Thanks to everyone who commented on the question as to where the four of us (two new residents of Baltimore, two not-so-new) should eat between Simon's of Butcher's Hill, Cobbers Café, and JazNicks. We looked over the online menu at Simon's and chose to go there last evening.
Arriving around 6:30, in a sketchy but not overly-unsettling neighborhood, we popped in to Simon's. We were greeted by two bartenders/hostesses who asked if we had a reservation. Based on the erroneous information on Simon's website (www.simonsofbutchershill.com), which states "Reservations Available For Parties of 6 or More", we did not think it was possible to make a reservation. Looking back, we did realize it was unusual to not have a reservation for a Saturday evening, and we probably should have called to confirm this website information. That said, the hostesses essentially said that the dining room was and would be full for the rest of the evening, and our only option was to sit at the high-top tables in the bar. Unfortunately that was not a plausible option, as only two people could comfortably sit at each of the tables in the narrow room. Though we explained to the hostesses our rationale for not making a reservation (the website's info), we were not given an apology or any assurance that the site's information would be changed. We were less than happy with our 30 second experience with Simon's.
We got back into our vehicle and decided to venture to Cobbers Café, which was our backup choice. At this point, we were very concerned that our choices would be quite limited without a reservation on Saturday night. We arrived at Cobbers, and after a bit of confusion as to where to go, we went upstairs and were greeted by a bartender/hostess/waitress. She explained to us that three parties were arriving for 7pm reservations, but that she would attempt to accommodate us. I explained that we had come from elsewhere due to a reservation mix-up, and she may have had pity on us. A couple playing pool graciously ended their game early in order for the employee to put two small tables together for us near the bar.
We were seated and served beverages. All of us felt the menus were a bit unusual, in that much of the menus consisted of normal sports bar/pub grub, yet there was a small dinner menu, plus a sheet listing specials of the day. After a short wait, our drinks arrived (excellent iced tea) and we asked questions about the menu. Companion #1 wanted to know if the BBQ ribs in the Surf 'n' Turf were pork or beef. They were pork, but it was unstated on the menu. He ordered that item, and when it came the plate was overflowing with a rack of ribs, a skewer of 6-8 large, shell-on shrimp, and the usual accompaniments of a tasty cole slaw and very good fries. Companion #2 ordered a Shepherd's Pie. She was very satisfied with the flavor of the meat and mashed potatoes, and especially the phyllo crust, though she commented on the lack of vegetables used in the recipe. Companion #3 selected a daily special: the Crabcakes Napoleon, which had a tangy green pepper sauce on triangles of phyllo. The crabcakes were above average, and the green pepper sauce surprisingly interesting and good. I chose the Pork Chop, which had been described on the menu as reviewed as "near perfect" by the City Paper reviewer. The chop, and companion #3's crabcakes, were accompanied by julienned vegetables that seemed to have been lightly steamed in beer, creating an unusual but pleasant flavor. The moist, perfectly grilled chop was also accompanied by a generous portion of wonderful smashed potatoes.
Not everything was perfect. The unexpected addition of a table to the small surroundings seemed to throw off the employees -- drink refills were quite slow, not enough iced tea was available at one point (they had to brew more), and getting our check and paying it were both exercises in patience. The menu du jour had some issues with spelling ('Beef Consume', and others). However, given how accommodating the staff was to create a place for us, all four of us left Cobbers Café with a smile on our face. The same could not be said for our departure at Simon's of Butcher's Hill.