Second helpings of a year's worth of great eating

From best breakfast to the area's best value

Eats: dining reviews, Table Talk

December 25, 2003|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Reading through a year's worth of restaurant reviews brought back some great memories. I loved sipping coffee at the Blue Moon Cafe on a cold January morning and looking out over the Inner Harbor while eating on the deck of Little Havana. Just thinking about the oysters at Yin Yankee Cafe or the boursin-stuffed filet mignon at blu made my mouth water.

Baltimore and the surrounding suburbs are home to some wonderful restaurants, and I've been honored to sample so many of them.

Here are a few of the high points:

Best Breakfast: Blue Moon Cafe; 1621 Aliceanna St., Fells Point; 410-522-3940. This tiny, cozy cafe serves enormous cinnamon rolls, freshly blended fruit smoothies, fluffy omelettes and plate-sized hash browns. Everything from the muffins to the jams and salsas are made on the premises.

Best Lunch: Reynolds Tea Room; 7 Church Circle, Annapolis; 410-295-9555. A full tea in this centuries-old building includes luscious cream of crab soup swirled with sherry, an assortment of crustless sandwiches and a dazzling assortment of baked goodies. The tea arrives in a ceramic pot.

Best Appetizer: Yin Yankee Cafe; 105 Main St., Annapolis; 410-268-8703. The flash-fried oysters will have your taste buds doing a dance of joy. For an even bigger jolt, dip those fat morsels into the creamy dab of habanero-cilantro-watercress sauce.

Best Salad: Amiccis; 231 S. High St., Little Italy; 410-528-1096. The antipasto at this popular Little Italy destination can easily feed three and includes fresh greens, roasted red peppers, marinated artichoke hearts and several kinds of pickled pepperoncini, all surrounded by slice after slice of prosciutto, salami and mozzarella.

Best Main Course: Suzie's Soba; 7 N. Calvert St.; 410-528-8883. The bul kogi at this charming restaurant (also at 1009 W. 36 St.) has thin, tender slices of garlicky, gingery meat on a bedding of beautiful baby greens.

Best Fries: JD's Smokehouse; 3000 O'Donnell St., Canton; 410-675-4029. Finger-thick slices of potato, tender-white and steaming on the inside, savory and crisp on the outside, are the perfect complement to the smoked sandwiches at this casual bar and restaurant.

Best Dessert: Mother's Federal Hill Grille; 1113 S. Charles St., Federal Hill; 410-244-8686. A neighborhood bar and restaurant that takes its food seriously, Mother's serves delicious homemade ice cream daily. Vanilla and chocolate are always on the menu, as well as a third flavor that depends on the whim of the chef.

Best New Restaurant, City Category: blu; 834 S. Luzerne Ave., Canton; 410-276-7100. This stylish restaurant serves big, bold food, including a boursin-stuffed filet mignon and a court bouillon, a garlicky tomato-based Creole stew of shrimp, clams, tiny sweet crawfish and other seafood. Both are as good as they sound.

Best New Restaurant, Burbs Category: Healing Hearts Blues Bistro; 1207 Liberty Road, Eldersburg; 410-549-6000. Who would have thought a Carroll County strip mall could be home to such elegance? Healing Hearts has live jazz, a serious wine list and a short but sophisticated menu of mouthwatering bistro fare, such as a meltingly tender veal chop stuffed with wilted spinach and melted Gruyere. By day, the restaurant's a coffee shop, and the house-baked desserts are delicious too.

Best Neighborhood Restaurant: Hull Street Blues Cafe; 1222 Hull St., Locust Point; 410-727-7476. With its wooden beams and nautical prints, the 1889 building oozes seafaring charm, and the menu features steaks, seafood and pasta, with a few specials offered each night. We especially liked the crab cakes, slightly crispy on the outside and bursting with enormous chunks of seafood. They were taken beyond the ordinary by a delicious mustard-butter sauce drizzled on top.

Best Value: Kelly's; 2106-08 Eastern Ave.; 410-327-2312. Kelly's is more bar than restaurant, but for $7.95 you can have a slab of ooey-gooey lasagna the size of a brick, oozing cheese and bulging with chunks of ground meat the size of small meatballs. A salad and garlic bread are included. The crabs are pretty good, too.

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