Where to eat in 2012?

Written by on January 4, 2012 in Baltimore Bites - No comments

We had a lot on our plate last year—new restaurants opened all over the Guide’s readership area, proof, in this economy, that restaurateurs are incurable optimists. Here’s part 2 of our round-up.

Barracuda’s, 1230 E. Fort Ave., is well worth taking the detours forced by the reconstruction of the Fort Avenue Bridge. It’s a cozy bar with a beachy vibe and a great crab dip ($9) and fantastic surf-’n’-turf nachos $12). Take a crowd and hang out for the evening or for happy hour. There is an extensive shooter menu and a big jug of house-made sangria behind the bar.

Head a little farther down Fort to Hull Street, hang a left, and you will fetch up at JR’s, which is about as Old Locust Point as you can get. It’s a comfortable, dimly lit workingman’s bar with great food, friendly barflies and the soothing clack of billiards in the back. Advice: go hungry. The food—good, old-fashioned Baltimore pub grub like burgers, crab cakes, subs and fresh-cut fries—comes in mountainous servings, and the prices are downright cheap.

If you are down by Corned Beef Row and have a hankering for corned beef, you don’t have to put up with the bustle and rudeness of Attman’s. You can go into Weiss Deli, 1127 E. Lombard St., and get a much better corned beef sandwich ($5.99), or a really fantastic Reuben ($6.99). And you will be courteously treated even if you order liverwurst on white, which is what one of us, but not I, did. The secret of great lean corned beef, according to owner Joe Burstyn, is in the cooking. Don’t go for dinner though—Weiss is open 8:30 a.m.-3:45 p.m. daily except Sunday.

Life of Reilly (2031 E. Fairmount Ave.) is a down to earth Irish bar that does not stoop to the cuteness of most Irish bars. There are a multitude of single-malt Irish whiskeys on the bar, and that is reason enough to make the trip, but the Loaded Cheese Tots ($6.99) are something else. The tots come piled high on a 12-inch oval platter, drizzled with melted cheddar, and tossed with a few slices of thick bacon, chopped, and scallions, also chopped. The tots are crispy, the cheese is melty and salty and good, what’s not to like about bacon, and you can count the onions as a vegetable serving.

Palmere’s, 1018 Eastern Ave., is another homey corner bar. It’s been open since April and is already a neighborhood favorite. You can get a meal with your beer or you can get snacks. We tried the fried pickle chips (mmmm!) and the Italian fries (double mmmm!). You have heard of disco fries and pizza fries and cheese fries. Palmere’s takes a mound of french fries and tops it with sauteed Italian sausage, peppers and onions. Your host, Mike Palmere, has an encyclopedic knowledge of Baltimore sports and is happy to talk baseball or football all day.

Fins, 2903 O’Donnell St., has a big Margaritaville bar and an extensive and tasty menu of seafood, pizza, burgers and pasta. The tuna grinder ($8) is put under the broiler and served molten hot with a side of fries. There are fried oysters and conch, coconut shrimp, and good old Old Bay steamed shrimp. It’s a moderately-priced way of enjoying Key West during a Baltimore winter evening.

There’s a new Greek diner in town. Lakis Restaurant opened a few weeks ago at the corner of Grundy and Eastern in Highlandtown, boasting “The Best Crabcake in Town.” It’s not an idle boast. For $14.95, you get an enormous lump crab cake perfectly fried, laced with just enough Old Bay. The burgers are grilled to order with a tasty char, and the salads are fresh and crisp. Lakis is a great place for lunch or breakfast, and open every day but Sunday.

Who knows what 2012 will bring? You’ll just have to stay tuned, hon. And by all means, if you have a favorite, a hint or a brand-new eating space, let us know!

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