It had been years since either of us walked into Regi’s, the wonderful restaurant that anchors Federal Hill’s Restaurant Row. Our next visit won’t take as long, because Regi’s is a place with fine food, friendly, efficient and unobtrusive service, and the prices aren’t that bad either. What more is there to ask for?
Regi’s was a revelation when it opened in 1978, because Baltimore had the Prime Rib and Marconi’s, and it had carryouts and burger joints, and there was practically nothing in-between.
Regi’s immediately became wildly popular for its crab cakes. The Big Thing then was nouvelle cuisine, and Regi’s served up some remarkable chicken, fish and lamb chops along with the crab cakes, but the real revelation back then was the sides, which were delicious all by themselves.
People flocked to the place, and they haven’t stopped. On a recent sleepy Thursday lunchtime with very few people on the street, Regi’s was hopping, with many hardy souls sitting on the sidewalk patio, which is enclosed for the winter.
We opted for one of the many small, inviting dining rooms. The restaurant is carved out of four rowhouses, and instead of one large dining room, there are several small ones. It’s comfy and elegant without being intimidating.
Regi’s has the dishes you would expect on the menu, but the kitchen dishes them up in unexpected ways. We tried the Buffalo Oysters for a starter, six plump breaded, fried oysters served with the requisite hot sauce and a big mound of blue cheese dressing. We ate the fresh greens garnish so we could finish the rest of the dressing. Delightful.
After such a good start, who could resist something called a garbage salad? It’s Regi’s version of a cobb salad, with a little bit of everything served over a garden salad. The garbage salad has shrimp and salami, olives and artichokes with great big spicy pepperoncinis arranged artistically over a salad of romaine.
Even the meatloaf sandwich is different—the baked meatloaf is slathered with barbecue sauce, grilled and served with crispy fried onion slivers on Texas toast. There is a side of Regi fries, which are fresh and twice-fried to achieve that crisp exterior and soft interior.
Serving fresh foods carefully prepared is a way of showing respect for the customer, and Regi’s is very respectful indeed.
Our tab for an excellent lunch came to $44.30 including tax but not the tip. Regi’s, 1002 Light St. (410-539-7344), is open daily for lunch and dinner and serves a legendary Sunday brunch.