaurant Week” is more often than not a pretty dubious bargain!
The Nautilus, on York Road in Timonium, turned out to reliably provide satisfying food at affordable (though a little high…) prices with a staff that seems to care if they do a good job. Runner up? The Broadway Diner, off of Eastern Avenue east of Hopkins Bay View ran a close second.
Most Disappointing New Restaurant?
With the Baltimore Sun starting to hype Cunningham’s in Towson 6 months before it opened, we should have suspected something when it was veritably crowned a “Baltimore Best” by the Sun virtually before it opened its doors to the public. Why was my experience at Cunningham’s so different? Was it the fact that we waited 45 minutes past our reservation before our table was ready? Was it that the hostess escorted the four people in my party to a table with only one chair? Perhaps it was that cups of soups took 25 minutes to show up (but then barely luke warm)? Or maybe the $20 vegetarian entree that looked so small and lost on the side of its plate that four of us reached the conclusion that the kitchen had forgotten to put the entree on the plate? Or maybe the air conditioning (on an evening when it was 25 degrees outside) blasting our table and enough of a nuisance that other customers were wearing their winter coats during dinner? All of this left me suspecting that that Cunningham’s owners are friendly with the Sun reviewer and that his table was immediately ready without waiting 45 minutes past his reservation and that his soup was hot and he didn’t have have to guess whether the kitchen had forgotten to add his entree to his plate <Wink>
Once again, it’s time to bid Adieu to some restaurant friends that passed on in 2013. “The Dogwood” in Hampden in its day made eating in a basement seem stylish, BDelight downtown impressed me with its geeky, automated approach to defining what was part of your meal while Blue Sage in Mt. Washington survived a year before being replaced by the Nickel Tap-house). On the other hand, “The Museum” in Mt. Vernon stuck me as a desecration of the level of fine dining that its predecessor, the “Brass Elephant”, had once striven for and I was glad to hear that “The Museum” is no more (fingers crossed that something better happens to that classic old B’more townhouse!)