>>>Orchard Market & Cafe
8815 Orchard Tree Lane -- Towson -- 410-339-7700
Entrees $5.95-$17.95 -- orchardmarketandcafe.com
Tucked in a strip mall off Joppa Road, the Orchard Market is hard to locate, but rewarding when you do - this is a "find." (Gardiners Furniture is your turn.)
FOR THE RECORD - A review in the fall dining guide published in Thursday's editions incorrectly stated the employment status of Smedly's co-owner Bob Williams. He is an assistant professor at Villa Julie College.
The Sun regrets the error.
This is a family-run restaurant that encourages customers to bring their own wine. The cuisine and artwork are Persian, reflecting the tastes of the land that now is part of Iran and Afghanistan. The appetizers are fresh and appealing. The sauteed jumbo shrimp with mango and onions is sweet and unique. The eggplant and artichokes with feta cheese brings out the best notes of the vegetables. Classic Persian entrees such as orange-poached duck and lamb with pomegranate sauce and plums are stewed and sugary.
Kataifi, an almond-and-walnut pastry, looks like shredded wheat, but tastes sweeter. A house-made apple cake with cherries and cream is a delight. Even more pleasing was the bill - $61 for dinner for two, enjoyed with a bottle of customer-carried dry rose. (RK)
2019 West St. -- Annapolis -- 410-224-0205
Entrees $9-$32 -- pescegrandeitaliangrille.com
Pesce Grande neatly straddles the divide between sports bar and elegant Italian restaurant. Yes, there are televisions aplenty, pizza and calzones on the menu and even a beer poster or two, but Pesce Grande also offers sophisticated seafood, veal and pasta dishes, and a wine list that complements them.
The restaurant's attentive service, tomato-red walls, elegant lighting and whimsical framed prints make this a good-enough-for-special-occasions kind of place.
While many dishes cross the $20 line, bargains abound. One nice touch: Nearly every dish is offered in a less-expensive "piccolo" size.
You also can save money at lunch by opting for the $11.95 buffet, which includes complex, flavorful renditions of rigatoni, stuffed shells and eggplant parmesan, as well as cheese and pepperoni pizza and a salad bar. At dinner, a $59 taster's menu feeds two people with a table-groaning assortment that includes tender fried calamari, rockfish, salad, rigatoni, steak and cannolis. (KN)
1200 N. Charles St. -- Mount Vernon -- 410-837-9999
Entrees $14.99-$29.99 -- sammystrattoria.com
You can think of Sammy's as Little Italy North. Owner Sam Curreri and a number of his staff came from Chiapparelli's, where he worked as general manager. You'll get that same warm, homey feeling and lots of good southern Italian food at his restaurant, plus a sunny, stylish decor that lures an attractive bar crowd.
The great deal here is the family-style dinner for $35 a person. You put yourself in the chef's hands and get four or more courses, which could include summer tomatoes with mozzarella and basil, or a deliciously garlicky shrimp; large portions of homemade lasagna with tender noodles and a robust Bolognese sauce; veal or chicken francese (I'd go with the chicken; the veal could have been pounded more); salad and desserts from, yes, Little Italy, like cannoli and tiramisu.
Dinner will hold no surprises at Sammy's, but it will be decent and filling, the service will be attentive, and you are almost guaranteed to have a good time. (EL)
600 S. Oldham St. -- Greektown -- 410-675-5292
Entrees $14.50-$22.50 -- samosrestaurant.com
It's Greek in Greektown, it's BYOB, and it takes cash only - all of which help make Samos a bargain. What really seals the deal, though, is that owner Nick Georgalas is right there behind the stove, turning out some of the best Greek food in Baltimore.
If you just order one of the platters, you will have more than enough food, what with the Greek salad, pita, vegetables and roast potatoes or rice that comes with the tender little lamb chops, savory lemon chicken, shrimp Plaka and other entrees. But why stop there? Go for Samos' version of a prix fixe and get various small dishes like excellent dolmades, spanakopita and tzatziki as well. Not to mention the homemade rice pudding or baklava for dessert.
Expect to wait in line at Samos if it's anywhere close to dinner hour (no reservations are taken), and look forward to the time when the new dining room upstairs is completed. (EL)
600 S. Wolfe St. -- Fells Point -- 410-563-7545
Entrees $2-$7 -- smedlys.com
Smedly's serves a changing roster of inexpensive (think $6 and under) fresh-made soups, muffins, cheesecakes and cheery but small entrees, all made by Cordon Bleu-trained Helena Williams, who lives in an apartment upstairs with her husband, Bob, a retired marketing professor who runs the coffee shop with her.