Tamber’s opened in the early 1990’s in Charles Village as “Tamber’s Nifty Fifties Diner” offering the seemingly inexplicable marriage of classic 1950’s American diner food with Indian cuisine. Since then it seemingly has prospered and grown. Back around 2006, the owners bought the townhouse next door then closed for a time while they gutted and totally merged the two spaces creating a new restaurant with one large, open dining room with double the space.
While they were at it, the owners dropped the original “Nifty Fifties” concept shortening the name of the restaurant to “Tamber’s” (but apparently couldn’t resist adding a small “soda fountain” clad in black and white ceramic style at the back of the new space that has a decided ly “Fifties” look to it). The result is a large traditional-looking dining room with two walls of large windows which take advantage of a corner location facing out on Charles Village. Inside, there are tables as well as four rows of booths done up in high backed, thickly padded and very comfortable dark red leather. There are tables and umbrellas in pleasant patio out in front (Plans to convert the 2nd floor into a nightclub were nixed by the zoning people)
Tamber’s has a unique menu combining American style diner food and traditional Indian food. (I ponder: Was there ever the equivalent of “Nifty Fifties” nostalgia in India?) The Indian menu offers a wide range of options with 40 entrees ($9-$15) providing a wide choice of vegetarian and biryani rice dishes plus traditional lamb, chicken and seafood choices. There’s samosa and pakora appetizers ($4) – but oddly not even one traditional Indian soups – as well as several Indian traditional breads ($2-$4). On the American side of the menu, there’s an assortment of appetizers ($4-$6), Salads ($5-$9), 40+ Burgers, Wraps, and hot & cold Sandwiches (most $5-$7), a dozen entrees ($7-$12) including “Blue Plate” specials, eggplant and chicken parmigiana, fried chicken, and crab cakes! Lest we forget, there’s also kosher franks ($6 with fries) and milk shakes and malts ($4) too!
Making a decision from so many diverse choices ain’t easy! Our college age waiter tolerated our 15+ minutes while we struggled with making a decision (FYI – the combination of our waiter’s Indian heritage, unexpected Aussie accent, good looks and friendly banter contributed to further distracting my buddy Marty!) We finally managed to make a decision and Marty opted to stick with the Indian menu starting with veggie Samosa ($4) followed by Chicken Vindaloo while John started with veggie Pakoras ($4) from the Indian menu but with a Blackened Tuna Salad ($13) from the American menu. Our friend’s Tom and Jerry tried Biryani’s (Chicken $13, Lamb $15) from the Indian side of the menu.
Our appetizers showed up quickly and they looked impressive. The two Samosa were big and tasted as delicious as they looked. The Pakora included 6 bite size pieces fried in a light batter. Both appetizers came with a tangy cilantro sauce. The portions were so big that we realized that we could have easily shared one or the other (but they were both so good that we couldn’t help ourselves from finishing them off! <Smile>) The Chicken Vindaloo arrived with a separate dish of nicely cooked basmati rice and Marty, who enjoys hot & spicy stuff, was really pleased with his Vindaloo. John’s Blackened Tuna Salad was another winner – several larges pieces of blackened tuna (which proved to be wonderfully good) topped a large mixed salad with mushrooms, ripe tomatoes, onion and black olives. John added some leftover cilantro sauce to the salad adding even more punch. John felt that this was one of the best blackened tuna salads that he’s had in a long time. (Portions were large and we both boxed up leftovers to take home). There were mixed reviews of the biryanis – Jerry thought it was very good while Tom thought his was more like some American version of fried rice than a real biryani.
Overall, the combination of very good Indian and American food served up with in large portions at reasonable prices combined with the feel of the pleasant dining room and the friendly attentive staff is a definite winner and earns a “Thumbs up!” recommendation. We were pleasantly surprised and we think you will too!
BASICS? Tamber’s (Charles Village); 3327 St. Paul St. ; 410-243-5777; www.tambersrestaurant.com; Full Bar; Vegetarian Options; Open for Lunch and Dinner 7 days a week (Kitchen open until 10 pm with brunch from 9am to 4 pm on weekends); Right next to the parking lots for Union Memorial hospital and there’s a large Barnes & Noble across the street with interesting Hopkins stuff. (Last DiningOUT visit on 4/13/2013)