At Tark's Grill, diners arrive early for a shot at Table 601, with views of the patio scene and the goings-on at the bar. At Hampden's hot new Food Market, regulars have started zeroing in on the two quiet tables by the front window.
And at Kali's Court, regulars are willing to squeeze eight people around Table 2, which comfortably seats four.
How does a table go from run of the mill to top of the heap? A beautiful view helps. In this clubby business town, it's still see-and-be-seen, and many hall-of-fame tables put diners front and ever-so-slightly off-center. But a new Baltimore style is emerging as well: Taking a page out of the nightclub book, these tables are see-and-not-be-seen.
Many restaurateurs demur when asked to name the famous names at their establishments — a few decline outright to discuss desirable tables, for fear of ruffling feathers. But 10 still walked us through the prized seats in town.
The Prime Rib
Quieter tables exist, but Table 1 has charisma and mystique. Says general manager David Derewicz: "It's the Power Table."
Who's dined here? Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier (not at the same time), Rosa Parks, Harry Belafonte, Johnny Unitas and King Abdullah II of Jordan.
"Table 1 is the Prime Rib's best view of the world," Derewicz says. It's just inside the side room. Diners see everyone walking through the main room, and everyone walking into the side room must parade by.
1101 N. Calvert St., Midtown-Belvedere; 410-539-1804, theprimerib.com
The Food Market
Tables 54 and 55 aren't perfect. They're by the bar. One side of each stainless-steel table has banquette seating; the other has stools.
But chef and co-owner Chad Gauss thought chef's prep tables would work by the front windows, originally deemed waiting space. Now, regulars request them when making reservations, which aren't easy to come by.
The tables are relatively quiet. Diners facing in view the Food Market scene; those facing out see the Avenue and the unlucky stiffs waiting for a table.
1017 W. 36th St., Hampden; 410-366-0606, thefoodmarketbaltimore.com
Sure, some Ravens prefer the private Hall of Fame room at Tark's. But Table 601 is the favorite of several high-profile Baltimoreans, says dining room manager Virginia Green.
A tall table, 601 straddles the border, a bit awkwardly, between dining room and patio. But it was instantly popular, Green says. Diners can observe the action on the patio and at the bar. "You can watch the Orioles game here," Green says. "And you're under cover."
2360 W. Joppa Road, Lutherville; 410-583-8275, tarksgrill.com
At Linwood Dane's Owings Mills restaurant, quietly celebrating its 25th anniversary, there are two popular dining options, according to Dane's assistant, Rachel Maw.
Some enjoy perching at a stool on the chef's line and watching the kitchen in action. But other regulars have developed a relationship with a table for two in the bar area. Nestled along a banquette, it's the only round table in the dining room and the only one that Linwoods diners refer to by number — 22.
25 Crossroads Drive, Owings Mills; 410-356-3030, linwoods.com
When owner Vasili Keramidas envisioned the Kali's Court garden, he knew how desirable the vestibule overlooking it would become.
"You rarely hear customers using restaurant lingo," says managing partner Darin Mislan, "but customers call Table 2 by name."
Diners call up to two months in advance to reserve Table 2, once a favorite of William Donald Schaefer and Art Modell.
Rarely given to first-time diners, Table 2 is so popular that regulars will jam the four-top with groups of eight.
"That's how much power Table 2 has," Mislan says.
1606 Thames St., Fells Point; 410-276-4700, kaliscourt.com
Chazz: A Bronx Original
Chazz's Table was intended as a glamorous amenity at the Harbor East restaurant. Actor and co-owner Chazz Palminteri eats there. Michael Phelps, Derek Jeter and other celebs have, too.
Framed by mahogany walls hung with Palminteri memorabilia, the red leather half-booth occupies an alcove just off the main dining floor. Like the restaurant, the table is equal parts Bronx and Hollywood. The setting seems to say, "Look, but don't approach."
Chazz: A Bronx Original, 1415 Aliceanna St., Harbor East; 410-522-5511, chazzbronxoriginal.com
Fork & Wrench
The three lounge tables in this Canton charmer, with their brocaded booths, have the sex appeal at Fork & Wrench — and the ever-present reserved signs.
But the mezzanine tables have an allure all their own, and diners are beginning to catch on to these four small but comfortable booths, which you wouldn't know about unless you ask. "One of our liquor reps has adopted the mezzanine," says co-owner Andy Gruver. "It's a little quieter up here, and you get a great view of the tables in the Study and the garden."
2322 Boston St., Canton; 443-759-9360, theforkandwrench.com