My wife and I took a mini-vaction (long weekend) from Los Angeles to Baltimore this past weekend. I hadn't been to Baltimore in 35 years. Wife never. We really enjoyed this trip.
I searched Chowhounds before I left and basically used it and the Baltimore Tip Sheet as our dining guide.
Saturday afternoon we went to check out Little Italy. My previous experiences with Little Italys were in Boston, NYC, and San Francisco.
I just couldn't get excited about any of the restaurants we walked by. The menu choices seemed standard and typical. Why come all the way to Baltimmore for that? Little cold outside, so outdoor dining tables were empty. One place piped Sinatra music outside.
We decided to try Duda's around the corner from our hotel (Admiral Fells - very nice) which served a very good (we two tourists thought) crab cake and a very good steamed seafood platter too. Yes, the Guiness were $4 ea (see Tip Sheet), but we had several and enjoyed ourselves being in Fells Point on a busy Saturday night and yet being in the company of locals. (Not a rowdy place Duda's) I asked our very excellent waiter (he gets extra points for being kindly to tourists) about potato chips (refer to Tip Sheet). He looked over the Baltimore Tip Sheet I brought along and laughed and said, "Sometimes our purveyors don't deliver the quality we want." The potato chips seemed fine this night. Place looked like a little tavern (Baltimore seems to have a lot of them!), but the food was good (as the Tip Sheet said it would be) - certainly way exceeding my and my wife's expectations. Wish I could find a nice local like Duda's in my area.
Sunday afternoon we decided on a coffee/pastry break after seeing the impressionists at the Waters Museum. (We were maybe lucky to get walk-in tickets and parking across the street too.) So on to Vaccarro's! Unlike Sat. evening there was no crowd at Vaccarro's on Sunday pm. Sinatra was STILL singing though in the now empty restaurant nearby.
We had our capuccino's (Yes, we know that in Italy that's really a drink taken in the morning)and the pastry sampler. Yummy. In our opinion, Vaccarro's was on a par with Ferraro's in NYC's Little Italy - signature pastry shops that really define an area - must trys.
Dinner was at the Black Olive. Unlike bustling Sat. evening when we walked over to check out the place and make reservations, the restaurant was quiet and more than half empty Sunday at 7 pm. Our restaurant experience here was not favorable -- marred by a lack of communication between us and our waiter - more so than the food, which was good. The bill was a surprise to us, and that ruined the meal, because we felt nickel&dimed and kind of ripped off. We said we wanted to share a main course - when the bill came there was a $7.50 "split" charge (Surprise #1). I ordered a Bombay martini. When the bill came it listed two charges for that: "Bombay Saphire" $8.50 and a separate line "Martini" $1.00. I complained to the waiter that I thought that was a little stiff - $9.50 for a martini and what's with two charges? He said, yes, that's unusual, but that's what they do here. The house glass of Pinot was $5.00 on the menu, but when I mentioned that I was charged $6.00, the waiter said I was mistaken, it was $6.00 on the menu. Could be - rather than ask to see the menu, I just said okay. The food here was good. I didn't like the way our waiter filleted our fish - he seemed to leave edible portions with the bones. That's an insult to the fish! and to me who's paying $25.00 for that fish. (Note to myself: Maybe I ought to debone my own fish.) As I say, maybe it's all a communications issue or even all my issue - but I wouldn't go back, and I would advise others to consider alternatives to the Black Olive.
Monday morning we were in the Lexington Market. Great place for chowhounds, it seems to me. So I appreciate the recommendation in the Tip Sheet. We had a very nice chat with Nancy Devine and her husband. Any of you folks know who she is? Well, they didn't know who you were either, but they were very interested in finding out more about chowhounds and the review of their seafood place in Chowhounds. (I gave her my copy of the Balto. Tip Sheet.) She's third generation Faidley. The couple were both busy getting ready for the noon crowd I'd guess, but they made time for us and were especially helpful in explaining the different types of crab cakes they made and the popular ways of eating them. We talked about Zagat and chowhounds and restaurants in Little Italy. To me, it's when you are able to meet and talk with people like this on your vacations that really make the trips memorable. We had an "all lump" (delicious) and then asked Mrs. Devine to have the staff fix us one more to go.
And then it was off to Annapolis to see the state capital and then catch the 6:00 pm back to Los Angeles.
The Baltimore Tip Sheet really helped make our vacation! Our thanks to all who contributed and who put it together.