When it's good to be bad

Throw caution — and calorie counting — to the wind with these 10 Baltimore indulgences

May 10, 2011|By Richard Gorelick, The Baltimore Sun

You shouldn't. No one should. But sometimes you just have to eat like there's no tomorrow, or no swimsuit season or no known connection between caloric intake and vascular health.

For those times, there are plate-busters, otherwise known as gut-busters, last meals and "this is your future in elastic waistbands."

These are dishes of memory and the ones that become calling-cards for restaurants. The food we're talking about is intentionally loaded with calories in their most notorious forms — red meat and white flour, coated, smothered and deep fried. And because it's Baltimore, expect plenty of jumbo-lump crab meat.

Not too many years ago, the Baltimore tavern named Alonso's became very well known for having a one-pound burger Can you imagine? That was it; the burger was big. And it's kind of sweet to remember the way folks used to go on about it, like it was a marvel at the county fair.

Now the Alonso's burger looks quaint next to these belly behemoths.

Heart Attack on a Plate

Mother's Federal Hill Grille, 1113 S. Charles St., 410-244-8686

It's famous. Mother's cheddar-stuffed, beer-battered and deep-fried burger always had a cult following. Then, in April 2009, the Food Network's 50-state burger roundup named the Heart Attack on the Plate as the burger you absolutely have to try in Maryland. That's the kind of thing that attracts burger pilgrims including me) and a segment on the "Today" show with Matt Lauer. It's a grand hockey puck of a burger, given the brightness it needs with a dollop of homemade chipotle mayonnaise.

Cap'n Crunch French toast

Blue Moon Cafe, 1621 Aliceanna St., 410-522-3940

Three pieces of home-battered Texas toast, encrusted with Cap'n Crunch cereal, grilled perfectly and stacked with fruit and whipped cream. You've got a fever dream of calories a whole lot lighter and less sweet than you'd think. The best part — the cereal's brown sugar caramelizes when it hits the heat. The house favorite has been around for 10 years, but it really took off when it was featured on the Food Network's "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives." It's a known favorite "cheat meal" of gym rats who have been "good" the rest of the week. Ask for it by name, or just say, "I want No. 1."

The BLT Burger

Jack's Bistro, 3123 Elliott St., 410-878-6542

There is no ground beef in a BLT burger, the menu screams. The burger, which was introduced to Jack's diners as a slider, is composed entirely of 100 percent ground bacon. You wouldn't think it would hold together like a hamburger, but it does. You might also think you'd get bored with it after a bite or two. Not so. Chef Ted Stelzenmuller loves to set his challenges for his kitchen crew, and this was one of them. It's now taken up permanent residence on the bistro's menu. It works well because the burger is part of a grand overall design that includes fresh peppery arugula, a topping of chopped tomatoes and a soothing ranch dressing. The default side is seasoned fries, but order them with Jack's poutine fries — more calories, this time in the form of cheese curds and gravy.

Krispy Cream bread pudding

Ale Mary's, 1939 Fleet St., 410-276-2044

Pretty basic, really, and pretty darn tasty. Like most of outstanding comfort food at this Fells Point hotspot, this wildly popular dessert is credited to co-owner Mary Rivers. What does doughnut bread pudding taste like? It tastes a lot like take some good bread pudding and toss in a bunch of cubed-up doughnuts. There are dozens of doughnut bread pudding recipes on the Internet, but Ale Mary turned this dessert into one of their calling cards.

Crab Cristo

Miss Shirley's, two locations, including 513 W. Cold Spring Lane, 410-889-5272

There are sweet mountains to climb at Miss Shirley's, French toast stuffed with coconut-cream or strawberry cheesecake. But the Everest of calories at Baltimore's beloved breakfast stop is the Crab Cristo — jumbo-lump crab meat, smoked ham and Swiss cheese, sandwiched in French Toast, deep-fried and drizzled with a creamy honey-mustard and citrus aioli. Finally, chef Brigitte Bledsoe's sweet-and-salty fantasia gets dusted powdered sugar and Old Bay. It's the best version of the Monte Cristo since the old days at Gampy's, when the fried sandwiches were dipped in blueberry sauce.

Deep-Fried Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

Rocket to Venus, 3360 Chestnut Ave., 410-235-7887

It looks absurd, a big bowl piled up with sandwich parts, ice cream and whipped cream, like something a child would do. But it's great fun to order it at the bar, because when it comes out and everyone stops, stares and breaks into gleeful giggles, it actually makes the bartenders angry. It's actually adds up to a goofy weeknight treat, and pairs very well, although you wouldn't think so, with an ice-cold vodka martini. And there's protein in the peanut butter, so …

Deep-Fried Hard-Shell Crab

Pappas Seafood, 1801 Taylor Ave., Parkville, 410-665-4000 ‎

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