August 31, 2018
I cannot believe Labor Day weekend is upon us! I mean, seriously, where did the Summer go? I know for me, it has been a whirlwind and, honestly, a little bit of a different Summer than usual.
Aside from the fact that time seems to go by WAY TOO FAST, these past couple months have been filled with a LOT of travel, parties, and, that’s right, my sister getting MARRIED! To say that the month of August was a blur is a little bit of an understatement. I have been to California, then Chicago, then back in Baltimore for a week of Wedding festivities, only to turn around and head to Connecticut for a quick getaway, and then an overnight in New York City. It’s been exhausting but SO FUN at the same time!
Although this weekend marks the “unofficial” end to the Summer, I am kind of excited. This will be the first weekend in the last 5 weeks that there is absolutely NOTHING on the calendar. Okay, maybe a little thing called work, and a barbecue, but that’s it. No traveling and no big parties. I may, actually, feel “normal,” but what is “normal” anyway, right? 😉 What’s funny is it kind of feels like a mini staycation. It’s true what they say – “there is no place like home!”
While I really have no business spending extra money on going out to eat (yeah, I will see how long that lasts), I am sure the Holiday weekend will find me at one of my “go-to” restaurants in Baltimore. I don’t like to think I am a creature of habit but I tend to find myself frequenting the same establishments. Maybe it’s not so much a habit, or convenience for that matter, as much as I like GOOD FOOD and, when I find a place that does it well, I want to keep going back!
Today on the blog, I wanted to share some of my local, Baltimore hangouts that you should DEFINITELY try if you live in the area, or will be planning a trip here soon. Mind you, this is by no means an all-inclusive list, nor is it all of my favorite restaurants in the area (another post, I promise!) but these are the ones I tend to frequent the most and think you should, absolutely, check out!
And, that comment I made about being a creature of habit, well, you may notice a trend in the food I order too, ha! Remember, it’s about eating for YOU, YOUR GOALS, and what makes you feel the best! I know, I know, here is the lifestyle coach coming out in me!
Let me know what you think, and if there is anything on the menu you recommend, especially to all the locals reading who have dined at one of these places, send me a shout out!
Here’s to a safe, healthy, and happy weekend! Cheers!
It’s funny, I never was a huge Bluestone fan. Not that I am a super picky eater, I just never found anything that I really liked on the menu. The last few times I had lunch here, though, I was pleasantly surprised about all of their new offerings, including a menu change. One of my favorite entrees is their Cobb Salad. What’s cool is that it’s a different take on the traditional that you find in most restaurants.
They serve a delicious roasted chicken over a head of grilled romaine, and then place all the additional accouterments – tomato, bacon, egg, avocado, feta, and dressing – around it. I find the presentation to be FUN and an awesome spin on a classic! Oh, and I guess I should say, I do sub out items that I don’t care for such as bleu cheese. When in doubt, I eliminate or ask to replace with feta…because bleu cheese just STINKS.
And, if you are looking for a yummy appetizer, their Ahi Tuna is delicious, as is their Tomato & Burrata Salad (should you not be getting a salad for an entrée).
If you follow me on Instagram, you know this is one of my spots, especially with my Mom! Although it has changed hands over the 10+ years it has been in business, I think they have hit their mark with the new owners who took over last Fall. Their sister restaurant, City Café, is pretty yummy too. A, definite, place I need to go back to soon!
We always tend to end up here after a big occasion, a big purchase having being made (LOL), wanting a “fancier” lunch, or just cocktails and girl talk. It’s a cool atmosphere on the weekend – not one to be there for the Happy Hour crowd – and, when the weather is nice, their outdoor space is a great option! Actually, my favorite time to sit outside is during the Fall when it’s still warm enough to sit outside but cool enough to have on a light sweater or jacket. That, paired with a yummy red wine, is perfection!
Speaking of drinks, Tark’s was the FIRST to nail the “Fit4Janine Cocktail.” SAY WHAT?!?! They took my request to heart, and the bartender made it pretty damn awesome! Not only was it a first for us – and by, us, I mean my Mom, Sister, and I - to try, but it was a first for the staff hearing of it too. I am still trying to persuade them to put it on their cocktail menu! If you want to try it out, here it is à Deep Eddy Grapefruit Vodka with club soda, a splash of prosecco on top, all over ice and garnished with a grapefruit or lime.
Surprise, surprise, the SALADS are what I, generally, gravitate towards when going to get. It’s a tossup between their Chicken Cobb, Petit Filet Steak, Rare Tuna Nicoise, or Greek with either Grilled Chicken or Salmon.
In the Fall/Winter, I will always get their Butternut Squash Soup drizzled with a pumpkin oil & adorned with pumpkin seeds! Ah, so delicious…and now I so want it to be Fall!
Yes, another venue that you will find me hash-tagging my ass off on Instagram! This restaurant has a great vibe, atmosphere, and has a lot of great memories too! While it just re-opened a few years ago - it had been closed for, gosh, I want to say 20+ years - it’s been a great dining option for the area. In fact, my parents had their Rehearsal Dinner at this very place almost 37 years ago and, just last November, my sister and her husband had their Engagement Party here too. See, it all comes full circle!
While the occasional weeknight Happy Hour occurs here, you will mostly find my family and I catching up over cocktails or lunch on the weekends, and it’s the go-to post me arriving home from the airport. Wait, I take that back, I have done their ½ price burger night on Monday’s a handful of times. Worth it if you like burgers and a good deal!
They have a delicious Bloody Mary bar (if you are into that) on Saturday and Sunday, and their Prosecco on tap is pretty good for, well, being on tap. My parents know one of the waiters from back in the day, so we are always taken care of upon arrival, especially when I ask for crazy substitutions. “Can I have the Avocado Caprese Toast without the toast?” Or “Can I have the Beet Salad without the oranges, add avocado, dressing on the side, and either salmon, crab, or chicken?” Needless to say, he puts up with me, even with the playful eye rolling. Wait, maybe he is not joking?!?!
And, as a Brussel Sprout connoisseur, their preparation are one of my FAVORITES in Baltimore! Very few places roast, and this is one of them! Although I am not an onion fan, the flavor combination of the sprouts, onion, Dijon, and quinoa make them flipping fantastic! They always are super tender and come out piping hot. I will start with these as an appetizer, or have as a side dish.
Here are my menu recommendations:
Appetizers: Avocado Caprese Toast, Steamed Shrimp, and the Braised Asiago Meatballs
Entrees: Chopped Seafood Salad, Roasted Beet Salad with Choice of Protein, and the Valley Burger
Side Note: In the Winter, you can ask for the “Janine Serio Special:” Grilled Salmon, Spaghetti Squash, and Brussel Sprouts
Sides: Brussel Sprouts (because, duh)
A fun, quirky, and perfect spot in the Hampden area for some “wicked” good food! Another refurbished restaurant over the last couple years, this converted row home/storefront is cozy in the winter (their downstairs seating feels like an underground bar you would find in NYC), and their upstairs and outdoor deck space is modern, airy, and perfect to dine in during the Spring and Summer (although you can sit upstairs all year round)!
Even though parking can be a bit of a challenge depending on the time of day, I have had nothing but an awesome food experience every time I have eaten here. While they have a selection of craft beer, cocktails, and wine, I am, always, a sucker for their Prosecco because they serve them in the super cute, old-fashioned coupe glasses. I mean, how much cooler and bougie can you get?!?!
Generally, if I am sharing an appetizer, the Maryland Farmstead Cheese Board is a MUST, or the Baked Meatballs. While their soups are rotating based on the season, they have a mean Butternut Squash that I always try to snag when I can. Their “Veggie Platter” with a protein – go figure, I get salmon or chicken – and the “Crab Mango Mojo” are always on my radar too.
If you really are being brave, or just want the full Wicked Sisters experience, their “Insanity Burger” is very popular – a mix of their signature chuck, brisket, and short rib. From what I hear, it’s pretty amazing but I will let you be the judge! And the “Sweet & Spicy Brussel Sprouts” are a favorite among the locals who frequent here too!
Another trendy restaurant in Hampden that always seems to be a crowd pleaser and gets stellar reviews. I admit I am not as fond of this venue for dinner as I am Brunch on the weekends…and, for those who know me, know that I am not a “brunch” kind of gal. I like to eat, and I like ALL my meals, please. So, instead, I just view their menu as lunch and, if I want more breakfast type foods, then I go for it.
And, now that I think about it, that is exactly what I do every time I go!
It is another challenging menu for me to navigate – again, based on my likes – but they have AMAZING omelets and, the last time I went, their veggie hash with potatoes, egg, and a side of homemade sausage was out of this world! I want to say the sausage was boar. Regardless, delicious! I would HIGHLY recommend! Plus, I think it’s adorable how their starters are called “Funchies” and entrees “Brunchies.” Oh, and the turkey sausage tacos my parents got looked pretty freakin’ fabulous too!
For my sweet tooth fans out there, in lieu of a bread basket, they serve warm donut holes with powdered sugar. While it’s not my thing, I am sure there is someone in your group who would devour those bad boys in an instant.
If you are looking for the ultimate treat, head downtown to Harbor East and get a reservation for Wit & Wisdom or The Bygone in the Four Seasons Hotel. Both restaurants have their own, unique flair – Wit & Wisdom is part of the Michael Mina Group; The Bygone is part of the Atlas Group – and different price points to say the least, but their dining options are, hands down, two of the best in Baltimore!
Choose Wit & Wisdom if you want to sit outside (or inside) on the water. While their lunch/dinner menu is small, there is something for everyone. I have never been to their Brunch but I have seen (and heard) about it. Talk about food for days, and a price tag included. You get what you pay for - high quality food in a high class restaurant, with a fabulous view to boot!
Post a photo session back in July, my business partner and I dined on a pre-dinner cheese and charcuterie board, then grabbed some wine and ordered dinner. The short ribs with mushroom risotto were incredible and, after an, almost, 10 hour day with very little food, and posing galore, my plate was cleaned and every last drop of wine was gone!
If you want a view from the top, and be treated with all of the glitz and glamour of days passed, The Bygone is the hot reservation in town to get! From the top of the Four Seasons Hotel – the 29th Floor to be exact – this is an unforgettable dining experience. While I have not ventured there for dinner yet (as I mentioned, HOT reservation right now), I did get the opportunity to go for lunch with my family the afternoon prior to my Sister’s Rehearsal Dinner. Seriously, the view, the martini(s) in, yes, the coupe glasses, the appetizers of Burrata & Tomato and the Steak Tartare, and the various salads and sandwiches we shared were incredible! Totally going back here, for sure!
Now, here is the BIG question, ARE YOU HUNGRY YET?!?