Dining at Danny's is like visiting an uncle with old money.
Like the uncle, Danny's is polished, secure and proper but comfortable. Polished in its manner; secure in its standing; proper but comfortable in the way it does things.
Many restaurants in this top-shelf price range try to impress; not Danny's. It has been in business since 1961 and knows it offers quality, with service to match. The dinner my husband and I had there recently was among the finest meals we have had in 11 years in Baltimore.
Not only were the food and service virtually incomparable, but we were also made to feel comfortable. From the moment we were showed to our table by Beatrice Dickman, hostess and co-owner, we felt at ease.
The impression built when her husband, Danny Dickman, appeared to make my husband's salad at the table and when the wine captain refilled my husband's water glass rather than summoning a busboy.
That's service. "Lots of service," as our 6-year-old put it when we described the evening to her.
Many dishes are made or finished at the table. We saw Dickman and his staff preparing salads, Chateaubriand and Steak au Poivre. Such preparation added wonderful aromas and an aura of hominess to the proper dining room.
We began our meal with Shrimp Cocktail ($9.95) and Crab Soup ($4.50). Four huge shrimp were arrayed on an ice-filled plate with the savory cocktail sauce on the side. A nice presentation. The soup was chock-full of oversized crab lumps and was delicately, but satisfyingly, seasoned.
My Tossed Greens ($3.50) was a beautiful arrangement of greens, carrot strips and diced red cabbage. Unlike the shrimp cocktail, the salad was plentiful.
My husband's Salade Beatrice ($3.50) was a large bowl of mushrooms, endive and watercress caressed with Dickman's made-at-table dressing of oil, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. The taste equaled the presentation. Interestingly, our waiter told us, my salad had the same dressing, though it was made in the kitchen.
With the first two courses, we enjoyed homemade breads, including incomparable onion rolls, and you-can't-eat-just-one sauteed, dried roll ends. Large, crusty popovers were served at each place; I found them delightful with a buttery inside.
My husband ordered Crab Cakes ($18). Like the soup, they were carefully seasoned, with no filler and only a light binder holding together the large balls of crab. Delicious homemade french fries were served with them.
I ordered a special, Filets de Sole Louis IV ($22), finished at the table. The menu's reference to "white wine sauce" did not do justice to the thick, rich sauce that bathed the tender sole. The mild fish sole was perfectly prepared, making this dish a standout.
DTC With our entrees, we had Ratatouille ($5), a beautiful blend of summery vegetables redolent of oil.
We also enjoyed a bottle of Alsatian Gewurztraminer. At $18, it was near the bottom of the voluminous wine list, which includes wines in four figures.
The only disappointment was dessert, Chocolate Mousse ($3.50). It was beautifully presented, but seemed almost to fizz on the tongue.
The complimentary homemade chocolate chip cookies and candy-covered mints were a better dessert. As we had thoroughly enjoyed our meal up to dessert, the mousse did not mar the evening.
Dinner at Danny's is not an inexpensive outing, but well worth the money for a special occasion. Our bill, with two cocktails, the wine and coffee ($2), was $109.
We lingered long over coffee and left the comfortable dining room almost reluctantly, the way you might take leave from a favorite uncle.
Restaurant patrons want to be greeted at the door, know the prices of "specials" and be served by a waiter with a pleasing personality. What they don't especially like is a chorus of "Happy Birthday." These are some of the findings of a recent survey of American Express card holders conducted by that company. Among the "most desirable restaurant services" are a greeting and a complimentary cocktail; the least desirable service is that "Happy Birthday." Other findings show that 63 percent of those surveyed prefer to read "specials," 67 percent calculate the tip on the total bill rather than before tax is added and, among "service characteristics," the waiter's personality is the most important, followed by grace and speed of service.
Charles and Biddle streets
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday; 5 p.m. to midnightSaturday; closed Sundays.
Credit cards: Major credit cards accepted.
handicapped access: Restrooms not accessible.