A question arrived this week from reader Ellen Karp: "My Mother used to bring me to the Hippodrome Theatre to see the Disney movies. Afterwards, we would walk across the street to have a meal at what I think was a bar-restaurant or possibly just a deli. … I recall having a hot dog with a slice of bologna on it and remember that the mustard was different and better than what we had at home. It seemed very exotic to me and very grown up. The place was long and narrow with tall wooden booths on the right side, I think, and blue mirrors along the wall. Have you heard of this place or do you have any information about it?"
She thought its name had the word Golden in it. The place stumped me, but after consulting my reference books, in this case the 1948 address telephone directory, it turns out the restaurant was the Golden Glow.
I know nothing of the place but I do recall getting a hot dog grilled with a slice of delicious salami or bologna. I recall having one at a deli on Greenmount Avenue in Waverly alongside a Sunny's Surplus store. I believe that the much-lamented Burke's on Light Street also served such a dish.
I have my own set of dim memories of eating out in old Baltimore, after a movie or trip to the department stores. The Virginia Dare has been gone for 40 years. It looked like an interior in Vienna: gilt mirrors, walls of carved dark wood cabinets and a velvet rope that separated the dining room from the line of patrons waiting to gain entrance. Could it have been a set for Graham Greene's "The Third Man"? I'd say yes.
The Virginia Dare was a bakery in the German tradition. There was a full restaurant along with a large sales area for delicious take-home confections. This was the place you went for chicken croquettes and spring green peas. In the restaurant one day, I learned about behavior standards, too. A group of my friends was in a Virginia Dare booth and decided to pass the time before the food arrived by opening a deck of cards and starting a game. The way the manager dashed over and quashed the card game, you would have thought we hadn't paid.
Old Baltimore once had so many lunchrooms and delis, the kind of place that Ellen Karp recalled. There were successions of them along Charles, Park, Howard, Eutaw and Lexington. Many were small, but they fit into categories of price and taste. One that recently came to my attention was the Hi-Bar, another hot dog place that featured rapid service and budget pricing. It stood at Park Avenue and Clay Street.
The place to get chocolate waffles, and chocolate anything, was Huyler's, a national chain that had a busy soda fountain. I am told there was good root beer there as well. It was on Lexington, alongside the Century Theater. For some reason, my picky family would only get chocolate sodas there; for chocolate bonbons, they preferred a neighboring competitor, Maron's. In a quirky twist, the Maron's in Philadelphia still exists, while Baltimore's vanished in the 1970s.
Old Baltimore had some fantastic food sellers, too. The Castle Farms stall in the Lexington Market dispensed the finest buttermilk and dairy products, including a knockout vanilla ice cream. I also used to visit a pair of elderly brothers, the Castlemans, who were making the best ice cream in Baltimore in the early 1970s. Their place was tucked away on Biddle Street. You felt like you were in a speakeasy when you ordered a gallon. It was their vanilla that was the basis for the legendary Marconi chocolate sundae at the time. They operated under the radar of most consums. They never advertised and someone had to slip you the word that they existed.
We all have our food and restaurant preferences. I know it is family blasphemy, but the pumpernickel and sour beef and dumplings at Schellhase's on Howard Street set a standard by which all others would be judged. Sorry, it beat the dish made by all my relatives.