At Dancing Ganesha, a comfortable, modern atmosphere and breeze patio complement a varied menu of traditional Indian cuisine, including tandoori chicken and paper-thin dosa crêpes. Exotically spiced plates, such as lamb vindaloo and saag paneer, arrive at polished wooden tables, which are illuminated by the restaurant's elegant built-in ceiling lights and elephants holding candles with their trunks. Dancing Ganesha also holds its “karma” happy hour from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily, during which diners can order $5 appetizers, $2 tap drinks, and half off anything else at the bar.
When laid out item by item, Lucky Inn's lunch and dinner menus could possibly span the entire length of the Great Wall of China. The lengthy lists keep the eatery’s chefs busy crafting favorites such as general tso’s chicken, beef with broccoli, and shrimp in garlic sauce, as well as noodle dishes of the lo mein, chow mein, and chow fun varieties. Meat-free fare arrives in the form of orange-flavored tofu and sautéed snow peas, harvested by ski instructors during slow days.
When you order a burger for lunch at Alchemy on 36th, the husband-and-wife team behind the scenes doesn't just conjure up any old bun-and-patty act. Chefs Michael Matassa and Debi Bell-Matassa—former owners of Fusion Grille in Fallston—take their roles as culinary alchemists very seriously, and craft a ground sirloin specialty on toasted brioche bread with tobacco onions and a roasted garlic-and-red-pepper aioli. Michael stocked his bag of magic tricks at the Academy of Culinary Arts in Atlantic City, and Debi studied at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley; holds a sommelier certification; and is a member of the Society of Wine Educators.
But their burgers aren't the only thing on the menus that have garnered attention because of the avant-garde approach to classic food. The brunch lineup earned the eatery a spot on Gayot's list of the Top 10 Baltimore Brunch Restaurants in 2012. Rob Kasper of the Baltimore Sun said the bistro "had [him] at its appetizers," which, in his case, was a fish plate with “just the right amount of applewood smoke.”
The atmosphere also echoes the chefs' commitment to blending new and old. "From the art deco downstairs room to the French country upstairs," said Francine Halvorsen of online journal Baltimore Brew, "each detail has been attended to with the comfort and pleasure of the diner’s environment in mind." Exposed brick walls and a white metal ceiling give the place a vintage vibe, as do the tables, which, according to Baltimore magazine, are made of wood retrieved from an Amish barn. Suzanne Loudermilk, also of Baltimore magazine, described the decor as "big-city chic with a neighborhood comfiness" and noted the same distinctions in the menu. An upholstered white banquette invites guests to lean back, relax, and pin up photographs of their favorite high-school culinary memories.
When to Go: The line to get in often stretches out the door, so reservations—though not required—are highly encouraged. Many swear by the Friday and Saturday night specials, which often include char-grilled lamb rubbed in spices and mint.
Ice Breaker: The name Helmand refers to two things: the river that nourishes an otherwise arid Afghanistan and the owner's first-born son. In fact, young Helmand's uncle is none other than Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan since 2001.
While You're in the Neighborhood
Before: Marvel at centuries-old Afghani artwork at The Walters Art Museum (600 N. Charles Street).
After: Catch a classical concert at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (1212 Cathedral Street).
If You Can’t Make It, Try: Owner Qayum Karzai's other culinary ventures, b (1501 Bolton Street) or Tapas Teatro (1711 N. Charles Street).
At a glance, Indigma?s name?a mash-up of ?India? and ?enigma??seems cryptic, but the restaurant?s menu is anything but. Instead, it demystifies the subcontinent?s diverse and richly historic cuisine, grouping each entree by its region of origin and deconstructing its colors and flavors into seemingly innocent ingredients. The team of Indian chefs approaches these with a respect for their home?s iconic recipes, but also demonstrates a willingness to experiment.
Sichuan lamb serves as a touchstone for the cuisine?s Indo-Chinese influences, distinguishing itself from more traditional entrees such as Southern Indian dosas and Northern Indian murgh tandoori, which a reviewer from the Baltimore Sun lauded as ?some the best tandoor chicken I've ever had.? The chefs also create contemporary interpretations of classic flavors, as in the open-face samosas with seasoned potatoes and peas in bowls of crispy pastries.
Located within a refurbished townhouse, according to Baltimore magazine, Indigma?s ambiance mirrors the chefs? commitment to homestyle cuisine with a refined touch. Vibrant colors fill the rooms, which feature salmon, fuchsia, and saffron-yellow walls. At the same time, accents such as crisp white tablecloths and crystal chandeliers add a slight air of refinement to help make first dates feel special and to keep monocle-wearing gentlemen from feeling out of place.
In 1999 Anne Rowley and her husband, Patrick, finally took over Patrick's of Pratt Street, the Irish pub that had been in their family since 1847 and that Cheapflights' travel blog reported as the oldest Irish pub in America. Sifting through memorabilia and newspaper articles, they chanced upon an old photograph of the tavern’s interior, which inspired Anne and Patrick to renovate. Soon she was replacing decades of remodeling with the pub’s original tin ceiling, oak bar, brass cash register, and ornate cast-iron table bases.
While the decor of Patrick’s of Pratt Street preserves 19th-century ambiance, its menu balances traditional pub food with contemporary cuisine. Chefs craft corn-beef sandwiches with rye bread, whip up fish 'n' chips with beer-battered rockfish and sweet-potato fries, and follow an award-winning recipe to make their signature crab cakes. Baltimore magazine lauded the cuisine in 2007 when it named Patrick’s best Irish pub in the city, though it mainly praised the pub’s warmth. This warmth stems from Patrick, who the periodical called “the friendliest man on the planet,” as well as the live musicians who grace the pub’s stage most Friday and Saturday nights.