One of the nice things about this job is working my way through area neighborhoods with a knife and fork. Years of doing so lead me to suggest visiting these establishments:
On the west side, Duffy's, in the 3400 block of Frederick Ave., is an institution where owner James Parthemos serves his salads with a cucumber dressing. The friendly bar is always packed. This is a place where everyone is on a first-name basis.
In the tiny 300 block of S. Woodyear St., where Babe Ruth once lived, is Shuttle's, a trim and successful operation. And, come Friday, people line up for the crab cakes at Eda Bass' tavern, Wilkens Avenue and Dukeland Street.
In northwest Baltimore, lines form for the carryout delights of the Roost, especially the sweet potato pie and fried fish. The Five Mile House, in the 5300 block of Reisterstown Road, also has a large neighborhood following. And the cold cut platter at Miller's, an institution in the 6700 block of Reisterstown Road, could feed a brigade. The kugel is special, too.
In Pikesville, you can get a real milk shake, ice cream soda or egg cream (New York City import, but good) at the soda fountain at Field's Pharmacy. The french fries are never frozen here, either.
On the north end of town, the Portera family (Nick, Teresa, Anthony, Maria and Lisa) host the lively Tony's Carry Out Shop and Tree's Restaurant in the 2100 block of N. Charles St. At 9 a.m., people make reservations for their crab cakes at lunch. Tony's is the informal carryout downstairs; upstairs, Tree's is a fine restaurant in a rowhouse parlor. Alas, the place is open only on weekdays -- breakfast and lunch, no dinner served.
On 25th Street, there's the Wyman Park Grille; Petros, a traditional Greek restaurant, and the old reliable Love's.
In the basement of the Marylander Apartments, on East University Parkway, is Sheila's, a modest place that serves the best roast turkey sandwich in Baltimore. It's as good as the one you have the day after Thanksgiving.
Never overlook the very proper Ambassador, 3800 block of Canterbury Road, housed in the apartment house of the same name. The 1930s setting could be a scene in a P.G. Wodehouse comedy. But there's nothing funny about the delicious Maryland food here and the homemade desserts.
Hampden has many small neighborhood restaurants: the Ye Eat Shop, a classic on 36th Street; McCabe's, in the 3800 block of Falls Road; the Pinebrook, a great value for healthy Chinese food, and Frazier's, a homey taproom in the 800 block of W. 33rd St. On Cold Spring Lane in Roland Park, the huge burgers at Alonso's Restaurant & Package Goods are a carnivore's delight. At Fiske's Cafe, just down the street, try homemade pistachio ice cream and macaroons.
In Waverly, the Unlimited Range, Barclay and 32nd streets, delivers excellent Ukrainian food.
Along Greenmount Avenue, there's the Yellow Bowl in the 1200 block; Pete's Grille, at 32nd Street in Waverly, a classic 'u neighborhood gathering spot; the Thai Restaurant, in the 3300 block, where Hopkins students and Waverly liberals gather for unexpectedly tasty dishes.
Along York Road, there's the Bangkok Place in the 5200 block, a fine Asian restaurant; and the old Golden Arm, in the 6400 block, reflects its settled Rodgers Forge-Pinehurst constituency.
Is there a decision made in South Baltimore that isn't hashed out over morning coffee at Muhly's, Charles and Cross streets? And just up the street, customers wait for a window table in the tiny Cafe Manet where chef Mario serves up the tastiest sandwiches this side of Milan. He's also one of the most gracious hosts in the city.
So, too, the Rallo family -- and the fine waitresses -- at Rallo's, Fort Avenue and Lawrence Street. I recommend the chipped beef on biscuit on Sunday mornings and chicken noodle soup whenever it's on the menu. It's as good as my German grandmother's. I don't touch hard crabs, but I've downed some good sandwiches at O'Brady's Crab House in the 3400 block of S. Hanover St. in Brooklyn.
It's hard not to stumble into good food in East Baltimore. Some of my favorites -- the Morning Edition Cafe, 100 block of N. Patterson Park Ave.; Babusci's, Eastern Avenue and High Street; the delectable chicken pot pie at the Eastern House, 3700 block of Eastern Ave., Highlandtown; the Crossroads, Highland and Foster avenues; the Sip & Bite, 2200 Boston St., with its meaty beef stew; Braznell's, 1600 block of E. Baltimore St., for Caribbean dishes; Samos, 600 Oldham St., always busy; the Ikaros, 4800 block of Eastern Ave., with its excellent menu and careful attention from the owners; and Bertha's, South Broadway, with the coconut and damson plum jam tart that regulars know to order.
In friendly northeast Baltimore, it's Rickter's Cafe, at Belair Road and Parkside Drive; Owens', at Belair Road and Frankford Avenue; the Glenmore Tavern, Harford Road and Glenmore Avenue, for memorable cheeseburgers; the Hacienda, in the 4800 block of Belair Road, for Hispanic cuisine; Pepper's, in the Little Flower neighborhood, 3500 block of Belair Road; and the Golden Key, a Hamilton favorite, in the 5500 block of Harford Road.
I've probably left some out and I've purposely avoided downtown and most of Little Italy. Also, I've left out places so trendy they'd never serve sour beef and dumplings.