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Think about reserving a table in this small below-ground insider's spot next Valentine's Day, or any other time you're planning a seduction. Chef Sonny Sweetman offers a fixed-price menu and just a handful of à la carte entrées and appetizers each evening. The building blocks are simple (salmon, grilled pork, filet mignon), but the dishes are lavish and beautifully constructed: phyllo-encrusted halibut, blue-crab-and-sweet-corn risotto, creamed savoy cabbage. Sharp service and a smart wine list round out your dining experience. Submit to the prix fixe and watch the web site for symphony-inspired special dinners.
Split into halves--table service or order-at-the-counter--City Café serves all your coffee needs, as well as pastries and baked goods (including a fine pumpkin cookie in the fall). The menu ranges from fancy dinner items like cinnamon duck to lunch fare like the very good hamburger to hearty breakfasts, if you can manage to get up that early. Plus after a while they remember your coffee order when you walk in. And at 8 a.m. that's very important.
It's your typical neighborhood bar--a bit dim, though spacious. But if you're down with the ambiance, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the pub grub that fills out the menu here: burgers, fish and chips, and hot and cold deli sandwiches. Dougherty's has a decent beer selection, too, so you can wash down the fried finger foods you will consume during your visit.
You can eat Ethiopian food alone, but all that dipping and sharing means it's much better with a group. Dukem's got the requisite wots, tibs, and plenty of veggie options, all served individually or in combinations, designed to be eaten by multiple people with just injera, the spongy bread that takes the place of forks and spoons. The quality of food means Dukem's small and comfortable dining room fills up quickly on weekends, and the unfailingly friendly staff is glad to help Ethiopian first-timers navigate the menu.
The dark, brick-lined bar, intimate dining room, and long-apron waitstaff suggest sophistication at this Mount Vernon nightspot, but the only thing haute about the Owl Bar is its mega-high ceilings. This menu of spruced-up bar food neither impresses nor disappoints--the tasty, golden crab cakes deliver, but with their steepish price what you're paying for is the ambiance--and its best options aren't that unique: You can trust the calamari. Both its brick-oven pizza and raw bar stay open late, and though the pseudo-fancy pizzas are solid pub grub, perfectly sized for two people approaching a drinking night's end. Do beware the urge to tackle oysters Belvedere--on the half shell with crab imperial--on a full belly of beer.
Spicy or mild, meaty or meatless, there are plenty of choices. Don't neglect appetizers such as rice cakes with minced shrimp and chicken in peanut-coconut-cream sauce, or crispy fried catfish meat with onions, peanut, and ginger. There are nicer dining rooms you'd rather spend time in, though.
We all know the beers, sometimes to our public embarrassment. But the food at Brewer's may be the real prize, a mix of seriously gussied-up pub grub (those rosemary garlic fries) and dinners that make you feel all slick just saying the names. (Ballantine of Poussin rolls off the tongue.) The ingredients are fresh, the cuts of meat are carefully handled, the presentations are creative, and the end results are rich. After years of diner counters and pizza joints, the warm, grown-up dining room is like trading sleeping on the couch for 400-thread-count sheets.
Sometimes you need a place with good food and the game on, and Turp's and its expansive menu fit that bill in Mount Vernon.
Baltimore City Paper, 501 N. Calvert Street, P.O. Box 1377, Baltimore, MD 21278
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