With the arrival of winter Baltimore Restaurant Week, I'd like to indulge my food memory. I wish these places were still around, but great dishes last only as long as the person behind them. Many of the restaurants noted below were acclaimed in their time; many we just loved like members of the family.
I found myself passing the shuttered Marconi's on Saratoga Street and wishing I could get a poached eggs Florentine lunch there. My hankering grew only worse this past Sunday when, at a cozy lunch at the Bistro du Coin on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, D.C., my friend Bob Helsley took some bread and butter and pronounced it as good as Marconi's. High praise.
Hutzler's department store restaurants differed from location to location, floor to floor. I could go for some vegetable soup from the downtown store's basement luncheonette, with a sidecar of a chocolate ice cream soda. Upstairs, on the sixth floor, I'd order a turkey salad platter at the Quixie and either coffee chiffon pie or Lady Baltimore cake. If I were at department store competitor Hochschild Kohn, I'd have the bittersweet chocolate seven-layer cake, which I'll bet would compete with the Smith Island variety that's been in the news recently.
At the old Pimlico Hotel, I'd want Claudia Coffee to wait on me so we could talk about her days at the Horn & Horn on East Baltimore Street. There I'd have practically anything on the menu, but if it were lunch, it would be sliced chicken on baking powder biscuits. As a young reporter, I could interview a mayor, half the City Council and someone in the comptroller's office there. I would leave with a good story and a satisfied appetite.
I'd also like an omelet from the Southern Hotel (Light and Redwood), some chopped chicken livers from the Harvey House (Charles and Eager) and a mixed grill with lamb chop and tomato at Hollander's (25th Street).
The Harvey House had a good bar. It was hard to get a table on a Friday night. It was also hard to leave. I knew too many people there.
I cannot walk down Charles Street without recalling the glory days of the Woman's Industrial Exchange tearoom, when cook Dorothea Day Wilson made buckwheat cakes, homemade rolls, chicken salad and tomato aspic, and lemon chiffon pie.
For a drugstore, the meals at the old Read's were exceptionally tasty and inexpensive. But I'll never forget a type of flaky breakfast strudel bar topped with nuts. I'd order it at Howard and Lexington, and it would arrive grilled with butter. In the same neighborhood, the old Virginia Dare supplied chicken croquettes, while Schellhase's pumpernickel and sour beef and dumplings set a standard by which all others would be judged.
I also miss the way restaurants would often have an off night, when you might have the place to yourself in quiet comfort. Today, most Baltimore restaurants are overly filled and noisy.
The old Westwood on Maryland Avenue had the crispy fried chicken and little sweet rolls. Chef Roland Jeannier, at his West 39th Street restaurant, had a version of floating island, Oeufs a la neige, or "eggs in the snow." It went down just as well in July as January.
I'd also like to walk into Maria's, the Roma, Haussner's, Chesapeake, Miller Brothers, Hasslinger's and Oyster Bay for just one more delightful look.